Slave labor

Slave labor

When keeping current on news and world affairs, it’s sometimes hard to know what is the truth and what is media hype carefully designed to elicit a specific mass response or encourage a change of collective thought. I’m definitely a skeptical consumer when it comes to media messages and I tend to believe that most media outlets have an agenda that they are trying to promote when it appears to be strictly informative. I often find that if I can determine the financial backer for a specific “news spot” (something that is not always easy to do), the slant on the issue becomes clear, although not always truthful.

With this healthy dose of media skepticism in mind, I internally tackle the issue of undocumented immigrants. For fairness, I must disclose that my husband is from Latin America, the source of most of the US undocumented labor force. My heart has always leaned towards the underdog, however I am the type that likes to explore all sides of an issue. The issue is so complex and widespread that I cannot fairly claim to be an expert in all possible consequences, however there are some facts that I keep forefront:

  • Undocumented workers provide the majority of the labor force for many areas of the US economy- Agriculture, Manufacturing, Production and the Service Industry are all filled with hard-working, low-paid undocumented workers. The truth is, with so many welfare and unemployment programs available to US workers, many Americans simply won’t work that hard. I’ve recently been pondering the widely reported Picker Shortage, which seems to be national phenomenon (truth or hype?) and here is what I’ve determined…without drastically raising the price of food and goods, farmers and manufacturers simply cannot afford to pay labor prices that provide a living wage to laborers that are not quick and tireless workers.
  • Here is something that the average American is unaware of- one of the first things an undocumented worker does upon arrival in the US is purchase a fake “mica” , or green card and social security number, which they can then present to employers who (knowingly or otherwise) claim that all the proper paperwork is in order. Undocumented workers are paying taxes and most importantly, they are contributing to the Social Security pool in a major way, considering the fact that they will never be able to collect that money.

Given those facts, I propose that the US Government/Big Business Complex has no real incentive to either stop the flow if undocumented workers or create a path for legalization of those that are here illegally. I will go as far as to say that maintaining such a large, undocumented labor pool is a form of slave labor. For more information, please read Wikipedia’s article on Illegal Immigration.

There are a few additional points that I would like to make.

  • In order for undocumented workers to gain the respect they deserve and to stop the growing xenophobia against Latin American nationals, they need to learn English. This is not to say that they need to stop speaking their native language nor lose cultural traditions from their homeland, but a certain amount of acculturation and pride for the land that brings them tremendous opportunity would go along way towards combating the racist feelings of many Americans.
  • Deuteronomy 10:17-19 provides:”For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality . . . He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”

Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Bilingual, Culture, God, Political Issues, Spanish


Is nothing sacred?

It’s no secret to many of us that the nature of agriculture and food supply is changing world-wide. While I am definitely not “organic” only shopper or eater, I do like to be aware of where my food comes from and I do place importance on supporting a more local, organic approach to eating.

The problem is systemic and I am not going to argue for one side or the other because in reality-as with most things in life-accountability is individual. We truly vote with our dollars. ALWAYS. EVERY DOLLAR YOU SPEND IS A VOTE IN FAVOR OF A PRODUCT, A COMPANY AND A PRODUCTION STYLE.

I’ve come to the opinion that many of our present day issues (environmental, social, political, etc) are the direct result of simply too many people in the world. I believe this to be the case with food supply and agriculture. There are simply too many people to feed. Ingenious engineers and scientists have risen to the challenge and have managed to develop seed that grows larger, faster and easier. Successful (albeit unscrupulous) seed corporations and mega-farms have been generously rewarded (and rightfully so) for producing the world’s daily bread.

I don’t mean to belittle the lack of social responsibility and personal accountability that the government and big agriculture have often displayed in executed this tremendous feat. In fact, this post is sparked by an article I read in today’s paper about Canola seed growers finally getting the green light to litter their genetically deformed seed which, over time, will undoubtedly destroy Oregon’s world class grass seed industry. 

With all of that in mind,I ask myself how can I make a difference?

Well, first of all-I stopped buying Canola oil. It’s not good for me, anyway. Here’s why.

Secondly, I make an effort to not consume. Overall. What I mean is simply not buying so much stuff.This seems so simple, but in the US culture that is what we do-buy stuff. That’s what fuels our economy. Buying stuff.And we do it well.

