Monthly Archives: October 2012


October 29, 2012

Photo of "The Art of Inclusion #1" by Stella Beli.

Photo of “The Art of Inclusion #1” by Stella Beli.

“Gender as a category of analysis explodes as technologies remap the category to reinvent fresh ways of interpreting sexualities and social/political desire.”

Emma Pérez, The Decolonial Imaginary (14)

By Marie “Keta” Miranda 

It has been more than two years that the MALCS membership has been in a challenging discussion on inclusion in our organization. As I try to draw lines from so many conversations, I see that the issue of a “woman’s space” has permeated the contentious arguments for or against expanding categories of membership. What has developed in this process, what has become a central focus of Chicana feminisms is the conscious effort to negotiate, to shift from the types of binary oppositions that fix and position us at the margins.

As Gloria Anzaldúa, Chela Sandoval, Emma Pérez articulated a fronteriza/border- lands, differential consciousness, and decolonial imaginary—each in their own way defining a third space, a way to express lived experience—the concepts served to explode existing categories, producing many more liberatory forms of analysis and ways of examining life lived at the borderlands. Similarly, Jose Esteban Muñoz’s concept of “disidentifications” acknowledges the theories of women of color and particularly Chicana feminisms to understand how subordinate subjects resist dominance. Disidentification becomes a decolonizing act–a political strategy of survival that finds alternative routes of desire, identification, and power.

As MALCS emerged from the debates about gender within NACCS in the eighties, these questions remained “unsettled” and continued to make our MALCS space one where our differences are left open-ended…unsettled, waiting, and anticipating. As Chicana feminists began defining what occurs in third spaces —the processes, the ways of doing things—has rested on a continual need to find our histories, of learning again what our practice was and what it could be like. MALCS has also become that alternative space, the third space of developing ideas, nurturing our voices and building solidarity.

As MALCS began to work through these topics we additionally processed the memberships discussion when it came time to update our bylaws, to develop more inclusive terms of membership. Through workshops directly addressing inclusion and in workshops discussing our bylaws, we discussed what a change in membership would mean. We also learned that bylaws are guidelines and therefore are not only amendable, but can reveal or reflect a future vision, directing or indicating a move forward. Ex-Officio Monica Torres and I shared a conversation in this process where we both expressed pride in how this organization takes up very problematic issues. We jump into the fray of battle; we take up previous questions, one that we thought or assumed settled long ago. We are challenged each of us by other members…we can’t be too comfortable…there is much more to understand…to perceive differently.

As MALCS’ previous chair, at various times, I had to write to members to request that they un-invite their partner who significantly contributed to the work, or to a professor to un-invite a student who provides a different path to understanding, or to ask a chapter to un-invite a participant/member from attending the MALCS Institute. At those times, I worked and revised and reworded these requests, looking for words that would honor the restrictions. How to express that MALCS space was a mujer space, woman’s space, to give us the space to articulate, to conjecture, to find, to express in words that go against the grain, negotiate and resist without also excluding. That is what our space has meant to us, and it has been an important one. Yet, so many more have engaged the essays, the poems, the films, the art of women of color feminists, moved by or ignited by new ways of thinking about race, class, gender, sexualities, abilities no longer contained by borders.

It was Maylei Blackwell who best expressed for me our decision to include trans and gender non-conforming people in the membership of MALCS as the legacy of Chicana feminisms: “they are the children” of our labor. Finding space in MALCS–the issues of who to include and to exclude–aren’t put to rest with a bylaw change. Will transgender and intergender folks want to come to this space? What can/will MALCS do to make this a safe(r) space? Is this changed space only a temporary one? A place to hone one’s voice, to find some respite—as it has been for so many of us?

As I think through my own process of thinking what inclusion means to MALCS—from an essentialist definition of woman/mujer—to consider what MALCS can become, I find that we, MALCSistas, have to go to new ground, new engagements, new territory, to unsettle what we have assumed. We need to re-consider, review, and even rework what “feminist practice” is. In many instances, it seems that feminist practice is about cordiality as discussions become heated. Yet each discordant voice helps us to hear; each clamor alerts us to listen. At other times, feminist practice underscores love for one another. I think love is the premise of our discussions and that it should recognize disagreement. We have a long way to go. The inclusion of transgendered and intergendered folks has shifted the ground…this MALCS space. It shows us where we have to go and it reveals that we need to find our definition of feminist practices, of good practices. Our MALCS elders brought these issues to the table when it was founded and it shows how difficult yet unafraid our elders are. We are the children of those irreverent theories, those conflicting experimentations, of those words that speak to our multiple experiences, of this MALCS space.

As I took up this essay I heard that disagreements were circulating, that emails were starting up re-engaging the bylaws change on membership. I wish this conversation could take place on our MALCS web, here on Mujeres Talk or via the listserv to all members. Our engagements, our disagreements, our differences make MALCS the unique organization that it is. Our work, our discussions and debates attempt to make MALCS a “safe(r) space” to find ways of creating bridges between our many communities.

