Embracing Death with Love FELIZ DIA DE LOS MUERTOS 2017

 

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Dia de Los Muertos is such a beautiful Mexican tradition that has done the one thing that no one had been able to do: take away my fear of death. My fears surrounding death were related to things that I could only imagine: suffering, pain, leaving suddenly, violence. My imagination ran wild, I would imagine zombies walking about, people moaning in pain, screams of fear. Maybe it was all of the Halloween monster-type stuff in the movies and TV. Lots of the Halloween stuff is based on that, el Dia de Los Muertos is not…el Dia de Los Muertos is a great time to remember those you love who are no longer with you and shows you how to honor your loved one by getting their favorite things together and making them an altar.

Mama’s altar is on display 24/7.  We change it up for the holidays and the sentiment is the same:  we honor Mama and our good memories of her.  It’s so comforting to see her near her favorite window in her house.   I soooo love this tradition and love to see how my friends celebrate this special time of the year.   The holiday offers the hope that our loved ones will come to be with us one more time, the altars, the candles, the flowers, their things, their favorite foods are meant to guide them back to us.  Folks decorate altars in their homes, in the cemetery, at festivals, at celebrations.

I thought you would like to see altars created by my friends…so unique, so cool, awesome:

Ninel & Karla & The Cortez Fam honor their Mama and their loved ones…

Gracie and the Solorio Family honor their recently departed mother…

BFF Trini and Daddy’s Girl Trini honors her father along with familia…

Part of the Mejia Family’s awesome setup – this altar is dedicated to mariachis


Anna’s tribute to her father and departed familia…

My lil cousin Jami and Michael’s very first altar honoring their grandparents and Mama and their familia… loooove it!

And, here are a few pictures from the Ranch Dia de Los Muertos celebration honoring Mama and all of our fam who has departed…

 

Rest In Peace:  Margaret Torres, Edmundo Torres, Adela Melena, Prudencio Melena, Baltazar Perez, Neftali Orozco, Willie Herrera I, Juan Lucio, Mama Lupita Lucio, Joe Hernandez, Freddy Hernandez, Alfonso Grijalva, Albina Grijalva, Louie Rodriguez, Eddie Rafanan, Jenny Rodriguez, Jennifer Rafanan, Elio Rafanan, Robert Grijalva, Vera Espinoza, Ralph Espinoza, Joey Espinoza, Jess Grijalva, Rosa Sylvia Grijalva, Martin Prieto, Mark Prieto, Connie Cruz, Beatrice Hernandez

RIP Friends:  David Navarro, Joe Nieves, Maria Antonieta Garcia, Rosa Salinas, Rene Garcia, Roberto Vallejo Pantoja, Gabriel Rangel, Jr. Rangel, Cora Rangel, Marina Beltran, John Beltran, Susan Casillas, George Casillas, Ernie Gonzalez, Rosie Gonzalez, Rosita Aragon, Guillermo Prince, Salvador Sierra, Bernardo Santillan, Jose Gutierrez, Neal Sanchez, Ms. Gwen … I know that I will need to edit this as I’ve likely forgotten to list someone.

 

Gone. But never forgotten.  Feliz Dia de Los Muertos.

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The Importance of “Pegue”

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I always smile when I hear the term “tener pegue” – I always think of it as someone who works it, someone who is confident and walks thru life with a fun attitude and who is fearless.  I looked up “pegue” and liked this definition from a blog called MySpanishNotes:

Tener pegue” means   to have sex appeal, or charm if you like.  It means you’ve got a way with the opposite sex.

So if someone tells you “Tienes mucho pegue“, well, lift your head up high and smile, because they just gave you a very nice compliment.  Tienes (traes) mucho pegue  You got a lot of sex appeal.  I’ve yet to hear this phrase directed at me, but perhaps you all have better luck and more “pegue” than me.

My Comadre MariaLuisa and I have been friends for many years.  The word “pegue” is very much a part of her vocabulary.  And as you will see in the following examples, it is also a part of her life.  My Comadre is the most personable, hilarious, and natural life of the party.

My Comadre and I got together for lunch at the University Union a few weeks ago.  We’re sitting there eating and talking about life and, like many times at University, it is packed during the lunch hour and people will randomly ask to sit at your table if there is an extra chair.  On this day, it was a guy in his twenties.

