The Opportunity Issue

Page 1

The Opportunity Issue

Fall 2011 | Vol. 42 Issue 1

Seeking Opportunity

UCLA student with Temporary Protected Status struggles through the lines of immigration PAGE 12

LA CAUSA: Unconventional students re-engage in their education

Drug War:

Mexican middle class refugees

Designated Drivers:

Driving privileges for undocumented drivers

Reel Politiks: Film festival focuses on Central America

contents tarado del mes 4 | September Jennifer Lopez 4 | October Hermain Cain


¡topen esto! 11 | Shifting Towards the Middle Ground On the road to drving privileges despite legal status 14 | Religious Secularization Second-generation Latinos move away from being devouted to culturally Catholic 15 | What is Wrong with the Police? A call for us to hold the police accountable to their actions

5 | LA CAUSA: Causing Students to Get Involved Changing the face of a community through education 6 | Unifying Diversity Through Activism Despite the criticisms of the movement, people are coming together sigan luchando through diversity for a different future 15 | From Within Contributions from 7 | Memories Fading on Pico and our incarcerated readers Union Repainted Mural Lacks Community Ties to Those Lost to Gang Violence latinoamérica 16 | Narco Refugees Drug wars universidad in Mexico cause Mexican middle class 8 | A Day in the Life of Undocumigration mented Student A student wonders 17 | World Cup Burdens Brazilhow his days would have been different ians Brazilians gripe at the waste of if he would have been adopted by a US taxes on superficial needs of hosting the citizen 17 | Looking Back to a New Peru 9 | Are Immigrants Finally CaliMy Unwavering Roots and Affinity fornia Dreamin’ Their Way into towards Peru College? Dreams come true for future students, but the nightmares remain for arte y cultura current students in California 19 | Losing the Mother Tongue Spanish Language Loss Among Latinos feature in the US 12 | No Soy de Aqui, Ni Soy de 20 | Photo Essay: Behind the Alla: Temporary Protected Status Scenes with Grupo Folklórico de UCLA student struggles to establish UCLA legitimacy in the United States 21 | Bringing Central American culture to life through film UCLA ABOUT THE COVER holds its first Reel Politik Film Festival

LaGENTEdotORG 22 | Video Preview: Bike Shop Restores Abandoned Bikes and Provides Safe Place for Community 22 | Video Preview: Grupo Folklórico de UCLA Practices for Dia de los Muertos

La Gente Lingo By Long Beach artist Jose Loza. Inspired by depression era artwork, he crethis issue’s usBy ated Armando Silva.cover He sought ing an art to capture his deco/futuristic nephew’s fascinadesign a geometric tion, usingwith a bird as a symbol cityscape of styled imagination and of its Los wings a current To as Angeles symbols ofand possibilities. UCLA as work a modview morestudent of Silva’s or to el. To him, view more Loza’s contact visit of work or to contact him, visit 2 LA GENTE fall 2011

featured art

11 | Contributed by Jose Loza.

18 | Contributed by artist Armando Silva.

OUR MISSION: La Gente Newsmagazine is for the UCLA student interested in Latino issues. We want to represent the diversity of our culture and cultivate pride in our community. We’re a forum for conversation hoping to inspire readers to get involved and make their voices heard.

arte y cultura need we say more? comunidad local insights expresiones all things creative

Start a conversation! La Gente accepts outside submissions of all sorts for review and possible publication. Email with “Submission” in the subject line.

LaGENTEdotORG online preview

Join the conversation! Comment on our articles online, like us on facebook, and follow us on twitter. What should La Gente cover of the Latino student community? #estudiante

latinoamérica transnational vista nuestra joteria LGBTQ sigan luchando for those inside tarado del mes the not-so-hot tamale ¡topen esto! all things opinionated universidad exclusively osito

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the La Gente editorial board. All others columns, cartoons, and letters represent the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board. The UCLA communications board has a media grievance procedure for resolving grievances against any of its media. For a copy of the complete procedure contact student media at 310.825.2787. Copyright 2011 ASUCLA Communications Board


Letter from the Editor

VOL. 42 ISSUE 1 Throughout my time at La Gente, I have seen the staff change from year to year, providing a variety of perspectives as well as showcasing common concerns of the Latina/o student community.


Finding opportunity through education is a theme that the writers explore in their stories. Opportunity is in between limitations and choice, between societal and legal expectations and the individual.


Behind the sentiment that everyone deserves an education despite legal status or class, writers address how this will come to be on the legislative and human level, whether via the California Dream Act or the Occupy Movement.

COPY EDITOR Helen Alonzo STAFF Emerson Baik Armando Bustos Jr. Magaly Chavez Diana Cuevas Jacqueline Espinoza Gabriela Garcia Jeanelle Horcasitas Alma Huitron Monica Ponce de Leon Jacqueline Luna Aranzazu Medellin Michelle Moreno Blanca Munoz Haidee Pacheco Samuel Temblador Charlene Unzeuta DESIGN Helen Alonzo Helga Salinas GRAPHICS & ILLUSTRATIONS Jose Hernandez Jonathan Horcasitas Maria Renteria Samuel Temblador PHOTOGRAPHERS Magaly Chavez Melissa Merrill Jose Orellana

The feature focuses on a UCLA student with Temporary Protected Status, a gray area not quite in the shadows like that experienced by the undocumented students but neither on a path to a bright future as privileged by American citizens. Other pieces talk about the most visible pillars of cultura: language and religion. These bring to mind questions like what defines cultura as the Latina/o community becomes more rooted in the United States. These questions come up because of our transnational connections. This includes the drug war in Mexico as it endangers families and the upcoming World Cup as it inspires ambivalent emotions in Brazilians. However, we still appreciate and seek out these connections by attending UCLA’s Central American film festival and by continuing to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. In light of the LA Xicano exhibitions, Chicano art has been closely intersected with the history and aesthetic of the newsmagazine. For this issue, artists Armando Silva and Jose Loza have contributed art, adding to the print quality of the newsmagazine, hopefully encouraging you, the reader, to keep it. We hope that our stories inspire you to seek out a forum of action, be it a poetry, art, or protest. Thank you for picking up this quarter’s issue of La Gente,

STUDENT MEDIA DIRECTOR Arvli Ward STUDENT MEDIA ADVISER Amy Emmert Community profiles, arts, culture and politics for the Latino college student

Helga L. Salinas

118 Kerckhoff Hall 308 Westwood Plaza Los Angeles, CA 90024 310.825.9836 Facebook: La Gente Newsmagazine This magazine was made possible with the support of Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress, online at

