How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Spam rocks? Much, much love for Spam musubi

Photo by klyphord/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Spam musubi to go, October 2006. Photo by klyphord/Flickr (Creative Commons)

One of a series of posts last week that explored unsung ethnic delicacies highlighted Spam musubi, a popular snack made with Spam and sushi rice that is popular in Hawaii.

The series focused on those dishes or items that may not look or sound good, but are in fact delicious. I knew that Spam musubi was well-loved on the islands, and at least by one person in Washington, D.C., that being our Hawaii-raised president. But judging by the flood of comments that came in to KPCC's Facebook page, there is a great deal of Spam musubi love out there.

"This is one of my favorite foods!" Joanne Kakuda wrote.

"Hot dogs are worse than spam so I don't understand the prejudice against it," Tracy Munar-Ramos wrote. "Spam rocks!"

Okay, not entirely sure about that. Vanessa Lee put it in perspective:


Economics vs. enforcement: The long-running Vidalia onion saga

Photo by Old Shoe Woman/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Yesterday, NPR's All Things Considered examined the looming crisis in the Vidalia onion industry in Georgia, where growers of the prized sweet onions could be left without sufficient workers because of a new anti-illegal immigration law that tightens regulations for hiring labor.

But like a twice-deported immigrant, this is not the first time that Vidalia onions, grown exclusively in a small region within Georgia, have had a run-in with immigration enforcement.

The story didn't mention the political firestorm that ensued more than a dozen years ago, when immigration agents famously targeted Georgia's Vidalia onion growers. That story in the end illustrated how difficult it is for agriculture to subsist without cheap unauthorized labor - and how economics can trump the political will to enforce immigration laws when push comes to shove.


Navy names ship for Cesar Chavez, but controversy hasn't died down yet

Photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The criticism lobbed at the U.S. Navy since last week by some politicians and pundits for its decision to name a ship after the late labor leader and civil rights icon Cesar Chavez didn't stop the Navy from moving forward.

Last week, the Navy formally announced that the latest ship in its Lewis and Clark class of cargo vessels would be named for Chavez, who served in the Navy between 1944 and 1946, to honor the many Latino shipbuilders responsible for the construction of these and other ships. But the firestorm that has surrounded the vessel's name has yet to completely die down.

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, a Republican from East San Diego County and former Marine who set off the controversy after he complained about the Navy's decision, has now introduced legislation directing the Secretary of the Navy to name the next available ship after the late Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta.


In the news this morning: Georgia's farm labor crisis, Rubio's immigration stance, Muslim group seeks airport training investigation, more

Georgia Farmers Brace For New Immigration Law - NPR The growers of Georgia's famed sweet Vidalia onions fear that a new law cracking down on employers will leave them without workers.

Marco Rubio takes a hard line on immigration - Politico The freshman GOP senator from Florida has been mentioned as a presidential hopeful, but he has taken a hard right turn on immigration that could drive away the Latino voters that Republicans need to win in 2012.

Secure Communities Provision Added to House Bill — The Texas Tribune The bill would require that undocumented immigrants who are arrested be released to the custody of immigration authorities and leave the country as soon as possible.

Undocumented Immigrants Go Under the Knife to Erase Their Fingerprints - New America Media From La Opinión, a piece on what some federal agencies and humanitarian activists say is a growing trend in light of the advanced technology used to identify undocumented immigrants.


The amo and the atsay: Another perspective on the Schwarzenegger-Baena love child scandal

Photo by Bulent Yusef/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A detail from a mural in London, June 2006

Ever since the news broke last week about former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child by ex-maid/mistress Mildred Patricia Baena, the stories and headlines relating to ethnicity (she's Guatemalan) have ranged from the somewhat engaging (like a piece about Baena's MySpace page) to the groan-inducing, not to mention the inevitable SEO-friendly list.

But it was interesting, if sad, to see the scandal put in cultural perspective today by a Asian-Pacific Islander writer for the immigration blog Feet in 2 Worlds. Cristina Pastor, founder of a New York-based Filipino American magazine called the The FilAm, wrote:

In the Philippines, where I come from, it is not unusual for the head of the household to help himself to a servant. When the wife finds out, the maid is often kicked out of the house.

Sometimes, the amo (employer) and the atsay (maid) find true love, they both leave the household and stay together as man and wife. As there is no divorce in the Philippines, most certainly no alimony is expected by the family left behind. If the man has means, maybe he’s a lawyer or a company executive, he will support both of his families. But many middle-class machos just leave and see no need to provide for their wife and children.

Sometimes the employer gets to keep both the wife and the maid. To avoid gossip, especially concerning a couple enjoying an exalted position in the community, the wife will just learn to accept her husband’s brutish behavior. Sometimes, the teenage son may find the maid a convenient way to be initiated into sex; sometimes there is paternal incitement, sometimes not.