Why Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl 2014 Commercial Got it Right

I know I am late to the party but it took a little bit of time to figure out my response to the negativity that surrounded the Coca-Cola Super Bowl 2014 Commercial.  At first I wanted to write about the ignorance of the individuals who tweeted their disgraceful comments.  However, that just made me angry and liable to say something I would regret.  After mulling it over, I decided to write about how Coca-Cola got it right.

I am very familiar with “America the Beautiful.”  My alma mater is Wellesley College and a Wellesley alumna, Katharine Lee Bates, authored the poem.  It was a big part of my college experience so as I sat in my neighbor’s living room and heard the first few notes of the song, I thought it was pretty cool there was a commercial using it.  Within five seconds, I stopped what I was doing when I realized the next few words were in Spanish.  It took about 10 seconds for everyone in the room to realize that the commercial was in multiple languages.  For the rest of the commercial, an immigrant and the children and grandchildren of immigrants from three countries sat in silence.  They heard the language of their parents and grandparents during the Super Bowl.

While I don’t have a typical immigrant background, Coca-Cola’s commercial spoke to me.  My grandmother and mother are not technically immigrants in that they came here from Puerto Rico and are citizens by birth, contrary to what Laura Ingraham would have you believe.  However, both instilled a deep sense of pride in my Puerto Rican heritage AND American roots.  Listening to the Coca-Cola Super Bowl 2014 commercial made me feel that same sense of pride.

That is why Coca-Cola’s commercial was pure genius.   It played to the sense of belonging and patriotism that immigrants feel and want their children to feel when they make the decision to come to this country.  In 2011, there were over 40 million immigrants and over 17 million children of immigrants in the U.S., not to mention the millions of Americans who are grandchildren of immigrants.  Coca-Cola did not make this commercial without knowing these facts.  It made a decision based on economics and it made total sense.  This decision will reap rewards for them well into the future.  They scored because I will always remember the first time I heard a commercial in multiple languages that just happened to air during the Super Bowl.  You can’t get more mainstream than that.

Honoring Your Heritage and Loving Your Country

Growing up it took a while for me to realize that I was an American.  Everyone around me said they were Puerto Rican and told me I was as well.  I learned Spanish and English at home.  I watched the Muppets and Smurfs and Sesame Street while also watching Iris Chacon, Don Francisco, and every telenovela under the sun (Dos Mujeres, Un Camino was one of my favorites!) with my grandmother.

It wasn’t until I went to school that I truly realized I was an American.  At school, I said the Pledge of Allegiance in English but also learned Spanish from teachers who looked and sounded like my family.  I learned nursery rhymes in English and dressed in these big flouncy dresses so I could celebrate my Puerto Rican heritage.  I thought this was normal and you could be Puerto Rican and American because the people I grew up with were Italian and American, Portuguese and American, Cape Verdean and American, etc., etc., etc.

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned how threatening this was to people who didn’t grow up with the diversity I did.  Unfortunately, that ignorance still exists.

On Tuesday, Sebastien de la Cruz sang the national anthem at Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Boy, did he sing.  You see, Sebastien, who is of Mexican Heritage, is a known singer in Texas (and beyond) of mariachi music who stepped in at the last minute to sing the national anthem.  Personally, it gave me chills to hear him sing and it made me proud that a young Latino had the opportunity to shine on such a large stage.

But as I mentioned earlier, ignorance still exists and this young boy was attacked as an other because he dared to come out in traditional mariachi dress to honor is heritage and honor his country of birth with a terrific rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.  Of course, the backlash against the ignorance was swift but the best response was directly from Sebastien.  He made it clear that he was a proud American and part of a proud American family.

Hearing his response made me remember my childhood growing up as a Puerto Rican and an American.  But most importantly, it made me remember that I could honor my heritage and still love the country I was born in.  It’s a lesson I am passing down to my daughter.

By the way, if any of those ignorant folks are wondering what an American looks like.  Here is my American Salvarican (half Salvadoran and half Puerto Rican daughter) celebrating her Puerto Rican heritage last year.

555926_10150908800192131_1559936811_n

ALL Kids Deserve a Chance at Success

Today is El Día de los Niños, a day that originated in Latin America to celebrate children. Our nation has been celebrating this day for many years now and many libraries have taken the day to celebrate the importance of literacy for children.

While it is great to celebrate children, what we really need is to invest in them.  Our children are our greatest gift.  They are our future.  They are the ones that will lead our nation and teach our next generation but every day we are failing whole segments of them.

Why?

That is a great question.  I think many individuals will give different answers but I’ll give mine.  I think we allow it to happen because it keeps the power structure intact for those who make decisions.

Take this research.  No Rich Child Left Behind – NYTimes.com.  It details the growing achievement gap between the richest children and children who are middle class and poor, why this is happening, and what can be done about it.

But guess what?  We are not doing anything about it.  The President has a plan but the likelihood of it making it past Congress is probably zero.  As parents, we should be screaming from the rooftops of our homes about the need to invest in our children, but we are not.  The airlines can get Congress to help them stop the pain of the sequester but we cannot get them to stop 70,000 kids from getting kicked off of Head Start.

