Michoacán, El Salvador, Tonga

It’s Blog Against Racism Day.

Thinking about my neighborhood. We’re near enough to “Little Michoacán” to be part of it – though we’re almost on the edge of “Mount Caaarmel” which is trying to separate out as the “desirable” gentrified neighborhood.

After 5 years living here do I know anything really, other than what i can buy in the mercadito on the corner? Chatting in the park about children doesn’t answer many of the questions I think that me and my other gringa homies have – and we don’t ask. It is rude, intrusive, presumptious to ask. What did you do, before you were here? How was your life? Are you from a big city, or from the country? How about your family, your parents, your grandparents? How do we look to you, here? Why did you come? Why here? Do you live in constant fear of deportation? What are your plans, ambitions, hopes? We don’t know our neighbors. How can we ask these questions when we don’t have any context to understand the answers? And when the questions are rude? We have no framework to start the conversation about differences.

Isn’t part of racism, part of my own racism, that I don’t have to know anything about non-dominant cultures? I don’t have to know your history. You have to know mine.

What if I go to a tiny bit of effort to read about Michoacan and El Salvador? I google around. What I find is kind of embarrassing. I dunno. Nowhere do I get any real story – i.e. if it’s such a great place to visit, why is everyone leaving? Poverty – politics – power – I’m going to keep looking and I’ll let you all know what I find. I’m sure there is a ton of info on the web.

Here are my (so inadequate) starting points… a little geography, a little tourist-level surface stuff:

Wikipedia entry for Michoacán.

P’urhépecha people living in Michoacan – The site is about embroidery and textiles, but you get things like ” There has been a massive immigration to the US from Michoacan as in many other indigenous regions of Mexico. This immigration is so common that in some areas there are not enough workers for full agricultural production. ” They have a link to further info in English:
P’urhépecha region and language
This site is all about surfing and tourism, but you’ll learn something if you read about the different towns…surf-mexico

I have read the Wikipedia entry on Tonga since my neighbors are from there and have close ties to their country.

I have also thought ever since I moved here that I would like to sort of review the other downtown of Deadwood City – the one on 5th street. There is news there, not covered in the papers. In the two local papers in this town, nothing ever happens on 5th street other than a “gang-related incident”. I go nuts sometimes talking to white people who live here who would feel uncomfortable walking down 5th street and going to a store there. And that’s just silly. It’s a fine neighborhood to walk around…. I have never felt uncomfortable there. Though… that is the wrong thing to say. I do not mind the sort of “uncomfortable” where I am the only white person around. Or when I feel kind of dumb in a store when I don’t speak the language, or like I might be (culturally) doing The Wrong Thing. I might be making a mistake. They might be laughing at me. They might be hostile. Hey guess what? It’s good for you to feel that way for a few minutes, and then you have the privilege to go back to whitey-land and feel all comfortable again… So, the thing I wish someone (maybe me) would write would be interviews with all the small business owners in the “other” downtown.

To mention one more thing… I think it is very deeply wrong that the Schaeburg branch of the library, nearest the hills, moved all its books in spanish out. There are a couple of shelves of books for little kids – that’s all. When I asked for books in Spanish they said I should go to Fair Oaks. That’s so dumb because a ton of people in their neighborhood are spanish-speaking! And … frankly it’s the moms and other people who don’t have cars that I’m thinking of. It’s not trivial to haul your ass with a couple of kids across town – walking or on the super inadequate buses. With books. Would it fucking kill them to have a few shelves of novels or something? Some *signs* in spanish? The Main library does a barely okay job though their collection in spanish is completely pathetic. I feel like it also contributes to this thing, this invisibility, this lack of information… Obviously information is there. But the white people in the Schaeburg neighborhood don’t have to notice, now, the section of books in spanish… because it’s not there anymore. There’s no textual visibility…

So pick up a spanish or bilingual local newspaper! Give it a read! Follow my links if you live in my neighborhood, and give me some more, and better ones… If you live somewhere else, think about the people who pump your gas, serve your food, pick your strawberries or whatever… Who are the minorities – but especially who are the poor? Where are they from? Develop a bare minimum of knowledge maybe, so that you know that Morelia is the capital of Michoacan.