Now my Comadre and I are way older than the students at the University but I hope we don’t look thaaaat old!  So when this guy who sat with us was laughing at all of the ish we were talking and he starts talking to us – wait, let me rephrase that, he starts talking to my Comadre, and not just talking with her, like flirting with her!  He gets up to leave and I look at my Comadre who, without skipping a beat, says, “I still got it Comadre, todavia tengo pegue!” 🙂  So true!  I remember seeing this when we were students, this woman would have every guy after her, wanting to hang out with her.  Many of the pretty girls regularly wondered how my Comadre did it.  Even her so-called friends. I also remember one of Comadre’s ‘friends’ telling her, “how do you do it? I mean, I can’t even get anyone to pay attention to me (‘because I’m thin and beautiful’ was what she did not say out loud)”.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago:   I met my Comadre who was at a birthday party in the park, I hadn’t seen her in a while; in fact, I haven’t seen a n y of my friends for a very long time.

My Comadre had invited me weeks ago, and I was tempted to NOT go because, lately, I tend to say “no” automatically. I sent her a text asking if she was still going to be in town, and she responds promptly, “come on down, they have a taquero” LOL — so if I didn’t go for her per se, I was going to go for the tacos! Once I arrived to the party, tacos or not, I was glad that I had shown up. As we walked to the tables, I ask my Comadre how she is, and she tells me “I’m already drinking” and I smile because the more things change, the more they stay the same.  I knew that we would have a fun time.

Within minutes, I was LAUGHING because this girl is straight-up hilarious.  And then it happens again:  all of the guys gravitate toward Comadre, and she’s joking with them all.  Like usual, I’m sitting right by her and watching all of this go down and seeing some of the women give those looks that we women tend to give when our men are flirting with someone else.  She says to me under her breath, “I still got that “pegue”

What does it feel like to have that kind of effect on people?  How do you know that you have it?  What do you have to do to get it, to have pegue?  According to my Comadre, it’s very easy.  Just be yourself, don’t try to be something you’re not.  It’s exhausting to try to be someone you’re not and, at our age, it’s simply not attractive to be all desesperada just to get a man to notice you.   This will allow you to be more confident because you’re not playing games, you’re owning the good and bad about yourself, you’re completely comfortable saying anything you want, you’re not trying too hard.

I also asked one of my guy friends about “pegue”.  He proceeds to tell me how it’s charm, it’s working it, it’s having that confidence to “say out loud what most people are thinking”, to know that you’ve “got it”, to know that you can get anything you want.   Another important thing was to be completely natural, to act like you’ve already got it instead of wondering how you are going to get it.

What I really liked was how he said that he would get in front of the mirror, with or without his daughters, and say ‘daaang we look good, don’t we?  Everyone is gonna check us out when we go out today”, how cool to instill that type of self-love into his daughters.  My comadre regularly tells herself in the mirror, “chingaaao, que buenota eres!” LOL  They speak to themselves as if they are the best thing ever and it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy, what they say they are, they are.

Both of these individuals definitely make an impact upon entering a room, they have that kind of confidence that one needs to get what they want:  a man, a woman, a meeting, a yes.  In short, they make “pegue” work for them, instead of the other way around.  I love that kind of confidence.   Can you imagine if there were a way to bottle that kind of  energy?  Can you imagine the possibilities your life could have if you lived knowing that you had that kind of “pegue”?  Limitless opportunities.  A fun social life.  Walking through life with confidence.  I want that kind of “pegue”.  

Work it for yourself with confidence, with pegue.  A good life goal, don’t you think?

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

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Loving the cooler weather!   I cannot sleep so here I sit at the Ranch with the doors open, my hands are cold, my ears are cold, my feet are cold.   Fall is my favorite time of the year.   Even though it still is hot during the day, there is that unmistakable chill in the air.  Growing up at the Ranch meant growing up in HOT weather.  And, after this summer’s heat, I would ask Dad, “How did I grow up here?  I cannot handle this heat”.   Dad hates the cold weather and is wrapped up in a blanket…if he asks me to do so, I will close the door.

