A WRITER APPROACHED ME, WITH AN INTERESTING PROPOSAL. Hmmm. Perhaps I could describe him as a “blogger,” or…a friend. Whatever words I choose, the point is—years had passed since last we spoke. And many projects since undertaken. And very little conversation between us.
Not to be overly dramatic. After all, there was no need for conversation. We didn’t do any hanging out. We were not in each other’s city, or even country. We were two known names in our niche, when we met three or four years ago. I suppose that was the only common link. Aside from that we both are of Mexican descent and by nature, stand up and try to help in some way, or just to spit fire for la comunidad—as various and varying as that community may be!
We found each other—or he found me—because, truth is, there really aren’t a lot of writers either swinging the verbal blade or staying alert in the flower-made shade…in the name of Raza. » Jump the border and read on «
WE BEGIN, but do not end, with the sensational incident where the Obama White House, under Trumpian pressure, produced for public inspection the President’s “long form” birth certificate.
I do not know how successful I will be in my attempts to navigate the journey, but I think it’s important to move from an immediate feeling of hurt or anger to a broader view of the very thing that moves behind this event and is so upsetting about it. This is what I will try to do.
Why can’t we roam this open country?
Oh, why can’t we be what we wanna be?
We want to be free.
–Bob Marley, 3 o’Clock Roadblock
What a frenzy.
What a storm of feelings, thoughts, tweets, and emotions were exploded into view with that one event, where the President of the United States of America—a man of color—answered the insincere jeering of a single white citizen by producing his identity papers for inspection. As if our duly elected President was but a teen at a police checkpoint, wearing baggy pants and with his hands up against the hood. As if he were a young man standing on a corner looking Mexicano, immediately suspect and thus beholden to the law man to prove he was not up to criminal acts. What a shaking of the timbers of racial history were felt up and down the blogosphere in this one simple happening.
And rightly so. What a harsh reality we trade in; that it will take far more time than our grandparents’, parents’, or our own lifetimes to evolve past the sickly, sadistic, inhuman history we Americans share on matters of race. In matters of history—look to Mexico, or China, or Egypt—this country is in an infantile stage. And the things that were done to African Americans, and Indians (indigenous peoples from el Norte as well as from south of the “border”); to Chinese and Japanese and Chileans and so on…. these ghosts will not fade fast.
Donald Trump is one of those ghosts, his ailing caricature of a human form cavorting to and fro, swaying recklessly but cleverly. Almost as if animated by an actual soul, he bellows nearly-intelligible sounds, and the media flocks to absorb the spittle. His expression remains forever puckered like a lemon-shocked anus-mouth, his mind alight with tired stereotypes and bursts of fart-static. A clown who doesn’t have the decency to laugh at himself.
And Donald is so easy to hate, isn’t he? Because he is a hateful man. And because he enlists the powers of hate, hate long rooted in American soil. Hate that long ago drew blood and tossed ropes and smiled for the picture as the body cooled to a dusk-like temperature. Hate that raided Native American villages to murder sleeping children. Hate that buffed its boots before demanding that black men duck their eyes, and go drink from some other fountain. Hate that considers women, and Blacks and Cubans and Haitians and Iraqis and Afghanis and Mexican and Chinese and Vietnamese and Puerto Rican as less than human. Hate today that spends Joe Arpaio’s paycheck, props up his decaying frame, and parades his prisoners in pink. Hate yesterday that reneged on treaties, and swallowed up gold, and burned codices. » Jump the border and read on «
AND SO IT FALLS ON US here at UMX—as well as at other blogs and independent news sites—to spread the word; to remember the name and smile of Brisenia Flores; to make clear that this killing is no isolated event perpetrated by a couple “crazies,” but is woven tightly to the anti-Mexican/anti-immigrant/anti-Latin@ sentiment that festers in so many layers of popular US culture.
From the fearful, punitive talk about immigrants espoused by Republican and Democratic politicians alike, to the video games that posit Mexicans as criminal invaders, to the movies that only present Latinos as gangbangers or cocaine kingpins or street thieves or knife wielding degenerates, to the movements in states like Arizona to wipe out Chican@ culture and history and aim to have us living in fear, to the judicial brutality and disproportionate police punishments meted out to the brownskinned, signals are continually broadcast to the public at large that mark us as less than human and offer us as viable targets for derision, fear, and violence.
Uncovering that—clearly—is far too big a story for any station today to break.
This episode of News With Nezua throws a pointed jeer at the contortions these mainstream news sites must adopt in order to justify turning away from this particular story and stories like this.
IT’S HARD TO KNOW WHAT TO SAY anymore on Arizona. The pus-ridden boil on the back of the USA’s purported ideals of justice for all. The exploded sore that reveals the ugly fragments and fibers of truth that typically weave so skillfully behind all our polite society lies.
Some say just as well; let this fight be on. It has always been here, skulking. And then sometimes, we fear what that fight will bring. Do we really want to see things go down this way? Can this not, finally, be avoided?
