Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Latina, Chicana, Mexicana-Americana...A Rosa By Any Other Name

Labels. We all use them. Our lives are defined by description: poor, rich, Republican, Democratic, married, single, Anglo, Latino. What if you don't look like who you are? Ever met a person who looked like one of the homeless kids on the Drag only to find out they're one of the wealthiest software designers in town?

My life has been a never ending assertion of my culture. I am a proud Latina who looks extremely caucasian. I have pale skin that burns easily in the sun, never tanning although I freckle. I have blue eyes and brown hair. I have my father's Anglo coloring and my mother's passion for our ethnicity.

At a family reunion over the weekend, I was struck by how different I look from my relatives. My mother and her siblings all look alike. I resemble them, but only when you carefully compare us. My mother has dark hair and eyes, and her skin is light brown, as are most of my relatives. I look like one of the in-laws, related by marriage. As I looked around at the many shades of brown faces, from lightly colored to a deep, nutty hue, I was very aware of my paleness. So I reminded myself of my heritage, my family connection and bond.

I am the great, great, great granddaughter of Pedro Rosales, who was born in Coahuila, Mexico but founded our family home in Campbellton, Texas. Thrice-great Grandpa, known by his nickname of Po Pira, was married twice, fathering 8 children who became the building blocks of our family. I looked at pictures of my ancestors who died long before I was born and saw in them the same faces of the elderly relatives around me. I looked at a picture of my great grandmother Porfiria and saw shades of my grandmother Dorotea as well as the resemblance to aunts and cousins.

My great grandmother cooked tortillas on her outdated wood burning stove and didn't speak any English. Never fluent in Spanish, I managed to communicate well enough with her. Her tiny home would be hot and airless, windows and doors open in the vain hope of catching a light breeze but still we'd gather in the kitchen waiting to be handed a warm tortilla, fresh off the comal.

Almost every trip to Campbellton also means a visit to El Campo Santo, the cemetary, to pay respects. The joke in Campbellton is that you can tell the Anglo portion of the graveyard from the Hispanic part by the absence of vividly colored artificial flowers and wreaths decorating the plots. The Anglo portion has few if any flowers, real or otherwise. It's the easiest to mow and edge around, says the caretakers. As it is in the cemetary, so it is in my life. My Anglo relatives are not nearly as colorful and vibrant as my Hispanic ones. The Anglo side has boasted some fairly eccentric and interesting members but the current generation is tame in comparison.

I embrace my Latina-ness in all areas of my life. My cooking reflects it, down to menudo in the winter or if a hangover cure is necessary. My every day conversation includes a sprinkling of Spanish words mixed in when there isn't an English one to convey my meaning. I have friends who will text message me in Spanish and another who engages me in bilingual conversation, scolding me when I speak almost solely in English. He reminds me that to be fluent I have to put forth effort. His family has ceased to speak English around me, only switching to it if I become completely puzzled, unable to follow the conversation by translating in my head. Even then, they'll question "No entiendas? Did you understand, Kay?", give a brief explanation in English and go right back to Spanish.

I may look different from your average Hispanic woman, but inside I am one of la raza. Latina, chicana, Mexicana-American...a Rosa by any other name would still carry the same sweet fragrance of family, of respect for heritage and a pride in knowing my roots. The strong women in my family have instilled in me the idea that I am in control of my destiny. When I voice dreams aloud, the strong men of my family don't ask "why?" they say "why not?". As a Latina friend of mine says, "We're Mexi-CANS, not Mexi-CAN'Ts!".