What does that say about us?  As long as it does not affect my child, it is ok?  I’m sorry to inform you but this will affect your child because your child will become a future leader who will have to deal with the consequences of not properly educating all of our nation’s children.

I, for one, cannot let that happen.  I will continue to advocate for all children because my daughter’s future is tied to the future of all of her peers.  Are you in?

Stop the Madness! Let’s Really Invest in Children.

As a mamí and an advocate, I have had a lot to smile about over the last two weeks. I am finally hearing politicians talk about the issues that matter most to me personally and professionally. While some would have thought it impossible for Republicans and Democrats to both agree that investments in the future of our children are necessary, it has finally happened. Granted, they may have different ideas on how to do it, but at least there is an acknowledgment that we have to invest in children.

The fact that both House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R–Va.) in remarks to the American Enterprise Institute and President Obama in his State of the Union address made it clear that children are, and should remain, a priority to our nation is something to be excited about. However, as parents, we now need to ensure that this is not simply talk. We have to hold our elected officials accountable for doing the hard work necessary for all of our nation’s children to thrive. That starts with ensuring that the arbitrary cuts scheduled for March 1 do not occur.

Those cuts, known as sequestration, will have a devastating impact on programs vital to the future of our children. Yesterday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified about the impact of these cuts on education. Education programs that serve our most vulnerable children would face severe cuts, with 1.2 million children losing access to additional educational supports through Title I and as many as 7,200 teachers and aides who work with disabled children at risk of losing their jobs. These are children who need assistance most, yet our elected officials are willing to leave them in the dark.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius also submitted a letter outlining the devastating impact that sequestration would have on Head Start and child care. She wrote that up to 70,000 children will lose access to Head Start programs, putting approximately 14,000 people out of work. Additionally, 30,000 children would lose access to their child care subsidy. This would be a particular hardship for their parents, who would be left to decide between putting their children in substandard care or losing their jobs.

Think about that for a second. Some people will have to choose between their child’s well-being and their job.

If you think it is deplorable that in our nation a parent should have to make that choice, then I urge you to text BUDGET to 62571 and join the NCLR Action Network so you can get information about our upcoming Week of Action, which starts February 19. We need to send a clear signal to our elected officials that they are playing with the lives of real children.

Join NCLR next week to remind the majority leader and the president that our children, the key to our nation’s economy and future prosperity, are counting on them to stop these harmful cuts.

This was originally posted on the NCLR Blog at blog.nclr.org

Why All Mamis Should Make Their Voices Heard on the Fiscal Cliff

Mamis, think the fiscal cliff isn’t a big deal?  Think again!

The fiscal cliff is approaching rapidly and negotiations between Congress and the White House appear to be going nowhere.  It seems like falling off the cliff is inevitable.  What isn’t inevitable, however, is the damage that this will cause to the economy, our communities, and our schools.

The fiscal cliff refers to the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and the start of new budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 through a process known as sequestration.  How this will affect the economy has been front-page news, but what is talked about less is what happens to our education system on January 2, when the budget cuts go into effect.  For our most vulnerable children, particularly the more than 17 million Latino children in this country, the stakes are high.

While our education system is funded primarily by local property taxes, federal funds account for 8% of all education spending.  However, poor districts receive additional funding from the federal government that they count on to keep schools open, teachers in the classroom, and assistance available to the neediest students.  For some districts, federal funding covers a substantial portion of their budgets.  For example, a recent analysis found that federal funds make up more than 15% of the school budgets in Los Angeles, Miami, and Philadelphia and more than 20% of the budgets in Chicago and Milwaukee.

What does this all mean?  After the fiscal cliff, for every $1 million that a school district receives in federal funding, sequestration will take away $82,000.  For districts with disproportionately large Latino and Black populations, that loss could have devastating effects.  The programs that stand to lose most are those created to help these children compete.  For example:

  • 1.8 million fewer children will be served by Title I, which helps the poorest students.
  • 145,180 children will lose access to before- or after-school programs.
  • 10,899 fewer educators will be available to support special needs students.
  • 26,949 fewer infants and toddlers will receive early intervention services.

Latino children have so much at stake during this debate.  They are 23% of all public school students.  Thirty-seven percent of all Latino children attend the nation’s poorest schools.  Over one-third of all students served by Title I are Latino.  If we fall off the fiscal cliff, our children will suffer the consequences of our inaction.  As the mamis of our future leaders, we must inform ourselves and act to ensure that Congress and the Obama administration make the right decisions.  Our children are depending on us.

 

This was first posted at the NCLR blog at nclrblog.wordpress.com.

I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful | Offbeat Mama

I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful | Offbeat Mama.

Reading this reminded me of how challenging it is to raise a daughter.  Society places so many expectations and roles on women that as mother’s we need to get over our own hang ups if we want to raise healthy daughters.  I hope that I can get over mine so I can make sure my little girl knows she is strong, intelligent, and beautiful and that no one can take that away from her unless she lets them.

