Sunday, August 24, 2008

Brief Postcards From The Early Days

Arrived in Palo Alto five days ago already, and we're still staying in a hotel. We've stayed in three different hotels in the Silicon Valley area in five days --from the Sheraton to a s*%t hole called the County Inn--... Not funny at all. My kids and my wife and myself want our real-life lives back. It's not like we're not enjoying moving to a new place --the people we've already met in Palo Alto are all fantastic and the surroundings are beautiful-- it's just that we were not ready to having to literally disinfect the house we're moving into. Since we received the news of the fellowship last April, everything had rolled so smoothly, we were actually expecting some backlash at any time. We didn't know it was coming along with a big bottle of Clorox attached to it.


Last night we were just walking around campus --at Stanford University, that is-- and we found out it's a favorite spot for newly weds and quinceanheras (sorry, no enhe in this borrowed) teclado) to get their professional-and-corny official pictures taken. It was fascinating to see a quinceanhera walking through the Main Quad with her chambelanes and everything else...


Mexicanos here are everywhere. But, here as opposed to keep-it-weird Austin, everywhere only means low-paid jobs. West Palo Alto is so Lomas de Chapultepec. Beautiful, ubber expensive villas. So chic, so organic, so tofu and pilates. So Mexicans working, not living, there. You cross highway 101 and get to East Palo Alto, and you're right in Chimalhuacan. So third-worldy, so a bunch of families living in one tiny apartment so they can pay the are-they-out-of-their-minds? rent. Not in Texas anymore, I guess. Here, there's not 'para espanhol, oprima el dos', even if it comes with a funny accent.


One of the (Mexican) guys that are cleaning the house we're moving into is my namesake. He was born in Michoacan but raised in Sonora. He arrived in Palo Alto two years ago. He told me one of his friends --a paisano I guess-- who was living in Texas and arrived in PA a couple of weeks ago asked him to stay at his place while he gets back on his feet. I wanted to ask Antonio whether he likes here or not, but we ran out of time. I had to come to the Knight Fellowship office at Stanford to turn in some documents, and he had to keep cleaning the sink in the house I will rent for 11 months.


Strangely enough, Antonio is not (yet) a common name in the Palo Alto area. I guess Los Angeles, where the mayor's name is Antonio Villaragoisa, is still too far from here --not to mention San Antonio, Texas. So, so far, at Starbucks my latte cups have been tagged 'Tonino' and 'Tonio'. You tell them your name and they hear whatever it comes to mind. So, now, Valentina and I are engaged in a new and fascinating game: we pick a new name every time we go to Starbucks, and see what they write on the cup. This morning, Valentina was Tania. "With an 'i' or a 'y' "? the barista asked. Next time, I will be Jose Jose. I will let you know how it turned out in my next post.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On Hold Yet

Hey guys,
Just arrived in Palo Alto, my hands on in the moving in to a new house, new city. Lots of things to discuss here will come out of this experience. More to come. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No, It's The Guardian and NYT Who Should Know Better

I guess you've all already seen the controversial photo of the Spanish basketball team where the players pose pulling their skin behind their eyes to look as if they were Asian. Well, last Sunday The Guardian broke the scandal trying to ignite some fire to the already-controversial Olympic Games and, today, The New York Times ran a piece that feels like an Op-ed titled "Spanish Insensitivity Should Be Punished". Really?

La dichosa foto. Taken from Cadena Ser's website.

In the article, Harvey Araton writes: "The players involved in the Spanish slant-eye controversy are citizens of the global basketball community, which now stretches Far East to West. They should know better."

Okay, they might have a point, you could say. But then, if you go check Spanish newspaper El País--if you're willing and dutiful enough to make an effort to read what's been said on the controversy in the country of origin--you'll find a story titled "El anuncio de la selección de baloncesto, ni racista ni ofensivo" ("Chinese Government: Spanish National Team Ad Not Considered Racist, Offensive"). In such piece, a spokesperson with the Chinese embassy in Madrid dismisses the picture as an offense to the people of China.

