Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Where are the "colored" superheroes?

Where are the “colored” superheroes?

I recently saw the movie “The Avengers” and very much enjoyed watching it. The special effects, the sound, the plot of the story all captured my attention and I was quite amused and amazed at the action. When I finished watching the movie, though, I felt something was missing. In all the heroic characters showcased in the movie, not one superhero was colored.

Do not get me wrong. I did not dislike the characters or who played them and how they were played. In fact, the acting was good. I very much enjoyed how Scarlet Johansen kicked butt in the movie, and I am in love with Thor, so mighty, strong, and handsome. However, I could not help but to notice that the only colored person in the cast was Samuel L. Jackson. Granted that Samuel L. Jackson had a big role in the movie and in the story, he was no superhero. All the superheroes, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk (prior to his “hulk” state, after which he turns green), all of them are Caucasian. Even the assassins and the astrophysics genius were White.

The notion of having a full cast of White superheroes is thought-provoking for me for more than one reason. Fundamentally, the notion that “whiter is better” is still being sold to us in every walk of the way. I also saw the movie “Mirror Mirror” last weekend and noticed the same reality: all characters of the movie were White. It seems as if though heroism equals superiority, thus played by White characters. And not only the characters are White; they are blond or blond-ish, blue eyed, and appear to be of pure White descent. The world is always saved by the White gods and superheroes that fight against evil and bring justice and peace to us all, mere mortals.

When looking at the literature or the media, I cannot recall any “colored” superhero. There is no Black immortal being that saves the day for all of us. I don’t know of any Asian demigod that is capable of shooting fire and fight demonic creatures. I have not seen a Latino superhero with powers capable of stopping bullets and trains and fighting the elements.  Besides Halle Berry in The X-Men (she was also Catwoman in Batman), I cannot remember any mulatto or mixed mutant trying to save the earth. My point is that it always seems as if though we are sold, promoted, enforced, instilled the notion that “white is better”, in spite of the fact that “whiteness” does not represent the whole totality of the ethnic landscape of our country.

Why isn’t there a “colored” superhero? I don’t know. Maybe, instead of a White guy turning green, and therefore acquiring superhero after doing so, we can experiment with a White guy turning Black, powerful, and almighty for a change.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

How did we get here? The world of the overachievers

Today’s world can be described in one word: overachievement. As I reflect in my own life, I wonder how and why are we all in a wave of constant movement, doing, thinking, creating, shuffling, juggling, consuming, producing. I look at my own life and I look around and it seems as if though everybody is complaining that there are not enough hours in a day to accomplish all one is set out to do. I see how frantically people rush to tend to our many commitments and the demands, attention, and energy imposed on our time and I wonder: how did we get here?

All the messages to which we are exposed on a regular basis offer us the ability to have access to more, better, bigger: more food, more stuff; better bodies, better cars; bigger homes, bigger budgets; and the list goes on. All these promises come with another invitation: do more, expect more, give more, get more. And the list of exhortations is coupled with the requirement to be better moms, better cooks, better housekeepers, and better at being involved in our children’s education, recreation, the community, politics, charity, family, and a long list of other things. The list of “must-dos” insanely grows daily as our jobs expect us to do more and better, giving our careers more time than ever before and being accessible and available 24/7 to better serve the company’s clientele and show our commitment. As if we needed more impositions on our time, now we have to stay connected to social media, especially if our work requires so. Therefore, our lives are just a race to do more, be better, get bigger, at all times. Such paradigm of life, which is extremely stressful, is what most of us are living.

What prompted us to be that way? I have only one good answer: we live in a culture of overachieving. In order to feel that life is worth living, we have created a culture in which “having-something-to-do” at all times is the norm, what is expected, and the only way of life that is acceptable. I remember when I grew up in Puerto Rico. Businesses closed from 12-1pm for a lunch break, everything closed at 1pm or 2pm for the day on Saturdays, and there was nothing but church, some open restaurants, and beach on Sundays.  Now, people are lucky if they get a 15 minute break to devour their lunches at work, many people work at least 10 hours a-day, and we are demanded to give more, and many must take work home after their shifts have ended. Nonetheless, we are told that we need to chew our meals slowly and eat healthy. But how? Fifteen minutes is barely enough to get a sandwich out of its wrapper! Similarly, vacation times are scant and many employers do not offer paid sick days or family leave time, not to mention health insurance.

Overachieving has become our way of life. We must stretch our time to the limit to comply with all the demands put on it. For many, the only solution is to sacrifice their sleep, which has long-term negative implications. Moreover, stress is a silent killer for most that are kept hostage to this overachieving culture; not to mention how this lifestyle affects our families in the short and long run.

After expounding how this culture of overachievement has taken over our lives and its negative implications, here are some suggestions:

1.       Familia comes first: Be structured and strict about devoting time to your children and family and give them your undivided attention. The rest will wait.

2.       Forget Martha Stewart: See those beautiful homes in magazines? They belong there! Keep your house orderly and clean but do not attempt to have it magazine-ready (unless you have the time or a maid). Teach your children to be orderly, pick up after themselves, from the time they are toddlers and it will pay off in the future.

