I felt sad today. I’ve felt down a bit lately, but it was hard to describe why. I figured it out this afternoon.
I’m on my fifth rewatch of the first season of One Day at a Time on Netflix. I haven’t watched something this intensely since Buffy the Vampire Slayer which is funny considering Elena and several episodes in the latter half of the season. On the surface, yeah, I get that I like it because I’m gay and a writer like Elena. I come from a Latin, military family with religious parents. While I’m not Cuban, or Cuban American, there’s enough similarities to Mexican culture that I heavily relate. And I get to hear people who sound like and look like me and my family. Hearing Spanish spoken on TV without any subtitles is thrilling. People will go out of their way to learn Elvish or Klingon but for some reason won’t take the little computer they have in their pocket and google what a few words in mean in Spanish. Hopefully now, they will. And that’s a good thing. It’s estimated that in the next decade a whole quarter of the United States will be Latino. We’re here. Get over it. A wall’s not keeping anybody out.
I thought at first that this was why I was sad. And obviously, the way the president talks about Latinos and Mexicans doesn’t help. It furthers falsehoods and stereotypes that are wrong and dangerous. It helps people make assumptions instead of asking genuine questions. I’ve heard people in the past talk about us like we’re rats.
“Oh, I don’t want to go over there. There’s too many Mexicans.”
“Did they finish cleaning yet? I don’t mind if they’re here, I just don’t want to see them.”
Because I’m not what most people picture when they think of a Mexican or the child of a Mexican immigrant, people assume I don’t speak Spanish. I hear many an interesting thing when this is the case. This is also what I have to guess is responsible for someone assuming at the grocery store that my mother was my nanny when I was seven. This one is particularly damaging and still makes me upset. In the eyes and mind of this person, why couldn’t she have just been my mom?
So anyway, because of the state of the world I’ve been escaping. RuPaul’s Drag Race came back for it’s 9th season and that helped. Say what you will about Valentina, maybe she isn’t perfect and sweet, but when she came out on the runway in a traditional mariachi suit and the following week sashayed down the runway looking like the most beautiful Telenovela bride you’ve ever seen, I cried. I’m not exaggerating when I say this. As a kid, I had no gay Mexicans to look up to. It would be years before Justin Suarez showed up on Ugly Betty and by then I was an adult. On Drag Race, traditional Mexican beauty was being shown and broadcast to America. They heard the words: Aguas Calientes.
So with One Day at a Time, well, I can’t stop watching it. And for a comedy it’s incredibly sad and emotional. In the episode “Viva Cuba” Lydia (played by Rita Moreno) reveals a family secret about when she left Cuba that I won’t spoil for you. It’s so well written and acted that I’ve cried every time I’ve seen it. When she scene begins she’s looking at old family photos from when she lived in Cuba. She looks sad and lost in thought.
And then it hit me.
I’d seen my mother do the same thing. I’ve heard my mother cry over missing her family members, and people she never got to see again after she left Mexico and came to the United States. My mom’s circumstances were different, she wasn’t fleeing Mexico like Lydia was fleeing Cuba, but I understood that while this country became my mother’s permanent residence, it was never really her home. I can only assume it took me this long to realize it because now as an adult, I often feel like there’s a part of me that’s missing too. This is what my mother felt. Constantly.
I’ve been to Mexico City, Amecameca, Cuenavaca, San Miguel de Allende, Cabo San Lucas, Monterrey and had addresses/lived in Querataro, Ixtapa, Zijuatanejo and Villa De Los Flores. I list these off because it’s more cities than I’ve visited or lived in in the United States. I was raised speaking Spanish by both of my parents and taught to be proud of my culture and heritage. But for the past 11 years I’ve lived in Portland Oregon. Don’t get me wrong, I love Portland most of the time, but I never speak Spanish here. I hardly ever get Mexican food unless I make it and I am rarely around other Latinos.
