Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Migration
Link to the short film on the subject of my ancestry and origins.
Jonathan Sanchez
Migration and integration

My family history is something I have been over and over again. As if looking for clues in the fractured dysfunctional thing labeled a family. I have done everything from genealogy and DNA testing, to travels and interviews with family members. What I have found is that it is an American right to make up your identity. I have within my family seven nationalities, on four continents, speaking six languages, so to identify with only one aspect would be a shame. Historically, my ancient ancestors were reportedly Jewish from the south of Spain and Canary Islands. Perhaps a little thing called the Inquisition had something to do with my folks wanting to get to the other side of the world, where over time they would become Christian. My name according to a museum colleague of mine a bit of scholar on the middle east and Judaica, has told me that my name is what is known as a converso name often spelled Sanchus or Sanches but by Jews it is spelled Sanchez.
My relatives landed in the caribbean becoming known as Spanish Colonist, and later as Americans after the Isle of Puerto Rico was seized by the U.S through the Spanish American War. My relatives reportedly became part Native American (though the above DNA test did not show evidence of this). It did show Ethiopian, North African, Roma, and Sephardic Jewish traits.
As a territory Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. but without the full privileges or rights of say a state. The residents of the island still live in a political limbo without the right to vote in U.S matters but the right to die in U.S. wars. In the 50’s New York was overwhelmed with an influx of immigrants from the Isle of Enchantment, resulting in widespread, exclusion, racism, and discrimination. A Puerto Rican neighborhood was synonymous with the worst part of town. My parents lived through this hatred and invented identities for themselves. My father and grandfather show their ancient African features which had some consequences when visiting the south in the 60’s. My grandfather for example was denied access to a white hospital and my father while in school in Texas often feared using white restrooms.
I stress all of this to say that my father chose to not see himself as black though the world sometimes did. Growing up to present, there is a weird bond a naturalness with African Americans that lets me know that a sort of cultural memory has survived in me. I have if nothing else a strong reverence for African American culture and its struggle to survive in a country that at times has tried to be unicultural.
Had my parents grown up now how would they have identified I do not know. My mother was always guarded and secretive. When pushed to answer questions her and her mother would, but with caution. Yes we are indian, yes we were jews and yes we are gypsy they would admit to me after years of hiding all three.  It took a DNA test to confirm some of this but if you are from people that have been persecuted, relocated, and exterminated you keep secrets.
I embrace all of it as much of it as I can. I tried in big and little ways to figure what it all means. Learning about and experiencing Roma, Jewish culture through practicing friends, museum visits, and travels. Through blues history I celebrate that part of my life and teach it to school groups and adults on a regular basis.
My family my most important family comes to me through my wife. Marrying a Swiss national I see what all immigrants go through the ignorance and silliness that is handed out to foreigners is both amusing and troubling. My brother married a Colombian woman he has it much worse than me, my biggest hassle is continually explaining that Switzerland and Sweden are two different countries.
I have continually visited Switzerland for more than tens years and lived there for more than five years. In that time I became a serious student of the history and many cultures that make up the country. Learning German allowed me to learn of the larger Germanic world. It is as if it is our own little secret language in this country when we go out and want privacy. There is a coziness to be able speak my wife’s mother tongue and copy the cooking of her homeland. Now after so many years I feel as if part of me is Swiss and may live there again one day who knows.
The way my in laws live and have lived, their stubbornness and frugality, and that they have been married for fifty years is an incredible inspiration to me. In truth I look to my in laws as a model more than my own parents.
My family is distant I have contact with my mother (though I didn’t know her as a child or grow up with her) and younger brother Jeff. He and I have dabbled in genealogy playing the family detectives looking for clues about our past removed from it and placed in mainstream America. My aunts tell me my dad wanted to be John Wayne, and my mother Marilyn Monroe. Growing up in the time of the Sharks and the Jets, “as no good PRs,” I can understand why they wanted to be anything other than what they actually were. I choose to look forward focus on my family that I inherited through my wife and most of all my wife.
The past is a murky mess for me and I prefer to move on make a family with my wife.

Puerto Rican
and American
German (and Swiss German a spoken language more of a dialect)
Puerto Rico

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Our Hybridized Identities and Cultural Practices