I am watching the news and I see that in my Denver, Colorado, that tomorrow’s temperature will have a high of a sizzling 35 degrees.  Instant homesickness.  My Denver FamFriends KNOW that, when I visit, that I go when there is snow, when it’s freezing, when I can see my breath in the air, when I can smell snow.   Below are a few random memories of life in the snow.

Thinking back, I remember the very first time I saw the snow, I was going to have to be at an event the next day so I decided to go out the night before and DRIVE in it.  Nervous, con miedo, sweating, shaking, I got into my car and took the wheel.  I was sure that I was going to slip and slide all over the place LOL!  All I did was drive in others’ tire tracks for about an hour and drove back home.

The NEXT morning, as I walk down the stairs of my apartment to the car, I remember that the cold almost felt like a slap in the face at first, I also knew that my California ‘warm’ clothes were not going to work and my California boots, while stylish, would soon be rendered useless.   When I got home after the events of the day, snow was all up in the grooves of the bottom of those boots, I get into my kitchen and it was like zaz! I was on a slip-n-slide LOL.  I crawled out of the kitchen laughing and thanking GodJesusVirgenOfG that I didn’t fall like that in front of anyone.

While no one saw me fall all over my kitchen, I remember that, like a SonsaTontaPendeja, I wore those same boots to Copper Mountain Ski Resort, where my station was working an event.  I meet some of my crew and we start walking, and then I stumbled a little and slipped.  Slid all the way down that hill!  I remember having to give my staff permission to laugh because I know how it had to have looked.  I also remember praying, as I slid, that when I eventually stopped, that I would be able to get back up.

Our Ita came to visit me around Christmastime and, promptly told me that she wanted to go home because it was way too cold for her.  I took her to my station’s Christmas party and needed to get gasoline for the car.  So I get out como si nada, to put in gas and she looks up at the temperature on a lighted sign across the street.  It read zero, “0 degrees”, and I knew two things, that I can hang in the cold, and that I needed to get Ita back to California, pobrecita.

We were in Thornton working a club night.  My co-workers and I look across the street and see a taco truck.  You better know we ran over there.  Tacos were great.  The salsa, however, was like beyond HOT, neither of us could hang.  So alli andabamos, grabbing snow off of THE GROUND and shoving it into our mouths!  We were laughing and doing that sucking air thing when one is all enchilado, it was crazy!

Before I lay me down to sleep, I will check flights to my beloved Mile High City, I’m due for a freeze-out visit with my DenverFam.  My hands will be cold, yay!  My heart will be warm, hanging out with some of my favorite people ever in one of my favorite places ever.

Here I am at Copper Mountain standing on a small mountain of snow…and, no, this is not where I slid down the mountain LOL.

 

Save money? WHAT money? Tips for Saving $$$

 

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Dealing with finances has always been stressful for me. I’ve always envied those who could face their money head on and make it work for them. Of all of the Torres5, my little sis is the one who is the most financially literate. One of my BFFs, Angie, is also good with dealing with money and, as I asked her for help in learning how to save and invest my money, I ended up laughing out loud with some of the things she came out with.

All I remember telling her was, “if someone would have broken it down like that to me back in the day, my life would have been totally different…seria millonaria!’

I’m kind of afraid to learn how to save. Especially as I have been living at the bare minimum as I try to establish my business. But as Angie told me, “my mom managed her money really well, y eso que trabajo en el fil!” We all know that working the fields is one of the hardest jobs that exist; field work is also one of the lowest-paid rarely with any benefits. And here we are, making likely more money than field work, and all up in debt.

I was laughing so hard at Angie’s common-sense way of saving and mad at myself because I couldn’t write it all down! (as I was driving), I will present some of Angie’s straight-up saving tips from time to time. You will see that learning how to save money requires commitment to the bigger picture, being there for yourself, not letting yourself down and, more important, living within your means. Aaaay!

It may help you to write out in detail what you want to save that money for: a new car? a house? Pay off outstanding bills? Whatever your goal, write it out. As my business is seasonal, I’m right in the busy season now, and my slooooooow season is during the latter part of the year, so I’ve decided that I’d like to start my 4th Quarter Fund, to help me keep afloat in October/November/December.

Now, you’ve got to figure out how much money you need to survive each month – rent, car, gas, phone, insurance…only the things you need to handle on a regular basis.  Add it up.