I miss Mexico and sometimes New York and Los Angeles because there were more people like me there. No wonder I spent all day in Santee Alley on a recent trip to Los Angeles.
I haven’t been to Mexico in a very long time. It’s a part of me. It hurts when people say I’m a fake Mexican, or I’m too white to be Mexican, or I wasn’t born there so I can’t claim to be Mexican. None of that is true, so I brush it off, but it’s my dream to visit again. I miss my grandmother. I miss her food. I miss the sounds and the smells and the beautiful architecture. I miss the people. I miss the art. The striking colors everywhere you look. It makes sense why I’m obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. Boise was brown and gray and dull for me. Mexico was vibrant and full of life.
This piece of me, this part that’s missing, it’s difficult to pour something in there and fill it up. I found a small community of Latinos here, a group that I’m attempting to be more a part of. And while I live in Portland, I continue to work on comics and write more stories that feature Latinos and Mexicans. It’s important to me. I needed characters to connect with when I was younger. I needed to see that. Now as an adult I’m creating that. But my heroes are writers and artists who are doing the same. Salma Hayek for producing Ugly Betty. Jenny Lorenzo for her amazing comedy videos that have brought me so much happiness this year. And Gloria Calderon Kellett for bringing so much visibility to Latinos, Latino Americans and LGBT Latinos at that. The three graphic novels projects I’m working on right now all feature Latinos and Latinas.
I want the world to see Latinas who aren’t stereotyped as sexy, or as the maid. I want them to see Latinos who aren’t preoccupied with being macho. I want them to see Latinas that are brave and strong and smart and Latinos who are sweet and sensitive. We are rarely portrayed this way, but we sure are on One Day at a Time.
I think writing and creating stories and characters is what I’ve been doing to try and fill that void. One day I’ll get back to Mexico but until that time, or the time I get to continually use my Spanish, I suppose it’ll have to do.
That, and looking through my childhood photo albums.
My new Selena Quintanilla standees. Roughly 7.5 inches tall.
Get one and help me buy a new pair of shoes!
Concept for Dorothy and Toto based off of the novel, not the film. #oz
Loved #wonderwoman so much that I’m going to do a series of fashion sketches of her. This is the first. Full piece on my twitter: at terryblas. #dc #dianaprince #galgadot
WIP WW. #wonderwoman
Preview of a new comic I’m working on.
Matthew, Alfredo, Glen, me, Scott, Gus….and Annette!!! #dragcon2017 #dragcon
Last night, I sketched @allaboutvalentina in her Madonna runway look. Come see me for prints and cards today at #dragcon2017 ! Table 540B! @rupaulsdragcon
Exclusive to @rupaulsdragcon 2017! Bugs in Drag! Come get one before they’re all gone! Table 540B! #dragcon #dragcon2017
It’s Preview night of @rupaulsdragcon and I’m loving my booth 540B! Come see me for postcards, prints, comics and standups of your favorite queens!
Can you guess what’s happening down there? The next cutout for @rupaulsdragcon @therobbieturner ! Is anybody else going to #dragcon? Sound off below! I’m Booth 540B!
The next cutout for @rupaulsdragcon ! @tatiannagram ! Love her, so excited for #dragcon #dragrace
I’m on awesome panel at @rupaulsdragcon with some really great people! So excited! #dragcon #dragrace
Finished my illustration of @nina_bonina_brown ! I’ll have it at @rupaulsdragcon !!!
Work in progress of the next stand up/cutout for @rupaulsdragcon @kimchi_chic !!!
Work in progress shot of @nina_bonina_brown in her princess look. I’ll have it at @rupaulsdragcon !
Cool down sketch I did of @allaboutvalentina with a new brush my friend Ron made for me!
Also selling this original #chrispratt #starlord sketch. 11x17. $45 dollars + $3 for shipping. Message me if you want it.
My most recent tweet. If you want one of these, message me!
Selling the original sketch of #annawintour - $32 plus $3 for shipping. 8.5 by 11. Message me if you want it!