Hello everyone, I had a great time learning about my people’s bilingual Thanksgiving drama—at least I know I’m not the only one!! Sadly the space FoxNewsLatino.com allotted me was limited, and I wanted to share more of the wonderful stories people sent me from across the country. Scroll down here for more touching and hilarious [...]
Why Cinco de Mayo is more than just a frat-boy tequila fest for me this year.
“Everybody get out of the car, now!” the officer screamed. His face was red, his eyes bulging.
It was the way an officer’s face looks in the movies when he finally catches up with kidnapper, or drug dealer, or whatever bad guy he’s been racing through red lights, sirens blasting, traffic-defying, to follow, so he can force a dramatic showdown on the shoulder of the road. On the big screen, the scene usually takes place on a crowded highway in a major metropolis. By the time the hard-pressed cop gets out of the car he is wild eyed, furious, barely able to contain the beat-down the good-for-nothing, high speeding criminal clearly deserves.
Only the driver in this case wasn’t a suspected robber, or an escaping convict, or even shameless speed racer trying to get away with a 90-mile-an-hour-clip. This time the perpetrator was Rick, my then- 16-year-old older brother. We lived in Carpentersville, Illinois, a good 45 miles out of Chicago, and it was we were all headed to the city together without an adult. He didn’t have time to think much about how fast he was going or even what route to take. My mother worked the night shift at a Mexican restaurant at the time, so there was no one to ask. All we knew was that my younger brother, Dan, was sick, in severe pain, and we needed to get the hospital he went to in the city, fast. So we all piled into Rick’s recently purchased 1980s Oldsmobile, haphazardly throwing his wheelchair into the trunk and going, before we even had a chance to call our mother, before we even knew what we were doing. We didn’t get very far. About five miles away from our house, the sirens started, and I was relieved. We didn’t have much experience with the police. My brother was an honor’s student (he has a PhD now); I was a nerdy good girl (at that point, anyway. The police for me meant “Officer Friendly,” the guy who came to your school to talk about strangers, and how to hunt for razor blades in your Halloween candy (this was the ’80s). He was the guy that gave you a wink and a smile and said stay out of trouble. I thought he was going to show us a quicker way to the hospital, or maybe even drive with us part of the way. I thought he was going to help.
When he got to the car, we opened the window, pushing each other to get to him, all talking at once, two flustered teenagers and a kid. Once he understands where we’re going, we thought, it will be ok. Instead, without even asking for my brother’s license, the officer screamed for us to get out. He barely listened as we explained that Dan couldn’t get out, or even move, because he couldn’t walk. “Ok, he said. “We’re going to the station.” We were all confused, but we went. What did we do wrong? I remember waiting, for a half and hour in the car with my crying, confused, 10-year-old brother, who just kept saying, “why do we have to wait? Why can’t we just go?”
An everyday reminder
At the time, I didn’t connect what happened to our being Mexican American. After all, after being questioned for a half an hour about nothing, Rick walked out of the station, white-faced and angry, and without a ticket. We didn’t have time to talk about it when we got back in the car. We did, after all, have to get to the hospital. I just thought it had something to with the invisible stain that seemed to permanently mark us. The same stain that made it ok for kids to shove me into my seat on the bus while the driver turned a blind eye. The stain that made it ok for a cashier to laugh when my mother spoke. I was born in Chicago, and I didn’t even consider my half-Mexican heritage to be significant until I got to college. And yet, being stopped, and the disgusted look that police officer gave us, has stayed with me for years. It made me believe that it wasn’t just the elite waspy kids at school who considered me second class citizen, it was also the police. It made me think, “It’s going to be everybody.” No matter how much I tried to forget days like the one with the officer, for years, they made me think twice, made me stutter a sentence before I had a chance to properly organize my thoughts . Now that there’s a new law set to take effect in Arizona, legitimizing the questioning of people based on their resemblance to an illegal immigrant, it makes me think of all the other kids in the cars, who will see their parents, their families, and their friends, questioned, regardless of where they were born. Will they now wonder “Why are we the bad guys?”
This time I want to celebrate.
In the past, I saw Cinco de Mayo as a joke. I either rolled my eyes at my friend’s dancing sombrero emails and blew it off, or used it as an excuse to have too many margaritas, just like everyone else. But this year, especially, I’m considering it a chance to celebrate more then the expulsion of French “emperor” Maxmilian from the state of Puebla. I’m thinking that I, along with all the other kids in the cars, could use a reason to feel positive about having brown skin and family from “the other side.” Even if it just involves having a cold drink on a patio listening to Mariachis. Even if it just involves sitting at a table with family, thinking of a reason to be proud.
Posted on November 24, 2010 - by michelle
Hi everyone…My article on Thanksgiving Language Wars is live http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/lifestyle/2010/11/23/spanish-english-latino-family-gatherings-language-conundrum/
Posted on November 12, 2010 - by michelle
Michelle will now be a regular blogger on SmartAuthorSites.com. There, she will discuss her experiences as a writer, the ups and downs of marketing her books, and more. Visit www.SmartAuthorSites.com/authorsblog to follow Michelle’s posts!
There’s nothing more intimidating than the blank page. That’s why the promotional emails infuriated me. “Write a novel in one month!!” “Yeah, right,” I thought. You can file that one in my spam folder, right under “Lose 30 pounds in 10 weeks” and “Earn $60 an hour, without having to leave your house!” I haven’t [...]
In the past, I saw Cinco de Mayo as a joke. I either rolled my eyes at my friend’s dancing sombrero email invitations and hit delete or used it as an excuse to have too many margaritas, just like everyone else.