Chicana/o Studies – Publishing an Alternative View Since 1970 – CSU, Northridge


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El Popo Staff has 116 articles published.

El Sonido del Arcoiris

in The Word is Text by

by Yesenia Burgara 

Mariachi Arcoiris

“It is a really powerful way to get that message across,” said Rudy Vasquez, CSUN alumnus and trumpet player for Mariachi Arcoiris “to inform people because they are not only being informed, they feel what you feel.”Music is considered the universal language. People listen to music for many different reasons, but it makes an impact on most. Musicians have taken that into consideration and many now use their music as a form of activism.

Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles is likely the very first openly LGTBQ Mariachi in history and is trying to use their music to break barriers in the music world. The group provides a safe haven for mariachi musicians identifying with the LGTBQ community who want to perform traditional Mexican regional music.

Traditionally mariachis are male dominated and considered to have a “machismo” stigma, meaning to have male chauvinism tendencies. Therefore a mariachi is not a place where someone of the LGTBQ community may feel comfortable or be themselves openly.

“We (gay mariachi musicians) needed a place where we were free from bullying, being made fun of, being talked about behind our backs, and discrimination,” said Carlos Samaniego, director of Mariachi Arcoiris. “Different type of things that all of us unfortunately have suffered.”

“The group also has members who are straight and considered allies,” Vasquez said. “It’s great to see they could play comfortably with us, and know that about us and they are not going to feel that their masculinity is being threatened or anything. It’s like helping out or being a part of any other mariachi. They go in there and play with no reservations.”

Females have been a part of the mariachi world since 1903 when the first documented female, Rosa Quirino, played in a mariachi band, but to some it is still uncommon to think of female mariachis. The first all-female group was the Las Adelitas formed in 1948 and was directed by a male. Today only about thirty all female mariachi reside in the U.S. Mariachi

Arcoiris welcomes women and is proud to have the first transgender female in mariachi history, Natalia Melendez their violinist.

“There was a lot of obstacles I had to go through, to being comfortable and not even expecting to be in a leadership role to the world, and I’ve been blessed with that, Melendez said. “I’ve been given this kind of responsibility through everything that I’ve done.”

States such as California have legalized gay marriage, demonstrating that times are changing for the LGTBQ community in a positive direction.

“Your generation is more flexible, adaptable and open and not as concerned about rigid boundaries about sexuality and gender,” said Kathryn Sorrells, CSUN Communication Studies Professors. “I think those kind of performances are shifting for people in ways that I think are really helpful. Not everywhere, not all the time certain spaces are more open,”Sorrells.

Despite advances ,the LGTBQ community is uncertain under the new Trump administration and still continue to experience discrimination such as harassment, misgendered pronouns,denied basic public accommodations , homophobic comments, lack of protection, and exclusion from some areas in society.

But with artist and groups such as Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles who use music as a tool to advocate for a change, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

“Music and protest are going to continue to come together in really powerful and creative ways in the next decade.” Sorrells said.4631796236_631x297

Remittances Are Being Targeted by Administration

in The Word is Text/Videos by

by Gustavo Muro

2015 Remittence Flow by Gustavo Muro

Creating a map that show the estimated amount of remittances sent out from the US into other countries during the year of 2015, provides us with a clear understanding of the amount of monies sent from immigrants in the US. Utilizing data from the World Bank, I was able to cluster together received remittance totals by separated by continent.

The current regime in Washington DC proposes a tax on remittances to build a symbol of division in the form of a wall is an insult to citizens of Mexican culture. If a tax is levied from such a proposal, the backlash would affect immigrants and US citizens.

Honestly, the tax would be unjust for the simple fact the tax would disproportionately affect the working class.

In 2008 the top three countries receiving remittances were number one India, second China, and third Mexico. According to The World Bank, The average value of a single remittance to Mexico was between $340-$350 US dollars in 2007. An interesting observation is that increase in remittances have been seen to correlate with reduced homicide rates in the country that is — for every 1% increase in households receiving remittances in Mexico there is a 0.05% decrease in the homicide rate. Lowering the costs of sending remittances to other countries including Mexico would help fight poverty as well as being an effective method to reduce the organized crime rate according to a study from the ‘Inter-American Development Bank’.