Both the Chinese ambassador in Madrid and his spokesperson might have some grasp of the Spanish sense of humor and are informed enough to know such joke is just the opposite of an offense. They're into Diplomatic-Relations stuff, you know. They know that every culture has a different sense of humor. D-u-h.

And, yes, relationships between two different cultures sometimes cause tensions. Mexicans fellas use to see Spanish dudes as too straighforward, their sense of humor as too raw. Spanish use not to get the infused-with-irony Mexican sense of humor. Sometimes they take our words too seriously. I can tell. You can tell.

But the guys at The Guardian and The New York Times seem to ignore that--or are just plain arrogant-- and want the rest of us to know better about this. We All Should Be Offended By This Stupid Ad Made By These Spanish Troglodites is their message. Maybe they're even disappointed with the reaction of the Chinese authorities to The Ojos De Chinito Ad.

Well. I think it's the anglo guys who should know better this time around --oops; is using the word anglo somehow offensive in this context? Sorry; I should know better. Why should the whole world share the same sense of humor? Why should the rest of the world be engulfed by the gone-paranoic political correctness that's putting in danger Western civilization in countries like the U.S. and the U.K.?

Isn't trying to impose one's culture upon someone else's an act of intolerance? What do you think? Who should know better?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Una buena noticia, en medio de tanta violencia

Paola Espinosa y Tatiana Ortiz obtuvieron la(s) primera(s) medalla(s) para México en los Juegos Olímpicos de Pekín (no Beijing, ¡por favor!) al conquistar el tercer puesto en la categoría de clavados sincronizados desde la plataforma de 10 metros.

El video de los saltos que les valieron la medalla aún no está en línea, pero en cuanto aparezca, se los pasaré al costo. En tanto, el video de la premiación.

Si desean evitar vergüenza ajena con los comentarios patriotertos de los conductores de Televisa,
sugiero ver el video de la premiación de estas dos nadadoras sin sonido. Gracias.

Felicitaciones a las dos por su gran esfuerzo... y ojalá que el Gobierno de México resista a la tentación de convertirlas en carne de propaganda barata.

Monday, August 11, 2008

My Take on The Death Penalty and the Medellin Case

Comparto aquí una breve editorial que publiqué en Rumbo el viernes pasado a propósito de la ejecución de José Ernesto Medellín el pasado 5 de agosto en Huntsville, Texas. Durante varios años, Medellín se convirtió en el caso más visible de la campaña que entabló el gobierno de México ante instancias internacionales por hacer valer los derechos consulares de sus nacionales, consagrados en la Convención de Viena, de la cual es firmante Estados Unidos. Más sobre las repercusiones legales internacionales del caso Medellín, aquí.

Esta es la editorial:

Pérdida total

Deseo profundamente nunca verme en la piel de los involucrados en el caso de José Ernesto Medellín, quien fue ejecutado el 5 de agosto por su participación en el asesinato de dos jovencitas de Houston en 1993 como parte de un rito de iniciación a una pandilla llevado a cabo por él y otros jóvenes, incluido uno de sus hermanos.

Soy un convencido de que la pena de muerte apela sólo al concepto de justicia más primario, uno que no nos separa del resto de los animales, y no logro entender que alguien pueda sentirse aliviado al ver morir al victimario de un ser querido. Pero soy padre y no sé, ni quiero nunca saberlo, cuán insaciable sería mi sed de venganza si alguien tomara la vida de un hijo como hicieron Medellín y compañía con dos niñas de 14 y 16 años.

Como sociedad, empero, sólo perdemos si dejamos que los instintos nos gobiernen.

Al mismo tiempo, en el caso de Medellín el gobierno mexicano emprendió una ardua, pero complicada y cuestionable, defensa ante las cortes internacionales por los derechos consulares de sus ciudadanos teniendo como caso más visible precisamente a Medellín, quien cometió un crimen indefendible.

