Tag Archives: poverty

In Defense of Immigration

Last time, the Master of the Extraordinary got mad at me because my topic wasn’t sufficiently polemic. “Controversy sells, Carlos, pick something that will piss people off!” So after scratching my head for a while, I finally settled on immigration.

Now I’m sure this will leave no doubt in the rabble-rousers’ minds that I’m up to no good: “Carlos is at it again, corrupting our good old-fashioned American values. Just look at his name, he is probably one of them [a proud Irish-Jewish mutt!]. Let’s deport him now before he causes any more problems.”

As our world has become increasingly globalized, immigration in turn has been rising steadily: Just look at all the immigration to countries in western Europe that until recently had been sources of significant emigration to the Americas. So while we can certainly argue about its pros and cons, the fact of the matter is that there will continue to be an  “immigration problem” as long as significant differences in economic opportunities between neighboring countries persist, and no physical or legal barriers are going to prevent this.

Furthermore, if individuals are willing to travel long distances, braving great dangers both human-made and natural in order to be justly compensated for their hard work, then we should welcome them with open arms. Now some may say, “Carlos, we don’t have a problem with the one’s who enter the country legally, just the one’s who are entering illegally!” This argument might be persuasive if we could all honestly agree that the current laws are sound. However, the desire to change them appears to be one of the few universals in this debate.

Others fear that the immigrants are somehow going to irreparably pervert American culture (Oh God, not tacos, accordion music and Catholicism!). Ultimately, as long as we teach them English, share with them our cultural values, and are willing to learn about theirs, the concerns about Latino, Indian or Arab immigrants today will prove to be just as unfounded as the concerns about Italian, Irish or German immigrants 150 years ago. Call me old fashioned but I still believe that there is inherent value in accepting the world’s “tired”, “poor”, “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” (Emma Lazarus, 1883).

– Carlos de la Gringa




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TES Artist of the Week III

Así que mala mia si me pongo perverso

Pero es que tu me tienes escupiendo versos

-Calle 13, “Tango del Pecado”

For our third Artist of the Week here at TES, we’ve decided to honor one of our favorite rappers in the game today.  One of the crudest, rudest, smartest (he has a master’s!), most controversial and most creative rappers that I’ve ever heard.  And he does it all in Spanish!

He is the writer and lead singer for rap/reggaetón/electronica /cumbia/batucada/etc. group Calle 13, which has recorded four albums so far, filmed one documentary and won countless musical awards.  They are also a group known for making people mad: already having criticized the FBI, the Puerto Rican police forces, the mayor of San Juan: Jorge Santini, and more than half the reggaetón industry, having recorded a music video with significant nudity and having had several songs banned from the airways.

When I first heard the group my freshman year of college, their music took me by surprise.  I expected typical reggaetón with its energetic beat and its vulgar lyrics. While it definitely provided that, when I listened closely to the lyrics, I realized they were a lot more offensive than I had imagined; they were also clever, funny, thought provoking and honest – something not found in most music of any genre these days.  While I disagreed and still disagree with many of his views, I came to find that I still agreed with at least the spirit of a lot of what he was saying.

For challenging us to think differently about issues such as poverty, violence, drug trafficking, sexuality, Latin American identity and Latin American – US relations, we are proud to name René Pérez Joglar aka Residente as the third TES Artist of the Week.

-Carlos de la Gringa

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TES Artist of the Week I – Bezerra da Silva

That’s right. We have an “artist of the week” column. Got a problem with that? Read no further. Is it going to be pretentious? Absolutely! But don’t worry about it; we know more than you. So sit down, be quiet and you just might learn something. (Didn’t your mother ever tell you to respect your elders?)

As the first ever TES Artist of the Week, we’ve chosen Bezerra da Silva (beh-ZEH-huh dah SEEW-vah), a Brazilian musician of samba. Da Silva (1927 – 2005) was born in Recife, Pernambuco (in the northeast of Brazil). At a young age he moved to Rio de Janeiro where he would spend the rest of his life. Overcoming extreme poverty, he achieved enormous success as a singer, guitarist, percussionist and composer, recording more than thirty different albums.

Da Silva’s music depicts the difficult life of the inhabitants of favelas (Brazilian shantytowns), discussing criminality, illicit drugs, snitching, political corruption, police brutality, and discrimination with an ever ironic and humorous tone. His lyrics neither glamorize a marginal lifestyle nor condemn it. They simply portray the realities faced by the poorest members of Brazilian society. However, the songs do praise the malandro, a figure traditionally associated with con-artists and gangsters. According to Da Silva, a malandro is a smart but poor person, who makes the most of what life has given him, even if this means occasionally deceiving others. In this sense, whether someone would be considered intelligent or a malandro is solely a question of economics, not ethics.

In recognition of his consistent combination of brutal honesty, pointed sarcasm, and unsettling moral ambiguity, all set to a lively samba beat, we here at Tales of Extraordinary Sanity are proud to name Bezerra da Silva as our first artist of the week.

Where you should start:

• “Malandragem Dá um Tempo”

• “Candidato Caô Caô”

• “Seqüestraram Minha Sogra”

• “Pai Véio 17”

– Carlos de la Gringa

-Ed. There are currently no good translations into English of these songs. However, we will keep you posted if we find any or if we decide to do some ourselves.

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