Question of the Week: Quinceañera

My cousin, Valerie, celebrates her 15th birthday today. She’s the youngest of the cousins on my mom’s side, but towers over most of us.

On Saturday, family and friends will gather at her home to celebrate. She bought a special dress for the occasion, a white cocktail dress. She won’t have a Mass nor court of chambelanes y damas. There’s no waltz, but she will dance with her father and padrino. Of course, there will still be food, drink and dancing.

I like the bending and adaptation of tradition. In fact, I think every quinceañera I’ve been to is different from previous ones. I’ve seen to co-quinceañeras, quinceañeras celebrated during the 16th birthday, full courts (14 couples), courts of just girls, courts of just guys (Lori and I did this), seen girls wear white gowns as well as colored gowns, seen a waltz, seen a choreographed modern dance, seen slide shows, and more.

But there’s constants. The girls are always surrounded by proud parents, friends and extended family.

And the party is fun.

Question of the week: Did you have a special celebration for your fifteenth birthday? What was it like? For guys, were you ever a chambelán? What was that like?

Los Angeles, Música

Julieta Venegas & Ximena Sariñana at Club Nokia

I love Julieta Venegas, but my codo kept me from buying tickets to her show at Club Nokia. I hope that one of the music blogs would have a ticket give away. I entered a couple through La Banda Elástica and The Scenestar, but didn’t win. But my friend, Jake, did (and only because I posted a link about the Scenestar contest on Facebook). Unfortunately, his wife had a conflict with a graduation. That meant he needed to find another fan. That’s where I gladly step in.

I was excited for the show all day. Not only was I going to see Julieta, but Ximena Sariñana would be opening for her. I’d been following Ximena for a few years and really enjoyed her debut, Mediocre as well as her guest vocals with Volovan (“La Luna”) and Plastilina Mosh (“Pervert Pop Song”).

Ximena seemed genuinely excited to open up for Julieta and called herself a fan. She sang some of her new songs in English as well as “Monitor” over a loop. She closed off with the haunting “Mediocre”.

Half an hour later, Julieta came on stage accompanied by an 8-piece band. She wore a black tunic with some weird gathering that hid her baby bump and navy blue leggings. She looked a little eccentric but cute. She played guitar and keyboard — not accordion — for some of the songs. Most of the time she was singing and dancing, which the adoring crowd loved. She spoke in between the songs about some of the meaning behind them. She dedicated “Un Lugar” to all the migrants and those fighting against SB 1070. She told Mexicans to keep their heads up, “los Mexicanos tenemos mucho de ser orgulloso… Frida Kahlo, Pedro Infante, José Alfredo Jiménez. Vamos a salir adelante.” She dedicated “Revolución” to Soda Stereo frontman Gustavo Cerati, who underwent brain surgery on Wednesday to remove a blood clot. I was happy to see another Tijuanense, Ceci Bastida, reprise her role as part of Julieta’s band, albeit as a guest on a couple of songs.

Julieta Venegas’ setlist below.

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Escuela, Randomness

Not the Only Ones: Tam and Cinthya’s Memorial

Memorial service for Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix

“In their honor we will pass the DREAM Act soon and very soon.”
– Kent Wong

When I saw Matias at dinner on Sunday, he looked tired and weighed down with grief over the loss of two of his best friends. Despite this, he offered some advice and shared what he’d learned as a former chair of IDEAS (an advocacy group for undocumented students) and as an organizer for the DREAM Act. Before leaving, he reminded the new crop of student leaders of the memorial service for Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix.

“It’s in the Grand Salon right now, but we’re trying to get a larger venue.”

That didn’t surprise me. The Grand Salon fits 160 people and the event page on Facebook already showed a couple hundred who planned to attend. By morning, he venue was changed to Moore 100, a lecture hall which seats 419 people.

I showed up at 3:20. The room was already filling up. I found a seat next to my friend, Jessie, and waited for the memorial to begin. Soon, all seats were filled and latecomers crowded around the doors or sat in the aisles.

Kent Wong, the director of the UCLA Labor Center emceed. First he introduced Tam and Cinthya’s best friends, Dana and Susan. The two spoke together about the foursome’s bond. “We came as a four-pack,” Dana said about the group that could have been the poster children for diversity at UCLA. Susan and Dana reminisced about their Monday night fried chicken dinners and retold silly anecdotes about the two women many knew as filmmakers and advocates for undocumented youth. Susan told us that Cinthya outreached to high school students even though she really didn’t like kids. Everyone laughed. The full lecture hall broke out in laughter again when Heather admitted that many thought that she and Tam were a couple because they both had short hair and were inseparable. Dana and Tam worked on their papers together. “When we got stuck with writer’s block, we’d just switch papers,” she admitted sheepishly to the crowd which included administrators and faculty. “But it was okay, because we were the same person.”

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Escuela, Política, Randomness

Tam & Cinthya

A Dream Deferred. from Jeesoo Park on Vimeo.

Dear Friends,

It is with great sadness that I regret to inform everyone of the passing of Tam Tran and Cinthya Felix. These women were nationally active in the undocumented students Civil Rights Movement through their fight for the DREAM Act. Both were UCLA undergraduates and as graduate students Tam was a Doctoral Student in American Civilization at Brown University, while Cinthya was studying Public Health at Columbia University. These women were amazing activists and put themselves at great risk to fight for this just cause. Cinthya was a working class student from East Los Angeles, California and attended Garfield High School and Tam’s family had been displaced as a result of the Vietnam War and was from Garden Grove, CA. There is much more information in the links below about their lives.


Like many who have written about Tam and Cinthya’s passing, I didn’t know them personally. I knew of these two young leaders by simply being a fellow UCLA student leader and a supporter of the DREAM Act (both the federal and California versions).

Still, I was inspired by their courage to speak out and tell their stories.

Even though Tam and Cinthya passed on way too soon, I have no doubt they will continue to inspire more DREAMers.

A memorial service will be held on Monday May 17 from 3-5 pm in the Kerckhoff Grand Salon at UCLA.

Amigos, Viajes

Better days and get aways

“Wow, you couldn’t have picked anyone further away,” Juan said.

“Yeah,” I replied.

My cousin is right. Sean is far away — 2,400 or 2,800 miles (depending on your mode of transportation).

We let seven weeks pass without seeing each other. That was tough, but unavoidable with a busy April schedule which included travel to Michigan and working a couple of weekends. Now that we can plan better, our visits will be much more frequent.

The trip was great, even when I mysteriously hurt my back in the middle of a play. I spent most of the next few days in bed with Sean at the ready to get me whatever I needed. He did a great job taking care of me. I’m lucky.

A few trip photos after the jump to prove I wasn’t bedridden the whole time.

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