Tuesday, August 30, 2005

coming down the mountain

i'm still feeling pretty good from the retreat. but i'm definitely coming down from the mountain top.

there was my course packet to be taken to the printers. the syllabus i *still* have not finalized. the article i'm supposed to be revising for the end of the month.

despite all of the above obligations, i decided to take a job as a writing consultant. i'm still going through the paperwork and scheduling process. i have to admit that i'm a little nervous. i'm not an english grad student. i'm just a lowly anthropologist whose not-so-secret ambition is to write. but i've done a lot of peer editing and critique. it should be fine. more than anything i wanted a little monetary cushion.

can i whine a little bit? i'm so tired of being a poor graduate student. i want to go to ann taylor and buy cute outfits, buy books at full price whenever i want, CDs. i want to pamper myself with a cute haircut and a pedicure and eyebrow wax. is that extremely materialistic of me? don't answer that. i'm such a bad marxist!

ok. i'll just have some cheese with my whine. better yet, some wine with my whine. ;) you know karl would do the same thing. but i think that his preferred drink was vodka.


Monday, August 29, 2005

adoration community theology service

i went on a women's ACTS retreat with my church this weekend. i thought that i would have some time to be quiet, meditate, re-center myself, etc.

well, this weekend was nothing like that.

what is the english equivalent of "escarbando?" i felt like we did a lot of inner-escarbando. trying to scrape out what hurt. i don't think that the point was to find resolution. but there was reconciliation. and relief.

and community.

i went on this retreat not knowing a single person. in retrospect, that seems rather brave of me! but i wanted to meet some people from church. all the women on this retreat were from such different walks of life. ranging in age from early 20s to late 60s; married, single, divorced; kids, no kids; working class, middle class. all of us totally flawed and struggling in our own ways. and yet, by the end of the weekend there was this really intense connection between all of us.

it's hard to articulate. and, to be honest, i'm forbidden to talk about a lot of what happened this weekend! it's something meant to be experienced rather than spoken about.

what i can say is that i'm grateful for what i found this weekend. from the inner-escarbando to scraping just beneath the surface of a very diverse group of catholic women to find that, in all of our flaws and struggles, we're very much the same.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

la guadalupana/chicana

at the end of last semester i asked my students to bring a "cultural artifact" to share with the class. the idea was that this artifact would represent them in some way and/or some aspect of chicana studies. a lot of my students brought images of la virgen de guadalupe and spoke earnestly about the importance of religion and faith in their lives.

with each student testimony, i grew more and more mortified because i had not included any material about chicana religious practices or faith in the course.

this seemed ironic considering that i am also very earnest about (though not perfect in) my faith.

honestly, graduate school is a difficult place to profess your chrisitian faith or religiosity. there are many subscribers to the religion-as-opiate-of-the-masses philosophy. i suppose that, especially in the classroom, over the past six years, my faith has become more private, though not less important.

it might very well have been divine providence, this parade of undergraduate chicanas professing their faith in front of the classroom. it seemed courageous to me. and i was humbled.

this time around, i'm going to talk about chicana practices of faith. it won't be a bible study - of course not. but i feel like i can create some space to talk about religion, how it has become more "cultural" in some instances, how, in other instances, it retains its spirituality. i hope that i can talk about how peoples' faith fosters activism and art.

i don't think that it'll be easy because it will be personal. for me and for them. but i think that most worthwhile things aren't easy, right?


Monday, August 22, 2005

one small step for womankind

today i TURNED IN a draft of my dissertation to my advisor.

it's not the final draft. it's a prefinal draft.

even though she has seen every chapter of my diss and even though i have revised every chapter with her suggestions (at least once), this is the first time she is seeing the dissertation in its entirety. from the preface to chapter six. this is the first time I'VE seen the dissertation in its entirety.

i printed it out yesterday and found it to be rather unwieldy. so i decided to go to kinko's to see if i could some how bind it, in an i'm-not-done-YET kind of way. i selected spiral binding. it seemed appropriate so that my advisor could easily flip through and edit and make notes in the margins, etc.

