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Nov. 6, 2010 Writers Note: Before you read the below, there is an UPDATED version of this with Ask A Chola responding to some of the allegations. You can read it HERE.
Warning: LONG post! But it’s Drama!
Chicanos and Chola / Cholo enthusiasts are all riled up right now even as I type this. Seems like Aura, a journalist and all around bad ass, asked Ask A Chola (pictured on the left sporting a classic green bandanna) where she was from ey.
Check out the message Aura sent on Facebook to several mutual friends -
My apologies in advance for this unsolicited message — you are simply one of 148 people I know in common with “Ask A Chola”, and I want to check in with you about her.
Have you ever wondered who “Ask A Chola” is, behind that green guise? Do her ridiculous accents and sordid attempts at humor ever leave you doubtful that a real Mexicana/Chicana/Latina could possibly create such humiliating attempts of humor? If so, you’re not alone.
Since “Ask A Chola” has willfully turned herself into a public entity, I made the mistake (or should I write I had the pleasure?) of inquiring about the real identity behind “Ask A Chola” on her Facebook page yesterday. She deleted my original comment, and when posted another comment, she responded:
“Aura: You think I’m too white? You think I’m not brown enough? Well, you know what? I am whatever the fuck I want to be. My identity is something that is negotiated between me, myself and I. There is no you in that negotiation. I am brown. …I am Aztlan. I am Mexican. I am whatever the fuck I feel myself to be. And you’re just going to have to deal with it. Where I reside and my finances and where I vote and whatever the fuck else you asked are really none of your business. I suggest you ask yourself why I bother you so much…. I suspect that you have your own issues with identity, disconnect with homeland… whatever the fuck is going on, I don’t fucking care. But please take your issues elsewhere.”
Aside from making some ridiculous claims about me, “Ask A Chola” made several ludicrous assertions about herself. Namely, she states, “I am Aztlan. I am Mexican,” when the reality is that she is white. Chloe *********** is a white woman who lives in an expensive loft in the gentrified section of Santa Ana. She was educated at Berkeley, UCLA and Harvard, and she thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to capitalize off of a particularly vitriolic form of brown face. What she cannot accept is being questioned. In other words, she’s a complete bigot. Before “Ask A Chola” blocked me, I managed to pull together the list of people I have in common with her — hence, this message to you today. If you’ve ever wondered who “Ask A Chola” really is, simply do a Google image search for Chloe **********, and you will clearly see that Chola is just Chloe, misspelled.
I can no longer see the “Ask A Chola” page, and have been prevented from sending her messages. Perhaps you will consider publicly questioning this racist. Or perhaps you will shrug this off as nonsense. Clearly, I hope you and 147 other people do the right thing.
I responded with:
I love you Aura, you’re an amazing journalist and mujer on the front lines of some of our communities most important issues. But as a lover of pop culture, I also love Ask A Chola, sure, sometimes her “esa’s” and “orale’s” aren’t punctuated correctly, but its all done satirically. It’s very Dave Chapelle – although no one can compare to his genius.
I am in no way offended by her, just like I am not offended by Lalo Alcaraz’ doing a Brown Pride poster of Jerry Brown. It’s satire. and if the question is about identity, none of us know her well enough to say she cant be chicana or mexican because she’s white. is she? and im not too certain how her education or her expensive loft have anything to do w/ her character. Debra Wilson and Nicole Sullivan on Mad TV were Black and White and did HYSTERICAL versions of two chola bff’s. Anywho, just some thoughts on my end. We are all entitled to an opinion.
Someone named Yolotli responded with:
simply just delete her from your friends if you don’t like what she has to say. people delete and add me all the time because i share too much good info too often =/ hahhaha leave her alone, just do you players. Take care of your soul. Again, if you dont like what she has to say “delete her”.
Peace love Ligth
CSUN Chicano Studies Professor Gerrard Meraz (whose views don’t represent those of the university) responded:
I have been following Chola for a couple years now and found her to be obviously an art school grad who is playing with the fluidity of identity in the art school speak of post-race (gibberish), upper class, and non Raza.
This was confirmed to me by DJ associate who was a guest on her show. He told me she was the daughter of prominent scientist, well off, and highly educated.
