Thursday, March 31, 2011

Presenting Guest Blogger Aja Martinez

Three Generations Pocha
By Aja Martinez

My grandpa, Alejandro Ayala Leyva, is an oral historian. I’ve been raised on the stories he tells about his life and in this way I first encountered the word “pocho.” He told me a story once about being born and raised until age five in Los Angeles, and his memory of being loaded up with his parents and four younger siblings onto a boxcar during the Great Depression and sent “south” back to Mexico. 
My grandpa says his dad had “enough sense” to get the family off the boxcar when they stopped in Nogales, Arizona because as he recalls his father told the kids they were American citizens and had “no business” in Mexico. As my grandpa grew up in Nogales, a small town that splits the border with Nogales, Sonora, he encountered Mexicanos who accused him of being “pocho” in the way he spoke Spanish. I was surprised to hear this because from my perspective, being raised third generation American, with no access to Spanish-speaking fluency because my parents had the Spanish beaten out of them when they went to school, I thought my grandpa’s Spanish sounded pretty legit.

I felt like I was maybe the first generation to embody “pocho” qualities such as my lack of Spanish-speaking skills and a way of presenting myself that got me accused of “trying to be white” by some Chicanos I attended school with. So to hear my grandpa say that he too faced these accusations I began to really wonder about this word and what it means. Does “pocho” mean acting white? Does it refer to those of us affected by American ideology and values? One American value I subscribe to is education, and it seems the further I go in academia the whiter I become to Chicanos from my family and ‘hood I grew up in.

So my ideas on “pocho” as a concept have to do with becoming white as you become educated. I think of movies like Mi Familia and The Barbershop where there are characters that are the "educated" ones in the family and are written into the films as sellouts and pompous idiots who are ashamed of where they come from and have something to learn from their less-educated but more wise castmates. I think this portrayal is unfair and to paraphrase my brother from another mother, Cruz Medina, education, instead of making you less connected with your culture has the potential to
provoke a lot of us to have consciousness and conversations about culture that we might not have the space to think about were it not for education.  
Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
But the “scholarship” boys like Richard Rodriguez in Hunger of Memory, and also more public figures like the Clarence Thomases of our nation embody the real-life versions of these fictional characters written into Latino and black films. And the messages they promote about assimilation and selling out are pervasive to a white American public hungry for poster-child minorities. Thus the film characterizations, and I don't like the equation these films promote which goes something like this: ethnic + education = sellout wannabe white, and in our case the “pocho.” I've been called a “pocho” in this sense, because to some of my family the more educated I become the more white I am, which from their point can definitely have its advantages with the ultimate pitfall being that they still think at the end of the day that I’m “trying to be white.” 

However the advantages to my education for my family are that I'm viewed as someone with the authority of a the doctor when they need one, I'm viewed as someone with the authority of a lawyer when they need one, I'm viewed as someone with the authority of a the teacher when they need one; education represents all these “authorities” to these particular people in my family, however this presentation and way of communication that I possess is both powerful when they need me on their team but a threat when they feel the need to reassert the fact that I'm, as George Lopez puts it, still "not shit," and that they can still "kick my ass." You know? 

So I think this relates back to the idea of the “pocho” and those characters from films like Mi Familia and The Barbershop. Those characters are put in these films to remind us brown folk that we can get our educations but that we need to be wary of getting too tangled up in white American hegemony, and I get it, and I also get those portrayals read onto me and my education. And I don't like it, I'm uncomfortable with it, but I also understand.