Every time I think about anti-consuming, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: “Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches”. Certainly in the US, we have been thoroughly conditioned to believe this to be true. Even my own husband, a non-US native, was embarrassed by the patched I sewed on the knee of my son’s school uniform. He promptly bought him some new pants.

Finally, in my consumption, I try to always keep in mind that EVERY DOLLAR I SPEND IS A VOTE IN FAVOR OF A PRODUCT, A COMPANY AND A PRODUCTION STYLE. When at all possible I try to research my purchases and choose the best, most responsible option. If you are interested in doing the same thing here is a guide to start with:

Better World Shopper Guide


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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Books, Food, Local Portland, Oregon, Political Issues


Hispanic Cultural Events-Portland, Oregon

As part of my mission to raise bilingual and bi-cultural children, I put a lot of importance on community and cultural events. I think that it’s not only important, but necessary that a child be exposed the a second language/culture from many angles in order to value the relevancy of the language in every day life. The following is a list of many of the organizations/businesses that host events that I keep on my radar. Most (if not all) of these events are family friendly. The list in an evolving work in progress.

Centro Cultural (Cornelius, Oregon)

Adelante Mujeres (Forest Grove, Oregon)

El Grito y Fiestas Patrias in downtown Portland (Pioneer Square) on Sept. 15

Someday Lounge (Portland, OR) hosts an all-ages Dia De Muertos parade and altar making celebration.

Various Washington County Libraries have storytimes in Spanish and often hosts Hispanic cultural events

Portland Art Museum- often has exhibitions and events for the Hispanic Heritage Month of October

Grupo Condor- a touring folk music ensemble based in Portland, Oregon that embodies traditional musical styles of all of Spanish-speaking America.

Teatro Milagro- The Northwest’s premiere Latino arts and culture organization

Catholic Churches- Many local churches with large Latino congregations host fiestas for the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12th) and Las Posadas (December 16th-December 24th)

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta -Portland Waterfront Park

Educate Ya- fostering social change, cultural integration, professionalism, and wellness education in the Latino communities

Voz- an organization that empowers immigrants and day laborers to gain control over their working conditions through leadership development, organizing, and community education

KBOO Community Radio (90.7 fm in the Portland area) Every Sunday from noon to 7pm is programming in Spanish of interest to the Portland area

PCUN Radio Station-Oregon’s Farmworker Union Radio Station out of Woodburn, Oregon has children’s programming (think Alvin and the Chipmunks in Spanish) on Saturdays from 2-5 pm. You can stream it here.

el Hispanic News Events Calendar

Mirada Latina Magazine on Facebook sometimes lists some fun events. So does Pdxlatino

Portland Latin America Film Festiival- Usually in September or October

Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce hosts a Latino Cultural Festival, usually held in April or May

Salsa en la Calle- A fun, family friendly dance party held on the east side of the Willamette River in August

The Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg hosts a really fun Day of the Dead exhibit in October complete with crafts for the kids

Glenn and Viola Waters Cultural Center in Hillsboro has some fun things going on sometimes

Dia de los Muertos NW appear in costume throughout the year in the Portland area

Washington County History Museum recently had an exhibit about the Bracero program. They might have other culturally relevant things going on!

Ten Tiny Dances is a twice yearly event that features creativity and public performance of many different cultures, including the Hispanic Culture.

Ballet Folklorico México en la Piel, Ballet Folklorico Lo Nuestro and Ballet Folklorico Sol Azteca are the local Mexican dance troupes. Unfortunately, they don’t post events on their Facebook pages or otherwise online, but I love to see them dance!

Woodburn Fiesta Mexicana is usually held in early August



Although I live in one of the riches countries in the world (in many ways), saving money is not easy. Growing up we never wanted for the necessities and even had enough extra for vacations, air conditioning, restaurant dinners-pretty much anything. I had never really thought about the planning and saving that my parents did in order to make that kind of lifestyle possible. Now I know.

My husband is from rural Mexico. There were times growing up where he had no shoes. His family is thankful for a meal of beans and tortillas. Sometimes for weeks on end that is was all they ate.

As you can imagine, the challenge of coming to an agreement with our own personal finances is tremendous. I have certain expectations with respect to lifestyle, I want to plan for the financial future. I suspect that my husband feels guilty spending money on things, imaging how his family in Mexico has (and likely still is) suffering to put beans on the table. The idea that you can put money aside, with no intended purpose or need, is foreign to him.

