1802, Citizenship For Territory


Just four years after the 1798 Naturalization Act, United States legislators were once again scratching away at their parchments. The administration of Thomas Jefferson sought to repeal the Naturalization Act of 1798. He believed that under “the ordinary chances of human life, a denial of citizenship, under a residence of fourteen years, is a denial to a great proportion of those who ask it” (www.northamericanimmigration.org).  It seems Thomas Jefferson came to the same conclusion blogged by the gringa May 29, 2015, in my post titled “1798, Immigrant Until Death”. The naturalization process was designed to deny an immigrant an opportunity at citizenship by establishing residency periods that would fulfill the average immigrant’s natural life span, thus being denied citizenship by death.  In April 14, 1802, as recorded in the Library of Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America got together. It was out with the old, in with the new, the new conditions of citizenship, that is, with the 1802 Naturalization Act:

Section 1 stipulations

  • The immigrant shall declare an oath at a United States state or territorial court that three years prior to admission into the country it was the immigrant’s “bona fide” intention to become a citizen of the United States and that the immigrant renounces any prior allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereign and must particularly name that prince, potentate, state or sovereign.
  • At the time of citizenship application, the immigrant shall declare an oath before a United States state or territorial court that the immigrant supports the Constitution of the United States and renounces all allegiance to every foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereign of which the immigrant was previously subject to, and must specifically name that prince, potentate, state or sovereign. These proceedings shall be recorded by the clerk of the court.
  • Documentation must be provided to prove residency requirements have been met. The court cannot accept an oath as testamentary proof of meeting residency requirements. The act states “Provided that the oath of the applicant shall in no case be allowed to prove his residence”. Residency requirements are five years within the United States, one year within the particular state or territory of the court where citizenship proceedings are being held. In addition to documentation of residency requirements, the immigrant must also satisfy the court that the immigrant has “behaved as a man of good moral character attached to the principles of the constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same”
  • If the immigrant previously carried a hereditary title or was of foreign nobility, the immigrant must expressly renounce such title or order of nobility. Such renunciation shall be recorded in the court. No immigrant who was a native citizen or subject of any country or state at war with the United States at the time of citizenship application shall be admitted to be a citizen of the United States unless the immigrant met all other citizenship requirements and can prove residency began before January, 29, 1795, and had resided in the U.S. for at least two years, with the preceding year being in the state or territory of the court where citizenship application has been made. The immigrant must declare an oath supporting the United States Constitution and entirely renounce allegiance to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereign and specifically name the prince, potentate, state, or sovereign of prior allegiance. If the court is satisfied that during the term of two years the immigrant “behaved as a man of good moral character attached to the constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same”, the clerk shall record all and any immigrants who resided within the jurisdiction of the United States between January 29, 1795 and June 18, 1798, may, within two years after the passing of this act, be admitted to become a citizen without compliance to the first condition specified in Section 1.

Section 2 stipulations

  • In addition to Section 1 requirements, all free, white immigrants who arrive in the United States after the passing of this act must register and obtain certificates if they desire citizenship. Free, white immigrants 21 years of age or older must report to the clerk of the nearest court upon arrival into the United States. The report will determine the immigrant’s name, birthplace, age, nation of migration origin and intended place of settlement. The court clerk will record the report and issue to the immigrant a certificate with the seal of office for a fee of 50 cents (about the modern day equivalent of $11, according to http://www.davemanuel.com). If an immigrant is under the age of twenty-one years or is in service, the immigrant’s registration shall be made by the parent, guardian, master, or mistress.

Section 3 stipulates

  • Any immigrant naturalized by the authority of any court of the United States of common law jurisdiction, and such court having a seal and a clerk, that immigrant, having been naturalized, “shall enjoy… the same rights and privileges as if he had been naturalized in a district or circuit court of the United States”.

Section 4 stipulates

  • Children of persons naturalized under any of the laws of the United States or who previously became citizens under the laws of a particular state, and are under the age of twenty-one years when their parents became naturalized, and are currently residing in the United States shall be considered citizens of the United States. Children born outside of the United States are to be considered citizens of the United States provided that the father is a US citizen and has not been convicted of joining the army of Great Britain during the revolutionary war.

Section 5 stipulates:

  • All prior naturalization acts are repealed.

 Once again, the question must be asked. What did all of this mean to an immigrant in 1802? What conditions within the country motivated Congress to invest the time and effort to repeal past legislation and enact new naturalization law?

The most distinct change from the 1798 Naturalization Act requirements was the residency period. Residency requirements were reduced by about two-thirds of the previous time required. Court and document fees were also reduced from an overall total of $4.50 in 1798 to fifty cents in 1802. It was becoming a little easier to become a United States citizen provided you were a white male.  The race and gender requirements remained the same. Excluded from US citizenship were women and non-whites. However, the gringa is hopeful that the pendulum is beginning to swing in favor of the immigrant. Now that residency requirements actually make it possible to survive long enough to become a citizen, racial and gender equality issues could now become an issue to fight for.