I understand black face/brown face and its negative implications, but we can point out how some Raza artists/satirists/writers walk a fine line of satire and brown face as well. One person’s art statement or wit is another person’s insult, cliche or stereotype.
Is Guillermo Gomez Pena’s thick accent real or part of his character(s)? Are calaveras and virgens cliche or representing la cultura? Is saying you are post Chicano an insult to Chicanos who fought, died and got locked up for Raza to get into college and art schools?
Chola may be funny to some, not all the time of course; she does bring up some issues, mildly; she is insulting, she is transforming cholas into art school speaking theorists.
Is she an ally?
Or just bad representation for Cholas? Bad for Raza? Bad art?
Clearly she is not a Chola and if we believed for minute that she was, then maybe we have been too far removed from the real as well.
I hope this opens up dialog and not just name calling because the issues here are bigger than a white woman with a Mexican fetish.
If she had just come out n said that she is a white woman exploring chola culture as art would that have lessened the sting of the black face?
How about middle class privileged blacks n browns who play thugs, n gangsters in order to sell records n movies? See ice cube, lil Wayne, dr dre, cheech Marin, etc.
They bought into the white gaze that expects them to be as such, are we calling them out on this as well, i mean since we are on the topic.
My students are loving this discussion. I have showed them her videos, ‘Black Acting School’ from “Hollywood Shuffle”, early Dr. Dre before he was a gangster, they know Cheech Marin is a Simi Valley cop kid and Lil Wayne is Ivy league – so the line of how and why its ok when ‘our own’ make fun of or degrade our own vs a white educated white woman doing it is totally being examined.
What is the plan with Chloe? Did you report her as racist and hurtful to FB? How about Lil Loca on Youtube, she is so popular, Bud Light is running ads on her video. At one point she admitted she was a white actress who grew up around chola and admired them, last night I couldn’t find that statement. Does Chole need to do the same and apologize?
On her Twitter page, Chola describes: “I am a new media artist/cultural critic/anarchist/killer/blogger/chola. My reality is an experiment in web 2.0. Tweeting en Espanglish.”
I have written about the glorification of chola culture in the past when I took a trip to the Getty to see the photography of Graciela Iturbe. Needless to say, I was not impressed in that I felt that the photographs were an outsider looking in perspective, as if we were looking at cholas and cholos in “their natural habitat.” It was a bit offensive.
So in this heated debate on who gets to be a chola, I wonder if people are upset because Ask A Chola is a white girl or because she’s not the best actress in depicting Cholas? What if she was funnier?
As mentioned, Debra Wilson and Nicole Sullivan were not Mexican or real cholas but DAMN! Their version of Lida and Melina on Mad TV was pretty on point. See the video.
Then there is also Johny Sanchez as Lil Joker:
Just a few days ago, satirical cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz depicted California Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown as a a cholo with the slogan “Brown Pride.” Satire at its best? Ok for Lalo to make this white politician into a cholo?
So the idea that Ask A Chola can’t be a chola because she’s white, or well educated seems a bit far fetched. Would it had been any better if in the original debate with Aura she would have said she was an artist and not claimed to be from Aztlan? Does that then change the interpretation of Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands and Raza Cosmica? Academically, are Chicanos ready to admit that white people can also claim different ideologies of identity? Even if one trace its origins to Chola culture? Does Mexican identity play a role? Auro is Argentenian, I’m Salvadoran, Ask A Chola is a white girl. Do those things matter?
These Chicanas known as “Las Ramonas” are channeling their inner cholas, does that matter? Is that any better? Less offensive?
On her Facebook page, Ask A Chola, whose real name seems to be Chloe, defends herself:
with all due respect, if you think that Ask A Chola is “black face” you don’t get it at all. Why don’t you talk to any of the million people defending me. People of all colors. Just listen to them and try to understand. It makes me sad that you think that.
This is not black face because it is not mockery. If you think Ask A Chola is mocking brown people than I don’t know what to say to you. (If fact, it makes me sad that you think that.) I don’t know how to explain my art. Maybe talk to my fans and they will explain it to you. All I can say is that Ask A Chola is strong, intelligent, articulate and witty. And I have a whole lot of fans of all colors and races and ethnicities that are also strong, intelligent, articulate and witty that get it.
