Sonic Trace http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog Mon, 22 Sep 2014 23:12:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Day My Faith Was Tested http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/06/the-day-my-faith-was-tested/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/06/the-day-my-faith-was-tested/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 22:00:33 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2667 This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on June 30.

The first time I was labeled “gay,” my whole body shook. I couldn’t make sense of why or how that happened. But I clearly remember that moment.

I was in middle school and I was eager to leave campus. My last class of the day was physical education and it was almost over. It was a hot day and I was growing impatient waiting for the locker room to open. There were a few people nearby as I lingered around. When I tugged on my shorts the strangers taunted me and said I was “gay.”

Whoa. It drove me off a cliff.

I had heard the term before. But this time it was directed towards me, a 12-year-old who went to church every Sunday and Friday. Being labeled gay — at that time — was like being called a murderer.

I was hurt. I felt like I had a disease. I didn’t know what to do but cry.

So when I got home, I locked myself in my room and tried swallow the pain with tears. I started scratching my arms — at first just slowly to numb the pain, then deeper. I seriously don’t know what I was thinking. But I crept into the kitchen and pulled out a small knife. Back in my bedroom, I started poking my arm with the knife. The taste of metal on my flesh was appealing but I never really cut myself.

About 30 percent of LGBT youth attempt suicide around 15 years old, according to SPEAK.

I took a step back and looked at what I was doing. I stopped and began to pray.

I asked him for love. If God didn’t love me as a gay person then why am I so blessed?

It was ironic that I was feeling guilty because a religious “value” but the turning point was a conversation with God. I questioned him. I sought answers. I spilled all of my emotions during what seemed to be a three-hour long prayer. And the steam finally blew away, I returned to safety and felt comforted.

Being an immigrant (I was born in Mexico) plus being gay and living in a religious environment was very confusing. And to this day I’ve never figured out the algorithm for being religious and gay. At times I’ve chosen to be one over the other. But now at 24 years old, I don’t choose. I don’t have to.

The moment I realized I could be gay and Christian, I felt peace.

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A Rainbow After the Storm http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/06/a-rainbow-after-the-storm/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/06/a-rainbow-after-the-storm/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 18:47:32 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2661 This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on June 23, 2014.

Summer is officially here and for many students that means school is out. Ralph Laranjo, 26, just wrapped up his first year in college. But he wasn’t always into academics. He tells us what going back to school means for him and especially his family.

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Living In The Shadows, But Wanting to be ‘Normal’ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/06/just-wanting-to-be-normal/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/06/just-wanting-to-be-normal/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 09:08:46 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2640 Thousands of people gathered in West Hollywood on Sunday morning for the Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Pride parade.

Abel, who didn’t want to give his last name because of his legal status, talked to us about growing up gay and undocumented in Los Angeles.

This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on June 9.

 

Ryan, left, and Abel with their two dogs, Vino and Rocket. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Ryan, left, and Abel with their two dogs, Vino and Rocket. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Abel remembers when he would go out to Hollywood clubs and bars with his friends.

For many 21-year-olds, it’s rite of passage. For Abel, it meant finding a way to getting in without an ID.

“We used to wear these 12-inch crazy platform shoes and crazy vinyl outfits,” he says.

Abel didn’t have an ID because he was undocumented.

He was brought to the United States when he was 10 years old. He quickly learned English and assimilated with his peers. No one knew about his legal status, but he lived in fear of deportation.

“The government was telling me I wasn’t supposed to be here,” he says. “It was the dark side of my life I never wanted to look into.”

He created a life in Los Angeles and is now 36 years old and is married to Ryan, his partner of 16 years. They have about a dozen pets, including their dogs Vino and Rocket.

“We have a very joyous life here and I don’t want to be taken away from the person I love and from our pets and everything we’ve built together,” he says.

Ryan is in the middle of a process providing sponsorship to relieve Abel’s legal status. Their case started a few months after the Defense of Marriage Act was repealed in June 2013.

“I just want to be able to do everything that everyone gets to do,” he says. “I am just wanting to be normal.”

 

 

 

 

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Losing Weight, Gaining a New Life http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/06/losing-weight-gaining-a-new-life/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/06/losing-weight-gaining-a-new-life/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 07:50:56 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2620

This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on June 2.

Carolina Gonzalez shows a picture of her old self. She lost 129 lbs.

Carolina Gonzalez shows a picture of her old self. She lost 129 lbs. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Carolina Gonzalez, 46, wakes up at 5 a.m. every weekday morning to turn on her coffee maker and begin her day. She moves from the kitchen to her living room, where she sets up tables and chairs to host a Herbalife nutrition breakfast club — she’s been doing so for over two years now.

“People come here from Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico… from around the neighborhood,” she says in Spanish. “They come to have breakfast here. Sometimes it’s 11 a.m. and they don’t want to leave.”

The breakfast club has become a gathering of 32 immigrant mothers, their children and sometimes their husbands. They come for the Herbalife teas and shakes, plus the small talk and the sense of community. But Carolina wasn’t always giving health advice or suppling nutritional products.

