Learning to Cherish Trilingualism

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By Mary Guillen

Growing up speaking Mandarin, Spanish and English is something I took for granted. It was not something I was proud of (much less boasted about) because most of my classmates were not racially mixed and they saw it as being odd or strange.

Before starting school, I never thought anything of it. But one day in first grade my friend commented on how weird it was that my parents were from such different countries. That was the beginning of a long period during which I often tried to hide my mixed heritage from my peers because I wanted to blend in.

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Sickness in the 2nd District

by Leslie Layton

Butte and other counties in rural Northern California’s 2nd Congressional District suffer from higher-than-average rates of chronic diseases that would respond to prevention, and if it was more available, routine care. Our counties pay in terms of both personal health and emergency-room/hospital-care costs.

State Research Analyst Mike Kassis pointed out that access to primary/preventive care depends in part on affordability (which usually means having health insurance.) The recently-published study Kassis worked on for the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development shows that $3.5 billion was spent on “preventable hospitalizations” in the state in 2008.

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99 Words, Almost

School Mural

photos by Denise Minor

Editor’s note —

ChicoSol Adviser Denise Minor writes the second story in our Highway 99 series on Knights Landing, a northern outpost of Yolo County, on the Sacramento River. Knights Landing was an ancient gathering place for Native Americans and later a steamboat landing. Minor describes the town, about 10 miles from Highway 99 as the crow flies, on a morning in 2009.

by Denise Minor

School’s Out

The playground equipment is covered with a fine coat of dust at Grafton Elementary School in Knights Landing. A few plastic grocery bags are caught in the shrubbery. In front of the mural of white and Hispanic farmers shaking hands are empty parking places reserved for “Principal” and “Secretary.” At picnic tables, two older men wearing cowboy hats sit in the shade of large trees and chat in Spanish.

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Vibrant School District Starved by State

By Leslie Layton

Some California school districts have gone broke because of gross mismanagement. Some have gone broke on fraud and corruption. The Chico Unified School District has gone broke on good intentions and a crashing state economy.

You could argue that it went broke by providing what parents in this college town wanted, even when the district could no longer afford those amenities. It offered small primary school classes and high school electives like French IV and ran tiny schools in the nearby communities of Cohasset and Forest Ranch.

You could argue that it went broke giving raises to teachers after the union fought bitterly for what it considered a fair collective bargaining agreement in 2006. Or that it went broke because a former superintendent foolishly gambled on an effort to boost the attendance rate and overestimated income by $1.1 million for a two-year period.

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Dedication to Mercedes Sosa

by Leslie Layton
“All I Ask of God”

Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa died Oct. 4 at age 74. The news saddened a Sunday for millions of people who knew her voice that was deep and rich and her songs that were deep with meaning. Sosa became an icon because of both her native talent and her acquired courage to stand up to repressive regimes. She was once detained right along with her audience, which happened to be 200 students studying veterinary medicine.

In a way, Sosa symbolized what I came to love about Latin America during the decade of the 1980s, when I lived in Mexico City. Whether it was earthquakes that flattened cities or rigged presidential elections, people remained convinced that the struggle to improve their lives and achieve social justice was worthwhile. That was reflected and encouraged in the music of Sosa and her fellow Latin American folk artists who belonged to the musical movement nueva canción.

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Dance of Passion Demands Patience, Control

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photo by Erik Aguilar

by Tania Flores

I was introduced to flamenco by a blood-letting, like a tailored and sharply-cut red dress whipping out from the back of my head. I was introduced by a woman who had my name, who called herself La Tania, who marked the end of the time when the purity of ballet was enough to contain my six years of age. I watched her dance in Chico State’s Laxson Auditorium, my head wrapped in a turban of white bandages. Wearing my ballet tights and leotard, I had cracked my head open earlier that afternoon on a cold, metallic bathtub rim. La Tania’s resounding footwork helped stem the flow of the hysteria and screams, and transform them into echoing syllables.

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