Posts filed under ‘Fall 2007 issue’

THE EVOLUTION OF REVOLUTION

Jazmine Ulloa / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 1 (Fall 2007)

For many, revolution has become a rhetorical slogan or a “dirty word.” But for director Roberto Maestas and his students, the word still encompasses the love for humanity that motivated them to spark their own revolution 35 years ago. Americans’ activism may have faded with the social movements of the 60s and 70s, Maestas says, but the parallels between then and now can still be drawn. He and others share their perspectives behind revolution and today’s moments of social change.

October 1972 saw the country steeped in intense political activity. Racial tensions were fuming in the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement and more than 7,000 miles away, the war in Vietnam raged, while millions of students across the States were joining anti-war protests erupting on college campuses.

In the city of Seattle, times weren’t any better. The city was undergoing its worst recession since the 1930s, and President Richard Nixon’s funding cuts from the War on Poverty budget had done away with many the city’s anti-poverty programs, including the English and Adult Basic Education program at South Seattle Community College.

With their insides shaking, director Roberto Maestas and a small group of college students met a month after the funding cuts outside of Beacon Hill Elementary School, a run-down building in south Seattle. They were determined to protest not only the loss of their program but the state of their country.
“Things were going to hell in a hand basket, and we were not going to go down without a fight,” Maestas said.

A few minutes past 8:30 a.m., the school’s custodian appeared and unlocked the doors. Maestas took the lock from his hands and put it in his pocket. As Maestas and some of the students quickly went inside, one of them stayed behind and gave the signal.

From their cars and nearby streets, some even hiding behind bushes, the dozens who had been waiting for the signal filled the school grounds. Within minutes, more than 30 black, Native American, white, Asian-Pacific Islander and Latino people from all backgrounds and ages were inside.

The numbers were varied from day to day, but more than 80 people occupied the crumbling building for three months during one of Seattle’s coldest winters, hoping to create “a community center addressing the needs of the most left out.” By New Year’s Day, the building was jammed with 500 people from all over the city.

“Era un tiempo revolucionario,” Maestas said. It was a revolutionary time.

It was.

But 35 years since, the energy that drove the protestors at Beacon Hill, the kind that at a grander scale drove massive waves of social movement across the country, during the Civil Rights and Vietnam war eras, has dissipated or been forgotten. Without a recent history of successful struggles, revolution itself has become a “dirty word.”

“People decry revolution, they bash revolution. But if there hadn’t been an American Revolution we’d still be an English colony,” said Dana Cloud, associate professor of communication studies at The University of Texas at Austin. “If there hadn’t been a French Revolution, there would be no democracy in France.”

Today, living through the War in Iraq reminds Maestas of when he and other community leaders were organizing the Beacon Hill occupation during the Vietnam War, he said.

“This country needs a revolution of values,” Maestas said. “A revolution doesn’t have to mean violence. It can mean change.”

Many are drawing parallels between the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq, but social movement, such as the anti-war movement, is still in its stages of infancy, said Kelly Booker, a member of the Campus Anti-war Movement to End the Occupation. The country is in a “re-building stage,” she said, where Americans have to “re-learn” how the movements of the 1960s brought about social change.

Some students on campus said they see revolutions as bloody and undesirable and not social change. Others said Americans have long been labeled bored, apathetic and, as sophomore Tania Mejia said, “too indifferent to see the need for a revolution.”

“Social change is a strange process,” said Alfredo Santos, editor of La Voz, a local Latino newspaper, and an activist for Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers of America during the 1970s. “Most of the time social change takes place when people get mad about something. If there is no anger or outrage, nothing usually happens.”

While sophomore Beeba Matthews said the political attitude of Americans does tend to be indifferent, her hands slightly tremble with anger when she speaks about certain issues facing the United States. She especially resents the unjust handling of immigration reform.

Students, professors, activists and community leaders said “children not receiving healthcare,” “scholarship money drying up,” and “billions of dollars poured into the war” are some of the issues facing America that also worried or angered them. Others included the “stagnating quality of life,” people having to work two jobs to “simply pay the bills” and “racism becoming subtle and more dangerous.”

