Hellooooooo, internet!

It's me, the blogger formerly known as frau sally benz, currently going by... sally? We'll stick with sally for now.

I started Jump off the Bridge nearly a decade ago (holy crap!). For years, I blogged about politics, feminism, relationships, culture, immigration, books, musicals, being Latina, and anything else my little heart desired. It allowed me to build an online home I was proud of, with a community I loved. It gave me a chance to write for Feministe, one of my favorite blogs at the time. It provided writing clips and digital marketing experience I used to get jobs. More than anything, it gifted me the opportunity to express myself as I desired.

Over the years, I've really missed blogging. I missed the ability to take to my laptop when I'm fired up, curious, or contemplative. I missed having a place to document my growth and to rave about things I love - a place without rules or limitations other than the ones I chose to set.

I've set aside countless ideas and opportunities to raise the voices of people I admire, using the excuse, "I don't have anywhere to put this."

It's bullshit, of course, because I've still renewed this domain year after year, even as it sat in the corner, collecting dust and random comments about men in skirts.

So! I decided to take away my go-to excuse for not putting myself out there in a quick, easy way, a way that feels good. I figured, hey, why not clean out the cobwebs, polish the silverware, maybe throw some fresh paint on the walls to brighten up the joint?

Of course, a decade in internet years is like a century in real life, so that's probably a bit more work than simply deciding to write again.

There's a lot on this blog that seemed ancient and irrelevant, links that didn't go anywhere anymore, content that was meh and no longer aligned. I switched all of my published posts to drafts, re-published anything I actually remember writing all these years later, and decided to go through the rest later. I removed the sidebar sections that looked ugly or pointed to dead links.

If I decide to make this a permanent home again, then I'll give the blog a full makeover (or maybe I won't, WHO KNOWS?!).

For now, I'll focus on sharing the work of people I love and admire, posting my musings on who the heck knows what, and see what organically unfolds from there.

If you're reading this, welcome! Or, even better, welcome back! Say hi!

And, if you never hear from me again, know that I love you.

Because of my schedule and the utter lack of time I have to do anything nowadays, I haven't been able to keep up with the news all that much. Unless it's a big story, chances are I'll miss it. This whole Governor Paterson scandal and not running for election thing... yeah, that's been huge. No matter how much I try to avoid it, there it is.

For those who don't pay attention to NY politics, I'll sum it up: Governor Paterson replaced Spitzer after the prostitution scandal. He's made news for being open about his extramarital affairs, not having Obama's support in his desire to run for office, insisting he'll run anyway, having a key aide accused of domestic violence, allegedly paying off the accuser, allegedly getting tickets to Yankees games, and announcing he won't run.

Now, I'm not here to defend any of Paterson's actions. If he did try to pay off a victim of domestic violence just to be able to run for governor, there really is no getting back to good from that. But I'm really annoyed (read: grossed out, disgusted) by how I've seen some of the media handle this. This morning, for example, Good Day New York was outside of his home all morning long, waiting for him to leave so they could bombard him with questions. Um, what?! Some people might want him to resign, but at the moment, he's still the governor!

It's bad enough when the media does this to celebrities, but it's a whole other level when you're harassing the people who are supposed to be making critical decisions about our government! Part of this whole saga is the fact that major budget issues need to be resolved and everyone's all "should he resign before then, after, or at all?" I'm no genius, but it seems to me that if he has to deal with people staking out his home 24/7 just to harass him, his attention isn't going to be focused on making those decisions. It seems to me that if you're going to debate and discuss this thing to death, you should at least give him the space and freedom to do his job while he's still there.

I don't know though, maybe that's just me. Maybe I'm too focused on the actual shit that needs to get done. Like the fact that the MTA budget cuts include taking away the free MetroCard program for students, so many students will be forced to go to their zone schools. Like the fact that school budgets are constantly strained and those zone schools can't advance because they have no resources.

Yeah, maybe that's just me. How silly of me to be concerned with these things instead of waiting around for the governor to leave his home.

One of the major themes in the musical In the Heights is balancing the new world with the old world. This theme is epitomized in the song Carnaval del Barrio, but that's not why I love it (or not the only reason anyway). I love it because in just a few words, it sums up how so many Latinos and immigrants feel: powerless.

