Posts filed under ‘March 2008 issue’

March 2008 issue

front cover of March 2008 issue

Border fence/wall/levee? by Jazmine Ulloa

The building of an actual physical barrier along the country’s southern border for national security may hinge on who wins the next presidential election.

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Law school faces diversity challenges by Eduardo Gonzalez

Although the School of Law at the University of Texas at Austin takes pride as one of the most diverse programs in the nation, challenges to its efforts remain.

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Farm workers continue to organize against low wages by Jessica A. Camarillo

Chavez may have been the leading voice of farm workers in the 60s, but the struggle he and the United Farm Workers Union brought to national attention isn’t over.

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Local galleries showcase minority artwork by Jessa Lauren Hollett

Each of these mini masterpieces is part of a fundraiser called “Toma Mi Corazón XVI” (Take My Heart 16), which every year raises money for La Peña Art Gallery on South Congress. The only thing that all the artists have in common is that they are all Hispanic.

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Immigrant students hope for the DREAM by Eva Romero

Almost 3 million students will graduate from high school in the United States this year. Some of them will continue their education in college, join the military or enter the workforce. Approximately 60,000 will have no such opportunity because these students have inherited the title of “illegal immigrant.”

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Carnaval Brasileiro by Gaby Chabolla

Clad in everything from glitter and fancy fabric to body paint on their bare skin, more than 5,000 partygoers from around the country streamed into the Palmer Conventions Center Feb. 2 for a night of celebration Brazilian style.

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Latino movies on the rise by Gaby Chabolla

Latino movies worth a watch. Among them: Kilometro 31, Morirse en Domingo, Charm School, and Duck Season.

April 21, 2008 at 4:28 am Leave a comment

BORDER FENCE/WALL/LEVEE?

Jazmine Ulloa / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 2 (March 2008)

The building of an actual physical barrier along the country’s southern border for national security may hinge on who wins the next presidential election.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both spoke against plans for a physical fence at a debate held at the University of Texas at Austin in February, vying instead for virtual fencing and immigration reform.

With the most critical primary Texas has seen in two decades underway, their position on the issue has been especially important as they have aggressively campaigned to capture what both believe to hold the key to a win in the state—the Latino vote.

Leading republican candidate John McCain has also gone under fire in recent weeks for sidestepping his position on the fence and said he believes border security to be the top priority.

But despite change in the political climate and candidates’ insight that “people are clamoring to have secure borders not fences,” Homeland Security Defense Secretary Michael Chertoff still has until Dec. 31, 2008, to decide where 375 miles of fencing will be built, which is when his authority to decide mileage will expire.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of it is done [in Texas],” said Denise Gilman, clinical professor for the UT School of Law’s Immigration Clinic. “They moved pretty quickly in Arizona.”

Congress passed the Secure Fence Act in 2006, which originally mandated that 700 miles of fencing be built from Texas to California along the U.S.-Mexico border. Chertoff announced on Aug. 10, 2007 that his agency would scale back this number to 375 miles of fencing to build in segments across the border.

Some fencing has already been built in areas of California and Arizona, which proponents for a physical fence say have lowered the rate of apprehension of illegal immigrants. But Border Patrol officials said increased staffing, stadium lighting and motion sensors were critical to this improvement.
In Texas, the building of the fence is muddled by controversy and complexity, activists and legal experts said.

Chertoff has already filed suit against private property owners in Hidalgo and Cameron counties, the University of Texas at Brownsville and even the city of Eagle Pass because they have denied federal surveyors access to the land.

While the suits filed are not to take the property but to survey it, Gilman said, “They are definitely precursors to actual condemnation suits to take the property.”

Chertoff and the Department of Homeland Security have different projects for areas in Texas. In Hidalgo County, for example, original plans had the fence running through towns as far as two miles inland from the river, such as Granejo, Penitas and Hidalgo. This could have cut off private property between the fence and the river and water access to farmers and ranchers, county officials said.

But Hidalgo and federal officials reached an agreement Feb. 8 to instead build up levees along the Rio Grande to 18 feet high. While some city leaders and property owners called the agreement a compromise, Del Rio activist Jay Johnson-Castro said it was only a “micro-fix.”

“Let’s fix the levees, that needed to be done,” he said. “But let’s not use that as the pretext to build an 18-foot wall.”

