The privilege to sweat

Some time last fall I discovered a new blog about running. I added it to my already too long list of running blogs in Google Reader. I unsubscribed a few weeks later when I realized I wasn’t very interested in what she had to say.

One thing that stuck out about this blog was how she frequently showed photos of her (or friends) in a t-shirt proclaiming “I ♥ sweat.” The shirt was sold to help her fundraise for an organization that does research to find a cure for a chronic illness.

There was something about the t-shirt that got to me, aside from seeing it a dozen times after following the blog for a couple weeks. I didn’t figure it out until I started thinking about the running community and issues of race and class thanks to a Runner’s World article.

I don’t love sweat. I sweat most days when I go out for a run, lift weights or go to the gym for some cross training. I chose to sweat most of the time because (a) I’ve never had a job that requires regular manual labor, (b) I live in LA where summers are comparatively mild and not humid and (c) I have the luxury of having my own car with air conditioning.

These hands weren't made for "real work"

I haven’t always recognized my privilege, but family and friends keep me in check when they feel my soft hands that have never done “real work.” (Except when I help out with the biennial mulberry tree trimming project at my parent’s house as above.)

Manos de un trabajador

My grandparents’ and parents’ hands aren’t so soft and smooth. My grandparents came to this country to do hard work in the fields, landscaping, and in heavy industry. They didn’t sweat because it was their hobby and they loved it, but because they needed to feed, clothe and house their families. Through their work, they gave their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren opportunities they never imagined.

I get to leave work at the end of the day feeling energized enough to run 5 miles and work up a sweat. Thanks for giving me that privilege, abuelitos.


Two years

Cindy and I

At our first date, a Bird and the Bee concert, I asked Sean to be my fucking boyfriend. I was quoting a song by the band, but I meant it. He said yes.

We were official. That was two years ago.

A few days later, he returned to New York and we began 9 months of a long distance relationship. Now, we’re in the same city and planning a wedding. I like the changes.


This day in Chicano history: Rubén Salazar (1928)

Ruben Salazar, circa 1970

March 3, 1928: Rubén Salazar born in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México

Four years ago, the US Postal Service issued a stamp commemorating Rubén Salazar and a few other notable journalists. I went to the Lincoln Heights post office with my cousin Nancy and picked up a few of my own. I’ve never used them. Later that day, I wrote a post, A Chicana outlook on Rubén Salazar — heavily cribbed from an older post — where I liberally quoted a friend and fellow blogger, César (El Más Chingón). César wrote about feeling cheated that in his 20s, he was barely learning about Salazar’s life and death. I could definitely relate.

Salazar’s violent death at the hands of LA County Sheriff’s deputy Thomas Wilson is often remembered. Over forty years after the Chicano Moratorium, there’s still investigation and speculation over what happened that day. Whether it was an accident or assassination is still up for debate depending on who you ask, but what remains clear is that an important Chicano voice was lost on August 29, 1970. [See: Finally, transparency in the Ruben Salazar case and the Ruben Salazar files]

While Salazar’s death is important, we should also remember his life’s work. Rosalío Muñoz points this out in a recent piece commemorating Salazar’s 84th birthday at KCET Departures:

Pioneering Latino journalist Ruben Salazar died at the hands of Los Angeles Sheriff’s as they broke up the August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War. Today, his story is an inspiration to the Latino community, and to all those seeking social justice.

That’s why we should celebrate his birthday, and not just remember his death. [Source]

Ruben Salazar interviews civilians in Vietnam

If you don’t want to go read those posts about Salazar, here’s what you should know about him:
Salazar was born in Ciudad Juárez and later emigrated with his family to El Paso Texas. He earned his BA at the University of Texas El Paso thanks to the GI Bill. He became an investigative journalist at a time when few Chicanos held such jobs. From Texas, he came to California and worked for a couple of newspapers including the Los Angeles Times. He wrote articles giving a voice to Chicanos working to change the status quo. Although his career was cut short, his legacy and words live on amongst us “Mexican-Americans with a non-Anglo image of [ourselves]” (see: Who is a Chicano? And what is it the Chicanos want?, February 6, 1970).

Photo credits: UCLA Library’s Digital Collection, Changing Times: Los Angeles in Photographs, 1920-1990. Los Angeles Times photographic archive, UCLA Library. Copyright Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.


This Day in Chicana herstory: Josefina Fierro de Bright passed away (1998)

March 2, 1998: Josefina Fierro de Bright, born in Mexicali (1920), passed away

Quick. Name a Chicana labor organizer.

No, not Dolores Huerta or María Elena Durazo.


How about Josefina Fierro de Bright?

Unfamiliar? Check out this short biography from (a great website on some badass mujeres):

Josefina Fierro de Bright was born in Mexico in 1920. She grew up in farm labor camps as the daughter of a bordera who served meals to migrant workers in Madera, California. Josefina gave up her studies at UCLA to become an organizer, and her style was described by veteran longshoremen’s leader Bert Corona as gutsy, flamboyant, and tough. As executive secretary of El Congreso (the first national Latino civil rights org) from 1939 to the mid-1940s, she organized protests against racism in the LA Schools, against the exclusion of Mexican-American youths from public swimming pools, and against police brutality. In 1942, she was a key figure in organizing the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee, to support the seventeen Chicano youths held without bail on little evidence for the alleged killing of one youth. With Luisa Moreno, she helped to coordinate El Congreso’s support for Spanish-speaking workers in the furniture, shoe manufacturing, electrical, garment, and longshoremen’s unions.

— from Dolores Hayden, “Reinterpreting Latina History at the Embassy Auditorium” in The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History.

In an article on El Congreso del Pueblo de Habla Española (the Congress of Spanish-Speaking Peoples) Carlos Larralde expands on Fierro de Bright’s involvement with El Congreso:

Another important activist, Josefina Fierro de Bright, managed the day-to-day operations of the Southern California chapters of El Congreso while, at the same time, attracting writers and movie stars to the cause. Her husband, John Bright, was a Hollywood screenwriter and a founding member of the Screen Writers Guild. Together, they entertained luminaries such as John Steinbeck, Lillian Hellmann, Theodore Dreiser, Orson Welles, Robert Lowell and others. In addition, Fierro de Bright played a major role in curtailing the so-called Zoot Suit Riots, pleading with the Los Angeles Times to curtail sensational journalism. She corresponded with Eleanor Roosevelt and helped the administration smooth diplomatic relations with Mexico.
– Larralde, C. M. (2004). El Congreso in San Diego: An endeavor for civil rights. The Journal of San Diego History, 50(1 & 2). [PDF]

If you want to read more about Chicano civil rights organizing pre 1950, check out Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 by George J. Sánchez. Chapter 11, “Forging a New Politics of Opposition” is specifically about el Congreso.