Sunday, December 07, 2014

Cultural Chameleon

Every so often I'm reminded of the unique ability I have to inhabit different spaces. It's an ability a lot of people I know have. I was at a comic book art show held at an art gallery that is located in the middle of the callejones. As I looked down into the streets from the third floor of this gallery, I felt a kind of slap come across me. I'm so use to going from one space to another that I rarely think about what that means in terms of culture, social norms, and privileges.

While I can be in these different spaces, I get looks from of curiosity and bewilderment, as if I don't belong there. I've been living like this for as long as I can remember, but it wasn't until college that I was able to aptly put a name behind it. Nepantla is a Nahuatl word meaning 'in between' or 'the space in the middle.' There's a lot of other meanings attached to that word in Chicano/a academic spaces, but I I'm not attached to it.

It's easy for someone like me to gravitate to a word like that, whether it is in Nahuatl or any other language. My life is a representation of 'living in between' due to my immigration status and the spaces I inhabit in my day to day life. For all the existential quandaries I've had over the years, I can't imagine my life being any other way. The fact that I can go from talking to someone about their cat art to being able to connect with a street vendor with a few simple words is price less.

I have the privilege of being part of a culture that traces its history thousands of years. I live in a community that creates are that connects the present to the past. I work at a job that connects issues across classes, races, and cities. I transition countless of times on a daily basis and I forget that. Like water, I take the shape of the container I am in, but I am still water. I can be solid, liquid or a gas, but I am still water.

That's why I don't like limiting myself to just one single identity when I can be part of many. It is in that cross pollination that new ideas are born. Mash ups of Lucha Libre and Star Wars. Eastern philosophy and hip-hop. Being Americanized yet not being a US citizen. I forget how good I have it when it comes to being able to participate, understand, and love the works of other cultures while still finding threads that connect it to mine.

When I make connects between cultures, stories, art etc I get this feeling in my chest. A feeling of discovery and to tell everyone I know about it. Over the years, that feeling has stayed the same but my wanting to share with anyone else has not. I tried sharing these connections with others but few get it and fewer share the same passion for it that I do. As such, I keep it to myself, which pains me at times. Here I am finding connections between anime and my working class experiences and I can share them with no one. No one else to talk to about them and flush it out even further.

From the outside it just looks like I'm obsessed with pop-culture, cartoons, and cats. That fine. The growth of others is not my responsibility, nor will I go out of my way to make those connections for someone. Like true great art, it is never fully appreciated by the masses for what it is. As I'm getting older, I'm learning to let go of this want that pushes me to share what I love because no one else will understand it. I'll just keep it for myself in the space in-between.        

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What Happened to Yesterdays Snow?

I can't remember the last time I things were this good in my life. (Knocks on wood.) For everything that's going on in the world right now with people getting killed by cops, students missing, and Obama's latest immigration announcement, I have a lot going for me. I like it. This is new for me and its been having positive affects on my over all disposition and outlook on life. Even now, during the most loathsome time of the year, I'm enjoying myself by being around people I want to be with and not those I have to be forced to be with. Amazing how having a choice can make a world of difference.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Melancholy Solitude

I've been finding myself at wits end as of late. Frustrated at this point really. It's just one of those things in which you want it to happen, but then you're suppose to not want it so then it does happen. At the end of the day, all I can really do is just let out a big ol' sigh and carry on. Dating has become a sort maze I put myself through for various reasons and while I may complicate things further, I wouldn't feel comfortable without having clear communication and intention. But more than anything, as I continue to date and put myself out there, I realize that maybe this is what I need. Not that I enjoy being let down mind you, rather it presents an opportunity for me to continue working on the aspect of myself that deals with those setbacks when things don't work out.

While I can't help be melancholy, I do look at the positive and the growth I have made for myself. What would have taken months to realize now only takes weeks. I'm a better communicator, I do what I can to be mindful of the other person and make sure there is a balance in how things are split and shared going into something. Above everything else, I've had to work through a lot of issues that dug into me and were tied with being undocumented.

I don't think that'll ever stop being an issue, for different reasons, but I'm in a better place with than I've ever been. It's not so much about being able to access services, the system, and all that jazz, but more with my past experiences and how those turned out for the worst because I didn't have both the mental and emotional maturity to process those experiences in a healthy fashion. Just thinking back on how I use to deal with dating and set backs and I can't help but laugh.

However my experiences dating come to an end, I'm in a place where it doesn't throw me in a loop or sidetrack me like it would have once. I like that, yet I'm still left with a sort of longing for companionship above anything else. I do so much that I eventually get to a point in which I wanna share it with someone else. Whether it's going to the movies, museum, art show or even a gala event, I want to share that with someone else who can appreciate it as much as I do or is willing to learn about it with me. I enjoy doing all this stuff by myself, but the experience of sharing with someone else makes it even more special.

But I think that has been an underlying issue with me all this time. Past relationships I've been in, I've been doing the same thing. I'm the one getting invited to cool art shows, parties, movies etc. I'm the one that's like: let's check this out, you know. Whether it's something subconscious or just how things turns out, I have yet to date someone who gives me a run for my money. And it's not like I'm looking for someone that knows about more events or things to do, but someone that'll compliment that. And vice versa. I dunno, it's complicated and the fact I can't define it for myself only adds to the frustration.

At the end of the day, I want what anyone else wants out of a romantic relationship: to be with someone they can connect to one a deeper emotional, metal, spiritual level. To be with someone that will compliment you and vice versa. Someone you can growth with. Learn from each other and try new things. Someone I can cuddle with while watching netflix, you know. Seems like the solution to my problems would be to adopt a cat/dog, but I'm gonna avoid that route altogether and just stick it out. When it comes to matters of the heart, I have endless patience.  


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Echoic Childhood Memories

Of all the sounds I remember growing up around as a kid, the music my father played in his drunken stuper's late into the night. Most Latinos/as and working class folks know what I'm talking about. Unless you didn't have a father figure in your life, which just makes this post awkward. Anyway, drunken father figures playing music really loud, yeah.

