College 101 Dedicated Feature Life

This is why you should study abroad – I went to Madrid

I’ve always been a little hesitant and unsure of myself. When I started telling people that I planned on studying abroad for the Fall 2019 semester in Madrid, I could tell that they were worried. I mean, how was I going to survive alone? I wasn’t fluent in Spanish, I didn’t know anyone else that was in my program, and I don’t exactly have a plethora of common sense – I’m more book-smart. I think that part of it was that they didn’t want me to get my hopes up. Studying abroad could be a really great experience or a really terrible one, and there wasn’t room for anything in between. 

But, I was determined to prove them wrong. I always have been. Ever since I was little I’ve always felt that people saw my capabilities as one-sided. I could do this but never that. To me, it seemed like an expectation thing. No one expected me to be so independent and sturdy, especially when I appeared in front of them as fragile or sensitive.

The truth is that I had never been given the chance to prove myself in this capacity. The second that I took too long or wasn’t doing something precisely the way that someone else would, they took over. And, as a result, I became apprehensive, kind of shy, and extremely nervous. 

However, it turns out that I was right. I had been largely independent all along, and studying abroad was a great idea. I slowly realized that I could do anything I set my mind to, even this, all the while holding on tightly to my emotional tendencies. I learned a lot about myself while basking in the Mediterranean sun. 

During my time in Madrid, I met people and made connections in ways that are indescribable. I don’t know if it is because I finally found myself in a situation in which I was free from implicit restraints and boundaries or if I became a product of my surroundings. But, I am sure of at least one thing, that being that I was entering a moment in which I was young enough to still have the ignorant belief that nothing mattered, but also wise enough to know that everything mattered much more than it had ever before. There were so many things, and so many people, clawing at me and insisting for my attention, and I finally let go.

For the first time I acknowledged the positivism of this sweet, even blissful, point in my life—one that I may never get again. So, I gave in to the extremities. In doing so, the whole world opened up. I found security in empathy, I learned about ambition, self-awareness, and I felt genuine longing for the first time. I spent days dancing in streets that were once touched by Goya, Ernest Hemingway, and Velasquez. I read poems by Pablo Neruda on the metro and I ate TONS of churros con chocolate.

What I found to be the most pivotal about my experience in Madrid, though, would be living in a home-stay. This is where I spent the most time, had the most laughs, and learned the most about myself. The day after landing in Madrid I met my host family and moved into their home. While they didn’t speak any English at all, and whatever Spanish I did know I forgot the second I opened my mouth, we managed to work through it. 

I knew I wanted to build a relationship with them, but before I could do that, I had to conquer my own confidence battle. I had to remind myself that yes, they were strangers with whom I would be living with for months, but I was also a stranger to them. Frankly, we were all in the same boat. Eventually, I got used to their habits, learned their family traditions, and studied their culture until I felt like I belonged there. They made me feel like I was as much a Madrileño as they are.

At dinner, my host parents would always ask about my day, my classes, and if I was up to anything fun. On the weekends, they would recommend countless restaurants or art museums to my friends and I, and then ask me if I liked it the next day. They even comforted me when I felt overwhelmed or insecure. What I appreciated the most, however, is that they actually listened to my stories, which I am sure that I told in broken Spanish, and always seemed interested.

We really grew to love and care for one another. In those four short months I am sure that they watched me grow exponentially. I truly became myself and started to feel comfortable in my own skin. Plus, I came out being able to speak and communicate in Spanish light-years beyond my ability from when I first arrived in Madrid. 

My memories from this time in my life are whole, and they always will be whole. I’m finally able to show off my independence and I’m never turning back. This just goes to show that a little bit of introspection and determination could go a long way. Of course, I was scared to be alone and so far away but I knew that it was what I needed.  Once I convinced myself to just rip off the band-aid my possibilities for personal growth became endless.