Antonio Aguilar, an iconic Mexican singer and actor, wrote a well-known song, Un Puño De Tierra. It could be my husband’s credo. The chorus of the song goes like this:

El día que yo me muera (The day I die)

No voy a llevarme nada (I won’t take anything with me)
Hay darle gusto al gusto (You have to give into life’s pleasures)
La vida pronto se acaba (Life soon ends)

Lo que paso en este mundo (Whatever happens in this world)
Nomas los recuerdos quedan (Only memories are left)
Ya muerto voy a llevarme (I won’t take anything with me in death)
Nomas un puño de tierra (Only a handful of dirt)

So, I was fascinated to find out that in his region of Mexico, it is common to particpate in a Tanda, which is a grass-roots savings/credit plan. Here is how it works:

Say you need $400 right now for whatever reason (home repair, medical reason, a burial). You get 3 other people to each participate in a Tanda, person A, person B, person C and person D. Each person agrees to put in $100 each week for 4 weeks. In week one person A receives the Tanda, thereby receiving $300, plus their own $100. In week two person B receives the Tanda and in week three person C receives and so on until everyone is paid back.

I know, I know. Your Western brain is thinking “What’s the incentive? Shouldn’t people be paid back $110?” A Tanda is created out of need, not greed and the spirit is truly one of generosity and cooperation within the community.

Creative and resourceful, huh?  A Tanda could be created with any number of people, any length of time and any dollar amount. Default isn’t a big issue in a small town where you would be hounded relentlessly if you didn’t follow through with your end of the deal.

Anyone up for a Tanda?

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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Culture, Música, Spanish


