By: Katherine Chung

Growing up, I was always jealous of my peers around me. I did not have the privileges like most of the kids around me, because I had to work for everything I ever wanted in life. I was born in California in the city of Fountain Valley. My parents had just came from Washington, D.C. after years and years of being in a refugee camp. My parents thought that there would be more opportunities in the state of California than stay in the nation’s capital. My entire life I’ve lived in Orange County, and I can safely say that I never belonged in Orange County, especially the city of Orange.

The city of Orange is thought to be a little more on the wealthier side than other cities in Orange County and a fairly conservative one as well. Unfortunately, my family was not considered wealthy or middle class, so obviously we were at a disadvantage. For most of my life, my family has relied on governmental assistance to try to provide a better future for my family. We were on every kind of welfare that was out there because this was the only means of my family. Money was always a sore subject in my family and till this very day, it still is. Growing up, my peers were either upper or middle class, so it was always a challenge for me to be friends with them. They would look down on me and think they were superior to me, because my family couldn’t offer me the resources that they had. Money was their advantage and it gave them the materials they needed to succeed in high school. I did not do so well in high school, I didn’t have SAT prep classes nor could I afford private tutoring. If I did try to participate in anything, it would come out of my own pocket. That was the reality of my life and I felt left out for most of my childhood because of that.

My goal out of high school was get into Berkeley or UCLA, and after that, I was to pursue Medicine or Pharmacy as my graduate studies. Even though I tried running away from the stereotypes, I had to conform to one because of my parents’ wishes. That was my parents’ goal, but it became my goal at the age of five. After being in a near-death car accident experience, I had to receive surgery for a rupture spleen. My father told me that it was life or death, and they kept praying that I would come out okay. After that life changing moment, I dedicated myself to become a doctor. That was my dream and my continuous goal throughout my entire life. Unfortunately, I was constantly teased for my goal. I was being discriminated for a dream that I had and I was constantly being thrown into stereotypes. They blamed my parents saying that Asians are always listening to their parents, but little did they know that this was my aspiration in life.

I was always insecure of my background and I never felt like an Asian American. It wasn’t until I got into community college, when I finally realize what it kind of felt like to be Asian American. The constant disadvantages that we were in, and that we were constantly bombarded with stereotypes. I tried to break away from them, but most definitely, I tried to become more secure with my background and my life. I took my first Asian American class in the spring of 2009. I did not know what to expect, but I went in with an open mind and an open heart.

My professor truly blew my mind with her methods of teaching. Her method was kind of sitting in a big circle and having it be like a constant flow of open communication. I talked about my experiences and my feelings, and I soon realized that I was not battling a road full of demons, but I had a support system. I would describe this class as an Alcohol Anonymous meeting because it was a group of people supporting each other through their unique experience. Thankfully, our class was fairly diverse, so we got to here experiences from everyone. We heard from all ethnicities with their run in with discrimination and prejudice. Since this class was truly a gift to me, I felt that studying Asian American Studies was the way to go.

When I got accepted into UCLA, I declared my major to be Asian American Studies. It was due to Professor Nguyen-Vo’s class about the Vietnamese American Experience when I truly took interest in my own ancestry background. Before this course, my family would rarely talk about their times in Vietnam. If they did, it was to reminisce about their childhood and carefree days. While in this course, I learn about the despair and the difficulty for Vietnamese Americans. I could never understand the pain, but I tried to relate it to the ethnic identity issues I had growing up. I could never fully grasp the trouble and pain they had gone through. Losing their country and home was nothing compared to the problems I would always complain about. My parents left home and came to this country uncertain of success. Even though success wasn’t in their life, they had hoped that it would be in all their children’s lives.

After Professor Nguyen-Vo’s class, I took more interest in learning about my family’s history. I learned things that I would never be allowed to read in textbooks because these were firsthand accounts. This made me more interested in the equality I felt that everyone deserved. I had always been interested in equality rights, more so gay equality, but after hearing my parent’s stories, I felt that everyone should be able to hear these stories. That is why I took more interest in trying to promote these stories. Whether these people are second generation Asian Americans or Mexican Americans, everyone has a story that is worth listening too. These stories are filled with so much emotion, and hopefully it could teach us more about what kind of world we live in. My inspiration was coming from my parents whose stories were never heard. Most feel ashamed of their past and are trying to move on to provide a better future, but without a concrete understanding of the past, how can we move forward? This was my goal: to have these refugees, immigrants, second-generation, etc. to provide us with their life story. Through these stories, they are not only being heard, but we are learning that we are never alone in this world. There is someone always there to relate to the difficulties we face every single day.

Through finding out more of myself, I have become more comfortable with my background and my life. I am no longer ashamed of my life, nor being an Asian American. My goal and aspirations is still to become a doctor, but rather a doctor of psychiatry. My main focus is on the Asian American community, and I want to try to help those who are suffering through depression and other mental illnesses. Hopefully through this, I can hear more stories and hopefully be able to record them so how. Every person’s story is a novel that is worth reading. Maybe if we can get everyone to read one person’s novel, it’ll broaden their minds about what difficulties people go through. With that, hopefully the idea of equality will become reality. Like Buddha once said, “What you think, you become."

AuthorKatherine Chung

By: Hillary Hsu

My goal in life is to have a successful career and comfortably support my parents as well as my future family. I would not be here had it been for the sacrifices my parents made early on when they were my age. Everything that has happened to the generations before me has shaped the life I have now and the opportunities that I receive. The history of Asian Americans is of great importance, and as a part of the new generation, it is my job to ensure that future Asian Americans do not have to endure the struggles that which ancestors such as mine have faced.

War and the effects of peace and justice have not directly affected my life, but they have ultimately influenced me through the experiences of my family. My grandparents all moved from China to Taiwan during the early 1920s, fleeing from the communistic rule of China. My parents were born and lived in Taiwan from childhood to their young adulthood. They knew each other as young students through family and have been together ever since. They were born right after the time that martial law was instated and so they grew up under the oppression of the Republic of China. These were hard times when Taiwanese people were slaughtered in the streets and civil rights were nonexistent. During their high school years, my father faced a lot of reprimand from authority figures. He was a strong-headed individual who insisted on speaking his mind for a democratic way of life. He has told me his stories from these days and how lucky he had been that he was not jailed, or worse, killed. Often, he faced the threat of imprisonment for even the smallest infraction. Eventually, he served as a lieutenant in the Taiwanese Army and was stationed on a remote base on a small island, away from getting in trouble over his liberal views.

