Archive | February, 2009

Piolin interviews Obama

19 Feb

piolin1barrackobama

On February 17, 2009, President Obama was interviewed by Piolin. Piolin is a host on a Spanish language morning radio show. He is heard nationally on over 100 radio stations.  Piolin, an immigrant himself, has listeners who are able to relate to him. People listen to him at an individual and collective level. This is because Piolin’s show will be tuned in while his listeners are at work, so people laugh together, debate together, and become informed together. When I was in college, my co-workers would always play his show on the radio on our ride from UC Santa Cruz to a middle school in Soledad, an agricultural immigrant/migrant community.

This is the introduction and conversation Pres. Obama and Piolin shared on immigration:

THE PRESIDENT: Hello.

PIOLIN: Hello.

THE PRESIDENT: Who am I speaking with?

PIOLIN: Piolín.

THE PRESIDENT:  Piolín, my friend, this is President Barack Obama.

PIOLIN: How are you doing?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I am doing good.  I promised you that I would be on the show when I was President, and here I am on the show.  (Laughter.)

PIOLIN:  You promised me that you were going to be in the studio –

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven’t gone to Los Angeles yet, but I should get credit for keeping my promise this way.

PIOLIN:  Thanks a lot, Mr. President. We have Mr. President Barack Obama with us. And let me tell you this, Mr. President; I’m sure you know, but it’s important to let you know once again, we make a big contribution to our country from all across art, music, labor. And most important a lot of Hispanics are in Iraq defending the United States, even without being American citizen.

THE PRESIDENT: Right.

PIOLIN: We need your help.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I’ve said every time I’ve been on the show, Piolín, we’re going to make sure that we begin the process of dealing with the immigration system that’s broken. We’re going to start by really trying to work on how to improve the current system so that people who want to be naturalized, who want to become citizens, like you did, that they are able to do it; that it’s cheaper, that it’s faster, that they have an easier time in terms of sponsoring family members. And then we’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform. Now, you know, we need to get started working on it now. It’s going to take some time to move that forward, but I’m very committed to making it happen. And we’re going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months.

PIOLIN: Mr. President, is there some sort of network we could establish to be in communication regarding the comprehensive immigration reform, and personally what can I do?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, the key thing right now is obviously we’ve got to make sure that all the people who are involved in immigration reform issues, that they sit down together and they start thinking about how we’re going to approach this problem. Politically it’s going to be tough. It’s probably tougher now than it was, partly because of the fact that the economy has gotten worse. So what I’ve got to do is I’ve got to focus on the economy, I’ve got to focus on housing, and make sure that people feel a little bit more secure; at the same time, get the various immigrant rights groups together and have them start providing some advice in terms of what strategies we’re going to pursue in Congress.

PIOLIN:  Thats one of the things, Mr. President, I would like to happen. I’m working for media and knowing that our people worked so much. And, you know, they came out from the houses, going to work — scary because they don’t even know if they’re going to be deported. And can we try to establish like a signal, like a network — for example, I like what you did with the financial — financial people, that you set it up, for example — the newspaper from LA, is part of that — those groups of advisors, financial advisors that you put — I like the idea. How can we have kind of like the thing where I can receive information? What do we need to do so we can receive a comprehensive reform?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ve got some wonderful people on my White House staff who are working on this issue on an ongoing basis. And what we’ll do is we’ll make sure that one of those people can appear on your program on a regular basis, giving you information about what we’re doing. And hopefully at some point you’ll be able to come visit us at the White House.

PIOLIN: Any time, Mr. President. And I would like to be there when you sign the comprehensive immigration reform.

THE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, thank you so much, Piolín. It’s great to talk to you.

PIOLIN:  Mr. President, you know we are close friends and you know that I have your BlackBerry phone number and you have mine. (Laughter.) So keep in touch.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know I will.  Thank you so much.  Tell everybody in the studio I said hello.  I had a great time when I visited you, and everybody there was so nice.  And you were very nice to my wife, as well, when she was on the program.  So thank you so much, Piolín.  Take care.

