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

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A View from Another World: My Time in Los Angeles

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by Katarina Machmer

Katrina Machmer and Valerie Quiroga in the EL POPO podcast booth CSUN

As an international student from Germany – where my major is North American studies and my minor Spanish – I came to CSUN not only because the University’s classes allowed me to study both Mexican and American culture but also because Los Angeles itself is a place where both cultures intermingle.

In addition to theoretically studying American and Latinx culture in my hometown, I wanted to get to know both outside of the classroom. Reporting for El Popo gave me a special insight into Latinx culture in Los Angeles. It enabled me to discover parts of the city that I would not have seen and get to know the stories of people that I might not have met otherwise.

Having enrolled in different ethnic studies classes at CSUN, I learned something very telling about the American educational system: It is only in American universities that students of color get the possibility to learn about their own communities and their history. But even there, outside of the ethnic studies departments, education is sometimes still dominated by a white perspective and worldview. Realities such as racism and discrimination towards minorities in the United States are often glossed over.

This racial narrative is also perpetuated in journalism, the reason why many mainstream newspapers ignore people of color or do not represent their communities in an adequate way. Since I come from a different cultural background myself, I was afraid that I would not be able to appropriately represent the Chicano community in El Popo either. But I was welcomed to bring my own perspective to our newspaper, and I think this is what journalists should be able to do: instead of excluding people because they belong to a different race or class or don’t fit into America’s white racial narrative, journalists should operate as cultural ambassadors and promote diversity, bridging cultural differences and fighting America’s one-sided way of reporting.

They should present alternative as well as critical perspectives, something I could do by helping to voice the stories of people who are still too often ignored or inappropriately portrayed in American media. Racism and discrimination have unfortunately always been present in American society, and during my stay in the U.S. I noticed how deep the division between white people and people of color, especially African-Americans.

Before my semester at CSUN, I had not consciously been aware of the many privileges a white person enjoys in the United States. Since its roots are so deep, this problem is hard to eliminate – but changing the narrative and helping to voice the underrepresented is a step forward. Alternative journalism has the capacity to bring about social change, and I believe in its power.

Managing a Busy Life

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by Lisbeth Benavidez

My name is Liseth Benavidez. I am a full time student, full time employee, and a full time mother to a beautiful one year old. Her name is Luna Rae Valdez.

My daughter has been the greatest motivation to get me through school and work. I stress out at times, but I do have a great support system. My mother helps me out and so does my mother-in-law. Having someone to help you, especially when you are a first time mom, is very helpful and beneficial. I go to school four times a day. When I go to school, I drop my daughter off at my mom’s house. Many times, my mom is working or busy that I find someone else to watch her. I usually only go to school, then right after I go pick my daughter up, I go back home. I work five days out of the week. Sometimes I feel I do not spend enough time with my daughter but then again, everything I am doing now is for my daughters future. I want her to have everything In life, everything and anything she wishes for. 

I go to work Wednesday through Sunday. I am a full time employee. I work at a sushi restaurant as a waitress. I must maintain a smile in my face because I work with customers face to face. It is fun where I work because there I am able to make great connections with great people. Also, many of the people I work with are parents or students at CSUN, just like me. 

I always tend to miss my daughter throughout my shift. My daughter is the one person I can go to and look at, and all my stress goes away. When I go home to my daughter after school or after work, I take full advantage. I start playing with her. I read books to her. I feed her and change her. I nap with her. She is literally a mini me. I always tend to give her my full attention when  I am with her because I do not want her to ever feel like I do not love her or that I do not want to see her. When i found out I was pregnant, I felt my life was over because many people told me so. I cried at night thinking how am I going to raise this baby if I am just a teen. But with the love and help I received from everyone in my life, I made it. I do live with my boyfriend, so having him to hep me was a blessing.

My biggest fear was brining my baby into this world. Now that my daughter is  one year old, I am thankful and lucky. I do go to school and I work to make sure I have everything my daughter needs. My life changed in a better way. So for those who tell a pregnant girl that their life is over, is wrong! It is a new beginning and it is the most beautiful one. Watching my daughter grow has to be the most exciting yet sad things because you notice everything and they grow up way too fast. When she gave her first steps I began to cry cause I could not believe it. Now my daughter is running all over the house, getting everything, dropping everything and just being an energetic kid. I love my daughter to death and I will do anything and everything I need to do so that my daughter has a great future. 

Street Vendors Leave the Shadows

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Image of Street Vendor selling tortillas

By Jorge Arriaga and Evelyn Robles.

For many years, local street vendors in Los Angeles operated under the radar. For many Chicano families that relied on selling their food or accessories on the street, they were forced to hide and run away from local police and health officials to avoid hefty fines and tickets. It was not until early New Year’s Day 2019 that street vending become legal. Bringing relief to many vendors all around the Los Angeles area.