Soon after, my parents moved to America to seek a higher education, around the same time when several of my aunts and uncles also did. My parents both went to pharmacy school to receive their licenses to practice medicine. After going through school, they found themselves penniless with nothing but a small car, a rifle, and the clothes on their backs. They slowly made their way across America from the East Coast, and finally ended up in Los Angeles where they continued schooling and began working as pharmaceutical technicians. Coincidentally, they lived in a small apartment not too far from the apartment where I am currently living for school. They worked very hard, barely making enough to make the rent and put food in their mouths. Soon enough, my dad landed a steady job as a pharmacist in a small pharmacy in West Covina, but life didn’t get much easier. Crime was very prevalent in the area, and often times he found himself looking down the gun barrel of low life thieves. The police officers in the area did little to help and would have done nothing to help if they didn’t receive a steady influx of bribes from the desperate business owners. Throughout this period, my father maintained his morals, never selling medication to the wrong sort of people, no matter the extra money that he could have made or the threats that constantly came his way. After my sister was born in 1985, my parents began looking for a different place to live. He found a nice, affordable house in Cerritos where my family relocated just two years before I was born in 1989. Over the next couple of years, he made the commute to West Covina and put up with the harsh work environment with no complaints. Later, with the help of a contractor friend, he rented a small store and built a pharmacy in Artesia where he and my mother began working from 1992 to this day. Through their hard work and risk taking, they ensured a safer upbringing for my sister and me, with better opportunities than we probably would have had if they did not make the move.

To this day, the influence of my parents’ experiences is evident in their lives and how it affects me as well. The oppression which they faced humbled them and also taught them the importance of making the most of every opportunity, which are just some of the ideals which they pass down to my sister and me. My father wanted peace and justice for his country and while it may not have been on his mind at the time, I know he wanted the same for his future children. My parents provided the opportunity for us to receive peace and justice, but it is something that still does not come as easily to Asian Americans. This just fuels my desire to help create an environment where Asian Americans cannot only receive the same opportunities as everyone else, but the ability to receive the same results. Becoming aware of one’s intersection with history is a terrible lesson when realizing the injustice which occurs in life and the difficulties one must overcome as a minority, but it is magnificent in that it is enlightening and necessary in order to develop and grasp the reality of the world in which we live. It is a hard message to learn because it is difficult to see people capable of being so cruel towards their fellow man. Growing up in the predominately Asian community of Cerritos, I have not faced much racial discrimination, but I know it is a harsh reality which many Asian Americans continue to face. I have experienced racial prejudice in various points of my life, especially as I find myself getting older and becoming more independent. There are bigots who discriminate Asian Americans, consolidating their ignorant hatred towards the minorities whom they feel threatened by. Because of this, there are oppressing limitations that prevent many from reaching their full potential.

Becoming aware of the injustices that have occurred in the history for Asian Americans and those which still occurs in our society today, it is my duty as an educated and privileged individual to act and create change to eradicate them. Equality is something that is constantly being sought after whether it is in the economic, social, or political sense. But of all of them, the basic rights to live as equals should be a natural given right. The prejudices which remain prevalent in large parts of the world hold back societies from becoming completely civilized. For social change to occur and to create progress in these communities, it takes education and activism which needs to start among the youth as they will eventually become the leaders of the public. Becoming aware of the problems Asian Americans face is the first step towards making a change. As an individual, I can spread this awareness, and gather a group of like-minded individuals who seek to create an unbiased society for the future generations.

I am Taiwanese, and I was born and raised in Southern California. My hometown is Cerritos, California, just thirty miles southeast of UCLA. There are many things important to me including my family, friends, and the freedom to do the things I enjoy. I can say these things, and I am here today because of a choice my parents made a long time ago to better their lives and create a future for their children with endless possibilities. Although I am unsure of what specific career I would like in the future, I know I want to work in the health care industry. From past experiences working in clinics and doing research, I know how valuable good health is to an individual and I value the opportunity to help others achieve it, especially the underprivileged. Having worked with Asian immigrants in a free clinic, I have no doubt that access to healthcare creates healthy, strong individuals who can give to society and add invaluable contributions to build a society of which the founding fathers of a democratic America would be proud to see come to fruition.

Social change is without a doubt needed in our communities. To remember the histories of our parents and the hardships they endured, it is inspiring to aim for a future full of equality and justice for all. Though this kind of progress requires sacrifice from those who want to see change, giving back to these communities is easy when there are past generations to look up to; those who decided that they wanted change for themselves and for each other. With the knowledge my generation receives from the education that is available, there are bountiful resources which can be utilized to create change. The struggles for equality and justice are far from over. Past generations have done the legwork for younger Asian Americans, but it is up to individuals such as me to help, educate, inspire, and lead others to carry on the efforts.

AuthorHillary Hsu

By: Jerome Ma

Inscribed in the Declaration of Independence, seven words justify the motivation many immigrants possessed on their journey to America: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  At least this was one of the few ideas about Asian American history I took away from our high school history classes that the textbook writers didn’t bother to leave out of the books.  My parents immigrated to the United States from China in the 1980s under those audacious ideals – to foster a full and wholesome life (for themselves and their future children), to live out the democratic values of liberty, and most importantly (and simply), to be happy.  Although I cannot fully vouch on my parents’ behalf that their newfound lives in America are complete under these three ideals, I will try to profess portions of my parents’ story prior to their immigration to America (to the best of my ability) and my story as a second-generation Chinese American and ultimately let the reader decide.

My parents came from modest backgrounds prior to immigrating to the United States.  My father grew up in the poor countryside of Fuzhou, China, along with his three brothers, as a farmer – sowing the fields, harvesting crops, making use of all the arable land that he had for sustenance and for profit – all the while obtaining only a middle school education.  My mother grew up in the urban city of Shanghai working as a machinist although having obtained her high school diploma.  Despite receiving the high marks necessary for college acceptance, she had to put off college simply because she and her family could not afford the education.  She still regrets that choice to this day.  My parents met in Fuzhou but married in Shanghai, and after hearing the economic opportunities that await them overseas, they decided to uproot themselves and move to the United States in the mid-1980s under the Hart-Celler Act of 1965.

Through my uncle’s sponsorship on my father’s side who had already rooted himself here in the United States a few years earlier, my parents managed to settle in East San Jose, California.  They chose to live there because San Jose was a brimming Vietnamese and Chinese “ethnoburb” at the time and offered a great consolation between mainstream America and the ethnic linkages to their homeland.

I still recall many cherished memories of my youth at my uncle’s house and our first house, but I also recall many memories of frustration, anger, and discrimination.

My parents were never there at home the first few years of my life.  Instead, my uncle and grandmother raised me.  In fact, I first learned how to speak Mandarin instead of English, but managed to learn some English through watching television (one of my many childhood outlets among others) and through friends at preschool.

Due to the lack of a proper American education and an American high school diploma, my parents were forced to accept menial job offers, forced to receive lower wages, and forced to work long hours each day.  My father was a cook and my mother was an electronics prototype technician.  The times my parents were there, they always fought over finances and bills.  As a young child, I could not help but overhear them bicker over money and juxtapose their happiness to the happiness of the nuclear American families shown on television.  I could not comprehend why there was such a stark contrast between the two.