“People are angry,” Cloud said. But there’s a gap between people’s anger and unrest and their experience and knowledge of “what to do when I am this angry.”

Joshua Levy, writer, editor, filmmaker and blogger, said, “there is plenty of political activity going on, but it’s happening in the places where people aren’t looking.”

Collaboration is now happening online, and it’s a lot cheaper than the activism of the ‘60s, said Levy, the associate editor of the Personal Democracy Forum Web site, which tracks how technology is providing the tools for a new kind of civic conversation.

One case of such collaboration was by supporters of presidential hopeful Republican Ron Paul. Supporters organized online fundraising and raised a record-breaking $4 million in one day. The results sent shockwaves, but the costs to organize were essentially nothing, he said.

People should stop “fantasizing” about the marches that occurred on Washington, and realize the online tools that can make anyone an organizer or an activist, Levy said.

“It’s not good or bad, it’s just the world we live in,” he said. “It’s totally different than the way that we’ve operated.”

However, online activism will not replace the old way of political activity or physical activism, Levy said. Instead, people will use both. Physical protests can show unity, but they may be organized online. “There’s a bigger political ecology now that the web is in the mix,” he said.

Although people are physically protesting, their efforts aren’t in a sustained and steady progression, Cloud said. Efforts tend to be short-lived, such as the recent movement against the death penalty, people protesting the Jena 6 issue this year and the historic immigrant rights demonstrations the country saw a year ago.

All of these movements may have been inspiring but fall short of revolutionary, activists agreed. They’re examples of what Raul Salinas, a retired professor, renowned poet and owner of Resistencia Bookstore in Austin, called “jumping to crisis.” “It’s not about going out there and shouting ‘Revolution!’” Salinas said, letting out a soft yell and waving a frail arm mockingly. “That’s not revolution.”

For him, revolution is more than just a one-time stance on an issue, yelling out rhetoric and an easy-to-pick-up slogan.

“You have to act beyond the slogan,” he said. “Revolution is about principles. People have to read literature, share ideas and organize.”

The elder poet is now struggling with debilitating health issues that keep him from running his bookstore, which also serves as a forum for political conversation. But he’s involved in social movement for life, and students should read and share ideas, “not as saviors or because of the vanguard—but to learn,” he said.

In and out of state and federal prisons from 1957-1972 on drug convictions, his own prison days spent reading, writing and studying political thought prepared him in the struggle for prisoners’ rights he and others organized at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas. Transferred to Marion Federal Penitentiary in Illinois because of the heightening prison rebellions across the country, Salinas won his release in ‘72 with the help of faculty and graduate students at the University of Washington at Seattle.

He said he arrived in Seattle after his release to attend the university, and by that time, Beacon Hill was in its second month of occupation. His political self-education and organizing of the prison rights’ struggle prepared him for the struggle he found in Seattle.

Had it not been for his experience at Beacon Hill, he would have probably ended back in prison, he said.

“People think revolutions happen over night, that revolution is encoded in the DNA,” said journalism professor Mercedes de Uriarte. “The ideas bring the people together not the DNA.”

Although the multi-racial occupation at Beacon Hill took only one month of cautious, clandestine planning by Maestas and the Latino students of the program, they were sharing revolutionary ideas and supporting other minority groups in Seattle years before then, Maestas said.

“We’d go out and support all these other groups in their struggle with the reason that we were ‘practicing our English,’” Maestas said. “We’d attend their events, help with their protests, hoping they’d support us as well. When the time came, they did.”

Recent protests have lacked such a strong sense of community building, unity and learning that occurred before the occupation in Seattle and other major movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s, activists said.

One example is the massive movement in 2006 for immigration rights.

Luis Figueroa, legislative staff attorney for the Mexican Legal Defense Fund, said the protests helped kill the bill in Congress that had sparked them, the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, which included the building of a 700-mile long fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

But since there was no major force unifying all Latinos and other minorities during the immigration rights movement, the marches isolated immigration rights as solely a Latino issue and created strong backlash from the media, de Uriarte said. And all Latinos, U.S. born or not, are affected by anti-immigrant sentiments, Figueroa said.

