Monday, January 30, 2006

a light at the end of the tunnel

today one of my students was wearing a t-shirt that read:

i'm fine. my grandma rubbed me with an egg.

somebody's grandma needs to rub me with an egg.

i've been invited for a campus visit/job talk at a university in california. in two weeks! it's not on the beach or anything glamorous, but it is a good school. and it's just a few hours from home.

they have most likely invited three or four candidates for campus visits. we will all meet the same people--professors in the department, the dean of the college, maybe some affiliated faculty. some universities will invite students to meet the job candidates. we will probably have one formal interview and one job talk. the job talk will be a 45 minute lecture on our research followed by a relatively intense question and answer period.

all other interactions during the campus visit will apparently be casual. we will be treated to dinner at a nice restaurant. we will drink wine. we will have lunch and coffee dates with university folks who need or want to meet us. and during these casual meals, between bites of a chocolate cake dessert, someone will ask the candidate about the impact of his/her research on the field of history or anthropology or whatever. and the candidate will chew slowly and answer as best as s/he can. the candidate knows that s/he is never safe from a job-interview-type of question. so s/he is prepared.

those of us who have been invited for campus visit probably have the same qualifications. assuming that the job talk is not a bomb, at the point of an invitation for a campus visit, candidates are judged on whether or not they will be a good fit for the department. being good-humored and easy-going are helpful traits in these situations.

basically i'm going to have to charm this university into hiring me. ;)

so start lighting your velitas, saying your prayers, or whatever it is you do. if you have a grandma who does the egg thing, let me know.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

my hero(ine)

i just stole this quiz from my blogger friend, cincysundevil. below are the results of the superhero whose qualities i embody most. ;)

Your results:
You are Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Green Lantern
Iron Man
You are a beautiful princess
with great strength of character.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

y'all know that wonder woman--lynda carter--was latina, right? half mexican/half english. and we were just talking about latina feminists!


Monday, January 23, 2006

selena and a feminist dilemma

we seem to live in a post-feminist movement.

whenever i ask my undergraduates what they think about feminism, they are hesitant to respond. after some prodding, they confess that feminists have a bad reputation. as man-haters. after some discussion, they will usually concede that feminists fight for women's equal rights.

perhaps three of every class of thirty would call themselves "feminists."

but then we talk about selena.

"how many of you guys have seen the movie, selena?"

they all raise their hands and the tone of the class changes. they all have something to say. how they love the movie. how they love selena.

"would you call selena a feminist?" i ask them.

unequivocal "yes."


because she broke through an industry where there were only men. because she did what she wanted to do, the way she wanted to do it, even if she had to cross her dad. she was strong. independent. she even had her own fashion line!

"and you all admire selena... you think she's a feminist, but you wouldn't call *yourselves* feminists?"

they sense that i've tricked them by bringing a tejana feminist into our discussion.

she's different. yes, she demonstrated strong and independent characteristics. she was incredibly driven in terms of her career. she broke through gender barriers in her field of music. she broke gender barriers within her family by going against her father's will in terms of what she would wear on stage and who she would marry.

nevertheless, the movie portrays selena as down to earth, from a working class background, and incredibly family-oriented. she fell in love and married young. at least according to the movie, she had expressed the desire for a family of her own shortly before she was killed.

my students *relate* to selena because she was family-oriented and seemingly down to earth, just like they are. but they *love* selena because she was a feminist. her strength independence, and ambition impress and inspire my students, a generation of young women, who were perhaps only ten or eleven years old when selena was killed.

and even though my students won't admit it, their ardent selena admiration makes them feminists, too.


Friday, January 20, 2006

blog tag

my roommate blog tagged me with this one.

