Mateo’s Coins

I was fourteen years old when I first heard the story of my great grandfather Mateo Espinosa. My mother was cleaning out some old photos from a large white box in her closet. There were embarrassing photos of my siblings and I in the nude and even pictures of our deceased pets. While she was searching through these piles of old pictures, she suddenly stopped to admire an old, yellow wrinkled flyer. Looking at this faded paper brought a smile to her face. It was a missing person flyer from 1966 that contained the photo of my great grandfather Mateo Espinosa. In addition to a photo of Mateo, it included information regarding his disappearance, a description of the clothes he was wearing that … [Read more...]

A Past Resurfaced: Memories of Survival and Escape from the Khmer Rouge

In the summer of 2014, my grandma began digging into the old pile of long-forgotten photographs she hoarded in our backyard shack and placed them into old, reused picture frames. Within the following year, she gradually filled and decorated her bedroom walls with the photos. As soon as we thought she was done displaying old photos, we would be surprised to discover the endless amount of photos she had tucked away for all of these years. The series of pictures displayed on her bedroom wall appears to be the first time in decades that our old family photos had resurfaced since we arrived in the United States after escaping the Khmer Rouge's genocidal regime. When my grandpa passed away in the … [Read more...]

Imaginary Dangers, Real Victims: A Lawyer and a Historian on the Real Facts about Trump’s Executive Order

Donald Trump sees danger everywhere. They are the stabby Dreamer hiding a machete under her graduation gown. They include the Iranian family doctor ready to undermine America by over-prescribing pain killers. Most dangerous of all, the Syrian child promising to grow up and work for the lying mainstream media. Of course, Trump is not alone in blaming these people for the current state of America; many in fact do share his view of a dangerous world. What is striking about the moment is the willingness of the Executive to exercise his authority to directly and visibly take protections away and prosecute those he sees as a threat to the nation. Trump’s travel ban regarding refugees and … [Read more...]

Getting Past the Bad Math of the #MuslimBan

As someone who studies global migration for a living, it has been hard to choose where to begin when it comes to denouncing Donald Trump’s Executive Order on immigration and refugees.  Where to start?  There is, of course, the Order’s bedrock of Islamophobia: Trump has ignorantly conflated Islam with terrorism. And then there’s the constitutional angle: the Order violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, among other things.  Or we could counter with the fact that more than 50 years ago, Congress outlawed national origins bans with the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Or the statistical “probabilities” generated by think tanks: The CATO Institute says that your chance of being … [Read more...]

A Brief History of Sanctuary Cities

As everyone with a twitter feed already knows, Donald J. Trump is no friend of immigrants. In a spate of hot-headed executive orders this week, he slammed the door shut on refugees, banned visitors from seven Muslim countries, and promised to build a “Great Wall” physically separating us from Mexico. But his wrath extended past Mexican day laborers and Muslim asylum seekers to take aim at the traitors within. In an executive jeremiad, Trump torched “sanctuary jurisdictions” for “willfully” violating federal law and causing “immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.” To such harmers of the Republican Fabric he threatens to withhold all federal funds, … [Read more...]

Born For Love: Juan Gabriel’s Ballads of Solitude, and the Pain of Immigration

It’s difficult to overstate the ubiquity of Juan Gabriel’s voice in the everyday lives of Mexicans, both here in the US and in Mexico, where the megastar’s dozens of hits, some of them decades old, still blare from roadside fondas, urban nightclubs, and the blown out stereo speakers in my uncle’s home in Zamora, Michoacan. From disco, to rancheras, to ballads, and everything in between, Juan Gabriel’s signature melancholic exuberance was at once relatable and alien: relatable in the heartbreak and poverty to which it often spoke; and alien in the unabashedly flamboyant style that came to define him. Perhaps especially because of his flamboyance and the often unspoken subtext of his desires, … [Read more...]

Yellow Peril in a Globalized Tijuana: The Dog-Meat Incident, NAFTA, and Chinese Immigrant Labor

In October 2015, while in Tijuana’s Moustache Bar listening to anarcho punk from Mexico City, Pomona, and Riverside, I ran into a familiar Chinese woman in the bar’s patio. This Chinese woman who did not identify herself by name to me, can be seen frequently throughout Tijuana in her daily vending routes, especially in El Centro (downtown) and the Pasaje Rodriguez. Pushing her cart and shouting, “Chun-kuuuun! Chun-kuuun!”[1] she sells chicken, vegetable, and shrimp egg rolls for twenty and thirty pesos each, the equivalent of a dollar-fifty and two dollars. She has even caught the eye of the San Diego Reader, who identified the 31-year-old vendor as Liang Yanfen.[2] Many people coming from … [Read more...]

Searching for the New South at the Dallas Flea Market

Several years ago we ran a photo essay about a legendary flea market in Dallas, NC, and the Charlotte Observer's Pam Kelley decided to write a beautiful piece on the market after reading our post.  She visited the Barnyard with one of our editors, who went to high school right around the corner.  The original ToM essay contemplated what the market's diverse clientele and wonderfully bizarre array of goods could teach us about how the small-town South has changed in recent decades.  It is the heart of the Piedmont--what was once textile country, not far from where police fired on striking workers' tent city during a notorious labor conflict at the Loray Mill.  (Read all about it in … [Read more...]

Reasons for the Left to Be Optimistic

Being a liberal/lefty/whatever in America has never been easy, and it has seldom involved optimism.  Ever since Werner Sombart wondered “Why is there no socialism in the United States?” the Left has often seen itself as a chronic loser in US history, and especially since the historic routing of the New Left in the 1960s and the right-wing counterrevolution of Reaganomics in the 1980s, progressives could be regularly counted on to outmatch Eeyore in a dolefulness contest. In recent years the triumphs of corporate power and the Christian Right have meant that most on the Left have focused on defending what they’d already achieved rather than imagining anything better—hence the slogan “Another … [Read more...]

Trying to Be Someone in Irish, Working-Class Brooklyn: Alice McDermott’s Someone

At the end of Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil, we see Tanya, a jaded gypsy, reflecting on the death of her ex, Hank Quinlan, a corrupt detective who had just been shot by his partner.  “He was a lousy cop,” she says matter-of-factly. “Is that all you have to say for him?” asks Schwarz, another cop.  Tanya brushes aside the question.  “He was some kind of man,” she says.  “What does it matter what you say about people?” What indeed.  If Breaking Bad recently reminded us of the futility even the most powerful and dynamic people face when they attempt to preserve a legacy (linking Walter White to Shelley’s "Ozymandias"), we might wonder what the everyman and everywoman may hope to expect … [Read more...]