Friday, December 7, 2012

The Language of Prevention

This essay first appeared in The Texas Observer, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012.

Six years ago, my ob-gyn found two millimeters of cancerous cells on my cervix and told me that my uterus should be removed as a precaution. I steeled my nerves and decided I would not have the procedure. I was 38 years old. I wanted to keep my uterus, keep my body whole, keep all of my spirit. I’m not sure where this idea came from. I’d never considered myself a deeply spiritual or religious person. (Perhaps agnostic theist is the best term to describe my beliefs.)

As I pondered my response, I recalled my interview, years earlier, with Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California at Los Angeles. He told me that the Latino population’s medical needs were different from the Anglo population’s, citing attitudes toward heart transplants as an example.

“Hispanics believe, as did the pre-Columbian Nahua Indians, that the soul resides in the heart, and wonder whether a heart transplant recipient could become a different person after the operation,” he said.

I found it ridiculous at the time. But my experience with cancer—I was diagnosed with Stage 1A micro-invasive cervical cancer in 2005—has changed my mind. Today, with good reason, health care providers and researchers talk about the importance of cultural competency, the concept that the prevention and treatment of diseases are affected by the culture, gender, race and ethnicity of patients. In short, belief systems affect people’s attitudes toward disease and treatment, and to be effective, health care professionals have to understand these differences.

To read the rest of the article click here.

Let's hear it for the Power of Moms!



This article first appeared in the Power of Moms website, June 7, 2012.

Motherandering: (n) A close cousin to meandering

An example of the way I run my household is chronicled in Laura Joffe Numeroff’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. For those unfamiliar with Numeroff, the picure book is a story about a little boy who offers a cookie to a precocious visiting mouse, which sets off a chain reaction of events.

When I wake up in the morning, sit on the couch, and read the newspaper, my sons, like the mouse in the Numeroff story, decide they want milk. When I try to ignore them, it gets difficult to concentrate on the newspaper in front of me because both boys sit two inches from my face and repeat, “I want milk” no less than twenty times without taking a breath. So I get up and walk toward the kitchen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Can you guess which is the Mexican Immigrant?

Hey Senator Tommy Williams,

If you were a peace officer and you stopped one of these individuals for running a red light or failure to make a complete stop at a stop sign, which one would you question about their immigration status?

You shouldn’t have questioned a single one. They are all members of my family and were born and raised in the United States. They’ve been here for four, five, and six generations. The word xenophobia comes to mind but in this case it wouldn’t be accurate because we're not foreigners.

Monday, April 25, 2011

When it comes to educating Latinos, America needs to change its mindset

This article first appeared in the Austin American-Statesman's online website, Thursday, March 10, 2011.

Christine Granados, Special Contributor

I am a part of this minority-majority in Texas that the new Census figures have spotlighted. As a member of this group and as an educator, I believe we can no longer teach high school history, English, and social studies the same way we have been teaching these courses.

I say this speaking from my own experience of growing up in El Paso, a minority-majority city comprised of 80 percent Mexican Americans. As a Mexican American, I saw that the contributions of Americans of Mexican descent in Texas were ignored in the public school system.

In my formative public school years in the 80s, I did not read a single Mexican American author. This wasn't done consciously, and I'm not bringing it up to assign blame but to stress a need. Looking back on it now, this strikes me as odd. It was strange that in a town which shares a border with Mexico, a town that is populated by a Mexican American majority, in a classroom filled with brown faces, that not one brown face was represented in a textbook or in literature I read?

I believe this is part of the reason why I am an anomaly and not the norm. I graduated high school and college and earned a master's degree. The majority of the Mexican American students in El Paso or in Austin do not achieve this amount of education.

Is it any wonder that we are reading about educators who are having a difficult time reaching lower income students today? For the record, when most people or educators say "low-income students," it's a euphemism for Mexican American students. As a matter of record and fact, Mexican Americans are at the bottom of the wage earning scale and are considered low income, poor, or working class.

Now we have this large Mexican American population in the schools, but these students are not seeing themselves, their lives, their parents, their ancestor's contributions to this country in the literature and textbooks they read. Is it any wonder so many Latinos are failing or not at engaged in learning or in school?

They are disconnected because there is nothing that validates who they are or where they come from in their readings or in their society.

Teach students about where they come from with stories that reflect their lives and backgrounds, and you'll instill in them a sense of purpose, community and pride. It's that simple. The building block for their future, our future, is a student who has been validated, grounded, and supported by an educational institution. At a small university in South Texas, we are meeting this need headon.

Mexican Americans and their contributions have been ignored too long in this state, really in this country. We are

correcting that slight ourselves at Centro Victoria at the University of Houston-Victoria. We're a center for Mexican American literature and culture, whose main purpose is to promote the full spectrum of a literary arts education so that not only Mexican Americans will be better able to understand themselves but so that all Americans can too.

Centro Victoria has developed lesson guides for teachers titled "Made in Texas." The guide offers 30 weeks worth of lessons based on literature from writers of Mexican American descent.

Again, based my experience, and those educators at Centro Victoria traveling around the state, we are finding that these stories are reaching not just the general population students but connecting with the "harder to reach or teach" students.

Here is a direct quote from a teacher in an El Paso school district that is 91 percent Mexican American who has already adapted the guide into her curriculum:

"I have structured my curriculum so that we begin the school year reading short stories, then we segue way in to novels towards the end of the year. Last month when you visited we had been reading some classic short stories and the students were just HATING it. After you came and visited the class, I used part of the Made In Texas curriculum and it was a huge hit! We read the Lalo Delgado, Tomas Rivera and the Alicia Gaspar de Alba content and I had students coming and asking questions about the authors' backgrounds and one student even took a solo trip to the library to see if he could find more literature by Tomas Rivera!