Although there are many details, the 1802 Naturalization Act has streamlined, simplified, and economized the process of becoming a United States citizen. For an oath of intention and allegiance, renunciation of title, renunciation of allegiance to nation of origin, five years, and fifty cents, a free, white, male immigrant could become a United States citizen. The new law clarified citizenship status for immigrants who had been naturalized in any U.S. court other than a district or circuit court prior to this act. The new law established citizenship status of children born to fathers that were U.S. citizens regardless of where the child was born, except in cases of children fathered by men convicted of serving the British during the Revolutionary War. The Naturalization Act of 1802 made it possible for many new citizens to fill the ranks of the United States population records much more quickly. It would then seem the United States government saw population growth as a good thing in 1802.

By 1802 the United States had enjoyed nineteen years of recovery from the end of hostilities with Great Britain and establishing independence as a nation. The only military conflict the U.S. was involved in was the First Barbary War that commenced as a naval war in 1801. As reflected by the “Enabling Act of 1802”, the U.S. was preparing to enter into a period of geographical expansion (www.ohiohistorycentral.org). Continental expansion and the need for more settlers, rather than soldiers, was more than likely the motivation for relaxing naturalization standards. According to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (www.ourdocuments.gov), with regards to a U.S. territory, “whenever any of the said states shall have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such state shall be admitted by its delegates into the Congress of the United States, on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatever”.  This ordinance established the requirement of a population of 60,000 before a territory could achieve state status. So, once again, please understand that the U.S. was not making things easier for the immigrant because of a humanitarian reason. There was a strategic national interest behind the 1802 Naturalization Act. The United States had a need for warm bodies to fill the population requirements in order to expand the nation’s borders. Expansion meant control of more natural resources. More natural resources meant greater national wealth. Once again, the U.S. is motivated by the most common motivators of all time, power and greed. A humanitarian viewpoint on immigration has yet to enter the mind of the typical American legislator. The gringa’s advice to the immigrants in the barrio, find a way to convince Congress there is a significant national benefit to immigration reform. In the United States legislature, money talks. Immigrants will get their immigration reform when the U.S. government realizes it will result in increased wealth and power for the nation.

 

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1798, Immigrant Until Death


The 1740 Naturalization Act was normal operating procedure for creating a new nation. New nations need new laws, and lawmaking is a very complicated process. First, legislators have to become aware that there is a need for such action. If even one legislator takes up a cause to propose a new law, or repeal or amend an existing law, the next step is extensive research before the writing of an introductory bill can even begin. Once the bill is finally composed and introduced to Congress, lawmakers then have to reach a consensus in order for it to become the law of the land. Thus, any change in immigration policy is preceded by a significant event, whether social, political or economic, that would motivate lawmakers to invest such time and effort in order to bring about change. Therefore every immigration law reflects the motivating public sentiment, political benefit or economic incentive that was originally behind it.

On June 18, 1798, the Congress of the United States passed legislation that repealed the 1790 Naturalization Act.  Now, rather than have a simple immigration policy, the United States embarked on the path of detail, detail, detail, by creating a citizenship policy that had many more conditions.  The only requirements of the 1790 act were to (a) be white, (b) be “free”, (c) live in the United States for two years, and (d) live in a particular state for one year. The new legislation created a completely new path to citizenship with more documentation, fees, demands of much longer residency and the creation of a new waiting period. According to United States Congressional Records (www.memory.loc.gov), The United States 1798 Naturalization Act stipulated:

  • All white persons and aliens (except for foreign ministers, consuls, agents, their families & domestics) who continued to live within United States territory after arrival, and were at least 21 years old, were required to report to the clerk of the court that was within ten miles of the port or place in which they arrived in the United States and register as “free” immigrant arrivals (if the immigrant was younger, or a servant, they had to appear with a parent, guardian, master, or mistress)
  • Immigrant registration must be completed within 48 hours of arrival to United States territories
  • The immigrant must pay a fifty cent fee to the court for registering (fifty cents would be equivalent to about $10 today)
  • After registration, the immigrant is admitted into the United States with a 14 year period of residency required before application of citizenship can be made
  • After the 14 year residency is completed, the immigrant must make a declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen and wait another four years
  • The application of intention to become a U.S. citizen must include proof to the court that the minimum 14 year residency has been fulfilled
  • The immigrant applicant cannot be a citizen or native of any state or country the U.S. is at war with
  • The immigrant applicant must pay a $2 fee (equivalent to about $40 today) to the court for the “abstract of such declaration” document to be filed and recorded with the court
  • After the immigrant applicant successfully fulfills all residency, waiting period and documentary proof requirements, United States citizenship is granted
  • Another $2 fee is paid to the court to file a certificate and record the court decree of the proceedings regarding the alien

What did all of this really mean to an immigrant in 1798? Why such a significant change in the period of time for residency? Why was a new waiting period of five years created? What happened in the eight years that transpired from the simple Naturalization Act of 1790 to this new, complicated process of 1798 that increased the residency period by 700%?

