By ERIK MEDINA
In the desert and concrete beyond Interstate 10 on the south side of Tucson, you’ll find a punk rock historian at Pima Community College’s Desert Vista Campus.
Alisha Maria Vasquez, born in Tucson on Nov. 5, 1984, has lived in the city her entire life.
“I’m a bubbly, punk, Chicana krip,” she says.
Krip, a term for anger, reflects her feeling about being born with short-leg syndrome.
She had her first surgery at age 5, and endured another 20 surgeries over the next 10 years.
However, Vasquez says her disability is a part of her character.
Vasquez witnessed her parents’ divorce at age 10 and stayed with her mother. She says her family didn’t have many material goods but was culturally rich.
She later went through a punk rock phase and says the genre helped her control anger that originated from frustration with her place in society.
“We were poor, whatever, a lot of people are poor,” she says. “But I’m Mexican and a woman.”
Through most of her high school years, she wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon because of her history with medicine and doctors.
Her goal changed when she took a history class in her junior year of high school. She realized she loved history and decided to learn more.
Her high grade point average helped her receive a scholarship from the University of Arizona. Vasquez majored in history and women’s gender studies, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree.
Vasquez later moved to San Francisco, and attended San Francisco State University to obtain a master’s degree in history.
She studied Chicanx history and felt fortunate to count disability activist Paul K. Longmore as an instructor. Under his guidance, Vasquez dreamed of being the next big disability historian.
“I was breaking boundaries,” she says.
Her studies mirror her personal life. “I’m the most narcissistic person,” she says. “I study myself.”
Vasquez graduated from SFSU with a 4.0 grade point average, and returned to Tucson with an academic perspective. She was jobless for one year, but spent 50-plus hours a week volunteering.
Serving on the board of directors for Tucson Urban League helped her better understand the community.
She then joined a task force on racial ethnic disparity, and identified areas where kids were getting picked up and arrested. She represented the youth and sought alternatives for those who were facing jail time.
Vasquez eventually found part-time employment at PCC, working as a Mexican American Studies instructor.
Sandra Shattuck, a Desert Vista writing instructor, met Vasquez in January 2016 when their classes were paired as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities Border Culture grant.
“I like Alisha’s enthusiasm,” Shattuck says. “She is passionate about what she teaches.”
She also admires Vasquez’s teaching methods.
“Alisha is so clear in presenting complex issues and offering a long view of the history and then making the connections between back then and today,” Shattuck says.
The grant program brings students to Tucson from across the country to learn about Mexican American culture and border issues.
“I’ve brought my fifth-generation Tucsonan perspective into the program,” Vasquez says.
She would like to teach full time for PCC or work in administration to create community partnerships.
“For me, higher education made a lot of sense but it’s not for everyone,” she says. “As a society, we must also assist people to achieve their dreams even if it seems outside the norms.”
Although retirement is far away, Vasquez would like to retire as a PCC employee. She says she would only leave if she was offered a position where she could root for the underdog, as she always has, only this time for pay.
Her plan for the years ahead is to start a family with her husband. She likes the idea of two kids. She would also be interested in traveling if she doesn’t start a family.
“Be yourself,” she says. “You will never please everyone, but if you can find a way to live a life that is true to morals and values that you set for yourself, you will be happy.”
By ERIK MEDINA
Pima Community College writing instructor Molly McCloy will lead a weekend workshop on March 3-5 to teach students how to write and perform nonfiction stories from their lives.
“Art of Storytelling” sessions will be held at the Downtown Campus in the AH building, room 140. The schedule is as follows: Friday 6-8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Students will also write individually on Saturday evening.
Students will view videos and listen to podcasts, read short nonfiction based on storytelling performances, and learn to organize stories using a traditional three-act structure. They’ll have an option to perform their work live for an audience on the last day of the workshop.
McCloy earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from The New School in New York City. She is a three-time winner of the NYC Moth StorySLAM and has published in Slate, Nerve and Swink.
She recently wrote a one-woman show, “Mad Dog Grudges,” and has performed it in New York City, Tucson and Phoenix.
Students can earn two credits. Current PCC students can enroll in WRT 298T4 through MyPima, CRN 23823. Non-students can complete an online admission form at pima.edu/admissions. Cost for state residents is $183.
For more information, contact Josie Milliken at email@example.com or Brooke Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By ERIK MEDINA
For some reason, many residents of the United States think it’s “un-American” to speak a language other than English. In reality, the U.S. does not have a national language.
Many of our citizens use the excuse of “it’s freedom of speech” when speaking their mind, but harass individuals who are speaking another language. Isn’t that the non-English speaker’s “freedom of speech?”
I believe that being bilingual should be glorified and not criticized. We should embrace the diversity our nation holds.