Pundits, bloggers, thinkers, people reach here and there, fix on this or that aspect, comment on what we can. But mostly, we watch in slow motion as reason and kindness crumble and a gross, vile, vindictive, dishonest, persecutory agenda dusts off its bone-spurred wings and launches into the Arizona sky. Who will bring this beast to bay? What cost by then?
And do we now see a sad mutation of our once-beautiful América? Or do the scales fall from our eyes to reveal the true, gleeful, unabashed visage of the monster we’ve been riding so many years, so high over these here crimson waves of grain?
NAM EthnoBlog, by Sandip Roy, Jun 14, 2010
Where is Nina Simone when you need her? Arizona needs her.
First there was Sheriff Joe Arpaio, shackling the undocumented, and marching them to camps down the baking streets of Phoenix.
Then came SB 1070 which requires the police to stop anyone who “looks” like they might be illegal and demand papers.
Then came word that ethnic studies programs were being targeted for being divisive. HB 2281 banned classes for particular ethnic groups or any courses that promoted ethnic solidarity instead of treating people as individuals.
If that wasn’t enough teachers with heavy accents were singled out. The Department of Education wants to reassign teachers whose accents are too heavy. The goal, apparently is to make sure there are no teachers with “faulty English” in Arizona. Let’s hope former President George W. Bush never goes looking for a teaching job in that state.
And now Sen. Russell Pearce, the man behind SB 1070 is revealing his true aim – the Fourteenth Amendment. A story in Time Magazine says buoyed by poll numbers for his illegal immigration crackdown Pearce wants to deny birth certificates to children born in Arizona of parents are here illegally.
Pearce says democracy supports him – 58% of Americans polled by Rasmussen think that children of illegal immigrants should not receive citizenship.
Friends say is the Grand Canyon state going off the deep end?
When four young black girls were killed in the Baptist church bombing in 1963, the story goes Nina Simone locked herself in her room and said she wanted to build her own gun.
In her book I Got Thunder – Lashonda Barnett who interviewed Simone, says her then husband dissuaded Simone telling her “Music is your weapon.” Four hours later she emerged with Mississippi Goddamn.
No church has been bombed in Arizona. And Gov. Jan Brewer assures the public that SB 1070 will be implemented without racial profiling. How? Don’t worry everyone is getting training. Hopefully. That will make former Arizona Governor Raul Castro, a Mexican American, relieved. He has been picked up by the police when he was a superior court judge and asked for his papers. He didn’t have them on him and they almost took him into custody. What he was doing was that most suspicious of activities, the “illegal dead giveaway” – painting a fence. (Oh, Tom Sawyer, where are you now?)
Constitutional experts say that if Arizona really goes after “anchor babies”, the courts will quickly strike it down.
But that’s not the point. The point is, Arizona will have moved the needle so far to the extreme on the issue of immigration SB1070 will start looking fair and balanced. Activists and politicians will think they have scored a victory because they beat back the attack on the Fourteenth Amendment, while SB 1070 remains in place.
Already in post-SB 1070 days, you hear less about all those other agreements already existing between sheriffs departments and ICE, where sheriff deputies can act as ICE agents. At least they are just checking once they pick up someone for some crime, we think, they aren’t just demanding papers because you look illegal.
It’s just like how John Ashcroft suddenly became a portrayed as a brave hospital-bed defender of our civil liberties, once Antonio Gonzalez came on Attorney General the scene.
As Arizona turns up the heat, pushing the rhetoric to even more ludicrous heights, SB 1070 will start sounding more mainstream.
Can’t you see it
Can’t you feel it
It’s all in the air
Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong there
I’ve even stopped believing in prayer
RECENTLY, I wrote about Arizona tipping its hand as to what its cultural and legal agenda is about—and it ain’t making sure people have VISAs or green cards. It’s about minimizing if not wholly eradicating the power and presence and legacy of the people and culture of Mexico—a legacy and culture that are integral elements of Arizona. Arizona’s flurry of laws over time (not just the last month) spell this agenda out pretty clearly.
Recently I wrote to a list-serv what these moves conjure up in my mind…a deranged soul clawing at their own face, trying to tear away the mask that obscures their purity…all the while not seeing that they are destroying themselves in the process. Arizona separated from Mexican culture and people is…nothing but a hot spread of sand treaded by delusional white power-grabbers. A haunted land, indeed.
Firstly, we really have to pause to appreciate the snug fit of the White Lens that clouds out the big picture so vehemently and with an assumed air of righteousness that is born of nothing more than a slurry-slush of ignorance, violence, and fear. We simply MUST giggle a bit at the notion of white lawmakers being outraged that Latinos dare to think “the white man is oppressing them” and then, to prove how wrong we are…those white lawmakers summarily outlaw us from telling our histories.
[slider] (Note: Montenegro is Hispanic, but is indeed the face that provides cover for these types of laws. African American communities have names for their own parallel members who act in such ways—after all, Mister Montenegro is an immigrant, himself (from El Salvador). But I won’t call the man names here and now. I’ll show you his record, instead. It includes sponsoring HB 2354, which makes holding SS cards with invented numbers that match real numbers a felony even if the holder is unaware (I think the Supreme Court struck down this type of “identity theft” category recently, however); SCR 1027, which defunded ACORN; HB 2406 which allows people to bring concealed weapons into a bar; and HB 2383 which enables the governor to mobilize the National Guard at the southern border to ward off what s/he decides is an unacceptable amount of “unauthorized crossings.”