Be sure to check out the Collection Aja Martinez co-edited:

Read Aja Martinez' College English article: 


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cornel West Debating Diversity at University of Arizona

Dr. West is the Building...Friday at the University of Arizona

 From the website for the event:
"West is speaking during an event at UA's Centennial Hall. His 7 p.m. talk, "Borders to Democracy," will critically examine diversity issues, offering his unique assessment the broader implications surrounding race and immigration in the United States. The event is open to the public and will have a first-come, first-seated arraignment."
 "West has long been a champion for racial justice since childhood. His writing, speaking and teachings weave together the traditions of Black Baptist Church, progressive politics and jazz. "

For more information:

I'm hoping to take notes and report back like I did with Spike Lee.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Presenting Guest Blogger Enrique Reynoso

Phenomenology and Etymology of a Fresa
by Enrique Reynoso

When I first began reading Cruz Medina’s blog I couldn't help but consider the term "pocho". In my admittedly narrow South Texas experience, I don't find it brandished around too often. Even though I was brought up aware of the negative connotations, I still never really felt them. Pocho was something that my parents were called, not me. As more generations continue to separate the "Mexicans" and "Americans", I find that the term pocho has somewhat lost its teeth.

However, one of the terms that seems to have gained momentum (at least in the Rio Grande Valley) is fresa. Literally translated as "strawberry", the original meaning seems to refer to an attractive Mexican female. I'll admit I hadn't heard the word fresa until late high school, but by then it seemed to take on a whole new meaning– a fresa was a male student from Mexico, usually upper-class. An informal poll created an overall profile of the male fresa: attending private high school or college, wearing name brand clothing, sporting a “fauxhawk”, and interestingly enough, many of the responders pointed out the repeated use of the phrase "o séa...". If we follow the logical conclusion of these responses we get what is essentially a metrosexual Mexican male.

 (Cristiano Ronaldo, Portuguese fresa)

My theory here is that fresa is (an admittedly late) response to pocho. Pocho lost its teeth because pochos have assimilated and are more of a majority than fresas. It's a conscious antagonism towards the upper class–almost every single response to my question of where fresa came referred to class. However, it's also a more subconscious and insidious dig ant sexuality. By picking a red, sweet fruit as the embodiment of Mexican masculinity, pocho  takes a potshot by implying homosexuality. This is especially telling considering that the original meaning seemed to refer to Mexican women...

As I was asking these questions of my friends (through Facebook I must add), I noticed something interesting. No person, be they from Mexico or from the US, admitted that they were ever called a fresa. It is always already someone else­­–its some (O)ther Mexican, not this one. He is from an(O)ther class, not mine. It brings to mind what Kenneth Burke refers to as congregation via segregation­–we have to separate the Other in order to create our “own” self. In labeling and transforming the fresa pocho has created a monster that nobody wants to claim. Fresa is the monster constantly deferred.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Presenting Guest Blogger: Andy Besa!

Inclusiveness, Exclusivity and Mistaken Identity

 (Medina-left, Besa-right at anti-SB 1070 rally 2010)
My name is Andy Besa. I met Cruz in 2009, at CCCCs in San Francisco, and we hit it off immediately over beers. We were able to spend more time together in May 2010, when I attended the New Directions in Critical Theory Conference at University of Arizona in Tucson, which Cruz helped organize. So, according to Cruz, we’re “conference homies.”
 (Dolores Huerta speaking at SB 1070 rally)

I don’t regularly blog, and I don’t tweet. I don’t have a myspace or facebook page (a friend refers to all social networking sites as myface), and I don’t own a “smart phone.” In fact, sometimes I wish I didn’t even own a cell phone, but my wife insists. I am currently completing my Masters in Rhetoric and Composition at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Recently, I’ve been interested in identity and how some folks want to assign identity to others.

            In his book Bootstraps, Victor Villanueva mentions being mistaken for members of other races or ethnicities. These references are inserted in the text and might seem to be simple misunderstandings, but I feel that they offer a glimpse into the minds of those who wish to define and assign identities to those who do not resemble them. Victor mentions being referred to as “my Jewish friend” and being addressed in Farsi. I’ve experienced this on several times, most often being mistaken for a Native American (technically true) or a Polynesian. The “Are you a Native American?” question always comes from Anglos, while the Polynesian questions have come from other Polynesians (Fijians and Hawaiians). The Anglos’ questions always seem to be about pigeon-holing, separating me from them and assigning me to a group; they want to determine my identity, assign me membership in a group, and move along. When addressed by Polynesians, the question has always been about including me into their group.