My parents lived with my uncle for another year before moving out to their first apartment (still on the east side).  After a couple more years of saving, my parents afforded their first home in West San Jose, and my mother gave birth to my brother.  My parents thought their new home was a better location to raise a family.  But if there was one thing my parents valued, they valued education.  They felt that education was the key to obtaining high paying jobs later in life.  They wanted to make sure to provide the proper foundation for a better life for us that they never had.

Moving to West San Jose meant moving to a much more ethnically diverse community than what was on the east side, which felt unsettling since I felt like I was dropped in the deep end of a pool of water and being told to tread.  I had a hard time adjusting in elementary school; sometimes my teachers decided to put me in an English as a Second Language class simply because I learned Mandarin first and not English (my mother from that point on told me to report that I learned English first to all of my schools).  I felt I had to work twice as hard as my white classmates to prove to them that I was a worthy competitor since my parents were never there to help me with my school projects when their parents sometimes did.  I could not help but feel ashamed of my socioeconomic status when comparing myself to my parents.  My parents shipped me off to multiple supplemental afterschool programs, otherwise called Buxiban in Mandarin, in a rush to help me keep up academically with my white counterparts.  This “educational deficit” propelled me to go out of my way to learn new subjects and outpace many of my fellow classmates in mathematics and science among others.

But the burden of being a second-generation Chinese American did not stop there in education.  Due to my parents’ limited English, I had to become a liaison between my parents and the outside English-speaking community. When my parents decided to open up a Chinese restaurant in 2005, I quickly had to learn how to act, execute, and defend on my parents’ behalf on various business transactions with leasing companies, the State of California, clients, etc., and when incorporating the business in the first place.  Due to these instances, I felt that I was growing more and more independent throughout my middle and high school years, and ultimately shaped my character into a leader.

It was not until high school that I learned that many second-generation Asian Americans at my high school faced the same predicaments as I have, and it was not until high school that I started realizing this common unity.  As a result, I co-founded with my friend the Asian Pacific American Students for Leadership (APASL) club especially geared towards enlightening fellow students with the lost stories and plights of the Asian-American struggle as a model minority, relearning their pasts, and nurturing the development of their own identity, no matter what race they were.  After high school, this became one of my newfound passions.

After arriving at UCLA, my college experience is an interesting one in that I try to balance my parents’ wishes for me to major in something “practical” and my passion of learning more about my own identity.  My parents initially wanted me to become a doctor, but I quickly learned that chemistry was not one of my strong suits at UCLA.  As a result, I decided to major in Aerospace Engineering with a minor in Asian American Studies.  The duality of having such strikingly different areas of study hopefully does my parents’ hard work immigrating and acclimating to America and does the discovery of my own Asian-American identity both some justice.

The discovery of the intersection of one’s life with war, peace, and justice “in many ways a terrible lesson” in that it forces oneself to acknowledge the painful, gaping holes that exist in one’s own life history and the history of his or her forefathers.  However, it is “in many ways a magnificent one” in that, by acknowledging those holes today, we can illuminate the hope that the lives of our future children can become more enriched and proud of their own history.  And by learning more of each other’s history, this facilitates an intergenerational union to become active agents for social change in our communities.

AuthorJerome Ma

By: Michelle Lapitan

Before I entered UCLA, I grew up believing that I truly knew what it meant to be Pilipino. While some of my friends rejected their Asian culture, I grew up embracing the fact that I was an “FBI” or a Full Blooded Ilocano. However, after entering UCLA, my cultural identity was, and continues to be, challenged. My personal definition of what it means to be Pilipino has constantly been redefined, but it is also important to note that it has been refined.

Like most immigrant families, my parents came here for a better life. My dad came here in 1986 and settled in San Jose, California; my mom joined him a year later and my paternal grandparents lived with us until I was about five. My older brother and I are second generation Pilipino-Americans, yet I did not even know that this term existed nor did I know the meaning until I entered UCLA.

Growing up, I believed that I was living the “Pilipino lifestyle.” My parents and grandparents cooked Pilipino food; they spoke to us in their home city’s dialect, Ilocano; and they stressed and internalized many Pilipino cultural ideals into our lives. My parents were solely working, so that they could see my brother and me go to college; school was the number one priority and getting less than an A was unacceptable. My parents fit the stereotypical Pilipino parents: my dad was an engineer and my mom, still currently, a nurse.

When I was about four or five, my grandfather was diagnosed with testicular cancer; after this unfortunate event, he and my grandmother decided to go back to the Philippines. Looking back, I believe that this event was one of the key events that affected my identity as a Pilipino-American.

My parents stopped teaching us how to speak Ilocano because they felt that it was no longer important, but also because they simply did not have time. At that time, and in high school, I did not think this was such a big deal at all — I never questioned my parents. I strongly believed that I still could define myself as a Pilipino, even though I could not speak the language. I thought it was normal that Pilipino youth did not know how to speak the native tongue; I thought that this was part of the Pilipino culture. In the area I grew up in, I was surrounded by Pilipinos, ate Pilipino food, and heard Ilocano (and Tagalog) being spoken by the older folk. In high school, I was part of the Pilipino club, Kasama; I became historian, publicity commissioner, and taught cultural dances as well. I was very invested in my culture and had I sense what Pilipino identity was.

I have come to realize that I have lived a very sheltered life in the Bay Area. I was privileged to live in an area where there are many Pilipinos, thus I did not really become “white washed” at all. I entered UCLA as a Neuroscience/Pre-Med major; I wanted to go through the motions of college and focus on my studies to become a doctor. The classes I took popped the comfort zone bubble I was in. I could barely keep up with the pace of my classes and was very confused since I was at the top of my high school class. I wanted to pay back my parents for the sacrifices they made for my brother and I; yet, I don’t think I even knew what these sacrifices meant. I felt like I was disappointing my parents because I was not at the same caliber as those in my class.

Towards the end of my fall quarter of my first year, I began to miss being a part of the Pilipino community. I was doing okay in my classes, but I felt like I was lacking a social life. I went to one of Samahang Pilipino’s (SP) general meeting and met with a peer counselor from SPEAR, SP’s retention project. I was paired up with a mentor from SPEAR and I began to have that sense of community I had in high school. I thought by being involved with these Pilipino organizations and surrounding myself with a Pilipino/Pilipino-American community, I was fulfilling what I missed and I would do better in school. I have come to see that I first immersed myself in these organizations for superficial reasons, for just the social aspects; one could even say for selfish reasons. I did not see the bigger picture, nor did I see the purpose of SP or SPEAR.

The summer before my second year, SP’s Cultural Coordinator was looking for someone to be historian for the organization. I was still very shy, but one of my passions was (and still is) photography. I took this as an opportunity to improve my photography skills, but also to get out of my comfort zone. I also joined Samahang Pilipino Culture Night (SPCN) because I missed the cultural dances I taught in high school.