Campus Progress works to help young people — advocates, activists, journalists, artists — make their voices heard on issues that matter. Learn more at

fall 2011 LA GENTE 3

tarado del mes


Jennifer Lopez

icen que el amor es ciego, but after seven years of marriage J.Lo regained her sight. She saw the non-existent appeal in Marc Anthony and she left him in July 2011. Pero pobrecita. In September of the same year she lost her sight again and spent the weekend with Marc Anthony in Miami celebrating his birthday. I understand that they have twins, 3 year old Max and Emme, who should spend quality time with their dad, but J.Lo didn’t have to celebrate the birthday of the man who didn’t respect her as a woman or as she said in Vanity Fair’s September issue, “I didn’t love myself before...To understand that a person is not good for you, that that person is not treating you in the right way, or that he is not doing the right thing for himself - if I stay, then I am not doing the right thing for me.” Thank you J.Lo for giving us Latinas confidence lessons, yet not setting the example. Yes, you did love yourself enough to walk away, but then returned to the man that was not “treating you the right way.” He treated you like a prized possession and yet months after they made their decision to split up public, J.Lo took some time off from filming in LA to go to Miami just to celebrate Marc’s birthday. He is not even handsome. ¿Que le ve? Of course! Perfect example that love is blind. Marc Anthony is not blind. He sees J.Lo’s beauty just like the world is able to see her. She was named 2011 People’s Most Beautiful, and made me proud of our raza and how Latinas were no longer seen as these exotic women but rather hardworking, family orientated, beautiful, talented women. I can see how she still respects Marc Anthony as the father of her children and wants her twins to have a close relationship with their dad, but please, J.Lo, practice what you preached in Glamour magazine, “You’ve got to be OK on your own before you’re OK with someone else. You’ve got to value yourself and know that you’re worth everything.” Set the example for us young Latinas to not to go back to men who do not value or respect us. Don’t get back together with Marc because if you do you’re no longer “Jenny from the block.” Instead, you’re Jenny la Tarada del mes.

someone, something, or some action that does not help the Latina/o community 4 LA GENTE fall 2011

October: “

I value my character and my integrity more than anything else,” Cain said, in a recent interview adding, “that voters have voted with their dollars, and they’re saying they don’t care about the character assassination. They care about leadership and getting this economy going.” Then the issue present at hand is do Americans care about the character of their President? Lets take a walk down Cain Lane for a moment. Writer Alexandra Petri, from “ComPost” calls him “a perverse energizer bunny” that keeps going and going even after every scandal. The interesting part of it all is that Cain doesn’t get out of a scandal when he immediately steps into another. I can his idea about building a great electric fence. “I just got back from China. Ever heard of the Great Wall of China? It looks pretty sturdy. And that sucker is real high. I think we can build one if we want to! We have put a man on the moon, we can build a fence! Now, my fence might be part Great Wall and part electrical technology...It will be a twenty foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I’ll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!” I wonder if Herman Cain is aware that over three million Chinese died building it? And one more question, who would build the fence? Cain should just join forces with Joe Arpio and see what other brilliant anti-immigrant laws they can come up with maybe branding immigrants with a “Virgen De Guadalupe” and sending them to labor camps. Yet, when asked about the Wall hurly-burly Herman stated, “That’s a joke. That’s not a serious plan. That was a joke. I’ve also said America needs to get a sense of humor.” Really, I forgot to LOL…Har har har. Cain, following suit with his colleagues, has made bold statements on immigrant issues and on the popular misconception that all immigrants come from south of the border. Not only are there four sexual harassment cases surrounding Cain, but now he is even exposing himself as a condescending misogynist by sarcastically referring to Nancy Pelosi when she was House speaker as “Princess Nancy.” It may not have been the wisest move for a presidential candidate to disrespect a woman like that, but of course you know Cain. He later regretted his comment saying “that was a statement that I obviously should not have made, but I was trying to make a point.” Voters, do we care to even label Cain as a presidential candidate?

Hermain Cain


Do you know one? tweet using



LA CAUSA: Causing Students to Get Involved Changing the face of a community through education Diana Cuevas


ittle Frankie wrote his first essay at age 16. He was so proud, “Can I print it out? I want to show my mom.” After being pushed out of the LAUSD public school system, Little Frankie ended up at Los Angeles Communities Advocating for Unity, Social Justice, and Action (LA CAUSA), an alternative charter high school in East Los Angeles, to not only finish his high school diploma, but to be introduced to the possibility of going to college. LA CAUSA from its origins has implemented a different environment and curriculum that is relevant and beneficial to the community. As stated in their mission statement, LA CAUSA “engages historically disenfranchised young people and their families from East Los Angeles to take action against the injustices that impact low-income communities of color.” Alejandro Covarrubias, now a professor in the UCLA César E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies, was the first executive director of LA CAUSA. “LA CAUSA was more than just a school, I know right now it’s running primarily as a school, but it has always be seen as a creative center that is interested in developing local leadership so then those young people can become active members of actions for change in their own community,” he said. The culturally relevant curriculum has been essential to create active members of change. The curriculum includes topics such as the prison industrial complex and oppressive relations of power. As professor Covarrubias states, “Education is ultimately about getting people to understand their reality so they can contribute positively to their reality.” Ely Flores, a 2005 graduate of LA CAUSA, agrees. After facing 3 years of prison and waiting for the arrival of his baby, he came to LA CAUSA and graduated. He now works full time bringing solar and renewal energy to low income communities with GRID Alternative. He has also started his own non-profit organization, Leadership through Empowerment, Action, and Dialogue (LEAD), where he educates youth about public policy. LA CAUSA takes advantage of its close-knit environment. The current executive director Robert Zardeneta states, “We actively went out and recruited these students to become reengaged in their education. We are a small enough school that we can do that.”

LA CAUSA students visiting UCLA through the UCLA Green Site partnership.

Currently, LA CAUSA has 147 students enrolled. But will it get bigger and replicate problems such as over crowdedness? “Internally, we have battled with the question of ‘when are we getting too big?’ So now I think that from where we are is as big as we should get before we break off into other satellite programs,” said Zardeneta. He added that they plan on creating programs in Boyle Heights and other parts of East LA because “every community needs a LA CAUSA” LA CAUSA’s focus has shifted to getting students exposed to college with the goal for them to apply to college. To do this, LA CAUSA has partnered up with local colleges and universities such as UCLA, LA Trade Tech and CSULA, giving their students the opportunity to get college credit while at LA CAUSA. Robert Zardeneta exclaims, “What’s more radical than taking a young person who is a ‘drop out’ and bringing them to CSULA? To me that’s pretty radical.” The new College Career Center has been beneficial for the shift of college readiness to take place. Rogelio Medina, the director of Post Secondary Education and the College Career Center, felt it was a disservice not to implement career develop-

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ment and college awareness into the program. Medina credits the establishment of the College Career Center to the community leadership group called Presente. This group of students was first established as a Community Leadership Project (CLP). Presente’s mission was to get everyone at LA CAUSA to graduate. “This group was the one who led the movement in LA CAUSA to promote college and graduation,” said Medina. In 2009, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis visited this community leadership project, prompting awards from the White House. After that, Rogelio made the moves to open the College Career Center. Rogelio says, “This is were you see the genius of having young people in charge. They go large. These young people are powerful.” Though LA CAUSA has undergone many changes since its early days, the main priority is still the same: offer the community what other public schools have not succeeded. Professor Covarrubias states, “When you work with a population, your responsibility as an organization is to ensure that that population feels served by your organization. Schools should do that as well.” What should La Gente cover from your comunidad? Share it with us at

fall 2011 LA GENTE 5


Unifying Diversity Through Activism

Despite the criticisms of the movement, people are coming together through diversity for a different future Magaly Chavez