Street vending has become a primary source of income and in some instances, the only source of income for many families. According to an LA Times article, over 50,000 people who make ends meet by street vending, 80% are females. Selling food is one of the most popular and common items sold in the streets of Los Angeles. Street vendors all around the Los Angeles county from East Los Angeles all the way over the San Fernando Valley selling tacos, fruit any many other delicious foods.

We had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful lady named Maria, who happens to sell a bunch of Mexican and Central American goodies in an intersection on Beverly Blvd & Kenmore St. She sold Tamales, Chiles Rellenos, Atole de elote, Arroz con leche and garnachas (a very popular central american food that is made up of a lightly fried handmade tortillas that comes with beef, cheese and tomato sauce on top, with cabbage and jalapenos on the side). I remember asking Maria how she felt about food vending being legalized, and her response was really heart warming and eye opening at the same time. Maria responded to my question by saying “ Le doy gracias a dios por esta oportunidad, por muchos años la cuidad me tiraba toda la comida que yo vendía, quitándome la oportunidad de trabajar y ganar mi dinero para poder soportar a mis hijos, la policía me a multado y esos eran unos tiempos muy espantosos.” The wonderful part about street vending is that consumers like you and I can have mouth watering food for relatively cheap prices.

I live down the street from what is now a really popular taco truck called “Leo’s tacos”, a viral sensation that started off as a small taco stand within a car wash on the corner of Temple and Glendale. I went over to Leo’s tacos this past weekend and briefly asked a worker that has been there since the beginning, what It felt like to have a successful business despite all the obstacles that they faced. One of the workers named Irma went on to tell me that it was hard in the beginning, especially before the street vending law went into effect because there were times where the city would come and shut them down or where the car wash would call the police on them. She went on to tell me “ No sabia que hacer, me estaba desesperando, no tenía a nadie y me quería regresar a méxico, pero de repente paso un milagro, cuando pasó la ley dándonos el poder de vender en la calle hicimos un trato con el car wash y empezamos a vender nuestros tacos, y les encanto a la gente… después nos hicimos virales en facebook y de ahí crecimos, mucha gente de diferentes lugares nos visitan hasta celebrities”, She ended by saying “No se den por vencidos, si se puede, hay que echarle muchas ganas.”

Street vending has opened up many opportunities for many Chicanas like Maria and Irma but not everything is as perfect as it may seem. Vendors sell in the parts of Los Angeles where lower income families live and are the ones who benefit . They are able to sell their food to the low-income families at relatively cheaper prices and most importantly face little to no problems with the law. But what happens to those Chicanos that street vendors on upper scale cites such as Santa Monica? As it turns out, those vendors tend to have much more problems despite having their vending license. According to an article in Forbes, cities like Santa Monica have found other alternatives on how to target street venders by citing them with tickets for other so called ‘crimes.” The article explains how a couple was making its way out of the metro station and about to cross the street when they were given a ticket for “blocking, impeding, or obstructing the path to a beach facility”… as we can see the city of Santa Monica is finding any little reason to fine these poor street vendors. But despite the fact that street vending is now legalized and Chicana/o vendors now have the opportunity to make a living without having to worry about being fined or arrested despite some cities finding others way to stop vendors from making an honest living.

Federal Government Creates Fear in Family Separation Policy

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    A new policy approved by ICE would separate families detained at the U.S.-Mexico border and target parents who try to retrieve their children from immigration detention centers. (Photo: @NIJC/Twitter)

by Elizabeth Valdez

The Federal Government has deliberate fear among immigrants by separating families.

Parents and their children are the main victims. Reports indicate that children less than the age of one are separated by their parents and placed into foster care. The act of taking children away from their families also result in psychological trauma as such that children will have to live the rest of their lives in fear of never seeing their parents.

More than 2,300 children have been separated. The number of children exposed to this trauma will have to live with the memories of losing their parents. The psychological impact these children will have to go through will not only affect the way they think, but they way they behave as well. According to The Washington Post’s What Separation from Parents Does to Children, “Those separated from their parents at a young age had much less white matter, which is largely made up of fibers that transmit information throughout the brain, as well as less gray matter, which contains the brain-cell bodies that process information and solve problems.”

Children are separated from their parents as migrants cross the border. They are not allowed to be held in a federal jail due to our policies, so instead they are taken from their parents and placed in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

It first started on March 7, 2017, when the Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly confirmed in a report that the administration is considering separating families at the border. On April 20, 2018 a news report claimed that more than 700 children had been taken from their parents since October of the previous year. Moreover,100 of those 700 are under the age of 4. 

The Trump administration started a “zero tolerance” policy on the southwest border that started on April 6. After many months, it finally ended when Trump signed an executive order designed to keep migrant families together at the U.S.-Mexico border because of ACLU lawsuits. However, many children have yet to be reunited with their parents. Litigation is continuing.

