Enjoy Your Work Every Day

Vecinos: information and advice for our American communities

Enjoy Your Work Every Day

By Germán Velasco

Millions of people live uncomfortably every day working in the wrong job. Why do they cling to a job or a life that doesn’t satisfy them?
There is no one answer applicable to all cases, but I will describe factors that I frequently find in clients who have not been able to tolerate what they do every day while, at the same time, they feel they lack the strength to get out of the hole.
Two common factors stand out for me: the feeling of comfort and the feeling of familiarity with what they have been doing for years. These two anchors that tie us up in situations we would like to change are similar, but not exactly the same.
Both have immobilizing power. With greater familiarity usually comes greater comfort and ease in doing a job. But many times, the person is no longer comfortable and continues to cling to the routine for fear of venturing into unfamiliar terrain: Fear of the unfamiliar, the unknown. Fear of risk or discomfort involved in jumping to a different activity.
On the other hand, exploring a little more to find the life that best suits us can translate into feeling joy for what we do every day.
According to Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, “Your work will occupy a large part of your life, and the only way to be really satisfied is to do what you think is a great job. And the only way to do a great job is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
Many people are trapped in the wrong life because of their commitment to staying in familiar territory. They may always live in the same city, spend time with the same friends, have their favorite places to eat or to have fun (and rarely consider new ones), use the same route on the way to work every day, not try new foods, etc. These little habits seem insignificant, but once we understand the effect of small routines, we can take action to strengthen our ability to change and become people capable of exploring unknown territories.
If you are having trouble making a big change in your life, I suggest you start introducing change in small ways. For example, travel more, change the décor in your house, go for a walk in an unfamiliar neighborhood in your city. Do something totally new every day – preferably something that makes you uncomfortable. Once you enjoy the options that life offers you in small things, you’ll open that door to big change, and you’ll be ready for the discomfort of the transition that comes with transforming your life. The grand prize is the happier life that’s waiting for you.

(Germán Velasco is the Executive Director of La Mano Amiga, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing informational resources to Latino immigrants.)

Take Care of Your Mental Health

Vecinos: information and advice for our American communities

Take Care of Your Mental Health

by Ellen Lee Alderton

When health threats such as AIDS, cancer, or diabetes receive so much public attention, you may not realize that mental illnesses are actually much more common than any of these other diseases. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one out of five adults in the United States will experience a mental disorder each year. Conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety can strike anyone at any time – regardless of how old you are, what country you come from, or how much money you have. It’s also important to remember that mental illnesses are no one’s fault; they are biological brain disorders.

The symptoms of mental illness can be devastating not only for those afflicted, but also for their family members and loved ones. Mental illnesses can strike their victims with delusions, hallucinations, panic attacks, or hopelessness and despair – causing suffering and disrupting lives.

Sadly, in the Latino/Hispanic community, this story can be even worse. Stressors such as leaving one’s country behind, leaving behind a situation of violence, not knowing the new culture, intergenerational tension in immigrant families, and poverty can all make mental health problems worse. For these reasons, the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute on Drug Abuse report that Latino/Hispanics in this country tend to experience higher rates of depression, distress, PTSD, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions.

But it’s important to remember that there’s hope. With the proper medical attention, mental illnesses can be treated – but they won’t go away by themselves. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a mental illness, it’s important to go see a doctor. A psychologist or a psychiatrist can prescribe medications or recommend a therapist to help with the problem.

Ana Lazu, a mental health promotora and one-time Executive Director of Latinos Unidos Siempre in Connecticut, says that when she began her own struggles with mental health problems, she faced a “double stigma.” There was the challenge of having a mental illness and the challenge of confronting this illness as a Latina. “Within the Hispanic community,” she says, there was the attitude that you don’t talk about psychology; you may go to your priest, family members or espiritista for help, but you would never visit a doctor or take medication.”

Yet visiting a doctor or taking medication can be life changing. In this month, as the United Nations recognizes World Mental Health Day, be sure to take care of your own mental health or the mental health of a loved one. If you need help, don’t try to go it alone.

(Ellen Lee Alderton is Director of Education for La Mano Amiga, a national nonprofit organization providing informational resources to Latino immigrants.)

Something Exciting is Happening in the Race for County Executive

Something Exciting is Happening in the Race for County Executive
by Maximilian Eyle

The position of Onondaga County Executive is one that people rarely talk about. Since 1962, there have only been three elected County Executives despite the fact that an election is held every four years. Time and time again, the incumbent wins without much of a fight. The current County Executive, Republican Ryan McMahon, was appointed without an election. He is being challenged by a new face in local politics – Tony Malavenda. One thing is certain: the results of the election this November will have major consequences for our county.

