Was away for a few days helping a friend move from my old stomping grounds of San Francisco down to a grad program at UC San Diego. Crazy trip that took us in a rented U-Haul from the gentrifying streets of the Latino Mission District where pupuso joints give way to hipster martini bars, through a pit stop at my Echo Park Los Angeles neighborhood, to an upscale strip mall in La Jolla where you can get tofu burritos at Whole Foods for 4.99. As I wrap my head around my journey through the various Latino outposts and their individual cultural expressions here's what's been happening in the world of images, teatro, and noise...
The Democrats stood on a stage in Miami Sunday night, debated the issues, and in the process made TV and presidential election history. The questions were asked in Spanish and after a few seconds of the candidate's English language response a disembodied Spanish speaking voice would come on to translate the answers back into Spanish for the Univision TV audience. It was as awkward and meandering a spectacle as that last sentence of mine. To keep things "fair" the two Democratic candidates actually fluent in Spanish, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, were not allowed to speak the mother tongue, and unable to dazzle the audience with their ability to roll their r's, show off their mastery of the future subjunctive tense, and thus demonstrate their ability to hang with the homeboys. Jennifer Woodward Maderazo over at Huffingtonpost has a great write up on the debate here. A similar Univision debate invite has been extended to the Republican presidential candidates and so far only John McCain has accepted. I'm guessing Rudy Giuliani and Co. realize that even with the soothing voice of a translator such phrases as "build a wall" and "beaners go home" would not go over so well.
Alberto Gonzales is still a Mexican without a job. For a quick overview of Latino blog reaction to Alberto "The Geneva Convention is Quaint" Gonzales's resignation last week Latino Pundit has compiled a comprehensive list. Sentiments range from the "you make me ashamed to be Latino" variety to the "you make me really ashamed to be Latino" variety. Now if Raza could only come to agreement on the never ending flour vs. corn tortilla debate there would be peace in Aztlan. And for anyone interested in my opinion on the perennial argument I vote "Flour."
TMZ reports Beyonce has told Latina magazine in an interview that she's "just jealous that [she's] not born Latina." The singer went on to elaborate: "The culture is so beautiful...I noticed a big difference between speaking to all of the Latino stations and speaking to the pop stations or the other stations. With the Latino stations, there was so much love and everyone is so genuine." It's unclear from the short article whether Beyonce wants to be Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, or Mexican. Given the fact that homegirl is from Texas I'm guessing Chicana -- in which case the "much love" part usually manifests itself after a six pack of Bud Lights bought on sale from the H.E.B.
And finally, L.A. Times reviews Junot Diaz's long awaited novel The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, calling it "panoramic and yet achingly personal. Impossible to categorize, which is a good thing." It continues: "There's the epic novel, the domestic novel, the social novel, the historical novel and the 'language' novel. People talk about the Great American Novel and the immigrant novel. Pretty reductive. Díaz's novel is a hell of a book. It doesn't care about categories. It's densely populated; it's obsessed with language. It's Dominican and American, not about immigration but diaspora, in which one family's dramas are entwined with a nation's, not about history as information but as dark-force destroyer." As my man James Joyce once said, "This race and this country and this life produced me, I shall express myself as I am." Diaz, it seems, embodies this sentiment/strategy perfectly. I mean, any novel that can reference Love and Rockets, Tristram Shandy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Domincan history in one place has for sure got that whole hi/lo, pomo stuff down pat. I am on my way to buy this book today. Will blog a reaction soon. Till then, for another rave review go to Carolina Gonzalez's review here.