PIOLIN: Take care, Mr. President.  You know, you are in our prayers.  You have our support, and we want to help in any way we can.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Thank you, guys.  Bye-bye.

Personally, I am glad to know that President Obama is making an effort to connect himself to many different communities in this country. This is a huge step in the direction of following through with immigration reform. Many people feel there should not even exist a man-made border that has caused deaths and the criminalization on an entire population. I myself recognize the history of colonization and western expansion by the United States of America in combination with the economic exploitation in our countries that pushes our people to migrate. We can not turn back time and give life to those who have died while crossing the border or break off all the hooks of corporate capitalism. But this interview speaks to a commitment represented by both the immigrant community who works and contributes positively and by the President himself in seeking ways to meet progress on the issue of immigration.

My hopes and ideals may differ from whatever policy and reform does occur. But I do believe that the separation of children from their parents is inhumane and that the trauma caused to our community because of deportations must cease. These issues have politicized and united many people who once felt they did not have a voice. I have been witness however, that through our collective demonstrations of May 1st and our continued community organizing we can be victorious in slashing away xenophobia and finding peace at home, at work, on the streets, and in our daily lives. Even though Piolin is one person, he reaches far and wide and does have the ability to represent our Latino community. This is why I believe in the power of media and have chosen to take part in the media, instead of just being the zombie. I am glad that the President will keep a regular update on Piolin’s show through one of his white house staffs’.

Comments are welcome. But not hate. Peace.

Piolin Portrait done by Artist:

Cano Varela
# 40056-048
Federal Correctional Institution

3600 Guard Rd.
Lompoc – CA – 93436

WHISPERS: The Story of the Tongva/Gabrielino Chumash and Juaneno

18 Feb

Bringing the Circle Together: Native American Films presents a FREE monthly film screening in Little Tokyo /Downtown L.A. Find more info by clicking here.

This month the film is about a Chumash filmmaker, George Angelo, Jr., who interviews and documents three Indigenous cultures of Southern California: the Chumash, Tongva/Gabrielino, and Juaneno. This extraordinary documentary presents their history and living traditions, with a special focus on rock art, the tomol, and dolphin dancers. Guests for the night includes filmmaker George Angelo, Jr.
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KOGI TACO TRUCK…an L.A. Phenomenon!

16 Feb

kogi tacos

Kogi is a Korean BBQ Taco Truck that moves around Los Angeles. Its customers only know where it is going to be parked by checking their website at www.kogibbq.com (their blog is hilarious) or following them on twitter@kogibbq. This fusion of Korean American and Mexican American food phenomenon could not have happened anywhere else but in Los Angeles. A city filled with people representing all different corners of the globe, this is the place to be for food and culture. Ahhh, I love L.A.

I went last week when it was parked in downtown L.A. in front of the Golden Golpher. They opened the truck at 9PM and when i got there at 9:40, I stood in line for an hour because there were 126 people in front of me. Everyone standing in line was so different from the next, meaning by race and ethnicity. It was so eclectic. Most everyone was between the 20 – 35 year old age range who showed up with at least 4 other friends and invited each other on Facebook or Twitter.

As I waited for my order I over heard one of the owners reminiscing with a customer about eating tacos in Highland Park, a mostly Latino immigrant community. I asked another owner how long they had been in business and he responded, “two and a half months and its been the craziest two and half months of my life”.

It was exciting to stand in line. And it was exciting to order, I had to try as many tacos at once. So I ordered one short rib bbq taco, one spicy chicken taco, and one tofu taco. On their menu you will find burritos and kimchi quesadillas. Yes, kimchi quesadillas. When I finally took my first bite, it was well worth the crazyness. The sweet short rib taco sitting on a warm soft tortilla filled with cilantro, onions, and cabbage made my mouth happy.

After waiting, chatting, ordering, meeting, waiting, and eating, I could not do anything else but go home. My night was fulfilled.

