The Word Police

Sometimes, the very best intentions produce the very worst ideas. And so it is with the recent campaign to rid our national lexicon of what some people are calling the “I-word.”

The word is “illegal.” You and I know that word to simply describe something that is against the law. But, to those activists who agitate on behalf of illegal immigrants – including people who favor an open border and a suspension of all laws against unlawful entry into the United States – the word is an unfair and dehumanizing slur against a group of people who are more accurately described as “undocumented.”

To this bunch, “illegal” is a bad word. And those who use it are bad people. Ironically, that includes a wide swath of the liberal media that often expresses support for comprehensive immigration reform and condemnation of reactionary measures like virtually anything coming out of Arizona these days.

Murder of the DREAM

I’d like to report a murder. The DREAM Act is unresponsive and appears to be gasping its last breath. The trouble is that the cowards who committed this heinous act didn’t even have the guts to show their faces. They killed it in secret, using political sleight of hand and parliamentary procedures. So we don’t know – as President Obama famously said during the health care debate – whose ass to kick. But, if it helps, we do have a last known address for the culprits: The U.S. Senate.

Manhattan Mosque A Matter of Principle

Does it seem insensitive for a mosque to be built near Ground Zero? Sure it does. I imagine for those who lost loved ones that September 11th, it must certainly seem callous, and defiant in the face of the resulting outcry. On the other hand, should we respect the right of a New York Muslim congregation to build a place of worship in Lower Manhattan? Of course, we should. This is America. And the principle of religious freedom and tolerance is at the core of our founding vision.

So why the big hoopla?


Cross the Line and Stare.

"Los Cantores"

"Los Cantores"

Reflections on the art of Carla Veliz, featured in the Instituto Cultural de México’s “Remarkable Paradigms” exhibit for International Women’s Month.

Staring at Carla Veliz’s Los Cantores, I swoon with the rhythms implied in its curves and undulating lines. I yearn to tap my feet in unison with the festive percussion of a geometrically rendered pineapple pattern in the background. I am inspired by the pair of lovers interlaced and framed within the voluptuous and fiery heart of a Latina, represented by a ruby mane shaped like a corazón. The two dance and jointly hold a malleable guitar as their figures intertwine indistinguishably. Who is strumming? Who is playing? Who is watching? None of it matters as the cantores fuse into one kaleidoscopic being, two Latinos singing, dancing and loving as one vivid manifestation of culture and passion.

I sit in another room, and yet again I cannot help but stare, fighting back my strict, traditional upbringing. My eyes open wide as a fascinated child’s, absorbing a vast landscape of muted tones, ochers and browns, rust and hints of the pale blue sky of yet another in a seemingly endless series of melancholically squandered afternoons fading into dusk. A swath of tattered screen spanning the vertical length of the canvas transports me to moments trapped behind a closed porch door, listening to the adults converse outside and yearning to be heard. The words grooved onto the canvas – “Tenia tanto que decir, pero nadie me escuchaba” – lament the unrequited desire for expression, for acknowledgement, for validation. “I had so much to say, but no one would listen.”

They say it’s not polite to stare, but in this case it’s okay because in studying Carla Veliz’s works of art you are taking a long, hard look at your self. Her works speak directly to the diverse soul of Latino culture: capturing a dazzling range of emotions and imagery, from figurative to abstract, from celebration to sorrow, from longing to loss, from shimmering beauty to foreboding darkness. But in her ambitious artistic odyssey, something magical happens amidst swirls of paint, explosions of wax and fragments of found objects colliding and fusing: Carla Veliz transcends her roots and her context. She taps into currents that run universally through all of us. Love, danger, joy, tragedy – at times surely experienced as a Latina raised along the US-Mexico border, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend – are presented in such a way through Carla’s paintings that we are reminded that the common truths that bind us together outweigh the nuances which render us unique.