as the kinko's guy was ringing up the sale, i was giggling, flipping through its 226 (not that i was keeping track!) pages. he looked at me like i was a little bit insane, but then said, "wait til you have it bound in leather. by that time you'll never want to see it again."

hmph! rest assured that there is NO RAIN ON MY PARADE!

i'm ecstatic! if i had money, i'd walk into a bar and buy everyone a round. at my income level, i'll probably just walk in and buy myself a margarita. but what is poverty! when you have an almost-done draft of a dissertation! :) :) :)


Saturday, August 20, 2005

the one you're with

this past week has been a good week for the dissertation. the line editing started slow, but picked up speed.

i had a mid-week crisis when i realized that i lost the most recent draft of my fifth chapter. i looked for it everywhere. i searched my computer files; i dug into the mountains of printouts of the various drafts of my chapters. it was nowhere to be found. by thursday, i was resigned to rewriting it.

friday afternoon i was finishing my rewrite at the flightpath when my cell phone rang.

it was my advisor.

we exchanged pleasantries. she asked if i was in austin. i told her that i was back after a brief trip to california. she told me that she had called because she had a couple of questions.

i braced myself.

but it turned out that they were easy questions. about travel to south texas. apparently she's planning a trip and wanted my advice! i eagerly doled it out.

then she says, "so... how's your dissertation? is it done?"

"yes," i say with conviction even though i have the unfinished rewrite on my computer screen. "i was actually going to call you to ask you when i can hand it over."

we discuss the details. i will give it to her monday - three days after our conversation.

she tells me that she probably won't get to it for a couple of weeks. she has some things she's trying to take care of before classes begin.

she acknowledges that i might want to get it to her as soon as possible, just to get it off my back. but, she says there's no real rush. since i'm going to be around this semester. it's not like i have a HUSBAND or anyone that i have to get to.

i was like, no actually. rest assured that your spinster grad student has nothing to dedicate herself to but her DISSERTATION.

but that's ok. i do not have to cook for my dissertation. i do not have to clean up after it. it lets me have my alone time; it does not stop me from going out with my girlfriends. and let's face it, it's always there for me. :)

love the one you're with.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

peace vigil

this is an image (courtesy of the austin american statesman) of one of the larger peace vigils in austin last night. moveon.org organized and encouraged these vigils across the country for people to show their solidarity and support for cindy sheehan, who is currently camped out a few miles from president bush's ranch in crawford.

sheehan lost her son in the war and has requested an audience with the president. i understand that she's already spoken to him but was dissatisfield with his answers about the war. the president has thus far ignored her requests, but sheehan has vowed to stay outside his ranch for the duration of his five week vacation.

i chose to attend a peace vigil last night in my neighborhood. there were about fifty people who showed up to the vigil at cherrywood green last night. we came with blankets and candles, sat aroud in a circle. the woman who had organized the event lit her own candle, instructed us to pass the flame and then to spend half an hour in silence.

silence for thirty minutes. i prayed a lot. asked God to give comfort to cindy sheehan as she copes with the loss her son, thanked him that there were so many people who expressed this desire for peace. i prayed for wisdom for the president and his advisors (both political and spiritual). i prayed that he or someone around him could come up with a better strategy for what his government is trying to achieve. i prayed for peace, which really seemed like praying for a miracle.

but i believe in miracles.

after the half hour was over, people shared some of their thoughts and opinions about the war. someone said that another four US troops were killed that day. someone else mentioned that forty iraqis ahd been killed.

then the daughter of the organizer spoke. she's nine and still has a child's voice. as her words gained momentum, she expressed that it was important to stop the killing. that all the people who died could have done something important, but now they wouldn't be able to.

it occurred to me that she understood that many of the people killed in this war were young people who had yet to make their contributions to the world. maybe that young soldier was going to be a scientist and find the cure for cancer. maybe that other one was going to be an astronaut. it seemed an especially poignant sentiment coming from a nine-year old girl who has yet to make her contribution to the world. i think that what troubled her was the idea that the people dying would not be able to achieve their childhood dreams. i imagine the dreams she has for herself.

