Central American Food in Mexicantown!

I’ve lived in Southwest Detroit, AKA Mexicantown, for most of my life. When my family first moved here that name rang true; the overwhelming majority of Hispanic people in town were either of Mexican descent or fresh immigrants, with a few Puerto Ricans mixed in. People from Central America, like myself, were rare. But slowly, there has been an increase in the visibility of Central Americans, particularly of people from El Salvador and Honduras. When I went to the Cinco de Mayo parade two years ago, I even saw an Honduran flag or two amidst all the Mexican and Puerto Rican ones. However, as far as I knew there still weren’t any Central American restaurants in Mexicantown, until very recently.

The first one that popped up (as far as I know), Pupuseria Mama Tita, specialized in that quintessential Central American food, the pupusa, which is basically a tortilla stuffed with your choice of filling, usually topped with pickled vegetables not unlike kimchi. The most common ones are pupusas with beans, cheese and loroco (a type of plant), or a mix of beans and pork. Unfortunately, Mama Tita didn’t do too well, and went out of business after a year or maybe less. My family and I had gotten used to being able to eat fresh cooked pupusas, so we were upset. Goya does make some you can buy frozen, but it’s not the same (though they are good). Where were we to get our pupusa fix?!

Fortunately I spotted a teeny weeny ad in the free weekly La Jornada Latina (formerly La Jornada Detroit) for La Cuscatleca. I don’t know when they came to the neighborhood, but I’m glad we found them! La Cuscatleca is actually a combined restaurant and market. Their products mainly come from El Salvador, but they also have some Honduran products. Likewise the food has a Salvadoran lean, but it’s very similar to Honduran food. And best of all, they serve a wide variety of foods, not just pupusas. Their tamales, pupusas, and platano frito (fried plantain) are absolutely Delicious! There’s also this desert, Atol de elote, which is like a puree of sweet corn with cinnamon, served in a gourd bowl. The Quesadilla Salvadoreña is also to die for. (Note that this quesadilla is not at all like the Tex-Mex food most people know; instead it’s a bread with Parmesan cheese baked in.)

Atol de elote in the foreground, tamal in the background.

Atol de elote in the foreground, tamal in the background.

If you’re interested in going, please be advised that this is not the usual “restaurant” atmosphere. I don’t know if the people there speak English, since they specialize in catering to the Central American minority, but I think it’s safe to assume they know some. If you speak Spanish, though, even better.

La Cuscatleca is located at 6343 Michigan Avenue in Detroit (48210), a few steps west of Livernois.

¡Buen provecho!


Gateway Project 60% Complete!

On my way to do some errands in the heart of Southwest Detroit, I could see clear signs that the Gateway Project–a massive construction undertaking to widen I-75, have better access to the Ambassador Bridge, and build a pedestrian bridge reuniting East and West Mexicantown (so happy about this one!)–is really rockin’ and rollin’. For a long time the eastbound half of the Vernor/I-75 overpass had been closed and eventually cut off; now it is fully rebuilt and open. So now it’s the westbound half’s turn. The central pillar of the pedestrian bridge gets higher each day I see it. Even though the area still looks like complete mayhem, the order is starting to emerge. It’s hard to tell from the photo I took, but trust me. ^_^

The high thing to the left is the Pedestrian Bridge's Central Pillar, way in the background to the right of it you can see the twin spires of Ste. Anne, and all the way to the left, the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Canada.

The high thing to the left is the center pillar of the Pedestrian Bridge, way in the background to its right is Ste. Anne, and to the left you can see a bit of the Ambassador Bride, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario (Canada).

On a side note, I’d like to give a quick shout out to the Spirit of Detroit, which turned 50 today. There was actually a re-dedication ceremony for it today, but I didn’t know about it until today, so I didn’t go. (I blame the local media which wastes time telling me what’s coming up next on their show rather than what’s coming up next in real life. Well, the “news” has become that all over the country, hasn’t it?) There’s an interesting article about the Spirit’s sculptor here, and an article with pictures of the cleaned Spirit (the tarnish was removed) here.

Aesthetic Whitewashing?

