Craving Home

May 26, 2012

Reading nuyorican poetry in English 255 this semester has made me want to read more texts from Latin@ writers. I just started reading Ruth Irupe Sanabria’s “The Strange House That Testififes.” I’ve really enjoyed reading the book of poems that focuses on Latino(a)s living in the United States. There is one poem that I love. Unfortunately, I can’t recall its name, but it is about a man who migrates to the United States and suffers from homesickness. Missing home is a common theme found in many of the texts we’ve read this semester. Sanabria captures the immigrant experience with this poem by using the beans as a symbol of home for the protagonist. He becomes obsessed with finding the sort of beans he eats back home. Everytime he eats the beans made in America, they taste too sweet to him. The poem ends with the man on his hand and knees in a supermarket searching for “unsweetened” beans in the back of the isle shelf.  These beans are his only way of having some part of home with him in America. It is a beautiful and moving poem which helped me understand the immigrant experience, an experience that is completely foreign to me.

Lost In Translation

May 26, 2012

I recently had an awkward moment where I was aprroached to translate something for a Latina woman who couldn’t speak or understand English. The problem was I had to tell her she had to wait for the next bus, but I couldn’t remember how to say “wait” in Spanish. The most frustrating thing was that I remembered like a half an hour later that it’s “esperar.” It was so embarassing. I was trying to get express what I wanted to say but couldn’t. I’m pretty sure I looked like I was doing charades…using my hands to communicate what my mouth couldn’t. I hate that my Spanish isn’t that strong…that I can’t tap into it when I need to. I could take lessons to learn how to better articulate myself in Spanish, but it upsets me that speaking Spanish doesn’t come naturally for me. But, at the same time, who says it has to?

I have someone in my life who gets on me because I don’t wear hoop earrings. Part of the reason why I don’t wear hoop earrings is because I don’t like that type of earring. The other reason is because the person I am referring to says “You’re not a real Latina if you don’t own a pair or wear hoop earrings.” I get so annoyed with this statement that I purposely avoid hoop earrings at all cost to prove a point. How does a 6.00 pair of silver hoop earrings make me closer to my native culture? It doesn’t. It’s just a pair of earrings that will eventually go green and have to be replaced.  Why is whether or not I feel connected to my culture dependent on a piece of jewelry? A Latina wearing huge hoop earrings just reinforces the stereotype that Latinas living in New York all look the same. I want to show that my “Puertoricaness” cannot be measured by what I wear or don’t wear. It cannot be measured externally.

Flipping around on the tube the other day with my best friend and we ended up watching an episode of “Girls,” the latest hit show on HBO. We’ d never seen it before, but heard a lot of buzz about it. After the episode, we had a lengthy discussion about how the show is called “Girls,” but we felt like it didn’t depict ALL women. The show centers around four white hipster women, but there are no women of color or women of mixed ethnicities on the show. Young women like me and my best friend who are Latina or part Latina aren’t included in the show, which takes place in New York which is one of the most diverse cities in the United States. “Girls” isn’t the only show that doesn’t feature Latinas; many tv shows don’t; or if they do, they show them in a negative light….as sex symbols or poor, “Ghetto”, and unsophisticated beings. Why can’t a show feature a complex Latina who is educated and has goals, interests, and dreams? Why is that character so hard to write?

Penny Verin-Shapiro’s “Why “Nuyoricans” Are Given the Cold-Shoulder by Other Puerto Ricans” was an fascinating article to read. It basically explored why non-migrants treat nuyoricans unkindly. It made me seriously think about my relationship with my Dad’s family that still live in Puerto Rico. Funny enough, despite the fact that I don’t speak Spanish as fluently as they do and I live in an urban American city, my Dad’s family and the people who live in their neighborhood don’t treat me with disrespect when I visit. They are always welcoming and loving. I can’t recall ever feeling like a “Nuyorican”….a member of the “outgroup”….while vacationing in my Dad’s motherland. I’ll be honest. Everytime I go over to Puerto Rico, there is a part of me that prepares myself to feel “awkward” or “left out,” but it never happens. Even though I didn’t grow up in Puerto Rico, I still feel drawn to the island and to its people. It’s like tapping into another part of myself that doesn’t always come to the surface when I am New York. It’s like unlocking a part of myself that I sometimes forget I have.

