By Karla Hernández Cárdenas
My family has lived in Seaside for around 30 years, my parents making a living for our family by working as a housecleaner (my mother) and a landscaper (my father), the backbone of the beautiful homes on the Peninsula.
But living in this area is expensive, more so when you have children to feed, so my family could only afford to live in a 200-square-foot RV for many years.
That meant I was unable to have any celebrations with my family because I did not have a space to invite anybody over. That changed when we were finally able to buy a house — I was so excited and happy that all our sacrifices finally paid off and we had our own home.
I had a lot of reasons to have a party. In 2020, I graduated from UC Berkeley, but due to the pandemic did not have a graduation ceremony and also no space to hold my own celebration; this was one of many moments when I hoped that one day I would have a space to celebrate the outcome of all my stress and hard work.
The new home — which was built over a two-and-half-year period full of scams, sacrifices and reversals — made the dream of a celebration a reality. I made plans months in advance: we carefully chose the band that would play, the food we would eat — my mom wanted to cook spicy ceviche for our close friends and family. She didn’t want to have a caterer. We planned to have the party early so as not to disturb the neighbors, and we would head to a concert afterward. Again, so we would not disturb the neighbors.
The celebration was set for June 24, my birthday, a date that I was anticipating with the enthusiasm of a child waiting for Christmas. How was I to know that the same day I was born would be a day for monumental change for women’s rights? How was I to know that, on that day, the Supreme Court would issue their vote to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision?
It was 4 p.m. and I was enjoying my culture’s music and food when a close friend sent me a screenshot of a Twitter thread that they thought might be related to me.
Pam Marino, a staff writer at the Monterey County Weekly, tweeted, “This sad day is being weirdly punctuated by a live Mexican music band playing across the street from the @mcweekly offices.” Sara Rubin, another Weekly staff writer responded, “very emotionally inconsistent with the vibe.”
My heart dropped to my stomach and my chest began to hurt as I realized that someone made a statement with so many implications and dressed it up as a simple opinion. To state that something is “weirdly punctuated” is to say that it is inherently incompatible.
Why did you have to write the word Mexican and brand it as incompatible with women’s oppression? Why could you not just have written “lively” music? Instead, your words perpetuate a stereotype that Mexican culture and political involvement are incompatible and give into a single-story narrative that Mexicans just like to party regardless of what goes on.
Your opinion prompted someone to reply, “Probably warming up for a weekend of playing illegal parties and defying noise ordinance in North County.” Your words act as agents of hate and you do not even see it.
In addition to being hurtful, these tweets were confusing. Why is my existence and expression incompatible with the rest of the struggles minorities and other oppressed groups face; particularly, in this case, women?
Why are the same people who write about the community’s diversity and the way that our culture, food and music serve as community capital presume to know these expressions are inherently indifferent to oppression?
I’ll never forget the way my dad always made sure to grab a newspaper every time he saw The Weekly’s box. I loved seeing what was going on in the community and seeing more diverse news. I thought of the Weekly as an ally. I thought the writers cared about the marginalized communities they uplifted in their print media. Perhaps this is why those tweets were so hurtful.
Your love and appreciation for our culture mean nothing if you only deem it as a positive thing when you are comfortable and when you profit from its relevance.
These statements particularly hurt because I am a Mexican musician. I have played the violin for 15 years, and, like many Mexicans, the music of my people gives me identity, hope and resilience. This music is played during public celebrations to invite people like me to partake of the community as a whole, to signal to us that we belong. To help us integrate into the fabric of this society.
I find it hard to believe that these educated staff writers do not understand the concept of intersectionality and how one is oppressed not only based on race but by class, sexuality, gender and disability. Our struggles as minorities all intersect. A woman faces oppression whether she is white or Black and a queer man faces oppression whether he is Black or white.
As an ally to all minorities, I have been extremely happy when any oppressed group of people gains rights. Conversely, being unable to be happy for a group’s freedom to safely exist while one still faces oppression explicitly broadcasts one’s inherent biases and internal beliefs.
Why was I not able to have one celebration with my family without feeling guilty for taking up space? Why is my liberation and freedom as a woman of color incompatible with the anguish that the Supreme Court caused that day?
If a group of people with disabilities were celebrating finally having access to spaces nationwide — like when the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted — and I was tremendously sad because the Dream Act was repealed, what in my brain would have me conclude that their happiness was “weirdly punctuating” my sorrow?
I felt sadness for not being able to mourn with the rest of the women, but that was a day to celebrate my life and culture. These are identities that intersect and make up my identity. I do not get to choose one day just to be a person of color or just a woman.
The Weekly staff writers, without any consideration or awareness of their inherent biases, made statements that ruined my joy and made me feel like I was not worthy of taking up space. That just because I was celebrating myself in a culturally relevant way, I was participating in something that was inherently different from the sorrow I felt inside as a woman.
That feeling of being unwelcome, of being made to feel that my celebration has no space in this town, flies in the face of the sacrifices I am making to be in the Monterey Peninsula. I gave up many opportunities to come back and give to my community. I am currently doing an intensive master’s program to teach in Seaside elementary schools and work with the children whom I care about the most.
There are many sacrifices one has to make as a public servant, so moments like the one I had planned on June 24 mean a lot. I was able to succeed in education by learning discipline through music, and my moments of joy and sadness all include music. It is the only way I can now connect to my ancestors and the only way I personally feel liberated while dealing with social barriers.
I am writing this now because moving forward, I will exist and use up the space and rights my ancestors fought for me to have how I see fit. You should never again feel entitled to have an opinion about my space and how I should exist in it.
In case I was not clear enough yet and you are still questioning whether your statements include biases, ask yourself, “If I was mourning losing a loved one and another person whom I cared about was getting married, would it be weirdly punctuated or a different vibe to your loss? Or, is it part of life and normal for people to have joy and sorrow at different times? ”
Remember, if you are not anti-racist, you are racist. And your racist words have caused trauma and hurt to me in a way that I could have never imagined because I thought you all valued the same things you publish. Be better.
Karla Hernández Cárdenas is a musician and educator. She is currently completing her master’s degree in education after graduating from UC Berkeley in 2020. She was raised in Seaside and is committed to serving her community.
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