My responsibilities as a historian was to attend SP general meetings, facilitate separate meetings with cultural committee, and also attend events put on by SP. Again, my comfort zone bubble was popped by the challenging questions I was asked. I was surrounded by people who knew their Pilipino history, but I knew nothing. The dance coordinators of SPCN talked about the origin of many Pilipino dances, many were the result of Spanish colonialization; all I knew was the 8-count to Tinikling and Sakuting. To say the least, it was a big reality check for me. I taught cultural dances when I was in Kasama, but I did not teach the history behind it; I went to weekly Kasama meetings yet learned nothing about my culture.

I was faced with questions that really got me thinking. Who was I to claim that I am a Pilipino? Why are many Pilipino last names Spanish? Are you truly Pilipino even though you don’t speak a word of Tagalog/Ilocano? Do you even know who Philip Vera Cruz or Jose Rizal was? What was martial law? I began to feel stupid when I could not answer any of these questions. Thankfully, SP asked these questions to general members to get that critical thinking going — not to make us feel less Pilipino or stupid.

My knowledge continued to grow and develop after the budget cuts; limited and overcrowded classes were prevalent at UCL — I could not get into my pre-med classes. In addition, I was very unhappy with my major and just frustrated with the grades I was receiving. I decided to “take a break” and fulfill some of my GE requirements by taking two Asian Am Classes (Asian Am 20 and Asian Am 30). Initially, I was just aware of the historical events of the Philippines because of SP. These classes, however, helped me make connections to the issues that exist today in the Pilipino and AAPI community. In particular, Professor Delloro’s class (Contemporary Asian American Issues) really opened up my eyes, and I began to question my life and society. Why did my parents stop teaching me Ilocano? Why was my high school underresourced and underserved? Why don’t I see Pilipinos in the media?

Simply put, I fell in love with Asian American Studies. I wanted my questions explored and answered. My fall quarter of this year, I dropped my Neuroscience classes and switched to Asian American studies. I took Asian Americans and War with Professor Bascara, and things began to make sense. I found possible reasons as to why I do not speak Ilocano. I learned that in the Philippines, there was a huge emphasis to learn English. This was because soldier-teachers from the United States were stationed in the Philippines to teach English. I realized that maybe my parents did not continue to teach Ilocano to my brother and I because in the Philippines, English is seen as a way to escape the Philippines — speaking English meant opportunity.

I also became aware of the privileges I have and did not have. Growing up in east side San Jose is definitely not the same as growing up in the affluent areas that some of my peers grew up in. To say the least, my high school did not prepare me for the workload I have in college. I was asked by a classmate what my SAT score was; the average SAT score of a UCLA student is somewhere between 2000-2400. Mine was 1680. I got responses like “how did you get into this school” and “but… you’re Asian.” These comments undermined the hard work and dedication I put into school, but Asian American Studies gave me the possible reasons why I was struggling and why I had these model minority type-ish answers.

Becoming cognizant of the intersection of my life and war, peace, and justice is a “terrible lesson” because I began to realize how underappreciated the API (and other ethnic minorities) are. I also recognized that there are probably many minority youth that are struggling to get into higher education. It was also scary when I began to question my culture—how much is truly indigenous Pilipino culture and how much is Spanish or US culture? America prides themselves upon the idea that we all have equality, but do we all have equity? I became aware of the institutionalized racism and system barriers that we have gone through. With recent events, such as CSULA’s announcement to cut its Asian American Studies program, it brings in the question, “what happens when someone tells you that your history is not important?”

Which brings me to the “magnificent” part of the lesson. Recognizing this intersection allowed me to learn more about my history and how it has been shaped. Though I have come to realize that Pilipinos have been marginalized, this realization has also brought the beautiful idea that I can do something about the injustices happening now.

I am currently the administrative assistant and a peer advisor for Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment (SPACE). SPACE is a student-initiated access project that strives to empower high school and community college students to realize that they have a voice and can make a change in this world. We strive to educate our students to have discussions about racism, socioeconomic status, privilege, and oppression — topics that are not really covered in high school. We work hard to create critical conscious students in hopes that they can spread awareness to their peers and ultimately organize their community. When these students began asking me the same questions I asked myself, I could not help but smile. It is a beautiful thing to see an empowered sophomore or junior in high school. It is a beautiful thing to see the youth having discussions that really build their critical consciousness.

Ultimately, I believe change begins with education. I am an Asian American Studies major, a general member of Samahang Pilipino, an administrative assistant and a peer advisor for SPACE. I am also an empowered Pinay. It is my personal duty to make sure that the Pilipino community is aware of the barriers that exist that keep us from advancing forward. At the same time, I must challenge the community and ask how can we move forward and what are we doing to ensure this change?

Histories of oppressed communities are hardly heard about because it is not in our textbooks. I find that it is selfish of me to keep this knowledge that I have been so privileged to learn at UCLA. As a Pilipina, I find that for me, my purpose as a Pilipina is to keep our culture alive and make sure that someone on the outside is not rewriting or retelling our story. I hope for the day when Samahang Pilipino no longer has to participate in rallies and organize the Pilipino community. I hope for the day when Pilipinos’ retention rates are high and have equal access to higher education, so that SPEAR and SPACE do not have to exist.

I cannot wait for the day that social justice and equity is actualized.

AuthorMichelle Lapitan

By: Michelle Lim

Our abrupt move to the United States from Indonesia was because of May 14, 1998. I will not forget “May 14th” because it was a date that changed my life forever. On that day a riot started in Indonesian’s capital city of Jakarta that lasted for two days and resulted in more than a thousand people dead and injured, physically and mentally. The economic turmoil and unemployment that had plagued Indonesia for some years led to this violent riot that mainly targeted the ethnic Chinese, who had been made into scapegoats for the country’s troubles and corrupt government. Businesses, properties, and homes of many Chinese Indonesians were looted and burned, their years of hard work gone in one night. But this was not the real tragedy. The real tragedy was the raping and killing of nearly hundreds of Chinese women and girls throughout those two days. I remember hearing my parents talk about the gruesome details of rape stories after the riots: how men broke into the homes of Chinese families and brutally rape the wives, daughters, and even little girls living there, and fathers forced to rape their own daughters. Then they would burn their houses afterwards, sometimes with the families still inside. Fearing for their lives, countless of Chinese Indonesians left the country after what came to be called the May riots, or simply “May 14th.” My family and I were one of those who left.

I was born on October 30, 1988 in Jakarta, Indonesia. My family and I are one of the minority ethnic Chinese living in Indonesia. My family and relatives have resided in Indonesia for many generations. My father is seventh generation Chinese, while my mother is third generation Chinese. Although we distinguished ourselves from the natives, or what we call pribumis, I did not really feel that I am Chinese. We cannot even speak Chinese nor have real Chinese names. Later on, I learned that my unfamiliarity with our Chinese culture was a result of the Indonesian government passing discriminatory laws against Chinese Indonesians in the 1960s, forcing us to assimilate into the Indonesian culture. The laws forbid any display of Chinese characters, closed down Chinese schools, and even changed Chinese last names to Indonesian or Indonesian-sounding names. As a result, I do not have a Chinese name, and none of us could really speak our Chinese Hokkien dialect. I identified myself more as Indonesian, and this was fine with me. I never gave my heritage a thought when I was younger.