4 jobs you have had in your life

salesgirl for the Limited (i'm still recovering)
hasher (that's what they call students who worked in the dorm kitchens at Stanford)
junior high Spanish teacher
lecturer at the University of Texas

4 movies you could watch over and over

When Harry Met Sally
Some Kind of Wonderful

4 places you have lived

Bakersfield, CA
Mountain View, CA
La Feria, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley
Santa Barbara, CA

4 TV shows you love to watch

Gilmore Girls
Sex and the City (still)
Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals
Grey's Anatomy

4 places you have been on vacation

Costa Rica

4 websites you visit daily

Yahoo Mail

4 of your favorite foods

Freebird steak burritos
my mom's lasagna
Quack's salty oat cookies
fresh garlic naan

4 places you would rather be right now

a clean beach anywhere
the Rio Grande Valley
...but I'm happy in Austin!


Thursday, January 19, 2006

the first day of school

i am nervous. i choose my clothes carefully. black slacks. silk shirt. uncomfortable black pumps. red lipstick.

i rush to campus to re-copy my syllabus. i've forgotten to include exam dates on the first copy.
i examine my class roster and try to gauge--by my students' class, major, gender, ethnicity--what kind of class dynamic i'll have.

walking into the classroom, i take a quick look around. many young, pleasant faces. most of them mexican american.

a couple of years ago, in one of the first classes i taught at UT, a young white woman told me that she was "surprised" on the first day of class to see a hispanic woman walk to the front of the classroom. "but the class is called 'la chicana,'" i objected. she told me that she expected that a white woman would teach it.

today i wonder if my students are surprised to see me--a chicana--approach the front of the room and begin to hand out syllabi.

the bell rings. i find myself talking too much, explaining the syllabus in more detail than necessary. i tell them that though i seem like a nice person, i am a merciless grader. they look at me with skepticism.

when i am finished fielding their questions about the course, i ask them to introduce themselves. they are from all over texas, mostly the rio grande valley and san antonio. their majors range from mexican american studies to engineering. they are freshman and seniors. many are taking the class to learn more about their culture.

it's the first day of class, and all of these students are perfect to me. i have yet to learn who will skip class, who will never read the articles for class, who will become disinterested. at this moment, they are all bright and full of potential. and so am i.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

on unions and the UFW

the following is my response to a debate generated by the UFW scandal as reported in the los angeles time. i thought i might as well post it on my own blog.


I find it problematic to say that, generally, unions, despite initial gains, do not improve the overall labor standards of workers. There is an entire body of literature within labor history that would refute that point.

I would not say that unions are inherently good and necessary. Rather, I think it important to look at different historical moments to examine and understand how unions have been useful and when they have failed. I think that history reveals various cycles of effectiveness, depending on variables such as the economy, the political environment, etc.

With regard to the UFW, it seems counterintuitive to read that Cesar Chavez, a Mexican American hero, would take an anti-immigration stance. In terms of labor organizing, however, it makes perfect sense. Farm worker unions needed leverage against a powerful agricultural industry. In the late 1930s, for example, farm worker unions were gaining strength and momentum to lobby for greater farm worker rights (higher wages, better working conditions, etc). Union efforts were undermined by the bracero program, which was introduced as an answer to the labor shortage caused by WWII in the 1940s. All of a sudden, farmers had a legal and ready supply of farm labor willing to work for less than what native-born workers were demanding. Farm workers lost their leverage; they were no longer scant in number, but could easily be replaced if they did not work for the low wages being offered them.

(I could go on about the bracero program and how many farmers did not live up to their end of the bargain in providing adequate wages, clean and affordable housing, etc, but that's another post...)

Under Cesar Chavez's leadership, it was in the UFW's best interest to have a stable work force, who knew the history of the farm labor struggle, and believed that they had the right to demand more humane working conditions. They had to be wiling to assert their rights as U.S. workers even though conditions in U.S. fields were superior to the conditions they faced in Mexico. Much of this is still the case with regard to farm labor organizing.

You cite a conservative economist who asserts that in order to improve worker productivity, they must learn English and develop particular (professional?) skills. That makes perfect sense. We have to keep in mind, though, that many farm workers are performing physically taxing labor just trying to make ends meet. Many are hesitant to go to job trainings because of their immigrant status. Many don't have transportation (as evidenced by the yearly reports of farm worker deaths as they pack themselves into the back of someone's truck on their way to work).