As I said, it is a phenomenon…a total L.A. experience.  🙂

p.s. the owners also seem to be community conscious, they’ve decided to park in Little Tokyo in front of the Japanese American Museum on Thursdays. This Thursday btw, is a film screeening hosted by Bringing the Circle Together. The screening will be at the National Center for Preservation of Democracy, which is also across the museum. See you there, with taco in hand waiting for the movie.

Film Screening Coming Soon …

15 Feb

A film screening of Killer’s Paradise is being planned and organized, so stay tune and keep your eyes open for an invitation. ana.

Explaining the Guatemalan Femicide

15 Feb

I have contemplated and dwelled all day. I’ve been feeling as though im in mourning, but I don’t have a grave to cry upon. A part of me feels very alone.

On January 28, 2009, I went to a free film screening of Killer’s Paradise, directed and produced by Giselle Portenier, a film maker from Canada, producing for the BBC. She made this film after learning about the femicide in Guatemala in 2005. Her film captured 3 months worth of murders, tortures, rapes, grief, and trauma. Needless to point out the tremendous impact this had on my spirit. I have not yet recovered. But it is from this point that I wish to write.

Femicide and violence in Guatemala is not a recent inexplicable phenomenon. In fact, I take it back to 500+ years of mental, spiritual, physical, and territorial conquest. That’s where I begin this story. When my ancestors, Mayas, were brutally tortured, enslaved, diseased, and murdered in the name of the Spanish crown. Spring forward to the 20th century and Mayan’s were still being enslaved as indentured servants. A mother would be given “loans”, thrown coins in exchange for her sons. If she wanted her children back, she would have to repay the landowners.

When Jacobo Arbenz became president of Guatemala in 1951, there was already a Latin American re-socialization of land, class, workers and citizen’s rights. He was democratically elected with 60% of the vote after an overthrowing by dictator Jorge Ubico. Thanks to the influence of his wife, Maria Cristina Villanova, he continued the Agrarian Land Reform where only unused acres of land were expropriated and given to the peasant class, the Mayas, the original owners of the land. He also created 8 hour work days, and 5 day work weeks.

The United Fruit Company (one of the original owners of this company used to be slave trader), also known as Chiquita Banana, cried RED when they were made to give up land they did not use. They stepped inside the offices of Nixon and Kissinger and made themselves out to be victims. The CIA orchestrated a coup de tat and soon enough, in 1954, they made Arbenz step down from office. By the 1960’s a civil war had broken out between the military and human right defenders / guerilla fighters. The civil war in Guatemala lasted 36 years, when the Peace Accords were signed in1996. This was longest civil war in Latin American history.

The United States trained and funded generals and soldiers in what became a genocide. It has been documented that the Guatemalan Armed Forces used tactics of war and torture similar to those used in Vietnam. Over 626 massacres occurred during the armed conflict. Over 200,000 people were murdered/disappeared, and over 1.5 million people were displaced.

close-up-of-mass-grave-skeltons

The Commission on Historical Truth recognizes that genocide did occur in Guatemala. Genocide is defined as: the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group by way of:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

In Guatemala, the Mayan race was/is considered sub-human.  And within this genocide began the femicide. Military officials and presidents in Guatemala such as Efrain Rios Montt, trained and armed men to systematically wipe off villages from the map. In the 1980’s the number of men being murdered actually dropped, and the number of women murdered began to rise steadily and gravely. It is said that women would birth “insurgents”, and so this became the justification for the mass murders of womyn. The rate of murder by the military during the 1980’s now measures similarly to the rate of murder in present time Guatemala. And it is true that a country shamed and threatened into silence, has been unable to heal and recover.

After a film a discussion follows. And questions of confusion arose, despite the clear picture the film had presented. Maybe reality is too much to accept. But people did not seem to understand what the word impunity means. Do you know what impunity looks like? If you can imagine hundreds of thousands of men who were trained to kill but no longer in war, what jobs would be available to them. Many of the military officials now fill the ranks of Guatemala’s National Civil Police and/or appoint themselves to political offices. There is nothing civil about Guatemalan officials, policemen, military, or politicians. They are corrupt, dirty, and greedy. They sell their country, pocket the money, and lie to the public. If only lying was the extent of their crimes, but they also murder. Hence, if the very people in political and governmental offices are criminals, can you expect its citizens to follow the law?

