Capitalism is the commodification of surplus production and the exploitation of surplus labor. Surplus is anything above and beyond that which would keep us alive. Things are produced to be sold for a profit, making them commodities. Things are produced with resources, machinery and human labor. Human labor is the variable from which profit is drawn out of the production of commodities. From the capitalist perspective, whatever you do not pay the worker is your rate of profit. From the standpoint of reality, the capitalist as the capitalist adds nothing to the process of production. They simply own and exploit.
Facing a pandemic, capitalist nations across the world are looking to make adjustments now in order to maintain the system later. They are looking to make sure they can extract profit from workers at a later time by making crisis adjustments on the spot. They are looking to pause aspects of the market so that people may live in order to later be exploited.
In this time the Prime Minister of Canada has made statements concerning a possible moratorium mortgages and rent. So has the governor of California who as of 3/16/20 made an executive order to halt evictions . Spain is nationalizing all private elements of their healthcare system. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has vowed to give fewer parking tickets. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s has spoken about arresting fewer people during the pandemic as to not overcrowd the jail cells.
Essentially these are preliminary calls for aspects of capitalist terror and oppression to be paused so that they may return at a later date. This pandemic is showing us all the arbitrary brutality of the system we live under. Things simply do not need to be the way they are.
Whatever small temporary band-aid they offer we must demand as a permanent change in society. We must think beyond where we have been thinking.
Demand universal healthcare. Demand universal housing. Demand universal child care. Demand universal internet access. Demand universal streaming programs. Demand universal chill. Demand universal access to food. Demand universal toiletries. Demand. Demand. Demand. Demand an end to the market system. It is what stands in the way of everything. This crisis has more than proven this to be true.
This week at Tele-Jaguar we are honored to present 5 questions with Joey Villareal. An author, an educator, a developer of agit-prop at its finest, Joey Villareal is a Chicano revolutionary and freedom fighter who throws his whole life, being and soul towards the struggle for liberation and self determination. With stories and answers that range from tales of solitary confinement to political awakening to authoring a study guide toward the liberation of our people, this week’s offering of 5 questions is truly something remarkable. If you have anything resembling a pulse this installment will leave you moved, awakened and called to action. Without further ado, Tele-Jaguar proudly presents: 5 questions with the great Joey Villareal. Enjoy.
1. You are well-known as a Warrior / Educator / Activist for prisoner’s rights, Raza liberation, and stellar radio host of the revolutionary show, “Free Aztlan!” But tell us, who is Joey Villarreal?
I am the son of child laborers who toiled the fields while their parents worked right next to them. A child of the barrio whose home was raided by the pigs before I started elementary school. Born in San Jose, CalifAztlan but state raised—I am someone whose parents were criminalized before I was born and who was captured and held in juvenile hall at age 12. The boy’s ranches nor CYA could not smother my resistance and so I was sent to prison at age 18. My political consciousness was honed through a decade in solitary confinement. Study groups in Pelican Bay gave painful birth to my politicization. Understanding who my enemies were and who my friends were became a necessary component in maintaining my sanity and continuing my resistance. I am simply a voice, a vehicle that delivers a message to the Chicano nation. A musician that is keeping the beat of resistance beating in the hearts and minds of the gente.
2. How did you get started with your radio show, and what does it mean to “Free Aztlan”
My interest in radio first began with my interest in media. And before that, it was my interest in propaganda which sparked all of this interest. So in the beginning, I would have to say that my interest in media began while in prison because it was in prison where once I became politicized, I had no way to participate with the struggles outside of prison. I could not go on a march, I couldn’t go to a rally, and I couldn’t participate in actions outside of prison because I was in the concentration camp. So I began to create writings and art work as a form of contribution to the movement outside of prisons because that’s the only way I could con tribute at that point especially since I was in solitary confinement, I could no longer organize hunger strikes or other forms of resistance out in general population like I did before although those things were happening, the opportunity was not as it was when I was in GP. This lead me to my interest in studying the history of propaganda and how many revolutionary societies partook in propaganda. Agitation and propaganda. It was during my deep study of agit-prop where I began to really understand the importance of propaganda and of things like radio, music, art work, and writings. I began to really understand the power that these forms of expression had. It was at this point where I was released from prison and I ended up linking up with POOR magazine. I began to work with them and it was through them that I began my program on YouTube, Free Aztlan. I did the YouTube videos once a week for about a year and I got the hang of doing interviews, going over different topics, and conversating about different forms of struggle going on in society. This is where I cut my teeth. After about 1 year, poor magazine began the process of getting their FCC license in order to have a radio station. They obtained the license for the station, KEXU 96.1 FM, and then they asked if I would be interested in having a slot for a radio show. Of course, I took them up on the offer and I’ve been doing Free Aztlan on the radio for almost two years now and so that is how I began the process of Radio. And I really have a deep appreciation for radio because it is an education tool and a platform that people can use to promote justice and to educate the people on injustice. It’s very important. To answer the other question, “What does it mean to free Aztlan”? When I say Aztlan, I’m talking about the Chicano Nation. When I’m talking about free Aztlan, I’m not talking about getting higher paying jobs, I’m not talking about getting parks named after Chicano people, and I’m not talking about having museums or being able to speak a different language. I’m not talking about freeing our people cosmetically. I’m talking about complete emancipation all the way up to forming our own government, all the way up to having our own standing army, and controlling our own resources, economy, and our own politics free from the oppressor nation and this is what I mean by Free Aztlan. That means complete self-determination all the way up to independence. That is free Aztlan!
