The following letter is a response to a great piece on SF Weekly talking about gentrification in the Mission District, a place I called home until rents got so ridiculous my family and I could no longer afford to live there. This was years ago, at the ass-end of the first dot-com bubble. Since then, a second dot-com bubble has made the situation noticeably worse for Latinos in the Mission and it shows no signs of slowing down. Whether you benefit from this displacement or you’re a Latino family who’s had to pick up and settle into the almost uninhabitable dead zone outside of the Bay Area, you have three generations of San Francisco mayors to thank. Willie Brown, Gavin Newsom, and now Ed Lee have worked tirelessly to turn SF into the yuppie paradise it now is. And it’s not just the Mission: Bay View Hunter’s Point is feeling the pain, too. Gentrification threatens to displace the African-American community that has made that area home for decades. (Muni constructed a new T line metro rail that runs all the way down Third Street; I guarantee you it’s wasn’t built for the black community.) Pretty soon all of SF will be a playground for the affluent. By then, who the hell is gonna want to live here?
And now, without further ado, the letter:
Great article on gentrification in the Mission District.You say “evolution of 24th Street”, I say socio-economic Darwinism.As a Latino and exile of my once-beloved neighborhood, I generally sense in my people a great deal of defeatism towards gentrification that would have been unimaginable just 40 years ago at the height of the Chicano Power movement.Whatever the hell happened to us since then is beyond me, but if it’s anybody’s fault that Latinos are being shoved into the armpits of California (no offense, Stockton) it’s probably us.
But before us Latinos all stock up on Speed Stick, allow me to leave a few words of wisdom to the new (read: mostly white) residents of the Mission:
Dear hipsters and yuppies: (Is there a difference, really? I’m not being sarcastic; we really don’t know. We just call you yupsters for the sake of clarity.)
- Every time you walk down our streets at night, point and snap photos in our store windows while we’re working late, and go “oooh”, and “aaaah”, and “hahaha, isn’t that funny”, it’s actually fucking obnoxious. The Mission is not a zoo and Latinos actually resent being treated like exhibits in our own neighborhood. (“See the endangered Chicano in its native habitat before it’s extinct!) When the class-cleansing that started with Willie Brown has finally finished its work in San Francisco and there’s not a single one of us left, then you can open the exhibit. Maybe breed a few of us in captivity. Turn the place into a wax museum. Preserve the traces we left behind so that future generations can discover who we were. (“Look, they left paintings on the walls!”)
- You might think we don’t understand when you make fun of us, but chances are we do. (BTW, they’re called quinceañera dresses, they’re supposed to be big and colorful, and they’re designed for 15 year old Latinas, not a gaggle of snickering, siddidy, 30-something white girls already way past their prime. Sorry ladies, you couldn’t rock those dresses if you tried. If you find them overly ornate and ostentatious, why don’t you slip into something more your style, like a tasteful Scandinavian-inspired evening gown, or a bedsheet with straps?)
- As much as we all love organic patchouli burgers, not all of us can afford to eat at upscale “foodie” joints. Latinos for the most part find it counterproductive to impress first dates with conspicuous displays of wealth – we save that for the wedding. Nor do we feel the need to wow her with our extensive knowledge of the esoteric world of kelp-based Sri Lankan cuisine. You’d be surprised what we can do with pupusas and a sexy Spanish accent. Don’t you yupsters have your fill of pretentiousness in the art scene? Now you gotta be bougie about food? How about just thanking God for something to eat in a city where hundreds of homeless go hungry every day? But I’ll tell you what: you stop judging us for walking around with a Popeye’s drink, and we won’t make fun of your knit sweaters and corny old-timey mustaches. Anymore.
- Some things are just better left to the pros. There’s something not quite right when November creeps upon us and the only people not actually marching at Day of the Dead are Mexicans. It’s because we now know how black people felt when Elvis came along. Day of the Dead is a sacred Mexican tradition, not a Halloween after-party. Those of us who observe Day of the Dead have a connection rooted in hundreds of years of Aztec and Mexican culture that gives us the right to honor our ancestors in this way. The only connection yupsters have to Day of the Dead is a pasty, almost skeletal complexion.
- You can have Cinco de Mayo, though. It’s BEEN played out for a minute now and really, it’s all about the booze anyway.
