Archive for February, 2012

The other Exploited Class…

February 22nd, 2012

Jose Colon was an activist from Puerto Rican descent who lived in NYC. A close friend of Bernardo Vega, Colon related to socialist structure as Vega did. Colon arrived in NYC, as a stowaway from Puerto Rico. While in America, he became a journalist and wrote for many Spanish newspapers. Colon also became an activist, who focuses on civil rights and social injustice. He is a black Puerto Rican, who quickly acknowledged social injustices because of the color of his skin. Colon also touches on the oppressed and their views of the Jewish people. Colon writes:

For most Hispanics a Jew means the landlord, the man who sells dresses and suits
on layaway, the exploiting proprietor of the factory where we work together with
the “red” or “communist” agitators (503 Colon).

This short quote from Colon is touching on the basis of how Hispanics view the Jewish population. He believes that even though the Jewish people had their holocaust, they were still able to overcome the past. The Jewish people have done well for themselves, and he feels that minorities should not direct any animosity towards the Jewish people because they are not an oppressed class. He speaks against Hitler and everything he stands for. He views the Jewish people as more than a landlord or store owner, he views them as “poor souls” who has had to work hard to get to where they are. The Jewish people are not the cause of evil. The fact remains that they have had evil done to them and they still managed to rise above.

Migration and Colonialism

February 22nd, 2012

Bernard Vega, a member of Puerto Rico’s social labor movement became very vocal in speaking out against the exploitive conditions in the labor force that was ran by US corporations and the upper classes in Puerto Rico. Vega comments:

The causes of this migratory phenomenon are many. In the first place, it must be understood that this emigration of Puerto Ricans to the North is not voluntary. It is forced by the economic and social conditions that exist in Puerto Rico due to colonialism (Vega 429).

Vega clearly believes that migration to the United States from Puerto Rico has ruined the island’s economic structure. He believes that America only promotes the nurturing of farm goods that gives them an advantage. America controls the pricing, they monopolize all importing and exporting fleets, and they deteriorated the entire agricultural process which leads to an agricultural uproar and unequal unemployment. This creates an influx of Puerto Ricans to the US. Their living conditions become unbearable and they wish to seek a better life. Vega speaks out publicly against the American monopolies and speaks of creating employment for the people of Puerto Rico to avoid migration to America. Vega blames colonialism for the abundance of immigrants to the US from Puerto Rico. The colonizer once again disrupting the land of the native people for economic gain.

Libertad! Igualdad! Fraternidad!

February 22nd, 2012

Libertad! Igualdad! Fraternidad!
I read this poem by William Carlos Williams several times. It is quite obvious from the title that Williams is all for Freedom, Fairness, and Unity. Williams is speaking to all of those who are “powerless” because of their race or class. Williams came from a multi cultural background and often references his background in his poetry. In his famous poem Libertad! Igualdad! Fraternidad! Williams writes in lines 4 – 12 reads as follows:

—if we were rich
we’d stick our chests out
and hold our heads high!

It is dreams that have destroyed us.

There is no more pride
in horses or in rein holding
We sit hunched together brooding
our fate (419 Williams)

As I read these particular lines from the poem, It immediately felt as though he was talking to that race of man that has been demeaned and degraded. He says if we were rich we’d stick our chest out and hold our heads high (lines, 5-7). Williams is identifying with the possession of money which basically equals power or in this case freedom and equality. Freedom and equality is what he considers prosperous. Richness will bring about empowerment. He further says that It is dreams that has destroyed us (L, 8). Williams is stating that dreaming is what holds them as back as a race. In the last stanza Williams writes: There is no more pride in horses or rein holding We sit hunched together brooding our fate (L, 9-12). Williams is writing about a loss of pride because of the situation that has negatively affected the race. The negativity and the control is what gives this class of men anxiety and no hopes for a positive, productive and powerful future. This poem speaks volumes to the oppressed race. I feel as though Williams feels the pain and basically wants change. Hence the title, Libertad! Igualdad! Fraternidad!

Today’s class discussion spoke of the differences between race and ethnicity. We said that race is a classification system based on biological characteristics, where as ethnicity involves culture, language, heritage and religion. Race involves categorizing which can lead to racism. Race separates human beings by the color of their skin mostly, but there are other physical attributes that separate people such as hair, and facial features. A person should not be defined by their race, but more importantly the color of their skin. When we look at a person’s ethnicity, we are trying to identify with their culture and language and who that person is as another human being. Race creates a separation among humans. Clearly, the purpose of having the idea of “race” is to separate us –humanity- by our skin color which should not have any bearings on the person that God created. Why do we need to be categorized? We have the same blood running through our veins and I never understood the idea of “checking the box” to identify with a particular “race”. Why do we need to be classified and or labeled?