he space of city hall is filled with hundreds of people looking for change. They want to change the corruption of greedy corporations slowly taking away the livelihood and dreams of the American people. Spectators claim that protesters are fighting for “change,” but in reality do not know what they wish to change. The Occupy movement seems to be split into many different sections. People want multiple changes out of this movement, but the question is whether people will be able to come together to decide the change they truly want for America. “There are too many different agendas from the Occupy LA movement, some of the changes people want are completely unrealistic. I myself want for the removal of any persuasion from politicians that being in monetary value, tangible object, or flesh. We need dedicated public servants, that is how we will begin to see a change in the entire system,” said a self-employed LA artist who wished to remain anonymous. In 2010, Councilman Richard Alarcon proposed the Responsible Banking Initiative. The initiative is said to allow LA to score and judge financial institutions on their community investment and lending practices, allowing LA to evaluate whether that financial institution would benefit the community. The legislation stagnated on the council’s agenda. Occupy LA managed to push government officials to support their movement to take another look at Alarcon’s proposal as reported by the Huffington Post. “What good does it do Los Angeles if the banks in which the bulk of our tax dollars sit in are reinvested in another City, far away?” said Councilman Richard Alarcon in his blog. The Occupy LA movement has inspired Bruins to take the future of America into their own hands and fight for the 99%. In the past weeks a group of students have risen on campus, calling for Occupy UCLA. “The Occupy UCLA movement is meant to politicize the student body of UCLA, and revive the spirit of activism on this campus to a level that rivals any other college in the nation. And in the process change our economic conditions in which we live and set a different course for our future,” said Byron Barahona, a third-year Political science student. In a short period of time this group has grown and have called for action days on campus supporting “Bank Transfer Day.” A day created to cancel bank accounts with some of the big banks that were bailed out in 2008, and invest money in more local banks, and credit unions. Overall the purpose of this group is to educate students about the movement, and to recruit students to be more politically involved, specifically within Occupy LA. Past the politics and disagreements about the movement it is important to look at what the movement truly represents, all people being more involved in the actual problems of the nation. A participant of Occupy LA states, “People are becoming more aware of the problems. Actually taking the initiative and paying attention, gaining more knowledge, instead of just listening to the media.” Not only are people becoming active, but they are also putting aside their differences of religion, gender, class, and overall background to fight for what they truly believe is right, and take back America from the greedy corporations that have been suffocating the American Dream. The Occupy movement represents stepping away from a feeling of apathy that has consumed our nation and to begin a new wave of dreams and hope. 6 LA GENTE fall 2011


Activism can start at any age, protester Hailey Ava Lopez, 3, at the Occupy LA movement on October 16 2011.


Protesters at the Occupy LA movement create their own slogans showcasing their anger on October 16, 2011.


Memories Fading on Pico and Union

Repainted Mural Lacks Community Ties to Those Lost to Gang Violence at Pico and Union Aranzazu Medellin Guerrero


he paint is peeling and fading on a mural amidst signs in Spanish and local super markets in the barrio community on Pico and Union. The Catholic images and names that are written across mural hint at la historia behind it. Que onda con los nombres? What do they mean? Digging led to Burlington Homeboy and Homegirls Industries, a partial history of Pico and Union, and an art group named Earth Crew. Touched by the tragic death of one of their friends, the vision of Earth Crew was born. “We all kinda wanted to show the muralists; hey this is what we can do with a spray can. This is what our generation can do,” says Joseph Montalvo. Better known to his Earth Crew members as Nuke, Montalvo is a graffiti writer who tells a story through the power of his can as well as a muralist of Boyle Heights. Behind a strip mall on Pico and Union in 1990 is where the story of this mural begins. They included highly influenced Catholic images, expressing the “L.A. cholo culture aesthetic,” said Montalvo. The wall became the canvas for local gang members, transforming into a homage for community members who died in gang crossfire by writing their names across the mural. “Three or four names that we added of people who got killed while we were there. One of those names is of a ten year old girl who was killed due to gang violence in the community,” Montalvo said. However, the L.A. gang culture aesthetic has faded. The sense of community that the mural carried is no longer felt. Que onda, why has the graffiti mural to begin to disappear? Mothers and grandmothers of the community decided to have an image of La Virgen de Guadalupe along the right hand wall of the strip mall. Today the original Virgen de Guadalupe no longer resides on the wall. It has been redone, but not by Earth Crew and not with their permission. For them, this is a violation of integrity and disrespect. “We’re still here. We’re alive!” Montalvo said. The dedication that reads “Dedicado a todos aquellos que no tuvieron la oportunidad de disfrutar la vida en paz y a la esperanza que témenos de evitar más muertes” is halfway gone. The Burlington Homeboys and Homegirls mural is in need of restoration, or else the story and community history it carries will be lost as the paint fades away. The mural carries with it the beginning of not only Earth Crew, but also of the role and effect it had on the local gang youth who participated in its making. “It played a cathartic role in those guys who were painting it. It reflected the violence that was all around them, and that they had probably caused themselves,” Montalvo explained. While speaking to Montalvo, he expressed the influence of Helen Samuels, Earth Crew’s mentor and guide once on the crew. Seeing their passion to create art through graffiti, Samuels always sought to help Earth Crew carry out its purpose such as finding locations for the murals or filing paperwork. “Helen was always making sure that we knew the type of role we were playing in the neighborhood. That we were there as medicine people,” Montalvo said. Earth Crew struggles to survive, but as Montalvo kept emphasizing, it is still very present.

Courtesey of SPARC

A picture of the mural in 1990.


A picture of the mural today with paint fading.

Another section of the mural featuring La Virgen de Guadalupe.


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A Day in the Life of an Undocumented Student

A student wonders how his days would have been different if he would have been adopted by a US citizen Charlene Unzuta


esson Canul had the opportunity to be adopted, but that meant leaving his family. Jesson and his parents immigrated to the United States from Yucatan, Mexico when he was two years old. He had the option to become a US citizen when his middle school teacher Cindy Moriel wanted to adopt him, but in order to get his papers, he had to live with her. Moriel had good intentions providing Jesson with what he needed, but when his grades started to slip she asked, “Do you want to be like your dad?” His dad was not a criminal and had done nothing wrong. He did not understand why Moriel always brought up his father in a negative way. Jesson knew he did not want to work at a carwash like his dad, but he respected his dad’s strength, determination, and positivity. Jesson did not appreciate these remarks, rebelling against the path she had set out. Moriel cancelled the process for his adoption and citizenship, and Jesson returned to his family.

6:30 a.m.

12 p.m until 6 p.m. As Jesson balances working, an internship and school, he keeps his parents in mind. He is thankful for all the sacrifices and support his parents give him. “Every morning, every time he drops me off at school, every time he sees me doing my homework, he says ‘echale ganas’ and those words are with me every time I write an essay, every time I have a test, every time I’m faced with anything,” said Jesson. At the California State University of Los Angeles, Jesson studies Criminal Justice with a minor in Woman Studies, a decision that was determined by an event that happened when he was a senior in high school. His siblings Diana, Alely, and Mateo were coming home from the park when a drunk man grabbed his sister. Fortunately, they were able to get away, but when they got home Jesson heard his sister crying, so he went after the man. When he found him, Jesson got into an altercation and was arrested. Being in court is what incited his curiosity with the criminal justice system.

