THINKING LATINA with SARA INÉS CALDERÓN 5.13.12

How Latino Nerds Will Inherit The Earth (Or At Least The U.S.)

I am what the kids like to call a “nerd.”

As far back as I can remember, I was one of the “smart kids.” And throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I was occasionally taunted for this reason. That never really got under my skin so much as being taunted for being “weird” — but that’s another story. While I would love to take credit for being nerdy on my own, I have after all an incredibly curious mind, the truth of the matter is that my father the academic took charge of my intellectual growth from a very young age.

Throughout my childhood a constant question he asked me was: What are you reading mi’ja?

Needless to say, if I wasn’t reading a book, was reading a newspaper, or interviewing (interrogating?) someone about something that piqued my interest. To this day, I feel incomplete if I’m not reading something, and reading remains one of the most amazing diversions of the human experience that I can name. What’s more, my father always encouraged my brother and I to write, to keep a journal, to write a letter, because he would tell us: Writing is thinking, mi’ja.

As a consequence of this particular child-rearing technique, I excelled rather easily in public school, and became one of the go-to kids for whom others would try to copy answers or ask for help. It was a whole different story by the time I started private college, but again, that’s another story.

So being a Latina nerd for most of my life, I rarely found good company, and was even sometimes billed as “acting white” or “selling out” by other Latinos as a result. When I grew up, the unfortunate fact that workplaces are rarely dominated by other Latinos, and even less so by nerdy ones. It was not until the social media revolution, combined with horrendous assaults on Latinos in this country that began with SB 1070, that I began to meet the types of people with whom I could relate over everything from corn tortillas to bad jokes about Shakespeare.

What was even more exciting was, once I began to run into other Latino nerds, I found that all of us are digging in our heels into our respective professions and worlds, such that we are shaping the future of this country very decisively. You can also look at this on a grander national scale, when you see people like twin political dynamos from Texas, San Antonio Mayor Julián and congressional candidate Joaquín, who went to Stanford as undergraduates and Harvard for law school. Talking to them, you get the distinct impression they understand the power of knowledge, and readily embrace it.

But that’s just one example. There’s Eva Longoria and Rosario Dawson, who choose not to simply bask in the limelight of their outrageous beauty, but study and work in order to pave the way for others. There are Latino academics, attorneys, teachers, writers, and much much more, all of them wield knowledge like a thoughtful weapon, in order to push and carved the country into a place that is better.

While their paths to Latino nerdom may have been different — not everyone is lucky enough to grow up with an academic father — the important thing is that we all got here. The even more important thing is that, now that we are here, we can begin to work together, and perhaps pass on the Latino nerd torch to future generations, and then, who knows? What great things can’t a group of Latino nerds accomplish when they put their minds to it?

 

COPYRIGHT 2012 SARA INÉS CALDERÓN

CONTACT:  Sara Inés Calderón:  sarainescalderon.com

la vida es dura, pero es bella

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