Being bilingual is without a doubt a positive thing. It’s been proven to actually help intellectual growth and enhance mental development.
Many like to say that if children speak two languages, they will be confused or forget their native language. Ironically, learning two languages actually helps children understand their native language.
Being bilingual also provides better job opportunities. Employers look for individuals who are able to communicate with more than just one group of people.
Now for the downside of being bilingual and learning two languages … There is none.
There has been no proof that learning two languages can negatively affect the mental function of an individual. The only possible downside is discrimination and typically discrimination comes from those who see bilingualism as a “bad thing.”
We as a nation should understand that people are not born with prejudice. They are taught it.
Instead of growing up to believe that something or someone is superior to others, we should learn to understand that we are all equal and that we are all humans.
Language is a form of communication. It brings people together and helps them express themselves. Language is a way to share culture and tradition.
Cesar Chavez once said, “Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speaker.”
Erik Medina plans to transfer to Arizona State University and hopes to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and journalism. He also likes cats.
Snuggle up to fun February events
Compiled by Erik Medina
February is the month of love and relationships. Don’t know how to celebrate? Here are some events suitable for both couples and singles.
Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase
More than 40 shows set up across the city in tent, hotels and exhibit halls. Items on display range from precious jewels to mineral crafts to dinosaur fossils.
Most citywide shows are free and open to the public.
The main event is the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show on Feb. 9-12 at the Tucson Convention Center, 260 S. Church Ave.
Admission to the convention center cost $13 with discounts available. This year’s theme is “Mineral Treasures of the Midwest.”
Details: visittucson.org/events/gem-show or tgms.org/show
Savor Food & Wine Festival
The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance brings together more than 75 chefs, wineries, breweries and restaurants to showcase the diversity of heritage foods and ingredients in the southwest.
The event will take place at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2510 N. Alvernon Way. The admission price of $65 allows you to sample from a variety of menus.
Arizona Renaissance Festival
Feb. 11-April 2
The festival just outside of Phoenix is a 30-acre medieval amusement park with 13 stages, an arts/craft fair and jousting tournament. The annual event runs every Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 11-April 2, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. It will also be open Feb. 20, President’s Day. No pets allowed.
Tickets start at $24 for ages 12 and up, with discounts available at participating Fry’s Food Stores. Parking is free.
From Tucson, take Highway 70 to Florence Junction. Go west 7 miles on Highway 60 to Festival Village.
Details: royalfaires.com/arizona or Arizona.renfestinfo.com
Lunar New Year Celebration
The Tucson Chinese Culture Center will host Year of the Rooster celebrations at Tucson Mall, 4500 N. Oracle Road, on the first floor near JCPenney.
The event will feature live performances all day. The first act begins at 11 a.m. and the last at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Fort Lowell Day
The historic neighborhood invites the community to relive its past. The 36th annual celebration from noon to 4 p.m. will include a wide variety of activities and displays such as adobe brick making and tours of historic sites. Admission and parking are free.
By ERIK MEDINA
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)
Don’t be basic! If you’re single, do things you’re not used to, have fun. In a relationship? Spice things up! Try sushi with your partner.
Pisces (Feb.19-March 20)
Didn’t get a New Year’s kiss? Don’t get too excited, you probably won’t get a Valentine’s Day kiss either. Sorry.
Aries (March 21-April 19)
We’ve all had desperate times. Can’t get rid of a clinger from Tinder? Remember, when in doubt, “New number, who dis?”
Taurus (April 20-May 20)
Don’t focus too much on your romantic relationship, but more on your friendships. Your friends have been there through your ups and downs. Appreciate it.
Gemini (May 21-June 20)
Fries before guys. Sisters before misters. Mates before dates. Pals over gals.
Cancer (June 21- July 22)
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to watch “Fifty Shades Darker” alone. Just in case, though, bring a friend or take the book. Say it’s for book club.
Leo (July 23- Aug. 22)
You might not have found the “one” yet but that’s OK. Don’t rush into things. Would you rather pick up 10 pennies from the ground or one dime?
Virgo (Aug. 23- Sept. 22)
Relationships are overrated, so stick to pets. We know you’ve closed the door to force your pets to spend time with you. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)
Feeling blindsided on what to do for Valentine’s Day? Have you ever heard of Pinterest?
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)
When planning a romantic evening, it’s the thought that counts. However, making ramen, pouring it into a bowl and serving it to your date does not qualify as a fancy meal.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec 21)
Being single isn’t as bad as it’s put out to be. That’s why there’s Netflix. Binge watch a series and eat food. That will mend your lonely heart.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan 19)
Date someone outside of your circle. Be aware, however, that artists aren’t always the best choice. If you break up, they make something out of the experience. Your pain is their path to becoming famous and rich.