Culture

This Author Is Writing Children’s Books For Central American Kids Explaining Deportations

Randy Jurado Ertll has been writing novels and children’s books for well over a decade, all with the mission to inspire his fellow Central Americans about the possibilities that abound for them in the U.S., and in the fields of public service and politics.

The author of multiple books and novels, including children’s illustrated book, “The Adventures of El Cipitio,” Randy Jurado Ertll has used literature as a means to help others stay woke.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

“It’s important for us to be seen and heard through books that are bilingual. My goal is to make my literature accepted and to be recognized and valued because we haven’t been valued as a whole, a community,” Jurado Ertll says in an exclusive interview with mitú.  

Born in Los Angeles to a Salvadoran mother in the 1970s, Jurado Ertll is a product of what can be accomplished with absolute grit and determination, despite being part of a group that has been on the margins of society—the children of deported immigrants.

When he was just eight months old, his mother was deported back to El Salvador and Jurado Ertll went to live with her until the age of five.

“People think it only happens under Trump, but it’s been happening forever but people forget,” Jurado Ertll says about deportations.

After his mom’s deportation, he tried making the most of living in a foreign land and soaked up as much as he could about the culture.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

“That helped me and gave me an opportunity to learn first—hand the history and culture [of El Salvador]. It shaped my world view,” Jurado Ertll says.

Once he returned home for elementary school, he had to completely relearn the English language and says it was “kind of like a rebirth experience.”

He grew up in South Central Los Angeles during a time when there were few Latinos in his neighborhood. He was a student of the Los Angeles Unified School District until he was accepted into a program to study at a high school in Minnesota.

After high school, he returned to California to study at Occidental College and obtained his master’s degree from Azusa Pacific University. He then went on to be a communications director in Washington, D.C. for a congressional member and also wrote numerous opinion columns for newspapers across the country including the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

Jurado Ertll published his first book in 2009.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

His titles include “Hope in Times of Darkness” about his experience as a Salvadoran American, and a novel with surreal elements about a three-foot mythical creature titled “The Lives and Times of El Cipitio.”

“The Lives and Times of El Cipitio” is a surreal novel, I wanted to use lots of symbolism,” Jurado Ertll says. “I wanted to create an anti-hero that is evil but becomes good, a gangster that runs for mayor of LA then president, and the novel talks about how he evolves.”

When demand for his books increased, Jurado Ertll knew it was time to start bilingual books to inspire readers.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

He then created “The Adventures of El Cipitio.”

“The Adventures of El Cipitio” is more of a feel-good, illustrated book.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

“Kids need to feel good and proud, and see themselves in words and illustrations they can see themselves in,” he says.

Although Jurado Ertll has written several books to put the stories of more Central Americans like him to diversify bookshelves and tell the stories of all types of Latinos, one story he hasn’t quite written about in depth is his own deportation story.

“[The] story hasn’t been explored or told as much because it’s traumatizing—it distorts your sense of safety and belonging, and you can make it positive or negative,” Jurado Ertll says.

“It made me into a resilient person. There are other kids who have suffered more than I have. I wanted to empower people. If you born here, you can come back [after being deported.] Lots of people do that, but their stories are not told,” he continues.

Jurado Ertll has certainly chosen to take his experiences and make it a positive one.

Credit: randyertll / Instagram

Jurtado Ertll’s books are sold in Costco and Amazon, and he also continues to present his books at book fairs and events across the country.

READ: Elizabeth Acevedo Has Been Awarded The Carnegie Medal — The First Time A Writer Of Color Has Won In The Award’s History

This Woman’s Viral Poem Explores The Cultural Stigma Attached To LGBTQ Identities

Fierce

This Woman’s Viral Poem Explores The Cultural Stigma Attached To LGBTQ Identities

@2shotsofmely / Twitter

We all know how annoying family can be, nitpicking and offering opinions about how we choose to live our lives. Sometimes, though, our relatives’ perspectives are more than frustrating—they can be hurtful, causing us to question and doubt our place in the world. For many of us, it may be really difficult to address these issues with our loved ones, and we might often need to process these complex situations on our own before we can make any progress within our relationships. For Twitter user Hot Girl Scholar (@2shotsofmely), art was part of this process. She addressed some deep family conflict through poetry, and y’all, Twitter was shook.

According to her pinned tweet, @2shotsofmely and her family emigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic when she was seven years old. In May of this year, she graduated cum laude from Clark University with a BA in English and a minor in Education, ecstatic to dedicate her degree to immigrant and first-generation students. By embracing her role as a “hood girl, educator, and undercover poet,” @2shotsofmely is “living [her] mama’s wildest dreams”—although the poems that have electrified Twitter focus on some hard-to-swallow cultural viewpoints, reiterated by su madre y su abuela.

In poetry, the author of the poem is not always the speaker of the poem, but because of the caption in @2shotsofmely’s post (“Heard it so much I wrote poems about it”), it is clear that these poems—displayed on the walls of Elevated Thought, a Lawrence-based art and social justice organization—are written from her perspective. 

In one poem, “Negra Yo, Pero El No!,” @2shotsofmely acknowledges the hypocrisy (and the shadowy nature of racism and colorism) that defines how her mother reacts to a hypothetical boyfriend: based on the title, we know that @2shotsofmely’s mother is black, yet she proclaims that if @2shotsofmely ever dated a moreno, he must have a thin nose—la nariz fina—green eyes like @2shotsofmely’s grandfather, and “good hair.” In other words, he must not have black features. Why? “Because hay que refinar la raza.”

