Tuesday, June 09, 2009

When one of your artistic influences dies...

You know? it is funny and it is not when you find yourself in the position to eulogize someone who died 4 years ago. Today I find myself in that position not because it took me this long, but because I just learned of her death. This will mean nothing to many, but the fact is still that Ginamaria Hidalgo was a very strong influence in my artistic life.

How could this be? Well, in Latin America, there is a strong tradition of Bohemia music and singing. Americans think they invented crossover. Well, Ginamaria was one of the first singers to achieve true crossover success. She was a crossover success before Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti.

Not only was she a pioneer of crossover, she did it right. With her it didn't have the feeling of someone singing something that was somehow beneath her. When she sang, God! she sang. Her rendition of Silvio Rodriguez's song Mi unicornio azul (My Blue Unicorn) rivaled the author's in pathos and simplicity of delivery. You heard Ginamaria sing this song and you just expected that unicorn to come back with his head low asking for forgiveness. Somehow it was the same with Schubert's Ave Maria. In her voice, this song was transformed from a prayer to a statement of faith. I never sang it better!

Ginamaria Hidalgo performed opera, boleros, tangos, bohemia and many other genres always with impeccable style and never achieving anything less than sublime artistry. This is what crossover singing of high caliber was about. This is was singing of high caliber was about, never mind the style.

I saw Ginamaria in concert 20 years ago in a theater in my father's home town and what I witnessed that day was an artist in full possession of her voice; capable of reaching the pinnacle of artistry so many of us wish for, but so little actually achieve. From that day I was a fan. I saw someone using her voice in the service of a song, it didn't matter whether you are singing opera or pop. Her voice was an instrument in the hands of the composer in ways I wish mine ever was. So to her I owe a debt of gratitude because she showed me how you can still use your technique and create music of infinite beauty, how a simple song can transport an audience to realms never imagined; how a 900-seat theater can be as intimate as your living room.

In her honor, here are 2 songs that I heard her sing that night 20 years ago. The first one is the Carlos Gardel song El dia que me quieras, the 2nd one is the waltz La pulpera de Santa Lucia. I chose to sing this last song on a recital after hearing her rendition and loving what she did with it.

Gracias Maestra...

Translation of El dia que me quieras

The housekeeper of Santa Lucia
She was blond and her blue eyes
reflected the glory of daylight
and she sang like a lark in a meadow,
the shopkeeper of Santa Lucia.
She was prized in the entire parrish,
how could any gaucho not want her,
and the soldiers of all the four quarters,
sighed with longing behind the shop’s counter.
A Mazorquero sang a song to this beauty
with the sweet moan of ancient guitars
surrounded by the scent of jasmines
in a courtyard with wrought-iron bars.
“With my soul, I love you, shopkeeper
and one day you will have to be mine
while all night in Santa Lucia
the guitars will continue to whine.”
But it was a man of Lavalle
who took her away in the forties,
and her blue eyes no longer sparkle
in the parish of Santa Lucia.
Never more did the soldiers of Rosas
sing their songs to the lovely shopkeeper,
and the jasmines wept on the fences
jealous for they could not keep her.
One last time the bard sang his love song
in the courtyard now empty without her –
a painful serenade to his loved one
that the wind carried down river.
“Where are you, my blue-eyed shopkeeper
who never turned out to be mine?
The guitars of Santa Lucia
will forever for you weep and sigh.”
Translation: Natalie Pepa

Thursday, June 04, 2009

On Marriage Equality coming to NH

You know? With the marriage bill signed in NH, we have to face yet again the slew of stock comments from the opponents of gay marriage. I thought, what better time to address some of those stock arguments that they always mention. This is going to be long, so my apologies right now.

Stock argument no. 1:

God said 1man + 1woman

Hold it there buster. If you are going to use the bible, then you better be ready for it to be turn around on you. Let’s start with Kind David. The bible clearly says that he had several wives and concubines. Actually, the bible talks more about men having several wives than the opposite. So technically, the bible condones polygamy. Now, King David was not the only one, there is a whole bag of Godly heroes that had several wives, and they are still held as role models. So, no, the bible does not speak conclusively about 1 man + 1 woman.

Stock argument no. 2:

God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve

The Hebrew word “ādām” used in Genesis 1-3 is not a name: it either means “humanity” or “the man”. Same for the word eve, it means female. So, Adam and Eve were not persons; they did not exist. Adam and Eve are literary inventions meant to symbolize humanity in its male and female form. Yea, you know, just like Don Quixote, Sherlock Holmes, Cinderella, Jekyll and Hyde, the Count of Montecristo , Carrie, Hamlet, Superman, and many other famous literary characters.

