Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
The grand-opening line at at the new Porto's in Downey, November 9, 2010
In most of L.A. county's Latino suburbs, the news of a bakery opening isn’t usually anything to get excited about, let alone anything that makes the gossip circuit. Not the case in Downey, though, home to a cafecito-drinking, pastelito-loving community of Cuban immigrants and their descendants, my family included.
And, until now, a one-Cuban-bakery town.
For those not familiar with Cuban eating habits, here is why bakeries matter: We love the starch. Doughy bread embedded with chicharrones, flaky ground-meat pastelitos and guava-and-cream cheese pastries (the latter once nicknamed “Marielitos” after participants of the 1980 Mariel boatlift, for reasons I can't explain), deep-fried starchy things like papas rellenas (mashed potato balls stuffed with meat, which taste far better than they sound). Bakeries also sell coffee, which we drink lots of. Bakeries are sacred.
A screen shot from the website, 72migrantes.com. Photo by Lenin Nolly Araujo
Via a post on Facebook the other day, I came across this moving tribute and "virtual altar" dedicated to the 72 U.S.-bound migrants who were massacred last August in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, just a stone's throw from the Texas border.
The website is in Spanish, with essays contributed by numerous writers in honor of each victim, including the unidentified. The photos and music are haunting enough to transcend language.
Tomorrow I'll be interviewing Michele Norris, co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, about her recently published memoir, The Grace of Silence. It's a powerful book that began as an exploration of race and the unspoken conversations surrounding it in the United States. It turned, instead, into a deeply intimate account of all that was left unsaid about race, including painful secrets, within her own family.
The book raises some uncomfortable questions, one of which arises in a passage, below, in which Norris describes leading her ill father through an airport en route home from an out-of-town hospital, and the reaction of two white women (in satin jackets, hence "satin dolls") to her black father's slurred speech:
When my dad tried to lean toward me to ask a question, his words sputtered forth like bricks tumbling from a shelf. The satin dolls found it hard to mind their own business. They stared and pointed every time Dad attempted to speak. They didn't try to hide their disparagement, one of them harrumphing loud enough for anyone to hear, "Goodness sakes, it's not even noon yet!"
After spending a lifetime trying to be a model minority - one of the few black men in his neighborhood, at his workplace, or on his daughters' school committees - my father now sat facing the condemnation of two blond scolds. They had apparently concluded that he was an early morning lush instead of a gray-haired man fighting a losing battle with a devastating disease.
Here is the conundrum of racism. You know it's there, but you can't prove it, beyond a reasonable doubt, how it colors a particular situation. Those pink satin ladies were strangers to me, so I have no idea if they would have been as quick to judge a gray-haired white man with impaired speech. However, I do know this: the fact that they were white women added mightily to my father's humiliation.
The results of a Gallup study released yesterday show that if some of the nation's Latinos could live elsewhere, they would. Based on a telephone survey of 1,000 Latino adults, the new study shows that more than one in seven, or an estimated 4 million, would leave the United States if they could.
According to Gallup, 52 percent said they would prefer to live in a Latin American country if it were possible, including nearly a third who indicated Mexico. Others would like to be in Canada, Spain, the United Kingdom and other nations outside of Latin America.
Those who would rather live elsewhere are more likely to be foreign-born and struggling with finances, language and culture, according to the study. The results reflect how while the United States may be a land of opportunity, life here is not without its struggles, especially for many newcomers. From the report:
Texas Immigration Law Under Proposal Would Resemble Arizona's Hard-Line Approach - Huffington Post A proposed immigration law in Texas closely resembles Arizona's controversial statute.
Zoltan Hajnal: The GOP's Racial Challenge - Wall Street Journal On the party's continuing lack of appeal for minorities, which could present future problems.
Adopted boy at center of immigration dispute - St. Louis Post-Dispatch A Guatemalan woman who lost custody of her baby after she was detained during a poultry-plant raid in 2007 is trying to get her son, now four, back after a couple adopted him. She faces deportation.
San Francisco supervisors call for release of student facing deportation - San Jose Mercury News Chinese-American, Peruvian-raised college student Shing Ma "Steve" Li faces deportation to Peru, while his parents face deportation to China. The family's political asylum bid was rejected.