To be fair, the Powerless refrain actually comes up earlier in the show, but it means so much more in this section (starting around 5 minutes in):

We are powerless,
We are powerless!
...
Maybe you're right, Sonny.
Call in the coroners
Maybe we're powerless, a corner full of foreigners.
Maybe this neighborhood's changing forever
Maybe tonight is our last night together, however!
How do you wanna face it?
Do you wanna waste it, when the end is so close you can taste it?
Y'all could cry with your head in the sand
I'ma fly this flag that I got in my hand!

As Latinos, as immigrants, we are constantly being ignored. Despite the fact that Latinos are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the U.S. Despite the fact that immigrants are, in fact, people. We are constantly discriminated against and targeted. We are ridiculed and insulted. Republicans court us for a vote one year, and feel threatened by Sotomayor in the next.

So we cling to our culture and heritage and the people who understand us and support us. Wouldn't you?

UPDATE: The other posts in this series are: Paciencia y Fe and Nina's Story.

One of the leads in the musical In the Heights is Nina Rosario, whose parents are immigrants and who is the first in her family to go to college. I connected a lot to her story and struggles, especially what she expresses in the songs Breathe and When You're Home.

There's a part in the song Breathe (about 2 minutes in) that expresses how most young Latinos I know have felt throughout their lives:

They are all counting on me to succeed
I am the one who made it out
The one who always made the grade
But maybe I should've just stayed home...
When I was a child I stayed wide awake, climbed to the highest place,
on every fire escape, restless to climb
I got every scholarship, saved every dollar
The first to go to college

And she later sings (about 3:20 into the song):
Oh, God
And what will my parents say?
Can I go in there and say
"I know that I'm letting you down..."

I know that most people feel pressure from their parents to succeed. We all have our own struggles that stand in the way of that success and feel that we are letting them down at that point. But when you grow up knowing that your parents brought you to this country specifically for that one goal -- expending thousands of dollars, countless hours and perhaps sacrificing their social standing in their native countries -- that is a weight on your shoulders of incredible measure. Doing poorly one semester, not getting that important scholarship, not graduating on time, changing your major... all of this makes you feel like you are letting your parents down in the biggest way you can.

Inevitably, we end up asking a lot of what ifs, just as Nina does in When You're Home.

There's a section of the song (about 3:25 in) where she sings:
When I was younger I'd imagine what would happen if my parents had stayed in Puerto Rico
Who would I be if I had never seen Manhattan
If I lived in Puerto Rico with my people?
My people
I feel like all my life I've tried to find the answer
Working harder, learning Spanish, learning all I can

What if my parents had never left D.R.? Would they have struggled so much in establishing their business? Would they have gone into so much debt to create a life for us? Would I be married and pregnant? Would I have a college degree? These are the questions we ask ourselves, and the questions our parents ask themselves.

But ultimately, we move on because, as my mother would say "'si hubiera' no existe" -- "'if onlys' don't exist."

UPDATE: The other posts in this series are: Paciencia y Fe and Powerless.

Paciencia y Fe means Patience and Faith, and it's a phrase that's used throughout the musical In the Heights. The song by that name tells the story of one of the characters, Abuela, and her immigration from Cuba to the U.S. with her mother.

There are two parts that I want to discuss a little.

The first part (about 1 minute into the song) expresses the ambivalence so many Latino immigrants feel:

Ay, Mama, so many stars in Cuba
En Nueva York we can't see beyond our streetlights
To reach the roof you gotta bribe the supa
Ain't no cassiopia in Washington Heights
But ain't no food in La Vibora

I can't count the number of times I've heard a Latino and/or an immigrant offer a criticism of their life in the U.S., quickly followed by a comment to the extent of "if you don't like it here, go back to where you came from." It seems those people don't realize at that moment that it's completely possible for anybody to simultaneously complain about something about their life in America and love the opportunities presented here. Americans born in the U.S. start entire organizations dedicated to changing aspects of American society, so why are we denied the right to express our own opinions?

Near the end of the song (about 3:45 into the song), there is a line that particularly gets to me:
Ay ay Mama
What do you do when your dreams come true?
I've spent my life inheriting dreams from you

I was five years old when I came to this country, and my parents never let me lose sight of what they came here for: for my sisters and I to get a better education and have more opportunities than we would have in D.R. For immigrant children, a large part of our identities are directly influenced by the goals our parents have for us. At what point do you dream for yourself instead of your parents? Stay tuned for more on that in my next post...

UPDATE: The other posts in this series are: Nina's Story, and Powerless.


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