Switching to new blog

So I’ve spent most of my Thanksgiving holiday moving my wordpress.com blog over to a new server (well, in addition to having dinner with the parents) in the meantime my more ambitious new website is finished some time in the future.  I’ve got the basics all up but it’s been a learning process.  I’m SO not a techie person; I’d rather spend my time producing copy and content rather than spending hours figuring out how to set up the HTML code, installing widgets, unzipping files,  … BORING! LOL.  Anyway, hopefully all my work will pay off in the end.  My new blog site is not finished for sure: I’m not happy with the template and layout of it and I’ve still got to install a bunch of things on it.  Anyway, if you’d like to take a peak, please click here.

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Veterans Day: Honoring American Troops

Check out these videos of dogs welcoming back their owners that had been on deployment.  They are absolutely amazing; if you are a dog person, they are bound to make you a little teary-eyed:

You can view more videos of dogs welcoming back their “daddy” soldiers here.  It’s always amazed me how dogs really do remember their owners.  I remember that as a kid, my Dad would come to work to the United States for an entire year so he could send money back to Mexico so my family could survive and have a better life.  My Dad would come back to Mexico every December, and our dog would remember him and would just go absolutely crazy with happiness, very similar to how the dogs reacted on these videos above.  Watching these videos brought back memories to me and so I can definitely attest to the fact that dogs do remember their owners and do miss them just as much as human beings miss their loved ones.

Today is Veterans Day, so please remember our troops by either donating to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or checking out the USO or VoteVets to find out what you can to do to promote issues and campaigns that benefit veterans. For Latinos, Veterans Day has become very much a personal experience, being that they now make up a very large percentage of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps (in addition, their numbers are also growing in the Navy and the Air Force).  The Latino presence in the military is nothing new, and yet the corporate in-English media continues to virtually ignore it.  Thanks to in-Spanish language outlets, Latinos are getting some recognition, though.  Vme is showing this week a great series of programs that highlights the presence of Latinos in the U.S. military; to view the segments online, click here.  I’d only wished more pieces like these were featured in English on other more prominent networks.  But hey, maybe things will eventually turn around.  CNN just got rid of its hate monger Lou Dobbs, so maybe it’s a sign that things are starting to change and will get better.

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Filed under Economic Refugees, Immigration, Military

Lou Dobbs leaves CNN

Media Matters for America has the transcript of his announcement here.  For reference, Dropdobbs.com also has a “history of hate” list here.

Congratulations to all who participated and supported the bastadobbs.com and the dropdobbs.com campaigns and put pressure on CNN to fire this guy for viciously attacking immigrants and Latinos in particular (and as of late for joining in the vile racist attacks against President Obama coming from the extreme right-wing) on a day-by-day basis, going as far as making up stuff out of thin air and having guests and using them as ‘authorities’ on the subject of immigration and that were well-known to have ties to racist white supremacists (and without even disclosing them as a true journalist would).

He can now go off freely to where his conservative racist and ultra-corporatist views belong: Fox News.

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Filed under Economic Refugees, Immigration, Media Literacy, Political

Happy Halloween!

Illegal Alien Halloween Costume

The costume might seem funny to some, but what they don't realize is that in the current social climate that we live in, the costume is just plain dehumanizing.

…or is it?  It was the question that many Latinos were wondering as they caught word of the offensive “illegal alien” Halloween costume that was being sold by many retailers across the U.S.  A successful campaign by immigrant rights activists was waged to sound the alarm on this, which led to national media coverage.  Subsequently, retailers like Target, Walgreens, eBay, and Amazon.com removed the costume from their inventories.  It was another example of the growing political clout that Latinos are beginning to exercise on a variety of issues, as I have previously argued here.  I woud like to echo the sentiments that were expressed so well by César J. Baldelomar over at the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform blog: the language that we use can define our social realities in deeper ways that we might at first realize. 