There is also such a thing as extra- judicial killings which are an everyday occurrence in Guatemala. Police murder young men and women on suspicion that they are “marreros”, gang members. The assumptions are plenty, and the killings follow. Policemen also steal from citizens, check points can mean your cell phone, wallet, and personal belonging can be stolen by the police, or maybe you’re lucky and really you can just buy them off with a “mordida”.

Combine this corruption with poverty, trauma, and patriarchy, and you have only begun to realize what women in Guatemala live and die by. When women are murdered, it is believed that somehow, they deserved it, they asked for it, they provoked their own death. And if a woman wants to be educated, or not get married, or speak out, she’s a bitch, breaking tradition, and also deserving of violence to correct her manners.

There is also the issue of domestic violence coupled with alcoholism that reigns many households. Many children are traumatized and continue the cycle of violence. Many children are also abandoned and left alone on the streets to fend for themselves. They are recruited or forced into the gangs and many times if they do not join they will surely die. Many young children growing up on the streets clearly know the face and soul of violence. They become violent. And women become their victims.violencia-contra-las-mujeres-en-guatemala

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If I travel to my country, I am a potential victim. My body could be snatched from my family; I could be tortured, strangled, burned, and/or punctured with a knife countless times. I could be raped or gang raped; killed, decapitated, limbs cut off and my naked body dumped in the trash, or a river. It doesn’t end here. My family could search for me and never find me. Or maybe they will but it won’t matter that my nails carry the skin I tore from my murderer, or that in my vagina I still carry his semen. It will not matter that the pattern in which they killed me happened to 20 other womyn before me, and 20 more to come because of impunity, patriarchy, and incompetence by investigators and police officials, including the president. This happens, daily. There are no human rights. And Guatemala is only one country, out of the many other countries were womyn are attacked.

There was a young man from Guatemala who was speaking to the filmmaker before me.
He said, “but men are also being murdered, what about them?”
Giselle responded, “This is true. Men are being murdered. But women are not killing men. Men are killing women.”

This is about gender. This is about women not having the kinds of freedoms men are inherited upon birth. This is about women being depicted on television as sexual objects, satisfying the needs of men. This is about the men on the streets that stare women down and whistle at them, or invade their space. It is about rape. It is about men not being consciousness of sharing space with womyn, whether its in politics, companies, the arts, whatever. You name it, and women are not included in the conversation. Women have to make spaces for themselves. They have to tell men to step back. Respect is not mutual or a given. Patriarchy is violent towards both men and women. Excuse me for just speaking to these two genders, it is not my intention to dismiss non-gender conforming individuals. (I don’t like the word conforming, btw.)

If you didn’t know, know you do. If you did know, I can remind myself that I am not alone in my own grief and understanding of this reality. It is unfair. And it feels like my heart is being grasped by a tight fist and even after they let go, my heart will still feel bruised and pained. This is what I carry. And yet it is nothing. I have not lost a sister or my mother yet. They are alive. I am alive. And I don’t ask, “what should I do, omg”. In my everyday work and manifestations, my spirit and energy moves through the shades of darkness as I follow the warmth and the light we know as justice and peace.

http://www.sobrevivientes.org
http://www.geocities.com/lacuerda_gt/
http://www.myspace.com/chapinasunidas
http://www.mimundo.org
http://www.miamericas.info
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98593139
http://www.prensalibre.com/pl/2009/enero/10/285753.html
http://www.myspace.com/juarezawareness
http://www.myspace.com/RadioMujeresAbriendoCaminos
http://www.MujeresAbriendoCaminos.com
http://www.gems-girls.org
http://www.mysistahs.org

GUATEMALA/

juarez

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Interview with Luis Enrique Guzman

15 Feb

To listen to the original Spanish interview with  audio interview with Luis Enrique Guzman, please click here.