The bible is a wonderful book, but it is not a historical account, nor is it reliable as a historical document. What is most insulting of all is the fact that my pastor took the time to explain that to me. Why didn’t your pastor do the same? The resources are all there. Why is he insisting in keeping you ignorant?

Stock argument no. 3:

Leviticus, Leviticus Leviticus…

Once again, if you use the bible, you better be ready to have it used against you. Leviticus also says that if you disrespect you parents you should be put to death; you should also face the same fate if you: Eat shell fish, use blended fabrics, commit adultery, and several others. If you do not follow those, then you are a bigger hypocrite than I am, because you are picking and choosing what to follow and what not to. This is a direct violation of Lev 19:12. Thou shall not swear falsely by my name, nor profane the name of thy God. Since those provisions are ALL made by God and you do not have the authority to pick and choose.

Furthermore, Jesus Himself said that He came into the world to make the law new. That means that all those provisions from Leviticus that you are so fond of quoting were cast aside by Jesus Himself. They were made obsolete 2000 years ago when Jesus walked the earth, why are you still hell-bent in quoting them?

Lastly, Leviticus 4:2 says To be ignorant of what we are bound to know is sinful. These days we have a better understanding of human sexuality and human psyches. God gave us a better understanding of the human condition and we are responsible to learn from it and adapt our thinking and behavior; so even if you are going to cast aside the fact that Jesus tossed that book aside; then you are still responsible for your sin of ignorance.

Stock argument no. 4:

Two men and/or 2 women can not procreate

The procreation argument… I love this one because I have yet to find anyone who will take me on this one. Let’s say for a moment that you are right and marriage is about procreation. Can you please explain why there is NOT ONE SINGLE amendment that reads something like this:

"In order to protect the sacred marriage institution and the procreation responsibilities of the partners, marriage in this state shall consist of a man and a woman of procreation age, who, having been tested, can prove they can procreate. "

If marriage was about procreation, why not go after people who can procreate and DO NOT. Gay people can not marry in most states after all. Why is it that the people that can not marry and can not procreate are the ones targeted for an amendment that seeks to “protect” the procreation aspect of marriage?

Stock argument no. 5:

The intolerance of gay people

Now, now, try as you may, that argument is the same argument that an abuser will try to use against the one he is abusing. Yea, we see through that. A man will hit a woman and the moment the woman strikes back, he starts accusing her of abuse.

Gay people have been the victims of murder, oppression, beatings and calumnies. The law and the bible has been used against us for hundreds of years. Who did that? What sector of the population championed this kind of behavior against gay people? What did you expect? Are you saying we were being tolerant when we were taking your abuse and remaining quiet? Are you saying that we were being tolerant every time one of us was killed like a dog, or bashed with a 2X4, or bullied in school, or thrown out of our homes at 15, or lost our families, jobs, apartments, careers, salaries, friends etc. and we didn’t say anything? Are you saying that now that we are not taking your abuse we are NOW being intolerant? Truly, are you expecting that argument to stick?

Have you ever heard of the phrase "You reap what you sow"?

Stock argument no. 6:

What's next, Polygamy & Bestiality?

Well, I have 2 points to make on this one:

1. Mormons have practiced polygamy for over 100 years. To this day, there is still a section of them that practices it; where is your rage against that? Even then, they have not looked to make it legal in any state. If the Mormons have shown no interest in making polygamy legal, and they are the ones with the most to gain; NEITHER WILL GAY PEOPLE. GET IT THROUGH YOU THICK SKULL. Putting that one on the gays does not make it sound more convincing.

2. Bestiality has been practiced for hundreds of years by both straight and gay people. Now go and read point no 1

Stock argument no. 7:

Marriage for Straights & Civil unions for gays; fair isn't it?

The Supreme Court already ruled that separate but equal is neither. You might not like it, but the SCOUTS were very clear on this; you can not create separate institutions for percentage of the population based solely on the fact that your impressionable little heads and your fragile little egos can not bare the thought of THOSE people drinking of the same fountain.

So, it's either civil unions for all, or none. You don't have to believe me, just read the decisions. See Plessey v. Ferguson, which introduced the 'separate but equal' doctrine. Follow it up with Brown v. Board of Education, Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States and Green v. School Board of New Kent County, which dismantled the 'separate but equal' doctrine. And don't forget the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Guess you just have to read now…

Stock argument no. 8:

Marriage is a sacred institution ordained by God

First of all, marriage has 2 elements: Secular and sacred. A marriage is only sacred if you go in front of a representative from a god and swear in front of him. Since the state does not recognize any god, when you go to get married by a judge, there is nothing sacred about it.

To imply that a marriage performed by a representative of a secular government is sacred is to commit the sin of Idolatry, as the bible says "you shall not worship any other gods than me, nor should you put anything at the same level as me."