Growing up in an upper-middle class family, I was carefree and privileged. We had a comfortable home to live in and maids to attend to our needs. Our family was very close and tight-knit. We always gathered together in my grandparents’ house every Sunday with my aunts and uncle and their families. I did not have the faintest idea that we would be leaving our families and the only life I had ever known behind. I still remember clearly the sequence of events that led to my parents’ decision to move to America.

My mom and I were driving home from my grandparents’ house when we heard about the protests by university students that went out of control and resulted in the police shooting a few of the students dead. The next day, the riots started. My brother and I got calls from our schools saying that we have to stay home from school until the situation gets under control. We knew then that things were serious. None of us dared to leave the house. On May 14, the riots got worse and spread throughout all of Jakarta, and I remember being scared that night. We had heard that they had been burning businesses and other properties owned by Chinese, but then we also heard that they were looting and burning homes. That night, we turned off all the lights in my house and my parents gathered all of our papers and passports, ready to flee the country if the mob of people were ever to reach our house. We all gathered in one room and sat waiting, hoping and praying for the best. When morning came, the riots subsided.

Soon after, we started hearing rumors of Chinese Indonesian girls brutally raped in their own homes during the riots. Many Chinese Indonesians fled the city during the riots, and many of their cars were stopped by mobs on the way to the airport, and some people were burned alive inside their cars. Many more gruesome stories surfaced, and they turned out to be true. We realized that we were one of the lucky ones. My parents thought it was no longer safe for us to live in Jakarta. They decided to move to America because luckily we have green cards that allowed us to live here permanently. Two months later, we moved to California.

As I was barely ten years old at the time, I could not understand why we were hated in our own country. I asked my parents these questions, why being Chinese was so bad. They explained that there had always been tension between the ethnic Chinese and the natives because they always believed that we were rich, and they envied us. Maybe this is the case, or maybe they just hate us because we are different. I did not understand prejudice back then, but after learning about racism and discrimination here in the United States and other parts of the world, maybe I understand why now.

In America we are all immigrants, and all my friends, who are predominantly Asians, are proud of their heritage. When they asked me what I am, I always have a hard time answering. I want to say that I am Chinese, but I cannot speak Chinese nor ever experienced Chinese culture, besides Chinese New Year. I want to say Indonesian, but I am not a native Indonesian. I say Chinese Indonesian, but many people do not understand what that means. They do not know the history and discrimination that we faced in our own country. My mom said that we Chinese Indonesians have no real homeland. We are hated and discriminated against in Indonesia, and in China they do not even consider us real Chinese anymore. She said we are Americans. At first, I did not like the sound of that. I wanted to identify with an ethnic group.

Now looking back, I understand what my mom meant. We left Indonesia because of the racism and discrimination we faced. In America, we feel more welcome than in our own “homeland.” America is where we belong. So thirteen years later here I am now, an American. I am proud to say that I am American. I am even more proud to say that I am Asian-American. I have worked hard throughout my academic endeavor, and I do so because I want to make something of myself. My goal is to become a successful dentist in the future, and as a health professional, I want to be of service to my community. I want to be an example of a successful Asian-American, for other Asian-Americans out there. Most of us are here in America because our families have gone through struggles, such as wars, political oppression, or prejudice, and made sacrifices to give us, their children, the best opportunities. I have been blessed with parents who had given me these best opportunities in my life, and I intend to make the most of what they had given me.

“May 14th” was “in many ways a terrible lesson, in many ways a significant one.” It taught me that prejudice can drive people to great lengths to make their hatred known. It can drive people to discriminate and commit violent and evil acts against another human being. The “May 14th” riots reflected the hatred of Chinese Indonesians in the most terrible way. Nonetheless, it changed my life in a good way in the end. If “May 14th” did not happen, then perhaps I would not be an American now. We would never have started a life here, and I would have grown up thinking that discrimination is normal and part of everyday life. Now I know otherwise.

AuthorMichelle Lim

By: Grace Ly

War, peace and justice: common words that are used daily, sometimes even thrown around. To some, however, entire lives are devoted to these three words. Indeed war, peace and justice is “in many ways a terrible lesson,” but true also to many it is also “in many ways a magnificent” lesson. This lesson is a lesson that I have been learning every day of my life, and a lesson that has been on-going for my family even before life as I know it.

From appearances, I may seem like the typical American-Born-Chinese student living in a middle class suburb with big dreams and aspirations. But for me, these aspirations stem from something deeper than even myself. I was born and raised in Los Angeles to loving parents who immigrated to the United States in hopes of a better future for their children. I’ve taken this fact for granted most of my life, and even after I was told of how my parents came to the United States I still took my US citizenship for granted. One thing that I did not take for granted, though, was my chance to succeed. As a young girl my dreams and goals for a bright future was pinpointed in law. Quite honestly, the appeal of law career to an elementary school student came from the six figure salary, what I knew back then as “making a lot of money.” Curious enough, my life and its events formed around this dream. From learning about my past to many acts of injustice I’ve witnessed and fell victim to, my childhood dream became my life aspiration.

War is familiar to my family. At times it has been kind, other times cruel. The kindness of war allowed my father to immigrate to the United States seeking refuge from Vietnam during the Vietnam War. As a young man living in Vietnam, my father and his brothers were all susceptible to being forced to fight in the war. He knew there was only one way out: out of the country. My father traveled by small boat for many days and nights ravaged by pirates, and this grueling journey is the price to be paid for a brighter and more hopeful future. Thanks to the Vietnam War, my father was able to escape the then-impoverished conditions and start a family in the United States. Unfortunately, I did not fully grasp these concepts of immigration and difficulty until after my father fell victim to cancer in 1998. By then it was too late for me to express my gratitude towards my father. As I grew older, my mother explained to me how our family came to the US, and my path of law became more clear to me than ever. My entire family, from grandparents to uncles, has the luxury of living in the United States all as a result of my father’s brave escape and his hope and faith in times of difficulty. I understood, though ,while living in a predominantly Asian neighborhood, that not everyone has this opportunity. Green Cards and Citizenship is not handed out so freely to everyone, such as it was for my family. My thankfulness towards my father spurred a desire to one day be able to help others who have a dream of immigrating to the United States for a golden future. I realized this goal can be attained in only one way: studying hard and getting into a top university.

The kindness of war granted my father’s family a hope of a new future, however, the cruelty of war destroyed my mother’s family. My grandfather was a general in the Republic of China (Taiwan) Army, and fought against Communist China. Well respected and wealthy, my grandfather was smart and successful, graduating at the top of his class at the prestigious Huangpu Military Academy in China. My grandfather was a passionate and driven man. His beliefs ground him to fight actively in the Chinese Civil War against the Communist government. On the eve of his escape to Taiwan, he was captured by the Kuomintang and jailed for 22 years under the Communist government because of his beliefs. At the time, my mother was only six years old and had two younger brothers. After my grandfather was released from prison, my mother was a grown woman who barely knew her father. All through his time in prison, my grandfather wrote journals and journals of his story about the Kuomintang, sending letters to any one who would be interested in his fight and passion. While I was a child, my grandfather wrote many memoirs. His books were published and sold in Chinese bookstores across the US. BBC News also translated his books in many languages, helping my grandfather to pass on his story even after he himself passed on. From my grandfather, I learned to be passionate and never give up on my beliefs, even if it means persecution.