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Movie Reviews Movies Pop Culture

Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” will make you look at the forgotten women in your life in a different light

My first Alfonso Cuaron movie was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. When I watch Harry Potter movies, I don’t go in expecting cinematic brilliance, it’s my love for the books and the familiarity of the story that captivates me. Yet when I watched the third movie for the first time as a 12 year old, I knew that something was different. Even the amateur film lover could detect that there’s a certain sense of darkness, reality and raw beauty in that movie that was never there in the first two, and was never recreated in the following ones. It was all Alfonso Cuaron and, years later, as I am left gobsmacked by his most recent movie, I can totally see why he was able to amaze the younger me.

Five minutes into watching Roma, I knew I was going to regret not going to the theater. I watched the movie on my roommate’s Netflix account on a TV screen that was big enough to show me the potential yet not the real magnificence. I felt like I was cheating myself and the movie. But maybe it was for the best as I was saved from embarrassing myself in the theater with the way I was sobbing by the end of the 2 hours and 15 minutes of the emotional journey.
[Image Description : A still from the movie Roma featuring Cleo and the five kids of the family hugging at the beach] Via Netflix
Roma is the story of a family, their two maids, their dog, and their car in 1970/71 Mexico. The film’s protagonist is Cleo, the live-in housekeeper of the family, but I am sure she utters fewer words than most of the other characters. Halfway through watching the movie, my friend came by and sat next to me for five minutes and asked, “what is this movie about?” I paused and looked at her and then looked at the still screen for another five and realized that I couldn’t possibly explain. Roma is not about extraordinary events and doesn’t feature an intricate plot. I can try to blurb the story and will graciously accept defeat. The movie is just story among many. Cleo’s story could happen to anyone, the family could be any family. There’s something so simple and understated about Roma, the same something that creates the magic and brilliance of its viewing experience.

Cleo and Sofia – Cleo’s employer – are two women tied to one family, and whose lives are affected by the men they trust and love. Cleo lacks the education and privilege that Sofia has, which makes her story more sympathetic, and she is closer to us as the audience. While I felt sad when Sofia cried and cheered for her when she sold her husband’s car and bought her own, it wasn’t close to the utter devastation I felt for Cleo when she passively took everything life threw at her. Yalitza Aparicio, the non-professional actress who plays Cleo, is perfect, as she doesn’t act as much as she reacts, and fades into the background as things happen to the family while also being present in every moment. When I watched Cleo, I saw a housekeeper, loved yet used, sought after yet ignored.

The movie is beautiful. Shot in black and white, each frame is set up like a poem, even when the shot is of dog poop or the destroyed streets of Mexico. I come from a third world country myself, and I could see streets and buildings from my own home in Cuaron’s portrayal of his home. The director’s legendary long shots make an appearance, especially the breathtaking scene at the beach that held my heart in a choke hold while drowning me in emotions. But what makes the movie ultimately a masterpiece is Cuaron’s understanding of women, family and emotions.
[Image Description: A still from the movie Roma featuring Sofia hugging her husband while Cleo and one of the kids watch in the background] Via Variety
Roma is the kind of movie that will tug everyone’s heartstrings, but if you are a woman and from a marginalized community or grew up in a third world country like me, this film will definitely be extra special. It made me wonder whether I have ever been as blissfully ignorant as the younger kids of the family, oblivious to the struggle of the women around me. Have I noticed the trials of those who are less privileged, who don’t have a voice or don’t protest? How many Cleos have I met, passed by or loved, yet never thought about?

As awards season is at its peak, Roma is getting a lot of credit and praise as it should, and I have never hoped for a movie to win Best Picture this fervently. Roma is a movie that should be celebrated, but the actual celebration should be for all the women and to all the Cleos who have lived for others and who have faded away without a voice.

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Music Pop Culture

What Despacito means to us in a time of anti-immigration politics

Last spring, I was at work when I heard THE BEST SONG EVER. I immediately turned on Shazam to find out what it was and once I found Despacito, I couldn’t stop listening to it.