Also… in our schools they should teach a significant amount of the history of the places the population is from.

More links:
Aguiliians dream of coming here – looks like a cool student project.

Aguililla is in Michoacan, Mexico. The estimated population of Aguililla is of 20,000 people. Teen agers in Aguililla wear the clothes that their cousins took for them from Deadwood City. If you ask anyone in Aguililla to name a city in the United States the odds will be that they mention Deadwood City. Kids in Aguililla don’t even know how Deadwood City is and they already dream of shopping at stores in Redwood City like Mervyn’s, K-mart, and Costco. It is said that people in Aguililla know more about Deadwood City than their own capital of Morelia. Aguililla has well-kept streets and brand new brick houses built with Californian money. In some streets in Aguililla donkeys roam the paved streets next to late model Ford Explorers and Jeep Cherokees with California Plates….
Many people that celebrate holidays in Aguililla live about 2000 miles away in Deadwood City, California. In Aguililla you will not find any factories or modern industries. The minimum wage is about 18 pesos per day which will equal about 1 dollar and 70 cents in U.S. money. The unemployement rate in Aguililla is of about 60 percent but the drop out rate is even more higher.

Panedería Michoacan – article on mexican bakery. I can tell you… anywhere in this town you can buy awesome pastries 5 for a dollar. I am never sure of their names… maybe I will find that out and blog it. I like the cream-filled empanadas and the pineapple ones, and the plain croissant-shaped ones, and the thin flat flakey ones with the glaze on top, and the cookies with multicolored sprinkles. I love these pastries because they aren’t too sweet. I’ve tried Salvadorian cheese bread (quesadilla) which is like cornbread with parmesan in it… not my favorite but interesting.

(I am noticing that the numbers of white & latino seem way off. I think it is more like half and half. Since a lot of people are not here legally there is undercounting.)

carnecerías – one mentioned in RWC, the Chavez market

8 Responses to “Michoacán, El Salvador, Tonga”

  1. Sharon

    Huh. You know… My next door neighbors are American immigrants, and I have no idea which country they came from. All I know is that the husband learned very good English in 9 months.

  2. Creek Running North

    Bloggers Against Racism

    It’s been a few days, and the Blog Against Racism Day discussion is still in full swing, and the entries keep coming in. Which is what we all wanted, right? A hugely diverse group of people made Blog Against Racism…

  3. Creek Running North

    Bloggers Against Racism

    It’s been a few days, and the Blog Against Racism Day discussion is still in full swing, and the entries keep coming in. Which is what we all wanted, right? A hugely diverse group of people made Blog Against Racism…

  4. anonymous

    mira sea lo que sea como esten ganando el dinero o paguen lo que paguen a nuestra gente de aguililla, que te valga madre por que somos gente decente y trabajadora, ademas si ves burros en las calles y camionetas de ese tipo o de cualquier otro no te ESTAMOS PIDIENDO NINGUN PESO PENDEJO agarra la onda y deja de chingar a nuestra gente haz algo mas de provecho…….

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  6. Doug and Peggy

    I was searching for a Purepecha dictionary and I found your 5/17 entry (my birthday!) Anyway My wife and I have been teachers in the Richmond area for 20 years specializing in bilingual ed. Two years ago we decided to spend a year living in Michoacán in order to better understand our students and their families. We pulled our 16 year old daughter out of Berkeley High, took leave from our jobs and began the greatest adventure of our lives. You can’t imagine how cool Michoacán is… Its impossible because there is nothing like it here. Yeah there is high mountain country like the Sierra, there is desert and there are volcanoes like Lassen, but we have no jungle like they have and we have no pyramids, colonial cities or tropical beaches (most with no building on them) And the best part is that you can see them all in one day. (By car) But what makes Michoacán sooo special is the people. We worked for Apple computer and then the Michoacán state government (video documenting the amazing craftspeople), while we were there and as a result got to know a broad section of the people. Peg and I are getting ready to go back to Mich for the 6th time. This time we will be taking a small group with us to visit the folks we got to know while filming our documentary. Check out our website listed above for details. Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm for these wonderful people!
    Doug Wheeler


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