After you get your check, pay yourself. Pay yourself, how? Pay yourself the amount that you designated as what you need to live on each month. Any extra amount, even if it’s $5 or $10, start saving it.  You don’t really need it right now because you just paid your bills, right?   This is where the committment comes in.

Angie’s take on the matter – ‘it’s so easy! Look at it this way: I can go to Nordstrom pero tambien alli esta la Ross!’ LOL In other words, economize. You can find cool clothes, housewares, and in my case purses at discounted prices at Ross or Walmart or even the ‘segunda’ (Goodwill). You don’t have to completely deprive yourself of nice things, but ask yourself, ‘do I really need to spend this much?’

Another way to check your spending: get all of the receipts together of everything you buy, and add up those receipts where you bought fregaderas/yonque/juzguerias/stupidass things that you didn’t really need then or now. I did that and found that my receipts showed the following in this order: gasoline, fast food, Starbucks, groceries. Not proud of so much fast food and Starbucks so I now see where I can cut back.

I asked Angie if it gets easier once you start, YES was her answer. The biggest benefit was the freedom from worry, why? 1) Your bills are paid and 2) slowly but surely, you are working toward the larger goal of financial freedom.

TRY it, do it for you, you can get your finances back in order, one coin at a time. We are too smart to be this stupid when it comes to money.

Challenge out of the NoLonjaZone, Phase II

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The journey out of the NoLonjaZone has completed its first phase. I finished the health challenge from May15-June15 where I drank no soda, drank 1 gallon of water per day, did 20 minutes of exercise, ate when I was hungry and tried to cut down on emotional eating. What did I learn?

I learned that I am able to finish what I start.  Not perfectly, but I did complete my goal.  Eventually, I hope to be able to finish e v e r y t h i n g  I start.    For all of my “me” time speeches, it was not that easy to carve out time for myself and for my health.  Now that I’ve completed this challenge, I feel much better physically that I did on May 15th.  I have got to keep making time for my health, especially when I do not feel like working out that day/night.  Every time I walk, jump rope, run, exercise, I always feel better once I’m done…it’s the getting started that I struggle with.

My challenges have been with making time to exercise on the weekends.  If I have an event, my energy is focused on making sure I’m 100 percent into arriving on time, doing the job, and getting home at a decent hour and working out hasn’t been factored in that much.  At least not yet anyway.   The emotional eating was difficult to combat at first but now I’ve tried drinking water when I say that I’m hungry because, many times, I may be just thirsty or bored.   And you better MOVE out of my way when I am hungry LOL.   Drinking the water is getting easier and I swear that I have drunk a lot of the big bottled water in the house just by myself.   It’s easier to drink a lot of water especially in this heat and you will need to become accustomed to using the bathroom a LOT.

Talking about my progress has been what has kept me accountable to the friends who have wanted to take the health challenge as well.  It actually motivates me to keep going knowing that others are with me on the journey of living healthier.  Since my exercise of choice has been walking, I’m really glad that, years ago, I would look for places to walk anywhere along my commute routes so it’s been fun revisiting all of my walking spots.

Focusing on my health has moved off of the back burner in my life.   Taking charge of my health is empowering and I feel like it’s the first step in getting all areas of my life together.     My self-confidence had taken a beating and I have, only now, started to step out of that misery into my life now.  However, my life and my confidence are still out of sync. So unsettling.  Especially as I was always blessed with confidence and with the huevos to make things happen in my life always.  I look forward to stop living my life tentatively and hanging out with my good friend and ally:  confidence.  Making time for myself to work out, to eat better, to live healthier is the only way that I can think of to get my confidence back.

Next steps?  I’ve started Round 2 of the Health Challenge with a group of fun and brave individuals who, like me, are ready to take healthy steps our own way, combining health with busy lives, as we move toward the NoLonjaZone.  It’s been a great feeling of accomplishment to finish what I start.  For once.

Let’s do this!  See details below…we’re on this challenge now June 19 thru July 19.

To be continued…

 

 

 

Chasing the Blue Amongst The Clouds

 

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What a great feeling.  It’s like all of the stars line up, all of your ducks are in a row, all is as it should be. all is perfect, everything is crystal clear, there is a reason for this madness, you understand everything.  For a split-second.  And then it all comes crashing back to you, all of your fears, all of your mistakes, all of your regadas, all of your pendejadas, all up in your face.  You feel defeated, like you’ve taken 10 steps back, you’re angry, sad and mad all at once.