Montenegro is not popular among his Latino peers, and has recently been called “an immigrant that voted for the worse anti-immigration bill in the history of the United States.”)[/slider]
Wow! That’ll teach you to think you’re being singled out as a group and oppressed!
Tom Horne is happy!
If such a contradiction escapes their reasoning, their is no intellectual meat to be had in that stew.
Montenegro—who admits the target is Chicano Studies specifically—and others, are putting the legal torch to the spinning of time-honored stories. This is what conquerors do when they fear the people maintaining their own legacy, their own gods, their own allegiances, and patching up, decorating, and honoring the fabric that has kept them together and which threatens to dull the blade of the new reign. Yup, even in a land of Free Speech™.
There are few extant Aztec codices created before the conquest and these are largely ritual texts. Post-conquest codices, like Codex Mendoza or Codex Ríos, were painted by Aztec tlacuilos (codex creators), but under the control of Spanish authorities. The possibility of Spanish influence poses potential problems for those studying the post-conquest codices. Itzcoatl had the oldest hieroglyphics destroyed for political-religious reasons and Bishop Zumarraga of Mexico (1528–48) had all available texts burned for missionary reasons.
Joe Arpaio, a big respecter of other races and classes of people
But I guess this current attempt to quash the teachings of those descended from the indigenous of the continent is easy to understand.
The heavy and incessant indoctrination of White Ethnic Studies is, truth be told, still not very strong. Even while taught in every school in the nation while simultaneously reinforced on our televisions and movie screens, the illusion of white and European supremacy over all things indigenous or otherwise Brown™ is a fragile one and must be protected from even the challenge of one single schoolroom; is under dire threat from the possession of even one book that argues to the contrary.
Montenegro (R-Ariz) feels that banning Mexican American studies is righteous, because “[p]arents send their children, students, to public schools to learn reading, writing and arithmetic skills, not to be taught to, you know, hate or have resentment toward other races, not to be taught that they are victims or educated to be victims.”
Which of course is what Arizona authorities like Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer are all about! Not resenting or hating other races or classes of people.
Dios mio. The depth of their delusion is impressive.
Jan Brewer Signs SB 1070
But do parents send their children to school to be taught to view foreign invaders and greed-inspired killers from another continent (Europeans of yesteryear) as benign “settlers”? Do all parents of all color and background pay taxes so that the public school can teach us lies about our own backgrounds and beginnings? Or separate our history from how it affects today’s reality?
Montenegro would say yes. Montenegro would say just as Dubya is a hero and savior of America, so was the greedy President James Polk. And yet we pay taxes so our kids can learn those “truths.”
Montenegro would prefer that people of color are the ones with self-loathing in our bellies. Anything that avoids the old white folks feeling any discomfort in their own!
Montenegro and Brewer, no doubt, would prefer us not to learn about and apply the lessons from our nation’s living through the Chinese Exclusion Act; the raping and killing of indigenous families justified by divine white right; the endless exploitation of Mexican labor, the dehumanization and continued oppression of our black brothers and sisters, or how the legal burning of books that tell our tales in Arizona today are but an extension of the Spanish conquistadores torching the idols and codices of the Maya. Most of all, those connections to today must be severed.
Above all, oppressors need you to have no memory, no books, no lessons, no language—no power.
Make no mistake—those who aren’t in the position to know different—this tripe offered by Montegnegro to justify this law is not about what is said in Chicano Studies classes. It’s not about anyone being told to “kill the white man” as Montenegro ridiculously asserts. (What is this, 1969?) We need no new law to prevent lessons about professors advocating murder. I’m pretttttty sure the standing laws cover that!
These claims on what is going on behind sneaky Chican@ doors are but projections of white fear. And it’s that white fear that is powering these moves; moves to prevent us from being self-educated, to stop us from being Uppity. These moves are about us daring to think we can rearrange or even simply augment the many lied-up lessons that are ubiquitous in US nationalistic messaging.
I mean, one thing we can be sure of is that Arizona’s new law is not about avoiding positive depictions or messaging about violent overthrow (as they claim). After all, our very first lessons on US patriotism revere terrorism! They celebrate a violence completely unrelated to Mexicans. What else was the Boston Tea Party? What message is sent there but that violent overthrow of the standing government is, or at least can be, righteous!
Yup. This is taught and nobody flinches. Those merry bands of brothers are “patriots,” like the violent “patriots” of today: Joe Stack. Oathkeepers. Tim McVeigh. Those white boys all learned their lessons well. And even the MSM of today vibes with them, understanding that the True Enemy is always darker in hue, despite the acts or ideology eschewed.
