English has for the most part been a force to reckon with. As I look back at this site, I realize that this language has been a harbinger and a cleavage that tears apart me. I chose to ignore this site. I chose Spanish as my language where I would deposit my ens, whether it be in Spanish, English or Swedish. I leant latin my soul. Many an unbilingual will not understand this tear, where does one lean on as such? And here I am, a lost son, returning home
Reading the latest stats from the U.S. Census Bureau which I was prompted to do by the feedline @TheAtlantic churns out on its twitter feed I realize that Chicanos don’t exist in that database by any definition. Then again I only did a superficial search, eitherways, it kinda bothers me a twad not to see us mentioned there at all …
**need I say to enlarge please click the pic?
I tend to adopt an attitude towards language that it’s nearly pristine in its stipulations since I exact a nativists view on language that cannot possibly meet the standards I want. That is, I want what it is said in L1 to be exactly the same as in L2.
An impossibility by all means.
Yet this equation, L1=L2 is wrought upon the daily make up of humanity every time the sun rises.
So as I prepare myself to listen to Simon J. Ortiz: A Poetic Legacy of Indigenous Continuance a host of questions and stomach revolt seem to undermine with furious confusion the joy it would be to just listen to the darn thing.
For one, doesn’t it seem odd to you that this continuance happens in English?
Second: can English, with all its constraints that entail the language of pain for indigenous people in Norteamerica be a vessel appropriate enough to deliver the goods?
Am not the one to not allow said company. Consort at will I say. And just to open up more wounds here, look at the presenter’s name: Evelina Lucero.
Yes, its Spanish. Allow me to say it. What the tarnation are we saying here? Why do we choose to pretend that Spanish surnamed so-called indigenous people can tell us something about indigenous people’s continuance in English?
I don’t want to disrespect all the work laid before all this. By all means.
What I am saying though is how original does the L2 language allow us to be our genuine selves in the L2 milieu? Can I even though I have profound knowledge of L1 deliver that in L2?
That’s all am saying. Not just because the way the West looks upon the arts, with its Medici and Meneas paternalistic support. But because the parameters that uphold the standards are unequivocally different than the standards the local native language was once upheld.
I don’t want to diminish nothing here, because I know am stepping on some serious callitos here.
Bad little voice
bad little boys
sing a llulaby
that kisses me bye-bye
Kill me softly with my own locally grown bad feelings
murder my ego
because it wants to feel me good
Little hell constructed comments that eat me up away
far far into the depths of low self steem, sing a song
a lullaby that puts me me down, please, please,
because that’s all I know what to do about my self image
autodestruct it by sheer will
am sure the psych industry will be psyched to know another case
just blew up its cover
. it’s nothing but autodestruct.
Upon my eyesight catching an everyday nature scene
A simple little bird
perching on a new, perhaps a year old twig, sprouting early may leaves
cause of its weight, twirled.
Before it, the blue vault.
& I wonder: when was the last time I layed on the grass to watch the clouds pass by?
The lush green fields call
Strike a past we long to be now.
In relation to the Fifth Comment:
Here in Sweden, Swedes can’t see beyond my ethnic look or what their eyes tell them I am. A brown person. So the idea of an American has also been hijacked by color lines. Although, much to my surprise Swedes don’t see themselves in those color lines though their idea of what an American is certainly is tainted by color. So they have a hard time seeing that there are Americans of brown disposition.
So it irritates me a tad that they can’t acknowledge my gringo side. I hate the fact that they are not able to see beyond my so called Spanish background. It makes me feel incomplete.
Anomalies are those things that do not just veer off into the unknown causing major friction in chartered and metered courses. They are in and by their own right natural occurrences that sometimes allow us to change course or make us stop right in our tracks. One of these phenomenas in language learning is the case for fear of mispronunciation. It is a well established fact that there is a time limit for humanoids (yes, it sounds weird) when it comes to trying to learn a new language as fluent as possible. After the so called window of opportunity closes the fluency channels begin a slow shut down. Not that it is impossible to learn a new language, you can, but no just as clear and fluent as a native. There are tricks and other awareness related techniques that allow for an artificial likeness to fluency but it is not the same. Again, you really need to be aware, awake of what you are doing. Basically anybody can do it but as languages go a slight mispronunciation can give away loads of information about you the speaker.
