Familia, Política

Nonagenarian second time voters

Four years ago Lori called while I waited in line to vote. She had a story she wanted me to blog about. Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni (grandparents), first time voters, had just cast their ballot for this guy:

President Barack Obama

The following is a repost from Octogenarian first-time voters.

Mamá Toni (86) and Papá Chepe (88), first-time voters

I got to my polling place at about ten. The line was wrapped around the small Episcopal church. It was incredibly quiet, save for a few conversations between neighbors and friends. I took out my iPod and entertained myself with non-election related podcasts and games.

After 45 minutes in line, I got a call from my sister.

“Hey, I have a blog topic for you. The grandparents just returned from voting. They have their stickers on and I took a picture. It’s on Flickr.”

“Oh, cool! I’ve been waiting like 45 minutes at my polling place.”

“Dad said Mamá Toni punched too many holes on her ballot and had to get a new one.

“Oh, well. I think you’re allowed a new one if you made a mistake.”

“They’re all excited and proud of their stickers. It’s so cute.”

Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni became citizens a few years ago. I think it was around 2002, but I don’t remember exactly. They finally registered to vote a few weeks ago. Papá Chepe bugged my parents to get him registered, he wanted to cast his vote for Obama. I lagged on picking up a voter registration form for them. Eventually, dad registered them online through Rock the Vote. (Ironic, I know.)

This morning, despite both having nagging colds, Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni went out to vote. My dad helped them fill out their sample ballots and drove them to their polling place in Hacienda Heights. They waited half an hour before voting. When they got home, Lori made them pose for a photo. They were proud to show off their stickers. Later, I called Papá Chepe on his cell phone.

“¿Votaron por Obama?” I asked.

“Sí,” Papá Chepe responded. “Lo tenemos que meter.”

Photo by Lori


Today I texted my siblings and dad while in line to vote at 7:30 am.

“Don’t forget to vote! Take the grandparents too!”

Danny replied with a joke. Dad replied with something more serious. He said that Papá Chepe planned to sit this election out. He wasn’t happy about Obama’s track record with undocumented immigrants. He’s not impressed (as am I) with the record number of undocumented immigrants Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have deported since he took office. I was sad, but I couldn’t argue. My grandpa is informed and not spouting lies. (PolitiFact has the number at 1.4 million, less than George W. Bush’s 2 million, but that was over 8 years.)

I offered some other reasons my grandparents should vote — propositions for education funding and others — as well as some other info on Obama’s deferred action for Dream Act youth and the Justice Department’s challenge to SB 1070. Last I heard that bit of info was enough to get him to the polls.

Cultura, Política

Out of the classroom, but still on my bookshelf

Banned books (sort of)

I got the idea to start the This Day in Chicana/o History series some time in late 2009 or early 2010. I was inspired partly by other bloggers documenting Los Angeles history and by The Writer’s Almanac, one the many podcasts I listen to daily. After searching online and in old Chicana/o Studies textbooks for birthdays of famous Chicanas/os and dates of important events, I started the series. I wasn’t consistent with it back then and abandoned the project after a few months. (Definitely one of my weaknesses as a blogger and person in general.) I hope the current revival lasts especially in light of the struggle for a relevant education in Tucson.

When I started this project in early 2010, I had no clue a law banning ethnic studies was in pipeline in the Arizona legislature. HB 2281 particularly targeted the Mexican American studies program in Tucson Unified, a predominantly Latino school district. In May of 2010, Governor Jan Brewer — yeah, the one with her finger all up in President Obama’s face — signed the law. Tucson educators resisted the law and held on to Mexican American Studies until January when the Tucson Unified School District board voted to suspend the program or lose state funding. Over 80% of the books used in MA Studies courses were forbidden from being taught in the classroom. I’ve read many of these books, some are amongst my favorites. I read most in Chicana/o Studies courses in college.

Some books that were removed from Tucson classrooms

Before I ever took a Chicana/o Studies course, I became more invested in school when the subject was my history or the authors of the assigned books had Latino surnames. This is saying a lot considering I was quite the nerd, especially in history and English. In sixth grade, I wrote a report on Edward James Olmos for my project on a famous American. It was the first time I ever read about the Sleepy Lagoon trial, zoot suits and Chicano theater.

In the summer before 10th grade, I read Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima as an assignment for honors English. While I’d never been to New Mexico, stories of curanderas and witches who turn in to owls and have healing powers were vaguely familiar. I’d heard similar tales from my cousins who spent some of their youth in Mexico. In discussing the book in class, I hated my teacher’s take on it and how she pronounced Ultima (ul-TEE-mah).

Both Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit and Other Plays (Olmos starred in the stage and film version of Zoot Suit) and Bless Me, Ultima will no longer be taught in Arizona schools. They’re just two books on a long list.

Chicano and American Indian lit

I haven’t read many of the banned books in years, but I’m committed to re-reading them thanks to Feminist Texican’s Read & Resist project. While this won’t introduce books directly to Tucson youth, it may shed some light on how ridiculous it is to remove these books from the classroom and get us talking about the important of a relevant education.

As for the This Day project, you may have noticed that all the postings this year are about famous men. I have many women on the list, but could use more. If you have any suggestions of people of events for the project, let me know in the comments or email me.

Escuela, Política

Cupcakes, cookies and race-conscious admissions

Earlier today, I was making fun of the Berkeley College Republicans on Twitter:

“I’m surprised college Republican groups are still doing the pay by race bake sale thing. That’s so 2000. I think they’d be more original.”