People of color have to sit in school for years upon years and hear a carefully arranged platter of propaganda that is designed to disempower us, confuse us, derail our strength, confuse our arc, and once we are grown, befuddle our children. This is today’s schooling, this is today’s White Ethnic Studies that dominate the land and the mind. People of color have to sit through countless movies where our people are painted as fools, criminals, the rot of society, the dregs of US culture, the despoilers, the thieves, the ruiners, the background to all your shining glorious heroic and imaginative deeds. This is today’s widespread White Ethnic Studies assault upon our minds and hearts and souls.
Rituals and Roles. Bodies and Souls. Possession or Negation, your choice. Their goal.
But Arizona, in its anti-brown panic, fumbles again.
Nobody need teach anyone to be “a victim.” That’s not what we do! Poor confused minds.
No. All that needs be told is the truth. After all, reality tends to have a radical bias. And all that needs be told about yesterday (as well as today) is the truth of goldthirst. The truth of divinely-rationalized mass murder. The holocaust of the indigenous. Legal papers that pretend to justify unwarranted invasion. Lessons about theft. Lessons about imperialism. Instances—like today—of attempted culture-murder. After all, Montenegro, you hardly prove such charges false! You actually reinforce those lessons and make our point for us.
Further, we do not need your school to tell our tales. Look at me. I never took a single Chicano Studies class. No, what I know has been passed down in my family or gleaned by me from reading books and knowing other Xican@s. This is what we do, you do know that? And here I am today, still telling our stories.
And we have been telling our stories from before the first stone was set in Tenochtitlán. We will tell them long after you are dead and gone, Montenegro. Brewer. Arpaio. You age and in your age, you fear.
We, on the other hand are only growing in number and political power. And we are hardly simply dishwashers, gardeners, and meatpackers. We are poets. We are teachers. We are artists. We are journalists. We are taxpayers. We are drivers. We are software designers. We are tech entrepreneurs. We are musicians. We are actors. We are legislators.
And have many, many young ones. And more each day. You can fear…but that is an imposition you insist on. We are not here to fear or cause fear. Only to say, no, you won’t shove us backward on this last tiny piece of dirt. No, you won’t make us eat your sugared, high-priced dirt. To say, yes, you can try. And you will try, you’ll try.
But like piñata confetti, or the sand on temple stone, we rise.
Though, apparently, you don’t need to be Xican@ to access a larger picture on these issues:
Short of an all-out fascist state, the flow of Latinos into the country will not ebb. And frankly, I’m not sure what we expected, given decades of imperialism and interference throughout Central and South America. We crushed regional social movements and turned vast areas into low-wage zones for global capital, a bi-partisan production of our ruling parties. Turn the region into an economic basket-case, create conditions that fuel the drug trade (while supplying countless consumers north of the border), and you better fucking believe that people are going to migrate, “legality” be damned.
But then, our invasions of their native turf are not seen as a problem. As with so much else, we tend to rail against the ends while overlooking or justifying the means. […]
In a sense, we’re all migrants renting our daily lives from private power. To them, we’re no more citizens than those crossing the southern border. I don’t know what Arizona thinks it’s protecting, but it sure as hell isn’t democracy. You needn’t wander the desert to see that.
SURPRISE, a cop is caught beating a Mexicano who lies on the ground while shouting slurs at him.
Obviously, the cop is racist. Worse, he is a fifteen year veteran on the force. This is not the first time he has done this. Were it not for the ubiquity of video in the hands of everyday citizens, these incidents would still be happening without witnesses or being reported.
The anchor on the television clip at FOX doesn’t play the police officer’s entire statement, so I don’t know if he apologizes to the innocent victim of his hateful brutality directly. Which is weird, but then again, not. I hear him express regret at bringing dishonor to the force, embarrassing his colleagues, and acting not in a “professional manner” before he finally gets around to apologizing to the Latino Community because he says he knows his “words cut deep.”
What??? Your words? Ay. Save your tears, dude. Sheesh. You and Glenn Beck.
The anchors say Officer Racista was responding to a tip called in where a man claimed four Mexicans with a machete robbed him. I say anonymous tipsters work hand in hand with William Gheen and FAIR and CIS and NumbersUSA and Stormfront and random teenagers in Long Island and Arizona and New York and California and Patchogue and Russell Pearce and Joe Arpaio and random gurgling cesspits of latent police racism—maybe without knowing it, all tapped into the same dank vein, the same gross vibe, all wanting to eradicate my people and our legacy on this continent, all handmaidens in the long war on the indigenous.
I note it here so I have a post to link to later when I speak (once again) about how the law in this land, and the prison system in this land are arms that work together with many other factors to bring sanctioned destruction on gente.
Mala at VivirLatino offers an important political reminder that many of us constantly have to remind DC folk:
The point is that laws like SB1070 and the current Comprehensive Immigration Reform framework put out there by Senator biometric Chuck Schumer works from the default position that immigrants, painted broadly as Latinos, painted broadly as Mexicans are criminals. It works from the framework that we need to prove ourselves worthy of humane treatment via speaking proper English, paying fines disguised as taxes, getting to the back of the line. Resistance to this, asking for legalization and/or basic human rights is seen as ungrateful and as an unwillingness to play the political game we asked to swallow in the name of political efficiency.