Why I voted

I love Election Day in this country.  No matter which party you align yourself with, folks are filled with excitement because today is a day of possibility.  The possibility that your party will be in the White House or the State House.  The possibility that the issues you care about will be resolved in the way you want them to be.  While I am all for early voting, for me there is nothing more exciting than waking up early and standing in line with others to vote today.  And many of us did.

The line at my polling station was two hours long.  No one was complaining though.  There were old people, young people, first time voters, and children.  They were all there to make sure their voices were heard and for many of us parents, to make sure our children saw us vote so they could understand the importance of doing so.  So why did I vote?  Here is my list.

1) I voted because I want our country to move FORWARD not backwards.

2) I voted because I want to make decisions about my uterus and I want my daughter to be able to make decisions about hers.

3) I voted because I want the MD Dreamers to have a chance at a prosperous life.  

4) I voted because I want all individuals to be able to MARRY who they want.

5) I voted because I believe ALL children deserve a shot at achieving the American Dream no matter where they live or who their parents are.

6) I voted because I CAN!  Too many people fought hard to ensure that I had the right to.  I don’t want to let them down.

7) I voted for those that can’t because they are children, they are immigrants, or they lost their right to vote due to a jacked up justice system.

8) Lastly, I voted for her!

Image

 

I want to make sure she grows up in a world where she knows she is valued as a woman and as a Latina. A world that allows her to make her own decisions about her body.  A world that doesn’t limit her.

Why did you vote?

Don’t Let Congress Push Our Future Off the (Fiscal) Cliff

Yesterday, NCLR released the Latino Kids Data Explorer, a unique resource that combines information from several sources into one easy-to-use tool. Advocates, policymakers, and even parents can use this database to see how Latino and other children in their state are faring according to 27 different measures of well-being. The data make one thing clear: we have to pursue stronger policies that create opportunities for children and their families. While Latino children have made gains in several areas such as health insurance coverage and preschool attendance, the reality is that Latino children, as well as Black children, lag far behind their White counterparts in almost all measures of child well-being. This should be of great concern to us all given that Latino children, as one of the fastest-growing child populations in the country, will not only make up our future workforce but also pay the taxes that sustain our nation. If our political leaders shortchange this crucial population during the upcoming conversations on the national debt, they will end up pushing our children off a “fiscal cliff” from which they may never recover.

Last year, policymakers in Washington agreed on a deal to extend tax cuts until December 31, 2012. They also scheduled massive budget cuts to take place concurrently. On January 1, 2013, Americans will be hit with cuts to vital programs in education, health, housing, and job training, as well as a tax hike, unless Congress takes action. This “fiscal cliff” would cause serious harm to families and could slow down or even reverse economic growth, potentially increasing unemployment while simultaneously gutting programs intended to help struggling families. Hispanics must pay close attention to how Congress addresses this issue because the wrong approach can cause long-term damage to our community.

Latino children, and all poor children, will face a double hit if Congress makes draconian cuts to the programs that so many of them depend on to survive. The first hit comes in the form of decreased access to our nation’s safety net and the education they need to become productive members of society. Our nation runs the risk of backtracking on the progress that Latinos have made over the last decade in graduating from high school, obtaining health insurance, and attending preschool. The number of Latino children living with mothers who have less than a high school education or live in poverty will likely rise.

The second hit—cuts to entitlements—will not affect the current generation, but it will have an unquestionably disproportionate effect on these same children down the road. Hispanic children will enter adulthood to find our safety net in tatters. Cuts to Social Security and Medicare will be acutely felt by a poorer and potentially less healthy generation.

As a Latina, voter, and mother, I ask myself how that is fair. How can our leaders pass the burden on to today’s children? Why would our nation’s leaders condemn young Latinos to a childhood of neglect and an adulthood of suffering? Why would they kill the American Dream for nearly one-quarter of our nation’s children? These are questions that all Latinos, and all Americans, must ask themselves. Then we must resolve to make a difference. Our community must inform itself and act to ensure that our nation’s leaders get the message: our community will not let them damn our children to a lifetime of poverty.

This was originally published on the NCLR Blog.

Really? What is wrong with saying vagina?

I grew up calling vaginas a host of names.  Some were in Spanish and a few were in English.  I won’t write them because most of them are considered obscene and one was even made up.  (Chakawaka, anyone?)  In my defense, I thought my Polish/European aunt was teaching me some Polish slang.  Too bad I didn’t know it was made up until I went to college.  It would’ve save me a very embarrassing moment.

Back to my point.  Needless to say, most folks, including my own family, get all crazy and conservative when it comes to teaching children the proper name of female and male genitalia.  But why?  I still can’t figure it out.

In my family, we can tell some naughty jokes and kid around about sex but saying the proper name of your genitalia is viewed in poor taste.  Frankly, folks need to get over it.  I have a little girl and she will most certainly learn the correct anatomical name for her lady bits.  I think it will empower her and I hope also teach her that her body is not something to be ashamed of.  But really, I don’t want her to be a 20 year old calling her vagina a Chakawaka and thinking that folks outside her family actually know what that means.

Michigan State Rep Barred From Speaking After ‘Vagina’ Comments : The Two-Way : NPR.