Two years ago, she was weighing about 315 lbs. She was considered morbidly obese.

When she was 17 years old, she moved to L.A. from Mexico, which is now considered the obese capital of the world. Carolina tried fighting off the weight with different approaches. “The moon diet, the gelatin diet, pills, medicines from doctors,” Carolina remembers.

It didn’t work.

As the years went by, the weight piled on. It got worse after she got married. Since she couldn’t get pregnant on her own, she was taking hormones and fell into depression.

“I felt like a parasite,” she says. “I couldn’t do anything.”

She became addicted to soda.

“One night I didn’t have any. It was 3 a.m. and my neighbors were having a party. I needed a soda so bad I was crying. I put my pride aside and went to the party to ask if they would sell me Coca-Colas. They gave me four cokes. I ran upstairs, went inside and drank the four sodas.”

Her husband approached her and told her she needed to stop being unhealthy. “Don’t do it for yourself, do it for our daughter,” he told her.

Listen to Carolina talk about her transformation and the first time she felt special in a long time.

 

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The Toll of Sexual Violence http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/05/the-toll-of-sexual-violence/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/05/the-toll-of-sexual-violence/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 08:31:41 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2610

This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on May 27.

About 5.6 million women in California have experienced sexual violence.

Priscilla Delgadillo, 13, and her sister Karen, 15, grew up in Los Angeles to an immigrant family. Their parents brought Karen to the States to bring her a better life.

At a young age, she was molested by her uncles and her father’s roommates. No one was aware what was going on — Karen kept silent.

Listen to the sisters talk about the toll sexual abuse took on their lives.

For more on sexual violence and resources:

CALCASA

Rape in the Fields

Megan’s Law — Facts about sex offenders

 

 

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Angelena Zapotec and Playing the ‘Indian Girl’ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/05/angelena-zapotec-discovering-an-indigenous-identity-by-playing-the-indian-girl/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/05/angelena-zapotec-discovering-an-indigenous-identity-by-playing-the-indian-girl/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 04:48:22 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2580 Julieta Mendez was born in Los Angeles. Her family is indigenous Zapotec, but she didn’t know what that really meant until a Thanksgiving play in the the first grade.

This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on May 19.

There are an estimated 250,000 natives from Oaxaca, Mexico living in Southern California, according to the California Institute for Rural Studies.

Many of these communities have indigenous roots, from Zapotec to Mixtec, Trique and Chocho. Julieta’s family was one of the first to come over from Santa María Tavehua, a Zapotec village in the Oaxacan highlands.

Her teacher was organizing a Thanksgiving play, and her classmates were being assigned roles. Someone was picked as a pilgrim, another was the turkey, and Julieta, “‘You’ll be an Indian girl,’” she remembers her teacher telling her.

“I was happy because I just wanted to be in a play and I had absolutely no idea what that meant,” she says.

She came home and told her father the exciting news. “Julie, but you are indigenous!” he told her in Spanish.

Julieta was floored. How should she react to playing the “Indian girl”?

In 2012, Sonic Trace Producer Anayansi Diaz-Cortes traveled with Julieta to Santa Maria Tavehua, Mexico to find out why her mother left the village back in the 70s. Find out why Julieta had to return to move on.

Here’s a video of Zapotec women in Tehuantepec, a village in Oaxaca.

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Her First Protest, Her First Arrest http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/05/her-first-protest-her-first-arrest/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/05/her-first-protest-her-first-arrest/#comments Mon, 12 May 2014 14:03:47 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2565 This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on May 12. 

While immigration reform is going nowhere on Capitol Hill, activists continue the push for immigration relief.

Neidi Dominguez, 25, is one of Southern California’s most active immigration organizers.

She got involved with the movement after she found out she was undocumented at a young age. And when she graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, she completely devoted herself to organizing.

In Oct. 2011, Neidi and four other youths protested at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in downtown L.A.

“That morning, I woke up really early and then I just remember this walk with my black shirt that says, ‘I am undocumented,’” she remembers.

Here’s the scene from the lobby that day.

While undocumented students and supporters chanted in unison, police grew weary and told the five undocumented activists to send them away, she says. They didn’t.

Listen to Neidi talk about her first experience in jail… Was she able to get out?

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Leaving Mexico and Returning as ‘Tourists’ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/05/leaving-mexico-but-returning-as-tourists/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/05/leaving-mexico-but-returning-as-tourists/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 02:57:04 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2559

This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on May 5.

About 4 million Dreamers, or undocumented youth, are living in the U.S. President Barack Obama has said they’re Americans in their hearts and mind, but not on paper.

Because of their legal status, most of them have never returned to their native countries.

Victoria Dominguez, 24, was brought to the U.S. from Mexico at the age seven. When her family moved north, she thought she was going on a vacation.

“When I got here, they bought me sugary cereals and all this cool stuff,” she says. “Then a couple days later, it kind of hit me that I wasn’t going back home.”