Plans by Chertoff and the department for the University of Texas at Brownsville have the fence running through university property, cutting off nearly all of the school’s 18-hole golf course and leaving 166 acres of university land between the fence and the river, said Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, a member of the Texas Border Coalition.

Although levee plans similar to those in Hidalgo have been proposed for the university, the city of Eagle Pass has yet to reach an agreement with the federal department, Foster said. Federal officials are discussing a stadium light project with the city. Current plans have the fence running in segments, cutting off Fort Duncan, a historical public park, from the city, for example, but not River Bend Resort.

“This fence is an ill conceived idea and gives a false sense of security to America,” Foster said.

But some still believe a physical barrier is necessary for national security. Although political support for a virtual fence has grown, in a press conference, Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter said a virtual fence is “virtually useless.”

Joe Kasper, spokesman for Hunter, said opposition to build a physical border fence has come from the department itself. Since it has the authority to build the border fence in the way that it chooses, the department has decided to build a combination of virtual and physical fences, he said.

“The department has taken on an ambiguous interpretation of the mandate in the Secure fence Act, when Hunter said it was straightforward,” Kasper said. “There is a serious threat to the physical fence if a candidate not committed to border control takes office.”

At the primary debate on campus, Democratic candidates stressed the importance of border security, and agreed that while some fencing may be appropriate, consultation with those living along the border would be essential.

“There is smart way to protect our borders and there is a dumb way to protect our borders,” Clinton said.

Failed leadership by the Bush administration on border security will be pushed unto the next administration to clean up, Democratic candidates said. But legal experts are searching to delay the building of the fence before then.

In Arizona, cases filed because of damage the fence could do to the environment were limited by a provision in the Real I.D. Act of 2005, which allows Chertoff to waive environmental standards in order to build the fence, Gilman said.

A physical fence along the border also raises private property and equal protection issues, said Gilman. She asks, “Why is the fence only going through certain areas?” It also raises human rights and environmental issues because the fence would affect indigenous communities and wildlife, she said. Legal experts are now looking to challenge the federal department for lack of consultation with the community, Gilman said.

“These are complex issues raised,” she said. “But the difficulty is trying to find the proper legal tool to get all these issues before the court.”

April 21, 2008 at 3:52 am Leave a comment

LAW SCHOOL FACES DIVERSITY CHALLENGES

Eduardo Gonzalez / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 2 (March 2008)

Although the School of Law at the University of Texas at Austin takes pride as one of the most diverse programs in the nation, challenges to its efforts remain.

Often in the public eye because of its minority participation, the law school has made national headlines for its excellence in promoting diversity among it staff, faculty and student body, but also for debatable incidents of racial insensitivity by some students. This raises questions about whether that environment and culture are diverse enough intellectually, which requires development beyond numbers and intermingling, some students and faculty said.

In the last ten years the number of minority faculty at the School of Law has remained relatively constant, according to an online report from the UT Office of Information Management and Analysis. The latest figures available from Fall 2006 showed the school as having nine Hispanic professors, two are tenured, seven black professors and two Asian professors, making up 12 percent of the 149-member faculty. The remaining 131 professors, 87.9 percent, were white.

Carla L. Sanchez, a second-year law student, said having minority law professors allows minority law students to have someone to whom to relate.

“Professors bring their own experiences to the table and there is a point of view to express,” she said. “If you have a diverse faculty, you’ll have different points of view because as lawyers, we’ll have clients from different backgrounds and these points of view will help us understand the needs of our clients.”

Minority law professors can also serve as role models , said Daniel B. Rodriguez, one of two tenured Hispanic professors at the law school.

“There is something in common across the spectrum of minority law teachers that provides a real perspective on what it is like to be in the out group in American society,” he said. “I think it is important to have minority law professors for that experience.”

But numbers alone cannot give an accurate picture of efforts to enhance the minority experience.
“The administration has made an effort to sponsor a lot of activities,” said Yuridia Caire, a second-year law student and Internal Vice President of Chicano-Hispanic Law Students Association. “They have helped minorities with money, time, support and workshops.”

Diversity efforts do, however, meet another challenge, students said.

“I don’t think this is intentional, but people tend to hang around with people of their own race,” Sanchez said.

Rodriguez refers to it as “unintentional segregation.”

“Minority students only hang out with minority students and that tendency can reinforce the image of them being off in their own corner doing other things,” he said. “One of the challenges I see is getting out of that box and being in a more generally diverse community without sacrificing the camaraderie that comes from minority students.”