If you aren’t sure what the County Executive is, or does, you aren’t alone. But their role is incredibly important. They help manage the county budget, they oversee all county departments and agencies, and they can veto county laws. You could describe it as being the mayor or president of Onondaga County.

The son of Italian immigrants, Tony Malavenda grew up in Syracuse in a working-class household. As a young man, he started his own business with a friend and began traveling all around the United States. Their company was called Dukes Root Control and specialized in removing tree roots from municipal sewers. It quickly grew from a local business to a national brand. Working in this field gave Malavenda firsthand experience in seeing how different counties across the country function, and inspired him to want to improve things at home. “Other communities adapted to economic change and we did not,” said Malavenda in an interview, “And the fact that we didn’t adapt is why we haven’t prospered.”

Central New York has a lot to offer, argues Malavenda, but we have been struggling to make use of our resources and grow as a community. “The current system works very well in maintaining the status quo,” he says. “Many of the infrastructure problems we face now were the same in the 1970s when I was growing up.” Malavenda hopes to start making actual progress on these longstanding issues like cleaning up Onondaga Lake, limiting tax breaks to large companies, and starting construction on the community grid redevelopment for I-81. “When we built that highway overpass 60 years ago,” said Malavenda, “we destroyed a neighborhood and became a more segregated city. Today we have the highest concentration of minority poverty of any city in America, and the highway has a lot to do with that.” If he wins, Malavenda would be the first Democrat to be elected to County Executive. His primary goal is to make our county government work more efficiently for its residents by improving the delivery of services and rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure.

Because Malavenda has lived a private life up to this point, building name recognition has been a challenge. But his campaign has caught the attention of the press and in September, he released a series of television ads outlining his plans for Onondaga County. He has also been active at community events, and many families have hosted open houses as a platform for neighborhood residents to ask him about issues directly and hear him speak. At a recent event on the east side of Syracuse, Malavenda responded to a question about his reasons for running: “I know my opponent has larger political ambitions beyond serving as County Executive. For me, I am already 62 and look forward to retiring after my time in office. I just want a chance to give back to the community I’ve lived in my whole life.”

This article was written and edited by Maximilian Eyle who is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at maxeyle@gmail.com.

Good News for Furry Animals

by Linda DeStefano
Translated by Rob English

According to the Sept./Oct. 2019 issue of ALL ANIMALS, there is good news in the ongoing battle to free animals from being killed for their fur. More and more designers are rejecting animal fur and using other materials. These materials are becoming easier for the designers to work with and, in some cases, more environmentally friendly – some being made from recycled plastic. Currently, research is being done on making “fur” from plants.

Other advantages are that they are less expensive and easier to maintain than animal fur, and they are warm, and stylish.

Best of all, these products save animals from the excruciating pain of being caught in a steel jaw, leg hold trap before being bludgeoned to death. The animal may be struggling for days before the trapper checks his traps. Perhaps suffering even more are the foxes and other animals who are kept in tiny, filthy cages with no veterinary care until they endure anal electrocution to obtain their fur.

On the legislative front, West Hollywood, Berkeley, San Francisco and Los Angeles have all banned the production and sale of animal fur, and the New York City Council has considered a ban.

As an individual, you can help by avoiding any animal fur – even fur trim. Garments are supposed to be labeled as animal fur or faux fur but this isn’t always reliable. You can examine the material the “fur” comes out of to make sure it is woven fabric and not skin.

If you want to read the entire article, go to https://www.humanesociety.org/news/out-style

If you want to grapple with the issue of our responsibility to animals, come to a free People for Animal Rights talk, short film and discussion on “Moral Responsibility Toward Animals as Reflected in the Major Religions of the World” at 7 p.m. on Mon. Oct. 21 at Onondaga Free Library, 4840 W. Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse (Onondaga Hill).

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights (PAR). For more information about PAR and a sample of our newsletter, contact us at PAR, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, or call us at (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. or email us at people4animalrightscny@gmail.com

My go-to book: “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.”

by Aixa G. López

Go for it!

I love reading. I have always loved the ability to learn about other people’s ideas, experiences, successes, and challenges. I love reading non-fiction books because they seem more real to me.

Over the years, I have read plenty of books, but for some reason, there is one book I always go back to, especially when I feel unbalanced in my life. No, it’s not the Bible. I wish it were, but even when I like reading the Bible, it’s a little bit complicated sometimes. When I feel unbalanced, I like straight forward and simple things to learn.