An intellectual stage was also missing before the enormous immigrants’ rights demonstrations to prevent their energy from dissolving, de Uriarte said. There wasn’t a body of intellectual people building the movement through literature, art and music as strongly as there had been before the Civil Rights Movement, she said.

Emerging from the conservative ‘50s, students in the mid-1960s had such a period of intensive discussion, debate and education before the enormous anti-war protests the decade is remembered for, said Mike Corwin, a member of the International Socialist Organization. In the original “teach-in” events of the ‘60s, hundreds of people would stay in a room all night reading and discussing. Such political discussion put the movement on firmer ground and set the stage for the large protests, he said.

Santos attempted to provide some grounding shortly after the immigration rights walkouts. He and others organized the Social Justice Summer School in Austin for those who had participated in the demonstrations. “While the summer school was successful, it is clear to many of us that what we saw in 2006 was not a sustained effort,” he said.

That’s because today’s country is too busy to sustain any kind of movement, de Uriarte said.
“Revolution requires altruism and the willingness to sacrifice, and we aren’t doing that,” she said. “We’re too busy sending text messages on our cell phones and punching messages into our Blackberrys, when are we going to sit down and talk about what’s wrong with the world?”

The nation’s values also hinder social change, de Uriarte said. Success is defined by individual not community achievement, Americans have become more narcissistic and competitive and much of the country’s youth that could be devoted to social change is tied up in a war, she said.

Then there’s the fear factor the country has been operating under ever more tightly since 9/11, activists said. Revolutions are more radical than they are violent, Salinas said. Social revolutions, although often nonviolent, are often associated with violence, activists said.

“When the question of violence arises, we have to remember that those people who are holding on to power don’t let go of it easily,” religious studies professor Syed Akbar said. “The burden of the violence should also fall on the shoulders of the status quo.”

Some of the greatest revolutions during his lifetime have in many ways been nonviolent, Akbar said. “One of the central principles of the Civil Rights revolution was the idea of nonviolence, such as of Dr. King and many others,” he said.

Maestas and others organized the protests in Seattle based on the teachings of Martin Luther King and the nonviolent tactics of the Civil Rights Movement, Maestas said.

They urged city officials to renovate the dilapidated, three-story school building into a community center, but when the city would not listen, they pretended to be interested property developers, setting up their morning meeting at the building in 1972 to only “take a look inside.”

He and others were arrested and held for a time, but after countless of negotiations with the Seattle City Council and Seattle Public Schools the mayor approved for them a five-year lease of the building for $1 a month, allowing them to transform it.

Now, what used to be a building with a leaky roof and stripped of any value is a thriving community center called El Centro de la Raza. Its name may be in Spanish, but it translates to “The Center of the People,” and home to all people wanting to make a difference for humanity, said Maestas, its executive director.

The center rents office space to a diverse range of non-profit groups representing different ethnicities and houses a food bank, bilingual child-care and social services for families among many other programs.

And the system that fought so hard to keep the radical Maestas out, now welcomes him in.

“Revolutions are radical, and the radical is a moving target,” de Uriarte said. “Once it becomes absorbed by the system, the radical becomes redefined, and everything that was radical before becomes commonplace. One must not be ‘co-opted’ by the system, while still using it and learning from it in order to change and redefine it.”

Maestas still remembers taking the lock from the puzzled custodian’s hands.

“He pulled me aside and said, “Just be sure to lock it when you’re done,’” Maestas said with a chuckle. “It’s been 35 years, and we’re still not done.”

April 21, 2008 at 3:06 am Leave a comment

AUTHOR EXPOSES MURDER, CORRUPTION, ORGANIZED CRIME IN LATIN AMERICA

The Killing Fields

Caprice Padilla / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 1 (Fall 2007)

A horrifying trend has emerged in the border town of Juarez, Mexico–the slayings, tortures and abductions of hundreds of women. After seven years of investigating the situation, journalist Diana Washington Valdez brings attention to the very complex and often corrupt relationship between politics, socio-economics, drug trafficking and organized crime in her book, “The Killing Fields.”