1790 census reports reflect a dramatic increase in immigration. Pre-1790 immigration numbers were 950,000. Post-1790 immigration numbers totaled 3,900,000. This is a bit more than a 400% increase. The following countries and ethnic and religious groups are representative of the new arrivals to the United States of America:  African, British, Scottish, Irish, German, Netherlands, Wales, France, Sweden,  and Jewish (www.wikipedia.org).

Passenger lists from ship manifests bound for the United States in the mid 1770s reflect an average age of 21 years for the typical immigrant arriving to the New World (www.olivetreegenealogy.com). According to the Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 131, 2004 lectures, “We know now that in 1798 life expectancy in Britain was around 40”. The website, Stokesfamily.org, confirms this finding by stating in reports that in the 1750’s the “average person would live to only 36.9 years of age”. If, then, the average immigrant arrived in the United States at the age of 21, by the time the residency and declaration waiting period requirements were fulfilled, this same immigrant would be approximately 39 years old. It would seem highly likely that death would then prevent many immigrants from ever becoming United States citizens.

Did the United States Congress design an immigration law that created a substandard class of people to be exploited for the benefit of the upper classes? Did this same law engender a false hope that inspired many people to immigrate to the United States never understanding the New World’s open arms received them as laborers who had no hope of ever having rights, representation and property? Did these immigrants truly perceive that this new law would probably mean they would die before ever achieving their dream of becoming an American? Does the dear reader see the same thing I see: the first step of a suspicious pattern in the United States where citizens of means and property exploit immigrants of all races and both genders in order to profit from their labor? Did the government of 1798 America intentionally design legislation to create the illusion of possible citizenship to hopeful immigrants when actually the design was to achieve national prosperity on the backs of an imported labor class who could never hope to change their lot in life, most likely dying before they gained the right to vote? If so, why would the United States do such a thing?

Although slavery was alive and well in the southern settlements, African enslavement was on its way out in New England by the 1780’s (www.wikipedia.org). This translated into a great need for cheap labor in the northern states. This economic need could then very well be the mitigating factor for a new Naturalization Act. The enslavement of the African was switched for a more politically correct form of enslavement. Create a labor class of immigrant who, without citizenship, has no rights, no vote, no property and no hope of ever having such until the day he dies. This was a very clever plan, indeed.

In a nutshell, the simple “whites only” Naturalization Act of 1790 is replaced in 1798 with a new “whites only” naturalization formula that prevents the likelihood that the people who comprised the immigrant labor class would ever have a voice and be represented in government through the power of casting ballots as legal citizen voters. It seems the Congress planned it this way. This gringa is very disappointed with her country. I can only hope there is a change in how the immigrant is perceived by the powerful and influential within the United States. As I observe the people of my barrio, their work ethic, their desire to have a better life than the one they left behind in their native country, and I see how they are affected by current immigration law, I’m not so sure that much has changed.

(photo by fincher.house.gov)

The Birth of America’s Immigration Policies


Trying to find out just what the current laws are regarding United States immigration has led me on a much convoluted path. I decided the only way to truly understand this mess was to go back to the very beginning, 1740. That’s where it all began. As a British colony, the first immigration law, The Naturalization Act of 1740, also known as The Plantation Act of 1740, was officially passed into law by the Acts of Parliament (Commencement) Act 1739 and received Royal Assent June 1, 1740 (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantation_Act_1740). We have to go back to the beginning because, just as a pearl takes its shape after layer upon layer of nacre has coated the original grain of sand, so our nation’s attitudes toward certain classes and ethnicities of people have been affected by layers of immigration law.  We cannot understand today if we are ignorant of yesterday.

The 1740 law enacted a rather simple, practical and economical process for the colonial immigrant to become a naturalized citizen of England. It granted citizenship to any foreign Protestant colonial immigrant to American colonies if the following condition was met: reside in any colony for seven years without an absence of longer than two months. The immigrant would then be considered a natural-born subject of the British Kingdom. The person was required to take a simple oath of allegiance, although exceptions were made for Quakers and Jews. The oath went something like this:  “I, (insert name), do sincerely promise and swear, that I will be Faithful and bear true Allegiance to his Majesty King George II. So help me God.”  To seal the deal there would be a profession of Christian faith and payment of two shillings, which, today would be a little more than six bucks (www.britishislesdna.com). A new British subject was created for seven years, six bucks, and a promise. And just look where we are today. Good grief.