Growing up I wondered what the hell was going and why he needed 4 ft tall speakers to blast music I had no comprehension of, till now. Acting like a delayed recording that is only now kick in for various reasons, I find myself latching on to anything that plucks the strings of nostalgia. However, a lot of those romanticized memories come with the kind of emotional baggage and trauma that can slap you out of no where.

As a kid, I knew that my father getting drunk meant a few different things. It meant that random people would be over to the house, there would be barbecue on deck, a beer run to a store that also mean getting to buy a bunch of junk food and soda. That they would go late into the night talking about all sorts of random things while simultaneously playing music so loud that you can't hear anyone talk. And no matter how hard we pleaded with him to turn the music down or to go to sleep, it would just make it worse.

While I'm able to comprehend the situations I was in growing up with an alcoholic father, I find myself mirroring his behavior, for better or for worst. While I don't have kids to emotionally scar nor four foot speakers to blast music from when I'm drunk. I only have four inch speakers attached to a back pack, but some of the music is the same though. Sort of.

Rediscovering those tunes I heard in the middle of night as I tried to go to sleep have a different meaning now that I'm older and sober. I have a choice in how I can remember this music and I chose to enjoy it for what it is, music about heart-break and romance. Needless to say that my current binge of musical taste was inspired by real life events, but that's for another time.

Music today doesn't hold a candle to oldies and classics like Los Angeles Negros. It was another time and era, but their music is timeless. I literally spend hours listening to albums and playlist to rediscover as many bands as possible. And while my current obsession I'll eventually give way to heavy metal or wu-tang, I'll continue basking in them.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Of What Could Have Been

Often times, I find myself in spaces in which I wonder how I got there. Not so much that I'm lost and I'm somewhere I don't know where I am, but that in the scope of everything in between friendships and acquaintances I find myself in unique spaces. Lot of it has to do with networks and the spaces I put myself in. Art shows, concerts, political rallies etc. And every once in a while I look at where I am and I ponder of what could have been. Finding yourself surrounded by professionals and more college degrees than I can shake a stick at.

That kind of stuff comes to my mind not only because I'm observant of my surroundings, but because I've recently been dwelling on the fact that I am a college drop out. When I started out in school, I wanted to get a journalism degree and graduate with that. For all those years I've spent at my community college and then getting politically active with the DREAMER/undocumented student movement, I reassessed those journalistic endeavors and decided to focus those skills somewhere else.

So what does it say when I find myself in spaces that celebrate institutional success in academia, politics, and other high end professions? I like to think that it's a combination of the work I do mixed with those I know and sprinkled with a little bit of actively putting myself in these spaces. Comparisons and wondering what if can't be helped in terms of self reflection. I goes along with the territory. But it's something I don't dwell on much.

For everything that could have been and is yet to be, I'm proud of who I am and how I got here. I respect friends who put in their time in academia for years and they work hard for their hustle. Game recognize game if you will. I like dwelling in these moments every once in a while because they provide an opportunity to continue to analyze my own personal growth and to keep it at 100.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Getting an education is a funny thing. For as long as I can remember, that's all I ever heard from everyone around me. Go to school and better yourself. Do more in life than we did. We need more people of color going to college and being professionals. Even in kindergarden, teacher would ask the class who wants to go to college, and everyone would raise their hand. If you didn't, which I did from time to time, they would single you out and shame you because you didn't have the same ambitions as everyone else.

It pretty much keeps going on like that and reinforced in every which way possible up until you get into college. So the other day I was thinking how I'm a college drop out now. I dwelled on that idea for a bit, you know, chewing on the fat on how I got to this point. More than anything, it's because I hate school. Rather, I hate the unfairly balanced system that fails to prepare individuals for the world and then penalize them for not being able to succeed within those already askewed permitters. Like, I sometimes I try to do things and it just doesn't work out the way I want it too.

And it's not like I don't understand or appreciate the power it has to empower individuals an lead them on a path that goes beyond anything else possible when you live in the hood. That there is a great need for POP to be active in those spaces, but at the same time school makes people into ass holes. Course that's not the standard by way of amazing teachers I've had and friends who aren't ass holes, but school is a fucked up institution that is not for everyone. I like to think I'm one of those everyones.

There's alotta push and pull factors when it comes with me and higher education. When I stop to think about it, enrolling in college was a literal turning point for me in my life. High School was nothing more than going through motions and graduating. I didn't start junior college until three years after high school, and even then my experiences went unorthodox and working class, with the added on layer of being undocumented. I went to school part time and I worked part time. I made my way forward chipping away at the stone bit by bit.

I was introduced to journalism through college and I wouldn't the person I am if it wasn't for that. I mean, I loved going to English class and discussing anglo saxon poetry because it reminded me soo much of heavy metal. I loved taking art history and deepening my love and appreciation for art. I took math because I had to and struggled the entire time. I don't deny that I was a passion for learning and education, but having too many shitty teachers and negative experiences drained all the fun out of it.

Me explaining how I spent seven years at a community college really has to do with the lack of direction, planning and splash of cold water to the face I got once I was in there. That whole narrative of being undocumented, going to school and working really hits you in the feels, so much so that I believed it myself. A lot of people invested and supported me in those years more than I could ever repay them back. From hot meals and floors to sleep on, I wouldn't be here without them nor been able to stay in school for that long.

Yet the idea that I still have to spend at least two more years in an institution of higher learning and writing papers and shit kills me. I have no doubt that finishing school would help me in some shape or form and I would finally finish what I have invested so much in, but I don't want to go back to school right now. The skills I have cultivated over the years put me in on par with anyone who has a college degree in what I do. Yet, I know that I'm limited in how far I can get and what opportunities are available to me, specially working with non-profits.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Never Tell My Story The Same Way Twice

Recently, upworthy, a click-bait wed site, decided to highlight an old-ish documentary I was a part of, Limbo. I for one thought it was hilarious how they dug it up and got some clicks out of it. There was a cool minute of folks seeing it for the first time and recognizing me. I'm proud to have done this documentary and I'm always happy to share it when appropriate with others, but something about Upworthy just bugs me the wrong way. It feels like my work is being taken for someone else's purposes, as if they're not sharing it correctly, that make sense? Nother thing I started to think about was how I never told the same story twice. I catered to different crowds, but more than anything I just got at "telling my story." I've practiced it so many times that I knew which points to hit and at what crowds to not only engage the audience, but to fuck with people too. They expect you to be all sob story and inspirational because you've over come adversity, but I'd be up there telling jokes and being all casual about it, because that's how I am. For example.....