I am happy to see the boycotts and the civil disobedience in response to SB1070 just as I am happy to stand on a corner of my hood with my hija just talking to my vecinos about what this means for ALL of us. Pero I am bothered by the treatment of what happened to this man in Seattle, the disrespect towards the lives of our hermanos andhijas, and the accolades paid to Democrats for moving forward on a CIR plan that takes its lead from Arpaio. I am bothered that too many being credited with leading the movement talk about all of these things as if they are separate. As if one monster isn’t feeding the others and are all being led by the same master.
Kai Wright at Racewire agrees, and points out who bankrolls that monster as well as where the slime trail leads:
The officer’s obnoxious language can easily overshadow a deeper concern the video betrays: a casual and capricious use of police violence when confronting “gang” suspects. The fact that the offending officers are from a special gang unit is significant; the presumably elite special forces that federal dollars have supported in police departments around the country have long been criticized as acting with too little oversight as they militarize communities of color. As I’ve written previously, incidents like these exist along a spectrum of police violence that ends with the high-profile suspect-shootings that draw national outrage.
It’s horrible. And it’s the reality on the ground. Every day and for years. Any bets on the verdict of any investigation launched to determine his guilt?
the feedback loop of positive resistance and support
This is what needs to be understood by anyone warning me off of linking to (admittedly reactionary) trailers like Machete. Or the tone of my writing. This is what needs to be understood by online typists who muse that the Arizona Boycott will “surely backfire.” Cuéntame, in our interview a couple months ago, even asked me (among many other questions) if I thought I was making things worse with my strong stances! O, Cuéntame. I hardly knew ye. (But welcome to Facebook.) Only if you consider years of email responses from raza (and others) thanking me for stirring their fires and helping keep them going “making things worse.” Look, people. Indian-killing sentiment and brutality ain’t new! I call it the Long War for a reason. And guess what? It won’t get better by those being targeted and hunted stooping even lower and being even quieter. It will end when you stop asking those standing up to shhhhhh and start opening your mouth and standing with us. And loudly.
This is why black and brown and gold and red unite in so many cases to push back on white supremacy and racist currents and actions in our society. I welcome as many gente to join us as want to. We already understand what is at stake, and how long it has been at stake. We understand this danger. We all know it always awaits. We all know the law forgives the violence in this direction. We know the TV stations don’t care much about violence in this direction. We know how it all ties together, in law, legislation, and media saturation. We know we are stronger standing together.
I might as well add that I don’t like the “we lined the border with all our crummiest states” joke and the noticeable roar of laughter that follows. It’s too easy for his audience to respond warmly to a comment that instead of bolstering up human rights or highlighting racism, instead practices the same old slurs AGAINST Mexicans. Because…why are all the border states the “crummiest” ones, eh? Right.
Anyway! Aside from that one sour moment, I found this a much needed relief. Thanks to mis amigas over at VivirLatino for the link.
ALEX SANCHEZ, the vato who does such good work at Homies Unidos has been freed from jail after he was scooped up by authorities for a wiretapped phone call which improperly placed him behind bars. This is very good to see, as he is such an example of someone doing good for the community, especially on a level so needed, fighting back against the vacuum tractor beam of crime and gangs that scoop up so many young gente. Above is a beautiful little (exclusive) video from Cuéntame.
YO SOY JOAQUIN is a poem that means a whole lot to a lot of gente, and I am one of them. My father gave me the book in my late teens, and honestly, I didn’t look hard at it for another fifteen years or so. But when I needed it, it was there. Corky Gonzales‘ words were there for me when I reached for the strength I’d need to crawl out from under the cloak of shame that mainstream US culture reserves for the Mexicano, and embrace my proud, indian roots; my winding and intertangled—if not sometimes troubled—Mestizo roots; my enduring and strong Mexican roots. Señor Gonzales reminded us we are not historical drug dealers, knife-wielders, or dish-washers…and even when we are, we are something else, too. We belong to a legacy, we are tied to this land, we are descended from fierce warriors, and Indian kings, and beautiful culture and traditions that cannot be washed or stolen away by the dominant culture. We are something new, a combination of those things, and the unknown New that we forge here in an often-hostile environment.
Very empowering and proud ideas for the Indian still hunted on the land his ancestors once called home, a land he/her and his/her kin still call home. A land strewn with tangled paths, that disconnected from that understanding, can lead one to wander too far, and become lost.
Yo Soy Joaquín is un grito of solidarity and collective self-love and when it was brought forth in the late 60s, Chicanos gathered around this and waved it forth like a shining banner. My old man explained the impact of Corky’s poem like this:
“Here, finally, was our collective song, and it arrived like thunder crashing down from the heavens. Every little barrio newspaper from Albuquerque to Berkeley published it. People slapped mimeographed copies up on walls and telephone poles.”
—Juan Felipe Herrera
And not just on telephone poles! When I was born before the decade flipped, Jefito named me after this very poem. This is one small way that my fate and purposes and awareness were sown long before I knew that to be the case.
But one day in 2005, I walked up a hill with my back straight and with the light of ten suns in my eyes because I could carry a feeling of self-love and self-respect and a belonging to something much more beautiful and larger than myself…and it was the day I opened up this poem again and really took my time with it. Shortly after, I began this blog.