Our bylaws change reflects more than three years of discussion. Members disagreeing, members finding ways to bring the discussion to the table, finding ways of putting the hallway discussions onto the floor of our panels and workshops, on our agendas. It has been and will continue to be debated, however, I don’t think we will go back; I think the discussion of inclusion has never been closed/settled.  Our membership finds ways of interrogating, intervening and changing what we look like, of who we are. The bylaws change begs the question: who else will be included? That answer will reveal itself as we find how our practices and theories sometimes blend, collide, sometimes even confuse. And as we develop a working definition of feminist practice, I believe, we will develop discursive and material practices, revealing our limits as well as showing us new paths/circuits for liberation.

Marie “Keta” Miranda is on the faculty at University of Texas at San Antonio in Mexican American Studies and a former Chair of MALCS.

Understanding Diabetes to Help Yourself, Your Family Members, Your Friends . . .

October 22, 2012

Amelia María de la Luz Montes

Amelia María de la Luz Montes

By Amelia María de la Luz Montes

Diabetes is different from other diseases. Once you have it, you have it for life. There is no remission. Your pancreas will remain either completely non-working (type 1) or forever debilitated (type II). With diabetes, if you want to live a long life with a balanced glucose level, it is primarily up to you to completely change your eating and exercise habits (even with medication). Unlike cancer which most often concerns medical doctors locating and excising a tumor, followed by chemotherapy and/or other medications, the burden of controlling blood sugars rests upon the individual, not in excising the pancreas or getting a new one. An individual with diabetes could be taking medication like metformin, a well-known drug that has been on the market a long time and has had a good record in assisting the body to control sugar or glucose levels, but that is not enough. Notice that I wrote “assisting” because, again, the burden falls upon the individual. You can take all the drugs you want, but without a diet you create yourself that fits your chemical makeup, and without a good exercise regimen—complications from diabetes will appear (retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy).

And that is why doctors become so very frustrated with patients.  “I tell them until I’m blue in the face,” a doctor once told me.  “I tell them that it’s up to them.  They have to control their glucose levels.  A pill is not the answer.  Most people are not willing to make any changes until it’s too late—until they can’t walk, they go blind, they go on dialysis.”

I’ve thought about what this doctor and others have similarly said. And in reading so much about this disease, I’ve also understood another aspect to the patient’s inabilities to change.

First:  It’s very hard to come home after a diagnosis and be told to completely change your diet. To what? How does one know? Insurance companies often will not include “Diabetes Education” for patients until they are actually diagnosed with the disease. For those who are diagnosed as “Pre-Diabetic” (meaning that there is evidence of high glucose levels but not quite high enough for the diabetes diagnosis), there is no education. This should be the exact time when much of the education should take place. Or, if it is apparent that the disease is a genetic factor in an individual’s family history, that individual should have the opportunity to enroll in diabetes education even if she/he may never manifest the disease—at least they are more equipped to understand themselves and help other family members or friends who have it.

Second:  Michael Montoya’s book, Making the Mexican Diabetic (2011) is a must-read for all of us because he points out how Chicano and Chicana/Latina and Latino communities can so easily become areas with high rates of diabetes. For familias with a tight income, it’s hard to think about buying expensive organic food and taking the time to cook it when McDonalds offers a sausage burrito for $1.00 and when you are tired from working two jobs—who wants to cook?  And if you’re tired from work, the last thing you want to think about is exercise. Or if the doctor tells you to at least walk your neighborhood for a half hour every day, you may live in a neighborhood where that would not be a safe thing to do. I agree with Dr. Montoya that as long as we have the fast food companies setting up shop everywhere, as long as towns and cities do not offer safe public areas (parks!) with activities to join (swimming, running clubs, yoga, kick ball, sports for youngsters and adults), it’s going to be very difficult to lower the rate of diabetes in our population.

Third:  A key component to understanding your body is to test your blood and if you are on a very tight budget, this can be difficult. The glucose test monitor is often available for “free” (once you’re diagnosed). But the problem here concerns the test strips, which are expensive. Just yesterday, I bought (with my prescription) my supply of test strips. There are 100 in two vials. With insurance: $62. Without insurance: $124.

If you do not have diabetes (but you know it runs in your family and you’d like to start monitoring your blood so you will prevent the disease) or if you have been told you have “Pre-Diabetes”—you will have to shell out the $124. Something needs to happen so that the cost of test strips can be more affordable making it possible for people to purchase. I’m not sure what the answer is yet regarding the cost of test strips.

Why testing is so important: Without testing, you have no idea what your body is doing. You could feel just fine and your body may be riding on high levels of glucose and the longer you have such high levels running throughout your bloodstream, the quicker you will damage various organs in the body. It will only take a few months before the damage manifests itself in a variety of ways (neuropathy, retinopathy, nephropathy).