Furthermore, gay people are NOT lobbying any church for the right to marry; we are lobbying the government, the overseers of the SECULAR institution of marriage. We expect the government to treat us like any tax payer. Church and God have nothing to do with that expectation. And let me give you one more, if marriage is a “sacred institution”, then: why is divorce legal, and also, why is there not one single church that will marry you without a license from the state?

Stock argument no. 9:

Churches will be forced marry gay people even if they don't want to

The scare tactics never end, do they? If we believe that there is a separation of church and state, why would the state infringe upon that doctrine 200 years after it was instituted, and with no prior conviction of doing so?

Think about it, if there is any, ANY group that is well versed in their constitutional rights is the church; at least when it comes to the government’s responsibility to leave them alone. I say that way because the church has not understood the basic principle that freedom of religion carries with it freedom FROM religion, and they have consistently poked their noses into the peoples business and will continue to do so while at the same time demanding to be left alone.

That being said, the constitution clearly states that the government shall not infringe on the church’s right to do business as they see it fit. The church knows that very well, but it is still crying wolf because it brings attention to them and it sounds plausible. Trust me, there is not a church that will see that happen and not file a federal lawsuit and win it.

Stock argument no. 10:

Gays can marry someone of the opposite sex where's the issue?

Oh, the joys of being ignorant. No, truly, life is so much simpler that way.

Gay people expect the right to marry anyone of their own CHOOSING just like any heterosexual person. If you would not like your mother picking up a wife/husband for you (and God knows she would probably do a better job than you) then you have no right to tell anyone they can not marry anyone they CHOOSE.

If you CHOSE your wife, I have the same right to CHOOSE my gorgeous hunky husband and it is a matter of law; just wait for it.

Stock argument no. 11:

The "will of the people..."

Of all the ones I've discussed so far, this is the one that most troubles me. I just keep hearing all these arguments for the "will of the people" and I smile with a mix of contempt, sadness and amusement that should be insulting to many. Truly, what is the "will of the people"?

Seems to me that these days we have turned the "will of the people" into a sort of mob rule in which things that are unpopular are put to the will of a mob worked up into a frenzy by someone powerful with an agenda. What is most insulting of all is the fact that people do not see through the fact that they are being manipulated. Amazing!

During the beginning years of the XXth century, women were the target. During the 50's it was blacks. Mind you, we never had the balls to put women vote and segregation to the "will of the people". Where did we get this idea that it is the job of the masses to decide who gets a certain right and who doesn't?

You know? Forgive my bluntness but I learned several things
in school:

1. Officials are elected to make the laws and judges appointed to ensure the laws are fair to everyone

2. It is the responsibility of the majority to ensure that they do not step on the rights of the minority

3. The moment you put the rights of a population for vote, then you open the door for everyone's rights to be put to popular vote. Do we really want to go there?

Lastly, the constitution is there to protect the minorities from the tyranny of the majority. What do you think is going to happen when the Supreme Court gets all those "marriage protection amendments" that were passed by the 'will of the people" to take the rights of a minority? No, really, what do you think is going to happen?

Stock argument no 12:
Sodom and Gomorrah blah, blah, blah...

Classical Jewish texts concur that God did *not* destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because their inhabitants were homosexual. Not at all. Rather, the cities were destroyed because the inhabitants were nasty, depraved, and uncompromisingly greedy. Classical Jewish writings affirm that the primary crimes of the Sodomites were, among others, terrible and repeated economic crimes, both against each other and to outsiders. Saying "God killed them because they were gay" is, to say the least, not the Jewish teaching on the subject.


Consider this:

1. What are the chances that 100% of the male population of a village is gay. That doesn't even happen at the Castro!

2. If all the males in the city were gay, why did Lot offered females to calm them down? I can just hear the response of the crowd: What you want us to give them a makeover? Did his daughters need a makeover that bad? Was he taking advantage of the fact that he had a horde of gay males that could help his daughters get really hot and then he will be able to marry off the poor ugly things? Surely he would not offer females to a pack of horny gay males...

3. If the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was truly about homosexuality, then why does Ezekiel 16:46-50 say the following?:

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.

Apparently some people do not read the bible...

So there you have it, it is off my chest.

To all, have a safe day, and don't forget to kiss your loved ones.


Monday, June 01, 2009

What is a family?

Who ever thought that the meaning of what a family is would become such a hot debate this year? I'll tell you how my family looks like: I have my mom and dad and siblings an ocean away in the Caribbean. I miss them a whole lot...

When I moved to this country I was alone, I had to build a family from scratch. Thank god I had my college buddies and their families. Thanks to them I did not spend a Thanksgiving or a Christmas alone. Along the way, I have picked up a couple of "brothers and sisters". No they are not related by blood, but the ties of friendship are just as strong. See? When you are so far away from your family you have to make do, and sometimes the results are just as beautiful.