How can we stop this from happening again…

A few of the things we can do are:

1.Donate money to charities that help those families getting affected

2. Call our representatives because they are the ones they represent what we want to happen.

3. Find a local protest so your voice gets heard.

4. Inform others so that everyone as a whole can make a change.

Street Vendors Need To Earn A Living

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by Guadalupe Canales

Four years ago, a vote to legalize street vending in Los Angeles was completed, but why has not action been taken?

Living with the fear that they receive a one thousand dollar citation, and or be discriminated, assaulted, or robbed many still take on this job.

Street vendors rely on this job to help them provide for their families, and for immigrants, it is one of the only jobs they can do to earn a living. Street vending is known to be one of the few jobs immigrants are able to take on because of their status, but many vendors have not seen any change toward legalization or protection of street vendors.

In this past year, we have seen discrimination and violence towards street vendors more than ever before. With Trump serving as president many fear to go out and do their jobs because of the challenges they face not only with discrimination but also with deportations and fines. Recently, the city council voted 11-4, to draft a policy for street vending. This project has been targeted as a priority in hopes to make a proposal by summer.

If a proposal is passed, we will see the city take action as soon as next year. The proposal is set to regulate where street vendors will be allowed to sell. Street vending will be banned 500 feet from busy venues including Dodger Stadium, Staples Center, Hollywood Bowl and many other crowded locations. Each vendor will have to apply for a permit and they will have assigned locations. The idea is to minimize groups of street vendors, only two street vendors per each side of a city block will be allowed.

The delay has been in part to local property owners who do not want street vendors around their establishments, as well as undecided council members who cannot decide on restrictions that should be applied for street vendors safety and for the safety of the communities.

Until then, street vendors have to wait and see if city council will have a proposal by July to stop living in fear, for not only their lives but also for the sake of their families.

The Other Side of the Tracks

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by Gonzo K.O.

It was the middle of the night when I heard a loud noise that woke me up.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

It brought back the memories.

I got out of bed and immediately went to make sure my dog was okay.

I knew already what the noise was without having to second guess, it was gunshots.

Growing up in an area that is not safe was a common thing to hear this noise. Around fourth of July our neighborhood child game was “firework or gunshot”.

As I went near a window, I could hear the neighborhood wake up to see what was going on (I love being Latina because everyone is in everyone’s business and loves to snoop and be a chismoso). I, of course, joined in and went outside.

The scene I was about to walk in was not a good one.

It was dark, and it was unclear at first what had happened, but there was something on the ground, not moving.

There the person was shot, lifeless and facing up at the sky almost as if pleading with a higher power. There was a man shot, he did not look older than 25, and he was dead. As per usual, the cops did not come until an hour after and the neighborhood had to see this. A young man shot to death by gun violence. It was not surprising to me how there was another body in the streets while his body ran down the street.

Now that isn’t something that should be normal, we shouldn’t be so numb to dead bodies and violence that it doesn’t phase us but that is the case not living in a nice neighborhood.

Since I was a child, I was told do not walk down a certain street, do not go to the park at night. As a child hearing this, I thought this was the norm, I thought this is how all children grew up. It was not until I went to a school outside of my neighborhood that I realized this was not  the case, I had other school friends parents not wanting to come over or even let them sleep over and realized it was because of the place I was living in.

I was the child from the poor, gun violence, gang violent streets.

So as I stood there watching from my yard with my family as the police finally arrived, I can see it in the neighbors faces, we are all use to this, we all can see gun violence and gang violence and not be afraid of it. As I was thinking I could overhead another neighbors conversation, “if that was my son I would have beat his ass for being associated with gangs.” I could see a tattoo on the body that was from a well known gang as I heard the women’s conversation.

Are we immune to this? Is this our normal?

I went to school the next day and told my classmates I was super tired since I had a long night because someone got shot. They looked at me with surprised eyes as I said this without any sadness or fear in my voice.

They asked me for details and when I told them it was from gang violence and the man died, I could see them physically back away from me and try to go somewhere else. We’re they too sensitive? Did I say something wrong? I did not understand.

I talked with my mom later that day and she told me there is stuff that people do not live through so they don’t understand how to handle those situations. I could see my mom had a point, there was no way I could bring this up at my school on the other side of the train tracks in the nice area without being looked at as a freak or a thug.

Is this why I do not see a need for gun control? I know if those gangs wanted guns they would get them. Why is it an issue now? Why was it not an issue when I was a child having to duck when I heard gunshots? Or the first time I saw a dead body from gang violence? Why is this an issue now? Guns have always been here, but when it crosses over the train tracks ,it becomes a big issue. So are they really doing this for the people? Or are they doing this because the gun violence is now in their backyards?

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