The lessons I’ve learned from my past instilled a drive in me, a drive that motivated me to work and study hard, so that my father’s journey and grandfather’s fight did not go to waste. Additionally, my own life came with obstacles that drove me further in a lifelong process to fight injustice. Growing up with a single mother was not easy. Easy enough for me, but not so easy for my mother. Looking to her own childhood of sadness and longing for her own father, my mother worked devastatingly hard to give my two brothers and me everything she didn’t have as a child. Cars, clothes, trips, piano lessons, everything children with both parents could ask for and more. However, life did not come without its ups and downs. A family headed by a single mother draws two types of people’s attention: the genuinely kind-hearted people who selflessly helped without wanting anything in return, and the unscrupulous people who see an easy target to take advantage of. The latter type shattered my sheltered image of people and set my passion for law and fighting injustice on fire. My small but close-knit family has been taken advantage of by people who were cruel and ruthless: false investment promises, misleading my too-trusting mother, and swindling money. Each time, my mother would cry and for some time my family felt so broken at the expense of others. As life is, there is always a silver lining. Each time my family faces these obstacles, we would pick ourselves up and truly emerge stronger than before.

In many ways, my life’s intersection with war, peace and justice has been malicious and cruel, but the relationship I have with these three words is bittersweet. The suffering and hardships overcome by my family and I have taught me valuable lessons. Lessons that are magnificent to say the least. I learned of how war tore apart my family and also how it gave us a new hope. Hardships brought about a passion for peace and justice. The realization that I must be the one to “do something” is a most precious gift to me from War, Peace and Justice. The lessons shaped me into the person I am today: passionate, hopeful, and strong-willed. As a result of the intersection, my life today and forward is devoted to becoming an active agent for social change not only in my own community, but hopefully across nations as well.  The path and reason I have set apart for myself as an aspiring lawyer is clear: to help those who have dreams and fight the injustice that stops them from achieving those dreams. From my father, I have learned to always have hope and never give up. This lesson will carry me through my rigorous years of studying for and during law school. From my grandfather, I have learned to be passionate and standing up for my beliefs. This I hold close to my heart and is an example and reminder on how to live my life now and in the future when I am practicing law and helping those in need. From my mother, I have learned to be compassionate, generous and willing to help. Unlike many unscrupulous lawyers who help clients for solely the income, I am eager to stand up to injustice on behalf of those who cannot voice their opinions and prejudices. The realization that change must be made in order for this world to combat injustice and achieve peace has been a journey that I have traveled on for the past few years of my life. In addition to helping the voiceless and oppressed in the present, it is also equally if not more important to help our future: the next generation. The most effective way to affect change is through children and education. The answer to social change can be found in the way our children are taught and the beliefs they will learn and hold to be true. For the current generation to understand and come to this realization is key to the future of our communities and country.

AuthorGrace Ly

By: Lisa-Ann Placca

Like a ship at sea, my family steers my sails, while my friends make sure I never sink
Thanks to the people in my life I am confident in my course and able to explore new horizons which at moments seemed out of reach. Not only do I find myself living a fortunate life with the influence of my family and friends, but my unique upbringing in two distinct worlds teaches me lessons that to this day remain unforgettable.
My parents never got the opportunity to go to college like I do today; nevertheless, they still found a way to make a living in a country known as Bangladesh, which was filled with hardships and inequalities. Furthermore, we are not the typical Bengali family as our roots lie in Portugal and Burma. My great grandparents were from Portugal but I never got the chance to learn about them as they passed away when my grandmother was only ten years old. She grew up in a convent where the nuns took care of her, until she met my grandfather and they got married. My grandmother became a teacher in the convent and she taught for the next fifty years of her life, while my grandfather worked for the railroad company. Their firstborn was my uncle who was loved dearly and spoiled with any and everything, My father was born next but being the middle child, was not favored like his older brother or younger sister. Next, my grandparents gave birth to my aunt who was the most privileged as she got the chance to live abroad and receive a formal education in London with our other relatives who immigrated there. Nevertheless, my father was a strong and independent individual as far as I can remember and even before I was born, so he went to school and studied hard with aspirations of becoming a
successful individual one day. However, with increased pressure from his work, my grandfather began to drink excessively and even got into the habit of gambling to the point where it became an addiction. He eventually drove his family into poverty as he gambled away all their money, and even lost my grandmother’s wedding ring in a bet. He ended up suffering a heart attack and left his family to deal with his mess. Now with my grandfather gone, the family suffered financial burdens and my grandmother’s pay did not suffice, so my dad was forced to work in addition to attending school. He was told to drop out of school to get a full-time job to support
his family, but refused to do so. He kept going to school and worked, and on the side tutored students for extra money. In time, despite the financial burdens my father was faced with, he still made it a point to attend a technical school and obtain the least amount of education he could afford. His efforts paid off when he obtained the engineering position at the American Embassy.
On the other hand, my mother grew up in Bangladesh as well, but in a completely
different manner. While the roots on my father’s side originate in Portugal, my mother’s roots come from Burma. My great grandmother was born in Burma but moved to Bangladesh where she met her husband and settled down to have children. She gave birth to my beautiful grandmother, but as it was in those days my grandmother did not receive the chance for an education, so she was sent to the kitchen instead to learn to become a housewife. Soon enough, my grandfather met my grandmother and although she was thirteen years younger than him, it
did not stop him from marrying her. They had four children together, the eldest child being my mother. Now similar to my grandmother’s case, my mother and her sister did not get the chance to finish school because they also had to learn to cook and clean, while their brothers were praised in the male-dominated society of Bangladesh. Luckily, my mother is a fast learner so she picked up the craft of being a hairdresser from a family friend. Her efforts soon paid off when she was offered the stylist position at a renowned five-star hotel.

My parents eventually met due to both their fathers working in the railroad industry at some point, and then decided to get married. They were both very young but with their good jobs had no problem beginning their life together in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, the place where my younger brother and I were born. They rented a spacious apartment in a good neighborhood and made sure we were always content. In addition, they wanted more for their children so they sent me to an English-medium school and pushed me to be the perfect student and excel in all subjects, just like my father had in his past life.

However, bringing in children to a third-world country of immense poverty and
corruption made them wonder what lay ahead for our future. The truth is there was no future, not until the year 1998 when at the age of nine my family and I immigrated to a far-off land in the west where possibilities stood endless and wide. Secretly, my father always had high hopes of coming to America and giving his children a better life, one which he never had. After working in the American embassy for twenty years, my father was finally given the chance to come to America. Without a doubt in their heads, they sacrificed all their comforts they worked so many years earlier to attain, just for us. They decided to give up their well-paid secure jobs and happiness to bring up their children in a safer world where there would be better access to
education and opportunities one could only dream of.