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Recent Keyword Searches Leading to My Blog

I have a stat counter on my blog. Down on the right sidebar you'll see a link that says "These people are all about me" which will take you to analysis pages of people who happened upon my blog one way or another. One method is to google keywords, searches. I have interesting keyword searches. People who found my blog googled:
  • kevin ann massage therapist austin tx
  • tri-lobe balloon catheter
  • rekindle miracle whip
  • anthony's bar bq beeville
  • rocky horror zach scott
  • halloween gay bars el paso
  • tejano super car show 2005 finalist
  • miss maulie
  • fountain of sperm soft tab
  • rockett plates for bikes
  • pea fries artist
  • pedicab austin
  • fluent spanish
  • hincapie wings poster race to replace
  • jessica rabbit birthday myspace comment
  • cook backstrap
  • erotic wrestling holds

I don't know but I find "pea fries artist" quite titillating.

Jester: Dorm Life vs. Prison Life

I am not rich but I am wealthy in useless knowledge. For example, today I started daydreaming about two Jesters. Beauford H. Jester Center residence dormitory on the U.T. campus in Austin and Jester I, III and IV, Texas Department of Criminal Justice system prison facilities located in Richmond. No connection you say? Interestingly, folklore on campus includes the information that the architect responsible for the dorm also designed prisons.

Let's examine the two. Jester Center has a housing capacity of 2,987 students. Jester I, III and IV can hold a maximum of 2,004 offendors in the prison units, trusty camp and psychiatric treatment facility. I'm guessing that there are more employees for the prison than for the dorm, although I couldn't back that up with facts. Certainly the dorm employees won't be packing heat.

Jester Center has rules and policies, as does Jester prison. The residence handbook states "Failure to comply with the directions of a university official, including a residence hall staff member acting in an official capacity" will result in disciplinary action. Substitute "prison" for "university" and "warden" for "residence hall staff member" and there you have it.
Jester Center trivia notes that 1 million feet of pipe and 50,000 joints were used to install the fire sprinkler system. As Jester I is a substance abuse offender facility, I can safely imagine that many pipes and joints were used by its residents prior to incarceration.

Jester Center is part of a campus of higher learning and is home to the Learning Skills Center. Jester II has English as a Second Language classes as well as Alvin College academic and vocational programs, career and technical programs, substance abuse treatment programs and crisis management and psychiatric care for offenders suffering from chronic and acute mental health issues.

Jester Center is co-ed, while the other Jester has only male prisoners. I'm certain there has been sexual encounters in the dorm...and if the HBO series "Oz" is true to life then we know there are non-celibate inmates in the prison.

Hmmm...prison, school. School, prison. And I thought cubicle life was institutional. Join me next time for a lively discussion of America's death row versus Bolivia's Death Road. I'm sure all you adventure sport cycling fanatics won't want to miss that post!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Cap City Cyclists Celebrate 160 Miles!

I'm barely recovered from the long weekend dedicated to the Valero MS 150 Bike to the Beach. It was a fantastic weekend for the ride from San Antonio to Corpus Christi. We had decided to join Team Wells Fargo and enjoy the benefits of their roomy team tent, catering and massage therapists. The WF folks couldn't have been nicer. It was a good choice and an excellent pairing. I can't give you a recap from a rider's point of view but here's my official SAG Hag version of the weekend.

My cyclists left SA feeling strong and excited to be in the saddle. The volunteers and I headed out to Beeville for our campsite and team tent. You have to love a small town whose laundromat is named the Hogwash Laundry.

I have to admit that the weekend was very relaxing for me. After we unloaded luggage and blew up air mattresses, there wasn't much else to do but sit around, talking and drinking sodas and beer and tracking the riders progress based on their text messages from water stops along the route. Oh, we ate lunch. Anthony's BBQ is the place to eat in Beeville. Anthony came out to the campsite at Coastal Bend College and fired up his woodburning grill near our tent. His staff served up hamburgers and some of the best local all beef hot dogs I've ever eaten. Their macaroni & cheese had a hint of heat to it, probably with a pepper cheese, and it was delicious.