Somewhere along the way the American colonists became unhappy with England’s immigration policy and in 1776 it became a formal matter of grievance against King George III, the successor of King George II, whose reign oversaw the passage of the Naturalization Act of 1740. This grievance was addressed in the Declaration of Independence: “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands” (www.HeinOnline.org). And thus the rebellion began.

Fourteen years later on March 26, 1790, the First Congress of the United States enacted the new country’s first naturalization law. The legislation’s criteria determined immigrants had to be “free white persons of good character”. Children born abroad were considered “natural born” United States citizens if the father was a U.S. resident (www.library.uwb.edu). This was the seed from which America’s current tangled mayhem of immigration policy has grown. The classification of free white person would exclude from citizenship any non-European Caucasian. Among the ethnic European Caucasian class, women, indentured servants, and slaves would also not be eligible for citizenship because they were not considered “free”. So, once one of the ol’ gringos decided he wanted to be a citizen he had to establish his good moral character. This was done by residing for two years within the United States and one year in one particular state. Then he could file a Petition for Naturalization with his local courthouse. When the court was convinced his character met the legal standard, he recited an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and, bing, bang, boom, he was an American citizen (www.sjusd.org). Once again, a simple path to citizenship. And this one didn’t even cost two shillings. It only cost a white guy his time. Now, I don’t know about you, but this gringa finds it puzzling that back in the late 1700’s a group of illegal aliens arrived on North America’s soil, performed hostile acts to forcefully wrest control of the land mass from existing indigenous peoples, then had the audacity to enact laws determining who lived free and equal in America. I mean, the nerve of some people!

The distinct difference between the British Naturalization act of 1740 and the United States Naturalization act of 1790 has to do with gender, social status and ethnicity. The British act allowed for any foreign Protestant to become a citizen with no distinction of gender, ethnicity or social status. Although it specified Protestant faith as a requirement, it also allowed for certain religious exceptions. The United States act, although free of any religious discrimination, instead chose to discriminate against all women, indentured servants, slaves and all races other than European Caucasian. It seems to me that the country the founding fathers of the United States envisioned was one that was owned and managed by the white men of property. All women and non-European Caucasian men were to become the labor class with no rights to property or even the right to vote. As a woman I most certainly do not like that plan. It’s very likely if this gringa had lived in 1790 America I would have run off from the settlement to join the natives. I think they treated their women better.

Where The Heck Is Immigration Reform?


Houston leads all other Texas cities in population with well over two million people sprawling over an area of almost 600 square miles.  According to Huffington Post’s March 5, 2012 article “Houston Surpasses New York And Los Angeles As The ‘Most Diverse In Nation‘” by Sara Gates, Houston enjoys a special ethnic based status among all other cities in the United States. At any time of day over 90 different languages and dialects can be heard chatting away within the city limits. According to 2010 census figures, gringos checked in at 51% of Houston’s population.  Although Houston’s Hispanic population was officially 44%, it was estimated that close to half a million illegal immigrants also live throughout the Houston area. With so many households not registered with the Census, it could easily be said that Hispanics actually enjoy a much larger slice of Houston’s population pie and could easily be the city’s predominant culture. The Greater Houston Partnership Research Department’s October 2014 report “Social, Economic and Demographic Characteristics of Metro Houston” includes a moderate growth scenario which predicts that by 2015, Hispanics will represent the largest share of Houston’s population and, by 2044 Hispanics will outnumber all other ethnic groups combined.  So, it seems that Houston’s ethnic communities continue to grow. With such tremendous growth of the Latin immigrant community, why are their voices not being heard? Where the heck is immigration reform?

I believe two reasons Houston’s Hispanic population is so large is geography and climate. Houston is often the first place an immigrant from Central or South America arrives at when they first cross the border. It’s simply convenient and economical to stay. For many of these immigrants, Houston’s subtropical climate is quite similar to what they left behind and it creates a comforting familiarity. My husband, for example, immigrated from the jungles of Peru. Houston was his first checkpoint in his new land. He did a brief stint in Georgia and Maryland but, after experiencing their winter season, he high-tailed it back to Houston where you can wear flip-flops and tank-tops in December.

Many immigrants come to the United States searching for the opportunity to build a better life. These immigrants also prefer to stay in Houston because it’s a hotbed of opportunity. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Houston consistently led the rest of the country in “total nonfarm employment” job growth from March 2010-March 2015. Many of these jobs are performed, on and off the books, by Houston’s Hispanic population. I believe if almost half a million undocumented people are contributing to Houston’s economic success, these people deserve the opportunity to become legitimate Houstonians. Immigration reform is long overdue.