Jesson wakes up at home, where he lives with his parents, Rosa Cuk and Mateo Canul, and his siblings, Diana, 17, Alely, 10, Mateo, 7, Valerie, 4, 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. and Dahila, 2. At night, Jesson is a paid He remembers his parents musician at clubs and parties, talking one night if there would “[My dad] says ‘echale owing his musical beginnings be enough money for the next ganas’ and those words to his father. semester. Though his family When he was twelve, he are with me every time have been limited on money, was introduced to the accordiI write an essay, every they have always made his eduon, soon after he learned to play cation a priority. “Even though from the accordion player in time I have a test, evthey aren’t educated, they know his dad’s band. He remembers ery time I’m faced with practicing until early morning, the importance of education in my life,” said Jesson. while waiting for his dad to finanything.” He helps his family by turnish playing music at the clubs. ing his paychecks over to his “Being on stage and watchmother, who does the family’s finances. He realizes ing people sing and dance is a good feeling and that helping his family ultimately helps him. makes you want to practice more,” says Jesson. 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. While Jesson enjoys being a musician, he adEvery weekday, Jesson helps prepare cases and mits that there are temptations like women, drugs, deal with possible clients by interning for the legal and alcohol, as well as working late nights and department at the Mexican American Legal Dehaving run-ins with gun shootings and violence. A fense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). He learns year and a half ago he and his father created their about civil litigation and law language from the band Conjunto Libertad. They travel together, cases he goes through. since it is convenient and safer, because they can “I’ve seen a lot of books on discrimination, but take care of each other. at the internship you get to witness actual people Jesson realizes that having his legal status fixed who are being discriminated against,” said Jesson. would have made his life easier. He questions the This affirmed Jesson’s decision to help the comkind of person he would have been had he stayed munity. on the path that Moriel had for him. He could not 8 LA GENTE fall 2011


accept the situation he was in, where his family was looked down upon for their lack of education, income, and social status. Years later when he runs into Moriel, he thanks her for trying and apologizes for rebelling. “It’s taking me a little more time, but I’m learning a lot about myself and what kind of man I want to be.” Are you an undocumented student who wants to tell your story? Write to Charlene at cunzueta@media.

universidad Are immigrants finally California dreamin’ their way into college? Dreams come true for future students, but the nightmares remain for current students in California Jeanelle Horcasitas


magine that you immigrated to California when you were ten years old. You have attended California schools, taken all of the same classes and teachers as any other US citizen. You are the top of your class and getting ready to apply for college…when you come to a disturbing halt. You can’t apply for college. Why? Well, there is absolutely no way that you or your family can afford it, and you don’t qualify for financial aid because you aren’t an US citizen. Now, visualize the heart-break and frustration that these hard-working students must feel who can’t improve their future because they can’t go to college. Society today has taught us that a college education, more importantly a college degree, will ensure a bright and stable future. However, what happens to the immigrants who work hard in high school and are stop short of their dreams and future? To put it simply, nothing happens. Thousands of immigrant students don’t go farther than high school, and cannot overcome the socio-economic barriers without a college education. It is a known fact that college is difficult. It is difficult to get accepted, difficult to graduate, and most importantly, difficult to afford. As a result of

“What source of aid do immigrants receive? The answer is: nothing, nada, zip.” the recession and growing debt, college has gotten even more impossible to get into – especially in California. As a transfer student, I have experienced the overflowing classrooms and tuition hikes at my community college in Sacramento. Luckily, I spent countless days and hours ensuring that I took all of the necessary steps to make it to the university of my dreams. But, I couldn’t have accomplished this without the help of financial aid. As a result of the financial aid I received, primarily grants, it helped me to accomplish my goals and pursue a higher education. Therefore, it brings me to the question: what source of aid do immigrants receive? The answer is: nothing, nada, zip. However, October 8th, 2011 marked a pivotal moment in history for immigrant students in California. The California Dream Act has been a hot topic since July 2011 when Gov. Jerry Brown originally signed the first half of the bill. Now that Gov. Brown has signed the second component of the California Dream Act, the future of immigrant students will be changing dramatically in the coming years. According to the Los Angeles Times, illegal immigrants that are accepted by state universities will now be eligible to receive financial aid through CalGrants. Additionally, students attending the colleges in California will be eligible for grants and fee waivers. However, this act is not set to go in effect until 2013. Although the California Dream Act appears to be a wonderful program for the improvement of immigrant students, there are many opposed to it. There is a belief that this act will attract even more people to immigrate here for an education. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly stated, “We have just created a new entitlement that is going to cause tens of thousands of people to come here illegally from all over the world.” The Los Angeles Times states that according to Gov. Brown, an anticipat-


ed amount of 2,500 students will be eligible for Cal-Grants. Therefore, only increasing Cal-Grant funds to 14.5 million, which is only about one percent overall of Cal-Grant funds. In my opinion, this program will benefit California greatly because the top students in California (even if they are immigrants) will be contributing to our society by getting a well deserved education. However, my only question is: what is going to happen to the current immigrant students that are still ineligible for aid for another two years? It appears that this question has not yet been answered, and it can only be assumed that current students will either have to pay out of pocket for their education, or wait until the California Dream Act has been executed completely so that they too can receive financial aid. Although the California Dream Act marks a great moment in history for immigrants, it is still not time for grand celebration. The current immigrant students in California are still dealing with the nightmare of being able to afford college, and until 2013, they must patiently wait so they too can be eligible for all of benefits of a US citizen. So, can this act really be a “dream come true,” or is it really just a “dream come 2013?”

What do you think the effects of California Dream Act for both documented and undocumented students alike? Share it us at lagente@

fall 2011 LA GENTE 9

10 LA GENTE zall 2011

¡topen esto!

Shifting Towards the Middle Ground On the road to drving privileges despite legal status Jacqueline Espinoza


’m helping set-up for a sobriety checkpoint; I have my safety vest on over my uniform and bulletproof vest. That was me two summers ago volunteering as a cadet explorer at my local Police Department. I took pride in being a cadet since I felt a strong connection to my community through my volunteer work. Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 353, which will become effective January 1, 2012. According to the Official California Legislative Information, AB 353 will prohibit law enforcement to tow an unlicensed driver’s vehicle during a sobriety checkpoint if the driver’s only offense is not having a valid driver’s license. Instead, law

“I see this benefiting undocumented individuals and law enforcement.” enforcement must release the vehicle to a licensed driver whether it’s the registered owner or any licensed driver without the owner’s consent. My pride was shaken recently in my Chicana/o lecture. My peers had negative sentiments towards law enforcement from their personal experiences, or through their studies. It was the first time I heard that sobriety checkpoints target immigrant communities, specifically, undocumented individuals. I was shocked; this never crossed my mind. In my eyes, police officers were approachable, caring, mentors and most importantly friends. My peer’s comments disturbed me and made me feel guilty. I worked alongside police officers and I too was being associated with these negative feelings. I knew that whatever I said was not going to change my peers’ opinion. Protesting for AB 353, Yesenia, an undocumented student, said she looks forward to learning how to drive. She restrained for fear like her unlicensed brother that she would be stopped, have her car towed, miss a class exam, and forced to pay a quarter’s tuition for a class she will no longer receive credit for, as well as pay impound fees to retrieve the car. According to UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program and the California Watch, 17,419 vehicles were towed during the 2010 fiscal year. At most 70 percent were from undocumented unlicensed drivers. Anti-immigrant groups state that driving will become more “dangerous.” Though many undocu-


mented drivers do happen to be unlicensed drivers, this is not by choice. In 1993, California passed SB 976 requiring residents to provide a Social Security number and proof of valid California residency. California will probably adopt Utah’s Driving Privilege Card (DPC), allowing undocumented individuals to drive after completion of a driver’s test. However, the card cannot act as a form of identification. In red-bold capital letters it states, “Not valid for identification driving privilege only,” along with a red outline around the driver’s picture that reminds us that driving is a “Privilege.” As a cadet, I see this benefiting undocumented individuals and law enforcement. Undocumented individuals who have DPC will be able to obtain car insurance and register their car. Through DPC police officers will be able to identify all drivers and determine whether an individual has any warrants, felonies, or a criminal history. This will allow officers to determine how to approach a person. The fear of approaching or letting go an unidentified dangerous individual will be eliminated since every driver will have some form of identification through a driver’s license or a DPC. California needs to shift its attention from the racist undertone of citizenship-status point of view and focus on whether undocumented drivers actually know how to drive. AB 353 along with the adoption of a DPC will keep our roads safe. It

will allow undocumented individuals to live an efficient life without the fear of getting one’s vehicle towed and the economic hardships that follow. Ultimately, everyone will feel more comfortable living in one’s home.