Be that as it may, the anomaly here is not whether one can pronounce right or not or how best to achieve pronunciation in any given language. There is one factor I have never heard discussed in major scientific ways and that is the negative side effects that mispronunciation produces in natives when the target language is produced. This Pavlovian reaction to the mispronunciation of the target language is of interest to me. It ranges the gamut from admiration, positive-negative, when accents acquire an accepted pronunciation to total rejection to both the speaker and the language produced.
I am brought to this topic because I was watching a tv news program earlier this morning. The Swedish tv channel called 4 had an Australian guest in its morning reportage and the guest tried to reproduce a Swedish word and was relieved to have pronounced the word right which was no small feat since it was a word with an ö. This is tantamount to seeing foreigners trying to reproduce the -ird in bird or the -ur in fur. It was not the kind of relief one would expect to be a relief from achieving positive result or born out of curiosity but a relief that the produced language did not create a negative reaction and was both accepted and understood by the parties at hand which in this case were all natives speakers of the Swedish language. I immediately related to this behavior because as a Swedish learner and speaker I have had my share of total rejection by other Swedish speakers for the kind of language I produce when speaking Swedish. If you are ever to learn Swedish in your lifespan be sure to take into account that the level of tolerance for mispronunciation in Sweden is a fact one needs to be able to take to task. This tolerance level is very low in Swedes. They tend to frown upon the speakers of the language who grossly overlook how to produce good spoken Swedish. They have no patience whatsoever and are ready to mock or just right out lash at the offense before them. One here ought to keep in mind that this is a natural occurrence for Swedes since their language is a tonal language. That they are more or less tolerant than other tonal language groups is up for grabs but if Chinese are any indication than tonal languages have a characteristic as being intolerant to speakers who mispronounce the language than we’re in for it for the rough.
I personally don’t take Swedish intolerance personally, not anymore anyways because I know this sort of behavior cuts right across the board even when it comes to native speakers. I live between Stockholm and Scania and boy do these natives from Småland have things to say about 08’s and mouth potatoes. Although this level of tolerance is painfully more acute towards immigrants. We feel it more the so because though Swedish people are themselves largely unawares about how their own language functions, and that can be said about any group pf language speakers, by the bye’s, they fail to take into account courtesy. They have no time for considerations such as the fact that one is trying to learn their language. They will ask you how long have you been in the country just to gauge the severity of the offense. For some asinine reason, really, Swedes will not help out with one’s language problems. I Personally am baffled at this behavior because both in English and Spanish although not the Good Samaritans we do extend a helping hand when it comes to learning languages. But that’s just the American in me.
I need a new keyboard.
Not alien like the one before me. Of course, you can’t see my keyboard but really, proof here is a minor bureaucratic shuffle of papers. I really need a new keyboard.
But perhaps most importantly I need a new way to express myself in English. There are ways unknown to express new feelings. Yet the rut befalls me. There are no new ways like old Diamanda Galas There Are No More Tickets to the Funeral.
So I stand before thee. Begging for a new beginning. I want back. I want to express myself in this language known as the English language.
You might ask why I ask this.
I am at a loss too.
A weakness has taken over the control of this weak body. A body that negotiates at whim.
There is no longer who am I? Rather a business transaction in the background that demands a voyeur
as a democratic action would demand a notary.
I don’t consider myself a man of God though I like to think that whatever communion I hold with higher powers at least is in the vicinity of God. Though I haven’t specified what sort of God you and I tend to think of the same God, this is English and English speaking people, for the most part, where I come from anyways, tend to worship the Judeo-Christian deities. Though I don’t like to think of those deities in that religion as deities I worship I often find myself prey to their old rhetoric and certainly my background is afilled with rites and traditions having to do with what is known as Christianity. While I pray and talk to a God this God is a close relative of the Judeo-Christian variant. I believe there is a higher power which more oft than not nourishes or finds nourish in the old Luther variants and the old Catholic faiths. No matter what I do and think, when I connect to a higher power, the old forms of addressing the Gods reenter myself. Suffice to say, I can’t rid myself of my Christian background no matter how much I rationalize my relation to God by denying Christianity altogether.
