Invest In You

2020 has been a year fraught with stress and surprises. One thing that has been helpful to me has been to focus inward.

For years, I promised myself that I would become fluent in four languages before I die. It is a bucket list goal that I have nurtured since youth. In high school, I studied French. I learned a great deal from my one year of study. In years later, I maintained my knowledge through different techniques. But, I was far from fluent.

A few years ago, my husband and I traveled to the Dominican Republic. There, we met and connected with a couple from Brazil. Although neither of them knew English, I was able to communicate with them by speaking in Spanish. And, my Spanish speaking skills somehow facilitated my ability to understand their Portuguese.

Fast forward to the pandemic lockdown in March and April; I decided to pursue an item from my bucket list. I began to learn a foreign language, Portuguese, with Duolingo.

My language practice became very important to me. I appreciated the consistency that this program has given me during these last few months. And, I am happy to finally be working towards a long-time goal. I do believe that my Portuguese-speaking skills have been aided by my prior knowledge of Spanish. Nonetheless, my progress has been substantial. I am able to comprehend a large amount of Portuguese. More importantly, I am finding great joy in my studies.

If you are interested in investing in yourself, consider the following:

Invest Money

I have paid for a Duolingo membership. I practice 10-30 minutes each day. This program gives me a solid base on which I am building daily. But, there are applications that I have already been paying for that I can now use to enhance my language skills. I am watching Portuguese movies on Netflix and other streaming services.

Invest time

As stated above, I work on my language skills about 10 to 30 minutes daily. However, there are other ways that I invest time on my new language skills. I have enjoyed watching Brazilian programs on streaming networks. When I do use a TV show or movie to “study” I do two things. I watch the same movie twice. I read it with Portuguese subtitles and English language. Then, I watch with Portugues dubbing and English subtitles.

I listen to podcasts on Apple. The programs run between nine to twenty minutes. They are great commuting material. However, it is a good idea to go back and listen to the podcast one more time. I like to stop the podcast to practice with the podcaster. It gives me another opportunity to improve.

Another way in which I invest a little time is by reading Portuguese magazines, newspapers, and websites. Even 5 to 10 minutes daily of this type of reading, once or twice per week improves my language comprehension.

Invest in People

Of course, no language skill can be complete without investing in speaking and social opportunities. After all, the purpose of acquiring a new language is to increase your ability to connect with other humans. I have had it a little easier than most in this department. One of my co-workers speaks Portuguese. As such, I am able to engage in light conversation with him.

In time, I will need to actively create more speaking opportunities for myself. At that point, I foresee scheduling coffee talks with my colleague in person. Additionally, I have a Brazilian friend that I want to engage with remotely via Zoom.

I hope you will excuse my language-laden post. But, I promise you can apply the ideas that I shared here to any goal you may have. Once you decide to invest in yourself, your next step is to decide how you will invest your time and money into this goal. And, if you need someone to brainstorm, hit me up in the comments. I would love to help you create a plan.

The truth is that you are worth investing time, money and attention. You can start today by asking yourself…

How will you invest in you?

Book Review: They Call Me Guero

They Call Me Guero by David Bowles is a great middle grade poetry book.

The book features a Mexican-American, middle-school boy who lives on the Texas-Mexico border. He is called Guero because of his light complexion and “white-looking” appearances. For me, this was particularly poignant as the book’s protagonist reminded me of my very own Guero, the oldest of my brothers who’s corn-colored hair and blueish-green eyes earned him this nickname in our family.

The poems in the book share with the reader Guero’s everyday experiences. The topics and titles in the book are wide-ranging. They include “First Day of Seventh Grade”, “Los Bobbys” (an ode to his squad, three boys named Bobby), “Joanna La Fregona” (a poem about his special girl), and “Father’s Day.”

I found Guero’s story endearing and beautiful. This excellent book showcases the rich culture of the Texas borderlands. It is filled with heart and told from the perspective of a hopeful, young man. If you enjoy books like Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Diary of a Wimpy Kid you will love this book.

I highly recommend it and encourage you to consider giving it to a young person this holiday season.

Loving Latino Shows

Life in the time of Corona for me has meant trying to find little ways to entertain myself whether through books, television shows, and movies.

