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.

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

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!

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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.

Celebrating and Protecting Children!

Today is El Día de los Niños.  Many outside of the Latino community might not know about this day but it has been celebrated in Mexico, among other Latin American countries, since the 1920s.   El Día de los Niños was first celebrated in the United States in 1997 (A short history of the U.S. history of the day can be found here).  While not an official holiday, Latino communities across the nation celebrate the day at community events and by taking the time to spend it with their children.  Since it is about celebrating children, I think it is a perfect time to reflect on the state of children in our country. 

Policymakers have made great strides in protecting children over the last century.  From outlawing (most) child labor and instituting compulsory education, the condition of children has measurably improved.  However, the reality that many of our nation’s children confront is frightening.  In honor of El Día de los Niños, I’ll explore some of the issues (poverty, education, health, etc.) that face our most vulnerable children.  At a minimum, I hope these posts will serve as reminders that there is much work to be done to protect our country’s most precious resource.  My greatest hope is that they’ll serve as a call to action to address the issue you find most dear to your heart.

Do you carry your papers?

I certainly don’t and neither does Angel Rodriguez, the Kansas State guard who was heckled by band members from the University of Southern Mississippi with chants of “where’s your green card?” during the NCAA tournament last month.  But if the state of Arizona has its way, many of us will have to carry them and be able to show “proof” of being in this country legally.  Although some argue that Arizona’s SB 1070 isn’t a big deal if you are here legally, they are wrong.

Passing laws that single out one group of people amounts to that group being viewed as suspect just by the virtue of how they look, their accent, their last name, or their perceived ancestry.  We wouldn’t accept that if it was based on religion so why it is ok to accept this because it is being done to Latinos.  While those in favor of the law state it will apply to everyone, logistically common sense dictates that won’t be the case.

I mean, imagine Arizona police having to ask everyone they come into contact if they have their papers and then arresting them if they can’t show them.  Local law enforcement wouldn’t have the capacity to house everyone who doesn’t walk around with their birth certificate.  They will have to make choices about how they will enforce the law and the dirty little secret is that only those who don’t pass an officer’s “look test” will be asked to prove they are citizens.  Being judged by how you look isn’t right and it certainly doesn’t represent the America I was raised in.

As the U.S. Supreme Court begins to hear oral arguments today about SB 1070, I hope they see the inherent foolishness of the law and declare it unconstitutional so I don’t have to worry about carrying my papers.

Let them eat…NOTHING?

In case you hadn’t heard, the recession is over.  It’s been over since June 2009, according to the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research.  While the recession has ended, the devastation it left behind is still being felt.  A record number of Americans are living in poverty and in need of a strong government safety net.  Yet for the House of Representatives Agriculture and Ways and Means Committees it was more important to protect millionaires and unnecessary defense spending instead of vulnerable children and families who continue to struggle to make ends meet.

Yesterday, the Republican-controlled Agriculture Committee approved $33 billion worth of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or what most of us refer to as food stamps.  The Food Research and Action Council predicts that the cuts will push up to 3 million people off of the program, nearly half of which will be children.  The Ways and Means Committee approved a measure that would require Social Security numbers for taxpayers claiming the Child Tax Credit.  The Center for American Progress reports that families, who earn an average of $21,000 a year, will lose an average of $1,800.  This change will affect over five million children, four million of whom are Latino.

It is highly unlikely that these cuts will ever happen given that once these bills make it out of the House, they won’t make it past the Democrat-controlled Senate and onto the President’s desk.  Nonetheless, the Committees votes are telling as it gives us a glimpse into the priorities of the Republicans in the House of Representatives.  Basically, they are saying that children do not matter.

So I ask you, do children matter to you?  They certainly matter to me.  I will call my Congresswoman and ask her to take a stand for children by rejecting these dangerous and misguided proposals when they come to a floor vote.  Join me and do the same.  Let’s show Congress we are keeping an eye on how they treat America’s children.