If you haven’t heard the song, listen to it now. It has a super catchy chorus, Luis Fonsi is singing, Daddy Yankee is rapping, and Justin Bieber makes an appearance on the remix. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee both bring elements of Puerto Rican reggaeton to the track. And I’m not the only one who loves this song, everyone seems to love Despacito.

[bctt tweet=”While Despacito topped charts worldwide, U.S. President Donald Trump condemned immigration and implemented anti-immigration policies, specifically targeting people from Latin American countries. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Despacito reached top 10 in ten countries and blazed through the charts of 47 countries. It was the first song primarily in Spanish to top American charts since 1996 and was #1 in the U.S. for a whopping 16 weeks. In August 2017, the official Despacito music video set major Youtube milestones by receiving more than four billion views.

Yet at the same time, U.S. President Donald Trump has been condemning immigration and implementing anti-immigration policies, specifically targeted at Latin American countries. With plans to “build a wall” across the U.S.–Mexico border, President Trump has made it abundantly clear that immigrants from Mexico and the rest of Latin America are not welcome in America.

President Trump has announced plans to break up DACA , which allowed certain illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors to stay in the U.S.. The 800,000 immigrant youths that DACA protects are called Dreamers.

Gif of U.S. President Donald Trump throwing paper towels to Puerto Ricans following Hurricane Maria.

From September 16 – October 3, 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico. Homes were flattened, electricity was wiped out, and scores of people died. In the aftermath of the hurricane, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency helped distribute food, but shady construction contracts and a drinking water crisis has slowed recovery. And their aid ended on January 31, 2018.

Puerto Rico has been in bad economic shape for years, but President Trump was fast to blame Puerto Ricans for the effects and slow recovery from Hurricane Maria. And Vox has called the president’s response to Hurricane Maria, “one of the ugliest moments of Trump’s administration.” In this moment, the president made his disregard of Puerto Rican people abundantly clear.

Photo of devastated homes and people walking amidst the rubble post Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee are both Puerto Rican and Despacito embodies Puerto Rico’s natural mixing of cultures. Puerto Rico is comprised of a trinity of races: black, Spanish, and indigenous. Together, they build a harmonious society rather than a racist one– something the mainland U.S. could learn from. And these cultures all mix together on the small island. Even Justin Bieber sings in both Spanish and English on the remix.

The tensions between popular culture and political culture is not new. On one hand, Puerto Rican and Latin American cultures and people are celebrated. On the other, policies are being implemented to remove Latin American people and ignore Puerto Rico.

[bctt tweet=”Amidst a political war against Latin American people (and their culture), it is uplifting to see Despacito effortlessly blending Puerto Rican cultures. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

The popularity of Despacito is undeniable. People adore this reggaeton-pop tune! It’s a great song to dance to and incredibly catchy.  And the lack of popularity for President Trump is self-evident.

Culture, like all things dear to people, matters. Culture can define who we are and where we come from. The embracing of culture through music, film, food, and language is powerful and beautiful. The popularity of Despacito shows that regardless of where you are in the world, you can find beauty in your culture and in others’. But against the political backdrop of President Trump’s harsh anti-immigration policies, Despacito remind us of what we need to fight for. We need to fight for better immigration policies, for Dreamers, and for rebuilding Puerto Rico.

[bctt tweet=”The embracing of culture through music, film, food, and language is powerful and beautiful. And Despacito shows that regardless of where you are,  you can find beauty in your and others’ culture’.” username=”wearethetempest”]

So next time you’re bopping out to Despacito remember it’s roots and their significance. And maybe it’ll inspire you to call your congressman about better immigration policies too!

Music Pop Culture

No, Justin Bieber, your made-up lyrics to “Despacito” didn’t make anyone laugh

Before Justin Bieber remixed “Despacito,” a song by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, it was already a hit in the Latin-speaking communities around the world. And after Justin remixed the song and was featured on the track; it became an international sensation.