Fourth:  Trying meditation or learning strategies to cope in stressful situations is also key but difficult. Studies show that testing one’s blood regularly and keeping it balanced plus learning coping strategies is important in lowering glucose levels. Why? Keeping a normal blood pressure level prevents inflammation and inflammation will then also cause high glucose levels in your body which then also damages organs. And that is another aspect to this disease:  it’s not only about the food you eat, it’s also about how much stress there is in your life. Something as small as a simple cold cause glucose levels to rise. Illness, trauma, stress, major disappointments in life: all cause glucose levels to rise.

The U.S. can boast about all of us being hard-working people who produce more in a year than neighboring countries around the world. And we do. However, a study showed that even though we produce more, we also make more mistakes (because we are overworked) and therefore spend millions having to correct those mistakes. We also spend millions on emergency hospital visits and doctor’s visits.  The first year of my diagnosis, I ended up in the emergency room three times and even with insurance, my out-of-pocket expenditure to medical issues were quite high.

What to do? Some tips:

1. There are foods that do not have such a high residual pesticide load and are very affordable (non-organic).  These are:

a.     broccoli
b.     cabbage
c.     asparagus
d.     cauliflower
e.     avocado
f.      brussel sprouts
g.     garlic
h.     bananas
i.      zucchini

2. A QUICK RECIPE:  I have found “mashed cauliflower” a most delicious substitute for mashed potatoes. Potatoes are not good for all individuals with diabetes. The high starch content will affect most people (and that includes rice as well—brown or white). Directions:

a.  cut up the cauliflower
b.  steam
c.  mash it up (either in a food processor or with a potato masher)
d.  add spices if you wish

Mashed cauliflower is easily frozen so you can make a lot of it, freeze it, and then you don’t have to keep taking the time to cook it each time you want some.

3. During that first year of diagnosis, what really helped me was figuring out how many carbohydrates are in foods. There is a little book which I call the “carb helper.” It’s title is: The Calorie King: Calorie, Fat, and Carbohydrate Counter 2012. It is revised every year or so and it’s vital for those of us with diabetes. You’ll be surprised what foods are high in carbohydrates (glucose) and what foods are not.   Those who are unfamiliar with diabetes may think that it’s just about staying away from desserts or sugary drinks. Onion and carrots have a lot of sugar, but I did not know this until I began studying carbohydrate counts. One carrot is like a spoonful of sugar. Who knew? And onions: why do onions carmelize?  Because they have a high glucose level. Since finding this out, I now cook with shallots instead of onions and it’s just as delicious.

4.  For exercise:  If you cannot afford a gym or cannot exercise outside, walk around your house (inside) for twenty minutes to a half hour, or climb stairs (if stairs are at your work, take time to walk up and down during half your lunch hour) if there are stairs at or near home or at work.  Purchase a new/used bike if you can afford it.


The most important aspect I have discovered in researching this disease is understanding how each individual (chemically) is so vastly different. Two people with diabetes may react very differently when they eat, say, a banana.  I know someone with Type II Diabetes who enjoys eating a banana every day and their glucose levels do not spike. I cannot eat a banana—not even a bite because then my glucose levels spike. The one thing to understand about diabetes is that the journey to balance glucose levels demands a journey into keenly understanding your body. Our bodies are like fingerprints. Our chemical and genetic makeup is so fascinatingly individual. And it takes commitment to want to do this.  But it can be done!

Amelia María de la Luz Montes, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska, where she also serves as Chair of the Institute for Ethnic Studies. She frequently blogs about diabetes and health issues.


  1. Dawn Valadez  October 22, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    Thanks so much for posting this! Latinas, especially Mexican American women, have such high rates of diabetes – it is like an epidemic in our community. However, with your guidelines all is not lost. I disagree that it is with you forever though – with a healthy diet and lots of exercise people are able to get off of medicine and live a healthy diabetes-free life. You still have to be vigilant, but shouldn’t we all be anyways? I get concerned when I hear it’s “with you forever” because for some of us with food issues that feels like “why bother” when in fact we can do a lot to stop it in it’s tracks! and even if we need meds we can live healthy lives. My mom has had diabetes for 30 years, she’s in her 80’s and is still walking y qué fregosa! She lives with me and we work together to have a healthy diet and walk daily.

    I agree about the financial and convenience issues but some ways we can help each other is to grow our own food and share it! Or go to the farmer’s market together and buy in bulk, most farmer’s markets take food stamps now which is very helpful for people receiving those benefits. Starting a walking group helps too.