What is the American Dream?

February 21st, 2012

If you ask several different people to answer this question, you will get several different answers. I say this because many people have different perspectives on what that “Dream” may be. Some may say that their American Dream is simply having a great family and enough money just to get by, while others might say that the American Dream consists of achieving success; in other words having an abundance of money and a successful career. Another person may say that the American Dream is coming from another country and working hard to get where you need to be. I am a first generation American, my parents came to this country from the Caribbean and they both acquired good jobs back in the 70’s. They were able to own a home in Queens, New York where I grew up. I always admired my parents for coming to a country where they did not know a soul, and being able to establish what many Americans were not able to establish. Though we were not rich by any means, we were comfortable. So if someone were to ask me what I think the “American Dream” is, I would say that the American Dream is subjective. It is all about what the person feels their dreams and goals are big and small.

Who has the power?

February 7th, 2012

I really enjoyed today’s lesson. Not to discredit any of the author’s mentioned in class today, but this kind of lesson really makes a person question why certain authors/books are considered classics.  Each time Professor Alvarez wrote “White Male”, it became obvious that there is a method to the madness.  Who deems these particular books as classics, and why is it that the majority consists of the white male?  Is it because the white male has the power?  Or is it because those in “power” simply overlook other classic works of writings by the non –white author/male?  There is a specific curriculum of specific books that are required readings in school.
Though I never questioned the “white male” scenario, I wondered what made certain books so special that they became apart of the curriculum.  Why are we as students only introduced to specific authors and books?  Why is it that minorities and women aren’t introduced in abundance as the white male?  Why is it that educators are not given more freedom when introducing new reading material? Since this country is populated by many ethnicities, one could argue that the literary canon appears to be biased. Or is this just a traditional thing? I think or shall I say hope that in the future we will begin to see other groups deemed as classical works regardless of race and gender.  Who has this power?

As I read The Mission by Culture Clash, I could not help but think of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I admit to laughing at certain moments while reading the skit, and observing that Father Serra was the comedic version of Kurtz.  Both men possess the same mentality of a conqueror not a colonist. Their undying goal to civilize whom they believe to be savages is apparent in both works of writing. Even though The Mission is a lighter version because of the humorous content, the same unnerving feelings and questions arose from within me as I observed the similarities in the underlying themes of the two works.  Let’s not forget the irony of it all.  The same men that are trying to create men of reason have themselves turned into what one might call a savage.


Embracing and mixing cultures

February 3rd, 2012

This short video entails the life of Bobbito Garcia who was a basketball player (for Puerto Rico) and radio/tv personality. Bobbito talks about his life growing up in New York City. In the video he talks of mixing African American and Latino cultures. He embraces Rap and Hip Hop music, and uses these genres of music to draw his followers. He says that “mixing cultures is fine” and that “every generation sorts out their own identity”. For instance, most Puerto Rican teenagers are grasping reggaetone and hip hop oppose to salsa and merengue. Garcia is basically stating that living in America exposes a person to different cultures and that growing up in such a diversed city, is a positive that enables the embracing of other cultures mixed in with their own.

I loved this video simply because Ilan Stevens who happens to be one of the editors of our class textbook, The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature is lecturing. During this eight minute video, Stavans talks about being Latino. He calls Latino ‘ours’ because he brings forth the idea that whether a person is Puerto Rican or Mexican they are both ‘part of the same’. The same language is what the two different nationalities share. In America, “Latino is the sum of all parts”. The Browning of America, in Stavans’ words, talks about Latinos coming here to America for better opportunity, freedom of expression, political engagement and in search of a good profession. Stavans also says that Latinos come here looking for the American Dream which he deems as non existant. Stavans breaks down the many ethnicities of being Latino, he says “We are White, we are Black, we are Mulatto, we are Indians, Asians, Italians, Jews, Germans and French. He calls Latinos a big soup of possibilities because of all the variations that are out there. He does not forget to mention the race; which he says marks a person in many ways. He immediately states that being white in America, as well as in Latin America has a status of power and upper class. Blackness as the norm being associated with poor and low class. Latinos are a huge part of the Browning in America and they would like the recognition for who they are and who they can be as other cultures have.

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