While I was in the military I served on peace-keeping duty in the Sinai Peninsula. The Fijian soldiers we met were convinced that I was one of them, a lost Fijian brother who had somehow gotten sidetracked and wound up in Texas. Like them, I am brown and have softly rounded features. Another time, as I stood behind the seafood counter while working at Whole Foods, a young Hawaiian woman looked at me for some time before asking: “You a local boy?” Having visited Hawaii and having been asked things like “What island you from bra?”, I realized what she was asking. I told her I wasn’t Hawaiian, and we had a short conversation in which she revealed that I could “pass for a local boy” (the more she said it, the more it sounded like loco boy). We then laughed together when I told her I would need to work on the accent. I find it interesting and informative that the exclusionary comments most often come from Anglos, while the inclusive questions come from brown people.

            Texas is quite different from both California and Arizona, and for me, the difference is all about the difference. The Anglos’ comments, one of which came last semester in a graduate class in which I was the only non-white person, always seem about settling for them who I am. They seem to need to be able to pigeon-hole me. The woman who asked last semester was met with my new response:
                        Q: “Are you a Native American?” (always asked as though it’s a compliment)
A: “No. Well, yes, I just don’t know my tribe. I’m a man without a people (I say it sadly). Most likely, we are northern Coahuiltecans, my family has been in the Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras area for at least a couple of hundred years (my aunt has done the research). So, at some time in the past, my native ancestors made the conscious decision to leave their native identities behind, possibly because the waves of biological warfare had utterly destroyed their cohesiveness as a tribe.
            I can go on and on about the whole “decimation of natives,” and it usually shuts down any further response, especially from Anglos. I go for guilt, and choose to point out that the source of the natives’ deaths is in fact, European intrusion. This often does not go over well in Texas, at least online. In Texas, we who know the truth of its creation must live with the myth of Texas. The myth says: Once there was a vast, empty land called Texas (no people, no natives, and especially, no Mexicans). Then, heroic Anglos came and made something of this massive nothingness. The myth ignores the fact that Texas was a Mexican state (Coahuila y Tejas) when the Anglos got here, that there were natives virtually everywhere, and that Anglos had agreed to convert to Catholicism and follow Mexican law as a condition of being allowed to settle in the province. Where is all this going?

            Right back to identity and how others (usually Anglos in my case) want to assign identities to others in a way that makes the assigner comfortable. Also, it enables Anglos to say things like “Why don’t you go back to Mexico?” I love it when they say that! It lets me ask the leading questions: “Oh, when did your people get to Texas?” and “How long have your people been here?” They always answer proudly with something like: “We’ve been here for seven generations.” I respond, in a disappointed and apologetic tone: “Oh, my people have been here for about 20,000 years and we didn’t move, the border moved!” They don’t like that much either.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mexican American Studies Stats Show Program Works

Culturally Relevant Curriculum Works

A researcher from Tucson Unified School District has come out with a report, providing statistics that support the success of the Mexican American Studies program helping students to improve on Arizona state AIMS reading and writing testing scores.

From the report:
"Even without apples-to-apples comparison, TUSD analysis shows that the Mexican American Studies (MAS) program produces results, negating Arizona Daily Star report.

A Tucson Unified School District report issued March 11, 2011 concludes that TUSD’s Mexican American Studies program give students a measurable advantage over non-MAS students in passing standardized AIMS reading and writing tests, and that MAS students graduate at higher levels than their non MAS counterparts.

The analysis was conducted by David Scott, Tucson Unified School District Director of Accountability and Research, reporting to TUSD superintendent Dr. John Pedicone. Scott writes:

• “I find that there are positive measurable differences between MAS students and the corresponding comparative group of students.”

• “Juniors taking a MAS course are more likely than their peers to pass the reading and writing AIMS subject test if they had previously failed those tests in their sophomore year.”

• “Seniors taking a MAS course are more likely to persist to graduation than their peers.”