It seems to this gringa that the task of trying to process the existent undocumented immigrant community is a job way too extensive for our already overburdened judicial system to take on.  That is one reason why I support amnesty.  Another reason is because I do not place all the blame of an undocumented person’s illegal status on the immigrant.  For decades Americans chose to turn a blind eye to immigrants that secretly crossed the border. The people of this country knew they were coming and made non-enforcement our country’s unofficial border policy at the Rio Grande. Suddenly, many in the United States not only want to change this unspoken policy, but they also want to demonize the undocumented workers that arrived here during a time when they were passively welcomed. Our country wanted to enjoy the fruits of low paid labor.  Our citizens wanted their landscapers, live-in nannies, and farm workers.  For decades U.S. citizens were willing to benefit from undocumented worker labor. Now, America, you refuse to play the game you started.  You want to take your ball and go home. The complicated repercussions of such a temper tantrum could very well be economically and socially disastrous.

The United States is just as much at fault for the current undocumented immigrant issue by creating a situation that enabled millions of undocumented workers to easily immigrate and build a new life. The country then needs to accept responsibility and stop crying foul. We should not rip families apart by keeping within our borders those who were born here and send the others back to their country of origin.  We do not need to create a vacuum of loss in our economy by suddenly disappearing profitable businesses and vital service industries that the community is interdependent upon.  We do not need to allow documented immigrants to point and wag their fingers and self-righteously proclaim, “If WE can do it the right way, so can you.” Stop that. It’s not helpful. As you pass judgment on this group of people you  are absolutely clueless of the conditions of their life journey and it does not solve the problem. We do not need to get on our defensive high horses and scream, “But they are taking our jobs!” We need to stop perpetrating this lie because the truth is most gringos and gringas believe they are too good for the job of busboy, housekeeper, landscaper or floor sweeper. The unspoken, politically incorrect truth is that most Caucasians simply refuse to apply for such jobs as tomato picker, fruit sorter, launderer, seamstress, nanny, busboy and gardener. The politically incorrect truth is that America has created a culture of entitlement and a corresponding population that believes those jobs are for the “illegals”.  Not only are immigrants not “stealing” anyone’s jobs, many of these people are true entrepreneurs creating their own jobs as well as jobs for others, hiring staff to work alongside them in their landscape business, housecleaning service or mobile taqueria.

Please be honest with yourself, America. Political correctness solves nothing because, although it may be a feel good/sound good message and doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, political correctness usually has nothing to do with the truth. It’s like when the esposa asks the esposo, “Does this make me look fat?”  And, yes, it most certainly does make her look fat but he knows better than to say the truth or there will be a rumble in the barrio. So, he diplomatically lies in order to spare her feelings, “No. What, are you crazy? You look great!”  And then she goes out and the whole familia starts gossiping about how Tia is probably pregnant. Look at how much weight she’s gained. See, political correctness is stupid. Without accepting and dealing with the real truth of issues, progress can never be accomplished. So, political correctness junkies, just stop it.

Our country is faced with the job of processing a vast population of undocumented workers. This presents a task so daunting that it would be another decade or two before the court system worked its way down the list to even begin processing immigrants who entered the United States under a new immigration policy today. I say the only reasonable solution is amnesty for those undocumented workers that are here now. Wipe the slate clean. Legalize the ones we have and start anew with a streamlined, simplified, affordable immigration policy that makes it possible for the impoverished immigrant to escape a hellish reality just as easily as a privileged immigrant who has the means to be college educated in America.  Our policy of rejecting the lowly has been proven wrong by the thousands upon thousands who have come here with nothing and have created their own opportunity and built their own version of the American dream. If you don’t believe me and need a strong dose of reality, I invite you to my barrio so you can see for yourself. Mi casa es su casa. The gringa will keep the café hot and the chicha morado cold while I wait for you!

Proud Laborers of the Barrio


From time to time I hear politicians, as well as certain people in the media, stirring the “class warfare” pot. They all remind us we better stock up on our provisions.  Gather up your pitchforks and torches.  And, for God’s sake, don’t forget to pile up all the junk you can find to safely barricade your “domain”.  Class warfare? Seriously? I don’t know about you, but this gringa and all her neighbors in the barrio do not have time for such nonsense.  We’ve got mouths to feed and the only way to do it is to work, work, work.  If the gringa is not pounding away at the keyboard working (or playing Spider Solitaire), scrubbing a toilet, laundering yet another load of stinky socks and unmentionables,  then she’s having adventures with the Latin man of her dreams or basking in the glory of the presence of the kids and grandkids. And, as far as I can tell, all the people in the barrio are doing the same. So, why all the paranoia and fear-mongering from the politicians and media?

