27.10.08

Another day off in Acapulco...

I am very sad to informar everyone that my distinguished and ilustre colleague, Mac Book, has died. Therefore, I am left to either subir upstairs to the cibercafe donde me cobran 8 pesos por hora (around 50 cents) to use Internet or try the laboratorio de computadoras en mi universidad which frequently don't funcionan. Actualmente I'm at my boss's house using her home computer. I suppose not having access to the net or cable is actually a "blessing in disguise" (I use quotes to distance myself from any possible value in said refrain apart from the figurative) because it forces me to read and... read some more. Sin embargo, se dificulta taking photos since I have nowhere to upload them and also making music on Garageband.

Currently I'm juggling two novels, one a collection of essays and interviews about the student movement of 1968 here in Mexico and another about the "anexation" of Mexican territories in the 19th century by the U.S, "Mexico mutilado". I bought a third at the Feria de Libros in Mexico City but know I can't start it just yet until I at least semi-finish the first two.

It's another hot humid day and I wish I would have gone to the beach. I went yesterday and got a bit quemado. On the way to the casa de mi tutora I saw another crucero in the bay presumably dumping a load of turistas to spend money in restaurants, the malls or the various puestecitos that line the streets anxiously awaiting customers. (On my street there are various clearings between houses and businesses through which you can see out on the entire bay) If only I had binoculars and a clear view from my apartment... Reminds me of my grandparents house whose home in Baldwin Hills of the Los Angeles metropolitan area had a clear view of the city with the Hollywood sign in the background. My brother and I would use their telescope to follow police sirens and spy on people.

I walked to the school to use their Internet only to learn that there in fact are no classes today because of the holiday; the day Guerrero became a Mexican state. Gives me another day to catch up on lesson planning, translating and painting. Watching America is the news website that translates foreign news articles into English to provide a different perspective on U.S. current events and politics. As for the painting, I'm taking an art class down on the Costera and have just started working with oils. My first work will be of a photo I took of a tiny street in Evora, Portugal last year. Hopefully it turns out).

Some of the things that I've failed to blog about include the recent elections that took place a principios of October. I went to two sponsored fiestas by two of the candidates for presidente municipal of Acapulco, Añorve and Walton, almost getting ejected from the latter because I showed my Az driver's license and it was closed to the public. The candidates all had parties in different clubs for the younger constituency to "Rock the Vote."

The most interesting thing I suppose that I'd like to touch upon is my experience as a "mixed" person living here in Acapulco where there is quite a diversity in regards to racial phenotype of the inhabitants. In the U.S. of course I am always questioned about my background; if I'm latino, Brazilian, Saudia Arabian, half-Black/half-White, Puerto Rican, Dominican... Because a simple "I'm Black" won't do, I am forced into details every single time. Of course I like sharing my Cape Verdean heritage but not necessarily when I can expect a "Huh?" or "Where?" almost every single time. Here in Mexico it's at least more direct and to the point. "You're not Black" is the usual response that I receive here revealing the difference in racial categorization that exists between the U.S. and México. It's that they're ignorant but that for them Blackness is more related to the color of one's skin. One student, who is perhaps a few shades darker than I, says to me, "I´m black, you're not." Another is surprised to learn that Beyonce identifies as Black because of her light complexion. I plan on providing some lessons about Blackness to challenge their perspective giving my own experience to exemplify that race in America is a lot more complicated than some of them think. (I do self-identify as Black but also in other situations or contexts identify as Cape Verdean, or gay, a type of schizophrenia identitaria that we all realmente possess).

In relation to race in America, a few students, and I presume there are more, have curiously learned the N-word and used it in my presence. Not directed at me but to refer to black people in general. I would like to include on of my conversations to demonstrate its usage:

Me: "I´m not sure you want to use that term" (bracing myself for a discussion on black identity in the US and gathering my thoughts)
Ismael: "Why there's no niggers here. Do you see any niggers?" (again it hits me over the head like a bag of bricks leaving me dumbfounded)
Me: "Um... (again blindsided by his matter-of-fact use of the word) de hecho yo me identifico como afroamericano, osea, "black"..."
Ismael: "No eres negro...eres moreno" (in other words because my skin color isn´t dark enough, literally negro, I don´t classify as black)
Me: "Pero es que en los eeuu ser black no se refiere al color de la piel sino a un grupo social... Y es MUY importante que entiendas que no se puede usar ese término, osea, en serio es RE-importante que entiendas su fuerza..."
Ismael: (saying something like:) "Okay, okay tranquilo, tranquilo" (obviously paying more attention to the fact that I was visibly upset than to what I was trying to say)

The other two friends who used the word did so unknowlingly of its context but this person specifically seemed to be fully aware of its value. Although none of them have experience of visiting or living in the U.S. Needless to say, hopefully my presence as an African-American can help the students to better understand the black experience(s) in America.

To end this entry I would also like to note that I am moving to a different place yet to be found with hopefully roommates, less humidity and bugs and a little bit more space... and probably for less dinero.

Happy early Halloween and Día de los Muertos para todos.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Hi, Brandon! Your writing in this blog is so expressive and smooth. I wish finding your voice when you did your Fulbright essay had been as easy!! I knew it was there, in you, somewhere! I've been really enjoying your observations and stories. The issue of race and "black" and where one stands in the world is always with us, isn't it? One of the reasons Fulbright has been encouraging persons of color to apply for the Award is that you are able to share your life stories within other cultures and do exactly what you are trying to do in Mexico--teach others that the issue is WAY more complicated than they could ever imagine. Be glad you are not in Ohio for this election--as a "battle ground" state, we are inundated hourly with ads, ads, ads...I love Obama (already voted) and sorry that I can't support your fellow Arizonian! :)
Much love and affection,
Diane