3. May you please tell us about your book, and where we can obtain a copy? How long did it take you to write your book and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
My book, Chicano Power and the Struggle for Aztlan, is very important. It was written as part of a study group that I was involved with and published by MIM Prisons, which is a Maoist organization that works primarily with prisoners and offers many different forms of political education, political instruction for prisoners, and this organization worked with prisoners in developing correspondence courses. It was through a correspondence course that I took for revolutionary political science that the idea came about for the book Chicano Power. What happened was during the course of my studies, of course we went over many different aspects of political education, and we went over the classics: Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Stalin, plus many different revolutionary theorists, and we covered many other struggles that were taking place. We studied revolutionary organizations within these false US borders and through all of that I loved to study the history the Black Panther Party, the AIM, the Young Lords Party, the Brown Berets, I loved all of it; however, most of the revolutionary groups that I was studying were not Chicano. There was a vacuum in material of a revolutionary nature pertaining to the Chicano Nation, so I ended up volunteering to write a pamphlet on Chicano History and the Chicano Struggle. Once I wrote and submitted the pamphlet, “Chicano Power and the Struggle for Aztlan”, to MIM prisons, they then asked, “how about expanding on this and turning it into a book project?” which I agreed upon. MIM ended up teaming me up with another prisoner who was also politicized and who was also going through the revolutionary political science study group and we embarked on writing this book. We used my 100 page pamphlet and expanded on to that to come up with the book. The book is about 300 pages and it has been described as a Chicano revolutionary history book, a study manual, and a training guide. It talks about theory, has book reviews, critiques of organizations that claim to work in the interest of the Chicano Nation, describes organizing tactics, and political theory. If we were religious, I would say this is our bible. This is the bible for revolution of the Chicano Nation. This is the one stop shop for revolution, this has everything, but I’m not Jesus. This book is very important in carving out the path forward for today’s movement and people can order a copy by sending $20 cash, check, or money order to Aztlan Press, PO Box 4186, San Jose, Califas 95150. Or people can order the book online on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and if you google the book title, you’ll find other retailers. Chicano Power and the Struggle for Aztlan; beautiful book and I hope every household has a copy on their kitchen table. The book took around 3 years to write but this was three years of being imprisoned in solitary confinement so I basically had all day and all night and I wrote for hours and hours and hours a day. I would wake up, work out, and then I would write. Sometimes I would write all through the night until 11 PM, midnight and everything was written by hand and sent out. The organization outside of prison transcribed everything and this is how it was written. It took years to do it through the process of mailing out the writings, debates, back and forth, and agreeing on the final product. We had to continuously modify and correct some of the stuff that was being written. At the end we ended up all agreeing upon the final product and the book, in my opinion, is probably going to be one of the most important contributions that I made to the movement in my lifetime, and I am very proud to have contributed with this book. It is a very powerful book. The entire state of Texas has banned this book from entering any of its prisons. I believe the state of Colorado has done the same and these states do not want this book to get into the hands of the prisoners. The prisons themselves say that the book is a threat to the safety and security of the institution and that it calls for the overthrow of the US Government. I would say that this book calls for National Liberation of the Chicano Nation and I recommend this book to all Chicano people and also to any organization or group that works in the interest of Raza or any anti-imperialist group or movement because the Chicano Nation plays a key role in the future of liberation movements on this continent. The Chicano Nation also plays a key role on what happens to US Imperialism from this point out, so any freedom-loving people I would recommend to get this book and to study it even non-Chicano people should study it to understand the Chicano Nation’s struggles and to understand where we are going in the future.What I hope to accomplish with this book is for our people to obtain national liberation. I hope that this book helps in the process of shaping ideology and political line, and I hope that it is a blueprint on organizing inside prisons and outside prisons and that it in the end helps to promote unity within Aztlan and to be a compass for how our nation moves forward today and in the future.
4. You are involved in the 50th Anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium. What does being “Chicano” mean to you, and why is the Moratorium so important?
Being Chicano to me means that people of Mexican descent who have grown up under the colonial government, also known as Amerikkka, have been shaped, and have developed differently than the people existing under the Mexican Government. As Chicanos, our interaction with US imperialism living under an Amerikkkan government has made us develop into the Chicano Nation. It helped in the formation of our nation. Stalin talked about how imperialism and the injection of capitalism actually helps in the development of nations because when US imperialism is creating railroads and creating all of this infrastructure so that they can pull out the resources from the oppressed nation in the process they’re building the infrastructure of the new nation because once we become liberated we’re going to have our railroads and all the things the oppressor has built. In one aspect, their exploiting all of the resources but in the process they’re building up the infrastructure of the oppressed nation It was our integration of living under the oppressor nation that helped us to form into a nation. That’s who the Chicano people are. We are of Mexican descent who because of our colonial relationship with Amerikkka, we have developed into a new nation and new people and we are Chicano people. This is what it means to be Chicano to me. Now, the importance of the Chicano Moratorium is important historically, to honor the original Moratorium of 1970, when the Chicano nation opposed the Vietnam War, but today it’s even more relevant because today Chicano people are filling the ranks of the US military faster than any other people. If the military is the arm of US Imperialism, then Raza has a huge responsibility to people around the world to stop US Imperialism. The Chicano Moratorium helps to educate our people that we should NOT join the US Military and that our wars are NOT overseas. There is a war going on here and our people need to join the Chicano movement in order to stop the oppression on OUR people and the oppression that is unleashed around the world at the hands of the US. So, the Chicano Moratorium plays a key role in preventing oppression around the world and exploitation around the world. Today there is a browning of the US Military, Raza are overwhelmingly becoming the highest recruits in the US Military and Raza women are the fastest growing population being recruited into the US Military. So, the Chicano Nation being the largest Raza population in the US has a huge responsibility to people around the world and the Chicano Moratorium helps to educate the people on that responsibility, and that is to say NO to the US Military.
5. You have a beautiful grandson. What would you like him to remember most about who you were to him as 1) a grandfather, and 2) as a revolutionary fighter for the people?
What I would like my grandson Xicotli to remember most about who I was to him as a grandfather, I would like my grandson to know that I loved him very much and that although I struggled throughout my life, that I was a very selfless person who made decisions that would benefit him and his children before anything else. I want him to know that being a grandfather is being a teacher and being an example. I want him to know that I lived my life being the best example that I could, for him, even when it wouldn’t be realized until many years later. I want him to know that what makes me happy is to see him struggle through any obstacles that come his way. I would also like my grandson to know that I gave my life to what I believed in and for the struggle for national liberation for our people. And that I made many sacrifices because this is what I believed in. I understand it is a huge responsibility to resist US imperialism and the Chicano Nation has a huge responsibility in how we move forward. And as I struggled, I understood the sacrifice that I am making, but I know that the contributions that I make will outlive me and will benefit you and all of our people. And I want you to know that when you believe in justice, there should be no sacrifice that is too great to promote your belief. And one day our people WILL be free and I hope you know that your grandfather poured all of his energy in the struggle for a free Aztlan. I love you and I love our Raza, siempre.
This is not a Democracy : Money Power and the Rule of Law
“How noble the law, in its majestic equality, that both the rich and poor are equally prohibited from peeing in the streets, sleeping under bridges, and stealing bread! “- Anatole France
“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.” – Donald Trump
“All of the new Democrats that came in and put Nancy Pelosi in charge and gave the Congress the ability to control this president, I bough — I, I got them.” – Mike Bloomberg
A Tale of Two Billionaires
“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest” and therefore no crime could be committed “if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest.” These are the words of highly noted legal scholar, attorney, and former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, arguing on behalf of Donald Trump during his impeachment trial. Here it would appear Dershowitz is arguing that a politician in the course of getting themselves elected was incapable of committing a crime as they believed their heart of hearts that their election was in the general interest of the public. This essentially amounts to the call for the end of law. For if people think they are doing right then they are permitted to do anything. We all know this only applies to the rich and the well connected. It was a strange moment in a very strange trial that in many ways cracked open the facade of American law and order and its relationship to money and power. Simply stated, the law exists in order to ensure that those with money remain in power. This is made more and more transparent by the day through the actions of both major political parties.