Even though I had spent half of my life in Bangladesh, I felt like I did not belong in a
place where most of the people and I did not share facial, religious, or ethnic qualities. Growing up in a male-dominated, Muslim society, did not hold much opportunity for a young Catholic girl. Although my parents were happy for the most part, there were many times when they were faced with discrimination and religious intolerance because they shared little in common with the typical Bengali. America had to be the next best alternative. especially when my uncle, my father’s older brother was murdered in his own apartment. Thus, the hardships and struggles that
accompanied my family brought an appreciation each day: a hope for a better life in a new country.
However, the new country also held its own obstacles for my family and me. My parents were having a hard time finding jobs because of their lack of merit and familiarity in a foreign place. On the other hand, I was trying to adjust in a new school where everything and everyone seemed new to me. But in this foreign place, I remember meeting my best friend for the first time.
When the teacher asked him a question, the helpless little boy looked up to the chalk
board unable to answer as the rest of the class burst into laughter. He had no idea of what was going on, but being made fun of on a daily basis and holding the description of a “poor student,” did not aid the process. Having recently arrived from Bangladesh, I was an outsider as well, who felt empathy for another lonely soul. I encouraged him to believe that he had enough potential to do well in school, and I began assisting him with his lessons in math and English. From elementary to high school, I was able to help him pass the general math courses all the way till
trigonometry, and even teach him the academic structure of writing essays, which prove successful in his English classes even today. Helping him has brought out love and compassion in a friendship I thought I would never discover in a world of competition and uncertainty. Fortunately, I met more people over the years and grew close to others who have helped me find my strength and independence during times I lost the courage and motivation to go on. During these times, my newfound friends gave me hope. They helped me gain confidence in myself by constantly reinforcing me with positive talk such as, “You can do it Lisa! You are a smart, independent person who lets nothing stand in her way.” My friends cannot take tests for
me, cannot earn my grades for me, but they can help guide me towards the rightful route. If it were not for those few influential people who kept encouraging me in my times of helplessness, I would have never discovered the steel within myself.

With the encouragement from my friends, I became Vice President of the College
Information Club in high school, where I assisted students who were not in those special honor programs and did not have access to information on colleges. I was also elected President of the Amnesty International Club in my school and joined the battle to fight for human rights in other countries. Whether I help students choose the right courses to prepare for college, or let others know that civil rights should not be taken for granted, the more I understand the world beyond my own two eyes.

Being the first person in my family to attend a university is a wonderful privilege as it
helped open my eyes to the real-world in my own way. I still tried to help others in college by aiding students in math and science through the UCLA California Teach Program and volunteering in the Braille Institute. Learning about my family’s past has helped develop my mentality and drive, to want to help the minority population who make it to America in hopes of finding a better life.When I first moved to the U.S., I was always posed with the question, “what are you?” Well, not much has changed today as I am still asked the same question, due to my physical appearance. I realized I not only fit into the Asian American immigrant category, but I can also fit in with other ethnic minority groups. People either mistake me for being Filipino or Latino, and sometimes even other nationalities. Therefore, I look at this as an advantage that I can fit in and blend in with almost any minority group. People have told me that I am easy to approach and talk to because they see a little of their own background and culture in me. I am able to relate to them and inspire them to hope for more and become a more successful person in the process, like I did with my best friend. I tell people that I am an Asian American because I understand what it means to have to start over in an unfamiliar place, but I am also an immigrant who shares similar challenges and dreams just like you.

When we moved to America, our lifestyles completely changed as I was forced to grow up and become more independent because my parents are always working. They are hardly around as they have lost their comfortable and secure jobs once held, and instead have low paying ones with long, tiring hours. It hurts me to learn about their past and see where they have ended up today, as I see them growing more gray and wrinkled every time. Since my brother was only four years old when we came here, he does not understand my parent’s greatest sacrifice as
he grew up under the influence of an Americanized lifestyle of self-absorbance. Therefore, as a first generation and the eldest child in my family, I hold the responsibility of having to take care of them. I hope to graduate UCLA soon and then go to pharmacy school so that I can provide my family with the medicine they will need upon aging. I want their elder years to be comfortable like their own lives once were a long time ago. In addition, because I am also an educated individual, I want to give back to the society that has shaped me. I want to be an activist and a part of the organizations that fight for change and betterment of humanity. I hope that being a neuroscience major will one day help me attain my goal of healing people, but meanwhile being an Asian American Studies minor will show me the road to becoming a more active individual in being aware and involved in making a difference in the immigrant community of America.

AuthorLisa-Ann Polacca

By: Maria Rabinovitch

Rompa el Manto de Neblinas

Tantas veces me mataron      So many times they killed me

tantas veces me mori            so many times I died

sin embargo estoy aqui         nonetheless I am still here

resucitando.                           rising.

Gracias doy a la desgracia    Thankful I am to my misfortune

y a la mano con punal           and to the hand with that held the knife

porque me mato tan mal       because it killed me so poorly

que segui cantando.              that I am still singing.

The feeling that overwhelms me when I think about war is confusion. Truthfully, twenty-eight years have passed since the Malvinas War – or as the British call them “Falklands;” or as some Argentines, such as myself who are still hurt by the war, call them “F*cklands” – erupted in the Argentine Sea, and I am yet to process my feelings about it. Losing the War was in the end both positive and negative to the Argentine people. Hence, my feelings towards it are contradictory. The War itself was painful, many people died, young people mostly. However, Argentina fighting the War brought down a cold-blooded military regime that was killing more people than the War itself. Still, some people consider the loss of the land itself a negative outcome, and again I have mixed feelings about it. The land is located in a strategic place in the sea, and it would be an asset for Argentina to still have it; but, the people who live in the island despite Argentines and would have no problem making our lives miserable. They are xenophobes and have these ideals of superiority, as they were born from the lost City of Atlantis. Therefore, the content of the island is not so desirable. In the end, my relationship to the Malvinas War is an intimate one, and to truly understand maybe there are some personal stories that need to be told first.

Cantando al sol como la cigarra          Singing out in the sun like the cicada

despues de un ano bajo la tierra           after a year under the soil

igual que el sobreviviente                     just like a survivor

que vuelve de la guerra.                        who is coming from the war.