This video was so compelling. Even though it focuses on individuals who are both Black and Latino, being judged by what you look like is a concept I’m familiar with. This video has interviews with media figures who depict our world as one that still sees nationality/ethnicity as something that can be determined by how one looks.  Being Puertorican but looking the way I do has been and is a good thing and a bad thing. When I was a little girl, I went to an elementary school in a neighborhood in Brooklyn that was and still is dominated by Blacks and Latinos because my mom wanted me to be looked after by my grandparents who lived in this particular neighborhood, I was teased by my classmates for years because I wasn’t the same color as them. The problem was I am really light skinned and don’t resemble a “typical” Puertorican.  My classmates were dark or brown and I was porcelain. When I hit my teens, I noticed how being light skinned had its advantages. I remember being in show choir and getting the opportunity to audition for the “white” roles because I looked enough like a “white girl.” I recall going into a store with a friend of mine who was a darker-skinned Puertoriquena and having the owner treat us completely differently. She was followed and watched with a close eye and I was greeted then left alone.  Nowadays, many people who ponder about what I am assume that if I am Latina I have to be mixed with something else, like “Italian” because that can be the only reason why I would look the way I do. It’s an issue that needs to be spoken of more because there are a majority of Latinos, as the video shows, who face these same issues.

Pitbull is a mainstream rapper who has had a successful string of hits on the radio. I won’t lie…the first time I ever heard him, which is maybe 5 years ago, I didn’t like his style at all, but now, I’ll admit his music has grown on me. He’s not my favorite rapper, but I take pleasure in listening to his music. I enjoyed watching the portion of The Latino List where he talks about his humble beginnings as a Cuban living in the United States. I found it interesting that he describes himself as an interesting blend of things that don’t go together. He’s light skinned, has blue eyes, speaks Spanish but seems more comfortable with English, and raps. Anytime I try to explain to someone who belongs to an older generation who Pitbull is, I encounter difficulties. Pitbull is a unique breed of artist. He’s not quite “Pop,” but he’s not quite “Hip-hop.” He’s cuban, but embodies American culture in the way he speaks and dresses. Like him, his music is difficult to define because it belongs to so many different genres. His music is as mixed as he is.

Sara Contreras is a bold comedian who says whatever comes to mind. She tackles any subject regarding Latinos with ease. Nothing is off limits. At one point in this video, she brings up the issue of young Latinas becoming mothers when they’re still kids themselves. Contreras makes light of the fact that teenage Latinas are “popping out” babies left and right with boys they barely know and have just met. Even though she speaks of teen pregnancy in a jokingly manner, the seriousness of the issue still resonates with the audience. Contreras’ act made me immediately think of the scene in Nilda where Nilda’s mother discourages her from being a teen mom because she forsees that it will ruin her daughter’s life. Even though the scene from Nilda has a heavier tone to it than Contreras’ act, both works get the message across that Latina girls need to be smarter about sex and need to prevent themsleves from becoming just “another statistic” as Contreras nicely puts it.


Eli Castro is so hilarious in the the comedy show entitled Made in Puerto Rico. He is a fantastic story teller and he incorporates Spanish into his act flawlessly. What I found to be interesting was that he spoke of his personal experiences growing up and made them universal. The part of this comedy act that I really related to was the anecdote involving the attendant sheet. I love my name now, but in elementary school, after 6 years of correcting teachers when they misread my name on the attendance sheet, I was exhausted. It got to a point where I just let them call me what ever they wanted to call me. I wouldn’t correct them. Eventually, I started telling my teachers to call me “Isa,” a nickname I’ve had since birth but for some reason didn’t use in elementary school. Funny thing is, despite loving my name now, I still love my nickname more just because its short, sweet, and to the point. But yes, I am one of those kids who was burdened with having a really Puerto Rican name. Not just my first name, my WHOLE name: Isamar Eulogiana Caban. The irony is my mom, dad, and brother all have simple names and names that start with an “m.” I’m convinced they sabotaged my name on purpose, but I guess I’ll never know for sure. But like Castro, I am going to carefully consider what I’m going to name my kids and make sure it isn’t something they can hold against me for the rest of my life.


Cover Letter

May 25, 2012

Isamar Caban

Professor Alvarez

English 255

25 May 2012

I am truly going to miss this class. I had such a blast this semester. All of the discussions we had were thoughtful and compelling plus everyone in the classroom really seemed like they wanted to be there. I know for sure that I will take tools that I’ve learned in this class and apply them to the future classes I will be taking.

The “PIE” paragraph format has changed my life forever. My writing has truly not been the same since I started following that structure. I even got an opportunity to use it for the two major final essays I had in two of my other classes. It is such a simple way of organizing my writing and it’s efficient. A part of me wishes I had known about it sooner. Then, perhaps, I would already be an expert at it. I am really proud of the work I’ve done this semester because I really gave my work the attention and time that it needed. I don’t know if I can say that about every class I’ve taken at QC, but I can definitely say that for this one. The final essay has to be one of the most challenging finals I’ve ever had to do just because it required a lot of research, thought, and care prior to actually constructing it, but it felt good finishing something that I’d been working on for the past couple of months. Don’t get me wrong. It was stressful, frustrating, and exhausting at times, but it feels awesome to have a goal and fulfill it. Overall, I had a great time being a part of English 255 this semester. The experience was almost perfect; we did have to carry that red, heavy book 2 days a week afterall!