How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

El Universal's top 10 'most Mexican' songs

On the occasion of Mexico's bicentennial, the national daily El Universal daily has posted a list of the top 10 "most Mexican" songs as selected by its readers, along with classic videos of these gems as performed by Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Lola Beltrán, Lucha Villa and others. There are the standards ("Mexico Lindo y Querido") as well as at least one great drinking song ("El Rey" by the legendary José Alfredo Jiménez, one of my favorites).

How and why is a Cuban-American writer from L.A. into old Mexican music? As I mentioned in an earlier post today, Mexico is one of the great cultural hubs of Latin America, which means that as children in Cuba (another great cultural hub), my parents were growing up as much on Mexican cowboy films and rancheras as they were on mambo and son. I fell in love with the Mexican classics as a kid when I first heart a scratchy recording of "El Jinete," a quintessentially Mexican song by Jiménez, one of the nation's great all-time bards, about love and death as experienced by a grieving, wandering horseman.


The DREAM Act, through the back door

Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

A sign parodying the famous immigrant highway-crossing sign, outside a DREAM Act rally in Los Angeles last month

The less-known military component of the DREAM Act is proving to be its saving grace this week: Yesterday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid announced that next week he will offer the legislation as an amendment to a Defense Department authorization bill, pushing the long-proposed immigration legislation toward a Senate vote.

Why add the DREAM Act to a defense bill? The Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, while it is primarily seen as providing a path to legalization to undocumented youths who attend college, also allows youths who join the military to qualify for legal status.

The proposed legislation is mentioned as the "DREAM initiative" in a U.S. Department of Defense strategic plan for 2010 through 2012. From the plan, in a section that addresses recruiting goals:


And in honor of the bicentennial...

The culture blog Remezcla has had a series of "especial bicentenario" (bicentennial special) posts the past week honoring some of the quirkier aspects of Mexican culture, especially those unique terms that I find even funner than Cuban terms, if that is possible.

Today's entry is "Word of the Day: Madre" (and no, in this case, it doesn't mean mother). From the post:

Definitions of MADRE

1. foul smell

2. an intense exclamation of surprise or irritation

3. an expression of approval

4. of or referring to an object

Examples of MADRE

1. Apestas a madre! (You reek!)

2. Que madres estas haciendo? (What the heck are you doing?!)

3. A toda madre! (That’s awesome!)

4. Que son estas madres? (What is all this junk?)

The other word-of-the day entries are funny as well, though I'm best off not saying them if I'm to remain G-rated.


On eve of Mexico's bicentennial: Even in a dark period, something to celebrate

Photo by prayitno/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Bicentennial decorations in Mexico City's Plaza de la Constitución, August 2010

Tonight marks the eve of Mexico's bicentennial, being celebrated with elaborate fanfare in Mexico City and throughout the country, as well as in Los Angeles and throughout the United States.

The last few years of Mexico's second century have been rough ones, with more than 28,000 killed over four years in a drug war that shows no sign of letting up. Innocent bystanders have been getting sucked into the violence, like the 72 United States-bound migrants who were kidnapped and massacred just south of the border with Texas last month. Tourism is in the tank, as is the economy in general.

Much has been made of the $232 million being spent on bicentennial celebrations in Mexico City, criticized as a distraction to the nation's woes and an overall sense of despair. And it is easy to see why a new Mexican dark comedy about the drug trade titled "El Infierno" (Hell) suggests on its movie poster, "Nada que celebrar" (Nothing to celebrate).