The Trump administration has threatened Mexico with taxing remittances sent from the US to assist in funding for Trump’s proposed border wall. It would be counter-intuitive to de-rail efforts of Mexican and US officials who have been working to make money flows between the two neighboring countries more transparent. If remittances were to become taxed then senders of remittances may consider the use of other methods of sending money, such as physically smuggling it across border lines. Some have even suggested Mexicans might turn to a currency transfer medium such as ‘Bit Coin’ among others which is an online currency that eliminates banks and fees to transmit currency.a

A survey by Inter-American Dialogue of remittances to Mexico found that a majority, 67 percent in 2013, were sent by “undocumented” individuals living in the U.S.

Data gathered by the Mexican government and BBVA Research shows that in 2015, nearly one-third (29.6 percent) of all of the remittances sent from the U.S. to Mexico originated in California. Just over 14 percent was sent from Texas, and 5.1 percent from Illinois.

In 2015, remittances sent to Mexico totaled 2.3 percent of the country’s GDP, the data showed.

Forbes reported that the money sent from the U.S. to Mexico by migrants “replaced oil revenues as Mexico’s number one source of foreign income” in late 2015.

Mexico has relied upon immigrants to maintain families, communities, and in many cases municipalities.

TWO GENERATIONS OF “ZOOT SUITERS”: Valdez’s Masterpiece Returns to the Mark Taper Forum

in The Word is Text by
  • zootsuit.jpg

 by Celina Fernández-Ayala

Picture of Celina
Celina Fernández-Ayala

Fifteen-year-old Angel Fernández-Chavero knew nothing about the play that Father Hernandez invited him to see. It was a reward for the teen’s job as a typist for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. As a good Mexican Catholic boy, he looked forward to visiting the Mark Taper Forum with his parish priest.

Angel Fernández-Chavero did not anticipate how important this outing would be. The year was 1978, and he was to see “Zoot Suit”.

Famed Chicano playwright Luis Valdez wrote and directed the play. This piece is based on the 1942 Sleepy Lagoon murder, in which members of the 38th Street Gang were convicted of José Gallardo Díaz’s death. The production focuses on Henry Reyna and his friends’ struggle for justice within an overtly racist justice system.

Fernández-Chavero was stricken by Edward James Olmos’ performance as El Pachuco. “He really had an impact just on my seeing this live show and him just being this character I couldn’t totally figure out, because one minute he’s being this good guy and the next minute he’s a jerk.”

“I didn’t understand for a while how he was Henry’s alter ego. And then suddenly a representative of the Chicano Nation”, he stated.

Angel Fernández-Chavero is my father, and he introduced me to the 1982 film as an 11-year-old. A movie on a school night was a big deal. It is one of my favorite memories.

As a preteen, my father did not expect me to take anything away from the film. New England, my birthplace, is no hub of Chicano culture. Even so, I grew up calling myself a Chicana.

“Whether you would totally understand [the film] or not actually wasn’t too much of the point. I just wanted you to be exposed to it” said Fernández-Chavero. “I hoped you would like it. I hoped that the music or the ‘cha-chas’- or whatever- something would hit you, but that was it.”

I loved “Zoot Suit”. The film spoke to my nascent skepticism about the U.S.’s judicial system. Reyna’s treatment angered me, and I remember telling my father that “there were so many things Henry could have been.”

Despite Fernández-Chavero’s statement that comprehension was a concern, I learned a lot that evening. I never forgot the line about the “blood thirsty Aztecs”. Or my father’s response that it came straight from the court records.

I did not expect to watch the play as a Chicana/o Studies major nearly 40 years after my father. This time, under the current political climate, “Zoot Suit” felt even more personally relevant. The courtroom script could have been pulled from today’s headlines.

After the performance, I concluded that “Zoot Suit” serves today’s Chicana/o/x community as a reminder that racism never dies, but manifests differently each generation. My father added its value as a production about “The struggle of young men trying to figure out who they are and the lies that society’s institutions will tell you. I really think it should be part of the standard high school curriculum.”


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