How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Celebrating Día de los Muertos

Photo by Jim Benning

Just as Halloween is almost here, so, too, is Día de los Muertos, the day of the dead.

It amazes me how mainstream the ancient Mexican celebration has become in Los Angeles in recent years. But then, that's the beauty of an immigrant town. The sight of sugar skulls is becoming nearly as commonplace as that of jack-o-lanterns at this time of year, and there is a degree of cultural respect that comes with that. And if one of the central themes of Día de Los Muertos comes across in the translation - that even in death, our loved ones remain a part of our lives - even better.

How to celebrate the holiday (which officially takes place Nov. 1 and 2)?

- LA Eastside has a long list of just about every public event between now and then, including the longstanding Noche de Ofrenda tradition at East L.A.'s Self Help Graphics tonight and the ever-more-enormous annual festival at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, also tonight, about which blogger El Random Hero had this to say:


Quote of the moment: Meg Whitman on why ex-housekeeper should be deported

"Well, the answer is: It breaks my heart, but she should be deported, because she forged documents and she lied about her immigration status."

- Meg Whitman, Republican candidate for governor, regarding her former maid Nicandra Diaz Santillan in an interview last night with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren

Whitman's remark was in response to a direct question from Van Susteren while discussing her former housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz Santillan. "Should she be deported?" Van Susteren asked.

The scandal that erupted last month over Whitman's employing Diaz, an undocumented immigrant, for nine years then firing her last year after deciding to run for governor has threatened to derail her campaign against Democratic candidate and state Attorney General Jerry Brown, causing her to lose ground in particular among Latino voters.


What is State Question 755? Here's more

Photo by Il Primo Uomo/Flickr (Creative Commons)



The AtlanticWire has a roundup of stories on Oklahoma's State Question 755, an until-recently obscure ballot initiative in the Sooner State that, if approved by voters, would prohibit the state's courts from using international law or Islamic Sharia law when making rulings.

I wrote about this curious bit of proposed legislation the other day. As unusual and geographically removed as it seems, State Question 755 is relevant beyond Oklahoma in the same way that Arizona's SB 1070 - and Oklahoma's similar HB 1804, which preceded it in 2007 - have been politically relevant beyond both states.

The inspiration for the measure, according to its backers, comes from a New Jersey case. From CNN:

The question might seem a befuddling one for a ballot in the heartland, but it stems from a New Jersey legal case in which a Muslim woman went to a family court asking for a restraining order against her spouse claiming he had raped her repeatedly. The judge ruled against her, saying that her husband was abiding by his Muslim beliefs regarding spousal duties. The decision was later overruled by an appellate court, but the case sparked a firestorm.


In the news this morning: Little change in AZ post-SB 1070, ethnic voters in California races, immigrants gaining jobs, more

Ariz. immigration law three months later: no arrests - USA Today After a federal court judge prevented key portions from going into effect, SB 1070 has failed to live up to opponents' fears and supporters' hopes.

Whitman Governor Bid Imperiled by Latino Voter Erosion - Bloomberg The controversy that erupted over her undocumented former maid has gotten in the way of Meg Whitman's appeal to Latino voters.

Ethnic Voters Rally Around Boxer, Field Poll Shows - New American Media - EthnoBlog Field Poll results put Sen. Barbara Boxer ahead of Republican challenger Carly Fiorina among most ethnic minority voters, including Republican-leaning Vietnamese-American voters.

Foreign-born workers top U.S. born in job hunt - CNNMoney A Pew Hispanic Center study shows that immigrants have gained hundreds of thousands of jobs since the recession is said to have ended, while native-born workers lost more than a million jobs.


On Halloween and ethnicity, commodified

Photo by Dana Robinson/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Par-tay! Ethnic drag on Halloween, October 2007

Halloween is nearly upon us, which means it must be time to, er, don an afro wig, a sombrero and fake mustache, or a Kim Jong Il costume? Nah, not so much.

Blogger Anna John of WAMU 88.5's DCentric in Washington, D.C, one of Multi-American's sister websites on the NPR Argo Network, had this to say about "ethnic" costumes in a post yesterday:

I save the side-eye for those special outfits which turn cultures in to costumes; while some people think it’s “fun” to be “Ghetto Fab“, “Seductive Squaw” or “Asian Doll“, I have to restrain myself from reminding these insensitive boors that some of us can’t take off our skin.

My point is, ethnicity isn’t something to be ordered online for $52.95 and then worn to a succession of bars, where other revelers spill drinks on your micro-kimono or faux-feathers. Some of us are born with a certain phenotype and this affects how we are viewed and treated, every moment of every day. We don’t have the luxury of selecting our culture from a catalog and then discarding it, conveniently, after a holiday.