Jonathan Sanchez
Lesson 2: Local and Global: Hybridized Identities and Practices
Reading Review and Personal Reflection
Essay (Breaking Down of the Other Through Art)
Though not an official companion to or on the list of suggested reading I found the writing from Wanda B. Knight entitled Never Again to be useful and insightful augmentation to the Frostig writing on the holocaust. All three papers address issues of place, personal and familial history and the possibilities artists and art educators have to start very meaningful discussions on these big ideas.
The holocaust works of of Frostig, and Knight discuss the ideas of authoritarian regimes pushing an agenda based on hatred. The Delacruz writing deals with a cultural and historic void felt by Chinese girls raised in a new culture. Frosting as an American trying to reconnect to Vienna and adopted Chinese children raised in America both find themselves searching for a sense of history, and place. As well the feelings of dislocation that the many adopted Chinese girls raised in the States tend to feel is similar to what Frostig describes. Giving the example of attempts at multi-cultural assignments in their contradictory effects, the sense of being out of place is addressed. Though the paper addresses all recent immigrants, for adopted children or recent immigrants or second generation children whose families are not intact, "for the minority student whose family lineages ..are in flux..these assignments may be confusing, invasive, humiliating..or nearly impossible to complete." (Delacruz, 2012 pg. 235).
Another theme that surfaces in all three writings is stereotypes versus the real. Creating stereotypes according to Knights writing can exasperate the creation of the other (Knight, 2009, pg. 72). Further leading to the creation of less than human caricatures, allowing for the mistreatment of those falsely portrayed. In the case of the holocaust writings this formulation had dire consequences, in the case of the Delacruz writing these stereotypes result in, that (the children in question) never really felt accepted here by their ethnic group of origin...or by white mainstream Americans. Leading to the sense that Frostig echoes of not really belonging anywhere being between worlds due to a historically severed connection.
The final theme present in all three works relates to art education. They all seem to issue warnings or at least caution that the way art is taught can often have the opposite effect intended. That simply adhering blindly to standardized testing is still re-enforcing a sort of dogma (therefore a dominant white view). Finally, that a real and meaningful connection needs to be established to end racism one student at a time.
Specific terms culture keeping reminds of the Chien-hua Kuo article which describes the scholarly efforts to create a suscint Taiwanese identity through children's books, and other teaching aids. In a sense recent immigrant or adopted international children are also trying to create their own national identity and hopefully find their place in the larger US mainstream. Similarly Frostig writes of reclaiming here German Jewish heritage, will immigrant populations also follow this process? Frostig describes constructivist educational approach as, one that is an inquiry-based pedagogy, which promotes deep understanding (not imitative behavior). This thinking can be applied to all the of the writings addressed in this essay, racism is imitative status quo, stereotyping is similar, and ethnic food fair type educational efforts only re-enforce (by trivializing), the dominant culture.
Personal Response
Most of my cultural practices stem from marrying a European person. It has necessitated spending large amounts of time in Europe, using German and creating a household that follows many rules of Swiss culture.
If my wife and I are at my parents house they know before eating to state, En Guete (pronounced, In gweta) the most basic of Swiss expressions meaning enjoy your meal or good appetite etc.. So though we did not grow up saying that it is now commonly used in my household and that of my parents when visiting. When entering a Swiss household you will always deposit your shoes at the front door. As a result at my home there is always a pile of shoes at the door one pair mine the other six belonging to my wife. Though unnecessary I think on some level it feels more like a Swiss home when there are so many shoes at the door. Its little cultural things that make our home in the States or in Europe feel a little more Swiss than American. 
At Halloween while living in Switzerland I had to carve a pumpkin it was fascinating and strange to see but everyone in the neighborhood had to steal a peek at this glowing head in the window. I had big Thanksgiving dinners which the French, German, Italian, Swiss and Austrian guests that experienced that meal with me found very enjoyable and beautiful. In some ways these meals broke down the poor stereotype of burger eating Americans they had to rethink American food and Americans. In many ways living abroad made me feel more American and living in the States makes me feel more European. I notice the many European mostly Swiss things that I do.
As far as a global identity I am constantly aware of what is going on in Europe through friends and family there and feel I am in part there through my family. At least once year I return for a family visit and reconnect with the language and culture and definitely have the feeling the world is connected and what goes on in the States is no mystery to Europeans. 
Viewing the States from abroad one has the feeling we live in a glass house but have no concept of that. It seems even the worst of our culture is copied, or outright exported to the point of it feeling oppressive or invasive. I was so saddened when my little niece at four when given the choice between eating a special meal at grandma's for her birthday or going to McDonald's picked McDonald's  I saw the problem with globalization right there, it can replace your own culture with a far inferior imported one. The sense that we are connected shapes my beliefs and thoughts on what it is to be American and what America as an entity should and should do globally. As well I feel the need to walk more often, consume less and be more European in short less wasteful or gluttonous  so my worldview is shaped by my connections to Europe and the frugality I learned living there.
Delacruz, E. M. (2012). What Asian American artists teach us about the complicated nature of
      21st century Americans’ multilayered, transcultural, and hybridized identities and art
     practices: Implications for an intercultural and social justice oriented approach to teaching Art. In Chung, S. K. (Ed.). Teaching Asian art (pp. 234-240). Reston, VA: National Art
      Education Association

Frostig, K. (2009). Transnational dialogues dealing with Holocaust legacies. In Delacruz, E. M.,
     A. Arnold, M. Parsons, and A. Kuo, (Eds.), Globalization, art, and education (pp. 60-67).
     Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.

Knight, W. Never Again: A (K)night with Ben, (2009). Delacruz, E. M., A. Arnold, M. Parsons,  
    and A. Kuo, (Eds.), Globalization, art, and education (pp. 68-75). Reston, VA: National Art
    Education Association.

Kuo, C. Taiwanese Picturebooks and the Search for National Identity (2009). Delacruz, E. M., A.
    Arnold, M. Parsons, and A. Kuo, (Eds.), Globalization, art, and education (pp. 7-13). Reston,
   VA: National Art Education Association.