Truth is, whatever armpit we Latinos end up shoved into, we’ll always bring the Mission with us. By the time we’ve all made the move to the unholy perimeter around the Bay Area, we will have brought with us drink, tacos, music, dance, murals, horchata, bachata, chancletas, women, men, rolling r’s, poetry, culture, and cholos. In short, we will infuse LIFE into those barren wastelands of 100 degree summers and meth. We turn armpits into cleavage! Pretty soon the Mission will be the new armpit of San Francisco and yupsters will once again be on the prowl for a new trendy area to gentrify. But as much as you yupsters won’t be able to resist telling all your friends about the scene in Watsonville and decide you want to “slum it up” for the weekend, please, this time do us all favor and stay home. Don’t come running to our new hood when you’ve turned yours into Whitebreadistan and it’s no longer cool anymore. Latinos know all about what happens to our neighborhoods when they become “hip”, and we hate packing.
– Ed (Mexicanus Chicanicus)
Over 10 years ago, I created an Aztec-themed villain in search of a hero. That hero would use a ring to power up his suit of armor, giving him agility not unlike that of a certain spidery fellow, and he would be the first Mexican superhero ever. Clearly, I hadn’t done my homework on the Mexican part, but it didn’t matter. I still wanted to add my guy to the relatively new pantheon of Mexican characters who didn’t wear ponchos or sombreros.
OK, at some point my character does wear a sombrero. A very big sombrero. It gets hot in the desert, what can I say?
It’s been a LONG time since high school. Since then the character that would have been a villain continued to evolve, and soon he turned into a hero in search of a villain. But the one thing I came to realize was that more than anything, was that my hero needed a purpose. A drive. Something for him to fight for. In short, a story. I wish I’d learned this stuff sooner, but hey, even Albert Einstein once thought the universe was Euclidean. And how old was he before he did that thing with the relativity and the E=MC squares and what not?
God, I hope I can finish this book before I’m THAT old. At any rate, if you’re reading this, you are among the very first to hear news about this project. I’ve kept it under wraps for over a decade, after several reincarnations and numerous false starts. Now it’s official – I’m getting it done. It’s coming soon. If this all sounds vague, it’s intentional. This is only a teaser. Xochitl isn’t even the main character, but she’s certainly the sexiest. Some of you have even seen the hero on my main page, but rest assured, he has also been a victim of my revisionary nightmare. Expect a new look for him.
So stay on the look out, follow me on Twitter, Facebook me, and if you’ve got a copy of the stickers I’m handing out, hold on to them. Collector’s item.
Time to bash illegal immigrants again – and just in time to distract the teeming masses from the crackdown on Wall Street! I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, by the way…
But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that lawmakers in this country would literally pass a law so blatantly fascist. SB1070, the new law signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, is a 1940s Germany throwback, a law that actually makes it legal for a cop to ask you for papers if you “look” like an illegal immigrant. Never did I imagine that many people would support such a law. But in a country whose people approved the use of waterboarding and torture, it really should not have surprised me. But it did. Now I know for a fact that despite our Constitution and reputation as a freedom-loving nation, as long as we have half a population that can find the gall to defend the indefensible, then it is entirely possible for us to fall into the grips of blank-faced fascism – if we haven’t already. I thought it was that people were just ignorant and misinformed. But perhaps once something like this happens, they simply accept it and find a way to live with it, make excuses for it, or defend it entirely. If you’re a conservative in America (my apologies to William Buckley, who would have been appalled by such a vicious law), you and your kind defend this law, despite the fact that it clearly violates the 14th amendment of the Constitution. After all, you defended the Patriot Act.
Why is it always the same old Gran Torino ass lames that constantly ride our nuts? They love to talk about how illegal immigrants are “breaking our laws”. Notice the lack of a MORAL argument. That’s because there is no morality in deporting hard workers whose only crime it was to ignore some stupid rules so that they could FEED their fucking families. The laws being broken here amount to JAYWALKING when compared to the laws being broken by Wall Street – where’s your righteous anger now, dipshits? All this talk about “breaking our laws” is little more than a euphemistic veil to hide their racism.
Need more proof? Rachel Maddow unveils the roots of this immigration law.
Yeah…no racism there. And Tea-Baggers aren’t racist either. Right.
I mentioned somewhere in the title of this post that Arizona caught an “L”. In modern lingo, that means they’ve earned “Loser” status. If Governor Jan Brewer does not repeal this law, they can expect to catch more losses than they bargained for. I support a full scale boycott on goods made in Arizona until this law is overturned. Let’s boycott the shit out of them.