we sang then some peace songs, continued to swat mosquitoes and avoid the hot wax dripping from our candles. spent time talking to our neighbors as the daylight faded. walked home itching in the view of the bright, nearly full moon.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

mil recuerdos

saturday night at the blue star theater in san antonio.

the theater is tranformed into a cantina, complete with dim lighting and faux smoke hanging in the air. an ample dance floor separates the stage from the audience and there are tables crowded with chicano glitterati around the dance floor.

we loiter in the standing room only section, to the right of the stage,where there is an actual bar in service, and actual beef jerky on the tables for us to gnaw on. neither me nor my roommate have worn appropriate standing room only shoes, but it doesn't matter. we are in the line of vision of two of our favorite chicana authors - sandra cisneros and denise chavez.

the house band playing tejano music inspires audience members to dance. olga and i cumbia, making the most of our dancing (not standing room) shoes.

the show is phenomenal. there are readings and songs, music. a couple of women sing those heartwrenching mexican rancheras i love so well. sandra reads one of my favorite of her stories - there was a man, there was a woman. and denise reads an exerpt from her upcoming book.

we are happy to be in the company of greatness.

we are happier when our friend, v, invites us to the after party. nervous and happy.

we cruise alamo street, passing a raucous college bar and then, seconds later, the alamo itself, all glowing yellow light and hard to forget. ;)

after a few wrong turns, we arrived at the house hosting the party. i was mortified to see sandra cisneros standing in the front, greeting people and directing them toward the backyard. i confess that i froze in my seat. olga, on the other hand, stepped out. probably the chicago chicana in her. laura and i followed suit, let her greet sandra, and scrambled pass. i was practically hyperventilating.

the party was fun. it was exciting to be among the glitterati. i met ruth behar, an anthropologist close to my heart. i was starstruck and babbled only semi-coherently to her about also being an anthropologist. laura had a similar experience with denise, who she writes about in her dissertation about new mexican literature.

even though these people are not famous famous, they are stars in our universe.


Saturday, August 13, 2005


back in austin. so glad that it's still summer. it's hot as hell, but everything is slower right now. everybody seems more relaxed. the freneticism of school has yet to settle upon town.

friday afternoon/evening i decided to tag along with some friends to the shakespeare festival at winedale. caught a bit of the friday afternoon traffic on our way out of town, but it was a pretty drive. heading east everything is vividly green, mostly owing to summer rains and the humidity. that afternoon, there was no yellow glint of sun to bleach the color of the long grass, the simple trees. just a tumble of grey clouds threatening to spill rain. they never did.

winedale is off the beaten path. we took a few quick turns off the highway, drove through some towns whose populations were smaller than my high school, admired the old wood-framed stores and houses along the side of the road. virginia talked to me about the Center for American History's "collection" of historical buildings winedale. they are apparently not of the same time period, demonstrated very different architectural styles; they have in common that they are all "historical."

we arrived an hour early and so were able to walk at our leisure in the grass, to admire the silver, mirror-like qualities of the lake; enjoy the late afternoon breeze cutting through the humidity. there were several people strolling around the grounds. many had brought picnics to enjoy before the play began.

the theater, located in the middle of a grassy knoll, was intimate, semi-enclosed and cooled by swamp coolers and fans. the actors often entered and exited the stage through the same aisles audience members would use to come and go. as the sun set, the stage lights and actors faces became more detailed and bright.

the play of the evening was hamlet. it was long and dramatic i couldn't figure out if hamlet was crazy or just playing crazy. in any event, i didn't feel the sympathy for him that i should have by the end of the production. i was just waiting for all the major characters to die, as i knew they inevitably would. it's a tragedy, after all.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

owning your home

last night i went with my parents to a dinner celebrating my eldest aunt's 61st birthday. there were only three (of nine) siblings at the restaurant last night with their spouses and me, the resident child.

the siblings, now in their late fifties and early sixties, all at once began sharing their memories of the house they lived in growing up. my dad remembers a one mile walk to his elementary school from that house and back every day. the older sisters remember the walk home from their high school.