Make a Difference as a Family

  • Babysit for a single mom
  • Teach compassion with a Family Giving Box
  • Write a Family Mission Statement
  • Bake cookies for your local fire dept.
  • Pick up trash at local park as a family field trip
  • Create snack packs for Ronald McDonald residents
  • Welcome a new family to the neighborhood with a dessert and introduction
  • Pray for the poor of the world
  • Color a Smile-print coloring page to be given to lift someone in need up
  • Make a baby care kit for a baby in need
  • Take time each week to unplug as a family
  • Donate your time or treasure to the Make a Wish Foundation
  • Appreciate your church staff in some small, tangible way
  • Do yard work for an elderly neighbor
  • Make a Life Book for a child in Foster Care
  • Read You Were Made to Make A Difference as a family
  • Volunteer to cuddle babies at the hospital (older kids/teens are often allowed also)
  • Read Christmas Jars as family
  • Save loose change in a jar and give to a needy family at Christmas
  • Take a family volunteering vacation
  • Stop and say thank you to grocery clerks, waitresses. Ask them how they are doing.
  • Become a monthly sponsor to help pregnant girls in Kenya
  • Make a birthday cake for an underpriviledged child
  • Serve at home: make each other’s beds, clean up someone else’s mess
  • Write thank you notes to people who serve you: postman, yard guy, doctor, etc
  • Sponsor a child monthly (cannot recommend enough)
  • Make relief kits for disaster relief victims
  • Sew a sleeping bag for someone in need (easy pattern)
  • Volunteer at a non-profit
  • Make up some Hygiene Bags to pass out to local homeless people
  • Take your family on a tour of Red Cross
  • Put a monthly date on the calendar for a Family Service Night
  • Take a meal to a new family
  • Create a card for Habitat for Humanity new home owner
  • Encourage your older children to be a Mother’s Helper to a mom with young kids
  • Fill a backpack to help give a homeless person a lift up
  • Make birthday cards and deliver them to a local nursing home monthly
  • Donate books to Africa
  • Take your kids to a local Food Pantry with canned goods to donate
  • Deliver food for Meals on Wheels
  • Pray as a family on a regular basis for the people in your life.
  • Donate your hair to Locks of Love.
  • Give blood. (Take your kids with you and explain the importance).
  • Donate nice toys to cancer ward at a Children’s Hospital
  • Buy a mosquito net and help prevent malaria
  • Randomly celebrate each other with a special treat, meal, time
  • Donate school supplies to a classroom in need
  • Compliment and thank the teachers in your life
  • Buy a soccer ball for a child in poverty
  • Give a used bike to a homeless person
  • Donate coloring books/crayons to hospital emergency rooms
  • Host a 40 hour famine in your home (fast something!)
  • Give clothes to a family in need (call your church/school to find one)
  • Read to a special needs child
  • Only drink water for 2 weeks, give proceeds for clean water
  • Buy a goat for a family in extreme poverty
  • Give a donation in someone’s name to an organization you believe in
  • Send your used shoes to Reuse-a-Shoe
  • Become Certified Respite Caregivers to give Foster Family’s a babysitting
  • Decorate a Christmas tree at an elderly person’s house
  • Hold a collection drive: makeup, lotions, etc for women at a shelter
  • Find a Food Bank near you to volunteer
  • Deliver fresh fruit/veggies to children at a homeless shelter
  • Offer your pet for therapy to the elderly
  • Decorate nursing home rooms of residents with homemade art
  • Have regular “family nights” with games, ice cream, time together
  • Visit the NICU with treats for the doctors and anxious parents
  • Write to unsponsored children
  • Read to patients at a local hospital
  • Plan a family missions trip
  • Bake cookies, host a bake sale and donate money to the poor or a cause
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter
  • Plant a garden and share the produce
  • Hold a drive for lightly-used stuffed animals for police stations SAFE program
  • Write letters to servicemen
  • Give a micro loan and change a family in a third world country
  • Smile. At everyone.
  • Make care packages for children in the hospital
  • Instead of a birthday gifts, ask for donations for a charity or food for a food pantry
  • Shop fair trade
  • Offer to decorate hospital hallways during the holidays
  • Ask your city about volunteering to remove graffiti
  • Host a Lemon-AID stand and donate proceeds Blood Water
  • Make no-sew fleece blankets for Hospice
  • Collect pencils for African children
  • Send a care package to our military
  • Read the Bible together as a family every day
  • Collect shoes for Shoes for Kids (started by an 11 year old girl)
  • Let kids choose a charity to donate to for one of their Christmas gifts
  • Become a foster family
  • Pay for someone’s drink in Starbuck’s drive-thru. Make sure your kids enjoy the act of kindness.
  • Help your kids starts a neighborhood or school Bible Study with their peers
  • Volunteer to plant flowers for your school/church flowerbeds
  • Make a Care Bag for a child in need
  • Welcome home a hero at the airport
  • Complain less
  • Start a Kindness Club with your family
  • Let your light shine!
  • Look for opportunities to be the difference in someone’s life
  • Host a virtual food drive
  • Start a KidzRap on your street!
  • Purchase gifts through families fundraising for adoption.
  • Make a quilt for NICU familes
  • Pay the toll for the car behind you
  • Invite friends to Vacation Bible School
  • Help keep families together
  • Take someone flowers from your garden
  • Participate in Operation Christmas Child
  • Make Valentine’s Gifts for the elderly at our local care center.
  • Send a care package to our military.
  • Buy restaurant gift cards and distribute to the homeless on street corners.
  • Collect items for restoration bags for girls coming out of trafficking.
  • Prepare New Mommy Blessings bags for our local Pregnancy Resource Center (newborn baby supplies (diapers, rash cream, toy, gender neutral outfit, burp cloth), new mom care items (nipple cream, lotions, etc), wrapped in a cute baby blanket or receiving blanket)
  • Bake cookies for our local Fire Department.
  • Pick up trash at local park as a family field trip.
  • Fill Action Packs for the persecuted church (via Voice of the Martyrs).
  • Adopt an foster child for Christmas through Angel Tree.

“Mama-is Santa Claus real?”

From Proactive Parenting

Dear Child,

Thank you for your letter. You asked a very good question: “Are you Santa?”

I know you’ve wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, Daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the Christmas magic stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no, I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I’m on his team, and now you are, too.

I love you and I always will.

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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Children, Familia, Holidays


Valentine’s Day for kids/Día del Amor y la Amistad

In my quest to make holidays meaningful to my family, I find myself researching age appropriate crafts for my kids to make as gifts and decorations.

I found this easy Valentine’s Day craft on Surviving Motherhood and made one with my 4-year old. She loved it and plays with it and it is a cute reminder of our love for each other.

While I love the idea of passing out Valentine’s cards as a way to take a moment to show each and every person your love and appreciation, I am not a fan of the cookie-cutter 30-per-box punch-out cards (now with candy!) that are commonplace today. Here a few creative ideas:

Mad Libs Valentines

Recycled Crayon Valentines

Fabric Scraps Valentines

Printable ValenZZZAtines En Español


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