In this video, which was made a year ago, I am completely being myself and purposely doing what you see me doing in those pics. Why? cause fuck it, that's why. I'm not trying to look "cool" or show off, nah. At that point I was just tired of the same old rhetoric that is that of the "DREAMERS" movement. I've since long stopped identifying that way and have moved beyond it because of the complexities of the human experience. But I ain't gonna lie, I ham that shit up hahaha

Monday, September 01, 2014

Life Lessons from Riding a Bicycle

I've had a bike for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I would ride around the neighborhood with friends until I was called home. I would go around knocking over garbage cans on pick up days. I would go to the store or just ride around the block. I've also had numerous bikes on the count that I would be careless with them. It wasn't until I got tired of skating that I became serious about riding. What started out as a need of being able to get around, blossomed into a love for everything cycling.

I was beginning to connect with friends and spaces that used bicycles as a point to connect to larger, systematic issues of in equality, harassment, lack of equal representation and advocacy. I never heard the phrase 'accidental environmentalist' until I started becoming part of those spaces and I realized how just riding my bike was another tool to organize with.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Family Visit

Every time I visit my family I notice how I'm taller than my parents, aunts, and uncles and my nieces, nephews, and cousins keep getting taller than I am. My immediate family, along with most of my extended family from my moms side, have been living in the state of Utah for the last seven years. Cheaper cost of living. I use to visit every summer, but over the years I've stopped going all together. I've seen my family here and there when they come to Los Angeles to visit, and this weekend was the first time in a long time that I've made the trip over there.

Before, I would make a summer trip out of it. I'd take a week off from what I'm doing and take Amtrak over there. This time around though, I'm better off financially than I've ever been and I can afford to fly over taking the bus or train. While I only spent two days over there, it was more than enough for me. While the more things change, the more they stay the same for the good and the bad. 

I've missed out on a lot of things in terms of my family and I've been ok with that. When I decided to leave I knew it was for the better and what I needed. Standing here now and being able to tell them how good I'm doing puts all those sacrifices in perspective. I've missed seeing my sisters grow into young women and into mothers. As much as I wanna pick up and hug my nieces, they're still to young to understand that they have an uncle who cares about them. Seeing them turn away and cry when I reach out to them sums it up nicely. 

In the past, it was distance and time that kept me away from visiting. Now a days, what keeps me away is more of a cultural divide. My parents have always know I was going to be different from what they expected, if they expected anything at all. They thrusted me into American culture without hesitation that there's no way for me to be anything else but Mexican American. Here in LA, I cherish and protect that which reminds me of the home I shared with my family growing up and the one I left at seven years old to come to the US. 

I'll go out of my way just to reminisce about something because I look through a romanticized lens. I think back on how good it was the first and no matter how hard I try, it's just not the same. That's how I am with my family. I've grown and changed dramatically from how my family pictures me. I know this cause they were surprised to see me karaoking to Selena and dancing cumbias. They've never known me to do any of that kind of stuff, let alone bask in it. 

My family ask how I'm doing, and me saying "good" is enough for them. Being there again for my least favorite sisters' wedding felt like being in a bubble, mostly because that's how things are over there for them. My sisters may be moms now and are moving out to live with their partners, my parents keep getting shorter the older they get because they're from the old world like that, along with all those aunts, uncles, and cousins who suddenly have a hard time remembering me because of my facial hair. 

During the party on Saturday night, it hit me on what I was missing out on by not being there. I shared my first dance with my mom, along with one of my nieces. I shared drinks with men who I use to literally look up to. I saw how through years of family drama, almost everyone was still keeping it together and supporting each other. All those familiar faces from parties of yesteryear were still there and it seemed like I never left in the place. Kids are running around everywhere, boy and girls separating to do their own thing while the teens try and look all cool and grown up with each other. 

I really wonder what idea and/or image they have of me. I rarely talk about the kind of work I do, let alone that I'm active in organizing and social justice spaces. But I know they've seen or heard something or other cause my parents would probably say something when asked about me. That and the fact that I use to be on spanish news segments every once in a while back in the day. Those are the kinds of conversations I use to be around as a kid. I always hated them because despite being right there in front of them, they would talk about you in the third person. 

Then there's inkling in me to want to talk to my older cousins, nieces, and nephews about what they're doing and what they might have planned. I wanna ask them how they're doing in school and if they are even thinking about college. To offer myself and all of my resources to help them get to where they wanna get. To leave the family behind for a while and go do their own thing. But I don't know them like to be asking anything other than if they remember me.  

There's a lot of lamenting on my part for what could have been and for what isn't. I move forward knowing the choices I made can't be change, but they can be mended. Once my nieces get older and can speak in full sentences, then maybe that's when I'll start visiting on a more regular basis. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

DACA Two Years Later

As someone whose gone through the DACA process and is actively benefiting from it, almost everything I read about the program having failures and faults is nothing more than sensationalism from institutions and non-profits. While DACA is talked about in the media through the same sensationalist lens in explaining why a program that should benefit millions, has only about half a million individuals approved. There are actual studies and hard numbers that go into the numerous obstacles that come when someone can qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but ultimately don't apply. Those that have applied for DACA and by extent, anyone else whose gone through the immigration process here in the US understands first hand how overwhelming it is and how easily one mistake can ruin the entire process for an individual.