Although not forgetting one’s heritage is important, Rodriguez said he encourages minority students to join different types of organizations, not simply those that are culture-specific.

Some students and faculty also question whether resources to encourage students to become culturally literate and to `intermingle are provided.

“As the world becomes more globalized,” Rodriguez said. “American law schools need a diverse work force for legal practice with more ambitious efforts to really diversify the interest of our students to prepare them.”

Law School numbers

Click to enlarge.

April 21, 2008 at 3:50 am Leave a comment

FARM WORKERS CONTINUE TO ORGANIZE AGAINST LOW WAGES

Chavez may have been the leading voice of farm workers in the ’60s, but the struggle he and the United Farm Workers Union brought to national attention isn’t over.

Jessica A. Camarillo / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 2 (March 2008)

March 31 is approaching. Get ready for Tejano music, colorful Puebla dresses and the occasional grito.

But amid the celebrations in honor of the birth of Cesar Chavez, the man widely known for organizing the United Farm Workers Union during the Chicano Movement, activists and farm workers today are still living his struggle. Chavez’s union may have seen many victories during his lifetime and after his death, but the plight of farm workers is far from over.

Many organizers and activists went unnoticed before, during and after the Chicano Movement. But not Chavez. He knew how to organize the masses and how to make the media work to his advantage. Chavez became one of the most celebrated figures of the 20th century after leading a five-year strike, which begun in 1965, against Delano grape growers for equal wages for foreign workers.

At the forefront of farm labor issues today, even after more than 30 years since Chavez’s movement, is still annual wages. Farm workers received an average of $900 per year in 1960, according to Edward R. Murrow’s documentary “Harvest of Shame.” That was barely enough to make ends meet then, but even now farm workers are living at or just above the poverty line. Through the evolution of wage rights and increases, workers can now expect to earn anywhere from $10,000 to $12,000 annually, said Sean Sellers, a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin and member of the Student Farm Worker’s Alliance.

New groups to protect farm workers from low wages formed throughout the country after Chavez successfully unionized Californian farm workers. One of the most vocal groups to emerge in recent years comes from the opposite coast. Created in Florida, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) formed in 1993 as an organization of workers, many of which are Latino, Haitian and Mayan Indian. Florida does not protect the bargaining rights of farm workers so a union is not possible.

According to the Department of Labor a living wage for an individual in Immokalee is about $18,500. But in today’s globalized world, the coalition is up against corporations and not the area growers of Chavez’s times. Growers have lost the upper hand since the 1960s, and in recent years, corporations pay growers for their crops and therefore control the wages of many, if not all, workers.

After six years of hunger strikes and marches to get the attention of the growers, the CIW saw no results. Realizing they had been targeting the wrong group, the coalition began campaigns to attract the attention of corporations, such as Taco Bell, Burger King and now Whole Foods Market, which is headquartered in Austin.

The coalition first visited the campus in 2004 to gain support in their attempt to break a contract between Taco Bell and the Texas Union. The contract stayed in place, but the “Boot the Bell” campaign forced Taco Bell’s supplier, YUM Brand to enforce a code of conduct which includes a zero tolerance policy for slave labor, and a penny increase in the price of each barrel of tomatoes.

Sellers said that penny significantly affected farm workers’ wages with an 80 percent raise. While those negotiations only affected Florida workers, the coalition formed a deal April 6, 2004 with McDonald’s, just one week before they planned to boycott, Sellers said. In contrast to the YUM Brand agreement, McDonald’s must enforce this contract nation-wide.

After four years, the Coalition marched back on campus this Febraury to protest against Burger King. Their hopes for the campaign are to create a stronger contract, following the pattern of McDonald’s deliberations.

Though their battle with the King is not over, the coalition is also targeting Whole Foods, which is one of the few corporations to sell Santa Sweet Tomatoes. Ag-mart, the grower who provides the tomatoes, purportedly uses pesticides harmful to the workers and pays sub-poverty wages among a list of other allegations by the coalition.

Workers in Immokalee sued Ag-mart for $250,000 to $2 million in unpaid wages, according to the CIW website, (www.ciw-online.org). Not only are wages low, but some workers also claim they are not receiving any wages or only partially of what growers promise for their day’s work.