The cyclists didn't fare so well with lunch. One of the riders rolled into the lunch area and found the only sandwiches left were made with ham. She hadn't eaten red meat or pork in years, but starving after hours of riding will make the staunchest vegetarian look twice at a Big Mac. She ate the ham sandwich. Unfortunately, she delivered the ham back to this world 10 miles down the road. The text we received said "Just puked but feel better." She recovered enough to lead the pace line at a swift 20 mph toward the finish. Now that is a dedicated cyclist!

The team rode 98 miles the first day, so once the cheering was done and the photos snapped at the finish the first item of business was to hit the shower trucks. Clean and fed, the riders had massages and talked about the road. We heard about the Mercedes team with the bad attitude and no sense of biking etiquette...not the best advertisement for their corporate sponsor. The team pic at mile 75 promises to be a good one, with a large number of Wells Fargo cyclists. I passed out Aleve to just about everyone.

The second day started off cool and damp. We'd all gotten cold during the night and I was happy to stay snuggled in my sleeping bag until the wake up call went out over the loudspeakers at 5am. I would've been happier to stay warm and cuddled up for several more hours but since the WF volunteers had been moving around the tent since 4:30am I thought it would be poor form to stay abed. We waved the team off and packed up the tent, heading for Corpus Christi and the finish.

After dropping luggage off at the condo we rented for the night, we trekked from Padre Island to the finish line by the Texas State Aquarium. The team made an impressive entrance to the finish, riding side by side in their Cap City Cyclists jerseys. I was struck with a feeling of deep pride in all of them. They've worked hard, training for months to meet the challenge of riding 160 miles.

What do I do to show how much I appreciate people? The only thing I know how to do well: cook. The team had a pasta feast that night. I pan grilled shrimp marinated in an orange habaƱero sauce and tossed the seafood with asparagus before serving it over bowtie pasta garnished with goat cheese. I made a monster salad of mixed greens, grape tomatoes, avocado, red onion, mushrooms and shredded parmesan. Ironically, I burned the edges of the garlic parmesan bread but no one seemed to care. After dinner we ended up watching the full moon rise over the ocean before crashing early.

The next morning we enjoyed a breakfast appetizer of queso and chips with our coffee before making brunch. The team tucked into pancakes, hash browns, turkey bacon, pork bacon, my garden scramble (sauteed red onion, garlic, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, eggs) and a few strawberries that were leftover from our mimosas. We watched some very odd tv in the form of a Spanish channel show called "Hoy" who featured a man with an incredible body demonstrating yoga poses. He had a very large, ahem, "personality" that was well defined in his snug yoga pants. We laughed the entire time.

Highlights of the weekend aside from finish line crossings on both days include: Christine's ruffled pajamas bottoms, the choice of either C&W or heavy metal music on radio stations in the Beeville area, strangers handing over keys to their Luis Vuitton luggage-packed Infinity SUV's, much praise for Chamois Butt'R, Tony Ralf's flaming red mohawk and fluorescent yellow socks, the Holt tent's air conditioning, the lady who rented us a 3 bedroom 2 bath condo with only a contact name and cell phone number along with a request to place our payment on the table when we left, Kevin Ann's massage therapy, the red tide fish kills that ensured we did not enjoy the beach as much as we could've and of course the laughing, joking and camaraderie we shared. C3 rocks!

News Zone

My top news stories of the day:
  • Men delay medical care when there's a game on television.
  • A high school biology and earth science teacher is charged with B&E of a 100 year old grave and contributing to the delinquency of minors after photographing them holding human remains.
  • A toll free number for Ohio's Medicaid program refers callers to a phone sex company. Enraged seniors lobby Medicare for similar program. Just kidding on that last part, but wouldn't it be funny? Aging Baby Boomers clamoring for covered verbal porn.
  • Opepay antsway otay ingbray ackbay Atinlay Assmay: Ben takes church back five steps
  • And in a story that warms the heart of this grammar & spelling queen, a Michigan county will be shelling out $40k to correct ballots for the November elections. They left out an important letter in one word.