It should be clear to most that have a basic understanding of these processes that having the money to apply is the first and sometimes, the biggest hurdle one has to go through. $465 is a lot of money for a working class family/individual, specially when there's a possibility of not being approved for DACA or any other status that has an application fee. After the money, having the right documents to submit is the next biggest hurdle. I didn't apply for DACA until a few months after the program got started, and part of that was collecting evidence. I got lucky and found an old receipt from a lost library book I paid for and my dog's license from the city. If it wasn't for that, my chances of getting approved would have been substantially lower. However, I had the privilege of applying through a non-profit and had lawyer support in case anything took a turn for the worse, a resource only those of us in the "movement" have.

There's an endless list of why an individual who qualifies for DACA won't apply for it. From fear of the government, cultural norms, lack of resources, lack of information, and scheming lawyers are just some of those hurdles. The odds keep stacking against you from there. Unless you're one of those folks that's featured regularly in news stories on being undocumented and doing something that's not common place like being in a Doctorates program or studying some other high class profession that doesn't lend itself to working class/poor immigrants, the government doesn't see you as a priority. The government wants those that will contribute more versus those they see as not being able to contribute enough or nothing at all. It's the kind of rhetoric used by non-profits and movement celebrities.

When the program first rolled out, everyone and their momma were talking about. You'd see everyone coming outta the wood work to take advantage of this new situation. From crooked lawyers and organizations, to non-profits that rolled out their own programs to help their members. All of a sudden everyone was overwhelmed because of the demand for information regarding the program. From how much it would cost to how one would qualify or if it was necessary for one to seek legal help in filling out the application.

I imagine this is how everything went down in the 80s when Regan rolled out his immigration amnesty. Everyone and their mom, clamoring to take advantage and come up in the world. I saw a lot of that through DACA. A surge of individuals who have never been part of movement and/or organizing spaces for one reason or another. They all wanted help with DACA with an urgency that I've never seen before. Everyone wanted to get theirs and peace out, which I can understand. While it may require pulling some teeth, if someone can qualify for DACA, they'll find the money and resources to apply, there's no doubt about that. They will lie on the application to cover up anything that may cause trouble and go to crooked lawyers and notaries to make it happen.

The only times I hear talk of an individual not applying for DACA on some moral principle or because of the politics involved is someone who claims they're "radical" or "revolutionary." If you're anti-government, anti-DACA or basically anti-anything that is short of demanding unrealistic changes the US government will make, then you need a pie to face. But that's just a waste of a good pie. They all talk big game to the point of saying something to the affect of
 rather dying on their feet than living on their knees. It's just like the Dave Chappell skit "when keeping it real goes wrong." 

At the end of the day though, all I see is everyone is fighting with themselves in trying to take credit for whatever happens and being at the metaphorical table when it's being talked about. People will get screwed and left out will others will be thrusted into the lime light as examples of how whatever happens can affect individuals positively. It comes down to nothing more than a show and tell when you get to that level of working with institutions and non-profits, which is more often than not a mirror for those that work in those spaces.

My DACA renewal is already coming up toward the end of the year, I will be applying again and I know that I will be approved. For someone whose been a straight arrow on paper and with legal resources at my disposal, it's something I don't even think twice about. I haven't done anything that will disqualify me from re-applying and have been working three different jobs at the same time. Again, I'm an exception to a lot of things not because I'm above average or anything of the sorts, I have resources from being in movement spaces.

I had a kind of stability before my DACA kicked in, and when it finally came through, I didn't go through a dramatic process or change. I was 29 and my reactions would have been worlds apart if I had gone through this 10 years ago. Getting DACA wasn't life altering, it just made things easier for me. To work in spaces that previously had difficulties because of my lack of legal status. I've been undocumented for 23 years and I know how to navigate the system to do what I need to do. Those that are younger aren't as wily for different reasons, most prevalent is that they'll no longer have to be.

There's a stark difference in how the immigrants rights movement looks now and how it looked 10 years ago. Things have gotten better for the few and have gotten worse for the rest. There's no doubt that DACA will continue on for the foreseeable future and that other stuff will happen in-between. Do I have any fears or worries about the DACA program being terminated and being assed out again? Sure, just like I wonder if I'll be hit by a bus on my way to work, but that doesn't stop me from moving forward.

I've come a long way from the days of being scarred to share my real name online because I'm undocumented. If DACA were to end tomorrow, I know there would be an alternative or a kind of compensation for those in the program. As fucked up as the government is, I doubt it would do anything to those in the DACA program if it came to an end. If anything, there'll probably something along the lines of being permanent residency because of the redundant system that is in place and the government doesn't want all these new tax payers going any where.

I've taken full advantage of having DACA short of being able to qualify for health insurance. I still have to hustle, but I have the space to do other things I want here and there. While I've detached myself from being active in immigration spaces, I have been more active in other social justice spaces because of what I learned all those years in the Dream Act trenches.

I'm not the kind of person to plan too far ahead into the future. The older I get, the more emphasis I put in things that are personally rewarding for me and by extension, those around me. The options of always working toward something greater in terms of finishing college and beyond are always there, but that's not me. I'm not one for academia or being institutionalized like that. More power to those that can and have worked those systems, but that ain't me, yet I'm not completely closed off to such aspirations. I just like taking things as they come.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Fucking with the guys that sell Micas

For the uninitiated, when I talk about Micas, I'm talking about fake IDs. If you need further details on Micas, you can check out this LA Times Story, this NPR segment, and this article from a USC student.

Was hanging out with a friend yesterday and during our conversation about a bunch of random stuff, I remembered something my family and I would get a kick outta of, clowning the dudes in Mac Arthur Park that sell Micas. Ohh man, I completely forgot about how we use to do that every time we drove down on Alvarado or on 7th street. I look back on it now and it's funnier now than it was then.

Back in the day, if one was inclined in getting a fake ID, Mac Arthur Park was the place to go. It was always recommended to get someone who knows someone there to hook you up so you don't screwed over. You tell the guys what you need, and in a few hours they'd come back with what you ordered. Money is exchanged and everyone goes home happy. The other thing is that these guys are all over the place hanging out in front of shops or restaurants, shooting the shit.