The impeachment of Donald Trump was a trial with no witnesses. Despite being the most hated president (and loved by monstrous sections of the country) in generations, there was a noted lack of interest in the impeachment hearings. This is likely because the articles of impeachment and the proceedings had little to do with why many people hate Trump. Trump was not being impeached for caging Central American children and separating them from their families. Trump was not being impeached for trying to enforce a Muslim ban. Trump was not being impeached for his lack of aid to Puerto Rico or the added insult of throwing paper towels at an audience. Trump was not being impeached for calling Haiti, El Salvador and the countries of Africa “shitholes.” Trump was not being impeached for his saying Mexico was sending “drug dealers” and “rapists” nor proceeding with the building of a racist wall. No Trump was being impeached for a phone call to the President of the Ukraine in which he threatened to withhold the shipment of weapons which could potentially be used to threaten Russia. The Democratic Party was seeking to impeach Trump not for his many, many, many unmanageable white supremacist outbursts but rather because he put his own personal interests ahead of the governing and maintenance of U$ imperialism. It is important to remember that Richard Nixon was impeached over Watergate and not COINTELPRO. It is important to remember the Democrats respond to the lawlessness of the Republican Party only insomuch as it effects their party structure and general aims of capitalism and imperialism. As evidenced by Al Gore in 2000 they won’t even fight for their own votes if it means enfranchising working people, especially those who are not white. It is also worth noting that Trump lost the general election by three million votes. He lost California by four million votes. The electoral college disenfranchised the entire state of California. Also of note, the Senate is an inherently undemocratic body. There are roughly 500,000 Wyomingites. There are roughly 40,000,000 Californians. Within the Senate 1 Wyomingite has the political representation of 80 Californians. The Electoral College delivered the hated Trump. The Senate prevented his ouster. This is not a democracy.
The billionaire Donald Trump stated he wanted the impeachment trial to be over before his state of the union speech and that is exactly what he got. During his state of the union a the brazen Donald awarded fellow racist media mogul Rush Limbaugh the Medal of Honor. During this charade there was also bipartisan applause for the would be usurper of the Venezuelan Presidency, Juan Guaido, who was later mobbed in the streets of Caracas for his treachery. The evening finally came to an end with Nancy Pelosi dramatically ripping up a copy of Trump’s speech. Not to be dramatically outdone Trump would later describe her actions as “very illegal.”
Coming out of the State of the Union the outlaw Donald Trump would go on white collar pardoning spree pardoning Edward DeBartolo, former NFL owner involved in one of the worst sporting scandals of all time, then wall street Mike Milliken, involved in one of the worst wall street scandals of all time and even crossed the aisle to commute the sentence of former Illinois Democratic governor Rod Blagojovich. Donald Trump appears now to be running on a pro corruption platform. Donald Trump acts with impunity because he is a criminal. Then again it is a criminal system that rewards brazen criminality.
While the Democrats scorned and lambasted the naked lawlessness of a trial with no witnesses their party leadership simultaneously also moved to violate their own rules of their convention for debate qualifications. They did so in order to allow billionaire Mike Bloomberg to take the debate stage near upon entry into the race. While the Democrats in the Senate were in the process of failing to impeach a billionaire president the Democrats in party leadership were changing their own rules so that they could bring a billionaire to their debate stage. With the rule change a candidate would no longer have to meet a numerical threshold of contributors to qualify for the debate. In response Bernie Sanders called it the very definition of “rigging the system.” Warren drew the immediate comparisons between Mike Bloomberg and Donald Trump and even fellow billionaire and Democratic primary nominee Tom Steyer complained that “changing the rules now to accommodate Mike Bloomberg and not changing them in the past to ensure a more diverse debate stage is just plain wrong.” Amy Klobuchar welcomed Mike Bloomberg’s addition to the debate stage.
In the initial debate Mike Bloomberg was exposed relatively quickly as unable to defend his racist record as mayor of New York. Both the policies and his justification for stop and frisk a policy that targeted young Black and Latino males was pressed heavily by Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg and even Biden. It was a debacle. No matter. The next day Bloomberg was endorsed by three members of congress. Thus far the presidential run of Mike Bloomberg most closely resembles that of the professional wrestling career of Ted Dibiase whose intro song stated, “some might cost a little, some might cost a lot, but I am the million dollar man and you will be bought.” Bloomberg buys politicians in the same way he buys TV ads with the total impunity of a man with an estimated net worth of 55 billion dollars. Super Tuesday will reveal if his money on endorsements and advertisements have been well spent.
Despite the big money he is spending on getting endorsements and buying ads Bloomberg’s racist billionaire impulses and practices are not far from the service. Early in his campaign it was revealed that he was relying on prison labor for phone banking. This is particularly egregious when you consider that during hurricane Sandy, when questioned about evacuating Rikers Island Bloomberg who was mayor at the time responded, “Rikers Island is up where they are and jails are secure. Don’t worry about anyone getting out.” So racist and cruel is Mike Bloomberg, that he didn’t even comprehend the question. And that maybe the most criminal thing of all.
The Sanders Candidacy
A spectre haunts the leadership of the Democratic Party as well as representatives of their class within the world of television punditry. And that spectre is the possibility of a Sanders candidacy. Ramping up even from 2016 levels of hyperbole and dishonesty media pundits have committed themselves to a number of firsts. The New York Times editorial board for instance endorsed two primary candidates one for Klobuchar for “centrists” and Warren for “progressives.” Joy Reid of MSDNC described Sanders candidacy as a “hostile takeover.” Chris Matthews of the same station went as far as to voice concern that a socialist victory would result in executions in Central Park with people “cheering on.” Later Matthews would go on to liken a Sanders victory in Nevada to the Nazi invasion of France. These comments are inexcusable and Matthews was rightly pressured to resign, which despite the tough guy “hardball” persona he has cultivated now for decades, he did, quite quickly. Like most fake TV tough guys all it takes is a little pressure.
Candidates themselves leading into super Tuesday have committed to outright political conspiracy against the Sanders campaign. Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg both suspended their runs and threw endorsements behind Joe Biden in rapid succession. Apparently despite being the only candidate in the primary to make it a point of telling voters to vote for someone else Joe Biden is seen as the most likely “centrist” to beat Sanders in the primary. Even Beto O’ Rourke plucked himself up from the bootstraps of obscurity to endorse Biden soon after Klobuchar and Buttigieg. Bloomberg would go on to say he felt sorry for Klobuchar and Buttigieg but also congratulate the two for having had “behaved themselves” during their respective campaigns, spoken like a true billionaire.
While there is clearly a conspiracy against Sanders, we must also ask ourselves about the candidate independent of those conspiracies against him. There are things that the Sanders campaign represents that are historic. And that is really sad. It is really sad that the politics in this country are so dominated by wealth and the dreams of wealth that a political candidacy to raise the quality of life of working class people, while in no way, shape or form changing the political structures of the country, can be branded as revolutionary. Bernie Sanders is not a revolutionary. During the 2016 primaries he spoke highly of Dwight D. Eisenhower the President who sat over the political state sponsored assassination of the Rosenbergs. In the South Carolina debate apropos nothing Sanders denounced the Chinese government, to show he was no communist, one presumes. He has repeatedly referred to Maduro as a tyrant and once called Hugo Chavez a “dead communist dictator.” Bernie Sanders is not anti racist. Bernie Sanders opposes reparations. Bernie Sanders referred to open borders as a “Koch brother conspiracy” designed “to bring down wages of the American worker.” Bernie Sanders is not anti imperialist. He has voted in favor of acts of military aggression against other nations on multiple occasions. Bernie Sanders is not socialist. He will tell you so himself. Words have meaning and socialism is the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy. Anything that is not that, whatever it may be, is not socialism. What the Sanders campaign represents is raising the standard and quality of life of the American worker to that of other imperialist nations. It is understandable why people would support that. Who does not want life to get easier? Who does not want life to get better? But that is what it is and it is not anything more than that. Describing Sanders or his campaign as revolutionary or socialist is not only inaccurate but counterproductive. Projecting more onto the Bernie Sanders campaign than what it is, in order to stay within the moral graces of one’s own conscience, cheapens the souls of those any and all who know better.