I am brought to this soon to be baptized as an old personal conundrum of mine because, here in Sweden, at work, there is this man who is a practicing Christian. He recently engaged in an act of charity that has left me quite baffled and thinking about my own charity activities. This person at work gave money to a couple of gypsies, or Romani as they are known here in Sweden. I’ll just let all your prejudices run amok while I get to what I am saying. So, I was introduced into the picture because these Romani people had difficulty in speaking Swedish and the man in this pair was able to speak Spanish due to several stints in Spain. I had seen them before in the town. I often saw the man playing accordion music coupled with a deep hollow look in his face while I was on my way to the liquor store, systembolaget, as it is known here, and at other times outside the store where I buy my groceries. He made his living by playing the accordion hoping some kind souls would throw in a coin or two into his hat. This is easier said than done because in small suburbia Sweden this sort of pandering is often the cause of perplexity and amazement more than an appeal to charity. This tends to throw off realities in disarray in picture perfect socialist Sweden which prides itself of higher standards in taking care of its people. That someone would even dare to consider to play music for money and this in plain winter in Sweden is more than an affront to the senses of the Swedish. It just bodes ills and certainly the harsh winter and cold weather don’t make the heart of the Swedish people any less merciful just because someone is daring the weather to try and cash in on some easy alms specially when someone is indirectly thrashing the old Craddle to the Grave philosophy. Summer perhaps, but winter? Of course this doesn’t give the Swedes a good reputation and since many people consider the Swede as a cold being well, you get the picture. This particular type of Romani people came from a country in the Balkans and they are despised with all might in Europe all over. So they tend to create small schisms in the daily affairs of small town suburbia here in Sweden, you just don’t do that. Especially in small towns where every aspect of behavior is closely monitored and inspected for flaws. I kid not, this is 1984.
Well enter I.
Not only do I cringe at the sight of accordion playing gypsies because I know Swedes will not react well to it, I associate myself to their lot because they also have black hair and are immigrants. I would not have made anymore deal out of it until X from work, the practicing Christian, asked me if I could help him as an interpreter for him. I went along and we decided to meet at his church. There they were. The dark haired and dark skinned Gypsies I had seen playing the accordion before. Now, because I have rejected all notions of Christianity in my life I am a full blown cynic. I just don’t trust people’s intentions and specially, let’s be honest here, gypsies. Boy did I have baggage there. I fought off my own prejudices and certainly I wasn’t about to help them, it was the Christian, so what the heck. I went neutral and the doubt shadows were repressed even more further down the I gutter.
I listened and interpreted what was said and learnt a thing or two about their lot in frigid Sweden. I could not help but get a whiff of a stench that was reeking a scam a mile away. Woe humanity if I ever am in charge of pity because I had my bullshit detector on full detect. Shame on me. I could not help draw images of what I would do where I destitute in a foreign country and basically rely entirely on the compassion and care of others though the images and perceptions of being manipulated allowed more room for skepticism than anything else. Perhaps that’s why we are drawn to church. I left the interpretation run its course. I was certainly not there to offer a helping hand more than my intellectual traits gave forth and I thought more than enough was done on my behalf by listening and letting thoughts and actions, ideas whatnot sink in. The Christian guy though had a tough cookie to chew on. He was left with the responsibility of helping the Romani people and find a solution to their economical and housing problems. Yes, they turned to Christianity to solve their problems which made me feel like a shepherd dog looking out for the lambs. I was open about my impressions and forwarded these accordingly by the way. Yes, it was another one of those open and sincere observations by cynical me.
The days marched on and snow covered the landscape with meters of the white stuff until I caught up with the Christian guy on his way to catch a train. We chatted a little and found out that the Romani people were taken by car to another bigger town up north in Sweden and not sufficient with that they payed the first month’s rent for the poor Romani accordion player guy who knew a bit of Spanish. I was frankly in awe at the leap of faith my fellow college and his church made, I certainly would not have done nearly as much. But they did.