Recently, I have been very impressed by the quality of programming that features Latino stars.

One Day at a Time.

This show came onto the scene in 2017. Since then, it has proven itself a modern recreation of the 1980s and 1990s family that I loved growing up. This show is a family sitcom spearheaded by a forty year old woman who lives with her two teenage children and elderly mother. It tackles racism, sexism, anti gay sentiment, colorism (racism based on skin tone), etc.

Gentefied.

This show is A-MA-ZING!!!

Most of the time, I find that shows tend to only show one type of Latino character. But, this show is the exact opposite. It shows Latinos in all of their potential: community leader, community raider, dreamer, developer, oppressor, and oppressed. This story gives a well-rounded view of a community trying to understand itself.

A family owns a taco shop in a Los Angeles neighborhood on the verge of gentrification. The family members that work in the taco shop have other experiences that cause them to see their changing community in a variety of ways. It is brilliant. And, it has hella heart!

Diablero Season Two

I absolutely fell in love with this show during its inaugural season. The show’s premise is that a group of friends living in Mexico City, Mexico are bound together by their true calling, demon fighting. The gritty scenery and fast-moving storyline make this show especially appealing to me. I was a big fan of the Buffy the Vampire Series so this show really appealed to me.

Party of Five (2020 Reboot)

If you have not had the opportunity to do so, watch the first episode of the 2020 reboot of Party of Five.

Like the 1994, the show features a sibling group of five young people left to fend for themselves after their parents are no longer around. Unlike the 1994 show, the 2020 version features a Latino family. The parents are not killed. Rather, they are deported back to Mexico. The children, all US citizens, are left to live in the family home and manage the parents’ restaurant.

I particularly loved this reboot because as an immigration attorney, I have seen versions of this deportation story play out. I strongly encourage you to vies this show.

The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia.

This 2020 Netflix show is the perfect sitcom. It is reminiscent of the 80s and 90s teenage based comedy that I forged my young life.

Ashley Garcia is a teenage genius. She moves to the west coast for a job opportunity after graduating from MIT. She goes to live with an uncle who is a high school teacher and football coach. She engages in high-jinx friendships and potential romance with some of the students at her uncle’s school. It is super cute.

Mr. Iglesias

This show reminds me of Welcome Back, Kotter.

I features stand up comic, Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias as a history teacher at a Long Beach high school. He serves as mentor to both students and teachers alike. The show delivers fun one liners and positive lessons.

Of all of the shows I have featured two, only two- Gentefied and Diablero- I would caution you to watch when the children are not around. The other three- Party of Five, Ashley Garcia, and Mr. Iglesias- would be excellent shows for a pizza and tv night with the family.

What shows do you recommend for me to add to my list?

Diluting People Power

Awww, fall. The crisp breeze reminds you to pull out your favorite sweaters. The somewhat functioning college football (I live in a Big Twelve community) tells us that people are trying to pretend all is normal. But things are not normal. Covid-19 continues to plague communities worldwide. In the US, the 2020 Presidential election has begun. Early voting is taking place.

Unlike in the past election, United Statians are making efforts to participate in early voting. This has resulted in many states with long lines and citizens waiting for hours to cast a ballot. The media touts this as a demonstration of the passion that US citizens are showing to make their voices heard. That’s plausible.

However, it is also plausible and more likely that we are witnessing voter suppression in action. In 2013, the US Supreme Court voted to invalidate key aspects of the Voting Rights Act. This important legislation was created in 1964. It was intended to ensure that all US citizens had access to voting. For all who may not know, this was a real problem in the post-civil war US.

AND, IT CONTINUES TO BE A PROBLEM NOW.

As soon as the US Supreme Court announced its decision, States went into suppression mode. Texas initiated new “voter identification laws” that made less people (and yes, I am talking US citizens) eligible for voting. Many States began “redistricting” efforts that diluted the power of voters in individual communities. In fact, these problems persist today.

The sad thing is that the people who want to reduce the powers of people are now being blatant about it. Republican Kansas state senator Susan Wagle was caught on video talking to right-wing cronies about redrawing the maps so that they can remove US House representative Sharice Davids (the lone Democrat representing Kansas) from her seat and replace her with a conservative. The Governor of Texas changed the rules regarding ballot boxes. He has pushed to limit them to one per county. Why is this a problem? Because 41 counties in Texas are bigger than the State of Rhode Island.