Here she is explaining Cholas v. Ninjas
So, who gets to decide who can be a chola artist exploring identity? and if we are so caught up in negative portrayals of our community, do actual cholos and cholas see themselves as negative aspects of our communities? are cholas gangmembers or is it a style? and where are their viewpoints on this conversation?
*Excuse the misspellings, I’m rushing and will add more as we go along! Please chime in!
Countless demonstrations have taken place in a national effort to bring attention to the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as The Dream Act. In solidarity with the Dream Act, and the countless students who would benefit from this legislation, I share with you my own journey from a small country in Central America to the vast urban jungle of Los Angeles.
From 1980 – 1992, my country of origin, El Salvador, was deeply entangled in a civil war. Financially supported by the U.S. government under President Carter and President Regan, the Salvadoran government was able to wage war against its citizens in the final stages of the Cold War.
I lost my father because of this war. He died trying to protect the basic human rights of farmers, mothers and children.
In 1983, when I was just three years old, my mother, just in her early 20’s, made a decision that would change our destiny. She would go to the U.S., work and to find a way to send money back home so that I could join her. The irony of relocating to a country that enabled the Salvadoran government to propel thousands of its citizens to leave doesn’t escape me.
Within a few years, working as a nanny despite having a bachelor’s degree, my mother had saved enough money and sent for me. I was five years old. She had remarried and I had a new family. Life was wonderful and the American dream was within reach. I was the oldest of five daughters, and went on to be the first in my family to graduate from an American high school. I receive my undergraduate degree from Cal State Los Angeles and just last year, a Masters from the University of Southern California, where I was the student speaker at the Chicano/Latino graduation ceremony. I took out loans and worked countless jobs from selling TV’s at Circuit City to walking dogs to answering phones – my parents had taught me to value of hard work and setting goals.
A few weeks ago, my state senator, Gloria Romero, recognized me as “Woman of the Year” for my work as a broadcaster and for my community service.
As I read the headlines of students risking deportation in acts that are nothing short of true American patriotism in efforts to increase the dialogue on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, I cant help but wonder about my own journey.
You see, I was thirteen years old when I learned I was undocumented – that I was “illegal.” Turns out I had crossed the Mexico and U.S. border with a Mickey Mouse shirt in the backseat of a coyote. Me, the girl who played violin, loved the Dodgers, received straight A’s and always sat in front of the class. How could I be illegal?
Turns out that despite living in a country where people were being murdered, women raped and children going missing, the U.S. government refused us political asylum. We were faced with the option of 1) risking death through war or 2) being in the U.S. without proper paperwork.
The choice was a simple one of survival.
For most teenagers, turning 13 is a right of passage, high school looms ahead with dreams of prom, boys and football rallies. For me, I learned the truth of my status and began to see the world through a different lens. We didn’t leave El Salvador because we wanted to; we left because we had to.
The choices that followed that decision have been a trickle-down effect that occurred the moment President Regan agreed to increase funding for the Salvadoran civil war.
This issue – American involvement in international affairs – is often missing in discussions on immigration. I would wager that most Americans don’t know where El Salvador is or know how much money was pumped into its civil war.
I was fortunate enough to become a resident of the U.S. in my teen years, and in 2004, I proudly cast my first vote as an American citizen during the presidential election. I love this country because of the opportunities it has offered me through my own hard work and dedication. I look at its history and know that its future is bright and solid, and one that I am helping shape.
My story isn’t anything special, extraordinary or unique. There are countless young people just like me who have overcome incredible obstacles.
As a supporter of the Dream Act, I look at the young students risking everything they have ever known and wonder about their talents, contributions and passions.
As a country, we have invested in their education, their successes, and their dreams and now, they are in limbo, unable to work with degrees they have paid for. They are unable to contribute to our economy, our tax system, our military or our research institutions.
I have received countless honors, accolades and recognitions. People say I am a role model and someone young people in the inner city can look up to.
Me, the girl who at 13 learned she was illegal. What would my life be like if I hadn’t been able to legalize my status? Would I have been able to contribute to the extent that I have?