I suppose that is the gulf that separates us, his belief system and mine which is seriously deficient in acts of charity. I have a hard time giving and furthermore giving in the name of the Lord. I wonder how is it possible to abandon the cruelties that accompany every day and how is it possible to abandon in total ignorance those acts that chip away at our own charity until we become cynics like me. No, am not about to trust people like my Christian friend did, which I said, is a tremendous leap of faith no questions asked kinda guy. Am just asking because it is certainly a hard act to follow. One must be ready to abandon this world and enter one where we are to trust blindly that we are helping, that we are not being fooled and that even if are being fooled there is a price for that somewhere.
Meanwhile, back in Gotham City …
– What’s that noise?
– It’s the chopper, órale! Run!
– Hide by those bushes.
– I can’t, their too low, and there isn’t much to hide in.
– Chale homes! You got the cast light on you…
– What? I can’t hear you? What did you say? It’s too bright!
– Damn, here comes the migra now… fuck! just lie low…
The barren soil didn’t have much of anything on it. It’s famous for its arid terrain and the refusal of the US government to allow any building to be built there. For years the only thing in sight from this side of the border was what seemed to be a car lot. As the years went by my imagination concocted more serious and credible theories, drug smugglers came in handy to depict that parking space, maybe even crooked INS agents dealing in smuggled and stolen cars, who knows.
Between the thin wire netting, no-man’s land, were littered sniff-glue bags, filled with dried yellow glue popular back in the 80’s an d90’s. Broken bottles and rags strewn about covered with hundreds of cigarette butts lay strewn. The soil is dry, and the wire that separates the countries was full of holes; the marines set up other measures now. Tortilla curtain was the response from indignant neighbours. I was born less than a kilometer from this other country, Tijuana.
– State your citizenship. – American
Our eyes met, usually they looked at you from the very depths of their eyes to see whether you lied. Sniff, sniff seemed more like it. Bean sweat, not hamburger or saurkraut nor cole slaw, anything smelling near like maize was suspicious. “American Citizen”. The badge on his shirt spelled his name, I noticed there was an absent accent in the o of his last name. I laid my eyes on it, to see if he was raza, my lips uttered some words: ‘American Citizen’. The hand waved me away not seeing another citizen such as he, but rather more like a nuisance, laws must be abided, an undesired though with ‘rights’. I slid across, like always, my xicano look helped me over. ‘Go ahead’, the migra said, ‘pásale,’ I heard. I took a leak by the nearby toilets, like every time, my confident act; the luggage detector passed countless of bagage. I veered off and left my mark in those prison like toilets, metal urinators and metal toilet seats. They seemed like nice bathrooms, clean. I took a drink of water, something you can’t do in México’s government buildings. The hospitality greets you even when they’re assholes. I never looked back. I smiled, the red San Diego Trolley pulled in. It’s a wonderful view, like coming home. I walked forward but voices could still be heard from where I was: state your citizenship; what was the purpose of your visit to Mexico?; Are these papers for real? I went in to Mickey D’s as the voices drowned in the background
I always wondered why was it that the INS allowed, for what my suspicious eyes detected as criminals, to thrive so near the border, la línea, right next to them. I spotted them right away, you knew those people weren’t up to no good, there they were, pulling in people right smack in the middle of their faces to board buses towards Los Angeles or selling fake papers with the right connection. I mean I even sold papers there my self! I’m sure that doesn’t happen anymore, but that’s how it was, right next to them, those light green colored vehicles couldn’t figure out what those thicked mustached people were talking about or doing standing there all day and yet dress so nicely, so Mexican. Stereotypes and what people want see, that’s what made it possible, preconceived notions of what other races are like. Off course the INS was a federal institution but come on! Couldn’t they at least observe a little what was going on right there? So I grew suspicious with time, you know, the lonely citizen that watches its surroundings but is powerless to do anything about it? That’s me, not that I would rat on my own brethren mind you.