It has been 13 years since she left. And her thoughts on going back aren’t filled with nostalgia.

She says she only knows this country, and while she would like visit, returning and settling back in Mexico wouldn’t be an option.

“Visit? Cool,” she says. “Live there? I am very realistic, I wouldn’t make it.

Check out other stories of undocumented youth:

Devi: Keeping Aztec Dancing Alive in Los Angeles

Bring Them Home: With Previous Lives In The U.S., Deportees Attempt Legal Re-entry

Pepe: The last goodbye

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Finding Hope After An Autism Diagnosis http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/04/finding-hope-after-an-autism-diagnosis/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/04/finding-hope-after-an-autism-diagnosis/#comments Wed, 30 Apr 2014 09:51:03 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2538 This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on April 30.

When Isela Santillan saw her 2-year-old son, Alexis, use tantrums and cries to ask for food, she felt something was different.

Her family would say he was huraño or spoiled and that’s why he acted like that. But it was more than that.

“That’s when I decided to go to the doctor and tell him my concerns,” she says.

Alexis was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. About one in 88 children in the U.S. have autism, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

At first, Isela was shaken up. The doctor didn’t offer any advice or provided her information about therapy.  But she was reinforced by her abuelita.

“My grandma came over and basically she said, ‘Your son is healthy, your son runs, he’s not in a bed — autism can be worked out,’” she says.

Alexis is now 7 years old. Isela says his behavior and his speech have improved after a few years in therapy.

“The first years that he had no speech, he would bang his head on the floor,” she says. “Now [he says], ‘Mom, I love you.’”

And every year they participate in the Autism Speaks Walk every year.

It has become tradition among their cousins, aunts and uncles. They sport t-shirts with Alexis’ picture, blue ribbon stickers and carry signs with their team name, Team Go, Alexis, Go, which was used to reinforce Alexis during his therapy sessions.

And like any mom, Isela wishes the best for Alexis.

“My dreams as a mom is for my son to get married, for me to have a lot of grandchildren, for him to be a man of good,” she says.

Visit these websites for more resources and information on autism:

Autism Speaks

Autism Society of Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

 Here’s some photos from last Saturday’s Autism Speaks Walk at the Rose Bowl. 

Isela and Alexis at Autism Speaks Walk at the Rose Bowl.

Isela and Alexis at Autism Speaks Walk at the Rose Bowl. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Alexis' abuelito prepares sandwiches for the family during the walk.

Alexis’ abuelito prepares sandwiches for the family during the walk. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

One of Alexis' cousins sports a tattoo ribbon in support of autism awareness.

One of Alexis’ cousins sports a tattoo ribbon in support of autism awareness. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

The Go, Alexis, Go team at the Autism Speaks Walk in Pasadena.

The Go, Alexis, Go team at the Autism Speaks Walk in Pasadena. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

 

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Keeping Aztec Dancing Alive in Los Angeles http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/04/keeping-aztec-dancing-alive-in-los-angeles/ http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/2014/04/keeping-aztec-dancing-alive-in-los-angeles/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 08:03:07 +0000 http://sonictrace.kcrw.com/blog/?p=2514

This story aired on KCRW’s Morning Edition on April 21.

When 26-year-old Devi Ramirez first got involved with Aztec dancing, it was a way to get out of the house.

“My neighbor had told my mom that she started doing Aztec dancing because she wanted her kids to get out of the house and stop watching TV,” she says. “And I overheard that and I kind of decided to go along with it too.”

It ended up shaping who she was — an undocumented student living in Los Angeles. And before taking up danza, she was ready to return to her native Mexico because of her legal status.

“Just living in L.A. without documents is really hard,” Devi says. “Just getting a job, you get exploited all the time. Even going to school was hard at the time. So I just kind of was losing hope.”

She tells us how a group of men, women and children are reviving the ancient dance in MacArthur Park’s Recreation Center, and in return reviving who she is as an Angelena.

Devi and her group can be seen dancing at Placita Olvera on Saturdays or Sundays. They practice every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the MacArthur Park Recreation Center. 

Photos by Brian De Los Santos

Devi Ramirez, 26, has been involved with Aztec dancing since she was 16 years old. Here, she shows her bandana, her sonaja (on her right hand) and her footwear. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Devi Ramirez, 26, has been involved with Aztec dancing since she was 16 years old. She shows her bandana, her sonaja (on her right hand) and her footwear. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Aztec dancing consists of drum beats and footwork. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Aztec dancing consists of drum beats and footwork. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Dancers get ready for practice in MacArthur Park's recreation center. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Dancers get ready for practice in MacArthur Park’s recreation center. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Dancers work their way through a circle, moving in and out and sideways — in the direction of the four winds. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Dancers work their way through a circle, moving in and out and sideways — in the direction of the four winds. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Aztec dancing often tells stories from the Aztec era (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

Aztec dancing often tells stories from the Aztec era. Here, they pay homage to an Aztec god. (Photo: Brian De Los Santos)

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