I bought this book in 1997 just before moving from Puerto Rico to Upstate NY. I was in a pharmacy store and saw this thin, small, and cheap book that caught my attention. I bought it and started reading it. I liked the introduction and told my husband about it. At that time, he was not an avid reader, so I asked him if he minded listening to me reading the book out loud so I could share the information with him. It seems odd, but he agreed. Night after night we sat down, and I read it out loud.

This book’s name is the “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra. What this book states challenged my life and personality in so many ways. I am a very driven person, and I grew up believing that I could control my present and my future. I wanted the world to think the way I thought, and I believed that because something was the “right thing to do,” it was evident to everyone.

These seven laws sometimes don’t make sense to us (at least they didn’t make sense to me) because they are based on ideas and concepts that are not popular in our society. Concepts such as “Least Effort”, “Giving”, “Detachment”, and “Purpose”. I have to admit that these laws were tough for me to swallow and still are.

Let’s start with the First Law: The Law of Pure Potentiality.

The First Law is about our existence. It says that each of our actions is based on our ego and our ego is our self-image. That means that if we think we are shy, we will behave that way. If we believe we are confident, that’s the way we will act. If you feel you are better than others, your actions will be based on that. That’s pretty obvious. However, we are so much more than what we think we are.

Our true-self (not our self-image) is our spirit, our soul and it is completely free of our ego (like when we are children). It is immune to criticism, it is fearless of any challenge, and it feels beneath no one. Moreover, it is also humble and feels superior to no one, because it recognizes that everyone else is the same “Self,” the same spirit in different disguises.

When we feel better than someone else because we are smarter or have more power or more money, that feeling is based on something external. The book describes this as “object-based” power.

That is very interesting because as soon as you lose that object, then who are you? If you lose the money or you meet someone smarter, how do you feel? Light Bulb Moment, isn’t it?

Silence is one of the best ways to get in touch with your true self. Being in silence and not reacting to everything has helped me meditate on what my ego “wants to do” versus what my true-self “should do.” Of course, I forget about this sometimes, especially when someone does something I don’t like.

I read this book when I was in the process of moving the first time to Upstate NY in 1997. At that moment I was not working, and I was spending much time at home; time to think and meditate. I can say those years were the happiest years of my life. We had NOTHING!

We didn’t own a house, we only had one car, we didn’t have any money in the bank, I wore clothes and shoes from bargain stores, our dining-out was pizza, and I used coupons to buy everything. Well, we had our true-selves, and we were delighted. I have videos and videos of those times, and I can see the pure potentiality in all of us.

I encourage you to read this book. Cheers to your “True-Self”!

Aixa G. López, P. E. is a Consultant, Leadership Development, Digital Marketing, Organizational Process Improvement living in the Elmira, New York Area. She is a strategically minded, analytical Industrial Engineer with 27+ years of experience providing operations management, organizational process improvement, leadership & team development, and digital marketing. She has been recognized for improving organizational effectiveness and efficiency through leadership, aligning business processes to realize cost savings and revenue growth. She’s an industrial engineer who entered the field because of her passion for fixing things. As a columnist for CNY Latino, Aixa shares with the readers this passion and the lessons she has learnt along the way.

Your Low-Plastic Life

September 2019
Vecinos: information and advice for our American communities

by Ellen Lee Alderton

By now, you’ve probably heard that plastics are flooding into our oceans. In fact, some scientists estimate that by the year 2050 there will be more tons of plastic than sea life in the world’s waters.

And sadly, although it can make us feel better to know that we’re sorting our plastics and placing them in the recycling bin, the story is actually more complicated than that. In the past, the United States shipped most of its used plastic to China to be recycled. Since March of this year, however, Beijing has stopped accepting this waste, leaving our country with the question, what do we do with all this non-biodegradable material? This question is critical, because it takes a piece of plastic, on average, 1,000 years to decompose.