Did you know: States that allow undocumented individuals to drive: 1. Washington 2. New Mexico 3. Utah Prior to AB 353, unlicensed drivers:

-are arrested if he/she has never been issued a DL -their vehicle is impounded for at least 30 days SOURCES: US Department of Transportation, Fox News

What do you think about AB 353? Wrtie to Jacqueline at

fall 2011 LA GENTE 11


No soy de aqui, ni soy de alla: Temporary Protected Status UCLA student struggles to establish legitimacy in the United States Helen Alonzo


he recent passing of the California Dream Act is a victory to many undocumented students giving financial aid to all students. Despite this victory, there are students outside of these two categories. Liliana Leon, a second-year comparative literature student, has lived in the US since she was five months old. She came with her mother through political asylum that was granted to her when she fled El Salvador due to persecution. She had the typical Latino American life growing up with her two younger siblings who are both citizens. Liliana was not fully aware that she wasn’t a citizen in the country she has called home. In 2001, her mother was already trying to get Liliana out of asylum by applying for residency through her grandfather. In 2006, she realized that she was not a citizen. Her mother told her that their political asylum was going to be negated because the government would decide that the threat to her mother was not imminent. They would become undocumented if they didn’t find another alternative. Immediately Liliana and her mother applied for Temporary Protected Status to remain in this country. Her mother believed that having Temporary Protected Status would be much better than being undocumented, because her daughter would not have to struggle. However, Liliana never foresaw the problems this new knowledge or her new legal status would bring her. Temporary Protected Status, commonly known as TPS, was created under the Immigration Act of 1990. TPS allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to grant temporary immigration status to residents from selected countries that face environmental disasters, armed conflicts or extreme temporary conditions. Currently, these countries include El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, 12 LA GENTE fall 2011

Sudan, and South Sudan. Individuals with TPS are in the country legally and do not have to fear deportation by the government. However, they are not a legal resident or citizen of the US and have no opportunity through TPS to obtain residency or citizenship. “From the stories I’ve heard it’s difficult to be in TPS because there is not a lot of information on it. [Other undocumented students] assume TPS individuals have more rights or privileges and it creates divisions,” said Professor Leisy Abrego of the UCLA César E. Chavez Department of Chicana/o studies. They are allowed to work and pay taxes but do not receive any government aid, including financial aid to attend a university. Individuals on TPS have to continuously make sure their paper work is in order. They renew their application every nine to twelve months paying $515 to get a piece of paper stating they have Employment Authorization. Lawyers have not been able to help Liliana and her mother pursue residency under TPS. They have now gone through two different lawyers who have taken their payment without furthering their application through the immigration system. Almost everyday Liliana faces trouble due to the complexity of her status. She has to explain countless times what it means to have TPS. This becomes difficult when dealing with office workers from the Registrar’s Office and the Financial Aid Office have never heard of TPS. This was especially true when applying to UCLA, paying for UCLA and applying for scholarships. Liliana has no way to label her situation. On official documents, there is no box to check for TPS. On her UCLA student file, it says residency pending. Several times she has had to argue with the Financial Aid office to not charge her out-of-state fees. When the California Dream Act passed, Liliana

was hopeful that she would be able to receive financial aid previously unavailable to undocumented students. However, these scholarships, including one from UCLA Academic Advancement Program (AAP), are only available for students with AB 540 status. When I interviewed AAP assistant director Chante Henderson, she stated that AAP will award scholarships to an estimated 70 students, each with a value of $2,500. However, since Liliana’s UCLA status says residency pending, she does not meet the qualifications of the scholarship. Liliana will still apply for the scholarship, but there is no guarantee she will be given one. “The Financial Aid Office said they had to be AB 540. It had to be a quick turnaround to give the scholarships but in the future, when there is more time to organize, it will hopefully change in the future for other statuses,” Henderson said. The director of the UCLA Financial Aid Office Ronald Johnson echoed the same sentiments when asked about students with TPS and financial aid. “The financial aid office is only designating scholarships for AB-540 students. If she has AB-540 on an application, she


My situation is so obscure I feel a bit marginalized because people label things. Either you are here legally or you are not. They don’t see the gray area that immigration system has created.

should be able to apply. We are trying to help students who are undocumented. Since I am not an immigration specialist, I am not sure how financial aid will work. There is a really fine line and she may be eligible,” Johnson said. Henderson and Johnson hope that the financial aid process will become open to more statuses in the future. Despite the passing of the California Dream Act, both individuals were not previously aware of TPS and how it affects obtaining financial aid. Recently, the Registrar’s Office has asked Liliana to reclarify her residency status for winter quarter. Under TPS regulation, she can claim AB 540 status. An action that Liliana is considering in order to avoid the confusion of her residency as well as make it easier to apply for scholarships. “I have to show my work authorization card to coworkers so they can see I have a legitimate status and every time I apply for a scholarship or other jobs the question about my legal status pops up and every time I become self-

conscious of how different I am.” When I asked associate registrar Cathy Lindstrom via email about statistics regarding UCLA students with TPS, she responded that UCLA does not keep records of students with this status. Their residence deputies have not dealt with students of this status for the last year. When I interviewed Liliana, she expressed a common sentiment many Latinos feel, “No soy de aqui, ni soy de alla,” as composer Facundo Cabral once said. “I feel I am being labeled as an outsider. Not just because I was born in another country and have a different cultural experience from everyone else, but I am physically being labeled and targeted as different,” said Liliana. Her citizenship may belong to El Salvador, but in her own opinion she has no connection other than

Did you know... INS has made it clear that information it collects when an alien registers for TPS may be used to institute exclusion or deportation proceedings upon the denial, withdrawal or expiration of TPS.

How many have TPS? El Salvador


March 2, 2001 - September 9, 2006



December 30, 1998 - July 5, 2006


her mother to her native country. She has lived in the US her whole life, but she cannot claim American citizenship. If for some reason their TPS is not renewed they will become undocumented and easily deported because ICE has records of them. “I’ve heard of many cases where individuals with TPS who are one day late with their renewal application are immediately deported because the government has all their information,” said Professor Abrego. For Liliana, it leaves her struggling to figure out how to pay for school without any aid, having to commute and work long hours, as well as having to justify herself to people who do not understand. “My situation is so obscure I feel a bit marginalized because people label things. Either you are here legally or you are not. They don’t see the gray area that immigration system has created. They don’t understand that they can’t send you back because you feel political persecution but at the same time they don’t want you, so they put you in a marginalized place where you don’t have a lot of political representation.”

Are you a student with Temporary Protected Status? Share your story. Email Helen at


December 30, 1998 - July 5, 2006 SOURCE:

fall 2011 LA GENTE 13

ÂĄtopen esto!