7 years ago I met my boyfriend. Once again, the concept of family was thrown into the forefront. Was his family going to receive me? Would I be one more of the pack or would I be the son's "friend", an alien that happened to be at every family event yet would remain unacknowledged? Would I be one of them, or would I be relegated to the role of outsider?

The first couple of years were quite difficult. No, it was not only their fault, it was also mine. They were not sure what to do with me, but i also resisted being received as well. For some reason I felt more comfortable with the role of the outsider than the role of family member. My perceptions of their political views plus my own feeling on the matter led me to resist any advance that could be made.

Then it happened. One day I was talking to my Republican mother in law and she just hit me with it right between the eyes: "Don't you think it is time you start calling me mom? I mean, you've been with my son all these years and you are like a son to me. I want you to call me mom."

There it was, there I was. It had happened and there was no denying it. I was a member of the family (at least on my MIL's side, since the MIL and the FIL are divorced). I expected to have a stronger reaction, but you know what, I liked the idea. I was a member of the family. I belonged.

Since then, family gatherings are a lot nicer for me. I no longer drive separately so I can leave a couple of hours latter feigning a previously scheduled appointment. I enjoy my place in this bunch of nuts and damn it, I enjoy it!

So back to the original question: What is a family?

I could care less what the establishment says what a family is. Society has always ran ahead of what the books and the experts say (or at least those who claim to be experts at guarding the "way it was") I will tell you what my family consists. This is MY family, the one that i am proud of, and embarrased of, and the ones that exasperate me, and the ones that help me, and the ones that one of these days will cry for my ashes as they are scattered:

There is my mom and dad, brother and sister and niece in puerto Rico. There also like 64 cousins and ther proginy, too big to count. I love them all, and miss them all. They are my blood, my soul and my everything. My father is my best friend and the one man that will loom large in my life. To see him is to see how God loves me. My mom loves me with the love of a quiet lake, deep. My brother and sister love me and that is enough. After all the fights and bruises, there is love. To conjure their images is to bring tears to my eyes. We love each other with the ferocity and pride of a pack of wolves. Their love will always humble me. I do not deserve it. Then there's Zam; my niece, my pride and joy. Then there is also my God mother, I could never have been given a better gift from God.

There is Eric, my boyfriend of 7 years. He drives me nuts, and he fills me with love every time I see him peacefully asleep. There is Karla, my Republican mother in law. One of the most adorable women you will ever meet. I am proud she calls me her son. There is Kurt, her husband, also a fun guy who loves his proginy with passion. I can see it in his eyes. There's Terry and Linda, my father and Mother in law, they are a fun couple. Terry is one of those men that prides himself in his character, and he should. He loves his family with the love of a lion. There is Jenny and Marty, Danielle and Dana, LeeAnne, Michael and Tracy and Lilly and Aby, Geoff, my brothers and sisters in law. They are a fun roudy bunch and my life without them would be so much poorer. And who could forget the bunch of Aunts and Uncles by the lake? You have never seen a bunch that loves each other so loud and with so much gusto. Their love inspires.

Then, there's Ron, or Aunty Mame-Ron. My dear friend... One of the most generous men you will ever have the pleasure to meet. I love him deeply, and I love him with the power of a high C.

There's Michele, Dave, Violetta and Daniel. I met Michele in college and we've gone through a lot with each other. To call her anything less than my sister is an insult. There's also Vilma, by now a part of my very soul. Liz, Nick and Anthony. Liz and I go way back; I actually can't remember ever meeting her, she's always been there! She is my sister and nothing else. There's Anne, Susanna and Heikki, people so close to my heart that they might as well flow throw my veins. There's Michael and the Greek Goddess. Michael is my twin brother who was born 6 hours after me about 1,000 miles away. We met in college and ever since the love and admiration have never stopped flowing. The greek Goddess is the woman who took him into her heart, how could I not love the woman who makes my brother happy? There's Nicole, the Janasourious, JC and Joss; their mother is like a sister to me (fights and all), so they are like my nieces. Their strugles are my strugles and their acomplishments are my pride. Then there's Hilda, Jose, Chila, Alex, and Sor Babilonia; all people that were lost for 20 years and yet after 20 years they are there still, in my heart and soul.

So what/s my point? My point is that Family is what God gives you and what you make. Celebrate it, love it, pride yourself in it. Family is what God/Allah/our Higher Power uses to show us how he/she/it loves us. They are like your favorite flavor or ice cream, so bask yourself in your family; those are some extra pounds that your sould will not mind carrying.

To my family, ALL of it: I love you, I pride myself in you, I am honored that I belong to you, I am thankful that God manifested himself through you. I am humbled and amazed by the inmensity of my love for you. I do not deserve you, yet there you are. Thank God for you...