Here’s a partial list of companies that reside in Arizona:
2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Location: Chase Field, Phoenix, AZ
Arizona Diamondbacks, Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Best Western International, Inc., Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona
Cold Stone Creamery, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona
CSK Auto (Checker Auto Parts, Schucks Auto Supply, Kragen Auto Parts, Murray’s Discount Auto Stores), Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona
Dial Corporation, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona
Discount Tire Company (America’s Tire Company), Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona
Go Daddy, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona
P. F. Chang’s China Bistro, Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona
PetSmart, Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona
Sky Mall, Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona
Taser International, Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona
U-Haul, Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona
US Airways, Headquarters: Tempe, Arizona
I’ve wizened up to the fact that our military exists as little more than hired muscle for capitalism around the world. Someone gets out of pocket, nationalizes their oil, or decides that it no longer wants to be controlled by western corporations, our leaders call on the armed forces to straighten ’em out. From the Native Americans to the Filipinos, Latin America to the Middle East, our military has a long and brutal history of securing “our interests” and “fighting for freedom”. Is it any wonder that over half of all domestic spending is gobbled up by the Pentagon? OVER. HALF. I understand that it’s not usually in the nature of military men to question their superiors; they merely follow orders. When your Commander in Chief, however, is part of a war-profiteering racket, that kind of trained obedience is both tragic and immoral.
Then you have your military recruiters, people whose job it is to con as many poor kids as possible to fight for a rich man’s right to set up shop in someone else’s backyard. Some appeal to your jingoistic patriotism. I definitely understand anyone who signs up for that reason. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to defend home and country – I just wish people knew better.
The Bush administration is particularly notorious for sneaking in random provisions into their Orwellian laws. – the “No Child Left Behind Act”, for example, also allows military recruiters access to school records so they can call you up and set up an in-house con in person. Some of these military recruiters will appeal to students. They’ll throw around words like “job training” and “success”. I’m sure there are a lot of medics and engineers who got an edge by flaunting their military experience, but for every case like that there’s probably 10 civilians who were chosen for their straight “A”s.
They then dangle the idea of paying for college in your face. It’s particularly nauseating when you’re well aware that the kind of people who take the bait are very poor people – mostly blacks and Latinos. How cynical it is to slash education spending and college grants while giving a bloated military billions of dollars to nudge a poor kid who, without that education or college grant, either has to choose between the military, or in all likelihood, prison.
As if targeting poor minorities weren’t enough, now they go after illegal immigrants, too. (BY THE WAY, PLEASE READ THIS ARTICLE.) They too are presented with a cruel and cynical choice: join the military and get first dibs on citizenship, or get deported. The way immigrants have been scapegoated in this country is deplorable; the way they are being taken advantage of by the military, despicable. It’s almost as if we set it up that way; pick on them, make it hard for these hard workers to earn a living, humiliate them, constantly demonize them on the news, then promise them a way to make it all disappear – and all you have to do is sign your life away on the dotted line. PRESTO – Halliburton gets another foot soldier.
Notice the interesting trend here: they take away your education so the army can offer it to you. They deny you the right to live and work so the army can “promise” you citizenship. They keep you dumb and ignorant, fearful and nationalistic, so that you may feel compelled to fight for a hidden, unworthy cause. When you control the options, you get others to play with the cards you deal. So let’s all stop playing. There is always another way. I know because I almost fell victim to it, too. They threw the money angle at me and I couldn’t afford to go to college. I was lucky enough to have parents who knew better, teachers who gave a damn, and scholarships. For others who aren’t so lucky, far be it for me to suggest the path you should take, but I will say this: get informed. For the time being, libraries are still free – do a lot of research. Weigh the options and whether you believe it’s worth it to lose your freedom at best, and your soul at worst, to the military-industrial complex. And for God’s sake, do your fucking homework.
Just in case you missed it:
While Bush is off trying to win the hearts and minds of Latin America (read: PR campaign to offset the growing influence of Hugo Chavez), he made a quick stop in Guatemala where he was greeted by the eternally grateful locals with rose petals and green palms as he rode in on his ass. Of course he couldn’t see where he was going because it’s hard to see with his head that far up his trusty steed. While in Guatemala the locals gave him a hard time about our government’s anti-immigrant efforts. Bush took a minute to espouse the virtues of the guest worker program and for some reason I found it necessary to drop-kick my TV.