As I was driving home a couple of weeks ago, I experienced this exact same sensation.  I remember that it was a cloudy afternoon and my eye focused on the part of the sky that had broken free from the clouds, where you could see the blue of the sky piercing through the gray clouds.   When I looked into that blue spot, it was as if a part of my heart opened up, the purest part,  the part that was open to new experiences and the part that did not allow me to hold myself back, the part where I was unafraid.  It was as if I was thinking in overdrive:  I started thinking of and seeing Mama, happy and alive, seeing my family members and friends happy and productive, myself fearless and working toward my goals, I could even hear music in that blue sky, and it was like all of these happy feelings were swirling around in the sky, happily blending together.  I was even crying tears of happiness and all felt right in my world.

And then I stopped looking at the blue sky and it all faded away.  Try as I could, I was unable to get that feeling back again.  It was like I got afraid, afraid to see what life would be like in that swirl of happiness.  I totally got into my own way and messed things up big time.   Now I’m trying to figure out how to get back to that place.

As I don’t feel like super-analyzing this experience today…I’ll just let my InnerChingona give her two cents on this moment:   While I’m getting better, I’m not there yet, it’s very hard for me to trust anything new, no matter how positive it is and no matter how much good it will do for me.   I’ve got to keep working on staying the hell out of my own way and just let things be!  I need to handle this mess before moving on the next phase in my life.

That I was able to have a glimpse, albeit a small glimpse, into what my life can be motivates me to keep working at getting this heavy desmadre of baggage out of my way so that the blue sky does not fade away when the clouds of life appear, and you know that clouds will always come back.  I also like that I have finally been able to see the blue through the clouds, even for a few seconds.

It has been a long time.

Challenge Yourself Out Of The NoLonjaZone, Phase 1

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I am on Day 21 of a 30-Day Health Challenge.  The goal is to live healthier and  since May 15th thru June 15th, I am drinking no soda, 1 gallon of water per day, 20 minutes of exercise a day, no emotional eating, that is – eat only when hungry, and to try to do one plank for 30 seconds per day.

How has it gone?  It hasn’t been as bad as I thought.  I’ve been walking every single day, I’ve been able to cut down my emotional eating dramatically and actually started to wait for the hunger pangs in my stomach, I tried doing the plank thing for one day and never went back to it LOL.  What I have done instead is do the jump rope, squats and I’ve actually r u n.   The difficult days to work out have been the weekends – this family always seems to have something planned and I have not been that great at managing my time in that regard.   There have also been days when I would be waaaay pissed off because I did not want to work out … but once I would get done with it, I always felt better.

What have I learned so far?  I feel better.  I have been sleeping better.  I have discovered what my weak spots are food-wise, I find that by getting folks to do the challenge with me has kept me motivated and sharing my stories has actually kept me more accountable.   The water has me constantly in the bathroom LOL but I do feel much healthier.  One of my favorite drinks has always been ‘coca con hielo‘ aka a Coke with ice.  It was getting to the point that I had to have at least one with ice daily and I still miss this, especially about 3pm, hey, some people want cafe, I want ‘coca con hielo’.  The ONE weak spot that totally surprised me was that I crave chocolate ice cream like 24/7, maybe it’s a hot-weather thing  but that struggle is real LOL.

Love it that there is a team committed to doing this challenge, some on social media, and the ones who work it via text messages.  Either way, it’s very cool that I am not alone in this challenge.  Also, that I report on my progress daily, no matter how embarrassing, has really been the key to keeping it up.    It’s only a start and, if I make it through this challenge, I will get on another one, it’s time to stop giving power to my insecurity, to silence the voices of those who do not support me, and to embrace living a healthier life – which, by the way, came in handy yesterday when I took a bunch of my godchildren to the beach, including my 2-year old bebitas.  I had more energy and was able to go up a steep shortcut path made of sand without breaking my neck LOL.

At this point, the only thing I can suggest is that you do what you can, when you can and that this is only a start.

The journey continues to the No Lonja Zone. (Lonja = MuffinTop = Gordita-Ness).