The Dream Act is not about giving a hand out to undocumented students, it is about our ability to recognize talent, drive, and look to the future of our nation.
We owe it to ourselves, our country and our future to pass legislation that would enable a pathway to citizenship for young people willing to serve in our military or go to college.
Our society is no longer sustained within our borders; we live in a global economy where a country’s success is measured by the resiliency, strength and courage of its people – all qualities exemplified in these students.
My sister Beatriz is one of the most gorgeous women I know. She’s breathtakingly beautiful with glowing sun kissed skin and a joyous full of life way about her. When we are together, we laugh and laugh in a secret way that only sisters can. When I was browsing through her pictures on Facebook, I noticed one in particular that caught my eye.
The image below, taken by her photographer friend, Brenda Bravo, strikes a similar resemblance to one of my favorite photographs of all time, “American Girl in Italy” by Ruth Orkin.
Ruth Orkin was a rebel rousing independent woman who traveled the world and captured the essence of what it was like to be a woman in 1951. Her most famous photograph, “American Girl in Italy” demonstrates a very simple, and very real relationship between a woman walking down a street and the men who look at her.
The status of women in the 1950’s was certainly different than what it is today. It had been just about six years after WWII when Orkin snapped her picture. Women in America were straddling the thin line of leaving their Rosie the Rivetor jobs and becoming a typical 1950’s housewife, just as young high school girls were being taught “How to be Good Wife” in home economics. I can only imagine what it must have been like for women in Italy, with a country still building itself from the ruins of war.
What Orkin portrays with “American Girl in Italy” is a scurrying young woman clutching her chest, with a pained look on her face as she tries to get past the long line of cat calling leering men.
Fast forward 59 years later, and we can see a similar image captured by Bravo. Yet, something is different. My sister walks with confidence, aware of the looks, incredulous to the stares, head held high, arms at ease, gliding with her step. She confronts the tension in the air with her own power and radiant feminine sexuality. She knows where she is going and she makes her way without regard as to what anyone may think, do or say.
As a photographer myself, I love seeing one of my favorite pictures captured so candidly in present day. 2 kudos to Brenda Bravo!
I smile wondering what Orkin (1921 – 1985) would say of this comparison… if only she could see what I see…
When I was a little girl growing up in East Los Angeles, I had many dreams. I would stay up late at night dreaming up my dream life, wondering how I would get there. Last Friday, as I stood amongst the distinguished women being honored by Senator Romero, and as I received the recognition of “Woman of the Year” for Senate District 24, I felt a moment of “wow, how did I get here?”
A beautiful Resolution from the state of California on behalf of the Senator bears my name, and with such honors, comes great responsibility. I hope to be able to carry on this title with the honor it deserves. It was truly an amazing moment to share with my friends, family and the many invited guests. To receive this honor for my work with Power 106 and our “Knowledge is Power” program is simply the icing on the cake. I am so lucky to be able to use the radio airways to promote education, college access, civic engagement and talk to all of our awesome listeners – all of whom make my job so easy!
This is the last year that Senator Romero will honor women in her district, as she is set to leave the Senate later this year. I am very privileged to be her last honoree for “Woman of the Year.” We have come a long way since we met! Thank you to everyone who made this day extra special!
It doesn’t seem like too long ago, I was the one asking for recommendation letters. In fact, just two years ago, I was finishing my last-minute application to USC and I was nervous about my entire packet. Wondering if I would finish it in time, if I would have my rec letters in order and simply wondering, “am I really applying to Grad school?”
Well, long story short, I got in, I tried (sometimes not as hard as I should have), wrote my thesis, and graduated just this past December. I realized throughout my time at USC that it was my rec letters that made a huge impact on my acceptance.
And now, that I am asked to write letters for other student journalists seeking scholarships from organizations that are established to help young talent, I look at my experience in bewilderment. When did I become the professional? There are so many moments in my every day life where I wonder when I grew up. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great. I love being allegedly older and wiser. And to think that now, my recommendation merits a sence of power of persuassion, its like WOW. How cool is that?
My article from The Huffington Post.