    Anyways, thanks for the post and here’s some more helpful info:

    Dawn Valadez

  2. Amelia ML Montes October 24, 2012 at 8:43 AM
    Dear Dawn,
    Thank you so much for your “reply.” I am so happy to read that your mom is in her 80s and has been self-managing the disease with a healthy diet and walking. This is key to keeping one’s glucose numbers low so that complications do not occur.And thanks for addressing the topic about “reversing Diabetes.” It’s important to discuss this further. When one is diagnosed with Diabetes (Type II), it means that one’s pancreas is debilitated. It is not able to emit enough cells that can collect glucose from the bloodstream. Some of the cells are malformed. With Type I– the pancreas is not working at all and the individual must be on daily insulin. But with Type I, diet and exercise is still key. With Type II– I think the miscommunication here is about being able to self-manage instead of a life of pills and insulin and becoming progressively worse.So I want to be clear here: what I mean by having if “forever” is that those with Diabetes Type II will always have a debilitated pancreas– always. It’s about what you do with your debilitated pancreas that is the key. If you do nothing, you will obviously get progressively worse. Pills and insulin help but again– with only pills and insulin, you will also get progressively worse.Self-managing your pancreas with diet and exercise (as David Spero points out) can have such great effects that a person may not need insulin, meformin, and other Diabetes medication.I am like Bob and Terri who are on very low carbohydrate diets and exercise daily. They were quoted in the article as feeling healthier than they’ve ever felt before and that their A1C levels are below normal which is GREAT because that will definitely prevent complications.But what will always “forever” be the issue is the pancreas not being able to do the work necessary without the individual helping the pancreas with diet and exercise.

    Here’s why diet and exercise is so key:
    First: a low carbohydrate diet keeps the amount of glucose in the blood stream minimal so that the pancreas’ low production of cells will not be overtaxed.
    Second: Exercise is so important because exercise “stimulates” the pancreas to emit more cells than a normal person would need. And since a debilitated pancreas is creating some normal cells and some misshapen cells, having more cells than one needs will definitely take the glucose out of the bloodstream.

    So– low carb diet (making sure you aren’t filling up your bloodstream with glucose) and exercise (stimulating the pancreas to make more cells to take out the glucose) will certainly lower glucose levels and prevent complications.

    One does not die of Diabetes. You die from complications of the disease. And when they say “disease”–they’re talking about the debilitated pancreas.

    So this is why I say “forever”–I’m talking about the pancreas. And this is why I do not agree with anyone who thinks that they can reverse a debilitated pancreas.

    What they CAN PREVENT is getting progressively worse and having complications. So I think it is a matter of semantics. But I worry that people think they can suddenly be Diabetes free. I think the better term is that they are “successfully self-managing the disease” and that is certainly what your mom is doing!

    Hope my further explanation helps.
    And yes–so important to help each other, go to farmer’s markets, have a walking group. I lead a Diabetes Support Book Group at an Independent Bookstore in town and this has been very helpful. I love the idea of a walking group too!

    Sending you and your mom my best wishes, Dawn!

  3. Anonymous  October 22, 2012 at 4:04 PM
    I am a Registered Dietitan in Tx. I have seen many patients w/ DM & understand your experience. It is a great article. My one disagreement is w/ Promoting organic foods to be healthy. Yes, they are a “better” choice if possible, but for so many it’s just not an option. Just adds stress to an already stressful situation.
    Recommend Fresh or Frozen, as avail.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.
  4. Amelia ML Montes October 24, 2012 at 8:08 AM
    Saludos Dawn,
    Thanks so much for your response to my blog. It is indeed an epidemic in our community and I am hoping with more education, we can help each other. I agree with you that with a healthy diet and daily (and I mean daily!) exercise, people can self-manage the disease. And this is what I mean by having diabetes for the rest of your life: the pancreas will never be a normal pancreas if you have this disease. Being off medication only means that you are self-managing the pancreas/the disease. And this is where it can get dangerous if people think that once they are off insulin or medicine, that they no longer have diabetes. The pancreas has not changed. It is still debilitated. I think the better term is that the individual is able to “self-manage” the disease with diet and exercise.As for reversing Diabetes: Once the pancreas is debilitated, it cannot be “reversed.” I think the word choice is the problem here and in Spero’s article he explains it better. He is talking about doctors who tell patients that they will only get progressively worse. And, like Spero, I disagree with that kind of doom and gloom projection. You will only get progressively worse if you do not do anything about it– but it’s up to you. And that is the key to self-managing: it’s all up to you.
    Like Bob (who was quoted in the article), I am on a very low-carb diet and do daily exercise (as my endocrinologist advised) and my A1C level is now lower than what is considered normal. And like Terri (who was also quoted in the article) I also am “far healthier” and feel it is easy now to maintain my glucose numbers. But in the beginning, I knew, when I was diagnosed, that this was going to be a life-long process. It’s important to face the truth. Now I no longer am afraid about this truth. After you get used to self-managing via diet and exercise, it does get easier– but in the beginning it demands a lot of changes in your life.I am so very glad that your mom is doing well and in her 80s. Bravo on the walking– that is key!And yes– growing our own food, farmer’s markets, helping each other– so very important!I’m so glad you wrote in!
    Thank you Dawn. Mil gracias!
    Sending you and your mom healthy energias!