Which One Is Easier? Life? or Death?

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It was Cinco de Mayo morning. I had events in two cities that year. I remember. I was setting up in one city and getting ready to head to a Cinco de Mayo parade in another. I was to meet Rosa so that we could handle the parade.

I kept calling and no answer, nada. I thought that she might have overslept, as we had gone to see my family at a gig the night before.  As I got closer, I kept calling and getting angrier because I really needed to get to the parade as it was time to line up.  Each message I left was something like, “mujer! get the eff up, we cannot be late and I don’t have time to go for you, hello? your client will be pissed and why do I have to take care of this sh– too!? Jeez…”

Once I got to the event, I was more angry than concerned, I admit.  Cinco de Mayo is the biggest time of the year in SpanishRadioLand and it is the one time of the year that I do NOT tolerate this kind of irresponsibility, no call, no text, nada?  I was livid.  However, I got us through the day and that was that.

While on the drive home, I tried to call Rosa again and, still, no answer.  Her daughter had gone on a trip with her school so she wasn’t home and I wished that I knew how to get of hold of Rosa’s ex to see if he had seen her.   I was thinking that both Rosa and I were going to be leaving the station soon as we had both gotten other jobs and would be moving from the area.  Rosa was going to be moving during the upcoming week which is why we were out celebrating the night before, she would be leaving right after Cinco and her ex was not happy about her leaving, he was all up with another woman yet he still kept Rosa hanging on – she had decided that she’d had enough and was down for for a change.

On that Monday after the Cinco de Mayo festivals, I was at the station and had just completed my on-air shift, when I got the call.  The police called me to see if I could go into speak with them regarding the circumstances around Rosa’s death.   Upon hearing the news, I was almost inconsolable and very much in shock and disbelief.   Turns out that she was found in her garage with a rope around her neck near the running car that had been rammed into the washer/dryer, found by her mother and daughter when Rosa failed to show up to pick up her daughter from the aforementioned trip.

The first question the detectives asked me was ‘did you think that your friend was capable of suicide?’.  I didn’t think so but I did know that, some days, I would have to talk her into getting to the office, going to pick her up even, so that she wouldn’t lose her job.  Looking back, the pain of depression is very real, and Rosa was trying to fight it off, to make a new start for herself.   I was numb and became very depressed as well over Rosa’s death.  I couldn’t sleep, I was afraid to be by myself, I was afraid for Rosa, was she at peace? was she still in pain? what was she thinking when she decided it was time to end it and stop her pain?

To this day, I still do not understand what got into Rosa’s mind that she needed to end it all.  I suppose that it’s true that for some folks, living is harder than dying.   After my intense sadness, I spent a good long minute being mas enojada que la fregada /mad as hell.  Frustrated that I could do nothing to help her, to save her.  I did try, but it wasn’t enough.  Angry that her daughter would grow up without her mama, angry that her ex had indeed been at her home that night but it was never proven that he had anything to do with her death.

Now I choose to remember the good things:  her laugh, her unique way of telling me the chisme, how she used to tell me that dressing up and putting on ‘lipistick rojo‘ would make my day better, the hilarious ways she would use the f-word, that she loved pearls, and loved to wear red.  Rosa, for all of her sad times, was able to always be my champion and was all for me ‘moving on’ to the next opportunity and helped me find my InnerChingona when I needed it most.  It was absolutely the best thing for my career that I made this move.  I smile when I think that she never let me forget that, after a crazy night, that I got to work with only one work shoe with me, and she covered for me at work so that I could go out and buy a pair of shoes and save my reputation LOL!

I’m still trying to learn to watch for the signs of desperation and suicide in a person so that, maybe, I can let them talk it out and find their power.  I’ve been very down before but not to the point of ending it all.  Maybe that’s a gift that Rosa gave me, to show me how to handle my business and stress another way.  Quien sabe?

I wish she were here.  Especially today.  It’s her birthday.

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My Sad Cinco de Mayo

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I have been involved with Cinco de Mayo since the 3rd grade.  Folks in my life KNOW exactly where I will be every year around this time of the year.  I have seen and planned Cinco events within the community, in grade school, in high school, for any of the radio stations I have worked with, in college, at the university. I know the ins and outs of how to put these celebrations together, large or small. When I work an event, I usually work my butt off during the planning sessions so that the day of event, I don’t do much running around all loca.

