How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Five awkward language moments

Photo by Visentico/Sento/Flickr (Creative Commons)

In a post earlier this week, I described what can best be called being haunted by the ESL ghost. I learned English in kindergarten and have no discernible accent, no trace of my native Spanish in my otherwise very American-sounding speech.

But growing up in a family of immigrant English learners, I picked up many of the mispronunciations that are common to those who learn English as a second language, and some of these dog me to this day.

In the post I shared a couple of awkward language moments, like times I've mispronounced colander as "co-LAN-der" and my tendency to call a skiing balaclava a "ba-CLA-va," which sounds a bit like one of my favorite pastries.

Since then, readers have responded by sharing some of their own ESL moments. Here are a few, edited slightly for typos:

Rogelio Gómez Hernández wrote:


Race and the Dodger Stadium attack

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A couple of days ago I came across an essay that got at the heart of the uncomfortable racial undercurrent running through the discussion of last week's senseless beating of a San Francisco Giants fan by two men at Dodger Stadium on opening night.

The victim, Bryan Stow, a Santa Cruz paramedic and father who was beaten so severely he may have brain damage, is white. The attackers, who have yet to be caught, are described as Latino. Writing for the L.A. Forward website, Tomás J. Benítez, a longtime Dodger fan and advisor to the Latino Baseball History Project of the Baseball Reliquary, took on the race issue:

Whether this was a racially motivated crime is yet to be determined, but it is possible, given that bigotry is often a characteristic of thugs—who come in all colors.

Race is a factor for all the wrong reasons. When news of the incident broke I was chagrined. It just had to be stupid Mexicans, I said to myself. A local writer made reference to Raider fans—a barely veiled, racially charged comment that infers rowdy fans from lower classes who are part of the thug culture, often Black and Brown. He was very bold to call it as he sees it, he just didn’t say what he really meant. In either case, we are both wrong. What happened was indeed one isolated incident, poorly monitored by park security, infused by booze and stupidity, and a desecration of sports to any fan—regardless of color, religion, gender or lifestyle.


Francisco Castañeda's testimony helped spur ICE detention overhaul

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Yesterday the federal government agreed to pay $1.95 million to the family of Francisco Castañeda, a man who died more than three years ago from penile cancer that went untreated while he was in immigrant detention, first in San Diego and later in San Pedro.

It's a case that had far-reaching repercussions. The federal government has already acknowledged negligence in the case of Castañeda, who was 36 when he died in February 2008. His case and his Congressional testimony - along with several other lawsuits and media reports of detainee deaths, overcrowding and oversight problems - helped prompt the federal government to recommend an overhaul of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention system.

There is still criticism of shortcomings in the system, much of which depends on outside contractors, but Castañeda's story had an impact. He testified before the House immigration subcommittee in October 2007, four months before he died. Here are some excerpts:


In the news this morning: An L.A. family story, a refugee's food fusion truck, damages to be paid for detainee's cancer death, more

Hector Tobar: The Chavira family rode west to a new life in Los Angeles - Los Angeles Times The story of a Mexican American family that arrived "during an optimistic age when suburbs were built and freeways carved through the city."

Growing Diversity of Orange County, Calif., Shows Up in Food - New York Times The Vietnamese-Mexican food fusion of Hop Phan, owner of the Dos Chinos food truck, inspired by his upbringing as a Vietnamese refugee who grew up in a Mexican neighborhood in Santa Ana.

Colbert Counters Quran Burning By Staging Quran Befriending (VIDEO) - Talking Points Memo The comic continues his show's series on religion after he "decided to give up Catholicism for Lent."

U.S. to pay damages over detainee's cancer death - San Francisco Chronicle The federal government has agreed to pay $1.95 million to the family of the late Francisco Castaneda, an immigrant from El Salvador who died of penile cancer after his condition went untreated during more than a year in state and federal custody.


Speed dating and sponsors: Latino bloggers 2.0

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Schmooze-fest: A "speed dating" session between Latino bloggers and corporate sponsors, April 7, 2011

I wasn't sure what to expect this afternoon when I stopped by a conference in Hollywood dubbed Hispanicize 2011, a three-day affair billed as a "public relations and social media conference."

The combination sounded intriguing, if the kind of mix that could go, well, any number of ways. And while it leaned heavily toward marketing, in the end, it was rather fascinating.

This dawned on me as I witnessed a "speed dating" session between bloggers and corporate marketing types, standing in a hotel ballroom surrounded people rapidly exchanging business cards and giving one another three-minute pitches before the moderator called time-out.

"Are you a sponsor?" asked an eager-looking young woman, seeing me unattached. I said no, but she explained anyway that she had a parenting blog - a "mami blog," in Latino blogger parlance - dedicated to organic child-rearing, and she was hoping to find the right kind of corporate sponsor.