Luis Fonsi said in an interview that Justin wanted to be a part of the song when he heard it at a club while he was touring Latin America. Apparently, Justin saw the crowd’s reaction to the song and immediately wanted to be a part of it. This shows that Justin recognized how good the song was and being featured on it would mean a gain for him; both monetary and in popularity among the Latin-speaking community.

Justin recorded his verses for “Despacito” for no other reason than personal gain.

Justin Bieber is a young white man who is notorious for his antics, not really caring about the consequences. And as a privileged white man, he has always gotten away with them, with little to no consequences. Thus it is no surprise that Justin confidently called Luis up and informed him of his wish to record his own verses for the song.

Justin used his position as an international superstar to his advantage. He knew his name being added to the song would bring “Despacito” into the mainstream limelight and what Latin artist could say no to that? Considering the last Spanish single to reach that kind of popularity was back in 1996 when Macarena by Los Del Rio was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Justin evidently insisted on singing the chorus in Spanish as well as his verse in English. This was a genius move; winning him hearts of Latin speakers everywhere and possibly making his fan base even wider.

This is a clear case of cultural and language appropriation. Justin used the Spanish language where it served to benefit him. He knew that being featured on a hit song such as “Despacito” would mean that he would gain both monetarily and in terms of fame in the Latin community but that was as far as his interest in Spanish went. He could not be bothered with the language beyond where it benefited him.

Justin used the Spanish language where it served to benefit him. He knew that being featured on a hit song such as “Despacito” would mean that he would gain both monetarily and in terms of fame in the Latin community but that was as far as his interest in Spanish went. He could not be bothered with the language beyond where it benefited him.

The issue came later when Justin sang the song at a club. He apparently did not remember a single Spanish lyric to the song but sung it nonetheless. He substituted the Spanish chorus with words which he apparently thought sounded Spanish which included “Dorito,” “Burrito” and “Poquito.”

Luis himself defended Justin, saying the Spanish lyrics were incredibly tough and even native speakers of the language would face difficulties singing them. But that does not change the fact that what Justin did was not only disrespectful but incredibly hurtful to native Spanish speakers.

Justin trivialized the Spanish language; he sang nonsensical lyrics to a song he originally sang in Spanish. It is understandable that he would not remember the lyrics since he does not speak Spanish. However, this does not mean he can make up whatever nonsense lyrics he wants to the song, using words which he thinks sound Spanish.  Instead, he just used lyrics that are stereotypical ones people use in conjunction with the Latin culture. Justin might have thought he was being funny but he just came across as plain disrespectful.

Justin might have thought he was being funny, but he just came across as plain disrespectful.

Justin Bieber sang the Spanish chorus on “Despacito” of his own volition. Later, he made fun of the song by singing the Spanish lyrics wrong on purpose, which was not only insensitive but also disrespectful. How hard is it to just say you don’t know the lyrics?

It is no secret that white men are incredibly privileged, but white male celebrities are even more so. Letting them get away with casually appropriating cultures and languages need to stop. We need to call out artists when their actions are disrespectful or hurtful to a certain community.

There have been people defending Justin’s actions saying he was only having fun and meant no harm. However, his performance clearly ridiculed the Spanish language and hurt thousands of people. If it was indeed a joke, then Justin needs to publicly accept that his humor was tasteless and apologize.

While Justin has now refused to perform “Despacito” live, he has still not apologized for his actions at the club. Thousands of native Latin speakers have been hurt by Justin’s actions yet he still refuses to own up to it and apologize for his behavior.

Politics Race The World Policy Inequality

Here’s what to do if ICE agents show up at your door

“The U.S-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.” -Gloria E. Anzaldúa

This administration is taking extreme measures to terrorize an already highly marginalized community in this country. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) have been conducting raids across the country this past week. Hundreds of undocumented people have been arrested.