In an hour or so, Heroes will kick off its Third Season with a one hour special looking back at the previous season (good for me, I missed most of it) before the actual premiere. I was looking at online TV listings, where I saw an abbreviated version of this promo image:

The cast of "Heroes"

The cast of "Heroes"

It is visually striking: The repetition of faces in cold, hard light are in sharp contrast with the dark, nebulous background. After my initial aesthetic appraisal, it occurred to me that there was something off about the image: there is a difference in skin tones, but overall darker people look considerably lighter than they appear in the show, namely D.L. and Mohinder. It reminded me of the recent hullabaloo over a cosmetics ad featuring a somewhat less melanin-infused Beyoncé Knowles. If I were the graphic artist who created this particular image, I’d find myself in this sticky situation: I either keep the casts’ respective skin tones closer to reality and lose some of the visual power that making them more uniform gives the image, or whitewash them all at the risk of, well, being accused of whitewashing them and the negative implications that has.

Now, I personally as an artist have gotten into this sort of debate with people before. I remember a classmate arguing fiercely that she did not like anime because “the Japanese have never represented black people well.” Her main argument for this was the Dragon Ball Z character Mr. Popo, a genie-like being with very dark skin, pointy ears, the usual genie attire, and bug eyes and thick red lips. I will admit that within the context of dark skin the eyes and lips come off as being a bit Sambo-like. Overall, my response was that the character wasn’t even supposed to be an Earthling, so I didn’t think that Mr. Popo’s look was anything other than a design choice that unfortunately looked racist to Western eyes. In support of this I pointed to the tendency in anime to have characters with unnatural hair and eye colors, to say nothing of characters who have cat ears for no apparent reason.

So what do you think, O World? Is whitewashing as a design choice okay, or do you prefer to see the characters/actors represented closer to reality–even when they’re portraying something that is far removed from reality? Or do you even give a hoot?


In my house, the most frequently photographed are the kitty cats. They are a family of 5: Pantera is the mother of Angus, Rousseau, and Danton, and SamSi is the daddy of these last two cats. They were born on Bastille Day, hence the French names. I won’t attempt to make cute captions in lolcat-speak. Hopefully the pics are amusing on their own. ^_^

Crisis Core!

SamSi and Rousseau about to play Final Fantasy: Crisis Core!
Campaigning for Obama!

Campaigning for Obama!

Random picture of Gackt that has nothing to do with Cats. *Purrrr*

Random picture of Gackt that has nothing to do with Cats. *Purrrr*

Sarah Palin’s interview with ABC’s Charles Gibson

Yesterday’s episode of 20/20 featured part two of Charles Gibson’s interview with Sarah Palin. The second part of the interview was the first time I’d actually heard her speak for a significant amount of time. I will first present just what she said, and then comment on it.

1. Palin said that the economy was weak, and that what she’d change to improve things are: reduce taxes, cut the use of earmark spending, and increase the oversight on quasi-governmental agencies such as Fannie Mae and all government agencies to find where things can be made more efficient (at least, that’s what I assume she meant by “find efficiencies”…unless she was saying “find deficiencies”…but I don’t think I’d mishear that many times…).

2. She gave words of praise for Hillary Clinton.

3. She denied that she ever asked for books to be banned. She said that the conversation she had with a local librarian was about what to do if someone were to request a book be banned.

4. She denied that she had anything to do with the firing of a state trooper and said she welcomes the investigation into the matter.

5. Palin asserted that it was her “personal opinion” that abortion is wrong except in the case of the mother’s life being in danger. Likewise she said that it was her personal opinion that Roe v. Wade be repealed. She said it was an important choice for women, and that regardless of one’s beliefs, everyone “can agree on” the need for there to be less abortions and greater highlighting of the other options available to women considering abortion.

6. She said she was for citizens having semi-automatic weapons. She pointed to guns being a part of the Alaskan culture as a part of hunting, and that this was part of her world-view. She also argued that outlawing guns wouldn’t stop the people “who would pull the trigger” from getting and using guns. She affirmed that she is a life-long member of the National Rifle Association.

7. When asked how she felt about homosexuality, she said that she doesn’t judge and that she doesn’t know anything about whether it is a choice or a trait one is born with.

8. Her energy focus is on gaining independence from foreign oil by increasing production of the oil resources available in the US.

9. As far as stem cell research, she said she thought it was wrong to create a human embryo, then destroy it, and pointed to new research that uses adult stem cells.

Now, for my reactions to these items.

1. When asked why the GOP keeps saying that Obama would raise taxes, Palin responded that it was because when given the chance to lower them, he didn’t. This is not a strong argument. Furthermore, reducing taxes cuts government services, and the people who get the short end of the stick are invariably those who are less well-equipped to handle the shortfall. Even if the wealthy don’t care about the poor on a human level, they should care about them on the level of their own peace of mind: when things are hard, many of those struggling turn to crime, of which the rich can become the victims. I agree with trying to find ways to make all agencies run efficiently–but I have to wonder what would get labeled as “inefficient”. Would services for the poor be axed as “inefficient”?