So thank you, Mister Gonzales. Once again.
On Friday, March 19th at the Denver, Colorado Auraria Campus Gym, there will be a symposium held to honor Señor Gonzales and his work. To register and find out more, call (303) 964-8993 or email email@example.com.
MANY WORDS HAVE DESERVEDLY BEEN SPOKEN and written to mark the passing of historian, thinker and activist Howard Zinn. The passing of Luis Leal, who died in his sleep at 102 years old on January 10 in Santa Barbara, Califas, has not been punctuated by the same volume of tribute, but no less a warm one rises from many in the Chican@ community. After all, “Don” Luis Leal was a man who contributed to much awareness, self-empowerment and truth in nuestra comunidad.
On the same day Charles Lindbergh completed his historic crossing of the Atlantic Ocean—May 21, 1927—Luis Leal stepped off the train at Union Station in Chicago. As with Lindbergh, this Mexican native would become known as a pioneer in his field. Professor Leal helped develop the study of Latin American literature and is considered one of the founders of the field of Chicano/Chicana (Mexican American) literary studies.
His extensive works include books, bibliographies, anthologies, and hundreds of journal and newspaper articles and essays, published for both U.S. and Latin American audiences. Much of Leal’s works put Mexican, Chicano, and Latino literature and writers in historical context. They reflect his view that research is part of a dialogue on how to advance community or social issues. Affectionately called Don Luis, Leal also helped develop scholarship by working with students who wrote the first dissertations on world-renown Mexican and Chicano writers.
Attached is a poem called Águila y Sol (Eagle and Sun) written by another icon in the community, Francisco X. Alarcón. Francisco wrote this for Luis Leal, and he sent it along the other day to a list of Chicano academics, artists, and activists from whom my father is soliciting works with which to prepare (with the help of Francisco Lomelí) a tribute for the departed Señor Leal. A “poema imposible” as jefito put it, to have for the memorial in Santa Barbara next week (Feb 1).
Salúd, Don Luis! You helped us learn about ourselves and uncover history; history important to our people. You helped us feel the effort was worthy, and helped many others to see the same about our many contributions and legacies. Your energy and love para la gente live on in the shape of so many more streams of energy and awareness. Gracias.
Poet Juan Felipe Herrera has received nationwide attention for his recent collection of poems, which was published by the University of Arizona Press.
Herrera won an International Latino Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award.
Praised by the New York Times as “wildly inventive,” he earned a spot on the 2008 New York Times Notable Book list.
And, now, Herreras has been named the winner of the 2009 PEN/Beyond Margins Award for his collection, “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems,” which was published last year by the UA Press.
Crystal Dillman, the fiancee of Luis Ramirez, is moved to tears as members of Latina show their support for the couple outside the Schuylkill County Courthouse, in Pottsville, Pa. , Monday, Aug. 18, 2008. A preliminary hearing was held for three suspects charged in the beating death of Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant who was severely beaten on July 12, in Shenandoah, Pa. Foto from RBB.
…BUT JUSTICE MAY TURN THEM OUT.
In July of 2008, Luis Ramirez was kicked to death in the street until he died by a group of whites who had been out drinking all night. Their screams and slurs while they beat him into the concrete made clear why they did what they did. Nobody was in doubt, and that’s the kind of town it is. A town where even the police collude to hide the murder of Mexicans, because it might besmirch the reputations of high school football stars if people knew they were cold blooded murderers. A town where the all-white jury finds the killers guilty of nothing more than aggravated assault.
But today we see a little justice.
Washington (CNN) — Five people, including three police officers, have been indicted in the fatal race-related beating of a Latino man in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the Justice Department said Tuesday. …
In June, an all-white Pennsylvania jury convicted Donchak and Piekarsky, then 19 and 17, of misdemeanor simple assault in Ramirez’s death and acquitted them of felony counts including aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and hindering apprehension. The two were sentenced to up to 23 months in the county jail. The incident divided the small, rural mining town of Shenandoah into camps for and against the youths and became a flash point for racial tensions nationwide.
Jurors found Piekarsky not guilty of third-degree murder. Prosecutors alleged he delivered a fatal kick to Ramirez’s head after Ramirez was knocked to the ground in the alcohol-fueled brawl on a residential Shenandoah street.
After the verdict, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recommending the Justice Department pursue civil rights charges.
“The evidence suggests that Mr. Ramirez was targeted, beaten and killed because he was Mexican,” Rendell wrote. “Such lawlessness and violence hurts not only the victim of the attack, but also our towns and communities that are torn apart by such bigotry and intolerance.”
A federal grand jury returned an indictment last week that charged Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Officer Jason Hayes with conspiring to obstruct justice during the federal probe of Ramirez’s beating. The indictment, unsealed today, also charges Moyer with witness and evidence tampering, and with lying to the FBI. If convicted, the officers face 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges, plus five years for conspiring to obstruct justice. Moyer also faces five years for making false statements to the FBI.