They'll casually solicit crowds of folks walking down the street in Spanish, "Micas, Micas." Most folks just ignore it cause they know the what's up. The guys are hustling and doing their own thing, if you don't paid them no attention, they won't press you. But if you're looking to get an ID, they'll walk with you and talk details. Best part of all this is you can haggle with them too.

So aside from asking people walking, they would post up at street corners and put out their hand as if they were holding an invisible card or holding up the letter C. That meant that they sold Micas. You could drive up next to them and they would try and slang you a Mica.

Because the guys would be on the look out for cars slowing down, pulling over next to them or flashing back the same hand signal for a Mica, they would run from where they are to the cars window, cause they don't wanna lose a customer. So on occasions in which the family vehicle was filled everyone: Mom, Dad, three younger sisters, and myself, we'd make my dad clown one of these Mica guys.

Before we would get to the park, we'd tell him to clown the guys, so he could get in the right lane ahead of time. We'd all be giggling and holding our laughs so as to not ruin the fun or tip off the Mica guy. The excitement would continue to build as we got closer and closer to the park, until contact was made. My dad would slowly drive up to the curb, we'd see the guy drop everything and start running toward the car. As soon as he was a few steps away from the window, my dad would speed of. Mean while, my sisters and I would be busting up in the back. No matter how many times we did that, it never got old.

To that end, I'b be lying if I said that lil flashback didn't tug at the old heart strings. I miss my sisters and my mom. My other sister and dad, not soo much. Coming from a Mexican family means you're pretty tight with your family in good and bad ways. I stopped living at home seven years ago, and I only see my family once a year cause they live in another state. Either they come for a visit in LA or I go over there. There's a night and day contrast with my family and me and at times it can't be helped. My parents are from the rancho, and while I spent some time there, I'm an Americanized immigrant.

I've missed out on a bunch of stuff over the years that I wish I was there for. Even now that my sisters are having kids and I'm three times an uncle. I've only met my nieces a hand full of times, and because they don't know who I am, they're scarred of me. They won't even let me carry them, but that's the way things are. I can't stand living with them where they are and I would go insane within a month. But I still miss them. Hopefully they won't have to live so far off in the future so I can just drop by more often. We'll see.  


Sunday, August 03, 2014

Employment Transitions

Unemployment is something I'm not all too familiar with. While I grew up helping in the family business, which varied from year to year, I was comfortable with the kind of work and jobs that make the world go round. Nothing special or fancy, just manual labor and being a street vendor. How I've loathed and hated all of those past jobs, but not without taking away valuable lessons from doing them.

It's only been within the last two years or so that work became stable and I was no longer doing odd jobs here and there to make a living. Stability is the shit. I've lived the majority of my life going from hand to mouth. I learned to be resourceful and how to hustle living like that with my family. Most if not all those skills I picked up during those times have helped me in every aspect of my life.

Stability afforded me many first these last few years, and I have been blessed tremendously everyday since, but everything changes after a while. A week ago, I was working three jobs and now I'm down to 1 1/2. I was working two part time jobs that added up to full time at the end of the month and free lancing here and there. Doing that allowed me to just move in to a new place this past July and to visit my family living in Utah later this month. I was let go from one part time job and I had to cut back time on the other part time gig as well, leaving me with freelancing and a few hours of work a week.

For a good while there, I was in a panic and thought to myself, what the fuck and I gonna do. I've been in these situations before and wasn't falling apart when things crashed down. Instead, I took the sudden free time I have to get to some pending work done, went on a few bike rides and enjoyed my time as a kind of sudden break from the pace I was keeping up working. I also had close friends help me with some next steps, but mostly offering the kind of support one needs when down on the dumps like that.

At the same time though, I was ready for this change in jobs. Before everything went down, I already applied to another part time that involved more of the work I want to do versus the work I can do and get paid for. The first interview went great and that it carries on to the next one. I would love this gig because of the organization I'd be with and the community I'd be working with. Whatever is in the cards, I'll be on top on my game to make sure that I'm able to stay where I'm at right now. I've worked hard and have put in my time to be where I'm at. I'm not losing it all without a fight.  

Besides, when I think of everything I've done without having DACA to make things easier, I know I'll bounce back. Even if it means doing work that I thought I would never have to do again, I'll do what I need to, to survive at the end of the day. No matter how high up the ladder I go, I'll always be working class. I know how to survive and adjust.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Born Day Reflections at 30

And thus the passage of time marked by life is upon me once again. It took me a while to own it, but I'm maturing quite nicely if I do say so myself. I like older Erick versus younger Erick. Things make a lot more sense these days then they ever have. As if some sort of veil was lifted and all of a sudden I got a hold of all this maturity I never knew I had. Trips me out sometimes.

None the less, I be 30 years old. For all the societal hype that's place on specific numbers in one's lifetime, this is one of those numbers in which a big deal is made. No longer in my twenties, jokes galore about getting older, and of course the ever looming pressure of being successful and/or accomplished. Whether it's self imposed or from outside forces, 30 is touted as the age in which an individual has their shit together and is on the path they're going to follow the rest of their life. Continually building atop a foundation set in their 20s that will continue into the 30s and beyond. Mean while, I'm over here trying to level up all my pokemon to level 100.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Personal Space and Living on my Own

It trips me out that I’m living in a space in which at one point, my family of six would have all shared that studio apartment together. I was able to get my shit together before I got DACA. I no longer needed to live with or crash at someone’s house any more because of the stability that comes with a regular job and paycheck. I got DACA after the fact that I was already living on my own; it just made things easier once I got it.

And now as I prepare to move into a bigger and better apartment by myself, I can’t help but to reflect on my past living situations. Whether it was living at home with my family or living with friends and their families, having a space to call my own has never been easy. When I lived with my family, everything was shared between my three younger sisters and my parents. At times, we had the luxury of all of us having our own separate rooms and in tough times, all six of us shared a studio apartment as we rushed to turn off electronics and not make any noise cause the buildings manager was knocking on our door for that months rent.