On second thought, I would actually like to take it a step farther and call on something that I see being ignored by the corporate media and (sadly) by even many immigrant rights activists: that the ONLY permanent solution to our ‘illegal immigration’ woes is to combat the oppressing poverty that creates ‘illegal immigrants.’  No amount of border walls, deportations, or discrimination will ever stop ‘illegal’ immigration because those things never address the true source of the problem: the poverty that forces many to flee their homelands.  Professor of Linguistics George Lakoff said it best on The Framing of Immigration piece when he bascially analyzed how we do not have an ‘illegal immigration problem’ or an ‘illegal employer problem’ (to lable it as such would undermine the scope of what we’re actually dealing with here), but rather a full-blown HUMANITARIAN crisis:

Perhaps the problem might be better understood as a humanitarian crisis. Can the mass migration and displacement of people from their homelands at a rate of 800,000 people a year be understood as anything else? Unknown numbers of people have died trekking through the extreme conditions of the Arizona and New Mexico desert. Towns are being depopulated and ways of life lost in rural Mexico. Fathers feel forced to leave their families in their best attempt to provide for their kids. Everyday, boatloads of people arrive on our shores after miserable journeys at sea in deplorable conditions.

As a humanitarian crisis, the solution could involve The UN or the Organization of American States. But these bodies do not have roles in the immigration frame, so they have no place in an “immigration debate.” Framing this as just an “immigration problem” prevents us from penetrating deeper into the issue.

Language is a powerful thing because we shape our language based on our reality and our reality is shaped by language. It’s a circular thing and we can break the cycle of ignorance by introducing new powerful terminology that can shape our realities in a positive way.  As I used to say it before on my old Myspace page:

 …people talk about “illegal aliens,” which dehumanizes the issue and implies that immigrants that enter the country with no documents are criminal, other-worldly beings. Yet no one talks about the fact that they are simply Economic Refugees (refugiados por causa de la economia); human beings that have ventured to seek out a better life for themselves…

…To reduce the discussion to a soundbite of “those that break our immigration laws must be punished and must not be rewarded for the criminal behavior” frankly leads to nothing productive. If you want to talk about doing illegal and/or wrong things then maybe you should talk about how the United States has oftentimes contributed to the economic woes of many countries. If you want to talk about taking responsibility for your own actions, then maybe the United States should take responsibility for what it has done with the International Monetary Fund’s INTERVENTIONS(click here for details) in third world countries. If you want to talk about wrong doing maybe you ought to be talking about American maquiladora factories and their low wages/cheap labor practices. Maybe you ought to look into how some American business interests have gone into many countries, sucked them up dry, and bailed out; adding to their economic woes.

Sadly, I’m afraid that we’re missing the boat on this one.  Immigration reform would be a good first step towards improving our current social situation.  However, if the quest for immigration reform does not at the very least contain a serious conversation regarding the role that oppressing poverty has in all of this, then I am afraid that it will just be another band-aid ‘fix’.  Maybe it’s time now (as a first step) to call on our government to ditch the ‘illegal alien’ term and instead adopt ‘economic refugee.’  You can start by contacting the Deparment of Homeland Security at:

Secretary Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Comment Line: 202-282-8495

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Filed under Economic Refugees, Immigration

2012

On minutes 1:48 and 2:03 of this 2012 five-minute promo video, you see billboards of the Southern California nonprofit organization Heal the Bay crumbling down … sorry guys, I guess environmentalists don’t survive the Apocalypse (or is the Apocalypse being brought on human kind as punishment from God because we haven’t been caring for our environment as we should have been?!)

I’ve started to see the signs of the Apocalypse … no, not on the skies, not on earthquakes, and certainly not on tarot cards, but rather plastered on billboards all over L.A. and on YouTube videos.  As a fan of Mesoamerican history and a holder of a  B.A. degree in Anthropology, I have been keenly aware about the Mayan calendar that supposedly “ends” on the year 2012.  I must say that I was actually suprised that it took this long for Hollywood to make a movie about it.  Conveniently, they did not make a film about the calendar leading up to Y2K but I guess that would’ve defeated the whole purpose somewhat: how could the world end in 2000 if the Mayan calendar went all the way up to the year 2012?  But I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on Hollywood: after all, the film is only the latest incarnation of an ongoing furor of Apocalypse theories (I’m being overly kind: I’m using the word “theory” loosely here) based on the calendar that have been peddled for many years now.  However, the film has blown up the profile of such theories way out of proportion; so much so, that even the descendants of the Mayans are getting fed up with it.  Chile Pixtun, a Guatemalan Mayan elder, was recently quoted by the AP as saying that “the doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan, ideas.”        