3.       30 minute meals? More like 15 minute meals: Prepare meals that are easy and fast, but you don’t have to sacrifice nutrition and health. For instance, spinach cooks very fast, almost all veggies taste great steamed for just a few minutes, fish cooks very quickly, pasta is a savior! Don’t try to overdo it in the kitchen. Leave fancy dishes for the restaurants.

4.       Time for yourself: When? While the kids are playing or napping, nap, polish your nails, take a bath, and don’t feel guilty about it. Share the load (spouse, family, friends) and don’t hesitate to enjoy yourself without the children every once in a while. I promise, everyone will be alive when you return.

5.       Sleep! Decide at what time you will shut down every night and just do it! Everybody needs certain amount of hours of sleep. Know your time and get what you need.

6.       Not perfect, just good enough: Don’t strive for perfection. If your kids are well-fed, healthy, given a lot of love, well-educated, happy, and alive, that’s good enough! Do not impose the same time demands on your children. Children also need down time. After being in school for 7 hours and having homework to do, one or two extracurricular activities are plenty, especially if you have more than one child to juggle.

7.       Say no: If you want to live a longer and happier life, start becoming braver at using the word “no”. Once you’ve had enough practice, it comes easy!

8.       Stop: I need one day a month to just be. I recommend it to everybody. Just devote one day to be in your jammies all day, watch movies, read, and disconnect.

9.       Prioritize: Junk mail: don’t read it. Cleaning the house: important but not as important as cuddling with your child or significant other.

10.   Ditch some things: Go over your life and make a decision on what you will let go of. We cannot tend to it all. Let go of things you don’t need, people that don’t contribute to your life, or causes for which you cannot fully commit.

In spite of how we live, we don’t have superpowers. We need to take care of ourselves and start a culture of health, quality and quantity time for us and family, sanity, and the enjoyment of life; a more simple life!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Why do Hispanics need an education? And if we have one, why should we care?

The future of Hispanics will be determined by how educated our community will be. The US Census Bureau estimated the Hispanic population at 47 million, or 15%, of the population of the United States. This number is impressive; however, our projected growth reveals how powerful our presence will continue be in our nation in the upcoming years.  The landscape of the US has been shaped and changed by our numbers. But it is not enough to be the largest majority in the US. We must also prepare to become the force that can propel our numbers to a brighter and more prosperous future.

Hispanics lag in academic achievements in the US. According to the PEW Hispanic Center, 52% of foreign-born Hispanic adults are high school dropouts and 25% of native born are as well. These figures are alarming. An uneducated Hispanic population will have less access to competitive jobs, salaries to keep them above the poverty line, and opportunities to overcome their social and financial disadvantages. Hispanics who drop out are more likely to suffer struggles brought about by unemployment. They also display more incidences of poor health, are more likely to be on public assistance and become single parents.  As can be seen, the consequences for dropping out of school are ominous. Moreover, drop out parents who do not instill the value of education in their children may doom them to repeat the same deconstructive patterns.

Educated Hispanics should be in the trenches working to bring down the Hispanic dropout rate. For starters, as part of the same ethnic group, we are all representative of our cultures and peoples. Unfortunately, the higher the numbers of uneducated Hispanics, the more negative and permeated stereotypes will follow us all. Enhancing our population to achieve more will benefit us all in the short and long run. Furthermore, the social problems that emerge from lack of education among our population will shrink as more of our children become educated. Currently, our tax money is utilized to provide public assistance to those who are uneducated and suffering from the associated social ailments. As more of our population has access to education, the best our taxes are going to be utilized to strengthen our nation and benefit us all.

If we are the largest minority, we need something to show for it. It is not enough to be large in numbers. Our Hispanic population must also rise and step up to become key players in all realms of the social and political spheres of this great country we call home. We should all care about the education of our children because we all pay the consequences, one way or the other, if we don’t.

Monday, May 07, 2012

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I am writing about Sexual Health for Mamiverse. Also, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Also, follow me in Rocinante Erotica (erotica in Spanish only).  The world is endless for The New Latina!

Happy Mother's Day!

Why do we celebrate mother’s day?

I am a mother and I am happy that there is a mother’s day celebration. Besides the fact that mothers sacrifice a lot for our offspring, our job is unpaid, many times unsung, and nonstop.  I am reflecting on the significance of this day celebrated across many cultures and peoples all over the world and I feel a sense of entitlement on this day: I do deserve it and I do want it.  I do want to be celebrated that day for all the days and nights I have spent giving my unconditional love and attention to my child. I want to be pampered and honored on that day as if though I was the queen of the world. I want to accept the love and gifts and attention freely and openly, because as mothers we usually don’t take anything for ourselves. 

It is mother’s day this Sunday and I feel that I have earned the right to be whole and happy on that day and every day because I am doing the ultimate and utmost job in the whole world: I gave life and I am raising a life that will reach his full potential in this life thanks in great part to my investment.  I celebrate mother’s day as if though I owned it and I am proud to be a mother, always. Motherhood is the most important job, the most rewarding career, and the most beautiful of all vocations.  Happy mother’s day!