I was first drawn to this book because I was raised in El Paso, Texas, which shares its border with Juarez. Although one can literally look out their car window from the interstate in El Paso and see Juarez – the dirt roads, the poorly assembled houses, the Rio Grande River which separates the two cities – it always felt like the violence was millions of miles away. How is it possible that such savage and tragic crimes were occurring next door and being treated with such apathy?

Valdez’s eye opening book is based on thorough research with international sources, including politicians, law enforcement agents, families of the victims and anonymous sources. Valdez visited sites where bodies had been found, read through case files, information that had been leaked and various other documents to piece together the investigation.

Anecdotes from the victim’s families are included, as well as photos of victims and an appendix organized by year with every victim’s name, age and cause of death, when known. Valdez makes each case relatable and more realistic; each victim was someone’s mother, daughter, sister, wife, or loved one. This makes it much more difficult to turn away from what Valdez terms femicide, or the murder of women. The victims become people, not merely statistics.

Even more heart wrenching is the manner in which the women were tortured and killed. Almost sickening to read, Valdez includes descriptive accounts of the conditions in which bodies were found and details the common traits among the various cases.

Valdez also sheds light on the pervasive corruption within Mexico and reveals shocking information about the relationship between drug cartels and the government.

It is almost impossible for justice to be served. Police falsely prosecuted many individuals and employed tactics such as planting or losing evidence and intimidating witnesses and sources. Lawyers representing the accused were often forced to withdraw from cases due to threats or physical harm. Many who did not step down were murdered.

Women’s bodies were often misidentified and not allowed to be viewed. Because the majority of victims come from a low socio-economic status, families cannot afford to pay outrageous DNA test costs, and therefore never have proof. Valdez explains that she smuggled a collar bone across the border for DNA testing so that a woman could have answers about her missing daughter.

Journalists were also greatly fearful for their own safety, and often did not pursue cases. Valdez’s ability to overcome such fears in order to seek the truth is admirable. Her selflessness and desire to provide a voice to those who are voiceless is inspiring, not only as a journalist, but as a human being.

The portrayal of drug cartels and their immunity from any type of prosecution or accusation surrounding the cases and the apathy throughout all ranks of the government towards the cases are equally shocking. The Killing Fields seems more like an intense, complex movie script than reality.

Valdez explains that femicides have spread to other areas of Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. A chapter is also dedicated to what she perceives must now be done to address the situation and what can be done to improve Juarez women’s future.

The Killing Fields, one of the most compelling and provocative books I have ever read, allowed me to grasp the emotion and understand the injustice in Juarez. Relating to the book brought the femicides into my reality; I could no longer brush it off as another news story. I’ve walked on the streets from which women were abducted; I’ve seen the Juarez police patrolling; I’ve seen both the extremely wealthy and very poor Mexicans. Valdez comments on the irony that El Paso is one of the safest cities in the United States, while minutes away Juarez is literally a killing field.

I feel incredibly lucky, but also greatly saddened by the fact that merely because I was born north of the Rio Grande, I am safer, more fortunate and have more opportunities than those who, by fate, were born to the south.

A cross reads \"ni una mas\"

April 21, 2008 at 2:59 am Leave a comment

FIVE MINUTES WITH REPORTER SONIA NAZARIO

Journalist Sonia Nazario

Adelante Q & A
Volume II, Issue 1 (Fall 2007)

Reporter and author Sonia Nazario traveled from Honduras to the United States clinging to the tops of freight trains to relive the harrowing journey of Enrique, a migrant teenager in search of his mother. Thousands of Central American children take the same perilous journey each year, many searching for mothers who have had to leave them behind in search of work. She began tracing Enrique’s story in a series for the Los Angeles Times that won the Pulitzer Prize among many other awards and has expanded the series into a book, “Enrique’s Journey.” Nazario gave an emotional speech about her experiences on Friday of the weekend conference held Oct. 19-20 on campus.