In the other poem, “LGBTQue?,” @2shotsofmely explores the cultural stigma attached to LGBTQ identities, affirming that her grandmother would “prefer [we] open [our] legs for all the men in the barrio before we walk around with a sister in our arms.”

The original tweet has garnered over 2.3k likes and 900 retweets—people can’t stop gassing @2shotsofmely’s badass display of honesty, the simultaneous pride in and critique of her roots. Several people expressed solidarity, citing events from their own lives that mirrored @2shotsofmely’s poetry.

This Twitter user really related to @2shotsofmely’s experience on the receiving end of her mother’s words.

This Latina responded in Spanish, explaining that her own grandmother married a white man para “mejorar la raza,” but affirmed that it wasn’t her fault—this point of view, according to @ditasea88, is a remnant of colonization.

This Twitter user applauded “LGBTQue?” for its resonance and truth.

Her poems even moved some folks to tears.

Although each of these tweets suggests a common experience which is largely negative, the response to @2shotsofmely’s poetry was rich with compassion—not only for those other Twitter users who share that experience, but for the madres y abuelas whose lives were very different than ours, and who had to make different decisions as a result. History is complex and difficult to synthesize without a broad contextual understanding, and @2shotsofmely’s work draws attention to how cultural patterns from the past can leave a dark impact on the present. However, alongside the criticism and pain at the core of these poems, there is something else: a sense of defiance and hope.

Now, in the midst of the political chaos within our country, it is especially important to celebrate the victories of individuals and groups creating supportive platforms for folks—particularly people of color—to express themselves. It is always exciting to see expressions of Latinidad—from art to poetry to a bomb Insta selfie—spark conversation and communion, even if people are relating about moments that have left them hurt or bruised. In a way, this type of conversation creates a sense of camaraderie, amistad—a feeling of familia.  

And although a lot of Latina familias struggle with antiquated viewpoints (like those presented in @2shotsofmely’s poems), times are changing, and cultural expectations are becoming more inclusive to Latinx people with a range of diverse identities. Often, the more difficult aspects of our upbringing lead us to create meaningful work and connect with others who can relate to us—@2shotsofmely’s poetry is a great example of how intergenerational trauma can produce beauty, connection, and personal growth when you honor yourself and your dreams. @2shotsofmely, you go, girl!

A Salvadorian Animator Is Making It Big In Hollywood, And We Can Only Say “Salu, Maje!”

Things That Matter

A Salvadorian Animator Is Making It Big In Hollywood, And We Can Only Say “Salu, Maje!”

CNN en Marcha

The wave of Latino talent in Hollywood has been widely publicized. Of course we know of the Three Amigos, the trio of Mexican filmmakers who have taken the industry by storm and basically dominated the Academy Awards. Or Salma Hayek and Jaime Camil, who have become mainstream celebrities through their talent and hard work. But there are other stories of indomitable resilience and talent that involve Latin American creativity behind the cameras. Hollywood is a vicious industry where just a few succeed (Los Angeles is full of individuals whose dreams have been crushed by the industrial entertainment complex), but every once in a while there are success stories that make our hearts sing and our Latino pride soar. Enter Edwin Aguilar, who is currently an assistant director for one of the longest running and most iconic shows in television history: The Simpsons. 

Edwin Aguilar is a true example of Latino talent in Hollywood, and how migrants can contribute greatly to American culture and business.

Credit: Agencia EFE

Edwin’s story is truly amazing. He was a Salvadorian child suffering from the consequences of the endless civil war that has enveloped the Central American nation, on and off for decades. As a child, he used to collect soda bottle caps with cartoon drawings. He would crush the caps and keep them. He would also retrace the cartoon characters he saw on the newspapers, iconic images like those of Felix the Cat, Donald Duck and “Periquita” . Among his favorite characters were also Chuck Jones’ The Looney Tunes. Years later, Chuck Jones would become his boss, as reported a few years ago by the Spanish-speaking newspaper La Opinion.

He escaped war as a child and picked up on his passion when he emigrated to the United States.

Credit: download. Digital image. La Opinion

Like many Salvadorian boys, Edwin was at risk of being recruited by paramilitary forces and be made to fight in the conflict. This of course could only end in trauma or death. So in 1982, when he was just 9-years-old he crossed the border and then grew up in East Los Angeles, first as an undocumented migrant. He told La Opinion that as a boy he would hide in the corn fields with his friends, and they would find deceased human bodies and severed hands. So the life he built for himself in the United States allowed him to exploit his full potential. He continues visiting El Salvador to be in touch with his origins, and he is interested in the social and political history of his home country, particularly on the struggles of the dispossesed 

Just look at him working on cute little Maggie.

Edwin, or “Chicle” (“Bubblegum”), as his friends call him, worked for Chuck Jones’ Warner Bros team, and also for Hannah Barbera. Then in 1989 he started tracing for The Simpsons, and he worked his way up until he became one of the leading assistant directors for the show. 

Street art was the trigger he needed to unleash the creative beast!

He recently told CNN that the turning point for finding his true vocation revealed itself when he would look at graffiti and feel like the letters were moving. Edwin’s life has been full of firsts: he was the first Latino to be part of Chuck Jones’ team and also the first to have such a prominent place in the production team that has kept The Simpsons alive and well for 27 years. 

He even created a Latino cartoon that gives us all the feelings.

With Jose Zelaya, he created the show The Garcias, a sort of Latino family animated sitcom that provides us with everyday situations to which we can relate. There is the grandpa who is forever fixing an old car, or the quinceanera dramas that many Latino families go through. He explains that with Coco’s huge success, the powers that be at Hollywood are open to producing Latino stories. Yes, of course they are looking at the dollar signs, but any progress when it comes to self-representation is to be celebrated, a que no?