Slug: Your La Raza Unida Page has been unpublished: Is it 1970 or 2020?
By Jenaro Ernesto Ayala
La Raza Unida Party
On April 3rd, 2010, as Facebook was becoming an everyday thing I thought it would be a good idea to open up a page for the organization I grew up in and belong to: El Partido Nacional de La Raza Unida or simply La Raza Unida. I uploaded pictures from our files and began populating our Facebook page with more contemporary pictures from marchas, conferences, meetings, community actions, and our annual Fiesta En El Barrio that we have held every year since 1995 in Pacoima/San Fernando.
My party has a long history of political action since its birth in Crystal City, Texas on January 17, 1970. A natural outcome of that decolonial legacy laid down 50 years ago was for La Raza Unida de San Fernando-Pacoima, California, which has held the longest active chapter since 1971, to take the natural step of building an online presence.
Right from the beginning the page was under constant attacks and reports to Facebook for its memes and videos, but we stood strong. I regularly shared news from other Chicano and Latino pages like Telesur and Union del Barrio to give them a hand at outreach. In 2018, we were at Chicano Park in San Diego when Trump supporters swore to raise the US flag and live streamed the event, garnering hundreds of views within seconds. Nothing fancy, but there was our page not holding back, and taking the threats, sometimes of violence, from Trump supporters with a grain of salt.
Open opposition is nothing new. La Raza Unida has its history of confrontation with defenders of colonialism including white supremacists, and agents of the state. These lessons of resistance and responsibility I learned from my father who with his brush and paint would make many of the banners we carried at demonstrations by hand. Following his example in the 21st century I began making memes.
“You need to make something that’s direct and to the point but that still gets attention,” he said regarding his banners and flyers. Specifically I remember a large red banner he had just painted. The banner, nothing fancy, had a hand brushed silhouette painting of Zapata from his chest up. In black letters that seemed to be painted on a wall it said “Zapata Vive!” and in smaller letters below it read “La Raza Unida”. That was it.
His banners would always attract onlookers. It wasn’t an elaborate fresco, it was handmade, plain, simple, but very good. How else would you get the attention of someone weighed down with many worries in life? Someone like a worker.
I applied the same idea to memes. Nothing fancy, but this working class Chicano, a product of the same experience as other Chicanos, had a lot to say, and it is easy to say it with memes.
“Go Back to Europe” has become a thing now. Other memes we made went viral and four of the memes I made and posted on the Raza Unida page were put in a government database during the fallout from “Russiagate” as “Russian Inspired” social media propaganda. As if we need Vladimir Putin to tell us about the Chicano condition and everyday life. I also don’t recall any Russians with me when I got the idea for a meme from a friend that ended up in that “database.” This same meme caused much ire in right wing and identitarian circles. Nor do I recall any Russians telling me to make a meme alluding to the Kapernick Nike ads only with a ship sailing in the sunset and the simple words “Go Back To Europe”
It is time once again that La Raza raises its voice unto the world and proudly and with a defiance that has only grown deeper in 500 years say in our own words “Yo Soy Humano!” Escuchame, this is my story, this is how we see the world y si no te gusta ME VALE!
The people on the page were the pure essence of La Raza giving their two cents on stuff we walk around with but suppress all the time. On this page Aztlan was Aztlan because we say so, and we are Chicanos, we are Mexicanos, we are La Raza. We called out Vendido Coconuts for what they are and told the intermittent waves of Trump supporters to take their asses back to Europe if they didn’t like it here, in pure Chicano style.
Now, on May 4th, 2020 as the Coronavirus swings over our heads like a pendulum and many have taken to social media, I had just held a “Watch Party” streaming videos off of the page.. After a viewing of “Yo Soy Joaquin” Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales’s epic poem as spoken by Luis Valdez, “Viva Tirado” by El Chicano, Kid Frost’s “This is for La Raza” and then a clip on Chunky Sanchez ending with a dash of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” I get the message “Your page La Raza Unida has been unpublished.”
I clicked on the notification and the reason it gave me was that La Raza Unida page was either spamming or being run by fake profiles. Yet, in 2018, Facebook had me send them a picture of my drivers license, my phone number and download an “Authenticator” app that gave me a code to prove it was me when they claimed some of the memes could have been “Russian Inspired”.
The irony that speaks 1000 words in this all is that almost 50 years ago, La Raza Magazine, a publication of the same organization as this now “unpublished” page also used satire, photojournalism and activism to give a voice to La Raza. They were also disrupted in the same vein. The liberal corporatist state clamped down by raiding our offices and trashing everything inside. What happened today is the contemporary equivalent, the neo-liberal corporatist state has no use for shotguns, batons, and patrol cars when all they had to do was press a button and voila!
Quiet those damned Messkins!
To this we say CHALE! We the Chicanos-Mexicanos of the Southwest de Aztlan, are fast becoming the majority if not already in several regions of the Southwest yet the media continues to ignore us, history books shun us and general American society continues to bestow upon our backs the condition of being perpetually foreign in our own land. We can no longer remain on the fringes, no longer accept silence and humiliation! Ya Basta!
This political, social and economic silencing is the reason we need media in all shape, form and manner. Let us build our own media to become the sinew of the flesh and bones of an awakened giant.
Que Viva La Raza!