Scott’s analysis examined performance by MAS students against scores from the entire TUSD district rather than just the schools where MAS programs are offered (Cholla High Magnet School, Pueblo Magnet High School, Rincon High School and Tucson High Magnet School) which are primarily lower socio economic student populations relative to the entire district. Moreover, the primarily Latino MAS students were compared in Scott’s analysis with students from all ethnic backgrounds. And still the data shows that MAS students showed a distinct advantage over non-MAS students in high schools throughout the district.

“The district has no other program that creates the success for students, particularly Latino students like we have in this program,” says TUSD Director of Mexican American Studies Sean Arce. “And yet we are under fire.”

Scott’s data shows clear trends. “I find that over the last six years, students who complete a Mexican American Studies class during their senior year are more likely to graduate than comparison group seniors,” Scott writes. “The difference in completion rates ranges from 5-11 percent higher.”

An Arizona Daily Star news story by Alexis Huicochea from March 13, 2011 (“Ethnic studies claim in question”) states, “The district’s graduation rate of nearly 83 percent holds true for students who took a Mexican American Studies course and for those who did not, Scott found.”

Figures from Scott’s analysis support the advantage of MAS students over non-MAS students in AIMS reading and writing courses. On the AIMS reading course, the data shows that MAS students passed anywhere from 5-16 percent more than non MAS students over the six year period, and that in all but 1 year, the results were above 10 percent greater passing rates. On AIMS writing texts, the scores show passing rates anywhere from 5-16 percent higher for MAS students, with only one year below 10 percent higher.

Attached please find SES results of Scott’s analysis.  PLEASE EMAIL TO REQUEST FULL REPORT.

For further information contact Deyanira Nevarez at 520-975-1485 (email or go to
(images from

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Website Latinopia USA

Latino Arts, Latino History, Latino Culture

From the Press Release:
" Music, recipes, poetry, art, cinema, theater and history make up the rich cornucopia of Latino culture showcased on a new website set for launch March 19, 2011.

The brainchild of veteran Los Angeles television director and documentary filmmaker Jesús Salvador Treviño, the video-driven website is designed as a one-stop web destination for all things Latino.

"As U.S. Latinos enter the digital age, we need a website that can offer videos about all aspects of our history culture and life," explains Jesus Treviño, whose television credits include programs like Law and Order-Criminal Intent, The Unit, Criminal Minds and Resurrection Blvd and who shot and edited much of the video footage on

"We're starting with five-minute videos in seven subject areas--interviews, music performances, short films, theater plays and authors reading from their works," Trevino explains. "We are excited that top Latino writers, artists and musicians from around the U.S. have seen the value of and are enthusiastically sharing their time, stories and creativity.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Romeo Guzman from "Pocho in Greater America" Guest Blogging!

Pocho in Greater Mexico's Romeo Guzman

My blog, like many projects/ideas, has multiple origins. First, I hated writing: it was hard, stressful, and rarely pleasant. I read as many books about writing as I could manage. I gained some confidence, but was still unable to place my readers in a particular time and place. I started reading journalism with more attention to word usage and started a daily writing practice….Second, my pocho-ass was far from home. I was Mexican, kinda, sometimes, but it was experienced/thought about in drastically different ways. In Mexico City, my conversations with Froylan Enciso , Daniel Hernandez, Diego Flores Magon, Guillermo Osorno, my sis, Carri, and others were particularly enjoyable and often over beer.