Alfredo Santos, editor of “La Voz de Austin,” a local newspaper, knows what it’s like to be paid less than promised. Dropping out of high school at age 16, Santos picked crops throughout Texas, Missouri and California during the 1960s and participated in Chavez’s farm worker movement.

Once, he said, a foreman misjudged the amount of crop a field would yield. He and fellow farm workers filled more cucumber baskets than expected, but instead of being paid the wages they were originally promised, the foreman lowered the wage per basket because he didn’t want to lose money.

“You know, even though we were poor, we weren’t stupid,” Santos said. “We had a basic sense of justice and fairness.”

Santos returned to school at age 18, and after graduating in 1974 from the University of California, Berkeley, he went back to the fields—this time as a union organizer for the United Farm Workers Union.
Chavez lived out many of the injustices that can still be seen today, Santos said. He grew up in terrible living conditions, with no electricity, no running water and no restrooms. Like Chavez, the goal of CIW is to unionize and educate farm workers.

CIW delivered a letter to Whole Foods via certified mail in March 2007 and re-delivered it by hand in this February. Since the Coalition cannot set a meeting with John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, they plan to protest the shareholders’ meeting March 10 at 8 a.m.

But the challenge of unionization is that it promises a future reality, Santos said. “Your having to compete with two different realities—hoy vs. manana,” he said. “What you are doing in essence is trying to sell people on the idea of a better tomorrow, but it becomes very difficult when you are dealing with the hunger of today, the needs of right now.”

Photos by Andy Lin

April 21, 2008 at 3:46 am Leave a comment

LOCAL GALLERIES SHOWCASE MINORITY ARTWORK

gallery artwork

Jessa Lauren Hollett / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 2 (March 2008)

Everywhere you look in this white-walled art gallery, there are hearts. They are mostly made of wood and close to the same size, painted, deconstructed, decoupaged. One depicts a rooster made of construction paper, another the skewed artistic crayon scribbles of a very young artist.

Another depicts a marker-drawn cartoon of a Spanish proverb: “Panza llena… Corazón contento.” The heart next to it provides a rough translation: “The way to a person’s heart… Is through the stomach.” Some are painted, covered in photos of menacing medieval gargoyles, torn fishnet tights, or a tiny brick wall breaking to show the heart inside. They are all different, made by different artists from school age to established local artists. And they are all for sale.

Each of these mini masterpieces is part of a fundraiser called “Toma Mi Corazón XVI” (Take My Heart 16), which every year raises money for La Peña Art Gallery on South Congress. The only thing that all the artists have in common is that they are all Hispanic.

“La Peña isn’t just an art gallery, it’s a meeting place,” Artistic Director David Gutierrez said. “We try to provide a space for art in all its forms: music, poetry, visual arts. It’s more about preserving and celebrating our culture than it is about selling art.”

La Peña is one of many art galleries in Austin whose mission is to provide a place for artists and subjects that might sometimes get overlooked in major galleries. La Peña’s focus is on the work of Latino artists and musicians from the Austin area and works based on Latino themes, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe or Chichen Itza.

Two blocks north of La Peña is the MexicArte museum, where the art is not for sale but still a celebration of Hispanic culture. The museum provides a space for local artists and traveling exhibitions to show their work to visitors. They also specialize in the work of Hispanic artists and art that reflects themes of the Hispanic experience.

“It’s an opportunity for people and works that normally wouldn’t be in the mainstream to have their day,” Production Manager Angel Quesada said. “They need a place where they can bloom.”

MexicArte is currently featuring a traveling exhibit from Mexico called La Caja, showcasing the work of some of the biggest names in Mexican art. The exhibit contains several full-sized pieces, as well as a mini-museum with tiny artistic works by the same artists on display in a dollhouse-sized mini museum. As a response to this show, miniature works by several local artists are also on display in a back gallery of MexicArte.

Women and Their Work Art Space, though it focuses on the work of women and not specifically Latinas, was also founded to give non-mainstream art a home.

“Nowadays, all of these galleries that used to be known as ‘alternative art spaces’ have become institutionalized themselves,” Executive Director Chris Cowden said. “But they are still necessary, because there still is such a disparity in mainstream galleries. It’s better than it used to be, but these galleries are still necessary to keep it fair.”

To this day, with a few exceptions, work by white male artists sells for more money than work by minorities.