A few minutes later I added a link to the cartoon Lalo Alcaraz (above) published after the UCLA Bruin Republicans held a pay by race bake sale in 2003. I’m not sure you can actually call it a bake sale since they sold Oreos, Twinkies and crackers. Heavy handed with the symbolism much? Fellow UCLA alumni told me the bake sale was also done in the mid 1990s.

I wasn’t offended by the bake sale. Instead, I was surprised they were getting so much attention. Must be a slow news week, huh? Plus, these students could barely read when race conscious admissions were banned in 1995 and 1996 (first by the Regents of the University of California and then by the California electorate). SP-1 and Proposition 209 probably mean nothing to today’s freshman, born in 1993. My politics and education were shaped by those policies.

In the spring of 1998, I was part of the first class admitted under the new race-neutral admissions policies at the University of California. As I made my decision about which UC campus to attend, Berkeley or Los Angeles, I read about the severe drop (up to 50% for some groups at UC Berkeley and UCLA) in the LA Times. I didn’t get in to UC San Diego and wondered if I would have been admitted to San Diego under the old policies. When I toured UCLA and Berkeley with my parents, I noticed students protesting the effects of Proposition 209, a severe drop in the numbers of underrepresented minorities admitted. In the fall when I began classes at UCLA, I was well aware that my freshman class was much less black, Latino and American Indian than previous classes.

In the next few years, I got involved with student groups actively working on diversity issues and admissions reform. I continued my involvement as a doctoral student in higher education. I spent a couple of years on the board of the UC Student Association and lobbied California legislators on bills related to higher education access and affordability. I researched and wrote about admissions practices at UC campuses, attended weekly meetings of black alumni and community leaders pressing for admissions reform at UCLA, and was the graduate student representative on the systemwide Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools. I was definitely plugged in to admissions and diversity issues at UC.

Yet despite my years of activism, research, and lobbying, I hadn’t heard about SB 185. The bill, introduced by Senator Ed Hernandez would allow California’s public universities “to consider race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin, along with other relevant factors, in undergraduate and graduate admissions.” (Source)

I’m thankful the Berkeley Republicans recycled the bake sale. If not for them, I’d still be out of the loop. Now I can email Governor Jerry Brown encouraging him to sign SB 185 and encourage my friends to do the same.

Historia, Política

This day in Chicano history: San Antonio ISD v. Rodríguez

March 21, 1973:

With all the excitement earlier this week, I didn’t get around to posting about the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the San Antonio ISD v. Rodríguez case, an important case when it comes to educational inequality.

From Mexican Americans and the Law:

In the landmark San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodríguez (1973) case, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed whether a state system of financing public education through property taxes violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it discriminated on the basis of wealth. Petitioners in the case also claimed the U.S. constitution provided a fundamental right to an education under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Brought by the parents of Mexican American children living in San Antonio, Texas, the case highlighted the blatant disparities in resources among San Antonio school districts. The federal trial court ruled in favor of Rodríguez, holding that the Texas system for funding public schools was in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As the case extract illustrates, however, on appeal the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, holding in a five-to-four decision that education is a responsibility of the states, not the federal government. The Court also noted that it had never held that disparities in resources based on wealth constituted a violation of the Constitution. The Court’s decision had the effect of setting a less progressive tone for educational equality during the 1980s and 1990s.

The Court rejected the rationale that education (although not mentioned in the Constitution) was a fundamental right because it is necessary when it comes to manifesting your First Amendment rights and voting. In the opinion of the majority written by Justice Lewis Powell, the Court stated “we have carefully considered each of the arguments that education is a fundamental right or liberty and have those arguments unpersuasive.”


I didn’t learn about San Antonio ISD v. Rodríguez until I started to look in to the legal foundation allowing undocumented children and youth to attend US schools and colleges.

Cultura, Historia, Política

This day in Chicano history: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Ratified by US Senate

March 10, 1848:
While February 2nd is noted by some as the original birthday of the first Chicanos, March 10th is notable too. because the version of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ratified by the Senate was different than the one signed in Mexico a few weeks earlier.

Via the Library of Congress:

Other provisions stipulated the Texas border at the Rio Grande (Article V), protection for the property and civil rights of Mexican nationals living within the new border (Articles VIII and IX), U.S. promise to police its side of the border (Article XI), and compulsory arbitration of future disputes between the two countries (Article XXI). When the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in March, it reduced Article IX and deleted Article X guaranteeing the protection of Mexican land grants. Following the Senate’s ratification of the treaty, U.S. troops left Mexico City.

This would be a significant part of the Chicano Movement in the 60s and 70s as people like <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reies_Tijerina#Research”Reies Tijerina fought to have the original land grants recognized.

As mentioned above, the civil rights of the new Chicanos were also amended from the version signed on February 2nd.

Article VIII guaranteed that Mexicans who remained more than one year in the ceded lands would automatically become full-fledged American citizens (or they could declare their intention of remaining Mexican citizens); however, the Senate modified Article IX, changing the first paragraph and excluding the last two. Among the changes was that Mexican citizens would “be admitted at the proper time (to be judged of by the Congress of the United States)” instead of “admitted as soon as possible”, as negotiated between Trist and the Mexican delegation.
[Via Wikipedia]

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is still relevant today, especially as states like Arizona pass law after law targeting our community. As Dr. Cintli Rodriguez discusses, the provisions guarding the civil rights of Mexicans in the ceded territories may be useful for those who seek to challenge SB 1070 and proposed laws affecting citizenship rights for children of undocumented immigrants.