Religious Secularization

Second-generation Latinos move away from being devouted to culturally Catholic Michelle Moreno


he cross of Christ hanging from a gold necklace is being Catholic. For many second generation Latinos, this is as far as their relationship with God extends, a tendency that epitomizes their gradual move towards an evanescing faith in God. While a growing number of Latinos identify themselves as nonreligious, most say they still retain certain cultural aspects of Catholicism and thus consider themselves “culturally Catholic.� According to Ace Prensa, secularity among Latinos increases from 8 percent in the first-

religion. While this bestowal of Catholicism teaches them that babies should be baptized and that taking the Eucharist is the most sacred moment during Sunday mass, it does not teach them the spiritual meaning behind these practices. This lack of spiritual knowledge is especially evident during the celebration of holy days such as Ash Wednesday. Many, from devout Catholics to cultural Catholics, gather on this day to have ashes imposed on their foreheads. But, the presence of so many new faces raises questions about the knowledge and

“I don’t know much about the actual religion. It’s just how I was raised.� generation immigrants to 14 percent in the second-generation. For these second generation Latinos, Catholicism is not a way of explaining their faith in God, but rather a cultural identifier. Though they do not practice it through the reception of all the sacraments, they still claim ties to Catholicism. A young man who wished to remain anonymous said, “I don’t know much about the actual religion. It’s just how I was raised. I go to church occasionally, I have a rosary in the rearview mirror of my car, and I help my mom set up of the ‘nacimiento’ for Christmas and I really enjoy the big celebration my family does for the Virgin Mary. But as far as my relationship with God...well I guess that is my relationship with God.� For Latinos like him, the connection between Catholicism and culture is much stronger than that of Catholicism and faith. Religion is not a matter of establishing a faith-based communion with God, but a matter of inheritance. Their parents are Catholic and by default, they too inherit this 14 LA GENTE fall 2011

credence in the paramount doctrines of their religion. Upon asking a UCLA student, who identifies himself as Catholic, what the significance of Ash Wednesday is, he responded: “It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but I have no idea. It’s just something I’ve done most of my life.� He, like many other Latinos, chooses to be marked with the ashes of repentance on this Wednesday, but do not know why. Stripping this sacred practice from its spiritual meaning and transforming it solely into a cultural practice, makes the ashes on their forehead less a symbol of mourning and repentance and more a symbol of a deteriorating faith in God. Moreover, for the increasing number of non-religious second-generation Latinos, Catholicism has become one of the many aspects of their culture that is only ritualistically part of quotidian life, an inclination that does not accord with my definition of spiritual faith. Though they religiously obey Catholic practices, they are devoid of the fundamental


characteristic on which religion is based: an absolute and walking faith in God.

By the Numbers

What do you consider a relationship with God to be?

Around 70% of Latinos identify as Catholic

Write to Michelle at

39% of Latinos who

said they had no religion were former Catholics 6285&( $FH 3UHQVD 1'1

¡topen esto!

What is Wrong with the Police? A call for us to hold the police accountable to their actions Jonathan Sanabria


s a young male of color from the urban community of Los Angeles, I have been bred to be weary of the police. From the time I was a young teenager able to drive, I have been pulled over numerous times without any probable cause. I am not alone. The overwhelming number of stories of racial profiling and repulsive abuse of power are enough for me to live in a state of alarm. I have witnessed the brutal assault on our civil rights by police from the Rodney King Beatings to the revelations of the Rampart Case in 1999 to the more recent Oscar Grant slaying at a BART station in Oakland. Most of these officers were not put to trial and many walked away with a slap on the wrist. One exception is the officer that shot Oscar Grant in the back of the head. While he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, he only served 11 months in jail much to the chagrin of the Grant family. These kinds of atrocious acts are permitted to occur because the police officers’ statements are

not investigated. The word of the police officer is taken over the victim. Recently in the city of Fullerton, the police department has come under fire because of their heinous attack on a homeless and mentally ill individual. Six officers brutally attacked a man who they presumed to be a perpetrator, while a group of citizens watched. According to reports from the Huffington Post, a homeless man was sitting when the police approached him and he ran off. When they caught the homeless man, the police began to pound his face on the curb, beat him, and hog-tie him. The man would later die from his injuries and the police department is now under investigation by the FBI. There were 6 police officers present but only two were charged with any wrongdoing. Officer Manuel Ramos and Corporal Jay Cicinelli were the two officers who most viciously attacked Kelly Thomas. Ramos beat him while Cicinelli tasered him. Since being charged with the death, both

men have been freed on bail, although Ramos is facing stricter charges. How is it that the other four police officers are not charged? They are just as guilty as their peers because they witnessed the murder of an individual. These police officers are paid to protect and serve the public, but that night they refused and were rewarded with paid leave. They stood there as a man was beat, tasered, and choked. What is wrong with the police? Have they lost their human perspective? I propose that we start holding the police officers to the same laws to which they hold everyday citizens. If a police officer kills an individual, there should be no reason why a thorough investigation should follow. If any misconduct is found, then I believe that police officer must face a jury. Too often their authority goes unchecked and citizens suffer the consequences. Until their power is checked, there is nothing protecting us from their abuse.

sigan luchando

Letter From A Prisoner 16 June 2010 Corcoran, Ca. To all editors and staff of LA Gente, Utmost of greetings are conveyed…I hope my concise note finds you all at its best and blessed in all aspects. With my dues paid, just wanted to drop by with a token of appreciation for your magazine (newsletters) by saying “Thank You” for having me in your mailing list. Back in 98-99, I was a construction worker who helped build the 3 new buildings there in UCLA, which were supposed to be the new dorms. (Don’t know if the project finished there yet.) And honestly, there wasn’t much Raza going there. The most I’ve seen were whites, asians/koreans, and a few blacks. So I’m kind of baffled that not only do I (or we) have raza there volunteering and helping our people and community, but also orienting themselves with your newsletter about the ideologies, thoughts, and knowledge of our culture. And also have my peoples going there, ”Mexican Americans,” since education isn’t so cheap nowadays, que no. Anyhow, I’m in a place call the SHU (Security Housing Unit), basi-

cally a jail within a jail, where we’re required to spend twenty-two and one-half hours per day in our cells. So, yup, reading is the only way to keep our sanity. I sure have a lot of solitude, for introspection, que no. I lived in West LA all m life. And since I’ve been away from home, I’ve been getting the LA Times just to catch news of my hometown. But they don’t cover much as your newsletter do, so I wanted to say, gracias, and keep up the good work. For some of us do appreciate your diligent work you put into your articles (as well as studies). Once again, thank you for having me on your mailing list and the enlightenment with all the pragmatic, dialectical dialogue. Thank you for your time in reading this note, con permiso. Sincerely, Jesus Alberto Fonseca

fall 2011 LA GENTE 15


Narco Refugees

Drug wars in Mexico cause Mexican middle class migration Samuel Temblador


he Vasquez family is on the run. It is not from the endemic poverty, lack of job opportunities, or deficits in government aid, which have historically driven Mexicans across the border. They are running from war. Mounting violence induced by Mexico’s drug war has displaced 230,000 Mexicans thus far, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. After gaining political asylum and fleeing to the US, Jose Vasquez contacted my father who agreed to shelter him and his family who are my distant relatives. I had begun to hear pieces of their harrowing story from various family members. They were shaken from their ordeal and understandably in no condition to disclose their story in an interview. The Mexican drug war hardly crossed my mind before then. It only existed in the snippets of media stories I heard from time to time. Meeting Jose Vasquez and his family last month brought the reality of the drug war much closer to home. Back in Mexico, the Vasquez family owned a small business and three cars. Jose Vasquez worked as a mechanic, while Maria Vasquez ran the local neighborhood grocery store. The children enjoyed comfortable lives. They were living the “Mexican Dream,” but in an American graveyard. As the body count rose, their comfortable lives shattered, leaving behind shards of their once happy lives for the wind to scatter across the border. Jose received a call from police asking him to identify a corpse, that of his brother Martin, which had been discovered at a a crime scene. Martin had been involved in the drug trade, fueling speculation that cartel assassins murdered him. According to the Guardian, the Mexican government has placed the death toll for drug-war related violence at just over 34,612. There seems to be no end in sight. Martin was survived by his wife who had given birth sometime after his funeral. She was then under the care of Jose’s other brother Joel. Sometime after Martin’s wife had given birth, the assassins arrived and finished the job: murdering Joel, the young wife, and her newborn baby. Drug trafficking and cartel warfare have shaped the destinies of Mexico’s “Ninis” 16 LA GENTE fall 2011

