Monday, March 31, 2008

Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley

Two entries in one day? Oh yeah!

So, after a disappointing turn at some funny non-fiction, I thought I'd go back to my roots: my love for history. I love US history not quite sure why, but it was always my favorite subject in school. It is a bit hard for me to get into dry history books, but no matter what, I always enjoy reading them. I think it all depends on the style of writing. It's no mystery that this book became a movie directed my Clint Eastwood. I'm a movie junkie, but never been a war junkie, especially not of Vietnam. I think I got traumatized by it because my brother was obsessed with it when I was little and since he was my main babysitter and I wanted to hang out with him, we'd watch Vietnam specials n HBO. Seriously, a 6 year old should not be watching that. To this day, I cannot watch a Vietnam-based movie. The closest I came to was Dead Presidents, and that was for a school assignment, not by choice. Oh right, and Forest Gump.

I'm only chapter two into this book and so far so good. It reads more like a memoir than a history book and for that I appreciate it. I look forward to watching the movie because I think Clint Eastwood is a fantastic director and I know he will do it justice. Afterward, I'll watch Letters from Iwo Jima. Again, these are things I've been meaning to catch up on. There are so many stories that have not yet been told hin our history, I look forward to reading this one.

Mixed-Sum Up

Well, about a week ago, I finished Mixed. As I mentioned in my previous entry, I was not very impressed. My suspicion is that it was the style of writing that I disliked because the content I could identify with. "No you can't!" I'm sure people will scream at me "you are not biracial". Well, technically I'm not. Both my parents are Mexican, but don't Mexicans come in all different colors and ethnicities, heck even religions? Yes they actually do. When I was deep in the throws of my Ethnic Studies studies, I looked at my parents and realized, wow, I think I *could* be biracial. You see, race is a bit more mixed up in Mexico. Like the Unites States now, there was a lot of mixing going on in Latin American during the Spanish "Conquest". Unlike the Unites States back then, Catholics in Latin American wanted to include Native Indians, Indios, into their religion, thus mixing, resulting in what is called a Mestizo, or Mestizaje. The United States thought the "separate but equal" approach would best suit Native Indians, thus we have to this day, reservations. I won't even go into slavery and how separate that was. But I am a product of mestizaje. I am a product of my Spanish ancestry, (which if you look far enough, includes the Moors) as well as indigenous people of Mexico. I've often gotten from people, "you look Persian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Arabic . . ." but I'm none of these, ethnicity wise. I'm American by birth, Mexican-American by culture and Mexican by heritage.
I could be biracial if you look at my parents. My mom is a guera, or a light skinned Mexican. She comes from a family of blue/green-eyed relatives. My dad on the other hand, is more prieto, or dark skinned. He comes from the more Indian/moorish past, even though it's my mother who had an Indian great-grandmother. If you look at it, you could easily say my mom is "white" and my dad is "native", but since they're both "Mexican" it seems nulled.
Just yesterday, I was showing a photo to my boyfriend's roommate. It was us four girls in Mexico: my two sister-in-laws, my mother and myself. He asked innocently, "what's with all the white people?" "All" seems to imply "most", but if you think about it, it's 50/50. My mom is Mexican and my sisters are white, but yet, he saw that they were mostly all white. So what's in a color if you're from a different culture? What do people see/hear first? Your accent? Your color? And once supplied with the proper information, how does that color one's thoughts on the photo?
I know I veered way off track on this entry, but what I was trying to illustrate is that even though I am not "seen" as biracial in it's most common definition of black and white (and I do believe my future children will not be seen as biracial even though their father is part Italian, Irish, Native and English and at one point in history, both Italians and Irish were seen as separate races to white) I still see myself as part of two worlds. I'm an American Oregonian cocooned in a Mexican culture. I've lived both lives, I've been in both cultures. I used to find it difficult to navigate between my two worlds when I was younger even ashamed, but now I say, f it. If you don't or can't accept it, that's your problem, not mine. I also don't jump down people's throats if they ask questions, there's no point. If you don't ask questions, no matter how ignorant they are, how can one ever learn the trueth?
I'll take the best of both and create my own culture. I do believe that family creates one's culture and I sure look forward to creating my children's.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mixed By Angela Nissel

Most of you might not know this about me, but in addition to my Journalism major, I also majored in Ethnic Studies. Lately, I've been trying to think back in my life and wonder, what else gives me passion? Well, the answer I've found is Ethnic Studies dealings. That always put a little fire in my belly. Perhaps it's because I grew up as the only Mexican American in school until I hit high school. Perhaps it's because I was raised in a predominantly white community and had few friends of color, perhaps that's the reason I am fascinated with race in this country. I'm fascinated with the thought that people have preconceived notions of what other people are like, based on the color of their skin. I'm not saying I'm a saint, I'm not saying that I too don't hold judgment or harbor stereotypes, but I'd like to think I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and treat as I want to be treated, regardless of skin color. I do believe most people are born good, there for, people's intentions are "pure". But since I am also a child of history, I know from my own research on primary documents, that racism and prejudice not only existed, but still remains alive and well, I think it just has a different face, meaning it's disguised as other things.
I also believe that to educate one another, there needs to be a dialog first, or else we can never ask questions without fear in order to be corrected and free of negative stereotypes. And yes, I do believe that not all stereotypes are bad. Webster's definition of stereotype is:

something conforming to a fixed or general pattern; especially : a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment

So, a stereotype is meant to tell a story in a short period of time (I learned in my Media Ethics class at University), but this country seems to have run with that idea and only seem to cast people into a negative stereotype. I think race relations have been on the forefront of my mind lately because a) I've been trying to find that passion and b) our presidential democratic nomination fight going on. Finally, my libary had the book "Mixed" that I've been waiting for. It's the memoir of former "Scrub"'s comedy writer Angela Nissen. I had high points, but I'm becoming sadly disappointed and I'm not sure why. I keep waiting for it to pick up, for there to be a climax, but I've not reached it yet. I'm already 86 pages in and I feel like not much is happening, but what do I expect really? I'm going to continue reading of course because it is not a bad book. It gives insight on what children go through in school (which them made me start fearing having children cuz kids seem to be HORRIBLE) but all in all, she just gives an account of her life from childhood on. I am interested in reading her book The Broke Diaries, but we'll see. Perhaps it's the style of writing I'm not interested, but I'm not sure. I'll let you know more what I think when I actually finish it.

I do love talking about race and ethnicity, especially in a pop culture sense. I'm a huge pop culture junkie, so I like to explore the dealings of race and ethnicity with in film and television. I might have to pick up my book "American Encounters: Greaater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture" by Jose E. Limon when I'm done with this one. I never did finish it, but I sure did impress my college professor when I quoted the author. So perhaps I'll have come full circle . . . but where did I begin?