“The sad truth is that the art world has historically been dominated by white males,” Cowden said. “Places like this gallery were created out of necessity. Without them, so much talent was going tragically unheeded. That’s why they’re still necessary today.”

Some of the most recent statistics show that though there are more women than men graduating from art school, the majority of full-time artists are male, Cowden said.

“It’s just a sad truth of our society,” she said. “Everyone, including us, has said that it’s gotten so much better since the days when art history books as a rule only included the work of white males. But it’s still such a problem. And if we didn’t know, who would know?”

April 21, 2008 at 3:44 am Leave a comment

IMMIGRANT STUDENTS HOPE FOR THE DREAM

Eva Romero / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 2 (March 2008)

Almost 3 million students will graduate from high school in the United States this year. Some of them will continue their education in college, join the military or enter the workforce.

Of this number, however, approximately 60,000 high school graduates will have no such opportunity – not for lack of intelligence or motivation, but because these students have inherited the title of “illegal immigrant.”

Proposed by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, in November 2005, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, also known as the DREAM Act, will authorize the children of illegal immigrants to attend college or serve in the armed forces with eligibility for legal status. If adopted, the act will amend the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which drastically heightened consequences for illegal immigrants.

Currently, children who immigrate to the U.S. can only obtain legal status from their parents. If a child is brought into the country illegally, there is no method of becoming a legal resident.

Under the DREAM Act, an immigrant would be granted “conditional” status during the first six years and required to either complete two years of college or serve two years in the military. After this period, an immigrant would be eligible to apply for legal permanent resident status.

“This state has invested thousands of dollars in my education, but after I graduate I won’t be able to contribute to its economy,” Viridiana Tule said. Tule is a radio-television-film and Spanish literature junior at UT. Her parents moved from Guanajuato, Mexico because her father needed a better job to put Tule through school.

Students like Tule can attend college in the U.S., but are ineligible for work authorization and Social Security numbers that would allow them to participate in the regular workforce, according to the National Immigration Law Center.

Both Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, support the DREAM Act. Republican candidate John McCain denounces it.

“The DREAM Act ensures that the promise of the American Dream becomes a reality for all our children, and I am disappointed that the Senate failed to pass it,” Clinton said in a recent speech. “The enactment of this legislation is long overdue, and I will continue to fight for its passage.”

Sen. McCain said the act legitimizes illegal alien students and “rewards” illegal behavior. Supporters say it provides educational opportunities for children who did not choose to enter the U.S. illegally.

“Even though I am in college now, it has been ridiculously difficult,” said Sobeyda Gomez, a pre-med biomedical engineering junior. “It’s as if the system aims to keep us away from school.”

Both Tule and Gomez are involved in the University Leadership Initiative, a group dedicated to promoting higher education in Latino, African-American, Asian and immigrant communities. ULI members are working to plan the Texas DREAM Summit on March 22, an event to unite all Texas DREAM Act supporters.

“I refuse to think that everything would go to waste,” Tule said. “I need the DREAM Act to pass so that I can become a fruitful member of society.”

April 21, 2008 at 3:41 am Leave a comment

CARNAVAL BRASILEIRO

Gaby Chabolla / Adelante
Volume II, Issue 2 (March 2008)

Clad in everything from glitter and fancy fabric to body paint on their bare skin, more than 5,000 partygoers from around the country streamed into the Palmer Conventions Center Feb. 2 for a night of celebration Brazilian style.

Begun in Austin in 1975 by homesick Brazilian students on an abroad program, Carnaval Braseleiro was first celebrated in a small room of the Austin Unitarian Church with only 200 attendees.

Years later, the carnival hasn’t lost its frenzied flavor, and 9 p.m. swung in with the deep thud of drums, the clank of wood and the clatter of metal. It was the band of the Acadêmicos da Opera Samba School, along with its hip-moving, shoulder-shaking, white-tennis-shoed dancers. This year’s theme: Madame Butterfly.

Their musical performance moved to an assortment of sounds, tulle butterfly wings flapping bright blue and beats timed by the dancers’ white sneakers. Having warmed things up, the group cleared the dance floor, giving way to the band, Beleza Brazil. You could almost feel the Brazilian breeze.

Costumes colored the night—pantless grandpas, pink-headed women with tambourines, television appliances on legs and dozens of electric masks. Crowd grew denser throughout the night, and the music Austin’s biggest party is known for—never stopped.

April 21, 2008 at 3:37 am Leave a comment

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