Recent Raza Unida Party Commemorations: Chicanas Claiming a History of Progressive and Grassroots Organizing

October 15, 2012

Panel on "Raza Unida Party Legacy"

Panel on “Raza Unida Party Legacy”

By Dionne Espinoza

Over the last three years there have been a spate of “reunion” and “commemoration” gatherings around major moments in the Chicano movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This past summer I attended two such gatherings in Texas, one in Austin and one in El Paso organized by raza in each place to reflect upon the historic third party effort to organize as La Raza Unida Party. RUP was founded in Texas to increase the political representation of Chicanas and Chicanos in elected offices and to assert the political voice of the raza community. For me, attending these events was part of my continuing research on women in the Chicano movement and a chance to listen to the veteranas and veteranos about their experiences. I am fortunate to do research that reflects my passion and personal commitment to know this history and to continue to learn about it and from it.

I have to admit that I do sometimes idealize el movimiento to some extent even as my studies have provided me with a strong sense of its limitations, particular with respect to mujeres. While the movement demonstrated limitations, it still stands as a powerful example of a Chicana/o progressive political culture that was forged through grassroots and community based organizing. (Certainly to be credited for the existence of, among other things, Departments of Chicano Studies, like the one where I make my academic home).  My interviews with RUP women and studies of the archive have given me a stronger appreciation of the possibilities of working through the electoral process. Listening to the activists at these conferences was inspiring especially for someone like me who had been rather cynical about electoral politics due to my experience living through the long conservative era (Reagan, Bush, and Bush)—so much so that, while I voted in the 2008 Presidential election, I felt rather distanced from the process.

Of course, we must be specific about the political culture of Texas at the time of Raza Unida’s founding, a state where Governors had been mostly Democratic party candidates since 1874. During the 1970s, the work of RUP was not only to assert a third party option as a challenge to the two party system (famously described by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales as “like a monster with two heads feeding out of the same trough”), but also to send a message to the Democratic party of Texas which still reflected pretty deep traces of the race politics of the post Reconstruction-era Southern political culture of exclusion and disenfranchisement including the existence of poll taxes. Poll taxes were in place until the Black Civil Rights Movement called attention to the various forms of disenfranchisement enacted at the polls and subsequent legislation made poll taxes unconstitutional. (For a current debate on a “poll tax by any other name” see,0,6684651.story)  Additionally, in a city like San Antonio, the existence of “at large” elections served to reproduce practices of exclusionary representation on the city council until district based elections were instituted in 1977 (an issue that the Committee for Barrio Betterment–an early form of Raza Unida–raised when it ran candidates, including Rosie Castro and Mario Compean, in the early 1970s).

At the Austin event, there was a sense of the past in the present when it came to gender politics—as was the case in the 1960s & 1970s, it appeared to be mostly mujeres who set up the logistics and worked behind the scenes to help pull the event together. These included many who had been among the most committed RUP activists of the time running for elected office, serving as Precinct Chairs, and, even as the Chair of the Party such as Martha Cotera, Maria Elena Martinez, Lindo Del Toro and Alma Valdez. Then and now, these women can always be counted on to follow through, a sign of a true activista. While women were working the tables (many comadres of the above named women), they were also on stage: Luz Bazan Gutiérrez, the first Chair of RUP in Zavala County, served as an MC and there was at least one woman on each panel (where before there were usually none unless Chicanas called out the lack of representation). I was especially struck by the words of Maria Jiménez, who had been involved in RUP in Houston and had run for State Representative against Ben Reyes (who ran on the Democratic ticket). She reflected upon the legacy of RUP (and I paraphrase from my notes), “electoral politics is seen as reformist but the process was radical.” Her words underscored the massive grassroots character of the RUP effort in Texas, a process that required the construction of a state-wide  infrastructure to gain party recognition, not to mention voter education and identification of candidates willing to undertake the hard work of campaigning.

The Raza Unida concept, which had been circulating in the national movimiento by the late 1960s, brought hope to the movement and in short order RUP’s crystallized in California, Arizona, Colorado, and included Midwest states such as Michigan. It was this national conversation that brought activists to El Paso, Texas during Labor Day weekend in 1972 to create a national party. Forty years later in 2012 a panel at this conference entitled, “Prospects for Reviving RUP or Creating a New Partido” moderated by Armando Navarro and featuring Herman Baca, Ernesto Vigil, Maria Jiménez, José Angel Gutiérrez and Juan Jose Peña, sought to evaluate our present moment and possible next steps. I found the panel riveting as the speakers, each of whom commands a wealth of knowledge from activist work and movement history as key actors in those times, presented their thoughts in elegant, concise and powerful words. While there were some differences among the speakers, what they held in common was a call to “educate, politicize, and organize our people” (Baca) and for the “creation of critical consciousness” (Vigil). Other speakers underscored the importance of the grassroots and “social movement strategies” and cited the work of the Dreamers and the immigrant rights movement as offering recent examples of the ongoing viability of mass movements (Jiménez), the need for more use of social media such as the internet (Gutiérrez) and a communication network (Peña). While there was some optimism voiced by the panelists, it was slightly muted as the enormity of reviving a movement became quite clear–there was not a large attendance although the panel was on a Friday afternoon in a community space and, as one panelist pointed out, he was very tired and quite ready to hand the torch over.