For many farm workers, belonging to a union is their way of standing up for themselves, and, hopefully, of bettering their work conditions.

All of this said, I do think it's a shame when unions are revealed to be corrupt.

If this post has made me sound like an unabashed union supporter, allow me to clarify that I am not. I simply object to rampant generalizations that posit unions as inherently bad and business as inherently good. It's important to recognize the various shades of grey between these two extreme categorizations. I also believe that it important to be critical of BOTH sides when necessary and to recognize that they each have moments of corruption and integrity

Monday, January 16, 2006


interesting debate about UFW corruption going on at gustavo's site.

i just posted a rant/response.

i absolutely believe it important to be able to be critical of our political institutions, but this one guy's comment put me over the edge. there's corruption in the UFW so let's dismiss all their past accomplishments on behalf of farmworkers? it just doesn't seem right.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

feeling sorry for myself

i got an email from a good friend the other day. he has an upcoming job interview at a university in california and wanted to ask for my advice.

as i read the email, i felt like someone had kicked me in the gut. i also applied for this position. the fact that the department contacted him for an interview means that they *didn't* contact me.

my friend, l, described this feeling best: you are truly happy for the person's good fortune but also feel like you might choke on your own jealousy. it was one of those moments.

this university is in california, just a two and a half hour drive from bakersfield. it is one of the most beautiful campuses in california, on the beach. it is a research university with an extremely vibrant and active chicano/a student community. and the faculty in the department is amazing. it is, in short, my dream job.

honestly, i would prefer that my good friend get this job over any one else. my dream might as well belong to someone i like, right?


Sunday, January 08, 2006


my parents threw me a party yesterday. while i did plenty of celebrating while in austin, i had yet to celebrate with my extended family. the majority of my aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. are in bakersfield, so the family celebration needed to be here.

my dad comes from a family of nine children; my mother from a family of eight. as you can imagine, i have numerous first cousins. my dad's side of the family had a stronger showing yesterday, which was really nice. with everyone getting older, it seems rare that we are all in one place any more. many of my cousins are now married with families of their own, and moving to bigger houses in different parts of town.

it doesn't seem that long ago that we would see each other all the time. we would see some of our cousins during sunday visits to our grandparents house, but the bigger showings were for birthdays, christmas, thanksgiving, easter, mother's day, and other celebrations. there were tons of us, and we would be running around every sqare inch of my grandparents' house and yard.

they lived a green house on fargo street, on a lot where an abandoned and dilapidated wood-framed house also sat. we marveled when our parents told us that when they were young, all nine of the kids plus our grandparents lived in that tiny wood-framed house. was that true? i hated to step foot in that house; i felt like the floor would collapse under me. and the mice. the boys told me that there were mice.

i remember two metal poles in the backyard to suspend laundry lines. one of those poles was SAFE for a game of tag or hide and go seek. i could hold on to one of those poles and spin around and around until i was dizzy and my hand smelled like metal.

and the outhouse. it looked like a tall wooden crate, painted the same color as the house. it was pitch black on the inside with a dark hole that led to the center of the earth for all i knew. we would dare each other to step in and close the door while one of us would count.

on one side of the house, a tall tree from which we sting pin~atas for birthday parties. the big kids swinging hard, and the brave ones crawling quickly on the grass to snatch fallen candies even while someone was still wielding a baseball bat.

we used to be those sweaty, rambunctious, teasing, daring kids.

but now we are the grownups. we are the ladies in the kitchen making food; the grownups in the living talking about work; the ones scolding children for running in the house! getting too close to the pool! not eating everything on their plates! being mean to their sister!

it's funny. how in the blink of an eye, you can find yourself on the other side.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

sweet victory

my dad sent me this picture from the dallas morning news. never thought i would see it in california!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

haciendome tejana

my family has divided loyalties.