Luis Enrique Guzman at an Immigrant Rights Rally along with members of Homies Unidos

Luis Enrique Guzman at an Immigrant Rights Rally along with members of Homies Unidos

Luis Enrique was born in Guatemala, near the University of San Carlos. As a child growing up in Guatemala’s period of armed conflict, he was a witness to many of the student protests. At a young age he turned his attention towards issues of human rights and social justice. In 1981, at the age of 12 he was at home when he began to notice smoke coming from the University. The student movement was protesting the rise in transportation costs. But this peaceful protest turned unexpectedly violent. Luis Enrique, being young and curious, ran to see what the commotion was about, only to become witness of military police men firing their rifles at students. He saw the bodies of university students fall to the floor and die on the streets. It was this memory that changed who he would become.

Luis Enrique became an activist and joined the student movement. In the midst of his activism he came across a Mexican journalist who had photographed the massacre of Panzos, a community located in Alta Verapaz. Through these photographs, his consciousness was again impacted. He saw the limbs of men, women, elders, and children tortured and cut off, including women who were pregnant. The pictures of the scenes were graphic and violent. According to the Commission on Historical Clarification, the massacre at Panzos was only one out of 626 massacres that the Guatemalan Armed Forces was responsible for. The height of this violence occurred between the period of 1979 to 1986, under the governance of general Fernando Romeo Lucas Garcia (1978 – 1982), general Efrain Rios Montt (1982 – 1983), and general Oscar Humberto Mejia Victores (1983 – 1986). A genocide took place in Guatemala where over 200,000 people died, many of them of Mayan ancestry. By 1982, the army adopted a different tactic and started executing more women than men in a brutally systematic manner.

Luis Enrique was profoundly affected by the state of his country and decided to take part in the guerilla movement. But before he could join, his mother talked to his father who lived in Chicago, Illinois and planned to send Luis Enrique to the United States. When Luis Enrique was 19 years old he emigrated to the U.S. Life changed for Luis Enrique after he moved to Illinois. After some time he decided to move to California. Unfortunately he was caught up in the criminal justice system and after violating his parole for crossing state lines, he was arrested in Nevada and imprisoned in a California state prison for three years. On June 12, 2006, the day he was to walk out as free man, the Department of Homeland Security waited at the prison doors to take him into their custody and transport him to an immigration detention facility.

While at the immigration detention center, Luis Enrique continued his activism. Once again he witnessed human rights violations inside the detention facility, including the death of Victorilla Arellano, a woman who was HIV positive and who was denied her medication. In August of 2007, he organized a peaceful demonstration with other detainees. Over 10 security guards beat Luis Enrique but the organizers were able to have their demands met.

Luis Enrique also began to spend time in the library inside the detention center. He began to research his case and realized that if he were deported, he would surely face death upon arrival in Guatemala. This is because he had been part of a student movement while he lived in Guatemala and he now carried tattoos on his body. Although his tattoos were not gang related, Guatemala’s “social cleansing” would label him as a gang member, making him susceptible to torture and murder either by other gang members or by the police. Luis Enrique was not going to take this chance and asked the judge to allow him to defend his case. He continued to do research and began to reach out for legal assistance.

Thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union, a national organization advocating for individual rights, and Homies Unidos, a Los Angeles based gang prevention organization, he received books to continue his research and was able to recruit three key experts who would aid him in convincing the Judge of the potential torture, or death that Luis Enrique could face if deported to Guatemala. Thanks to the Geneva Convention Laws against Torture, which was adopted by the United States, Luis Enrique successfully proved his case and won his freedom in December 2008.

Luis Enrique now continues to be a human rights activist and organizer. He is also a volunteer at Homies Unidos and gives legal assistance to detainees and conducts research for immigration cases. He is not a lawyer, but in fighting in court for his freedom for over two years, he has been able to use his experience for the benefit of the immigrant community. In a time of uncertainty for immigrants and their families, the story of Luis Enrique Guzman serves as an example for every individual to learn how to defend themselves, and stand up for justice.