Despite the historiographic creation of “four horseman” and the actual history of male dominance in the leadership of RUP at its higher levels, the organizers of this conference worked hard to make space for Chicana voices. A panel beautifully titled, “Raza Unida Party Legacy” by its organizer, Martha Cotera, featured an intergenerational range of women’s voices –Cotera herself, who stated that Raza Unida provides a “political framework;” Linda Garcia Merchant, a filmmaker whose work has begun to share previously unheard stories of Chicana involvement in the movement; Lydia Hernandez, a school board member in Phoenix now running for State Representative in Arizona; Maria Cotera, a university professor who is not only doing the academic work of documenting Chicana lives but involving her students in the work; Avina Gutiérrez, whose mother and father founded the party and is now involved in grassroots politics in Austin; and, Mary Gonzalez, recently elected as a State Representative for El Paso and also proudly identifying as “pansexual,” pointing to a new context in which LGBT perspectives are included in notions of Chicano electoral politics. Across these voices, it is clear that the RUP legacy continues for Chicanas, who played an equal role in building the party in Texas in the past, and are making their presence known not only in current electoral activism but also in a number of projects that carry out the legacy.

It is important to honor and to remember significant projects and events of the movimiento—perhaps more than anything else to share these projects with new generations that are facing trying times politically and economically in the US. There is a need to convey the continuity of struggles by Chicanos and by Latinos in the US that provide models, lessons, and reservoirs of hope that link into current day issues (and are in the process of being updated and revised, especially around gender and sexuality). The immigrant rights marches of 2006 recalled both Chicano movement marchas and Latin American traditions of social protest manifesting this kind of continuity while also intersecting with the changes in demographics including the pan-Latino constructs that have emerged. Ultimately what I walked away with left me with a sense that the consensus, at least among those who attended both El Paso and in Austin, lies firmly with a commitment to the grassroots—and this to me, is the strength of the Chicana/o political culture manifested in Raza Unida Party, the Chicano movement, and ideally, Chicana/o Studies. This is the emphasis that will keep us relevant beyond 2012.

Maybe we can see hope in new generations of elected officials such as the Castro brothers, Lydia Hernandez, and Mary González (all in Texas, interestingly enough) who are asserting the legacy of a Chicana/o progressive political culture. During the Austin gathering Rosie Castro arrived with her two sons, Julian and Joaquin, named as “rising stars” in the Texas and national Democratic party, a symbol, in my view, of the party’s longer term legacy (even if, ultimately, most of the electoral successes of that time were at the local rather than statewide level.)  (See historian Cynthia Orozco’s brilliant commentary on the Castro’s: Maybe I have to put aside my cynicism about electoral politics but, as was affirmed at the events, elected officials can only be the voice of the people when there are grassroots efforts and social movements that not only support them but also assert and reflect the needs of the people.

Dionne Espinoza, Ph.D. is on the faculty of California State University, where she teaches Chicano Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Brenda Sendejo  October 15, 2012 at 12:58 PM

Dionne, thank you for this wonderful reflection on the Raza Unida commemorations and the legacy of Chicana participation and activism. I so enjoyed reading it and will most definitely share it with my students. Mil gracias for your work!


October 8, 2012

Forever 22




By Ella Diaz

I deliberated over the topic of my first blog for Mujeres Talk this fall 2012. I wanted to pick something big—both central to the upcoming election and to our lives as Chicanas and Latinas. After hearing and reading about rumors of a Monica Lewinsky tell-all book, I realized that a critique of Clinton at this moment in the election season is not only the political maneuver of one party over another. It also yields big insights into how women continue to be perceived in American culture.

There are conflicting reports as to whether or not Lewinsky will write a tell-all memoir of her affair with President Clinton between 1995 and 1997. She is going to:  She is not going to:

Many of you may be indifferent to whether she tells or doesn’t tell; others may be screaming “Ella! Who cares?” These points of view represent the majority of reactions on blogs, such as The Huffington Post, which also reported this September that Lewinsky is not planning on writing the book. Some more suspicious commentators also add that, given the election season, Lewinsky could be cashing in on an “expensive rumor.” (See the comments in Huffing Post blog link) Nevertheless, news stories and blogs continue to announce that Lewinsky’s book is on. So why does this story matter?

Hearing about Lewinsky again, and the idea of her telling all, takes me back to my undergraduate days at UC Santa Cruz. I was 20 and a sophomore when the news story broke. I had a friend who met Lewinsky while she was in the U.C. – D.C. program, a pipeline for political science majors to intern at the capitol and other government entities. I remember staring at that famous cover of Time and thinking, “Why and how could you want to do it with an old guy?” I purposely write my reaction to the news story in this way to capture my mindset at 20, someone close to Monica’s age. I didn’t understand attractions to power and I was fairly innocent about sex. Wait, am I suggesting Monica did understand and wasn’t innocent?