Yet, it wasn’t always like that. When my family lived in Mexico, we had it as good as a working class family could get. We lived in an apartment building, which from what I remember was spacious enough for my parents, my two sisters and myself. In fact, we had extended family regularly stay with us in that apartment as they made they way to the US. We lived in Mexico City at the time. Then everything changed once my family got to the US.

For one, my father made the spontaneous decision to move to the US out of some random impulse, much like buying a pack of gum at the supermarket. My mom had to get rid of everything we owned that wasn’t clothes or personal keep sakes. I have feint memories of packing things up and getting ready for the move, which at the time was to my great grandmas ranch in Michoacán, where my mom is from. We lived on that ranch for a few months until my father saved up enough money to pay for my mom and sisters to cross over. I on the other hand fell asleep inside a car in Mexico and woke up in Boyle Heights.

For a few good months, we bounced around from relative to relative when we first got here. All the extended family that stayed with us in Mexico was pretty much beholden to return the favor. That burned a ton of bridges for a bunch of different reasons that can be summed up as family politics, but eventually my father managed to move us into a place of our own in Watts, off 91st and Central. We spent a few years there before my father moved us to Long Beach for three years. Then we moved back to Watts/Willowbrook, followed by Inglewood, Pico Union and Boyle Heights once again.

I didn’t start living with friends until 2007 when my family relocated to Utah. I lived with them for about two months. I came back to LA to visit friends and go to a comic book convention, but instead I just ended up staying. I was never the best houseguest and my experiences were nothing like the 1995 movie staring Sinbad and Phil Hartman. My parents ended up moving back to LA for a brief time, and I moved back in with them during that time, but eventually they moved back to Utah because they just couldn’t hustle and make it in LA like they use to. Not wanting to go to Utah, I started staying with friends again and bounced around for a bit as I balanced everything else around me.

I’ve learned a lot about myself through those experiences for better and for worse. Not having your own personal space takes it toll when all you wanna do is just have time alone. Obviously, there’s a stark comparison on how I’ve lived the last year on my own to when I lived with others. When I lived with others, I pretty much did everything I could to stay out as late as I could hanging out, drinking, going on bike rides etc. I’d tried to do the same for holidays and celebrations because I hate being an awkward third wheel, but when you live in someone else’s home, it can’t be helped.

Now adays, I have the freedom of shutting out the world when I don’t feel like being a part of it, mostly holidays, and just tune out everything. I can spend an entire day in my underwear, watching anime and playing video games till I go blind. I’ve been enjoying myself and I’m grateful to everyone that has helped me reach this point in my life. I was never the perfect house guest, but I will never forget the generosity others have shared with me by open up their home when I didn’t have one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Oppression Olympics: Drivers Licenses

The privilege of being able to get a drivers license and being able to drive a vehicle, the quintessence of being a teenager and taking those first steps of independence. If you had talked to me a few years ago, I would have been griping like the kids in this Latino USA piece, one of my favorite podcast, on not having the privilege to drive legally. Hell, I’ve had a DACA work permit for a little more than a year and I still haven’t bothered getting my drivers license, but that speaks to my privileges, living in a metropolitan city like Los Angeles and being able to ride my bike everywhere.

None the less, that’s what it all comes down to, privilege. For as long as I can remember, status has been tied to car ownership. Whether it was delivered through pop-culture or through my own immediate and extended family, you weren’t shit if you didn’t have a car. Like something outta Scarface, you know: first you get the green card, then you get the license, then you get the car, then you get the women. I imagine for women it’s similar, but instead of getting other women, they get-to-get away from douchebag guys and no longer rely on others for rides. It’s different for everyone.

Monday, June 02, 2014

A Spatial Quandary

If I’m undocumented, technically I have a temporary work permit, what say, if any, do I have in the community(ies) I have lived in, in the last 23 years? I ask myself this question because it was asked of me, paraphrasing here, over twitter in loop with an on-going conversation about my online actions/words directed toward anyone not from the community, i.e. hipsters. Using the stereotypical definition of a hipster, it also raises questions on racism on my end toward anyone that isn’t a minority and in my view, appears “white.”

It’s a slippery slope that I’m still balancing and defining clearly for myself. Given how easy is it is to hate and talk shit, specially though the veil of the Internet, spitting venom toward others I deem the creators of problems that affect me, makes me look and come off no different than any other racist, bigot, homophobe, xenophobe out there ranting about how immigrants (mostly Latino/a) are ruining their country and that they should go back where they came from. I kid you not. It may be in my own way, but I never miss a chance to shit talk hipsters and demand that they stay outta my neighborhood. Thus, am I replicating the same kind of hate that is continually hurled toward immigrant communities or is there some sort of pass/loop hole that I have to justify my "hate" toward “hipsters” and if I’m gonna be real about it son, white people?

Monday, May 05, 2014

Experiencing Everyday Sexism

Dressing up as Princess Leia for Wondercon, a comic book convention, imparted me with a brief glimpse of the every day sexism women have to put up with. Totally not the experience I had in mind going into the convention, but an important one that allowed me to reflect further within myself, and my relationships with women. However, before getting into that recent experience, a bit of history to help contextualize things.

I grew up with women in my life. I’m the oldest and the only male in my immediate family. I have three younger sisters, my mom, and my dad. For all the B.S. male masculinity my dad tried to impose on me, I know I take after my mom. Still though, I got the standard male-oldest son preferential treatment at the end of the day. There was this one time when one my sisters called out my mom on the double standard between us. It’s was funny to me at the time just because of the way the conversation went down, but in that moment I didn’t think nothing of it, I had no reason to, I’m a guy.

As such, I never felt an obligation growing up to ponder or even reflect on my actions as a heterosexual Latino male. Traditional gender roles were the norm in my family because that’s what my parents grew up with and that’s what I saw. Again, I never had an inclination to fully analyze the male centric bias that is passed down as tradition, I’m a guy and on the winning end of that deal.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My Storycorps Recording

Storycorps is,"an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives." Every once in a while, they'll do a special focus on neighborhoods or recording individuals that were present during a historic event. My recording was part of their Historias project, which was to collect stories of Latino families and their experience in the United States.