Recently the gringa and her caveman escaped the barrio for “uptown” (which means we went a few blocks west).  We had lunch at a local restaurant. The lady in the booth behind us was talking on her phone to a family member. She was giving this person directions to the neighborhood pool from her home. Overhearing her directions (yes, I am a notorious eavesdropper), I was able to determine that I was familiar with the neighborhood she lived in.  It is an exclusive, gated housing development.  All the homes back up to a golf course. Many of these million dollar plus properties are of the most modern designs incorporating the latest technology. Sometimes they are marketed as “smart homes”.  I easily drew the conclusion that this was probably a wealthy woman.  As she explained the details of purchasing a seasonal pool pass for the neighborhood pools she concluded by expressing her dismay that because these were “public” pools even people that did not reside in her “village” could get these passes, they just had to pay more.  It seemed disturbing to her to find herself sunning next to a table where one of these poor families had set up camp so she explained if she had to go she preferred to go early and on a weekday.

My husband and I have taken our kids and grandchildren to these pools numerous times over the years.  What I would like to know is how can a rich person know another person is poor when you are all basically wearing underwear that passes as outerwear simply because the fabric is lined? Does the working class gringa and her familia have a glowing, poor person aura?  Do we exude a distinct barrio fragrance? Do the wealthy have a poor person detector implanted discreetly in their body? Perhaps it is my banged up, duct taped ice chest that has seen many seasons of use at the pool, the beach and the campground that gives me away. Maybe it’s the twenty dollar haircuts we all sport from Great Clips. She might be able to detect the presence of an eight-dollar-a-bottle Clairol redhead (before I went blonde). However, most likely it is the Wal-Mart brand drinks and snacks that always litter the table. Yes, that’s probably it. I shop generic. Ya know, the “more bang for your buck” method of shopping? Perhaps we are seen pulling through the parking lot in our old, beat up mini-van with the one broken door that has the lock duct-taped down so no one makes the mistake of unlocking and opening it because we’ll never get it closed again if they do! But, don’t hate the van, it was paid for! I do know, however, that our manners are not the dead give-away. We may be working class and can’t afford Gucci, but, by golly, being polite and considerate is a freebie to all!

Please, have no fear, rich folk, if you find yourself side by side with the poor folk. We are all out for the same thing, just a little fun in the sun.  Heck, just think about it. That beautiful park you are enjoying is manicured regularly by some working class Joes. Speaking of manicure, your lovely toes and fingers are sporting a mani/pedi compliments of some working class gal (or guy). That bottle of sparkling water you’re enjoying with your organic what-not tidbit was trucked to your favorite store by a person just like my husband. Chances are many of the things that make your life easier and more pleasureable are made possible by the working class. And it is highly likely many of these working class laborers are immigrants who are here to build a better life, not take yours.

As you pass another taco truck or landscape crew salute the courage of these men who, like my husband, left behind all that they knew to enter a foreign country, often all alone, not even knowing the language. And yet, they are making it on their own. As you pick up your clothes at the dry cleaner or enjoy an immaculately clean home thanks to a wonderful house cleaning service, take a moment to admire these women.  These are women who have often survived a life of extreme disadvantage and possibly risked a dangerous journey to immigrate. The hope for a better life was worth the risk to them. Rather than consider working class immigrants suspiciously, consider them heroes. One day their children and grandchildren will owe all of the opportunity and privilege they enjoy to these brave men and women. Our country is enriched by people like this. They are landscapers, cooks, crop harvesters, nannies, seamstresses, truckers, handymen, busboys, hair stylists, etc. They are not just immigrants, they are immigrants who have come to embody all that is American. They are America.

So, please, all you wealthy folk out there who are concerned that us working class folk are biding our time until just the right moment to shriek, “BURN THE WITCH!” and come after your Bentleys and Birkenstocks, it just ain’t so.  There is no need for you to clean out your local Wholefoods Market of Perrier and organic bon- bons.  There’s no reason to have KBR on your home security networks’ speed-dial.  You see, first of all, we working class folk simply don’t have the time to engage in revolt. I stated some of the whys and wherefores of that in the opening paragraph.  But, we also don’t have the extra moolah to fund such an effort. I mean, have you seen how much a pitchfork costs these days? Extras like that are simply not in a barrio budget.  The familia of the barrio spends all of their money on their family and a better life. They will not waste a nickel on something that is going to just cause trouble for another. Most barrio families came here to leave that kind of trouble behind. The simple truth of the matter is, working class people are just not the type of people to bang on your door, poke their hand out and demand a piece of your pie.  Working class people are proud.  Working class people are humble.  Working class people are independent.  We do not want what is yours.  We are satisfied with what is ours.