There is a lot of psychological pain and distress that comes with being chased down, terrorized, and displaced by the state. The ACLU published a list in both Spanish and English to tutor those who may be targeted by ICE raids in the near future.

There is no need to open the door.

In fact, it is better not to. It is harder for ICE agents to force themselves in if you keep the door closed. They have no legal right to enter without your permission, without a special warrant. However, you must also be aware that they may break this rule and enter anyway.

With the door closed, you should ask if they are ICE agents. You should also ask what they are here for. (You can even ask for an interpreter.)

ICE needs a warrant signed by a judge to enter.

With the door still closed, ask the agents if they have a warrant signed by a judge. If they do not have this document, you have a right to refuse them entry. Even if they have a warrant that is not signed, you can also refuse to open your door. (Again, they may enter anyway.)

If they do have a warrant, you can ask them to slip it under your door.

Once you have the warrant, examine it closely. Examples of warrants that do not grant ICE agents entry into your residence are:

Not issued by a court. The name of the court is usually at the top of the first page.

Not signed by a judge. Check the signature line in the document.

Issued by the Department of Homeland Security or ICE. Again, the warrant must be issued by a court!

Signed by a DHS or ICE agent. In terms of deportation raids, these signatures do not have to same legal authority as a judge’s.

If you find the warrant to be invalid, do not open the door.

ICE agents may force their way in.

As we have seen, police officers, immigration agents, and government officials in general are not above breaking the law. If ICE agents do force their entry into your home, ask to see a lawyer immediately and remain silent. The ACLU suggests you say, “I do not consent to your entry or to your search of these premises. I am exercising my right to remain silent. I wish to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.” 

Art by Alberto Ledesma via Buzzfeed

Being undocumented in this country is an exhausting political act, one that requires enormous resilience. No matter where you are, we are your allies – and will continue fighting for your rights and visibility as the new administration moves backwards with its human rights violations.

Gender & Identity Life

Just because you’re an American immigrant doesn’t make you better than family back home

“Your wish,” my cousin in Pakistan said to me when I asked for her opinion.

I grew frustrated and told her that I didn’t ask her opinion just so that I could hear that it’s my choice.

I also mentally patted myself on the back for not correcting her English. I thought she meant “as you wish,” a phrase that we use in the United States.

Then another cousin in Pakistan said it: “Your wish.”

That’s when it occurred to me that “your wish” is an actual phrase in Pakistan. I thought to myself how funny it is that Pakistanis picked up an English phrase and turned it into their own version of “as you wish.” It was so cute. I figured they must have heard some English words in a movie and assembled the faulty phrase that way.

Image result for know it all gif
The Daily Touch

Eventually, it hit me how patronizing I was being.

Why did I decide that my way was the “correct” way? Because I’m a second-generation American? The area that we call “Pakistan” today was actually exposed to English around the same time the land that we call the “United States” was. The language was even institutionalized in the subcontinent at one point.

[bctt tweet=”Pakistan was exposed to English around the same time the US was.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The English spoken in Pakistan doesn’t only have an accent by American standards because it’s rolling off Indo-European tongues. Initially, Pakistani’s English came from the same source as ours – British colonials. The source does affect the accent. Our accent evolved differently than that of South Asia, where it had to adapt to tongues that were already multilingual.

Still, second-generation children who have an American accent mock the accents of their roots. We even judge the way people “back home” type English words or use Roman Urdu.

Do we think we are somehow…better?

Face it. Deep down, we do think we are culturally superior.

In spite of being second generation Americans, children of immigrants, we think that everyone wants to be like us because we are American. This center-of-the-world mentality is built into us, Amreekans, or just native English speakers. We don’t even know it.

We defend our cultures from other Americans, only to turn around and mock our parents’ countries and languages, judging them based entirely on our Americanized standards. I didn’t even fully realize this until my mental tango with Pakistani English arose.