Por lo demás, como han expresado muchas otras voces, soy un convencido de que el gobierno de México debería comenzar por hacer respetar las garantías constitucionales de sus ciudadanos en su territorio, asolado como nunca por la violencia y la violación sistemática de los derechos humanos.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Blues' Already Kickin' In

This very same thing has happened to me before. Mi wife would just look at me with that tender Spanish look that suggests I'm unleashing my Mexican Sweet Tooth for Melodrama. Yeah, maybe. But it's an emotion I like to experience, though. It reminds me that, instead of leaving a place behind, I have actually added another room to that big borderless place I like to call home.

I'm talking about the Homeleaving Blues, la nostalgia del que se va, that is. Yesterday I dropped by Costco with my son Emiliano to get some stuff and, as every time he tags along to the supermarket, just before leaving he asked me to stop by the books section. While Emiliano was reading a Cat-in-the-Hat book on whales, a big graphic volume caught my eye. It was called Every town needs a trail, a beautiful book packed with outstanding pictures of Lady Bird Lake in Downtown Austin, formerly called Town Lake.

Valentina and my kids searching for nice rocks on Town Lake's shore. December 2005.

As I was going through the book, I couldn't keep from feeling a crunch in my guts. I've always said--always means, obviously, since 2004--my favorite place in Austin is Lady Bird Lake. It used to be one of our favorite weekend treats when we just arrived in the city; just strolling on its trail with my wife and kids every Sunday or Saturday morning was a blast. Then, around 2006, I started taking seriously my jogging and running proclivities, and the place where I would go, up until now, at least once a week to do some miles is there. Long story short, two weeks ago I ran 10 miles in Town Lake --I still don't get used to the new name-- for the very first time in my life.

So, I know there's one place I will miss about Austin when we leave --and we're leaving soon-- and it will be that damn trail on the shores of the Colorado River.

Who knew.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Guillermo del Toro on The Melancholic Sense of Living a Self-Imposed Exile

A propósito del estreno de Hellboy II en España, El País Semanal publicó el pasado 3 de agosto una interesantísima y añorable, como siempre que se trata de él, entrevista con Guillermo del Toro, que apenas acabo de leer -- in case you were wondering why I'm blogging about it three days later...

In case you missed it, a very fun sit down between Charlie Rose and The Three Amigos in 2007.

En ella, el cineasta tapatío habla de su autoexilio, de las razones que lo mantienen fuera de México y de cómo ve al país en el que creció y al que no piensa volver.

Y no sé, se me hizo el corazón de pollo al leerla, porque no puedo estar más de acuerdo con él. Y porque creo que no mucha gente ve las cosas de esta manera. A ver cómo lo ven ustedes.

Reproduzco acá abajo las respuestas de Del Toro relacionadas con México. Para leer la entrevista completa, que vale la pena pese a los gazapos de la transcripción, hagan click aquí, por favor.

"¿Y México, dónde queda en sus viajes y en su corazón?, ¿va mucho? Cuando puedo. Desde el secuestro de mi padre, menos. Estuvo secuestrado 72 días. Porque existe el lamentable error de creer que los directores ganamos un porcentaje importante de nuestras películas, que lamentablemente no es verdad. Me gustaría que lo fuera para tener, por ejemplo, un puto apartamento en París. Pero existe ese mito, y es un mito muy peligroso. Voy con cuidado, menos de lo que quisiera. La realidad es que si yo no tuviera hijos, iría más. Con las niñas, tengo un compromiso de existencia mucho más fuerte.

"¿Cómo ve su país? Las superestructuras de México están en un nivel de corrupción que resulta prácticamente imparable. Es un vórtice; y creo que estamos en el centro del vórtice. En tanto que un Gobierno favorece a las clases privilegiadas y los medios de comunicación, puede tener una imagen exterior mejor. Es impresionante; cuando se habla de una crisis social o económica en un país siempre hay una proporción. Pero lo que hay en México ahorita es una descomposición social, exactamente idéntica al proceso de putrefacción, de las estructuras sociales. Por ejemplo, lo que sucede en Ciudad Juárez con los asesinatos de mujeres. Hay momentos en que se siente la vida un poco como en el Lejano Oeste. Aunque es verdad que es un país donde hay mucha muerte, porque hay muchísima vida, aunque suene a cliché. Se vive mucho y se muere mucho. Es pura pasión. Pero he descubierto un país aún mucho más apasionado, Brasil. Al lado de Brasil, México es Suiza. Yo creo que todas las grandes estructuras son corruptas y horripilantes, la legal, la Iglesia, la del Ejército. A mí me apasiona México, y tengo la sensación de que me voy a morir sin contar las historias que tengo de México, pero?