In a second indictment, Piekarsky and Donchak are charged with a federal hate crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Donchak also is charged in three additional counts with conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses. Each of the conspiracy charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, while the other offenses each bring a five-year maximum sentence.
The murder of Luis Ramirez was the first to be nationally spotlighted by many human rights groups as an example of the violence that a burgeoning anti-immigrant movement has produced.
IN THIS WEEK’S News With Nezua, I touch on Mexican president Felipe Calderón’s latest move of cutting off half a million peoples’ power (and thus their wells and water) due to the municipality being delinquent on bills. This story winds down deep into the fabric of Mexican politics and power struggles.
Pobre México is fighting to stay solvent, as the economic downturn of course, has a passport, and crosses the border all day, both ways. And with FeCal at the helm, well. His idea of change was an onslaught of failed drug war (an estimated 16,500 corpses stacked up at FeCal’s door now) that the USA is still helping to fund via the Mérida Initiative that Bush brokered. Ugh.
Pobre México. Tan lejos de dios, y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos.
Here is, at first glance, a fleeting fragment of news from October, wherein FeCal opted not to close Luz y Fuerza, México’s second-largest power utility.
“Mexico decided it won’t create a new state power company to replace Luz y Fuerza del Centro, the Energy Ministry said. … President Felipe Calderon ordered on Oct. 11 the liquidation of Luz y Fuerza, the nation’s second-largest power supplier, firing more than 40,000 electricity workers. The decree was because the company’s finances were “unsustainable” amid mounting losses, he said.”
The thing is, in the US when we read news in English language on typical US news sites (like above) we almost always get FeCal’s desired spin, or I should say the government’s point of view only. And FeCal and his crew are not El Voz de la Gente, bleeve that.
Note that in this article, it claims FeCal was going to close Luz y Fuerza for rather dry reasons. “Unsustainable” and all that. Sure. Just fire FORTY THOUSAND WORKERS, another day in the life, move along. There’s more to this story, have no doubt.
If you have been following Mexican news at all, FeCal (a not so nice name for Felipe Calderón) was—to oversimplify a bit, as I am here overall—their George W. Bush. In fact, Felipe Calderón stole the presidential election with the help of some of the same players who helped Bush. I know all this should have links, but if you go to El Grito (I’m running around this morning, have errands, tiny break in video production schedule) and search for these people and you will find it all. Many hours spent on those stories back then.
Manuel Lopez Obradór was running as (and I do think he is far more of this camp than FeCal) Mister Downtrodden, Mister Para la Gente. Mister Left. While FeCal was and is Mister “Let’s Be Like the USA,” working with the Bush admin. He is Mister “Let’s Do All They Want Us To, Let’s Militarize This Joint, Let’s Wiretap, Let’s Bring on a Drug War.” And of course, that’s why he was given the presidency, and why the US GOP GOV would surely cheer it on. (Although Obama is fully committed to funding Mérida, even past its expiration date which really, really, really angers me with his adminstration.)
It’s unfortunate to me that the US is so very in the dark on all Mexico’s politics…because truth is, we better know this stuff. It’s all affecting us, all the time. And the relationship between the US and MX has so much history. And the media and governments actually use the language barrier and the apathy that dwells north of the Rio Bravo to the advantage of the elites and to the people’s detriment.
Anyway. I hope to help bridge this gap a tiny bit myself, and my plans are to become far more effective at it in time. It will take time, and it will take many of us. For now, I can offer you the bare outline of some of these shapes, and if you like you can research and find out more.
Mexican Electrical Workers Union members protest the summary firing of 44,000 members. Photo: La Jornada
There’s history and politics, of course, behind what is going on with the power plants in Mexico. And in general, North and South of the border, you and I need to keep an eye on the plight of workers and the unions. That (and the media) is where the people’s power lies. And that’s where oppressive power cracks down hard. (Peep the body count that journalism produces in war zones.)
Things aren’t as cut and dry with the Luz y Fuerza story as bloomberg.com would have you believe. As one could learn in the Narcosphere:
In the middle of the night last Saturday, President Felipe Calderon sent six thousand soldiers and militarized Federal Police to take over state power company Luz y Fuerza installations in Mexico City and the states of Mexico, Puebla, Morelos, and Hidalgo. Immediately following the takeover, Calderon issued an executive order closing Luz y Fuerza. Because no law or decree can go into effect until it is published in the federal government’s Official Diary of the Federation, the government published the executive order in a special edition of the Official Diary of the Federation to coincide with the military and police raids that closed Luz y Fuerza.
Federal Police occupy a Luz y Fuerza building. Photo: La Jornada
Mexican legal experts have criticized Calderon’s action as illegal, unconstitutional, and “an excessive and abusive use of power” because he by-passed Congress when he decided to close Luz y Fuerza and deploy the military and police against workers.
The government’s official justification for closing Luz y Fuerza is that the company’s operating expenses exceed those of other state-owned companies. It claims its use of the military and militarized federal police was a pre-emptive strike: it wanted to prevent workers from striking, taking control of the facilities, and cutting off power in protest of the closing of Luz y Fuerza. However, a week prior to the police and military takeover, the union specifically stated in a press release that it had no intentions of striking nor cutting off power to electricity customers.
