Paloma Martinez-Cruz y su Perla Negra – Photo by Mike Travis
It was Christmas during my son Emiliano’s second year. I was trying to settle him down and put him to bed after the frenzy of new toys and festivities were finally over. This was when my son had a great revelation about truth, happiness, life, and everything, which he summed up with the following declaration, pronounced with tremendous gravitas: Quiero todos, todos, todos los regalos. (I want all, all, all of the presents). He knew what it took to be happy. Happiness meant todos todos todos los regalos. Unhappiness meant NOT having todos todos todos los regalos.
Mijo, yo también quiero todos todos todos los regalos. I don’t have to tell you that the Perla has seen better days. I bought the Perla Negra, a 2001 Chevrolet Prizm when we left California for Illinois. She has been a real trooper, keeping us rolling through Chicago winters and parking year round on Pilsen’s mean streets. Her wheel covers never stayed on, thanks to a Prizm design flaw. Her paint is faded and her hood doesn’t close properly. I often catch people looking at her with that expression on their faces. You know the expression. There are cars that say, “You’ve made it,” but my Perla is the car that makes people say, “What happened?”
Vehicle wise, I covet the creamy lines of the Maserati Gran Turismo Sport, or the flirtatious yet artisanal air of the new Fiat 500. My cravings are not limited to svelt Italian lines. The inner chola wants to customize a ‘67 Impala Super Sport, or perhaps update my relationship to the GM family in a silver topaz Chevrolet Volt.
Quiero todos todos todos los regalos, but I can’t think about buying a car right now, and to tell you the truth, I am not sure that even if I could, I should. As a single woman, I love the freedom that owning a car gives me to explore places around town on my own terms. But in this economy, and with environmental threats being what they are, I need to take the alternatives seriously. The capitalist overlords are banking on all of us having the same attitude of a two-year-old on Christmas: there are never enough regalos. Our happiness depends on purchasing more and more, but this “consume, expand, produce” message about what will straighten out the economy is the antithesis to the “reduce, reuse, recycle” message that will straighten out our planet, particularly in the days when war ravaged peoples from fossil fuel production lands plainly tell us that our gasoline cravings are far from bloodless.
There are some exciting options out there that I am looking into with the understanding that Perla can’t keep on rolling forever. Since I am thinking that the planet, and the people who die in droves when the capitalist overlords want to control their resources, need my loyalty and affection more than the automobile and fuel industry moguls, I am heartened to know that there are businesses and organizations that are adapting to the humanitarian, budgetary, and ecological urgencies of our times, and developing ways to emphasize access to – rather than ownership of – the things that we need. In Chicago, ride share programs like Pace RideShare Pace helps people carpool together. Relay Rides helps you rent cars from people in your community. I-Go is a non-profit with cars adjacent to CTA routes and rail stations.
So, my carnalísimas, I think we should have some fun pissing off the capitalist overlords by taking pride in our lame ranflas, and/or our non-ranfla having lifestyles. Send me a lowrider picture of yourself posing with your ride, or a CTA photo wearing your best chola eyeliner (and lip liner, por supuesto) and send it this way so that we can do our part in creating a media stream in/of/about our own images, using our super powers of Latina glamorousness to rep the reduce, reuse, recycle lifestyle on our own terms, con safos!