In any event, you can do your part the very best you can yet there are things that you have no control of: the weather, whether the crowds will show up, or not; artists or bands travel schedules. if your station is on the air, or not . I tend to get super-focused and I mentally work my plan the entire day. I don’t go crazy unless any of the above situations occur.

So you can just imagine how I am when I actually A T T E N D an event where I am not working one. I can have it analyzed almost instantly – how could the event been better? what could the organizers done differently? who put this mess together? why did they do things this or that way? or not? I feel sorry for the folks who attend with me because I am usually counting the colors on banners, checking out the sponsor’s logos so that I can see if they’re interested in speaking to me about my events, handing out cards to the vendors. so it’s not the most relaxing time for me. thus I rarely go.

I attended this Cinco de Mayo event as my superblessedtalented godson would be performing in San Francisco’s Cinco event. I told myself to shut the hell up with my suggestions for the event, that I was there for him, not to analyze the event. My godson looked so cool and I loved watching him work it. I was happy being one proud Nina (godmother).

As we were walking though the festival, however, something didn’t feel totally right. This event was in the middle of the Mission District, this event was free, this event was being held on a beautiful day.

What was missing?

The straight-up Latino vibe was missing; or better yet. the L A T I N O S were missing. What did I see? Lots of trendy restaurants and bars, lots of folks of different colors, cute lil blended families with money – how could I tell, you ask? Very expensive strollers ‘de nombre‘. expensive pets,  great clothes, lots of them talking about their work – mainly start-up, techies with very-well-behaved children, food trucks, no real Mexican food booths. The one word that came to me was ‘gentrification‘. I have worked many many many many festivals and events in the Mission and NEVER had I felt such sadness.  When I voiced my thoughts out loud and said the word “gentrification”, my godson shook his head in agreement.

I love seeing all of the Latino desmadre at the events: familias, the lines for the tacos, fruta, aguas frescas, and more. The stage areas packed with people, the vendors giving out free stuff en friega, no one talking about work because fiestas are fun and social, and you hear Spanish and Spanglish everywhere!  The best celebrations are where we Latinos celebrate our traditions, our food, our cultura, and we look at our festivals as a time to take a break from our regular lives and reconnect with the motherland and where we can be ourselves.

Gentrification is most definitely the reality in San Francisco.   All of the businesses and their employees moving into the Mission may be construed as making it a busy, vibrant, place, as if it wasn’t before. There is a lot of action, true…but, a cambio de que?  Rents are astronomical, and lots of the Latino familias have had to move into the East Bay and farther.   I saw so many “Help Wanted” signs, but these are likely minimum-wage positions. With rent prices for some 1-bedroom apartments going for upwards of $3,000 a month; HOW could Latinos afford to live in their neighborhoods?   Cultural disparity was also more front and center than ever in the Mission.  My sadness at seeing the Latino flavor moving out of the neighborhood is so real.  I’ve been thinking about it all day and night, how can this neighborhood remain Latino? do the people who live there care about this, my sense is that they are wanting to do the best for their families yet have little resources, my sense is that they would rather not uproot their families and move out of the Mission, but how can they thrive when they must concentrate on how to survive?

Looks like my next move will be to become better informed.  Maybe I am off-point, maybe I’m trippin, maybe I am wrong, maybe it’s my imagination that business and money are sucking the life out of one of the most vibrant communities ever.

Then again…maybe I’m right.

Time Will Tell.

 

#52essays2017

The Comadre Chronicles: This Reina Has Her Own Back! #52essays2017

#52essays2017   18/52

I was hanging out with my BFF Comadre last night and, like many of us girls do, we were looking at how the other women in the place were dressed and doing that side-glance thing to each other and saying things like ‘mmm hmmm’ or ‘I don’t know about that dress’, and things like that.   Now my Comadre and I have not ever been been 100% slim in all of the years we’ve known each other so we didn’t really have room to be talking about folks LOL.