"¿Tiene miedo? Lamento, no me arrepentiré, pero lamento, que haya películas que me hubiera gustado filmar en México, no las que he hecho, sino otras, contar historias. Y creo que no voy a poder, porque mis circunstancias no me lo permiten, no me permiten existir de manera cotidiana en una atmósfera de rodaje donde diariamente se publica a qué hora voy a salir de mi casa, en qué coche voy, a qué horas vuelvo, cosas que están en las hojas de llamado de una película? Sería una imprudencia mayúscula".

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

En caso de que se estén preguntando si es buen momento para volver a México...

El número de secuestros denunciados en todo el país a lo largo de 2007 se incrementó en 35%, reporta hoy el diario La Jornada.

Los estados con más secuestros denunciados son, obviamente, el Distrito Federal, el corruptérrimo Estado de México, Baja California, Guerrero y Jalisco....

Pero luego uno, cuando habla con amigos que habitan esos intensos parajes mexicanos, lo único que escucha todo el tiempo es: "no pasa nada, no es para tanto".

¿Será que de verdad no es para tanto, o que la brecha que separa a los dos Méxicos es tan grande que simplemente ya ni se reconocen? Denial, anyone?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tough, Tough Times, But The Economy Will Prevail. If La Migra Doesn't Get In The Way

The New York Times report on how hospitals are now helping la migra to do the job is one of these stories leave you asking where exactly we lost our minds. It might take some time and some labor shortages (which spells economic loss, for once) to realize this hypocritical approach to the immigration debate won't do but come back to haunt America and its economy. Not to mention millions of U.S. citizens who're losing their parents as a result of the raids.

Funny thing is, we'll always have Hollywood to remind us where, exactly, realistically, the money is. Last night we took our immigrant kids to an almost-empty-thanks-to-the supbrime-telenovela cinema to see Space Chimps--I got napping in the middle of the picture, btw, but they loved it, as opposed to Wall-E, which they hated; but that's another post for a different blog, I guess--and we could get a sneak peek of The Perfect Game, an upcoming movie that could've been perfectly named Under The Same Moon II.

Based on a true story, The Perfect Game tells the story of a group of boys from Monterrey, Mexico, who become the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series. It stars Patricia Manterola and Cheech Marin, among other Latino fixtures.

Unlike La Misma Luna, the low-budget Weinstein-distributed hit that made almost $23 million worldwide and has taken Kate del Castillo from Kate Who? to Hollywood's next Salma-America-Penelope-J.Lo, The Perfect Game was filmed totally in English, but its message is unequivocal: The time to tell stories about Mexicanos becoming The American Dream Hollywood Style has come. Or to say it differently: These Mexican dudes are here to stay and are rapidly becoming a defining force in our economy/politics/society beyond helping Chips & salsa outsell Ketchup and fries, so we better reach out to their pockets/souls.

I hust hope by the time The Perfect Game comes to a theater near you, la migra--or any hospital/local enforcement authority--has not yet deported your way back home. And that is a not-so-perfect game.


Dear all,
From now up until the last day of August, we'll be in the middle of our moving to California to join twenty other outstanding journalists from around the world for the Class 2009 of The John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University program, which starts in mid September. It will be a hectic time and I'm not sure I will be able to blog our immigrant odysseys as often as usual. So, in the meantime, please be patient if you come and see four- or five-day old posts. I will resume my blogging rituals once settled in beautiful NorCal.

Mientras tanto, un abrazo a todos y gracias por seguir visitando este changarro migrante.