If you could redo the experience, is there anything you would do differently?
I wish I could have ridden on the train more times then I did. When I went back to expand the series to a book I went alongside the rails but I didn’t actually ride again. I didn’t want to risk that. I picked up these amazing details about this whole world and life on the trains, but I had to consider the fact that I didn’t want to be divorced. Staying married is a good thing.

Do you feel that you’ve accomplished what you set out to do when you first decided why you wanted to be a journalist?
There are plenty of big social issues and problems to write about, and so I don’t think any journalist can be satisfied with what they’ve done. There’s always going to be huge issues to write about, but for me the goal is to try to write about them in the most compelling way possible.

What sort of actions did you hope your book would inspire?
It was mostly aimed at informing people and humanizing immigrants and getting people to start a conversation with immigrants that they know that might clean their offices or homes or take care of their kids and create a better understanding of how these immigrants are. I’m thrilled to hear that as a result of the book there’s better treatment for immigrants.

Knowing the outcomes, do you think that it’s right for a mother to leave her children to ensure them a better life?
It’s hard to know what you would do even knowing the negatives of how this turns out until you’re in that mothers shoes and you’re hearing your kid cry with hunger and you know you have nothing to give your kid and you really know that it’s not gonna turn out well. Although most of these women don’t they really think they’re going to leave and stay gone. They think it’s going to be a short period of time.

April 21, 2008 at 2:53 am Leave a comment

DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

Caprice Padilla / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 1 (Fall 2007)

The Mexic-Arte Museum paid special tribute to the 100th anniversary of artist Frida Kahlo. A procession of Aztec dancers, mariachis and people dressed as skeletons paraded downtown, and the event culminated outside the museum with traditional food and music, altars for deceased loved ones and ballet folklorico dancers. To commemorate Kahlo’s life, 100 participants dressed as Frida Kahlo for a look-alike contest. The Aztecs believed that a Chihuahua dog led people into the after life, therefore Chihuahuas led the parade and competed for best dressed.

Photos by Andrew Rogers.

April 21, 2008 at 2:35 am Leave a comment

SKA, RAI, POLITICS MELODICALLY BLEND IN LA RADIOLINA

Gaby Chabolla / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 1 (Fall 2007)

Constant rhythms, mantra-like lyrics and characteristic political undertones mark Manu Chao’s recent album, La Radiolina, Italian for small radio.

The album opens with a rallying track. The clamoring voices of ska enfold 13 Días, whose tone is eventually repeated with the addition of police sirens and trumpets later on in Rainin in Paradize, El Hoyo and Panik Panik.

It softens down into a melancholic mood with Tristeza Maleza and crystallizes afterward with A Cosa’s mellow sweetness, “Che cosa vuoi dame? (What do you want from me?) / Che cosa vuoi ancora? (What do you want now?) / Che cosa vuoi di più? (What do you want more of?).”

Amalucada Vida’s Portuguese reggae, and Otro Mundo’s faintly morbid lyrics “Calavera no llora / Serenata de amor (Bones don’t cry / Love serenade)” keep the album eclectic.

A radio announcer’s voice materializes every now and then, discreetly placed at the end of a song or disguised behind lyrics, evoking Chao’s 2001 album, Próxima Estación: Esperanza.

Noteworthy songs include the Spanish guitar-like Me Llaman Calle, and the sudden consciousness of Y Ahora Que?

Siberia’s fast pace enhances its hopeful message, “I believe in you, I believe in love, I believe in hope.” The renowned Serbian filmmaker, Emir Kusturica, directed the video.

La Radiolina oscillates between charged protest and acoustic melancholy. Political themes recur throughout, some subtle, others not as much, such as by Politik Kills’ blatant reference to blood, force, violence and drugs.

It might take a couple of listens, and perhaps even languages, to understand the album’s meaning; it is heavier than former albums. Even with the absence of multilingualism, this assortment of naturally melodic romances is sure to charm the ear. “Che cosa inventare?”