As the fight for LGBT equality rails on in Washington with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and in California with its Prop 8 trial, a group of artists and activists in Los Angeles have taken it into their own hands to move the California agenda forward. Taking the lead from the Manifest Hope campaign, which was largely spearheaded by the work of Shepard Fairy and his self described art-pusher Yosi Sergant, the Manifest Equality art exhibit is a much anticipated “welcome home” for Sergant.
After his very public separation from the National Endowment of the Arts, Sergant only recently confessed that while his work on the campaign left him rejoicing, it also left him feeling like he hadn’t done enough to help the No on Prop 8 campaign in California.
The Manifest Equality Gallery in Hollywood, set to run from Wednesday March 3 to Sunday March 7, certainly marks a shift. In what used to be an old abandoned Big Lots, Sergant, along with his partners in art-pushing Jennifer Gross and Apple Via, unveiled to the public an array of art focused on a call-to-action aimed at changing public perception towards political reform on a local, state and national level.
Steve Alfaro, a Los Angeles artist whose piece sold before opening night and who also showcased work in DC for Manifest Hope, was compelled to submit a piece because of a female friend who once confessed she didn’t feel she belonged because of her sexual orientation.
“No one should be made to feel that way,” Alfaro stated as he made the comparison that the Latino community is facing similar struggles in efforts to obtain comprehensive immigration reform, “There are people out there, and in DC that want to make us feel different, when we are not – we are all humans, we are all created equal.”
If Los Angeles is to set the stage for change, perhaps LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz, who attended as a guest and private citizen, summed it up best, “I’ve been married for 33 years, if a couple of guys or a couple of girls want to get married, how does that in any way affect me? Asking simply to be treated like everyone else – how can anyone argue against that?”
Cleve Jones, a human rights activist who was recently portrayed in the movie Milk by Emile Hirsch, was amongst the speakers and invited guests of event sponsors, the Courage Campaign for the special Tuesday private viewing.
“There was a time in my life when I felt I could not go further” Jones began telling the crowd of hundreds, “It was 1987 and almost everyone that I knew was either dead or dying from HIV. My heart was filled with hatred and fear and despair. Hatred for the straight world and the politicians who were allowing HIV to kill relentlessly without responding, fear for what was going to happen to me, and despair that the world would never wake up in time to do anything about it all.”
Amongst those thoughts, Jones created the Aids Memorial Quilt, to celebrate, honor and remember the life of those who died of Aids.
As he recalled, in the late 1970’s, he was young, white, and gay in the Castro District of San Francisco, but through this art, the quilt reached people all over the nation who longed to be connected as they mourned their loved ones.
Filled with the exhilaration, passion and stage presence only a true organizer possesses, Jones told the moving story of an African American woman in her late 70’s who cared for her son until his death from AIDS, and who alone, with her grief, took a Greyhound bus from Kentucky to San Francisco to add a piece of cloth to the quilt.
“This is my son,” she said as she gripped a piece of cloth in her hands.
At Manifest Equality, these stories hang at every wall and every corner. Art spins in the music, it’s performed by artists, and it’s retold through activating the human memory and remembering the struggles for justice and the lives it’s claimed. From freedom rides, to sit-ins, to twitter and facebook, organizing community is at the core.
This call-to-action is perhaps what the Obama Generation needs to reactivate a base that Sergant was very much a part of.
“Those who were excited by the Obama campaign will get involved again; make calls, knock on doors, register to vote, hold elected officials accountable” reads a Facebook message from Unai Montes-Irueste, a community organizer and friend of Sergant’s.
“HOPE and CHANGE was not about one man, it was about our causes, our passions, and our belief that the American Dream is not dead. This nation is as much mine as yours, and my name, my skin color, my gender, my religion, my accent, my sexuality cannot subtract from this fact. Either there is equal protection under the law, and consenting adults can marry one another, serve openly in the military, visit one another in the hospital, and leave their worldly possessions to one another, or the Constitution is worth no more than it was when some were counted as three-fifths human.”
Manifest Equality is not just about art. It’s about being civically engaged Americans who have a direct say in the policy that affects our lives. It’s about accountability, progress and believing that America’s future is brighter than its past.
As Jones so eloquently stated, “We are gay and straight together, we are fighting for LGBT equality – but we stand as part of a broader, deeper, larger struggle across this planet…for all of us.”