Hollywood has a nack for re-inventing and sensationalizing history but I guess that is nothing new.  A perfect example of this was the movie Apocalypto, which told the story of the Mayan conquests just before their civilization runs into the Spanish “conquistadores”.  There was just one small problem with that story line: it never happened.  It was the Aztecs that had a brush with the Spaniards, not the Mayans (the Mayan Mesoamerican civilization and the Aztec civilization existed centuries apart).  In our modern world saturated by myths that are spurred by a modern popular disdain and mocking of academia and rationality, facts are sometimes irrelevant.  Point-in-case is the term “Aztec” (which comes from the Nahuatl word “Aztecatl”, which means “someone that comes from Aztlán“).  Yet, the indigenous people that came to make up what we now call “the Aztec empire” did not even call themselves that.  The Aztec empire was in fact not a homogenous group of people, but rather made up by three main ethnic groups (also known as “The Triple Alliance“) that were dominant over the others at one point or another: the Mexicas, the Acolhuas, and the Tepanecs.  The homogenizing category “Aztec” was actually first used by English-speaking westerners and was widely used by American historian William H. Prescott.  In modern times in the U.S., it was later further popularized via the Aztlán mythology that was adopted by many “Chicano nationalists“.  The problem with such reductionist approach, (as with any type of reductionism), is that it glosses over the rich diversity that actually exists and presents a reality that is overly skewed just so it can fit into a particular theory.  Don’t get me wrong, I happen to like that the word “Aztec”.  Besides, humans, after all, have an inherent need for categories that help us make sense of this world.  That is the way we are wired and for a good reason: it helps us identify important patterns in nature.  I only wished our western modern “patterns” or “categories” or for that matter our industries were more inclusive and respectful of the rich cultural variety of the indigenous ethnic groups that flourished and still exist not just in Mexico but in all of Latin America.

PS So am I going to go see this 2012 film? Depends.  I’m gonna wait for the reviews.  I hate watching movies that are all flashy special effects and terrible acting/dialogue.

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Filed under History, Media Literacy

Selfish in the Sea

Many Latino anglers that fish off of L.A. County piers support the creation of Marine Protected Areas.

The opposition to creating Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) off of Southern California’s coast has taken a sinister turn: terrorizing and attacking Latino families.  I have participated in the MPA hearings for a few months now, and I have to say that the latest turn of events does not surprise me.  When you attend these hearings, you are immediately hit with just how far the opposition is willing to go with their tactics.  They will yell, push, and perpetuate all kinds of lies.  No doubt the last hearing on October 21st (click here to view the video of the meeting), in Long Beach was a particularly contentious one, as reported by Long Beach’s Press Telegram.  Perhaps one of the most memorable comments from the anti-MPA crowd were those of a fisherman that started ranting about how if MPA’s were implemented, there would be a “revolution” that would rise against such “government oppression.” “Government oppression?” I asked myself … uhm, “the government” in this instance, is us, the public, so was he saying that the actions of us, average working-class Americans, to make sure that he and other fisherment like him did not run out of fish and therefore protect his freedom to keep on fishing would be “oppression”?  Hey, I’m all for democracy and for making sure that everyone’s way of life is respected but when you start throwing out such blatant reactionary and selfish (yes, selfish) lines you’ve crossed over onto another realm.  In fact, when your crowd starts attacking innocent children that have come to learn about civic participation, you’ve crossed a line that cannot be forgiven.  

What am I talking about? Well, before and during the public comment period, some white fishermen that were unequivocally opposed to any kind of MPA being implemented in Southern California started attacking Latinos that came to the hearing in support of the MPA’s.  In one instance, totally unprovoked, a high-strung white guy started yelling at some Latino high school kids from Compton, harassing them with insulting questions like “do you even know what this is about?”,  “who brainwashed you?”, or “are they giving you extra credit to be here?”.  Nevermind that these were mostly Advanced Placement Compton students that knew quite a lot about the issue, having studied and prepped for the hearing because they wanted to learn about the “democratic process”.  I guess because they were brown, this crazy white “fisherman” guy assumed that they were just dumb kids because they happened to disagree with his point of view.  Well, to be fair, I have heard that the same harassing questions were being hurled at the students that came from Santa Monica High School (who happen to be mostly white kids). 