Before the War erupted Argentina was being ruled by a group of terrorists. They were the Argentine military, and they had taken over the democratic government supported by the United States, as other military regimes had done before throughout Latin America. At this time, the United States was fighting a Cold War with the USSR, and the two powers had cowardly decided to take down to pieces every country but their own. That is to say, they had decided to play RISK with real people and their countries. The United States had ignored South America for a while, but Castro’s increasing power in Central America, and the 1970 presidential election of Salvador Allende in Chile made America turn its head down South. The United States not only promoted but it subsidized the military Junta that overthrew the democratically elected Chilean government. Allende then chose suicide before seeing his country in the hands of those traitors, and this situation caused pain throughout Latin America. Further, it unleashed a chain reaction that would end with the deaths, “disappearances,” and tortures of hundreds of thousands of people, in the hands of the military regimes the United States put in place of democratically elected government in hopes of preventing “socialists” from taking over South America. Argentina’s military regime is still considered one of the most vicious in history. Today, parents continue to search for their children in order to put them to rest. Most of them will never be able to do so. It is a painful history, and most people in my country were touched by it. For example, my father was tortured, and he was beat merciless. His crime was to pursue an education. My pediatrician – our personal friend – lost his chance to have children while in jail because of the tortures, and his crime was giving first aid and birth control – condoms – to extremely poor women. His wife, also a pediatrician, was sexually tortured while in prison. My mom escaped from interrogation by burying all her “incriminating evidence” – namely, Nietzsche’s writings – in my grandparents’ backyard. To the regime having ideals was criminal, and being willing to fight for those ideals merited death. After the military regime took over the government in 1976, a war would have to come – a war that would anger their American benefactors – to put an end to their reign of terror.

Tantas veces me borraron              So many times they erased my existence

tantas desapareci                            so many times I was “vanished”

a mi propio entierro fui                  to my own funeral I assisted

sola y llorando.                               alone and crying.

Hice un nudo en el panuelo          I made a knot with a scarf

pero me olvide despues                 but then I forgot

que no era la unica vez                  that that was not the only time

y volvi cantando.                            and I returned to my signing.

War was declared by the military regime in hopes of appeasing the people of Argentina who were starting to rise after six years of terror. The first of the self-proclaimed “presidents” was able to hold office for a long period of time (1976-1981), while causing many atrocities. The other traitors, however, could not hold the sympathy of the people, and the Junta was in a crisis. Easy to understand considering they were killing and torturing so many of the citizenry. The last of the dictator, Roberto Eduardo Viola – pig for short – did the unthinkable, and declared war on the United Kingdom. Even today, after twenty-eight years, I cannot be prevented from laughing, every time I repeat this sentence. Here was this man who was so egotistical that he thought he could declare war on Britain. Not only that, but win the war, and survive as a legitimate regime without the support of the United States. If so many people would not have died, this would be a laughable matter in Argentine history. But people did die, and here is where I become puzzled by my feelings. Is it wrong for me to think that the War – and the lives – were a small price to pay to put an end to the reign of terror of the military regimes? Perhaps, you should all know that my father was called to fight in the War. My dad had been in the military before the regime took over – yes, they had no problem torturing their own. My dad was an officer for the Marines, and he had a high rank and was in reserve at the time the War broke, so he was naturally called to serve his country. I was just a baby. Nonetheless, my mother and my family decided to do some sort of a “bucket list” the couple of weeks before my dad was deployed. They wanted to make sure that if he did not make it, I would be able to watch the pictures and know that my dad was present in “important” events in my young life – i.e., changing diapers, feeding me, etc. My dad was deployed and got to the preparation phase at which point the War was over. He never got to fight. He told me many times that he was afraid of dying and not seeing me and my mom again, and that he would have rather died fighting against the regime and than for it. In the end, however, those who gave their lives in Malvinas saved the lives of many more, the lives of all those who the regime would have continued to torture and “disappear.” In that sense they made sure that we won a more important war. To me they saved us, and they saved people such as myself who cannot remain silent and who would not have survived as an adult in a country ruled by a military government. To them I am grateful. They have made the Malvinas War a positive one, and they made Argentina a Winner, probably the only Winner.

Tantas veces te mataron,         So many times they killed you

tantas resucitaras,                    so many times you will rise

tantas noches pasaras              so many nights will go by

desesperando.                          in desperation.

A la hora del naufragio           At the time of shipwreck

y de la oscuridad                    and darkness

alguien te rescatara                someone will come to rescue you

para ir cantando                     so you can leave singing.

Losing the land is sometimes seen as a negative outcome of the War. Perhaps in this sense I do not think similarly to most Argentine people. In Argentina there is still a sense of loss regarding Malvinas, and a feeling on entitlement. These are our islands, “Malvinas Argentinas,” but I see them mostly as pain. To me the only positive thing that came out of those islands was the end of the regime, and the rest is just pain and manipulation. Every time an Argentine government is doing something illicit, they just say “Malvinas,” and that is sufficient to have the entire population looking south for a few months. The Malvinas cost resources and deals with partners that Argentina chooses not to work with because of “ideological” differences. In the end, they are just a piece of land packed with hateful people. Those who live in islands hate us. They refer to us in derogative terms and have made it clear in several occasions that they would rather die than to be considered Argentine citizens. Still, my country seems to be fixated with these islands, and I truly do not know what would they do with the people living in them if we were to get the islands back. These are questions that seem to escape the Argentine mind. The idea is to get the islands back, no matter the cost, and to me this idea is preposterous. Hence, it seems that I am having feelings that are contrary to the ones expected in the Argentine commonality. Is sadness to be expected when a war is lost, as opposed of happiness? And further wanting back that thing that was lost in war? I am satisfied with the result of the War. The islands were small price to pay for the lives of many who would have had to continue to live under the military. And although I think that legally we have a right to the land because it is in our sea, I would rather let the land go than having to call the hateful Kelpers, Argentine brothers and sisters. This might sound a bit mean, but I think the Argentine-Kelper relationship has passed the point of reconstruction. Still, while I respect the feelings of those who think the land is important, I would and will oppose them if they push for another war, as it is clear that once more we would lose, and now there is absolutely nothing for Argentina to gain from facing Britain but despair.

I chose to add the lyrics of Maria Elena’s song “Like the Cicada” because even after democracy was reinstated, the military power was very much present, so was censorship. Many things could not be spoken about openly. For those things my country developed codes, mostly music and poems. This song was from the time in which a military dictatorship was eminent (1972). My mother used to teach me about dictatorships right at the beginning of our democratic government (1985), when she could not speak openly yet.

I have a personal relationship with the Malvinas War. This relationship was marked by my parents and my personal history. Consequently, some of the feelings I have towards the War have not been processed yet, and some just seem to contradict each other, those being happiness that there was a war – because it ended the regime – and sadness – because people died. Additionally, there are feelings toward the land, and those seem to be more clear to me. I am no longer interested in the land. I would say it still concerns me that I do not think as most of Argentine fellow citizens. Overall, I think wars are by definition confusing, and any situation that involves death tends to be difficult to comprehend. However, wars are worse because they involve the unnatural death of so many people, who were not destined to die yet. Many of whom are forced to fight, many of whom are considered collateral damage. I think I will always be confused by this War, and I will always be confused by any war; and those who believe they understand wars, they were just lucky enough to be too far removed from the conflict, and their feelings were never involved it.

AuthorMaria Rabinovitch