I don’t imagine Pakistanis look at Americans with disdain for writing “color” instead of “colour.” It seems they are too busy being multilingual by virtue of living in a nation where the average worker can speak to you in one language, and then turn and speak to a co-worker in another. Histories of multi-ethnic migrations and presence still show their marks in the languages that remain.

This happens in the United States too, where Spanish or Hindi-speaking workers might communicate with each other in their mother tongues. However, instead of seeing this as an extra mental ability, it is seen as a result of being an immigrant. The highlight of an immigrant not speaking English isn’t that this person is in a learning process or multilingual – the highlight is that they have not learned English yet, or they are not native English speakers, and that almost makes them incomplete.

End of story.

Even people who learn English from watching American television and shows at least give the language a try, which is more than I can say for people like myself- who believed that if English wasn’t being spoken the way I speak it, it was not right. I could excuse differences I detected in the British and Australian English I heard on TV because that’s their primary language.

[bctt tweet=”Still, second-generation children with American accents mock the accents of their roots.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Yet, somehow, all the other places that had been colonized weren’t excused, as if they didn’t have their own experience with an outside culture. I hadn’t even realized the pedestal I set my standards on by default of being an American writer and supposedly “well-spoken” in English.

Image result for know it all gif
Head Over Feels

My cousin’s English was not used incorrectly, and I couldn’t presume that it was just because English is her second language. Her words were fine. My interpretations were wrong.

Politics The World

A closer look at the 5 most iconic photos of all time

This weekend felt like a blast-to-the-past as famous World War II and Vietnam photographs made headlines once again. On Friday, the trending hashtag #napalmgirl almost broke Facebook after the company banned the iconic Vietnam War photograph “The Terror of War” because it included a naked child. Following internet arguments (and likely company policy discussions), Facebook decided to re-allow the photograph to be posted due to its cultural and historical significance. Just a day later, war photos took over the news once again when Greta Friedman of the iconic “The Kissing Sailor” VJ-Day photograph passed away.

As these two photographs reemerge decades after they first made headlines, they remind us of the never-ending power of memory. We decided to take a closer look at some of the most iconic war photos of all time.

1. The Kissing Sailor

Perhaps the most iconic war photograph in Western memory, “The Kissing Sailor” shows what appear to be two lovers locked in a celebratory kiss. What many viewers don’t know though is that the sailor and the woman he is kissing did not know each other at all. Greta Friedman, the woman in the photo, told CBS News in 2012 that, “I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this vice grip.”

George Mendosa, the sailor, had been celebrating VJ-Day, victory in Japan, with his future wife in Times Square. Caught up in the excitement (or perhaps male entitlement to women’s bodies), he began kissing women in the street – including Friedman.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt had been shooting photographs of couples celebrating in the square and noticed Mendosa. Since Mendosa was dressed in a dark-colored uniform, Eisenstaedt photographed any time he kissed a woman in a light-colored dress.

2. The Terror of War

“The Terror of War,” depicts children, including the nude Phan Thị Kim Phúc or “Napalm Girl,” running from a Napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Kim Phúc, who was nine years old at the time of the photograph (taken June 8, 1972), had been living in Trang Bang when South Vietnamese planes bombed her city to attack North Vietnamese forces. The South Vietnamese had bombed her city with Napalm to hit the North Vietnamese, but when one of their Air Force pilots saw Kim Phúc, civilians, and some other South Vietnamese soldiers fleeing to safe ground, he mistook them for enemy soldiers.

Those napalm bombs killed two of Kim Phúc’s cousins, and severely burned her. Photographer Nick Ut helped Kim Phúc to the Barsky Hospital all the way in Saigon for treatment. However, when they arrived doctors said that Kim Phúc’s burns were so bad she’d likely die. Fourteen months and 17 surgeries later though, she returned home.

3. Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima

“Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima” may be the most famous photograph of World War II. Photographed by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945 during the Battle of Iwo Jima, it became the the only photo to win a Pulitzer Prize the same year it was published.

The photograph shows six marines raising an American flag at the end of the battle. Three of those marines were killed in action during the next days, while the three others were recognized for their service just this past June.

4. Tank Man

“Tank Man,” sometimes called “Unknown Protester” or “Unknown Rebel” stood before three tanks the morning after the Chinese military stopped student protests in Tiananmen Square during 1989.

The Tiananmen Square protests were student-led demonstrations for democracy which ended when the Chinese government declared martial law. During the protests, Chinese troops killed several hundred students in what became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

To this day, no one can confirm the fate of the man who stood in front of the tanks. But, he’ll forever be remembered for blocking the tanks that stormed Tiananmen Square.

5. The Falling Soldier

“The Falling Soldier,” or “Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death, Cerro Muriano, September 5, 1936,” shows a young soldier at the moment he has been fatally shot. Robert Capa, the photographer, described the photo as the death of an Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth soldier, but the man was later identified as an anarchist militiaman.

Though this photograph was once known as perhaps the greatest photo ever taken, many have questioned its authenticity. After photographs that were taken in the same location were discovered to have been staged,  “The Falling Soldier” began to lose its renown.

“The Kissing Sailor” and “The Terror of War” are far from the only war photographs that have shaped world memory. “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima,” the “Tank Man” Tiananmen Square photo, and “The Falling Soldier” of the Spanish Civil War–among so many more–changed how the world perceived conflict. In a world that is overrun with graphic imagery, these snapshots from the past remind us of a time when a handful of images shaped our memory.

Gender & Identity Life

If your spring break trip isn’t to Granada, you’re missing out

Granada, meaning “pomegranate,” is one the most relevant cities in Spain’s medieval history. The city bursts with music and culture, a living mix of its Moorish past and Spanish present. With the Alhambra Palace overlooking the city, bustling cobblestone streets, and the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance, Granada’s charm is hard to resist.

Need some inspiration for your #Springbreak2k16 plans? Look no further.

You’ll be stunned speechless by the architecture.

The city is a perfect mix of historical and modern.

This place has views for days (and nights).

Check those incredible mountain views, guys.

You’ll never forget the Alhambra Palace.

Alhambra pt. 2


This palace is the most impressive and spectacular demonstration of Islamic art and architecture. It’s been described by Moorish poets as “a pearl set in emeralds.”

Granada’s got shops galore.

I’ll take one of each, please.

These ski resorts are insane.


Granada is located in the foothills, so the weather is generally mild with limited snow. A short trip up the mountains, though, and there are ski resorts galore. Best of both worlds.

I remember walking through the streets of Granada as a high school junior and wishing I could stay forever. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Who’s coming with me?

Gender & Identity Life

Am I authentic enough for you?

Before I studied abroad in Cuba in June 2014, I asked my professor if we would be able to see what Cuban life was really like, rather than a touristic facade. But as the rambling inquiry spilled out of my mouth, she laughed and asked me not to mention “the A word.”

The A word, of course, was authenticity.

I could see why my professor was wary of this loaded term. Travelers and tourists alike search for authenticity when traveling, which is often an idyllic fantasy of what a culture or place was like years ago, what it was really like, before touched by the polluting forces of post-colonial globalization.

As an exchange student in the Emirates, I saw a lot of cultural tours that attempted to serve authenticity on a platter, but it doesn’t match up with current realities. When people travel to the Emirates, they want to have real Arabic coffee in a real Bedouin tent. You know, while real Bedouins are actually drinking Starbucks and living in grand white houses. And while Bedouin teens wear traditional clothing and do drink Arabic coffee, they also hang out at malls, because malls are a massive part of current Emirati culture. Of course, malls don’t seem to fit in with notions of authenticity, without or within.

‘Authentic’ is conflated with ‘traditional’ and sometimes ‘indigenous,’ but these words often ignore a more confusing reality that’s harder to neatly package and process.