The proposed guest worker program pretty much amounts to the continued exploitation of Mexican illegal immigrants in the form of below minimun wage pay (which makes corporations happy), while denying them actual citizenship for all their hard labor – and even giving them a boot after a few years (which makes white trash rednecks happy). As you can see, it satisfies both sides of the Republican constituency – big business and xenophobes.
Here’s a thought – how about you grant them ALL amnesty? Make them permanent residents so that they can actually feed their kids now, and not in the 9 years it will take for the fucking federal government to get around to their citizenship papers. Where’s the fucking humanity? A man has GOT to provide for his family somehow – more power to any man who loves his family so much that he’s willing to brave long, arduous periods of relentless walking; a merciless, scorching desert; and trigger-happy hillbillies with shotguns, just so he can provide for them, without the benefit of even seeing them when he finally comes home from work. This isn’t a crime, it’s a tragedy.
“But they’re breaking The Law!!!”
I love it when Republicans use this argument because the only thing that trumps a humanitarian perspective is an appeal to my utmost humble respect for law and order. It’s also a perfect argument because it conveniently side-steps their hidden (and, as is evident at any Minuteman rally, not so hidden) racism. It’s so cute how the same crooked assholes who got us involved in 2 illegal wars, widespread illegal wiretapping and surveillance in direct violation of constitutional law, Enron, pedophile congressmen, Tom Delay and that creepy trenchcoat guy with the fedora, still dare invoke “The Law” as a real argument. Nevermind that it was also once illegal to teach black people how to read, drink alcohol, or allow closet-Republicans the right to engage in kinky butt-play with their underage male interns in the privacy of their own bathhouses. I have a sinking feeling, however, that if all migrant workers were granted amnesty (thus making them “legal”), these pricks would still throw a fit.
Remember that movie “The Day After Tomorrow”? Remember what happens in the end after the entire US becomes a ski resort? Guess where Americans get to live as refugees for the next thousand years? Here’s a hint: it’s not Canada. How ironic, perhaps even fitting, is it that Americans find themselves illegally crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico so as to avoid falling victims to a humanitarian crisis back home? I guess what I’m getting at is that I can’t wait for a series of freak ice storms to turn the US into a barren, inhospitable wasteland of ice. Or something like that.
Have you ever walked down 24th and Mission in San Francisco and get beat by some angry little pendejos for wearing the wrong color jacket? Ever get shot in the culo by some ass clown with pants worn so low it looks like he done dookied on himself? Ever been to East L.A. and gotten harassed by “una mendiga desgraciada” and her ugly, ironically named fat friend “La Tiny”? Chances are if you live in a Latino community, you’ve encountered CHOLOS. Cholos are to Latinos what underachieving morons are to every other race. Cholos can generally be described as being like Homies characters – one dimensional caricatures completely lacking in personality and living in a world of their own. On the other hand, PANDILLEROS, or gang members, are also like Homies, only with actual prison records. Every group of people needs a criminal element, and Latinos have pandilleros, all of whom are cholos – though not all cholos are necessarily pandilleros. The usual presence of tattoos, weapons, scars, and sore anal sphincters from dropping the soap one too many times help to distinguish actual gang members from those who claim to be gang members. Nevertheless, they are all a bunch of cholos and for the sake of clarity we’ll call them that throughout this guide.
Cholos are surprisingly entrepreneurial people. Ever the champions of the capitalist spirit, they’ve got their mind on their money…and vice versa. They are leaders in the practice of free market economics, as most of their daily transactions function outside the mainstream in what has been unfairly labeled the “black market”. Expect great prices on watches, stereos, bikes, cannibis, crack, etc., most of which is made possible by relaxed rules concerning “legitimacy” and “theft”. Thanks to this laizzez-faire system unfettered by the wasteful hand of government bureaucracy, they generate enough untaxed revenue to fund important social endeavors, such as the acquisition and furnishing of 20 inch rims. Unfairly accused by whiny residents of “dealing death to kids” or “perpetuating the ruin of poor communities”, these resilient role models are a beacon of hope to anyone who has ever dreamt of making enough money to have gold surgically grafted to your tooth enamel.