generation, the wasted youth que “ni estudian, ni trabajan,” who neither study nor work, according to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. From the age of 11 years old, they make their living as sentries, traffickers, and hired guns for the warring cartels, as reported by International Business Times. The rising tide of violence and corruption has even managed to pollute the dwindling reservoirs of justice and morality within the police force. According to the L.A. Times, 3,200 Mexican federal police officers have been investigated and fired for links to drug cartels. Distraught over the massacre of his relatives, Jose yelled at the officer, asking him when the violence would end. The officer retorted that it would end when none of his family members were left. Profoundly aware of this rampant corruption, Jose promptly took his family to Tijuana to ask the American Embassy for political asylum. In 2008, only 13 percent of Mexican political asylum requests were granted according to Paul R. Kan of the Strategic Studies Institute. Fortunately for Jose, the family was granted 6 months of asylum, time which he hopes to use to secure his family’s residency and safety. After staying in my family’s home for a couple of days, the Vasquez family left for Chicago where they will have their residency hearing, and where they may finally begin rebuilding their lives. How many images, how many sensations, how many unspoken horrors have resurfaced in their memories since then? *The names mentioned herein, of the family and its individual members, have been changed in order to respect their privacy and maintain their safety.

How has the Mexican drug affected you? Write to Samuel at



World Cup burdens Brazilians Emerson Baik

Looking Back to a New Peru Monica Ponce de Leon



razil, the home of the football lovers, is hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014. This “miracle”, as many Brazilians call it, hasn’t happened since 1950, and many soccer fans are excited for it. I feel honored that my home country is able to host the most important international sports event. I am excited to go back to Brazil, in 2014, especially to visit my hometown, São Paulo, where the opening of the World Cup will be held. Morumbi, a soccer stadium, was where the opening game of the World Cup was supposed to be held at and I only lived fifteen minutes away from it. The only memory I have with Morumbi is from when my dad took me to my first soccer match with him when I was eight years old. Unfortunately because of São Paulo’s financial situation, Morumbi is not able to hold the opening game of the World Cup because of the lack of renovation funds. The FIFA federation decided to move the opening game from Morumbi to the “Corinthians New Stadium” where less money is needed to bring the stadium to safe conditions. Guilherme Macedo Silva, says that “the ‘Corinthians new stadium’ renovation is undergoing a lot of construction, and at a very fast pace. It will probably be the most modern stadium, and hopefully the most beautiful one in the country. A lot of other stadiums are going through constructions too, but the pressure on aesthetics remains on the Corinthians stadium.” While hosting the World Cup is a very exciting thing for Brazilians, not all of them are pleased with the constructions. “The problem right now is that constructions are very superficial, and a lot of public money

is going to waste,” says Guilherme. “Superficial” construction isn’t the only problem. Another unsatisfied Brazilian, Fernando Bicudo, says that Brazil needs to “improve subways, bus and airport systems and also create hotels for tourists… the national image of Brazil is in the hands of the government and I feel like too much money is being taken from citizens in order to accomplish this. We have our own financial worries too.” Although hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup is a blessing and an honor for Brazil, there is a lot of local and international pressure on the government to ensure that Brazil’s image is not blemished. I feel somewhat of a “free-loader” compared to my childhood friends, since I am not experiencing raised taxes and prices in everything, yet I will still get to enjoy the experience of the World Cup when I go back for the first time since I immigrated in 2004.

remember those days when I thought my life as an eight year old was normal. It only took to look back a few years later to see I was living inside a bubble of terrorism in Peru. I never understood why my mother would put tape on the windows that formed an “x,” blackouts that made us decorate the house with candles, or why our block was a meeting point for security guards with enormous guns. In 1985 President Alan Garcia campaigned for hope, yet Peru fell into economic turmoil during his presidency. Garcia left the country with hyperinflation and Peruvian citizens were not able to afford anything since the currency was not worth anything. This economic crisis led to the emergence of The Shining Path, a terrorist group with a communist ideology that bombed electrical towers to provoke major blackouts in the city to inflict terror in the citizens. A once overpopulated city with cars and traffic, restaurants, movie theatres and other forms of entertainment became a ghost town. Peru was becoming a country with no hope and the violence was getting to close to our family for us to stay there, but my roots never left my foundation. As a young woman living in the US, I became fascinated by Peruvian politics. The news I read indicated the steady rise of the Peruvian economy. I began to realize why my windows were taped as a child. After ten years and roots too deep I decided it was time to go back to Peru and see the changes with my own eyes. The day I got on the plane, I felt anxious. I did not want to relive those moments in my childhood, but I had to go back to my roots and to the place that I once called my home. I arrived at the Jorge Chavez Airport and felt I never left LA. The only thing that reminded me I was

in Lima were the pictures of Macchu Picchu. The streets of Lima were illuminated and people were walking happily on the streets and there was no evident presence of security guards like before. The changes didn’t come easily. Yet, without a doubt, it is easy to see the positive change in Peru in contrast to the depressing record of the 1990’s. The perseverance of the people helped the economy flourish. Business owners go out to the streets to sell what their land or hands provide. Lima, the capital of Peru changed to invite tourists from all over the world. This changed what Lima used to look like into a modern city. Foreign owned restaurants run the weekend life and modern infrastructure make tourists feel home. Still, Peruvian traditions still fight to live and attract tourists. Despite all the positive changes, poverty is still an issue; “ceros” or hills are covered with “barrios jovenes” or slums in which people live inhumanly. Several feeding stations have opened so children can at least get one meal a day. Most walls are painted with political campaign slogans that only make the streets more unclean rather than give hope to the poor. Similar to our ancestors, the Incas, the Spanish were able to take their land but not their culture. Peru’s economic growth is modernizing the country, yet Peruvians will not permit our culture to disintegrate. This can be the reason why my roots never let me go and will make me continue to come back to the Land of The Sun. Do you have an experience about latinoamérica? Share it with us at

fall 2011 LA GENTE 17

18 LA GENTE fall 2011

arte y cultura

Losing the Mother Tongue Spanish Language Loss Among Latinos in the US Gabriela Garcia