Let’s take the story back a few years.  Back in the day, I was in my first semester of college and I wanted to do what I always do:  get involved in clubs and campus events.  When I met MariaLuisa, it was obvious that she was one of the most popular people on campus, she knew e v e r y o n e.  I felt really intimidated by her because, by all accounts, I was very much a square.  Carmen wore socks with skirts, braids in my hair, no makeup, and I knew almost nothing about life and I did not feel very popular.   Fast forward a few years, we ended up roommates when we went on to the University.   I was so glad that I had someone to hang out with as I started a new phase in my life.  While it was always easy for me to make friends, I was beyond amazed at how my Comadre really worked it with people, by the end of the week, this girl knew half the school and had invites to all kinds of events and parties.

I had never lived anywhere but on the Ranch and, once I stopped being all homesick and miedosa, I started to have a lot of fun and was waaay into clubs and events.  My Comadre was great at encouraging me to live my life and to remind me that “this ain’t the Rancho, girl” LOL.    Every morning, my Comadre would make me LOL when she would look in the mirror and say, “chingao, que buenota eres!” as she blew a kiss into the mirror.  It didn’t matter to her that she was not flaquita, girl embraced her curves.  This was the greatest affirmation ever and I began to understand how she was always so popular, why guys were always after her, why she was so much fun.  She loved herself, and not in that conceited way, she knew how to be there for herself.

As roommates do, we held many long talks about life and when my Comadre told me this story, I admired her all the more.

When my Comadre was in high school in Coachella, she was all into school events (surprise, surprise) and Student Goverment.  As she tells it, she was very into school spirit and had a ton of friends.   Around Homecoming time, the students were nominating girls for Homecoming Queen and my Comadre, as a member of Student Government, was assigned to go around to classes to pick up the completed nomination forms.  “As I went from class to class, picking up the slips, I would look down and see my name and I thought “no, someone is playing a joke on me.” Mary says she finally stopped looking at the notes and, after collecting them all, turned the votes in to be counted.

The most vote-getters would be announced at a Pep Rally with the entire school present.  There would be five finalists announced.  Mary was her spirit-crazy self, having a good time with her schoolmates.  “And then they called the final name, and it was ME.  I could not believe it!”  My Comadre remembers that, when her name was called, that there was a huuuuuuge cheer from the students, but she decided that she wasn’t going to think twice about it.

“I remember that my Mama made me a really nice green velvet dress and, the night of Homecoming,  I remember getting into the convertibles to drive into the stadium thinking that this was fun and that things would be back to normal soon.”   The time had come to make the announcement for Homecoming Queen and Mary remembers, “I kept hearing the other girls’ names being announced as runner-ups and thinking ‘no way I’ll win’” Finally, it was time to announce the Homecoming Queen and HER NAME was called!

How exciting!  As she got up into the convertible again to be driven around the stadium, my Comadre remembers waving to all of the groups of friends including the cholas LOL  this girl, crown and all, starts doing chola poses in front of these girls to their great delight.   How cool was that?   When the time came for pictures, the four statuesque runner-ups towered over Queen Mary and then they did something unforgettable:  they walked away from this queen, choosing not to stand with her, stunned that this short gordita could actually WIN as Homecoming Queen,

My heart broke a little for my Comadre when she told me this.  But then I thought about how Mary has always been true to who she is:  she may have never been tall or thin but that never stopped her – ever.  My Comadre has always carried herself like a queen, a ‘reina‘, she has always been able to find that little piece of self-esteem when she’s needed it to keep moving forward, and girl talks to anyone, anywhere, anytime, she is the definite life of the party.  One of the things we both have fun with is when the beautiful model-type girls look at her, mouths open in wonder when the guys gravitate toward her- and this happens to this day.  While Mary was momentarily hurt that those Homecoming Court girls would not stand by her, she took what she learned from this experience and she always says that there’s room for women of any sizes a n y w h e r e, and that you should never let your size get in the way of anything you want to do in your life.   I’ve always loved being her friend and have always said that we all need a friend like my Comadre:  her sense of aventada-ness is second to none, her mevalemadre attitude is front and center, she is the most fun and authentic person I know who embraces her gordita-ness and doesn’t let the flaquitas get her down.  I still watch her and learn how to act from Queen MariaLuisaArceFelix!

At this writing, I’m still searching for a Homecoming Queen pic of MariaLuisa and will post as soon as I find one!

#52essays2017