"remember that man that you used to see?," says one sister to another. he was a ghost. one time she saw him laying down next to her. "you saw him, too!" the eldest says to my dad. he shakes his head, not remembering.

then they had the priest come and bless the house. with holy water in each of the rooms. do priests do that any more?

i ask, "did you ever see the man after the priest blessed the house?"

"no," she shakes her head, barely remembering. i only saw him once.

the neighbors. there was that one lady who didn't like mexicans. do you remember she said, "you're not spanish. you're mexican!" and then there was that other lady who was just the opposite. wasn't she married to a black man?

"where is this house?" i ask, confused. it didn't sound like the house where we had all of our family gatherings growing up - my grandparents' house.

they explain. it's gone now. do you know where that big pepsi plant is? off union street. there used to be houses there. old houses. pepsi owns all of that property now.

but my family. they own the memory.


Sunday, August 07, 2005


there are certain milestones in a person's life. they are often life-changing and/or might symbolize the journey toward adulthood or toward accomplishing ones' goals or dreams.

i witness the people around me reaching milestones, seems like all the time these days.

three major ones, not necessarily in this order:

1. marriage. two years ago, i stood next to my best friend at the altar of the church i attended every sunday until i was 17 years old. she had a series of viable husband candidate-types as boyfriends (she was never the magnet for emotionally unavailable men that i am). she met and married someone totally against type. and it was kind of great. and it seems to be going well. (more on this in my discussion of milestone #3).

but it's not just her. most of my bakersfield friends are married. i would say all but two are married actually. my sister, who is four years younger than i am, is engaged and even her friends seem to be gaining marriage momentum.

2. home ownership. the aforementioned best friend moved into a house with her new husband shortly after they married. i know a few of other women my age who have owned (one by herself, two with their husbands) actual houses.

most everyone i know lives in apartments.

this weekend i had the opportunity to see the condominium that my brother - who is 23 years old - is buying in modesto. it's brand new. bigger, newer, and a little more fancy that most apartments i've seen. he expects to move in next month sometime.

my sister and her fiancee also recently found out that they had won some housing lottery, so they'll be home owners by spring of next year.

3. babies. everybody's having them. ok. just kidding. it's all my family and a few of my close friends. refer back to milestone #1. today i stood next to my best friend at the altar of our home church again, this time for her baby's baptism. it was great. i am the madrina. her comadre. i feel like it wasn't so long ago that she got married. but here she is, hitting another milestone.

i have to remember that, as a graduate student, my milestones are different. finishing my MA was a milestone. getting funding to conduct dissertation research. that was a milestone. finishing my dissertation - really finishing it - and getting my ph.d. will be a big one.

i wonder sometimes just how different the stones along my path are going to be.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005


this afternoon i finished the conclusion of my dissertation.

i had planned it in three sections.

the first was summary. it was relatively easy to write because i'd already been through it a million times.

the second was proposing future research in a local sense. what are the interesting social/cultural happenings in the valley, on the border right now. my focus at that point was mainly the social relations between mexican americans and mexican immigrants. where there are affinities and where there are tensions.

when i arrived in california three weeks ago, only the third section remained. which is why i photographed my dissertation (see earlier blog post) and boldly stated that i only had five more pages to write. ha!

the third section of the conclusion, in many ways, tries to be bigger than its britches. it talks about how mexican origin people in the valley imagine themselves as part of the nation. i suggest that the rhetoric about and community response to local military involvement illustrate peoples' "americanism."

i'm really just "suggesting" issues that might deserve some hapless researcher's attention. (let's face it; i'm hoping *i'll* be the hapless researcher to get the gig!).

anyway, i finished section three. so i guess my dissertation is finished.

it doesn't feel finished.

probably because i have to do one more round of line editing, add maps and graphs, and give it to my advisor who will suggest one more major revision before i print and bind and distribute to my committee members. and then i'll defend it and hopefully they'll pass me without asking me to make more revisions. if they do, well, you know.

can you see why "finished" is such a subjective term?