How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

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).


A new county contract for Homeboy Industries

Photo by teamperks/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Outside Homeboy Industries downtown, March 2008

I couldn't let the day slip by without noting the good news today for Homeboy Industries. After having to lay off 300 workers in May, the gang-intervention program that got its start 22 years ago in Boyle Heights has received a $1.3 million contract from Los Angeles County.

The contract was approved today by the county Board of Supervisors. It will allow the nonprofit program, an Eastside institution, to employ 20 job trainees and provide services to at-risk youth and young adults that include job placement, tattoo removal, legal services, job training and therapy, including mental health and substance abuse counseling, according to a story on KPCC.

The contract provides a new lifeline for Homeboy Industries, founded in 1988 by Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest. The program laid off the bulk of its workers in May, its finances hurt as local government redirected funding toward other gang-intervention programs and the recession ate into private donations. Its businesses stayed open - among them a cafe, a bakery, and a silk-screening shop - but volunteers were left to perform the re-entry services, which the country contract will now help cover.


Video: A long-forgotten chapter of illegal immigration

The University of Texas at Austin has been producing an excellent series of online videos called Border Views, which I discovered today thanks to the equally excellent Tejas-based website Latina Lista. The videos feature academics from the university sharing their particular expertise on immigration history, politics, and how the topic plays in the media, among other things. The range of disciplines they come from - history, politics, psychology, law, journalism and anthropology - make for an interesting mix of perspectives.

I especially enjoyed the video above, posted today by Latina Lista, in which history professor Madeline Hsu discusses how Chinese undocumented immigrants - banned from legal entry by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act - posed as Mexicans to cross into the United States via the southern border. How times have changed.