We at Tele-Jaguar hold this truth to be self evident. So long as we are subject to the rules and regulations of those with money and power we will get the law and order that results from the from the rule of those with money and power. We must break from this system for it offers us nothing but exploitation and the threat of death and imprisonment. It takes our time and energy and converts it into profit for the wealthy and well connected. It then taxes us on the wages we do receive to murder people all over the globe. A Sanders presidency would not change that. Whatever we do we must break from this system. Abandon illusions. This is not a democracy.
Professor, writer, performance artist, story teller, member of the groundbreaking performance troupe Chicano Secret Service, preserver of legend and memory and the creator of new ones, a scholar and a warrior, so don’t take him for a sucker, cause that’s not what he’s about, what a mighty fine Chicano.
We here at Tele-Jaguar were honored to get a chance to catch up with great Elias Serna and pose to him 5 questions. Here are his answers. Enjoy.
1) You were a founding member of the seminal group Chicano Secret Service. Did you or any of the others ever imagine when you formed just how far the group would go or influence it would have? And are the rumblings true? Might there be a return in the works?
As a 20-year old junior in college, aspirations were dreamy but vibrant; we were in a politically volatile atmosphere, and feeling very creative. Chicano Secret Service took off like a rocket on the UC Berkeley campus during the 20th anniversary of the Third World Strike. We were in the middle of our own protest movement for Ethnic Studies, and MEChA was a key leadership group; we rallied numbers and enthusiasm. The hip-hop scholar Jeff Chang was student body president; I was co-chair of MEChA at the time. Our legacy is the American Studies Requirement: since then, every UCB student must take an Ethnic Studies class. The cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, who was an Architecture grad student, and I co-founded the group on the 5 freeway, and premiered at the August 29 San Francisco Chicano Moratorium at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. San Diego State student Tomas Carrasco soon joined. We modeled ourselves after el Teatro Campesino and the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Royal Chicano Air Force. The Berkeley campus and Bay Area audience nurtured us, and we animated the radical politics on campus. Someone once “accused” me of using MEChA to promote CSS; around that time another friend said I was using CSS teatro to recruit for MEChA. They were both right. Through teatro we put Xican@s in the spotlight, we were politically vigilant, we organized and pushed agendas, and we envisioned a future for our people. And speaking of futures… the omens have come true! Chicano Secret Service resurrected and performed several shows last year, 2019, during the Quincentennial of Spain’s invasion of Tenochtitlan, just as Toltec poet-king Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl had prophecized! We also worked with musician Lisa Flores and recorded a comedy cd/mp3 of Chicano Secret Service Best Hits, due out this Summer 2020.
(Chicano Secret Service is also scheduled to produce a surreal-supernatural oye-como-va teatro play titled “Xican@ Time: 2021.” It will involve a war against Nazis and Hispanic tapados, decolonizing minds and taking over schools, and time travel back to Tenochtitlan and into the Silver Dollar Bar to catch the punk ass rata that killed Ruben Salazar,… but we’re still working out some kinks on the time machine… ponganse listos!)
2) What is Xicano time?
Myself and a few others developed the concept of Xican@ Time to promote a quincentennial consciousness. I have always been obsessed with anniversaries; they are great opportunities to revisit, self-reflect, be creative, and teach young folks about our history, which has created our present. The years 2019-2021 are especially significant to Xican@s because these years coalesce with 50 years of the political apex of the Chicano Movement, and with 500 years since Cortez’ invasion of Tenochtitlan. When I say “Xican@,” I personally include Mexican, Central American, political Raza, and bi-racial realities; these are often the students I find in my classrooms. I really was moved by 2019. “El Plan de Santa Barbara” was collectively dreamed and produced in Santa Barbara in 1969. I’ve heard critiques and dismissals, but rarely do academics reference the powerful tenets and foundational principals that are completely relevant and worth upholding today. Or to give props to the document that imagined their jobs. When I was young, I heard the RCAF vetes say that this book and 2 others were their “sacred texts.” I was moved by that. I too hold it as a sacred text, alongside Betita Martinez’ 500 Years of Chicano History, Rudy Acuña’s Occupied America, Wretched of the Earth, and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. The epic first meeting between the invader Cortez and the eloquent tlatoani Motecuzoma occurred on November 8, 1519. In Santa Monica, at the Pico Youth and Family Center, we organized a tribute to this key moment. Speaking with Diego Magon and Roberto Hernandez, we realized that Mexicans seem to focus on 1521, “the fall” of Tenochtitlan, “the defeat” of the Mexicans. I thought that it is peculiar that (some) Xican@s were more focused on 1519, the encounter, as it provides a window into the rich Mesoamerican past, culture and civilizations as yet undisturbed, the “well-springs” of our past, as Frantz Fanon wrote. This coming June, 2020, will be the 500 year anniversary of the Spanish massacre of Aztecs at the Toxcatl festival, “Noche Triste,” and the Mexica rebellion which destroyed over half of the Spanish army and their allies. For a year, the Mexicas regained control of their magnificent capital. These memories are significant in the process of Xican@ decolonization. I think we have serious self-reflection to undertake. I am not of Aztec descent, my people are Pame-Otomi, but I recognize, like Gloria Anzaldua, that the Mexicas held the keys to the greatness of ancient Mesoamerica. The island city of Tenochtitlan – with its amazing libraries, schools, universities, markets, structures, urban planning and technologies – was the “gem of Anahuac,” as the novelist Graciela Limon writes in her excellent historical novel, “Song of the Hummingbird.” Reading, revisiting, retrieving our culture and legacies are a big part of our Xican@ decolonization. I deeply believe that Xican@ people have a profound contribution to make to the decolonization of the hemisphere. We are a complicated people, but we are indigenous to the hemisphere, and we are progressively realizing our role as caretakers of our barrios, the land, Anahuac, Turtle Island, Mother Earth Tonantzin and the hemisphere.
3) Your pop up series is incredible. Could you tell our readers about this project and what inspired you to go this route?