Jose Hernandez, a leader of the Mexican Union of Electricity workers (SME)
As little as I know about Mexican politics and media, once you find one spot of corruption, you will find more. And they all magically seem to connect the more you read. Even these recent events, and the arc of Mexican right wing politics since FeCal stole the office.
…[I]n Mexico, we have an ultra-right national government. Formally its considered Christian democratic, but its lead by the extreme right group, el Yunque. This group is anti-communist and well linked to the right wing groups of the Catholic Church. They’re committed to the privatisation of the energy sector, of electricity and oil and last year they wanted to pass reforms to privatise the oil, but they didn’t achieve it because of a large national mobilisation.”
“These mobilisations were lead by Manuel Obrador, who’s a leader of the PRD (Revolutionary Democratic Party) and from the most nationalist and progressive section of this party. He also ran in the 2006 elections, in which all most all studies say there was fraud. Calderon won by 0.56%. Despite large mobilisations we couldn’t overturn the fraud.”
“So this right wing government aims to deepen what they call the structural reforms, reform the work law to allow for flexibility of the working day, for unstable work, for sub-contracted labour, and the biggest obstacle to be able to pass these reforms is the SME.”
—Jose Hernandez, a leader of the Mexican Union of Electricity workers (SME)
The Mexican Union of Electricity Workers (SME) is almost 100 years old, known for being very independent of the MX government, and democratic in nature. This is a rarity in México, as most unions are corrupt and inextricably linked with the government. SME won the right to retirement for workers in 1936 through strikes, which was a huge strengthening of the working class. And most importantly, SME works out of Luz y Fuerza. As we can see, like Lopez Obradór, SME is aligned with the People, and not with Big Business or Iron-Fisted Gobierno, and thus is an enemy to the FeCal administration.
And so Felipe Calderón and his forces have been doing all they can to destroy Luz y Fuerza, and take down SME with it. But this predates even FeCal, and is a long running motion recognizable in many nations, when the richest and most powerful suck upon the necks of the poorest and most vulnerable.
“The government has been trying to destroy the SME for 20 years, they’ve been investing in the CFE, in modernising it, and not in Luces y Fuerzas. So now Luces y Fuerzas seems like an inefficient company and its equipment is ancient and it needs a lot of maintenance to work. The government effectively took away its ability to generate electricity, and now it’s buying 98% of it its electricity from CFE.”
“And the government designed a system of accounting to make it seem like Luces y Fuerzas was going bankrupt.” …
And of course, this isn’t just about electricity, though the power utilities are surely a massive force to control. The government of Mexico is looking ahead. This is yet one more strike against the people—and we are mostly talking the indigenous in México, the poor, because this won’t hurt most of the expats or the ones cashing in—and a strike for the illusion that Mexico can become a “first world country” if it just keeps erecting hotels, strengthening the military, and crushing the poor.
“Another reason why the government wants to privatise Luces y Fuerzas and destroy our union is because of the possibility of further profit. With the new technology the power lines and cables can also be used to transmit images, voice, and information- that is, television, internet and phone. It’s a bigger business than electricity. The union has proposed that Luces y Fuerzas provide those services, without any concessions to private companies, which is what the government wants.”
“It shows the irrationality of capitalism, these things could be provided free to society, but they want to privatise it all to make money.”
So you see, it wasn’t just that the Mexican President decided, oh, that finances weren’t quite working out so they laid off a few people. This isn’t about a steward of the nation making wise decisions about safeguarding the People’s interest, no not at all! This is about greed, corporate and state hunger, and the People’s needs aren’t even in the picture.
Police occupy Luz Y Fuerza. Photo: El Pais
And that’s why it’s so important to keep our eyes on the unions and the strikes and the workers.
“The first thing we did in response was to mobilise; on 16 October there were nearly 500,000 people; unionists from various unions, students, Obrador’s movement, farmers- that is, the people mobilised, and despite the huge media campaign attacking the SME, saying we are corrupt, we’re lazy.”
“And in the legal terrain, we’ve been fighting as well, seeking legal protection before the actions of the government.”
And that’s one thing Mexicanos sure are good at. Standing up for their rights. Let’s hope they prevail, because for such injustices to sweep down and grab la gente by the neck and so close to us and without our help is a failure of activism and people power. If borders did not wall off humanity to sections of our brain, the People would have all the rights and powers that would help the world thrive. I’ll type that one more time because it’s so important.
If we did not use “the border” concept to separate in our imagination who is a friend, who is an enemy, who is “US” who is “THEM,” who is a resource, and who is in need, there would be no state power or army that could continue to make us toil and die for the continued power and wealth of the very few who are on top of this global pyramid.
It begins in the mind. Those who would rail against migration, against natural flow of river and human, who would deprive fellow humans of healing and medicine when they need it, who would insist on fences and walls and guns and prisons for those ousted by economic needs…when it is those very pieces of machinery that we are being penned into suffering with…today’s “immigration restrictionists” are members or affiliates of hate, they are distracted, they are simply tools of the same forces who delight in having us at each others’ necks while we are all exploited and robbed.