One important step we can all take is to reduce our personal consumption of plastics. Some of the ways to do this can be simple: buying the peanut butter or olive oil at the grocery store that comes in the glass container or picking up a half-gallon of milk that comes in a cardboard carton. These products can be a little more expensive, but our children and our grandchildren will thank us. Other simple things we can all do are to use aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap and to buy a reusable aluminum or glass water bottle and keep it handy. Reusable shopping bags, as well, can mean that at least part of our weekly grocery shopping does not find its way to the landfill.
Other ways to cut back on plastics may not be as obvious. Let’s explore our bathrooms, for example. The average bathroom harbors plastic bodywash and shampoo bottles, plastic toothbrushes and razors, and even plastic dental floss and toothpaste in plastic containers. If you think these uses of this decidedly environmentally unfriendly substance are unavoidable, think again. Try searching on Google for “plastic-free toothpaste” or “plastic-free dental floss” and you’ll find many options to choose from. Some of these may even be better priced than what you would buy at the drug store. You can also find wooden toothbrushes, wooden and aluminum soap holders, and even wooden toilet brushes. One of my favorite eco-friendly products is Bim Bam Boo toilet paper, which can be ordered on Amazon for roughly the same price as other brands of toilet papers.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that American consumers create more than 14 million tons of plastic waste each year from containers and packaging alone. It doesn’t need to be this way. When our grandparents were growing up, consumers used glass, wood, metal and waxed paper. We can go back to these products again today, and you can play a critical role in making this transition happen. When you choose plastic-free products, you are voting with your consumer dollar. The less you buy plastics, the less retailers will want to create products from this material. The sum of all of our individual choices can make a big difference.

Ellen Lee Alderton is the Director of Education of La Mano Amiga, an educational nonprofit organization based in Colorado.

La Casita presents new exhibit: To The Streets

La Casita Cultural Center
109 Otisco St., Syracuse, NY 13204
September 2019
CONTACT: Luma Trilla – Tel. 315-443-2151

La Casita Cultural Center kicks off Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month 2019 with an exhibition program that explores urban culture, life in the barrios, graffiti, hip-hop, reggaeton, and the inner city Latinx communities.

SYRACUSE, NY: La Casita Cultural Center celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with a grand opening full of music, dance and a new exhibit on September 13, 2019, starting at < 6:00pm. Admission to the event is free and open to the public. A traditional Caribbean menu and refreshments will be served. Opening will include special performances by Raíces dance troupe, and by Dominque’s Dance Creations. La Casita Cultural Center is located at 109 Otisco St, Syracuse NY, 13204.

A new exhibition titled “Pa’ La Calle” (To the Streets), presents the work of Syracuse-based, up and coming artist Bennie Guzmán. The opening reception will be the kick- off event for the 2019 Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month commemorative program at La Casita. As with previous annual exhibitions at La Casita, Pa’ la calle sets the central theme for a series of events and programs that will examine urban cultures, life in the barrio, street art, graffiti, hip-hop and reggaeton throughout the 2019-20 academic year. “I believe that art is the best way to start a conversation,” says Guzmán. “And I believe that for the youth in this community, where Hip-Hop, reggaeton and graffiti art are so prevalent, this is the language we need to use in order to have that conversation.”

“Pa’ la calle / To The Streets” features a collection of paintings, a series of portraits that recognize prominent Latinos and Latinas of Syracuse who are committed to the continued development and well-being of this community and who are enthusiastic partners in support of La Casita’s programs. Portraits include Gregorio Jimenez, executive director of the Near Westside Initiative; Bea Gonzalez, vice president of Community Engagement at Syracuse University; José Miguel Hernández Hurtado, artistic director of La Joven Guardia del Teatro Latino; Hugo Acosta and Marisol Hernández, publisher and editor in chief of CNY Latino, among other members of this community.

Guzmán also worked with a group of teens from the Westside and other local communities to create a mural inspired by the dreams and aspirations of these young talents in our Latinx community. The Spanish Action League’s One Team-One Dream youth program partnered in this project that was completed over the month of July this summer.
“This project is about engaging with our community in new ways,” said Guzman. “It’s about taking all the positive things that come from this community and putting them on display for everyone to see.”

Bennie Guzman’s work as an artist is dedicated to sharing the narratives and lived experiences of marginalized communities. He was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas and received a B.A. from Colgate University in Art & Art History, specializing in Studio Art and English. He is currently a member of the staff at La Casita in charge of media outreach and communications.

Lyrics of Reggaeton

The exhibition opening will be followed by a panel discussion titled “Letra del Reggaeton / Lyrics of Reggaeton” on October 16 starting at 6:00pm at La Casita. Admission will be free and open to the public. A group of SU scholars, faculty, students and local DJs will have an open dialogue about the controversial nature of hip-hop and reggaeton lyrics, the global impact on these genres in the music industry, and its undisputed success in conquering young markets in almost every culture worldwide. Panelists will include Syracuse University professors Todd Herreman, specialist in Music Industry; David Knapp, expert on Arab Hip-Hop; Biko Gray, author of Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip-Hop—A Basic Guide to Key Issues. They will be joined by Hasan Stephens, Director of Good Life Youth Foundation and professional DJ; Liamna Pestana Roche, student at Setnor School of Music who will talk about the ban on Reggaeton in her native Cuba, and Roberto Pérez, professional Latin music DJ and co-founder of La Familia de la Salsa.