"I can't thank you enough for putting together this collection and making it accessible to educators. Material such as this is making my students excited about reading, and is inviting them in to literature by speaking the language that they identify with and enjoy. I know that in January when they begin reading novels, they will be better prepared and more optimistic about the text in front of them."

Again, I speak from experience when I say, we Americans need to change our mindset and validate Americans of Mexican descent by teaching them how they contributed to this country.

Granados, who was born and raised in El Paso, is a freelance journalist.

Find this article at:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Brown Energy

Much like the newly developed chip that generates energy using body movement to power electronic devices, Latinos will power the workforce and recharge this country's birthrate. Here in Texas, Mexican-Americans are the fastest growing population.

Latinos account for 38 percent of the total population in the Lone Star State - growing by 42 percent, according to Census Bureau statistics. When looking at the schools, the Texas Education Agency reported that half of Texas' school children are Latino.

The University of Houston-Victoria not only understands this, but it realizes the far-reaching benefits something as basic as "exposing people to culture" will have on the future of Texas. This is why UHV's Centro Victoria is bringing in American writers, musicians and playwrights Jesus Treviño, Rolando Hinojosa, Davíd Garza and Josefina Lopez April 19-22 as part of a Community "Pachanga," or party. The center's purpose is to introduce Americans to the cultural and artistic contributions of the Mexican-American community in the United States.

To read the rest of the column go to this link
at the Victoria Advocate.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Spanglish a moldy dilemma in our midst

Thought I would post this guest column from the Victoria Advocate, because I haven't updated in a quite a while.

Originally published September 29, 2010 at 5:36 p.m., updated September 29, 2010 at 5:36 p.m.

Pues, what can I say besides quiúbole a todos.

I was born and raised in the low class, rascuache way so many Spanish and English purists find offensive.

I'm one of "them" third generation Mexican-Americans who grew up along the arid, sandy border of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico.

I am a product of the bastardization of the English and Spanish language, born and raised in a Spanglish speaking household.

My father would parquear his troca in our yarda. The grownups in my life were always getting themselves into these wonderful linguistic predicaments.

In my father's youth, he and his friends were on a first-name basis with the patrol officers in the neighborhood.

The officers' stopped and questioned them as teenagers daily. On one such occasion my dad asked one of the bilingually impaired officers in his most polite Spanglish, "¿Pasale, la bacha, compa?" Which translated in English, loosely, means, "May I have a puff off your cigarette?" The officer tightened his grip around his gun and replied in a serious tone that "an officer and his badge are never separated." He mistook the Spanglish word bacha to mean badge.

Spanglish may be ugly to some, but along the U.S./Mexican border it is a way of life. And being the ugly American that I am, I must argue my case for the proliferation of the Spanglish language by using a movie reference.

The movie in question is "Code 46" and stars Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton. If you haven't seen it, I recommend renting it - it's in Spanish, too.

Although the plot and acting are just adequate, what is revolutionary in the film is the way Frank Cottrell Boyce uses language.

In this sci-fi romance he used a hybrid, or as some would call it, bastardization, of English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese in the script.

When the actors used this international speak, it was unsettling at first, but then it reminded me of reading Shakespeare in the original Old English or, what I imagine Cervantes would be like in the original Old Spanish. It took some getting used to, but after getting the cadence, I wanted to hear more of the mezcla.

The movie subplots concerned immigration, globalization and the tension that's created when people with different beliefs attempt to live together, much like today's society. I could see our future in their words.

Lalo Guerrero saw the future and embraced it. He sang in Spanglish back in the 1930s.

A visionary who saw what many are now just understanding - our world is getting smaller, and languages are going to continue to collide, crash and coalesce into this melodious linguistic symphony and evolve into something we can't even imagine.

Spanish and English purists on both sides of the border need to get out of their classrooms and ivory towers and live in the real world.

They need to shop, eat, love and laugh.

I mention laugh last because of the seriousness they attach to their ideals of preserving Cervantes' language or the Queen's English.

A person can no more preserve language than can stop mold from growing on bread inside a room temperature pantry in Central Texas.

Anyone who has spent any time near the U.S./Mexican border, on either side, knows that there is no stopping progress.

Progress is about cultures becoming so entangled that we don't know where one ends and the other begins.

It means using a cachito from this language to enhance speech.

What purists want is a sterilized version of language, and what they are really asking for is to stop evolution.

If Alexander Fleming had been a rigid, overtly responsible scientist who protected the integrity of his Petri dishes at all costs, he would have never left those bacteria samples out by an open window and we wouldn't have penicillin today.

Spanglish is the linguistic accident that insures our evolution.

We're all better for it because if you ain't growing, you're dying.

Christine Granados is a freelance writer and author of "Brides and Sinners in El Chuco." She lives in Victoria and teaches English at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poetry for the masses

I have never once gotten through Pat Mora’s poem “Elena” without crying, so heartfelt and beautiful—a mother’s worst fear. It’s the last line that chokes me. Conversely, I can’t read Angela Vigil-Piñón’s “por la calle Zarzamora” without laughing at the coquettish women that saunter into the bar. I have been one of those women, Aqua Net y todo. I have seen these women and they ARE beautiful. I’ve been thinking and thinking about the truth in Angela de Hoyos “Go Ahead, Ask Her”
……is it
not true
that when
a woman
all the gentlemen

but when
a wife
she cries

So sad, so right, so thoughtful.

Is this chicana poetry? Is this poetry for masses? Who are the masses? Can they be one and the same? Wish everyone could see what I see…