This recording was made in 2010 and I did it with the help of my friend Laura. I initially went in to this recording session with the thought that since these recordings are recorded in the library of Congress, I wanted to share my experiences growing up undocumented in the US. In that aspect, I succeed. I also got confused and during the recording, I would say stigmata when I was trying to say stigma, which is pretty hilarious when you hear me say it a few times.

Anyway, check it out and have a listen. It's a pretty cool glimpse into my mind set four years ago, and while my life has taken a different path now, the stuff I talk about with regards to my life is on point.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Relationship & Dating Insecurities

Every so often, I’ll reach the point of being insecure that I start to question my ways. I know most folks can understand this feeling because it is in our nature as individuals. The questioning of values, ideals, and paths compared to others and in the larger picture, society. Always with the comparing that leads to doubt, which creates fear. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

When it comes to relationships and dating, I see it as a never-ending experience that is in constant flux and it is my responsibility to continue to improve on myself for myself and no one else. The day I stop learning and growing is the day things will take a turn for the worse and I shouldn’t be with anyone. A work in progress if you will.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Retiring the DREAMER Narrative and Identity

In the beginning, an individual would identify as a ‘DREAMER’ because they qualified for the legislative bill: Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors aka The Dream Act. The bill was first introduced in 2001 and needless to say, both the bill and the movement it behind it have dramatically changed.

The other day, a reporter from the Associated Press gave me a call and asked me a few question in regards to a story they’re working on, why DREAMERS don’t want to identify as DREAMERS anymore. Ugh… this post is going to have the word DREAMERS everywhere, how 2009. Anyway, I gave him my two cents, which I’ll gladly share here in greater detail.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Redefining Aspects of my Life

Redefining numerous aspects of my life has been eye opening. I question myself in a healthy fashion that’ll spur conversations with friends about the spaces, identities and actions I claim. For me, now more than ever, these redefinitions and reflections come as another year passes by and old things become new again. Lather, rinse and repeat. Always repeat.

In many ways, it seems like I’m constantly looking back to avoid making mistakes I’ve already learned as I look into what has yet to be. All natural and universal human emotions and experiences really, nothing new.

For myself, I’ve pretty much kept the same habits, interest, personality etc. with the difference that now that I’m older, I’m clearly able to articulate my scandal, partly because I’ve been doing it for a while now, and because I am passionate about it. Not to mention that somewhere along this journey, I learned not to give a flying fuck about what others think of me, and sailing my own ship.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Superman es Ilegal (Corrido Version)

¡Es un pájaro!
¡Es un avión!
No, hombre, ¡es un mojado!

You know what's better than a bomb corrido? A corrido about everyones favorite illegal alien, Superman. This is song is the jam I tell you what !! Coming across this song was total serendipity and I owe a huge thanks to Ernesto Yerena for sharing a picture (up above) on FB. The cover alone is priceless and I'd kill to get my hands on that single.

The song "Superman es Ilegal" is by Los Hermanos Ortiz. The song is on their 2003 album, "Puro Norte." Shit, in 2003 I was a snot nosed 19 year old. No way in hell I would have know about this song back then.

You can listen to the full track here and you can take a look at the lyrics (translated to English) here. I seriously can't stop smiling at everything this song has going for it. For being more than 10 years old, the song is still hella fresh and on point.

Llegó del cielo y no es un avión.
Venía en su nave, desde Criptón,
y por lo visto, ne es un Americano
sino otro igual como yo, indocumentado.
Así es que Migra, él no debe de trabajar
porque aunque duela, Superman es ilegal.

They describe how he came from the planet krypton and like them (the band), they're both undocumented. They even question why immigration isn't doing anything to kick him out of the country, but they go out of their way to deport everyone else.

Es periodista, también yo soy
y no fue el Army, a que camión.
Y aquel es güero, ojos azules, bien formado
y yo prietito, gordiflón y muy chaparro.

They also point out how because Superman is light skinned and blue eyed, he can get away with not signing up for military service. But not them. Not with dark skin, being chubby and short. This has officially become my life theme song.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Additional Commentary to a Radio Piece I was in

One of the local radio stations featured me and a few friends in this piece about undocudating and some of the changes, if any, Deferred Action has brought about. You can read or listen to the piece here, which you'll need to do in order to get some context as to what I'm writing about.

I've written about being heart-broken a few times already. Hell, I incidentally ended up ranting about an X while doing a recording for StoryCorps. It's been a few years since I went through the experience I talked about in the radio piece. Falling in love with someone who in the end, ended up throwing all of my insecurities regarding my immigration status, back in my face.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Movies about immigration that aren't about immigration

I love watching movies. Whether it's re-watching my favorites or checking out something more recent, I love movies. This isn't something casual, I mean I really love movies. I'm into their soundtracks, cinema-photography, costumes, script, all that stuff most folks could care less about.

Anyway. Movies about immigration. We've all seen at least one, and each generation has their go to film when they wanna share with others. It's safe to say that the more recent, A Better Life, is the go to film right now. And if you look online, you'll find list galore of other films that fall within the range of telling a dramatic and emotional story involving immigration.

I looked through a bunch of list and they all had great selections mixing mainstream movies with those that are independent and documentaries as well. I got inspired to create my own buzzfeed like list of movies that are about immigration, but not necessarily about immigration, you get me? Immigration is such a multifaceted issue, with soo many different ways to share the stories of those who have immigrated to the US. In the spirit of inclusivity, I now offer you my personal picks of movies about immigration that aren't about immigration. Trust me on this one.


Thursday, January 30, 2014

Of Not Being Ghetto Anymore


I don’t feel ghetto no mo'. Things like habits, taste, looks, n' wayz of thankin chizzle over time, n' as I step away n' look inside in, I peep how tha fuck far I’m gettin from where I use ta be. There’s no one catalyst up in which I can point back ta or exact moment ta pin point. Rather, tha accumulation of various moments n' rap battlez wit others bout dis has made me ta stop n' be thinkin bout dis chizzleover n' shit.