2. Obviously, the flowery language for Hillary is a tactic to get her supporters. If HRC were her opponent, the mud would be flying.

3. I haven’t really read much about the book banning thing, so I won’t comment on it.

4. Ditto for Troopergate.

5. Her answer to the question of abortion was very interesting to me in that she talked about it being a “woman’s choice”. While she didn’t explicitly say that she would work to overturn Roe v. Wade by talking in terms of her “personal opinion”, I have to take the evasion to mean that she doesn’t believe a woman should be able to choose to have an abortion. While I do think that in cases outside of rape, incest, and danger to the mother, it would be good to have recourse to something other than abortion, ultimately, that some women choose to have them doesn’t mean I have to. Their choice does not affect anyone but themselves and immediate family. Palin also talked about promoting a “culture of life”. I found this ironic given that she supports guns, whose purpose is to kill, injure, and at the very least, frighten.

6. Speaking of guns, I found it very interesting to think about how guns are a part of one’s local “culture”. It may well be that when Alaskans hear the word “gun”, they think of hunting and of sport, not of crime and accidental deaths, which is what I think about as a member of Detroit’s culture. So how can we craft laws to reconcile these local differences? Honestly, I don’t think we can. And while I do agree that restricting semi-automatic weapons won’t stop criminals from acquiring and using them, I think we need to answer this question: would stricter laws at least cause an appreciable decrease in gun violence? I think that they would, because I think that right now anybody can go out and get a gun by some means or other, whereas stricter laws might be just enough to make it too much of a hassle for the average, petty thug to deal with.

7. I think Palin avoided the deeper meaning in answering the question about how she felt about homosexuality. It’s all well and good that she doesn’t judge and doesn’t know whether it’s a choice or a biological thing, but when issues like gay marriage come up, you can’t just say those things and make the question go away. The point of evading questions is deceiving voters.

8. I found it interesting that Palin talks about making government efficient in order to save money and make government smaller, but didn’t say anything about dealing with the energy crunch by becoming more efficient in how we use energy. She says she’s stood up to big oil, that she and McCain are mavericks, that you can look to the GOP for change, yet their main strategy in the oil crisis is to bring in more oil. That’s not change! Change would be demanding that the Big Three hurry up and make all their vehicles more fuel efficient. It would be putting a priority on new energy technologies, not the same old systems that got us into this mess in the first place. Remember, this is not the first oil crisis the US has faced.

9. Lastly, stem cell research. This argument about it being wrong to create an embryo then destroy it doesn’t hold water if she isn’t going to also oppose all in-vitro fertilization. The embryos that would be used in stem cell research are those that are created for in-vitro as extras, or as a ‘margin of error’, so to speak. Those that aren’t implanted into the client get destroyed regardless of whether their stem cells are used or not. So, without being against in-vitro, being against embryonic stem cell research is hypocritical.

Well, that’s it for me. What were your reactions, O World?

Final Fantasy concerts return to Michigan!

In late July of 2005, I got to go to what has so far been the most exhilarating concert I’ve been to (as a member of the audience): Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy. Hearing this music that I’ve come to love as the soundtrack of many hours of virtual adventures played live, by the grand Detroit Symphony Orchestra, in beautiful Orchestra Hall, was incredible. When they played One-Winged Angel as an encore, and the audience finally lost the restraint it had been exhibiting and started wooing and clapping fiercely, man! Brings a tear to me eye and a smile to me soul!

July of 2006 brought PLAY! A Video Game Symphony to Detroit. I didn’t enjoy it as much because it included music from some games I’m not really familiar with, and since the audience consisted of many different fandoms the feeling in the seats wasn’t as electric. Indeed, I recall someone scoffing at one of the selections from Final Fantasy. On the other hand, three composers–Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts II), Hitoshi Sakimoto (Stella Deus), and Michael Salvatori (HALO)–came to Detroit and some fans got to meet them, and it was hilarious to hear the DSO play the Super Mario Bros. Medley.

After those two, there’d been a drought of video game concerts in Michigan, and I began to give up on the hope of ever seeing another FF concert, much less one for Michiru Yamane’s work from Castlevania (cross your fingers with me, please!). But finally, there’s news of a new concert series! Currently, the only Michigan performance is slated for April, 2009.

