Tag: Edward James Olmos

Out of Control

As President Bush once famously asked, “Is our children learning?”

Well, in everybody’s favorite state — Arizona — the answer seems to be a resounding no… assuming of course, that we’re talking about Latino kids.

Recently, during a legislative debate in Phoenix, a Republican state representative “stirred up gasps and anger” when she read a letter aloud from one of her constituents.

The letter writer, a substitute teacher named Tony Hill, claimed that he taught in a classroom where his students “were almost all Hispanic and a couple of Black children.” Hill wrote that the students boycotted the Pledge of Allegiance, called him a racist, refused to do their assignments, and even tore apart their textbooks.

Hill summarized his experience by writing that “Most of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters. They hate America and are determined to reclaim this area for Mexico.”

No, it’s not exactly Stand and Deliver.

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Recently, I attended the Hispanicize business conference, where I networked with smart people, snagged some free food, and hung out (however briefly) with Edward James Olmos.

I realize, however, that my post about the conference may not have given you the full flavor of the event. In the interest of rectifying that situation (and because it makes for a pretty easy post to write), here are some of the more interesting tidbits, observations, and general oddities that I heard at the conference.

There are ten of them, but there could easily be more.

“Telenovelas are a cultural touchstone for us. I’m sorry, but it’s true.”

“On the Census form, there shouldn’t be a box to check for race. There should be a color wheel, and it goes from cotton to cinnamon to black, and everything in between. And you just mark your skin color.”

“When we polled people about the top characteristic of Latino culture, ‘emphasis on family’ was number one. Nothing else was even close.”

“I tell my clients who are immigrants, ‘You’re in America now. If somebody rips you off, you say those magic American words: ‘I’m calling lawyers on your ass.’ That’s when they know they’re assimilated.”

“Whether it’s English or Spanish, language is just a tactic. It’s a means to identify a group, but it’s not an identity in and of itself.”

“Univision is now ranked among the top four networks. Isn’t that wild? I think it’s ahead of ABC.”

“Too many Latina moms approach the public schools as if they were holy temples, and they give in to whatever the principal or the teacher says. So no fresh ideas ever get exchanged.”

“That sign is supposed to read Mami Bloggers. Not Miami Bloggers. Damn.”

“Acculturation originally meant a reciprocal process, with cultures influencing each other. But now it just means ‘Give up your culture when you get here.’ It’s become a one-way street.”

“Dude, I say, ‘Let the people just be the people.’ Entiendes?”


So How Did It Go?

I’ve been to a lot of business conferences. But up to last week, I had only gone as a grunt — one of those guys who represent the sponsoring company and whose job it is to hook up the PowerPoint demonstrations, tear down the rooms, and occasionally, tell the speakers what to say (yup, I’ve written a few presentations for zero credit).

So it was great to finally go to a full-fledged, hobnobbing, networking-frenzy, whip-out-those-business-cards kind of conference where I was an actual attendee.

The event was Hispanicize 2011, which may sound like a sci-fi feature about cyborg Latinos, but is actually the “premier marketing event devoted to … brand marketers, bloggers, non profits, and marketing agencies focused on Hispanic public relations and social media.”

Basically, if you write about, or market to, or spend a lot of time thinking about Latinos, you would be a fool to skip this conference. So for three days, I hit the convention floor, went to breakout sessions, and networked with my fellow Hispanics and the people who love us.

It resembled many other business conferences, in that there were plenty of people in suits, and talk about monetizing this or that, and decent swag for the taking. But few other conferences have this much hugging. Really, you can’t get hundreds of Latinos together and expect everyone to stick to handshakes. Damn it, we like to hug, professional attire or not.

This was especially true when I met those individuals who had, to this point, only existed to me as online presences, or email buddies, or frequent commenters. There is no term for the discombobulating sensation of speaking face to face with people you have gotten to know through their writing, or via their comments. It is, of course, a brand-new emotion fit for the twenty-first century, and eventually, we’ll come up with a phrase to cover it.

In any case, my main reaction was to become a bit overwhelmed at the brilliance on display. My natural cynicism couldn’t dismiss some of the great ideas I heard. And my self-confidence (or is it arrogance?) took a backseat when I talked with some of the people who are leading the Hispanic community out of the dark ages.

The last major event was a keynote speech by Edward James Olmos. The Oscar-nominated actor gave an intense, freewheeling, intellectually challenging talk that covered his belief that there is only one race (that would be the “human race”). It also referenced the Mexican drug war, the documentary Inside Job, the value of the Swiss franc, and the fact that Harvard scientists have reversed aging in mice…Really, it all added up somehow.

I met Olmos after his speech and talked to him for approximately 9.7 seconds before a Battlestar Galactica fan interrupted me. But it was ok.

I gave him my card.

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