My Sad Cinco de Mayo

#52essays2017  19/52

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

Inner Chingona’s Ultimate Inspiration: The Virgen of G

December 12th is a huge celebration day for latinos, mexicanos especially, around the world where everyone pauses either morning, noon, night, or overnight to honor her!

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-History-

On December 12, 1531, as the story goes, a poor Indian named Juan Diego was walking along in a desolate area north of Mexico City, seeking water for his uncle. Suddenly, on a hillside, he saw a vision of a beautiful woman, who directed him to a spring of fresh, cool water. A few days later, in the same spot, the vision appeared again to Juan Diego. This time, she instructed him to go to Mexico City to tell the high church officials to build a church in her name on that site. Of course, the ecclesiastical officials did not believe the poor Indian. Why would the Virgin Mary appear to someone so lowly? They asked for proof. When Juan Diego returned to the hillside and the Virgin appeared again, he asked her for a sign. Suddenly he saw some beautiful red roses, even though roses do not normally bloom in that area in December. He gathered them into his rough Indian tilma (blanket) and took them to Mexico City. When he opened his tilma for the high church officials, they fell to their knees in veneration and amazement. There, imprinted on the humble Indian blanket of Juan Diego, was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, exactly as Juan Diego had seen her. It is said that the image is so perfect in detail that one sees in the pupil of the Virgin’s eye the image of Juan Diego.  –courtesy of literacynet.org, Phoenix, Arizona

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-Cultural Significance-

Go into any Mexican house, business, or car and there is a good chance you will find a picture of La Virgen hung up somewhere, a candle, many times lit, with La Virgen, keychains with La Virgen, small altars honoring La Virgen.   Many a man or woman have La Virgen de G tattoos, I once saw a woman who had her entire back tattooed with La Virgen of G.  .  Of course, one can always find the big celebration on Spanish-language TV at around 10 or 11 at night on Dec 11th and at Midnight Dec 12th, this is the #1 celebration in the world, at La Basilica de Guadalupe in Mexico City…steps away from Tepeyac, where Juan Diego actually saw her.   This celebration is massive and colorful — pilgrims come from all over the world to honor and to thank La Virgen de Guadalupe for her help.

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-La Virgen of G is everywhere-

One does not have to be in Mexico City to feel the power of La Virgen de Guadalupe. Go to almost any Catholic church, anywhere, and there is some type of big celebration! Love seeing the little ones dressed up in all of their Juan Diego or Mexican best during this time of year. Growing up in the Torres household, we could be found driving to church, one year in a really foggy night, to get there in time to celebrate “Las Mañanitas” to La Virgen at 5 or 6 in the morning, we used to even dress up back in the day. I’ll never forget one year when I was little, that after Las Mañanitas Mass, that the church was empty, or so I thought. I heard music coming from the church, and, as I looked inside, who do I see but my Dad walking up to the altar, singing “Virgen Guadalupana” all by himself! . As kids at the Ranch, we did countless Rosaries at Grandma Ma Lupita’s house on our knees on that floor. It’s our Grandma’s ‘Santo’ so we ALWAYS remember Mama Lupita on this day!

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-La Virgen of G watches over Me-

Last year, 12-12-12 was an extremely emotional and important day for me.   I left my office to try to hit one of the many masses in the area and ended up at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, who had been having masses every single hour of the day since 5am.  The church was packed beyond belief and I was inside of the lobby area and knew that there was no way that I would get into the actual church itself — but it was very important that I go there and thank La Virgen of G for HANDLING it and taking care of me as I started a new life and for always taking care of my familia!    I may not be the most faithful churchgoer but I am convinced that La Virgen of G is, most def, watching over me and in my corner.

Celebrating Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez

As the world celebrates Cesar Chavez, I realize that not enough words exist in my vocabulary to describe the impact that CESAR CHAVEZ has made in my world. The first Chicano hero for me, the shining example that I could do or accomplish anything that I wanted for myself because people like him blazed the trail with blood, sweat, and tears. He gave a voice to the ‘sleeping giant’ — we are finally waking up to a power that Cesar Chavez dreamed for us, gave us a priceless road map to continue his path of justice, to be proud of who we are as Latinos, to strive for a better world, and to say it and, more important, mean it when we say SI SE PUEDE!

Can’t wait until we have a National Cesar Chavez Day Holiday!