So here is why her story continues to matter. Monica Lewinsky is a national (read: white) measure by which I (and numerous women) silently and implicitly judge the sexual propriety of young women and champion personal accountability as equality of the sexes, a big term and idea in the 2012 election. Why—16 years later—do we not remember President Clinton as the source of the scandal or hold him personally accountable? We misuse ‘personal accountability’ with Monica because she is not the one who represents power in the paradigm of President of the United States and intern.

How many of you remember who you were at 22? How many of you are 22? I never attempted to understand Monica, walk in her shoes, or consider her point of view. From the outset, I internalized the mainstream media’s framing of her in the 1990s.

Holding Lewinsky personally accountable for two people’s unethical actions hijacked her life in long-term ways. I remember years after the scandal, I saw her on T.V. attempting to launch a handbag line. I thought it was strange, and I felt sorry for her. It never occurred to me that employment must have been scarce and that she was attempting to harness her unwanted celebrity in a profitable way. Lewinsky did work with author Andrew Morton on a story about the affair and, according to sources, she made about a million dollars. Overall, many news stories on her indicate that finding work is not easy. But I guess we think we’ve come a long way from pinning scarlet letters on women who have sex with men that they shouldn’t.

Interestingly, I revisited some old interviews with Lewinsky (see the Barbara Walters special from 1999 here: Lewinsky grew up affluent, white, and had an affair with another married man while in high school. I forgot about that. Walters asks Lewinsky, “Why do you keep having affairs with married men?” Lewinsky claims she didn’t have feelings of self-worth and felt unworthy of being with a man. One wonders if we will ever critically assess these responses. What if we read Lewinsky’s answers to this question through Aida Hurtado’s The Color of Privilege? Hurtado claims that, in many ways, white women and women of color’s interactions and alliances continue to be structured along heteronormative hierarchies of desire. Drawing on Hurtado’s framework, let me be blasphemous: 

Why shouldn’t Lewinsky make money off having sex with Clinton? I can’t help but recall an article by Tiffany Ana López—“Emotional Contraband: Prison as Metaphor and Meaning in U.S. Latina Drama” (2003)—in which she quotes Ashe Bandele’s experience of bodily searches before conjugal visits with her incarcerated husband: “The first two or three times that happened to me, I felt immodest. I felt shame and embarrassment. Now I feel camaraderie with women who work the peep shows or who lap dance for a living. Except, of course, I don’t get paid. But you know I think I should. Every glance that gets held too long, for each time one of those police runs his fingers across my underwear, those motherfuckers owe me, in the very least, cash money.”[i]

In payment for all of our disapproving eyes that lingered a bit too long, I hope Lewinsky gets paid cash money for telling.

Ella Diaz is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University. Her research is on the interdependence of Chican@ and Latin@ literary and visual cultures.

[i] Bandele, The Prisoner’s Wife: A Memoir, 1999: 47.

  1. Sara Ramirez  October 9, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    I was in middle school when the name “Monica Lewinsky” became synonymous with “vieja cochina” at my parents’ house. I didn’t think about Lewinsky’s age though; I just thought about the attention she was getting. Sure, it was negative attention, but, hey, I thought, she didn’t have just *any* affair: it was an affair with the *President of the United States.*

    I was not able to articulate it at age 12, but I knew Lewinsky’s fame had something to do with attaining the kind of power women rappers like MC Luscious (“Boom, I Got Your Boyfriend”) and Salt-N-Pepa (“None of Your Business”) were describing in the early ’90s. I sensed this power came with breaking rules, crossing boundaries.

    Of course, today I know that power is a relative dynamic. While Lewinsky may have learned to be “comfortable with [her] sensuality,” as she explains in the Walters interview, her self-empowerment seems to have been co-opted by a media that caters to an audience inculcated with heteropatriarchal notions of intimacy. Both Lewinsky and Walters repeat the word “sensuality” throughout the first part of the interview, and I can’t help but think how this story would be different if we considered Lewinsky’s energy connection to Oshun, the Yoruba goddess who rules over positive interconnections, including sensuality.

    This was a really provocative and fierce essay, Ella. Thanks for posting!

  2. Theresa Delgadillo  October 10, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Ella, I want to read your essay as a “hands-off-using-women’s-bodies-to-advance-your-political-agenda” statement, but the possible tell-all book strikes an odd note for me. The Huffington Post article about this possibility cites a 1999 interview as a source (!). While I appreciate your consideration of power differentials, who or what benefited from making a spectacle of one woman’s body seems relevant.

  3. Ella Diaz  October 10, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    Both smart responses. I think that the media and personalities that are the media find Lewinsky an old news story (pun intended) when called on their reposting of an interview that is over a decade old. Using the story as a reminder of the immorality of a president (meaning party) over another is why the story recirculates right now. I wonder if Lewinsky watches the interview with Walters now and just fricking cringes… A story that served as a headliner now careens as a reminder. So, yes, in both contexts female body serving meaning and agendas other than her own.

