Chicano rapper from the South talks identity in his lyrics

Buzzfeed has a feature on Chicano rapper Kap G, who hails from Atlanta, Georgia. His parents were among the initial wave of Mexican immigrants who began moving into the South during the 1990s. When Kap G began rapping at age 14,

“At first I was just talking about things like looking nice, girls, regular stuff. I was always proud of my culture. But I never really spoke about it at first. When I tried I was like, this don’t really sound cool and I know for a fact people are not gonna really like this… . When I got better, it got easy for me to talk about my life. The things that mom and dad have been through, I just like talking about it. There’s a lot of stereotypes about Mexicans, things like cutting grass, being trapped in the house or like being illegal, all that. But it’s not like we just do all that for fun — there are reasons why. I know some people don’t understand that. There’s a story to tell that people haven’t told yet, and I feel like it’s very needed right now in hip-hop.”

Read more about him and check out his mixtape, Like a Mexican.

Santiago Erevia, Vietnam vet, finally to receive Medal of Honor

Another follow up from my Chicana/o history class: Whenever we discuss Chicano soldiers and war, a few themes emerge. The first is Chicanos’ overrepresentation in the military (relative to their percentage of the population); they have always signed up in great numbers to fight for the US. Second, Chicano soldiers are the most decorated ethnic group of any that fought, especially during WWII. And third is the fact that despite their brave service and sacrifice for their country, Chicano soldiers consistently have been denied their veterans benefits and the full honors due to them—often because of their race. Many other black, Latino, Jewish and Asian American veterans encountered this form of discrimination.

San Antonio native Santiago Erevia is one of those soldiers. As a soldier in Vietnam, he fought valiantly and his commanding officer nominated him for a Medal of Honor. And today, more than four decades later, he is one of three living recipients of twenty-four men who finally will receive a Medal of Honor from President Obama. According to Luis Martinez of Yahoo News,

Twenty-four Army soldiers who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam will receive the Medal of Honor next month, correcting oversights that prevented many of them from receiving the nation’s highest award for valor because of their Hispanic, Jewish and African-American backgrounds, White House officials said today.

The awarding of 24 Medals of Honor - most of them posthumously - will be the largest number to be awarded at one time since World War II.

Check out the names and photos of Erevia’s fellow honorees at this Yahoo News link and at the Medal of Honor site. And listen to Erevia’s story at NPR.org.

The Forgotten Story of Japanese American Zoot Suiters

A couple of weeks ago in my Chicana/o history class, we discussed the WWII era and zoot suit style. I always emphasize to students that zoot suits were not only worn by Chicanos and African Americans, but by youth of all ethnicities. This post by Ellen Wu for Nikkei Chicago explains that some Japanese American youth learned of and adopted zoot style in internment camps:

[T]he internment experience itself was an incubator for Nikkei zoot suit culture. Japanese Americans even invented their own slang for Nisei zoot suiters. One was ‘pachuke,’ a Japanese version of the Spanish word ‘pachuco’/’pachuca.’

Learn more about young Japanese zooters at this link. Put This On also features a link to the same story, but includes the great photo below.

Valentine's Day Special: 5 Great Latino Love Stories

Happy Valentine’s Day to my great students! Check out these five “Latino” love stories.

Btw I’m putting “Latino” in quotes because only two couples are actually Latino; two are Latin American and one is European.

Also, does Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem’s relationship qualify as “great” yet? Discuss amongst yourselves…

Being angry about racial inequality is easy. Navigating, processing, and articulating race — that’s hard… . I am frequently asked, “Where are you really from?” and I’m always quick to respond, almost heatedly, “Here.” I was born on American soil. I love this country, with its chocolate creams and dirty politicians and bodies of saltwater. But I am also indebted to my mother, and to her country, which both is and isn’t my own. As my mother’s daughter, I am built with her history of red stamps, her girlhood during the Cultural Revolution, her brick walls. Our sacrifice, our shame. I am American, plus Chinese. That identity is plural, stretched. Beautiful weight. And that love. It’s plural, too.
Luis J. Rodriguez, Famous Chicano Author Running for Governor of California

Luis Rodriguez is the author of Always Running, a powerful memoir about his turn away from gang life and inspiration to pursue community activism. it was one of the first Chicana/o memoirs I’d read when I was in high school.

Rodriguez has continued his legacy of community activism and writing (writing fifteen more books), and is taking it to the next level: running for governor of California. He explains,

The Democrats and Republicans for the most part just do not represent the interests of the homeowner, the poor guy working, anybody trying to survive. The idea is that I’m part of this world. I want to contribute in a meaningful way. I thought I could do it with my voice, my books, my writing, and now by running for governor, a very important position, bringing in vital, new ideas. My slogan is ‘Imagine a New California.’ That’s the first step.