Da most recent episode of dis is up in findin pimped out joy up in havin triflin neighbors move outta tha crib buildin I live in. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. I bigged up tha dizzle I came home n' found dem gettin tha fuck out. Their yellin n' fightin at all minutez of tha day, outside of mah door, frustrated mah crazy ass ta no ends.

For all tha jive-ass shiznit n' jokes I make bout hipsters, tha scam of livin among them, if I could afford it, is mo' n' mo' appealin wit every last muthafuckin random fight I gotta over hear when I’m home. My fuckin upward economic n' hood mobilitizzle is tied ta all of dis yo, but I have yet ta articulate it succinctly. I consider it a privilege ta have lived n' struggled ta make endz meat wit mah crew.

Those experiences helped mah crazy ass become resourceful; ta peep mah joints n' gotz a funky-ass mo' betta understandin of what tha fuck should be blingin up in mah game. Learnin ta hustle is suttin' dat can never be truly taught, it has ta be lived n' experienced first hand ta truly respect it fo' realz. At tha same time, I’m tha fruit of mah muthafathas labor. Shiiit, dis aint no joke. They set up ta break off tha opportunitizzles they didn’t have, n' as a result, I find mah dirty ass up in dis space of doubt.

And dis be a transition, no buts bout dat shit. One up in which I wanna tread carefully not fo' fear of losin any kind of credibilitizzle n' validation fo' mah experiences or cuz playas look all up in mah grill differently yo, but cuz dis inherently affects what tha fuck has yet ta come fo' realz. And it’s not like I’m worried bout tha future n' what tha fuck has yet ta be yo, but cuz of unfounded insecuritizzles we all have.

Straight out, it feels like I’m committin betrayal against tha communitizzles dat have helped pimp tha thug I am. Like I don’t wanna let dem down yo, but all up in tha same time I know I done been up growin dem n' movin further n' further away. I don’t wanna be tha kind of thug dat looks back ta where I came from n' is proud as a muthafucka ta have juiced it up out. I wanna still live up in tha same hood n' do mah part ta make it mo' betta n' shit.

And I’d be lyin if I didn’t git frustrated all up in tha everydizzle thangs one has ta interact wit when livin up in a hustlin class hood fo' realz. An ejaculation helped mah crazy ass put names ta thangs I considered ta be tha norm. Everythang from interaction wit tha police, tha abundizzle of liquor stores n' fast chicken restaurants, violins, homelessness, pretty much mah playas just tryin survive.

Balancing, acknowledgin n' understandin tha different privileges one has cuz of ejaculationizzle opportunitizzles is synonymous up in our communities. Put ya muthafuckin choppers up if ya feel dis! We can’t limit our ghettoview ta tha hood our slick asses live yo, but I also don’t wanna leave it behind n' forget bout dat shit. It’s easy as fuck ta be on panel raps, events or even on resumes ta put where you came from so you can look good. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! I be fly as a gangbangin' falcon, soarin all up in tha sky dawwwwg! That kind of credibilitizzle can be a game charger between you or one of mah thugs gettin dat thang, scholarship, rap battle, acceptizzle etc.

I’ve peeped how tha fuck dem round mah crazy ass navigate tha same kind of minacious space. Everyone has they own way bout thangs n' that’s what tha fuck I’ve taken away da most thugged-out, ta own mah shit. Bein insecure was never suttin' I dwelled on fo' too long. I did enough of dat up in high school. Everyone always tries ta keep it real yo, but keepin it real can go wack from time ta time.

Guess what tha fuck it is fo' me straight-up is dat I let thangs trip me up from time ta time. My fuckin thoughts n' intentions is ghon be up in one space fo' too long, dat I’ll neglect others spaces I abide in. I aint talkin' bout chicken n' gravy biatch. Traversin various spaces at once can be conflictin from time ta time yo, but I shouldn’t let dat trip me up. But it is worth checkin up in on it once up in a while.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Webinar: Finding Your Story

Watch live streaming video from connectedlearningtv at

I had the pleasure of being on a webinar earlier this month talking about digital story telling and digital age civics. It was a great panel with a diverse set of folks participating and sharing their experiences with story telling. While I didn't mean for it to happen, I ended up dominating the conversation at almost every question.

In the back of my mind, I was being mindful to respect the space and let everyone have a go at it when questions are asked, pero since no one was really sharing as much as I'd hope they would, I came in there and just shot my mouth off. Well, you can see in the video, which is an hour long. Yes, it's a looooong video, but a great conversation, so you won't be disappointed.

The webinar I was a part of was one of three in a serious of discussions. You can check out the rest of the webinars at the connected learning site, which was the host for these video panels. Big thank you to Sangita Shresthova whose one of the organizers for this event, and for inviting me to share.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Useful Droid Apps for the Undocumented

Access to information and technology. Most folks don't put too much into it because it's easy to over look such trifling things when your priorities are to makes end meat and survive. Being able to access the internet is a luxury and a necessity now. So it's no surprise that since folks can't afford internet at home, a phone becomes the go to device to access it. For years that was me. I would use my Iphone to access the net, take notes, write blog post, interviews, take pics etc. It would only be until I got to a desktop or a friends lap top that I would flush out what I started on my phone.

I'm my circle of friends, I can say that I'm one of a few folks that takes tech and information seriously. I have a Nexus 4 with an unlimited data plan. That alone sets me apart from my peers because most are on family plans or Metro PCS, scrapping by with a whatever phone and service that makes you shake your fist in the air. But it works.  Then there are those who have the latest Iphones, but don't know how to use it to it's full capacity. It's a mixed bag.

Point is, phones have leveled the playing feel when it comes to access to the internet and information. With that in mind, I wanna share some Droid apps that have practical uses for any individual that is undocumented and rocking a smart phone. Sorry Iphone users, I don't have apps to recommend for y'all. It's not like y'all would use them correctly anyway. (If you have or know of any other apps that undocu folks will benefit from, please share them in the comments)