As I experienced Mexico City I wanted to convey to friends back home what the city felt like: the archives, belonging to an intellectual circle, the appropriation/adoption of American and pocho/chicana cultural production, the yummy tacos chupacabras. In short being both a “cousin and stranger.” This sense, to quote a friend from Mexico City, of between in/out of space was felt in New York City. A city with a more recent migration, particularly from central and southern Mexico, Mexicanos who aren’t short and pale (like my ass). Not being recognized as Mexican was really odd, but seeing how more recent migration happened “on the ground” was/is a lesson in history. Yet, a ton of blogs were simply about experiencing aspects of Mexico City and NYC: graffiti in Neza, day of the Virgen in Manhattan, pink floyd being played by a banda, watching Mexico beat the US in Mexico City, radiohead being played at a graduation in a Mexican school…
            The more I wrote, the more enjoyable it became, though you all can decide on the quality. More importantly, it became a way to share my intellectual ideas and pursuits with los primos/as, my siblings, my tios/as, and parents. It provided needed breaks from long academic papers and made academia less alienating. Along the way friends and family encouraged me to continue writing the blog, in some cases suggesting to publish a post or two (Thank YOU). I submitted the eulogy I wrote for my gramps to acentos review. It was accepted and Cruz Medina and I started a cyperspace friendship: we learned that we are both pochos from so cal and that we both find studying poch@ productive. Cruz suggested we guest blog as a means to build pocho community in greater Mexico. An important beginning. The images on his two blogs are pretty dope, his fiction is really moving, so I was more than pleasant to partake in this collaborative pochismo.

I this sense I am interested in hearing how folks think we can continue to build community on the net. I am currently involved in helping found a cultural, intellectual, and archival space in Mexico City. Mainly, I’m trying to get as many pocho/a artists, intellectuals, writers, etc down to Mexico City to engage Mexicans and as many Mexicans up here to engage Chicanos/pochos/etc.  You can follow its progress here and more importantly can email me for more information/to propose projects, to talk shit, etc. As I sit in an archive in DC with my friend Israel Pastrana and research South El Monte it seems appropriate to conclude with what we feel is the most pressing question of our generation: how do we build a politics that reflects our transnational/undocumented/documented communities?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cruz Medina Guest Blogging!

Cruz Medina on Pocho in Greater Mexico

Check out my guest blogging at Pocho in Greater Mexico. It's a great performance of pocho community, digital mestizaje and collaboration. Please check it out as a sign of encouragement for these kinds of collaborative projects in the future!

¡El Pocho Viene!

Cross Blog Posting Collaborative Digital Pocho Locura

In a pochos across America practice of collaborative action, Romeo Guzman of Pocho in Greater Mexico blog fame will be guest blogging on this very blog (and also my new poch[o]tec@ blog).

Pochismo genealogy is going to hit the fan with this digital mestizaje. This will be more anticipated than the Jay-Z/Kanye collaboration in the back alleyways where pochos gather to plot the next academic revolution.

(Bad ass art from:

In the mean time, you can check out some of Guzman's nonfiction at Acentos Review:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Getting the Word Out

Free Showing of Precious Knowledge March 24 at Fox Theatre in Tucson

I posted the trailer to this film about a year ago and I'm excited to see that it's getting its release later this month.
This documentary deals with the Mexican American Studies program at Tucson High school that is currently being targeted by the pura mierda Arizona State legislation HB 2281.

To learn more about HB 2281, visit Save Ethnic Studies at:

Check out the Dos Vatos filmmaker blog at:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Great Public Argument

Young Women Argue Against Lil Wayne's Negative Influence

St. Patrick's American School Costa Rica 2002

My Teaching Experience

I've tried to find material online having to do with the elementary school where I taught in Costa Rica other than the schools site: ,where one could apply if they so chose. I ran across some photo albums others have done and came to the conclusion that I had to upload my own photos into an album.

As a first time teacher, teaching abroad, in my first real job out of college, I didn't know what to expect. There's so much more I could write, and I did use some of the experiences in a presentation for Jerry Farber's Teaching Literature course, which I called "I am a Bad Teacher," but of the lessons I came away with is the understanding that good teaching comes about through preparation and repetition.

Or go to the link:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Student Updates

Media Arts Student from my Summer Bridge Class

This past summer, one of my students, Alan Gamez wrote, directed, edited and produced the "Batman vs. Parents" video.

                                                       (image from

He's got a youtube channel with a couple shorts he's put together with his brother who played the concerned parent in the Batman video.
Check out their channel:

Or check out their most recent video at:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Public argument (Batman Vs. Parents)

Here is a video from one of my students last summer. I ran into him today and he has another that he's going to share with me soon. Until then, enjoy an oldie but goodie.