my mother was born in south texas; i was born and raised in california.

a little over six years ago i moved to texas for graduate school, and i'll be honest: i hated it. i hated the texas flags every where; i hated that eight out of every ten business establishments contained the word "texas" or its derivative, "tex" in it; the big trucks; their crazy drivers; the bumper stickers (e.g., God Bless Texas; I wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could; Remember the Alamo). the endless texas emblems.

as far as i was concerned, texans suffered a strange kind of nationalism. sure, they were american. but first and foremost, they were TEXANS.

my mother was insulted by my disdain. as far as she was concerned, because she was a tejana, i was half. i told her no. i was from california. she persisted. i came from her and she had lived and breathed texas for years of her life. i had la tierra tejana in my blood. like it or not. ugh.

then something happened. i can't say exactly when or how. but i started to kind of like the texas flags here and there. the badass big trucks. and i had to admit that the barbecue in texas was the best i'd ever had. i started to enjoy certain texas emblems. they're unique, and they give me a sense of place.

and even though texas is, by and large, a red state, austin a liberal bubble. and i'm happy there.

so. even though i am in california for the holidays, i was rooting for my longhorns during this evening's rose bowl. though they were the underdog, they played their lonestar hearts out. and now we--the texans--are national champs. :)


Monday, January 02, 2006

wild winter weather

any weather followers out there, know that california has been pummelled by storms lately. the valley has also received its share of rain. some valley bloggers don't appreciate it; i love it.

in bakersfield, it has been raining and raining and raining. when the clouds finally cleared early this afternoon, an stunning view of the mountains emerged. this is a picture of the mountains to the east of bakersfield.

the southernmost mountains--the ones that separate us from greater los angeles--loom larger and more green, especially under grey clouds and strains of winter sunlight. it's breathtaking. kind of makes me wish it would rain every day.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

looking forward

i asked my parents if they had any new year resolutions, and they both responded in fatalistic fashion: to stay alive another year. they're not that old! i wonder, at what point do we start thinking more about our mortality than new things to come in the new year?

i still look forward to the new and unknown. this is part of the charm of my financially unstable, semi-nomadic lifestyle. :) the following is what i anticipate in 2006:

1. my sister's wedding. at the end of february, my little sister will finally tie the knot. for the past two years, it's been jerryjerryjerry. i'm hoping that marrying him will cure her of that! actually, he seems like a great guy, and i'm sure that they will have good life together.

2. job interviews this winter? God please let some universities somewhere (preferably in california) call me for interviews/job talks.

3. spring break in new york. i want this trip to be a graduation gift to myself. i've never been to new york! my roommate, however, lived there for several years before moving to austin, and a couple of my good friends live there now. so, if i can pinch enough pennies over the next few months, i want a spring trip to the city. i want to see the statue of liberty, hit some museums, run in central park, get dressed up and visit a swanky bar, drink coffee somewhere in the village, and whatever else i can afford.

4. leave austin in the summer. this will break my heart. but if and when i do get a job, i'll have to leave. i'm not going to think about that just yet.

5. laura's wedding in august. hooray! laura is a fellow grad student and one of las girlfriends. the wedding will be in albuquerque. i first went to albuquerque with my best friend from california; we were driving from austin to bakersfield, where i'd be spending the summer. we stopped in albuquerque to visit laura. she gave us the tour of the old town and would not let us leave until we went to the pornographic candy store. quite an experience. (no, laura, i'll never let you forget; it's my favorite albuquerque memory!). can't wait for the wedding. ;)

6. move to ???? i'm going to move somewhere this year. i hope that it'll be somewhere in california, so that i can be closer to my family, but there are no guarantees. the academic job market is brutal; if they call you, you will go. i could very well be blogging from the middle of a corn field next year. you'll still read, right?

these are all the things that i can anticipate in 2006. but it's all the things that i can't anticipate that make the year interesting. i'll keep you posted.