The new FF themed concert series is called Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy. So far the set list doesn’t look much different from that of Dear Friends, but I’d go see it anyway…if it were a bit less far away. Alas, so far the only Michigan performance is all the way out in Grand Rapids. And–get this–Mr. Nobuo Uematsu himself will be there! Those lucky Grand Rapidian bastards! So far only the Grand Rapids and Denver stops are confirmed future performances, and I have hope that a Detroit stop will be added. After all, the tickets will be a guaranteed sell, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is all that and a bag of cellos!

You can find the series’ official site here.

“That struts and frets his hour upon the stage…”

Oh, Kwame! After these tense few months, Detroit’s Mayor Kwame Kipatrick pled guilty to two felonies, causing an automatic resignation. It will take effect September 18.

The main thing I felt as I watched him deliver his Resignation Speech was disappointment. For outsiders, it’s easy to just label Kwame a criminal who had to GO. Don’t get me wrong, I also wanted him to resign after he completely left himself without redemption by making idiotic mistakes. But a lot of the people who really abhor him aren’t even from Detroit proper, such as the people that booed him at the victory parade for the Red Wings. For the sake of trying to get others to understand the gray area this, like all else in life falls in to, allow me to once again, build an image in your mind.

The man who preceded Kwame was Mayor Dennis Archer. He had many good initiatives, such as Angels’ Night, which significantly reduced the Halloween arson practice of “Devils’ Night”, and continues to be successful each year. Despite this and other achievements, he did something many Detroiters, including myself (I was only in high school then, so forgive me if some of the details are missing), found unforgivable: handing control of the Detroit Public Schools away from the local School Board, over to then Governor John Engler. The Schools had problems, indeed they still do, but handing over local control to that man in Lansing was certainly not the answer. If I’m not mistaken, the recall campaign against Archer was instigated by this traitorous action. The stage was set for a man like Kwame Kilpatrick.

The first time I’d really heard of Kwame was at my high school graduation in 2001. He was the keynote speaker, launching his bid for Mayor. He was then (and still is) an engaging, electrifying speaker, something the overwhelming majority of politicians weren’t (and still aren’t). A native son, graduate of my same high school, I had so much hope for this man. I thought he could come and fix things because after all, he was from this City, he was OF this City. I thought he understood us. Even though I couldn’t vote at the time, if I could’ve, I would’ve voted for him. Even after the Navigator and Manoogian Mansion Party scandals of his first term, I thought he’d be a better choice for Mayor than Freeman Hendrix in 2005. When Kwame won reelection, I was happy. But then…

Then we got the whistle-blower scandal, allegations that he was connected to the murder of Tamara Green, then the steamy text messages…Honestly I could care less that he’d had an affair. That’s between him and his wife. But that cops were fired to cover it up? That’s inexcusable. Things got worse when he was charged with all those felonies. Our Mayor on a tether? What a terrible example for the young people! Then he violates the terms of his bond and shoves a deputy. I honestly couldn’t believe that he could be that stupid. I thought to myself, ‘The Republican Party must’ve paid him off to act a fool to discredit black leaders’, I just couldn’t believe the depths of these mistakes. I was aghast.

So after all this, he finally pled guilty to Obstruction of Justice yesterday, and announced his resignation. Like I said I was very disappointed that this person who I had so much hope for had gone down so disgracefully. What’s worse, in his address he vowed to come back. The terms of the plea deal prevent him from seeking office for 5 years. I wouldn’t vote for him if he did try to run for office again, but I think the mixed feelings about him and the good things he did do for the City would honestly, give him a chance. I also thought it was not a good idea to take that cheap shot at Governor Jennifer Granholm. He implied she and others were harassing him for the sake of their own personal agendas when they should have been focusing on the State’s myriad problems. While I agree that if we were to triage the issues of home foreclosures, unemployment, homelessness, and the Mayoral scandals, the last item is not the most pressing. But it was the only one that could be solved quickly by putting him to trial for his crimes.

So, now all the talk is of “healing the City”. Council Member Kwame Kenyatta will be having a rally for such a purpose on Saturday, September 6th at the Coleman Young Municipal Center. All this talk of healing, and Detroit’s longtime theme of Rebirth (see my previous post), put me in a somber mood (ironically enough); hence the quote from Macbeth. Every now and then it’s okay to feel like all comes to nothing. *苦笑*