Yet again, the stink of racism coming from some of the fishermen that showed up to the hearing to oppose MPA’s could not be erased.  When the hearing was interrupted to report that the hotel bathroom had been vandalized, the Blue Ribbon Task Force (“BRTF” for short, the body that conducts the hearings), urged everyone to calm down.  Yet what the BRTF did NOT report to the audience was what was written on the bathroom: “f*ck MLPA” (Marine Life Protection Act) and “f*ck 3″ (referring to “Map 3″, the designed map of MPA’s that best supported sustainable fishing and the regeneration of marine life):

Tagging in the bathroom of the hotel that hosted the October 21st public hearing on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) & Marine Protected Areas (MPA's).

Tagging in the bathroom of the hotel that hosted the October 21st public hearing on the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) & Marine Protected Areas (MPA's).

The tagging of "F*ck 3" on the bathroom walls was an obvious reference to "Map 3" of the MPA's, which was supported by many nonprofits, local residents, and supporters of the environment.  Map 3 was in stark opposition to "Map 2" which was being pushed by many fishermen and big-fishing industry.

The tagging of "F*ck 3" on the bathroom walls was an obvious reference to "Map 3" of the MPA's, which was supported by many nonprofits, local residents, and supporters of the environment. Map 3 was in stark opposition to "Map 2" which was being pushed by many fishermen and big-fishing industry.

It was obvious that the tagging had been perpetuated by the anti-MPA crowd … but guess who the fishermen blamed it on? Well, why, they blamed it on the Latinos that had come to support MPA’s, of course!  Not only that, but the white  fishermen were also harassing other Latinos from East L.A.  The white fishermen would ask these Latinos families despicable questions like “do you even speak English?”, “did you come to get a free T-shirt?”, or “did they pay you to be here?”  It was a disgusting  display of just what some in the anti-MPA crowd are about.  What’s even worst: when all of this was reported to the moderators of the meeting, it was dismissed as no biggie.  Shame on them for their lax attitude, tolerating racist fishermen to pull such tactics aimed at terrorizing people! 

Again: I am all for respecting everyone’s way of life.  Not all fishermen that are opposed to MPA’s are racist selfish bastards, in fact some of them are very fine men and women that are compassionate and caring and NOT selfish in the least bit.  I also understand their argument: the drafting of MPA’s must protect their way of life, respect their dignity, and ensure that their livelihoods are not placed into unjust danger.  I believe that the role of government is to protect everyone, making sure that the opportunity to prosperity is open to all, and the anti-MPA crowd should not be the exemption.  However, when the fishing industry (supported by the California Fisheries Coalition) and the fishermen resort to terrorizing tactics, lies, racism, selfishness, and they cover their eyes and ears to the fact that we ARE running out of fish, it makes it very hard for me to accept their point of view.  It defeats their argument, and they defeat themselves.  They might’ve made the Blue Ribbon Task Force blink on this round, but mark my words: we, the general public, will NOT stand for such racist displays. 

To learn more about protecting the ocean for our future and our children’s future, you can visit Heal the Bay’s site on this MPA issue or read the latest OpEd from the L.A. Times.

Update: I’m also getting word that the white anti-MPA’s fishermen were harrassing the pro-MPA’s Latino anglers with questions which they would repeat over and over again such as “how old are you?” and “how long have you lived here?” (insinuating “you’re a foreigner aren’t you?!”).   

It’s time to take action!

So what can you do about it?

1) Email the organizers of the “Map 2″ crowd and tell them that racism is NOT acceptable and will  NOT be tolerated:

angler4prop2@gmail.com

2) Write to the MLPA Initiative to complain and to demand that they do not tolerate the racism coming from the anti-MPA crowd:

MLPA Initiative
c/o California Resources Agency
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
Sacramento, CA 95814

Email: MLPAComments@resources.ca.gov

3) You can also contact the California Fisheries Coalition (which is one of the main groups that is assisting in organizing the effort to water down the implementation of MPA’s) and demand that they denounce such racist behavior from its anti-MPA’s members:

Vern Goehring, Manager
California Fisheries Coalition
1621 13th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 444-8194
(916) 444-8195 Fax
Email: vern@cal.net

When you write to these three groups, please be respectful but firm in your demands and as detailed of as possible of what happened.

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Filed under Environment