Location is key in the struggle to aquire wealth, and cholos know how to take advantage of opportunities when they see them. Based in low income minority communities, they set up shop on every corner to cater to the special needs of crackheads, stoners, and elementary school students. Ever protective of their land, they frequently mark their territory, just so there’s no misunderstanding as to what “set” they claim. They often stake their claim in calligraphic prose known as “tagging” and yes, sometimes they’ll piss on a tree trunk.
Threatening their territory or simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time can earn you a bad case of the 187. The worst crime, however, is having the wrong fits on. If you’re caught wearing blue or red you’re liable to get your “cap peeled”. Cholos take their fashion seriously and in fact have been at the forefront of style and fashion, as evidenced by the 15 year old trend of crap sagging pants on men, visible thongs and Sharpie eyebrows on women. Cholos can’t stand bad fashion sense and wearing the color red on 16th and Mission is a big fashion faux pas. Surenos (meaning “South Siders”) represent Southern California, though for a gang currently active in San Francisco, Eureka, and Sacramento, the irony is completely lost on them. In San Francisco they own the territory from 16th and Mission to about 20th and Mission. Nortenos (meaning “North Siders”) claim the Northern part of California. In San Francisco you can spot Nortenos lazily hanging about the corner of 24th and Mission or Capp, no doubt musing on the irony of being geographically south of 16th and Mission and calling themselves “Nortenos”.
Avoiding trouble with your neighborhood cholo is a matter of being street smart. Here are a few hints that might help.
– Try wearing neutral colors. Green can bring out the color in your eyes. But if you really want to have some fun, dress in both red AND blue. Watch the cholos go crazy trying to figure out what to do with you. It’s fun!
– Try not to make direct eye contact, as some cholos consider this a sign of hostility and may open a can of whoop ass. Or they might smell the fear on you and open a can of whoop ass – I forget which one.
– Pack as much heat as possible.
– Robbing a liquor store is a fun way to earn yourself major props from the homies.
– NEVER throw up a hand sign unless it’s a middle finger and it’s not directed at a cholo. Serious injury may result.
– If you’re ever asked where you’re from, just say “Beirut, mothafucka!”
– White people and hipsters will NEVER be mistaken for a cholo, but cholos might kick your ass anyway just for fun. Try to stay out of the hood as much as possible. Do as the white people usually do and roll up your windows if you drive past the barrio.
– And always remember that cholos have priority seating on the back of the bus. Be courteous.
If you’re a female with a nice booty, you’re going to get hooted and hollared at – there’s no way around it. In that case, a swift kick to the huevos should work just fine. Keep in mind that cholos are a nocturnal bunch and gang rapes are not uncommon – boys will be boys! Mace has proven just as effective as a kick to the huevos. I recommend you use the” mace/huevo-kick” combo attack for best results.
Of course, if you can’t handle the constant badgering by cholos, consider joining them! Joining is easy* and it’s FREE! Plus, you get a cool nickname like “Lil’ Dreamer”, “La Shy Gurl”, or “La Tough Bitch”. All you have to do is choose a color! Contact your nearest cholo today and join in the fun that’s already claimed and ruined the lives of thousands of Latinos! Do it now!
*murder, gang rape and/or beating may be required.
One of the most helpful things you can do for yourself while living in a Latino community is to learn Spanish. Without it, you can’t communicate efficiently with the locals, you lose customers, and you can’t tell when someone’s talkin shit behind your back. As everybody knows, everyone gets a hang of the cuss words first, so here’s a list of the phrases you’ll probably end up using the most. You’ll need to master all forms of the word “Chingar”. I’m sure you’ll be able to figure out the meaning on your own:
“chingando” (fucking, or fucking around)
“chingada madre” (generic curse, translated loosely, this means “fucking mother!”…come to think of it, maybe it actually means “mother fucker”.)
“chingon!” (the fucking man!)
“chingate!” (go fuck yourself)
“chingadazo” (a nasty fucking accident)
“veta a la chingada” (go to hell, fucker!)
“chintrole” (variation of “chingada madre” for pussies who can’t actually say “chingada madre”)
and of course, the invaluable “Chinga Tu Madre” (“Fuck you and your nasty ass trick turnin’ mama”…or something like that).
Well, I hope this has proven helpful. I’m also fully aware that this list applies mostly to, or around, Mexicans – Puerto Ricans have their own slang, Cubans have another. But Mexicans are the coolest. Stay tuned for more installments of “Eddie’s Guide to Latino culture”.