The barrio is a beautiful place.  The gringa doesn’t want to live anywhere else in the world. You can keep your golf course real estate and your mansion that talks to you. I am happy with my patio garden and an apartment I can clean from top to bottom in about forty-eight minutes flat leaving the rest of the day for my own pleasure. When we moved here the Caveman and I joked we were gonna “slum it” until all the kids were finished with college.  You see, wealthy people don’t sweat tuition. The truly poor get financial aid. Working class people pay every single dime.  We don’t make enough for us not to sweat it and we make too much for the government to think our kids need help. But, we don’t complain. We are proud that our oldest has finished, two are still at it, and the youngest, showing much promise, will soon be on his way.  So, even though it may have started as a temporary move to the barrio, now I want to stay for life. We may not have much but we always have enough, and, of love and laughter and good times, we have plenty. So, what in the world is there to fight for? All of our dreams that really matter have already come true.

Beards And Boogers


I find this current trend of male facial hair very interesting.  This gringa personally does not like male facial hair.  I am too distracted with the fear that boogers or food debris may be lurking within.  It would be an anxiety-filled experience if my husband wanted to kiss me in full beard.  I can see it now.  “Come over here and give me a kiss,” he would say.  Tentatively I pass him a tiny comb (you know, the ones they make to remove fleas or head lice).  I cautiously reach toward him as if I were handing a ravenous, wild gorilla a peanut.  I would observe his efforts to make certain no gross tidbits remain that could inadvertently fall into my sexy, parted lips and be unknowingly ingested.  Oh, the horror of just imagining it!  My stomach is rolling!  I’m breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about it!  When he satisfactorily completes the comb out, I can see me pursing my lips, poking them out as far as I possibly can.  He embraces me and, I helplessly fall into a mass of giggles because I am outrageously ticklish and all that fur is oh, so stimulating.  Yes, a beard would absolutely ruin any hope for intimacy and romance.  It would most certainly cause a divorce.  There would be a domestic rumble in the barrio.

Despite my inordinate phobia of facial hair on men, I am sure there are plenty of women who find it incredibly attractive and do not mind taking the risk of eating a booger, or two, or getting food tidbits second hand.  These must be the women who love the bad boy.  They swoon for the rugged, manly man.  Or, perhaps they prefer a soul patch as they fantasize about cuddling up with a cool, hip, millennial Beatnik.  There are all sorts of women with all sorts of desires.  Hairy men need love too.

My curiosity is not so much about how women can overlook the booger and food tidbit issue.  What I really wonder about is why a man would want that stuff on his face in the first place.  Just consider the comfort factor.  Hair is hot!  I watch professional athletes with these super bushy monstrosities hanging from their faces.  I see the sweat pouring down their faces.  I think, “Ewww.  That beard is going to be really stinky with all that sweat coating those follicles.”  Later, as I see them on the sidelines attempting to wipe down their face with a towel, I decide, “Yep, the beard really gets in the way.  No amount of towel blotting is gonna help that mess. It was probably not such a smart move to grow that during your sport season.”  As they cease the normal re-hydration process and stop drinking the water in order to pour the water on their face, I then say to myself, “Look at the big silly.  He’s willing to risk a heat stroke for the sake of that ol’ booger trap on his face.”  It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

This insulation factor of a beard could be beneficial to, say, a polar bear hunter.  Yes, I can see that logic.  But, you still have the booger and food tidbits to deal with.  Most of the polar bear hunter types I have known throughout my life are not the kind of men to let a few boogers or food scraps bother them.  But what about all that itchiness?!  I mean, when you’re out in the woods hunting, you must be very still.  I don’t know about you but I go bananas if I can’t scratch an itch.  I may not have ever had a beard (although I do have one long, soft, curly white whisker I pluck from my chin regularly), but I do know hair is itchy.  I have conducted a few hippie experiments of my own.  Thinking I could go all natural and no longer have to shave my armpits and legs was a big fail on my part.  This was entirely due to the fact that hairy body parts are itchy body parts.  I worried that if I went out in public people would think I had scabies because I was always clawing at my stubbly legs or scratching away like a monkey at my pits.  So how do those grizzly faced hunters do it?  It must be some sort of Zen thing they get going all alone out in the wilderness.  Fascinating.

So that brings me to the urban millennial hipsters.  These fellas don’t have to worry about heat stroke from hairy facial insulation.  Overheating on the basketball court from having a stinky, sweat coated wad of shag is not in the hipster playbook.  They also don’t need a fur barrier to protect them from the cold when they’re out in the back forty. What, then, is their reason to want something on their face that requires lots of extra time and effort to maintain?  I think they’re willing to make such a sacrifice because of good ol’ masculine rebellion against years of oppression by militant feminism.  And I don’t blame ‘em.  It’s as if they are saying, “Hey, feminist, I’m a man and I am proud.  Here’s mud in your eye! Here’s something I can do that you can never equal!”  Yeah, how’s that for uterus envy.  That’s what we women get for proudly gloating, “You men may be big and tough and get better pay, but, hey, you can’t have a baby!”