Tlazocamati, thank you. The Xican@ Pop-Up Book movement was dreamed up as a creative protest of pop-up books and curriculum to proclaim “You can ban Chicano Books, but the still POP UP!” It was a sort of California version of “LibroTraficante” (Tony Diaz & troops in Texas) pushing back on the banning of Chican@ Studies texts in Arizona. Many of us from Los Angeles traveled to Arizona to participate in Raza rights movements, in particular the struggle to defend the Raza Studies department in Tucson, which was ultimately destroyed by racist state legislators in 2012. That was when the “Eagle met the Seagull.” I often rolled with friends from Santa Monica, East LA, San Fer and Riverside as early as 2010. During those years I was in the English PhD program at UC Riverside, when I won a campus book-collecting contest in 2013; soon after I entered the national contest sponsored by the Library of Congress and won 1st prize! I thought it was a big deal because UCR and I got money, they flew me to DC and I got to propagandize for Raza Studies. Back home, UCR Mexican dance profe and pioneer Johnavalos (of “Zoot Suit” film fame) helped me design a book case, and came up with the idea of creating pop-up books. We got started, Quetzalcoatl descended into the 7th realm of Xican@ literature, and the rest is history. We’ve created curriculum with marvelous teacher Ron Espiritu (see his Ethnic Studies Tedtalk), presented at the annual XITO and other education conferences. Recently our pop-up books were featured in Educator magazine, the LA Times and on a NPR’s Latino USA episode on Ethnic Studies. Most significantly we have successfully inspired students to learn, create and participate creatively in a political movement. We’ve produced 3 manifestos so far: the original 2013 “Xican@ Pop-Up Book Manifesto,” “El Plan de Santa Pop-Up” (a 10-point plan), and last year’s “El Pop-Up Vuh.”
4) In addition to your work as an artist you are also a man of letters and education in fine institutions of higher learning. How does your background as a performing artist inform your teaching?
The arts have always been in my arsenal of teaching. I love teaching with graphic arts, music, movies and graphic novels like “The Death of Speedy” by the Hernandez brothers. Currently, I’m an assistant professor in English at the University of Redlands, teaching a course I designed called “Writing in the Public Sphere,” modeled around my PhD dissertation which looks historically at how Xican@s historically repurposed communication technology – ie. the camera, newspaper, manifestos, film, etc.- to organize and persuade audiences into action, and to imagine more ideal futures. Recently, I was moved by something my good friend, the artist Sandra de la Loza expressed in an interview: that victories are not always won or seen immediately, they manifest over time in future generations, and that liberating structures or things are often expressed subtly in paintings, teatro, or a line of a poem. Therefore, it is important to continue imagining, alongside our students, the world, to continue creating art that envisions collective futures which our children, their children and many others will occupy and inherit. Johnavalos told me the other day, our students are living through such a horrible time, make eye contact and make them laugh, make them look forward to the class. Teaching is a lot of work: reading, preparing lecture, discussing, listening, grading and giving feedback, and interacting one-on-one. But all this work also informs and inspires art. I have been lucky to be in a profession so far where I can bring my talents and skills to good use. Everyday I remind myself how lucky I am to work in a classroom. It has not been easy, it’s a huge responsibility, but it has been incredibly rewarding.
5) Just how vast is Tomas Carrasco’s collection of ill gotten wigs?
I’m glad you asked. Dr. Tomas Carrasco – currently the chair of the Ethnic & American Studies department at Santa Barbara City College – administers an extraordinary collection of fully fabricated fantastic filament (wigs), which really is an unexplored dimension of teatro technique and technology, usually disdainfully dismissed as a sub-category of “props.” The ancient coastal Chumash of Santa Bruta believed that our hair fibers were a sort of antennae to the natural world and ancestral universe, so through every acto-skit, Tomas is actually serving as a metaphysical medium to otherworldly supernatural messaging. Carrasco’s follicle genetic ancestry (also part Hairy Krishna) is most certainly Chumash, because going to his maternal lineage, his mother was heard saying that, “Tomas socializes Chuu-mash, he parties chuu-mash, attends protests meetings chuu-mash … he’s just Chuu-mash!”
30 states and nearly one hundred campuses many return visits. David A Romero is hands down one of the most successful traveling poets on the college circuit today. Whether its a performance, a workshop or a keynote, David A. Romero may just be your man. His accolades are numerous, his craft immense, his legend grows by the day.
We here at Tele-Jaguar had the opportunity to chop it up with the great David A Romero and pose 5 questions. Here are his answers. Enjoy.
1) You have performed and led workshops now in 30 states. That is an incredible achievement. With such accomplishment I am sure comes a tremendous source of experience. What advice do you have for people trying to break into the circuit and travel tips once they are on?
Thank you very much. I am thankful to the students, professors, department chairs, and student life administrators who have booked me.
Here’s some advice. Perform, as often as you can, in as many places as you can. Dealing with different kinds of audiences builds experience. It also ties you into different networks. The more networks you have to draw upon, and possibly tie together, the better. Invite friends to watch your performances. Ask them to take pictures. Make a list of all the places you’ve performed in. Write a bio. Make books; maybe start with chapbooks and then move to full-length books. You can submit to publishers or self-publish. Record videos: live performance videos, and music video style videos. Make a CD and/or digital playlist. Try to get on the radio and/or TV. Get blogs and newspapers to write about you and your work. Create social media accounts for yourself as a performer. Build a website. Look for representation or be your own representation. Prove you can entertain a crowd for a half hour, to two hours. Create a press kit, price sheet, and sample contract. If you don’t know how to do this, go to my website: www.davidaromero.com, download mine, copy the text, and change it so it fits you. Think of potential clients. Contact them. Send them your materials. Use the networks you’ve built by performing. Ask for advice on how to build your career and take notes. Study artists who have accomplished more than yourself, not just those artists who are at the peak, but those artists who are only a tier or two above you. Study media sources that have covered them, awards have they earned, what clients have booked them, etc. If you perform similar work, then those same people might be willing to feature, award, and book you. Contact them. Create new work. Repeat the process. Build momentum each time. Never stop looking for the next opportunity to advance your work.
When it comes to travel, the experience starts before the trip itself. Think about any other trip you might go on. You have to think about where you’re going, what the weather is going to be like, where your’e going to stay, how you’re going to get there, how you’re going to get around once you’re there. I go to Kayak to look up flight prices, add $200 to accommodate for price surges, taxes and fees, and travel insurance. Then I look up hotels. Then I go to RideGuru and look up the rideshare prices for transportation in the area.
Alternatively, you can look up car rental rates or public transportation. Some places don’t have rideshare services available. Some places don’t even have any taxi services for miles and miles. You might have to book your ground transportation days in advance. It never hurts to over-prepare. Give yourself plenty of time to account for any setbacks there might be: cancelled flights, traffic, closed highways, having to wait for your luggage at the carousel instead of bringing it with you off the plane, etc. You will also make a lot of mistakes that will cost you time and money. You might read the time wrong and miss a flight. You might get lost in an airport. You might lose something and have to double-back. You might have to go to the bathroom at an inopportune time. You might book the wrong date for your flight or hotel and not realize that until you arrive at the airport or hotel. I went on a trip once with only $10 to my name after having paid for my flight and hotel. Everything had to go perfectly for me to ride two buses from PDX, into Washington state, and check-in to my hotel. Once at my hotel, I had to rely on the kindness of the receptionist to waive the fee for incidentals. There were cookies at reception. That was all I ate that day. I was incredibly lucky, as I have been many times during my travels. This is why I say, it never hurts to over-prepare. You should always have access to more money than you think you will need. Do not rely on getting paid the day off. It almost never happens, even if they tell you it will. Do not rely on selling product. You might not end up selling a single thing, even if you announce to the audience that you need money to get back to your hotel, the airport, etc. You will never fail to be surprised by both the kindness, and the indifference of, strangers.
2) You were recently interviewed by CNN about your workshops on cultural appropriation. What insights can you share with our readers about the topic?
