Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Always Be Proud of Who You Are.

A recent conversation with a good friend made me think about how the media makes it very difficult for people who are bicultural to fit in the U.S. 

I remember the day my granddaughter asked me this question for the first time, it left me speechless: "Abuela, what's better? To be Mexican, or American?"

I had to think carefully about what my response was going to be. But, because I had already read many books and heard many stories of Latina leaders talking about their identities, I was able to give this response: "Baby, you don't have to choose. That's the beauty of it. You can be anything you want; you can, and should be, proud of both." 

She hasn’t asked that question again. And she cheers for the Mexican team during World Cups, or Olympic games, just as much as she roots for the USA teams. And we have a lot of fun when it’s Mexico vs USA games!

Now, going back to my point on why I think the media has played a big role in this. I think it’s because we have too many "Take This Quiz to Find Out How Latino Are You," or "You are a Real Mexican if You Eat/Watch/Grew Up/Say" quizzes.

I wish there was an easy way to explain how much damage we do to kids when we don’t encourage them to be proud of their Latino heritage. But there isn’t. However, I can tell you what helped me to better understand it. It was by reading, and paying close attention to what other community members have gone through.

All I can say for now is that I am relieved to see my granddaughter, and my daughter being proud of who they are, and I'll keep working towards supporting those who feel they have to choose one identity over the other, just because someone, or something, told them they are not "really" this or that.

Andrea (my granddaughter) proudly showing how much she loves tortas. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

More than Quality, It's About Opportunity.

"More than Quality, It's About Opportunity..."

Those were the words that came out of Mr. Favio Chavez's mouth, the Director of the Landfillharmonic Orchestra during their performance on Friday, June 3rd in Seattle.

And if you take those words out of context, maybe they won't make any sense. But believe me, they make perfect sense once you hear their story.

The story of the Landfillharmonich Orchestra is one of strength, perseverance, passion, creativity, caring for their community.  A story of people, amazing people creating opportunities for children who, otherwise, could never be involved in the world of music. 

This is a sumary of their story (taken from their website):

"The story develops in one of the poorest slums in Latin America. Just outside Asuncion, Paraguayans capital; Cateura is the city’s trash dump.  It is built on a landfill. Here, people live in a sea of garbage. And they live from garbage. Every day, tons of rotting detritus spill from trucks and people swarm over it to pick the pieces of trash that are their livelihood.
The people of Cateura may be the poorest of the poor but they are proud and the life of their slum is vibrant. Family bonds, rivalries and friendships are intense.
Surrounded by stories of drug-violence, alcoholism and destitution, they make herculean efforts to reaffirm their life and dignity.
A few years ago, one of the garbage pickers, “Cola”, an untutored genius of the slum, got together with local musician Favio Chávez to make instruments for the children of the slum. There was no money for real instruments so together they started to make instruments from trash – violins and cellos from oil drums, flutes from water pipes and spoons, guitars from packing crates.
With children like Ada and Tania and with the support of many in the slum, Favio slowly put together one of the world’s most unlikely orchestras.  It is entirely made of garbage.  They call it “The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura."" 
That day, I learned that the Orchestra travels around the world, all year. And for that reason, they have a strict policy of only letting the kids out of school for two weeks during the school year. If a tour takes longer than that, then the Orchestra has to go back to Paraguay to change kids, giving the opportunity to a different group of studentes to travel the world. Isn't this great? Isn't this what we all would like to see in our communities? Opportunities for all? 
I took some videos, and pictures of the Orchestra, and even when the Director says that they have to sacrifice quality in order to give every student the opportunity to perform in different parts of the world, they sound amazing!
I uploaded a small clip of one of the songs that they performed. A very well known song. But please, keep in mind that the instruments these kids play are recycled, and the sound is very different to what you are used to hear. 

A member of the Orchestra (on the left), and her Cello. Her instrument is made out of recycled materials.

Electric bass made out of recycled materials. 

With Teacher, mentor and Director, Favio Chávez.