You don’t speak Spanish?! But you’re Mexican!” Cubans, Colombians, Nicaraguans, Central and South Americans. Too often, many second-generation Latinos are confronted with this So what factors lead us to lose the language of our culture? question, to which they reply, “Yeah, I know…” “If I would have balanced them out somehow instead of choosing one They think, “How could I forget? What happened?” But the reality is [English] over the other [Spanish], that would have made a difference,” Beruthat many of them don’t know why they don’t speak it. men reflects. However, research has proven otherwise. Spanish language loss among secondMaintaining Spanish proficiency is most “The more English I learned, the less generation Latinos, those with immigrant directly correlated with the language that is parents, has been widely studied. Research modeled by the parents in the household, not Spanish I spoke.” and Statistics show that “98 percent of one’s own individual preference or what they second-generation respondents [reported] flufeel about the language. The home environency in English and 88 percent [indicated] a preference for English over their ment and the language used by parents and close relatives have been found to mother tongue.” have the greatest effect on this retention. What leads to this preference? According to a report out of Harvard University by Van C. Tran, Spanish “I was born and raised here, so to me [Spanish] was more of a second lan- is spoken at home with parents more so than others in and outside of home. guage. The more English I learned, the less Spanish I spoke. Today, I feel, it’s Second-generation Latinos lose the language because of a lack of practice more common to find Latinos in similar situations,” said Andres Berumen, a outside the home. senior at Eisenhower High School born to Mexican parents. It had also been found that in communities where there is a majority of His answer is not far from what most would guess is the reason for the Spanish-only speaking people push the second generation to use the lanlack of Spanish retention in the US: we assimilate to the English language guage, which allows for retention rate. because it is all around us. The environment that surrounds us dictates the The same Harvard report stated that “first-generation immigrants learned language we speak, right? Yes. some English but preferred the use of their mother tongue; the second genThe US has been referred to as a graveyard for foreign languages. The pro- eration developed a preference for English but continued to use the minority cess of losing the mother tongue was found to be most rapid here in the US language at home; and the third generation spoke only English,” showcasing when compared to that loss in other countries. Interestingly enough, this loss the eventual loss of the Spanish language in later generations of Latinos in the was less rapid among Spanish-speaking Latinos. US. Among Latino groups, there is also some disparity. Mexican-Americans If it weren’t for the continuing influx of immigrant peoples across US were found to retain their mother language the best, but were reciprocally borders that replenish the Spanish speaking environments for later generathe worst at English proficiency over time when compared to Dominicans, tions of Latinos, this mother tongue would dissipate that much quicker.

What is your relationship with the Spanish language? Tell us your story. Write to Gabriela at

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fall 2011 LA GENTE 19

arte y cultura

Behind the Scenes with Grupo Folkl贸rico de UCLA The student group performs at the Hill for Dia de Los Muertos Melissa Merrill

20 LA GENTE fall 2011

arte y cultura

Bringing Central American culture to life through film UCLA holds its first Reel Politik Film Festival Alma Huitron


CLA’s Latin American Institute held the Central America and Reel Politik film festival at the Main Conference Room in the Charles E. Young Research Library from Wednesday October 19 to Friday October 21. Attracting over three hundred people throughout its run, the festival featured work from rising artists that showcased a region that is typically understudied. The Reel Politik film festival was organized by Gloria Chacon, a fellow at the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The term Reel Politik refers to the German term Realpolitik, referring to politics that is based on power and sometimes of coercion. The term highlights the effort to shed light on the political, eocnomic, and social issues of Central America through film. She organized the festival in part “to really showcase the vibrant culture and different points of views and people trying to tell their story. Or trying to recuperate the story of their past.” She wanted to take part in the slow but growing study of Central America. Ana Ruth Castillo, Los Angeles based artist with roots from Guatemala, contributed this artwork to the festival. Inspired to reflect culture “To educate, to showcase, and to and ancestry, the beauty of the natural world, and the sacred feminine, she paints on walls and canvas to share and connect. A college graduinspire,” Chacon said, explaining her ate from UC Santa Cruz, she dedicates her life and career to working with youth. hopes of using the festival as a way to inspire students to begin telling their representatives providing small discourse on their documentary, feature, and student films shown at own story through film. respective country. the festival. The festival took around one year to organize, For Chacon, the involvement of the local comRegardless, this year the UCLA library gained and it fell solely on the shoulders of Chacon with munity allowed the possibility of many to connect a rich variety of films to provide commentary on one student aid for help. with others. Understanding people’s history is a Central America, a region that is currently growA few years back, the Icaro Film Festival in necessary step in pushing diversity, especially on a ing among the fields of study. This gives the Guatemala impacted her by showing documentacollege campus, she says. school an opportunity to become one of the emergries and films produced in Central America. At the event itself, the education of the ing locations that are aiding the growth of CenChacon set out to collect a film archive for the countries was on full display. Books were sold to tral American scholars. These films will become UCLA library. However, the difficulty in obtaining further touch upon the issues raised in the films. resources for all those students and community films not easily available to the public meant each Students from diverse backgrounds participated in members that wish to focus on the region. director had to be contacted directly. Her estabthe Q&A. Different films provided insights into Every film showed, and many more, will be lished contacts allowed her to bring attention to current social problems, and the effects past events available for regular checkout at the Charles E. the event throughout the planning stage, resulting currently have in society. Young Research Library. in full support by the administration. Although this was the first year the festival The Central American community fully emWatch out for Alma’s reviews for the films featured was held, Chacon hopes to do it again, but with braced the festival. At the film festival, many local some modifications. She would like to include at this festival online at consulates participated with Beliz and Guatemalan short films by students and give awards to the best

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Bike Shop Restores Abandoned Bikes and Provides Safe Place for Community Armando Bustos


ici Libre translates to “Free Bikes,” but in actuality it “frees bikes” that are left to rust on bike racks. Bici Libre located at 6th and Lucas Ave in Los Angeles is a bike workshop organized through the Los Angeles Bike Coalition. Bici Libre wrangles abandoned bike from different institutions like surrounding universities and MTA to repair and redistribute abandoned bicycles to low-income communities where bicycles are a major source of transportation. Mostly volunteer-run, Bici Libre is funded by a grant from the LA County Health Department through the Center of Disease Control. Bici Libre also functions as a venue for bike workshops and a space to for people to fix their bikes under the guide of mechanics for a marginal donation. This year Bici Libre collected 9 bicycles from UCLA. Rafael Guerrero and Edwin Aguilar, volunteers, on a appreciate having a safe place and an inexpensive alternative for bike repairs, or in case of a bike theft, an inexpensive replacement. Roger Mora, also a volunteer, uses Bici Libre as an alternative to being on the streets. Bici Libre is continually looking for volunteers, donations, and abandoned bikes. It’s a bike shop for the amateur and the advanced, and for the socially conscious and anyone who wants to help the community. Visit to watch the video

Grupo Folklórico de UCLA practices for Dia de Los Muertos Haidee Pacheco


f you walk by the McClure Stage on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 pm, you will see a group of students dancing their hearts away. This group of students is known as Grupo Folklórico de UCLA, a student club recognized for its celebrations honoring the Mexican culture through a Mexican traditional dance widely known as Ballet Folklorico. Grupo Folklórico has been putting on performances both on campus and off since 1966. As their mission statement says, “Our goal is to create positive Chicana/o role models, promote cultural awareness throughout our surrounding communities, and encourage the youth of Los Angeles to celebrate their cultural roots and to continue on to institutions of higher learning.” With Grupo Folklórico, students are able to take a break from their studies, shake their bodies to some fun music, and meet some new people, while learning about the culture of Mexico. Ballet folklorico incorporates its different styles of dance from different regions of Mexico, including Veracruz, Nayarit, and Guerrero. Over the course of the year, they learn the different steps and skirt works to prepare for their biggest and most important performance of the year, Fiesta Mexicana in UCLA’s historic Royce Hall. Any student can be a part of Grupo Folklorico, because as the group emphasizes when recruiting new members, “No experience necessary!” Visit to watch the video 22 LA GENTE fall 2011

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