I have been fortunate enough to have presented at eleven different colleges on this topic; among others.
Cultural appropriation is when cultural elements: food, clothing, music, dance, art & symbols, language, rituals, etc., are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context – sometimes against the expressed, stated, wishes of representatives of the originating culture. Cultural appropriation is everywhere. Recognizing something as cultural appropriation can be a victory in and of itself. Sometimes cultural appropriation is as clearly racist as a race party, sometimes it’s a simple pattern on a piece of clothing that we can’t exactly place, but think looks “cool” or “exotic.” Recognition of cultural appropriation comes from having knowledge of the original cultural context, seeing that the context has been changed, and recognizing that someone else is receiving credit and/or profiting from it.
Cultural appropriation can be distinguished from closely related phenomena: cultural appreciation and cultural assimilation. Cultural appreciation is intercultural exchange that explicitly references cultures; giving them respect and recognition (however, one person’s appreciation may be another’s appropriation, and vice versa). Cultural assimilation is when members of a minority culture take on cultural elements of the dominant culture under threat of law, direct force, or, in order to succeed in society.
The most common misconception about cultural appropriation is that it is merely imitation, and because, “imitation is the highest form of flattery,” that there’s nothing wrong with it. However, think of a movie where a character encounters their doppelganger. The doppelganger mirrors their movements. At first, this is amusing. The character is spellbound. It seems innocent enough. What follows, however, is the doppelganger breaking the mirroring act, knocking the original out, and taking their place. That’s the kind of imitation cultural appropriation offers; not merely mirroring, but replacement, and just like in the movie US, the doppelganger can eventually forget they’re the doppelganger. They can come to believe they are the original, and everything they have, everything they have stolen, rightfully belongs to them. This has happened in everything from rock n’ roll music to yoga, to Lacrosse.
3) Tell us about the scholarship.
I created “The Romero Scholarship for Excellence in Spoken Word” three years ago to award high school seniors for their achievements in spoken word and social justice. The award level is $500. The scholarship is awarded based upon a number of factors: the quality of a poem on social justice, their poetry and artistic achievements, their academic and/or athletic achievements, as well as any social justice related activities in, and/or out of, school. So far, the scholarship has been awarded to one student from Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, one from Sierra High School in Colorado, and one from Edgewood High School in West Covina. When I read these students’ poems, read the letters of recommendation written by their teachers, and view their applications, reading about all of their achievements and volunteer work, I am profoundly moved. It makes me so happy that I have a chance to help them; to give them some money for tuition, books, food, whatever it might be, and to help shine a spotlight on them and their artistic work. It’s important to invest in the future, and from what I have seen from these young poets, the future is bright.
4) You have three books already, quite prolific, but you also have a fourth coming, can you share some details on that with our audience?
I am the author of two full-length books of poetry, Diamond Bars: The Street Version, and Fuzhou, as well as Ellendale Night, a pocketbook collection of poems. All books were self-published in cooperation with Dim Lights Publishing.
My fourth book, third full-length collection, My Name Is Romero, will be published in late summer of this year by FlowerSong Books. I have to thank my friend Matt Sedillo for introducing me to publisher Edward Vidaurre. He is a strong supporter of emerging Latinx poets. Matt’s book, Mowing Leaves of Grass, also with FlowerSong, has been featured in national news, and is selling hundreds of copies. I am hoping for about half of that success. That would be nice. If I managed to surpass that, even better. We have a friendly competition among us. It helps to drive us to new heights.
My Name Is Romero contains most of the poems I’ve been performing for the last decade. It has the most polished work I have ever created, whether that be in the form of poetry, prose, screenplay or anything. The poems run a gamut of tones, styles, and themes. The book contains a good amount of what I’m most known for, which is probably humor, but also contains some of the most somber and outright, heart-wrenching poems I’ve ever written.
My Name Is Romero is the kind of book that makes think that it would be ok if I died tomorrow. I haven’t said all I’m going to say as an artist, and I still have a lot of living to do, but if this was it, yeah, I’d be satisfied. I hope it’s what I’m remembered for.
5) Do you actually like cheese enchiladas?
You’re, of course, referring to a poem, “Cheese Enchiladas,” that appears in my first book, Diamond Bars: The Street Version. This poem, with a hook inspired by Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” was written early in my career and is easily still my most popular poem. This poem came out a workshop with Poetri, Tony Award-winner and former host of Da Poetry Lounge, who asked attendees to write poems about our favorite foods. It was then, sitting there, that years of bottled up delight in the cheesy idea of singing a Mexican remix of that hook finally found a home in me writing that poem. So, to directly answer your question: I don’t just like cheese enchiladas, I love them, and while I concede that the phrasing is redundant, no need to put “cheese” in front of enchiladas, it’s baked in the recipe, and, enchiladas taste good with chicken and a host of other shredded meats, there’s something about that simple mix of sauce, corn tortilla and cheese that is magical. It’s the first food I learned how to make, and for good reason. Cheese enchiladas will always taste like love and home to me.
Driving down Kalisher St in the old Barrio San Fernando, Califas back in the 80’s and very early 90’s you would be welcomed into the heart of the barrio by wall after wall of murals. Native warriors, Mexica motifs, temples, pyramids, rifle bearing Revolutionaries some with sombreros others with Berets used to adorn these old walls. It was as if you entered into the most personal space of the Chicano people’s psyche to see for yourself what images and ideas ran through our historical memory and collective conscience. Every Barrio I had the privilege of visiting as a child would be the same. Drive into it and you would find mixed in with the local Placasos, images of Jaguar Warriors pouncing on Spanish Conquistadores, Aztlan or Mexican flags raised up permanently on these walls, while brown fists held up high and police in the background.
My father, a muralist as well used to always mention the Mexican greats such as Tamayo, Rivera, Kahlo, Orozco etc but most of all he would always mention David Alfaro Siqueiros because of his history here in Los Angeles. It wasn’t until 2012 that Siqueiros“America Tropical” a mural he painted in La Placita Olvera in 1932 was again revealed to the public. The mural had been white washed and only when the paint began peeling off and revealing what lay under it did people begin to try to restore and conserve it. A crucified brown skinned man is tied down while on the sides await armed an indigenous warrior with a spear and a Mexican Revolutionary with a rifle. The Mural is the oldest in Los Angeles. Mexican painters-inspired by the then recent Mexican Revolution and the Communist Revolutions sweeping the world at the time vying for a new world went on to tell the story of Mexico,Mexicans and humanity with brush in hand. Massive works of art were commissioned in Government buildings and many were also commissioned here in the so called USA.