[bctt tweet=”‘Authentic’ is conflated with ‘traditional’ and sometimes ‘indigenous.'”]

Notions of authenticity exist in a historical vacuum, as if places and people remain in time capsules, untouched by global movements and interactions. In this way, purist myths of culture and ethnicity infect ethnic communities and their diasporas, meaning we often hold ourselves and are held by others to an unrealistic standard of Authentic Enough.

It can be difficult to convince others of our ethnic community that we are, indeed, Authentic Enough. I’m often asked by older desi folk why I don’t speak Hindi when I’m half-Indian, and I’m expected to know about holidays I never celebrated and a religion I was barely taught. I’ve also been chided for speaking insufficient Spanish by a woman who believed I was Latina (I’m not, but Latinas shouldn’t be judged for this anyway).

I may be Indian, but I’m second generation, and people often forget to factor how much American assimilation plays a role in how authentic we can portray ourselves.

How can we fulfill these expectations of our ethnic communities while existing in a different country and, thereby, environment? That’s the question each generation seems to struggle with until their ethnicity fades away, only decipherable by a last name. Unfortunately, some things get lost along journeys between continents, like language and recipes, and people in our communities might complain about the younger generation not knowing how to do anything or respecting their elders.

But hey – we exist as products of our very recent histories, and just because our realities don’t quite match up with antiquated notions, that doesn’t lessen whatever we’re made of.

[bctt tweet=”As diaspora kids, our realities don’t quite match up with antiquated notions of authenticity.”]

Yet sometimes, people don’t have these rigid notions of authenticity: what they see before them is as real as it comes. My aunty told me this summer that I was just like a girl from Champapur, the village in Bihar, India from which we hail. What she saw before her were the qualities of a strong, determined woman who deeply cared about her family. For all my doubts about whether I had anything to do with my lineage, here was my seal of approval.

As nice as it is to know I share the qualities characteristic of my family and their community, it shouldn’t take an aunty’s encouragement to realize I never belonged elsewhere. As diaspora kids, we adapt to changes in our environments, becoming a mixture of cultures and a kaleidoscope of identities. Dusty history books or older relatives can’t tell us what’s “authentic” about us when our histories are being written by all the spaces we inhabit in our rich, varied and divided lives.

Cuba is not the cliched “time capsule” writers have so often painted it to be: it is a vibrant society of people who are always changing and adapting to their environment. Our ethnic identities, too, are not encapsulated in time, but are dynamic interpretations of authenticity’s true face.

Music Pop Culture

These 9 hit songs sound even better in another language – I’ll prove it

I don’t know about you guys, but I absolutely LOVE listening to music of other languages. I adore Spanish music and it especially helps me because I’m studying the language in school.

What’s even better, though, is listening to one of my favorite English songs – remade into another language. Here are nine of my favorite remakes. You won’t be sorry you tried them out.

1. Drake’s “Hotline Bling” remixed in Spanish as  Messiah’s “Mi Celular”



Spanish just makes everything so much more beautiful.

2. Selena Gomez’s  “Slow Down”  in Spanish


This one brings a whole new dimension to the song.

3. Fetty Wap’s “My Way” remixed in Punjabi by JusReign



Too good.

4. Punjabi Munde Remix of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow”



It may get stuck in your head but it’s worth it

5. Culture Shock Dub’s Hindi remix of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”


More more more!

6. 25 multi-language singers in Frozen’s “Let It Go



Simply beautiful.

7. Kevin & Karla’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore” in Spanish



You may want to put this on replay until you get sick of hearing it.

8. Enrique Iglesias in “Bailando” (Spanish version)



Bailando is SO much better in Spanish, don’t you agree?

9. Jennifer Lopez ft. Pitbull in the Spanish version of “On the Floor”



It’s nearly impossible to hold back from dancing when you listen to this version!