Related links: Manu Chao (MySpace), La Radiolina (Wikipedia)

April 21, 2008 at 2:27 am 1 comment

DIG INTO A TASTE SOUTH OF THE BORDER

Caprice Padilla / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 1 (Fall 2007)

Surrounded by the bustle of the UT campus, Janitzio is nestled along a major street that never seems to slow. Within its bright orange and yellow walls, decorated with colorful broken glass columns and traditional Mexican art, one can escape to the sights and tastes of another country.

The Mexican food served at Janitzio is made in the Michoacan style and is one of the best in Austin. From its spicy and savory green enchiladas to its crispy and flavorful chicken flautas, Janitzio consistently serves quality food at affordable prices.

Lunch specials offered Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., include a wide variety of dishes priced only at $5.99. It is quite convenient for those coming from the campus or downtown area. The restaurant opens at 7:00 a.m. on weekdays, perfect for a quick breakfast taco to start off the day.

Service is fast, the restaurant is clean but even better, the staff is helpful and friendly.

Janitzio also offers a wide variety of beverage choices. Other than typical drinks such as Coca-Cola brand sodas and tea, there’s also Mexican bottled sodas and horchata. I highly recommend horchata, a rice based sweet drink. On ice, horchata is deliciously refreshing and thirst quenching. It is a great treat to find horchata served in Austin, much less as impeccably made as it is at Janitzio.

The restaurant itself does not serve alcohol but encourages patrons to bring their own. Dine inside the cozy restaurant or enjoy the fall weather on the patio. Take out is also available, as well as delivery service.

Located at 600 W. Martin Luther King, Janitzio’s hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays.

Related links: Janitzio (Yelp)

April 21, 2008 at 2:22 am Leave a comment

FRATERNITY MENTORS PRETEENS

Emmanuel Kelley / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 1 (Fall 2007)

Standing in front of a group of fidgeting middle school boys, Domingo Martinez asks the tough crowd what they think they’re going to learn today.

“You’re going to teach us how to be a man,” one of the younger boys replies.

A smile spreads across Martinez’s face. That’s not exactly what he had in mind when he formed Young Knights, a mentor program for middle school boys, through his fraternity Omega Delta Phi. But now that he gives it a second thought, it’s not too far from the lessons he hopes the students will learn.

Originally started in 1999 by the fraternity’s chapter at Michigan State University, Young Knights had a brief stint with The University of Texas chapter back in 2004 before it dwindled away in participation and leadership.

Martinez, service coordinator for the fraternity, revived the program last spring semester, gathering fraternity brothers to mentor students at Pearce Middle School, a school statistically below the poverty line, where gang violence and racial tensions were all too familiar.

Since then, the program has done well enough to branch out to two other low-income schools, Martin Middle School and Webb Middle School and has received additional funding.

So what does it take to be a man? Mentors try to instill five core values in the students: self-identity, education, diversity, community and leadership. But their main goal is to show the students that they are not as different from them as they seem.

“We were sitting in your seats once,” Martinez said he often tells students. Most mentors came from similar backgrounds as the students. One fraternity brother even attended Webb Middle School when he was younger, he said.

“A lot of them don’t have males that are positive in their lives and they’re really blooming from having a guy that’s sitting in there that is a little bit older than them but still approachable,” said Molly Foerster, program manager for communities and schools at Webb Middle School.

A few fraternity members and up to 25 students perform activities relating to the core values and often play sports. Although mentors visit with the students every week, it’s hard to tell what kind of effect they have on a short-term scale.

They are planting the seeds of core values in them, he said, such as value for education and leadership, “hoping they grow as they [students] grow.”

“A lot of the kids need to see someone who’s living out a goal that we talk about so much with them,” said Alicia Rainwater, an after school coordinator for Pearce Middle School. “We talk about higher education, we talk about graduating high school, but when they can actually interact with someone who’s living that out that really affects them.”

April 21, 2008 at 2:17 am Leave a comment

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