By the time the Chicano struggle burst into the public view the legacy left by the Mexican mural giants, their techniques, their preference for public art and murals over private paintings, their use of public art as weapons for consciousness building over bourgeoisie “art for arts sake” and the artists themselves as dedicated members of Revolutionary struggles had laid the ground for the Chicano Mural movement that swept the southwest and midwestern barrios like a wildfire. An art movement born with who knows how many millions of gallons of paint adorned everywhere from the most distant far off pueblito to the massive Urban working class Chicano-Mexicano barrios of Los Angeles, Tucson, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, Houston, El Paso etc etc. The tradition was and has been proudly upheld for generations by Chicanos. In fact this tradition melded perfectly with the rise of “Hip Hop” and in particular Graffiti. It has been the Chicano-Mexicano/Raza youth of the Southwest that gave “West Coast” graffiti its distinct flavor. Graffiti as an expression of poor working class youth already had a presence among La Raza. The stylized “Cholo” script and use of Olde English is now a staple tradition and was a style of Graffiti by the time Chicano youth caught wind of the Graff scene coming in from the East Coast. It is the Chicano contribution to that world wide proletariat art movement. (Let’s also recall Siqueiros was a pioneer using different tools and methods including spray paint in his works.)
Art is an expression, it is cultural and culture is born of the material realities of a people. If a group of people express themselves in contrast to the dominant narrative there will be conflict. When the Spaniards arrived they banned all cultural practices by the Indigenous people, they burnt books and destroyed entire cities they even destroyed murals. When the USA came to the Southwest they banned all indigenous practices, those that spoke indigenous languages would be sent to boarding schools, those that spoke Spanish would be segregated and many times violently forced to cease speaking it. So it should come as no surprise that the greatest mural movement to ever have taken place within the confines of the USA which was created by Mexicans and carried forward, nurtured and protected by Chicanos-Mexicanos would be ignored or really whitewashed (like America Tropical). Since the Chicano Movement inspired millions to feel pride and collectively defy the status quo this became a problem. Everything Chicano has had to go you cannot have this group of people thinking they are unique, important and collectively powerful if organized under their own interests if you are the dominant colonial culture. Whitewash it all! Forget the fact that the longest mural in Los Angeles is by Chicana Judy Baca or that the longest mural in the world is being painted by Mexican artist Enrique Chiu along the militarily imposed US-Mexico border.
Anyone that would deny the contributions of Mexicans and Chicanos to the visual arts is simply a racist or unknowingly upholding the erasure of the Chicano Mexicano people of the Southwest and Mexico. It is convenient to Amerikan political hegemony and economic interests. Deny Chicanos their culture and place in society and it eases the process of gentrification which is simply the rearrangement of the urban landscape to neoliberal capitalist interests. Recent headline after headline document the whitewashing of historic Chicano murals from Los Angeles to San Jose to Dallas and even up to Chicago in the Pilsen Barrio unsurprisingly all these historic barrios are heavily gentrified.
Yet, as time goes by and the paint of all those old barrio walls throughout Aztlan ages, the whitewash will begin to peel off and beneath it you will find a vast tapestry of stories hidden from plain sight and maybe as in American society in general the bland white paint will be once again naturally replaced by the beautiful array of colorful paintings beneath and deep within them as with America Tropical will be the Native Warrior and Mexican Revolutionary waiting to come out…
Iris De Anda is a internationally celebrated poet, author, practicioner of the healing arts and all around bad ass currently kicking ass in Los Angeles, California and beyond. Her work has appeared in countless anthologies, journals and zines. In recent years she has brought her work all throughout the US and most recently to Havana Cuba, reading and paneling at Casa De Las Americas.
We recently had a chance to pose 5 questions to the great Iris De Anda. Here are her answers. Enjoy.
1) How did the publication and promotion of Codeswitch change things for you in your poetry career?
Having started in the open mic and performance circuit with my poetry back in 2010, the publication of Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon in 2014 catapulted me into a wider audience with invitations to Universities, conferences, radio, etc as well as presentations outside of my hometown area of Los Angeles, such as the Bay Area and San Diego. I wanted my book to be a form of activism outside the page and I mailed a copy to President Obama at the White House, highlighting the poems I felt he should pay attention to which were relevant to the current issues of Immigration, Gentrification, and going back to his Grassroots days at Occidental City College. I was invited to perform in Washington, D.C., where I met presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a rally where we shared the mic the day before he announced his candidacy for President of the United States of America. Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon allowed me to travel to New Orleans, Texas, New Mexico as well as an invitation to CECUIT in Tijuana, B.C. It opened the doorway to my first TV appearance performing To be a Pocha or not to be on the Hulu series East Los High. It has also been used at part of the curriculum in Ethnic Studies and Chicano Studies at Pasadena City College, UCLA, and Cal State Northridge amongst others. Some of the poems in Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon have been translated and published in different journals in Europe as well. It was a self published work under my creation of Los Writers Underground Press. Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon is on it’s 4th printing with over 1500 copies out in the world.
2) You have referred to yourself in interviews as Salvi-Mex or Mexi-Salvi, how has being both Salvadoran and Mexican and living in the US shaped your work?
I was lucky enough to be born under the SalviMex / MexiSalvi flag here in Los Angeles, CA. and being a first generation mujer born into a whole subculture definitely influenced my writing early on. We do have a flag right? Haha, I have always navigated cultures, tongues, borders, in the style of Anzaldua, I live nepantla in my body everyday, neither here nor there, not American enough, not Salvadoran enough, not Mexican enough, but always human enough. My Spanglish, Identity, and Spirituality have become a huge part of my writing style.
3) Recently you went with a group of poets to Casa De Las Americas in Havana Cuba. Can you tell our readers about your impressions of Cuba as well as that highly esteemed institution?
So last fall in Oct of 2019, I had the privilege of being invited to perform at Casa de Las Americas with a group of esteemed colleagues including Matt Sedillo, Viva Padilla, the one and only Luis J. Rodriguez, and El Profe Jose Prado. It was surreal and affirming to step foot into this iconic institution in Cuba. When we arrived after a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami to La Havana we were all sleep deprived and loved it. The smell of the airport reminded me of El Salvador because they seem to share a similar tropical climate. The ride to our Casa Particular was a scene from an old school film reel full of the classic cars and murals along the road paying homage to Castro and la revolucion. El Che permeates the air. Casa de Las Americas holds the spirit of all the greats including Violeta Parra, Roque Dalton, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I stood in the hallways, staircases, and courtyard imagining the colliding of my footsteps with theirs. As a poet, this is so far the highlight of my writing career. Cuba left an impression on me because of its people and their humble yet joyful spirit. I had the opportunity to speak with folks on the street, in the restaurants both private and government run. There is no sense of despair. They are a proud community. They cherish each other, what they have lived thru, el comandante and what is to come. I noticed lots of places for sale. Their is a new tourist economy blooming in Cuba. I spoke with Luis J. Rodriguez on one of our walks thru La Havana and mentioned how we should invest in a Tia Chuchas or Eastside Cafe our there, una casa para los artistas del extranjero to arrive and work but in hindsight Casa de Las Americas is that place. Fidel invested time and energy into the arts and we are the lucky ones who get to step foot into that world when arriving in Cuba with our words.
4) In addition to being a celebrated poet you are also a musician. Is there any plans to combine these art forms in the works?
This is a tricky question to answer but one that I look forward to owning in the near future. After doing poetry for years, I was looking for another creative outlet to pour my feelings and ideas into because I was getting bored of the word on the page. I am very influenced by the works of Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, and Lou Reed. The beats did it in their own way and spoken word has benefited from a certain cadence or flow but having music merge with your words is a whole other experience both for the artist and the audience. I am currently working on an EP to be released in 2020. It is my intent to bridge both art forms which have played a huge role in my life. I want to be the Latinx Patti Smith. There I said it.