I never payed to travel on the Trolley back then. It used to be that one would declare itself illegal rather than pay those hefty fines and best yet, back then the gringos bought one’s name no questions asked, so many files on illegal immigrants in the archives of the old INS bear names like Pedro Infante, Vicente Fernandez, José Alfredo Jímenez, Chapulin Colorado, Lola Beltrán, Juana Inez de la Cruz or Paquita del Barrio, you never knew what the raza might come up with to avoid giving in one’s real name. So I travelled for free, whilst I wondered whether I should stop and visit my Aunt who lived on 8th and National or whether one should by a refeer in Chula Vista, mostly though one would rather go to San Diego’s porn shops. Though Tijuana is a sin city it had very little or not at all porn shops in the 80’s, off course why visit those shops when you can be part of a real live sex scene? It made sense for some, though for the likes of me, sex went beyond the flesh and fornication of the open prostitution markets of Tijuana’s Coahuila sector. I wanted to see naked güeras and best of all, those fancy underwear that look so delicious and tempting, lingerie. Now that was worth a run for the border.
In A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles1 a seldom researched area is taken to task, namely, that of assimilation of Anglos in what is a predominantly Spanish-Mexican dominated territory era. Anglos converted to Catholicism and abade by Hispanic customs. So is the case also in Jovita’s book2. There is a lot of intermarriage with Anglos or Americans. Despite the rhetoric of the text that pits Anglos and Mexicans there is acceptance of Anglos in the community. I suppose that a lot has to do with this idea within mexicans that one must improve the race, or as is known in Spanish, mejorar la raza. A little unknown and zealously kept and guarded dirty secret we bear upon us.
Yet one has to wonder if this tactic of intermarriage wasn’t orchestrated or is a little forgotten blip in our history. Who knows. Research certainly is needed to shed light here.
I somehow can’t accept coincidence in California and Texas.
1 Dakin, Susanna Bryant, A Scotch Paisano in Old Los Angeles, Berkeley, 1978.
2 González, Jovita. Dew on the Thorn. Ed. José Limón. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1997.
Carmen Fought has done a remarkable job by giving us a structured form of ChE. I haven’t read Chicano English in Context through and through though but I have stopped in certain passages where my eyes have noticed the value in the observations or the examples. One such example that has drawn my attention is on page 104 within the title of the paragraph Part II: Semantic/lexical features of Chicano English and under the subtitle General lexical items. In example 6 we have American, meaning ‘European-American or white’. So up tp this day we still regard ourselves as not American.
I have argued throughout this blog how deeply important it is that we feel American. I have argued for an americanness of our own.
We have for far too long relegated America to the gringo, the blue-eyed even when we ourselves and our kin may have blue-eyes. It’s enough. We are Americans, regardless of nations and regardless of political divisions. It’s time to reclaim what’s ours. As Don Juan Preston in Jovita Gonzale’s Dew on the Thorn we must reclaim our heritage, our position in society.
We Xicanos need to put an end to the centennial bickering Mexicans and Americans have had since inception days. We the children can no longer take sides we are Mexican and we are American no matter what ye old blood feud says. Let Mexicans fear the Gringo; we Xicanos cannot do that. Let Gringos fear the Mexican; we Xicanos cannot do that.
We need to tire of taking sides to move forward, backwards for to remain ackward is no longer an option.
Forest Service warns Coloradans: Beware of camping Latinos
By John Tomasic 8/28/09 6:41 PM
In a presentation on recent discoveries of major marijuana-cultivation operations in Colorado, the U.S. Forest Service said it suspected an international cartel was behind the state’s hidden weed farms. Officials issued a warning that asked forest visitors to look for signs of drug trafficking. The telltale signs according to the officials? Tortilla, Spam and tuna packaging, Tecate beer cans, Latino music and people speaking Spanish.
Officials failed to acknowledge (1) that they were describing roughly a quarter of all campsites in the state and (2) that Spam, tortillas, tuna, Tecate, Latino music and people speaking Spanish are some of the best ingredients you can find when you’re looking to mix up a damn good camping experience.
Yet U.S. Forest Service officer Michael Skinner urged anyone encountering campers who fit the profile to “hike out quickly” and call police.
Polly Baca, co-chairwoman of the Colorado Latino Forum, told the Denver Channel that the Forest Service warning is racist and ill-conceived and threatening.
“It’s discriminatory and it puts Hispanic campers in danger.”
Marvink Correa, spokesman for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said that the next time he goes camping, he would “be sure to play nothing but Bruce Springsteen.”
So was the warning also issued in Spanish?