However, I will count my blessings.  This gringa is fortunate enough to have a caveman that, although a caveman, is at least a smooth, clean shaven caveman.  He can kiss me and cuddle me and I can stroke his face without fear.  I get such a warm, fuzzy feeling when I lay my cheek against his, and the warmth and fuzziness have nothing to do with beards and boogers.  I must never take this hygienic smoothness for granted.  I will not become a militant feminist.  I will try to be a good and gentle gringa because I don’t want him to start getting any ideas of how he might need to assert his manhood.

Dancing With Lightning


I met my husband at a dance club on New Year’s Eve many years ago (out of kindness to myself I won’t recount how many years ago).  I was there to have a beer and enjoy the music.  He was there to dance.  He doesn’t just love to dance.  He is a dance addict.  It is like a drug to him.  How do I know this?  I have seen him become another person due to the effects of this “drug”.  If I have really made him mad, where kindness, beer or chicken fail, dance will always save my bacon.  He’s always willing to make up by dance night.  I have also seen him make out of character decisions because of this “drug”.  Such as taking me again and again to a club I have made it very clear I HATE because the floor is so crowded and I get run over.  I even got my foot broken by some fool who smashed into me (not even an apology!).  But, caught up in the power of his addiction, and the lure of an absolutely awesome musical group he adores, he forgets my terror fueled hatred and pulls into that parking lot time after time.  In his frenzy to get his fix, his eyes glaze over so that, unable to focus, he is oblivious to the “you’re gonna pay for this” look on my face as he helps me out of the car.  Yes, he is an addict.  So, if I was gonna be his gringa, I had to learn to dance.  Which, in my case, is much easier than it sounds.

I grew up in a conservative little town that was firmly in the grip of the Southern Baptists.  At our school, it was against the rules for boys and girls to have any physical contact.  If brushing a pinkie against some sweetie’s elbow was a crime, you can be darned sure there were no school dances.  I take that back.  I remember one.  Yes, just one.  If you wanted to get your groove on you had to be old enough to drive to the next town.  You also had to be popular enough to be in on the location and time of the current party.  If you were lucky enough to get to one of these shin-digs, it was all Two-Step with maybe a splash of Rock-n-Roll once or twice.  So, when I met the caveman of my dreams, I knew nothing about Salsa, Merengue, or Cumbia.  But, hey, I was in love.  I was ready to learn.

Not only was I hindered by my lack of personal dance experience, I also had a medical condition that could make certain things about dancing very tricky.  Strobe lights were definitely out.  They put me in la-la land in about three minutes flat.  My poor little brain also gets a little freaky when expected to process visual information in any type of hurried fashion.

Take my college ballet fiasco for example.  My instructor was very serious about his art.  The whole eye/hand/feet coordination effort of mirroring his movements had my epilepsy zapping my brain like crazy.  It was like dancing with lightning.  During rehearsals one day, I finally gave up and improvised my own silly dance.  If you watched a lot of ‘I Love Lucy’ episodes, you can imagine, then, my style.  When my instructor noticed me in the mirror he stopped the class.  He slowly and deliberately walks over to me and stands silently before me, near enough that I can feel his breath blowing my 1980’s big-bangs.  Finally, after mulling over what to say in order to shame me in front of the whole class, he says, “You need to take a more serious approach to your performance.  That would include your facial expressions.”  I politely ask, “You’ve seen me dance, right?”  He takes a breath to speak, then clamps his lips together, twitches his head, cocking it to the side, and replies, “I think maybe you’re not a dancer.”  I laughed and said, “You would be right.  But I need a P.E. grade.”  Reaching his limit and raising his voice just a wee bit he tells me, “You should try the water aerobics.”  So, you see, my Twinkle-Toe Delight for a new lover had no idea what he was getting himself into when he met me that night so long ago.

The first few weeks of dating were quite interesting.  Several nights during the week I would go over to his house and he would teach me my steps.  Now, one thing I did learn from that college class was how to count steps.  I picked up the eight count of salsa rather quickly.  However, my new instructor did not count HIS steps.  He would be holding me close, guiding me through each movement, then, all of a sudden, he would release me and bust a move.  He was fantastic.  However, when he wanted to resume dancing together, I had been steadily doing my one, and a two, and a three, and a, “Hey, what the heck!  What am I supposed to do now?!  I don’t know where you’re at!  Don’t you count your steps?”  Juan would smile and say, “No. I just feel the music.”  Oh great.  He’s one of THOSE people.  So, now I’ve learned to be a psychic dancer.  We are great dancers, together.  I can’t dance with anyone else.  I’ve tried.  It’s a disaster.  So, it’s just us, Gringa and the Caveman, dancing with lightning for life.