Community-Based Research: Reporting Back

October 1, 2012


By Seline Szkupinski Quiroga, Ph.D.

In September 2012, I and my research partners from Arizona State University hosted a Community Forum in South Phoenix to report back to this community the preliminary results of our research. The room at the community center was almost full. A few people were still serving themselves dinner from the taco bar set up by a local restaurant. No one complained that in deference to providing a healthier dining option we had not put out flour tortillas, cheese or sour cream. I looked out over the audience, trying to see if any of the faces were familiar, if I had seen them across a kitchen table while conducting an interview. I saw a few colleagues from the University, students who had worked on the project, employees of local health agencies, and community members in workout clothes who had perhaps been lured into the room after their aerobics class with our promise of discussing community health and well-being. I took a deep breath and gave an announcement in English and Spanish that the Forum would be starting in just a few minutes.

After completing data collection for a multi-year study, I had organized the Forum to fulfill the promise made to study participants during multiple visits to their households to inform them of our findings.  We were limited in the topics we could cover in the allotted 2 hours as I had required that all proceedings be presented in a bilingual format, and I wanted to make sure we had sufficient time for discussion. We briefly covered how recent changes in immigration policy, specifically SB1070, had affected families; how households were dealing with the economic downturn; and the current health issues of community members. The results were not encouraging and so I tried to also communicate the assets of the community: the resilient social networks, tested as they were by the years of hardship and deprivation, and the strong sense of community that persisted despite incidents of discrimination. The presentation ended, and we invited questions. There was a silence and then the first question: could not the findings of high rates of psychological distress be linked to the high rates of unemployment? And we were off!

The time of discussion was not so much a question and answer period as I had feared, but rather a time of commentary and people responding to each other. A woman commented eloquently in Spanish about the need for recognizing the dignity of all in this time of anti-immigrant sentiment. An African American woman spoke up about how she was willing to volunteer her time to teach a Junior Chefs class, but that no one seemed interested in her offer. Another man noted that the most important things needed to make change were present in the room already. We had successfully initiated a dialogue about community concerns! The local community college stepped up and offered to host the next forum so the dialogue could continue.

In the glow of accomplishment, the challenges I had confronted in the weeks leading up to the Forum were pushed to the back of my mind. Many of the most salient challenges had to do with the academic-community divide, a few of which I will note here.
For example, in gathering research findings to present at the Forum from my colleagues, there were differing ideas of significance and what was appropriate to share. From the perspective of many an academic researcher, if proposed hypotheses are unproven or if findings are similar to what is already reported in the literature, then they are deemed non-significant. However, purely descriptive findings can be important and useful to community members and stakeholders.

Another major challenge was translating the descriptive findings into a language accessible to a lay audience by avoiding academic jargon. The subsequent Spanish translation also had to be assessed for accessibility and appropriateness for the study participants. I usually use narrative accounts as a bridge between statistics and significance but there wasn’t time at the Forum and room for only a few carefully selected quotes in the bilingual newsletter that was handed out.

I also spent time trying to define “community.” Before the Forum started, I wasn’t sure exactly who was going to show up. We had mailed out invitations to all study participants and local government officials, placed an advertisement in a local paper, been interviewed on a local Spanish language radio show, and flyered the study neighborhoods extensively. I tried to be strategic in extending invitations, balancing the diversity of the attendees with real life practicalities: Should I invite a representative of the police? They would benefit from hearing about the concerns over increased discrimination, and the confusion people had between policies of the police and the sheriff but their presence might frighten away people from participating in the Forum. (I didn’t invite them to the Forum but met with a prosecutor to discuss giving a special presentation to a police officer committed to community policing).

I was encouraged to see African Americans in the audience. While study participants were overwhelmingly Latino, the study area has the highest percentage of African American residents in the state. Although much of the discrimination experienced was triggered by the passage of SB1070, African American study participants decried the changing tenor of their community, and the health issue of unequal chronic diseases burden also affected them. The findings of this study were not just relevant to Latinos.

I was able to successfully engage this South Phoenix community, but I am unsure as to who is going to support the efforts to continue the dialogue now that the grant funding has been exhausted.  However, I do know that I will continue to work with this community as I am committed to support them through my research in working to improve quality of life and honor the dignity, wisdom, and experience of these Arizona residents.

A copy of the newsletter with descriptive findings handed out to Forum attendees can be found at

Seline Szkupinski Quiroga is a child of immigrants and a medical anthropologist living in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a member of the Mujeres Talk Colectiva.


Theresa Blight  November 19, 2012 at 5:49 PM

These community outlook and endeavor restores my faith in humanity each time. I commend the people who take a proactive role in advocating change for the good of their communities. I feel more attached with my community since joining live in care, a nutritional program for the elderly.