Check out more of his interview at the O.C. Weekly.

On the power of representations and stereotypes in the media:

I was excited earlier this week to discover this TEDx talk by my fabulous friend, Evelyn Alsultany, professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan. Evelyn’s first book was Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11.

In this talk, she shares her research ion the power effects of stereotypes of Arab and Muslim Americans in popular television and film. Her works underscores the fact that representations matter: What we read, see, and hear in popular media shouldn’t be dismissed as “just entertainment”; rather, these are powerful texts that shape our world and, if we are smart enough, that we can reclaim in order to combat negative stereotypes.

Where ethnic studies and sports news meet: Here’s a fabulous ad by the National Congress of American Indians which should air during the Superbowl, but won’t.

The message: American Indians are proud to call themselves many things—but “Redskins” and other racist football mascot names, they are not. Check out Changethemascot.org to share your support.

Old Mexico lives on

From the Economist: “The counties with the highest concentration of Mexicans (as defined by ethnicity, rather than citizenship) overlap closely with the area that belonged to Mexico before the great gringo land-grab of 1848.”

As we should learn in any good, basic American history class, many Mexicans didn’t cross the border; rather, the border crossed them. Nevertheless, it’s maps and statistics like these that cause conservative commentators like Laura Ingraham to worry that the (nonexistent) decline of English in the US is due to “Mexican jingoism.”

Mexican “jingoism”? Seems like Ingraham could freshen up not just on history, but on English vocabulary, too!

The Bath Riots: Indignity Along the Mexican Border

NPR has a feature on a new book by David Dorado Romo, entitled, Ringside Seat to a Revolution. Romo’s research calls attention to a fascinating, yet little-known story from US-Mexico border crossing history: the Bath Riots.

The Riots were sparked by a teenage maid who refused the indignities of being deloused at the border crossing—a common and humiliating daily occurrence. As NPR explains,

Before being allowed to cross, Mexicans had to bathe, strip nude for an inspection, undergo the lice treatment, and have their clothes treated in a steam dryer.

When Torres and the others resisted the humiliating procedure, onlookers began protesting, sparking what became known as the Bath Riots.

The Mexican housekeepers who revolted had good cause to be upset. Inside a brick disinfectant building under the bridge, health personnel had been secretly photographing women in the nude and posting the snapshots in a local cantina.

Read about what happened to Torres and check out an excerpt from Romo’s book at NPR.org.

New And Established Writers Redefine Chicano Lit

Check out this 2011 NPR interview with writers Sandra Cisneros and David Rice, who discuss their work and what it means to them to write Chicana/o literature.

As Rice powerfully explains:

When I was a kid, there was no, that I read, Mexican-American literature or Chicano literature. And so I didn’t know it existed until I was 23 years old. I’m 46 now. And I was in a plane on Southwest Airlines, flying, and I read an in-flight magazine that had Rolando Smith-Hinojosa’s story about a snowman down in - down in the valley in Mercedes, Texas, where I’m close to.

And so that’s the first time I saw that a Mexican-American could write a story about his or her home. And the Rio Grande Valley where I’m from, head count is only 2,000 people. It’s a very small town 18 miles from the border. And so it was very rural.

And when I read that story, I realized, hey, you know, I could write about my home. And my home does have validation. Where I’m from is important.

Read more—or listen to the complete interview—at this link.

Presente.org responds to the Justin Bieber’s recent arrest for DUI and drag-racing. 

Presente.org responds to the Justin Bieber’s recent arrest for DUI and drag-racing. 

Yes, Mexico's Lone Olympic Alpine Skier Will Compete in a Mariachi Costume

This story comes from LatinoRebels

Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe might be the most interesting competitor in the Alpine skiing field at the Sochi Olympics. Having qualified in the slalom, he would be the oldest competitor in the sport at 55 years of age. Descended from the reigning dynasty of a former principality in what is now Germany, von Hohenlohe, has competed in 15 World Championships and Sochi would be his sixth Olympic Games. In Vancouver, he was the lone Mexican athlete at the Games.

Maybe now I’ll actually have a reason to follow the winter Olympics.

Brown Faces In Medieval Art

Through an article on NPR’s Code Switch, I just learned of this fascinating tumblr: People of Color in European Art History. The creator, Malisha Dewalt, explains:

My purpose in creating this blog is to address common misconceptions that People of Color did not exist in Europe before the Enlightenment, and to emphasize the cognitive dissonance in the way this is reflected in media produced today.

The ubiquity in modern media to display a fictitiously all-white Europe is often thoughtlessly and inaccurately justified by claims of “historical accuracy”; this blog is here to emphasize the modern racism that retroactively erases gigantic swaths of truth and beauty.

Check out the great images and follow this tumblr today!

Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man. If he were taking the red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York today, Jesus might be profiled for additional security screening by TSA.