But all of these actions are wrong. They strike at the chord of what we tell the world that it means to be “American.” Overseas, we want to tout ourselves as a beacon of democracy. Stateside some of our elected leaders are nothing more than part of an authoritarian regime. Overseas we want to encourage people to embrace democracy and capitalism. Stateside our government continues to suppress the people of color, women, and young voters.

Worse than the fact that we are suppressing the will of US citizens, is that these actions serve to undermine our position on the world stage. These government actors make it so that our own military, I am talking low level soldiers here, are at greater risk when they serve tours overseas. These actions weaken the credibility of our diplomats. They even make it harder for US citizens to travel freely outside of this country.

My hope for our country is that 2020 will be a wake up call for all. My hope is that people will not assume that casting their vote for a different Presidential candidate will be enough to get our country back on track. It will not. I hope that once the election is over, people will begin the real work of democracy. From my perspective, the things that can help get our country to fulfill the promise it makes to us all are as follows:

Increasing the number of political parties

I don’t necessarily have a lot of ideas about how this happens. But, I do wonder why in a country of 330 million people we only have two major political parties. I believe that this puts us at a huge disadvantage. And, it puts the political parties in peril. Case in point, when I first obtained the right to vote through naturalization, I was so excited to register as a Republican. After all, I reasoned, thanks to a Republican (President Ronald Reagan) my family and I had been the beneficiaries of amnesty, a political move that ensured millions of undocumented immigrants the opportunity to legalize their status in the US.

Unfortunately, the party that I long believed in is unlike the party I learned to respect. I understood that it was a party of small government. But, now I ask myself how it is possible that a political party advocating for small government is pushing to give the government control the bodies of 50% of its population? The party that I thought encouraged civic engagement now seeks to oppress its voters. And, I do not understand how the party of Lincoln has now become the party of white supremacists. That used to be the goal of the southern democrats. Don’t believe me? Remember that guy George Wallace, governor of Alabama who fought integration of schools? Yeah, he was a democrat.

Abolishing the electoral college

This is perhaps my most ambitious wish. The abolishment of the electoral college would require major support to amend the US constitution. But, this action would ensure that everyone’s vote actually counted in future Presidential elections. Currently, the vote of the people does not actually ensure a Presidential win. We learned this in 2001 with Bush v. Gore and were reminded of this lesson in 2016 with Clinton vs. Trump.

Putting term limits on federal representatives

This is crucial to ensure that our public servants (i.e. representatives and senators) do not cross the threshold from serving the public to become political conduits of lobbyists and corporations. It ensures that representatives do not get to stay in power without bringing any real results to their constituents. And, it ensures that new ideas and younger people can contribute to creating the society that they desire. After all, it is younger people who must live longer with the outcomes of policy decisions made at high levels of government.

Reducing dark money in politics

Of course, money is a problem in politics. In 2010, the US Supreme Court issued its opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This case reversed years of campaign finance restrictions. It put power in corporations and the ultra wealthy by enabling unlimited spending in elections. It further reduced the power of the federal election commission to promote and protect this country.

But it is not just the decision in Citizens United that has turned our elections into a shitshow. Media also plays a hand. CBS chairman was quoted in 2016 stating that although Donald Trump may not be good for America, he certainly is good for the ratings of TV networks, specifically his.

This is not all. In 2020, NBC chose to host a Trump town hall meeting at the same time as ABC was running a town hall meeting for Biden. ABC’s program was scheduled earlier and intended to be a Presidential debate. When Trump pulled out of the debate, NBC rewarded him with his own town hall meeting on three of their channels. Instead of giving the people of our country the opportunity to watch both and evaluate their choices, NBC chose to create a fight for ratings.

These types of actions must stop. Our country’s future requires all of our participation. It requires us to have rules in place that protect all of our people. Our country deserves more than what corporations, politicians and outside actors (like foreign governments) are trying to push us to become. It requires all of us to remember that WE THE PEOPLE must fight towards ensuring that we will all have opportunities for LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.

What ideas do you have to improve our country’s political structure?