5) Codeswitch is something now of a beloved cult classic. Is their follow up on the horizon?
Wow, that’s great to hear. I am always surprised by people’s take on Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon. I think being a cult anything is pretty punk rock. That makes me smile. I am currently finishing my second collection of poetry with Flowersong Books in Texas. The current working title is Roots of Redemption: You have No Right to Remain Silent. It strikes in the vein of current issues revolving around police brutality including my own experience with the L.A. Sheriffs. I’m gonna get into a lot of trouble for it but that’s what good heartists do.
3 Ways a Private Corporation Can Rig An Election: Let the 2020 Rigging Begin!
Right on the heels of the #IowaCaucus election “irregularities” scandal, the DNC (“DNC Services Corporation”) openly gears up to continue rigging the presidential primary. The issue is not only who wins or loses the caucuses and primaries, but whether we identify patterns, people, and structures in place which perpetually influence and cause aberrations during elections. As it did in 2016, the question of election integrity transcends mundane party politics. “App failure” is the new “wardrobe malfunction.”
Any election integrity activist or expert will tell you that one of the easiest ways to rig an election is by way of electronic voting systems. At the August 2018 DEFCON Hackathon Conference, an 11-year old child was able to hack into an imitation election website in under 10 minutes; thirty other children were also able to hack in.
Less than two weeks after the Iowa Caucus debacle, the state of Nevada now actively seeks the same fate. At the recent Iowa Caucus fiasco, faulty software was blamed for incomplete reporting by an app developed by Shadow, Inc. On February 9, 2020, the Nevada State Democratic Party revealed a new software tool that will be pre-loaded into iPads. The “caucus tool” for tabulating the vote count is being developed by unnamed developers. At caucus volunteer training, as reported by The Nevada Independent caucus volunteer training a Democratic Party staff member advised, “What we’ve done after Iowa is consult with a group of tech and security folks who are helping us through this process and making sure that we’re doing this in a way that is simple and efficient and secure for all of you so that we’re giving you the best tools we can possible on Caucus Day. (emphasis added).”
Last week in California, Secretary of State, Alex Padilla authorized a new computerized voting system for Los Angeles, California. Expect to see electronic voting systems continue to expand. Electronic voting systems are integral to rigging elections.
Some states will be less problematic than others, but the fact remains that we can run all the “progressives” we want to, but if we don’t have election integrity, we have nothing. With Padilla’s office overseeing the California primary elections in May 2020, we can expect to see more of the same.
2. Election and Party Officials Back the Anointed Candidates
DNC Gears Up to Rig Nevada:
Recently, the Nevada Democratic Party hired a former Pete Buttigieg campaign staffer, Emily Goldman as Voter Protection Director. Goldman has since made her Twitter account private and deleted her employment history on LinkedIn. Thankfully, it has been archived at a link on this Twitter thread. Amidst the livid response of Sanders supporters, Bernis Sander’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, was quick to pour cold water on any incendiary suspicions anticipating further rigging in plain sight during in the upcoming Nevada February 20, 2020 state caucus. Shakir tweeted, “Appreciate the concerns here. We’ve spoken with the Nevada party, which has assured us that this individual does not have decision-making authority over the caucus count. [Please] know we are working hard with the party to get every assurance that mistakes of Iowa are not repeated.”
2016 Redux: The California Rigging
Speaking of Alex Padilla, let’s revisit how the strategic placement of a Hillary surrogate facilitated a rigged the primary in California. A former Democratic senator from Los Angeles, Padilla campaigned on promises to modernize the state’s antiquated voting and campaign finance systems, as well as increase voter registration and turnout. In 2016, Padilla oversaw massive voter disenfranchisement, polling station fiascos, and widespread election fraud in California during the presidential primary. Padilla openly campaigned for Hillary, yet as Secretary of State, he was in charge of certifying election results. He even headlined a campaign fundraiser for her just before the 2016 primary. Padilla was drowned out at the California Democratic Convention’s July 26, 2016 breakfast when Sander’s supporters chanted “Count our votes! Do your job!”
“I am currently reporting from Southern California, and there’s an Ashley Beck, who is a poll worker in conservative Orange County. She was being trained with other poll workers, and they were given some very strange information. In the California primary, the independent voters registered as NPP, or no party preference, can vote in the Democratic primary. They can ask for a ballot and they are allowed to vote. The Orange County poll workers were told if NPP voters ask for a Democratic Party ballot to vote for Bernie or Hillary, they are not to be given regular ballots, but provisional ballots. This shook up Ashley.”
Recently, the Nevada Democratic Party hired a former Pete Buttigieg campaign staffer, Emily Goldman as Voter Protection Director. Goldman has since made her Twitter account private and deleted her employment history on LinkedIn. Thankfully, it has been archived at a link on this Twitter thread.
3. The Inalienable Rights of a Private Corporation: The DNC Claims the Right to Select a Presidential Candidate
Let’s revisit the #DNCFraudLawsuit which was filed in Federal Court in South Florida on behalf of supporters of Bernie Sanders against the Democratic National Committee and its former chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (another Hillary Clinton surrogate), accusing the DNC of having broken neutrality agreements.
The lawsuit alleged that the DNC and Ms. Wasserman Schultz improperly favored Hillary Clinton who was challenging Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The relevant text of the DNC Charter states: “the Chairperson shall exercise impartiality and evenhandedness as between the Presidential candidates and campaigns. The Chairperson shall be responsible for ensuring that the national officers and staff of the Democratic National Committee maintain impartiality and evenhandedness during the Democratic Party Presidential nominating process.” Article V, Section 4, The Charter & The Bylaws of the Democratic Party of the United States, as Amended by the Democratic National Committee, August 28, 2015
Bruce Spiva the DNC’s attorney argued that the DNC is a private corporation which has the right to select candidates.
Smoke-Filled Backrooms: DNC attorney asserted in federal court that it would have been within the DNC’s rights to “go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.” Bruce Spiva, the DNC attorney, said, “That’s not the way it was done. But they could have. And that would have also been their right.” Describing the plaintiff’s case as “inchoate,” Spiva asserted that any judicial effort to “define what constitutes evenhandedness and impartiality” would “drag the Court . . . into a political question and a question of how the party runs its own affairs.”
Impartiality is Discretionary: Attorneys for the DNC asserted that Article V, Section 4 of the DNC Charter— which requires the DNC chair and staff to ensure neutrality in the Democratic presidential primaries—is “a discretionary rule” that the DNC “didn’t need to adopt to begin with.”
What Do “Impartial” and “Evenhanded” Even Mean?: DNC attorneys even go so far as to argue that the words “impartial” and “evenhanded”—used in the DNC Charter—can’t be interpreted by a court of law. (If that’s the case, why would we even have courts of law?
The DNC could not be more unequivocal in confirming that their corporation has no obligation to oversee a fair primary. The party asserts it’s right to pick their candidate. Their position could not be more clear.
What if Bernie continues to win primaries, as he did in New Hampshire last night? Will it be different this time?
Sanders won state primaries in 2016. It didn’t change the fact that the DNC reserves the right to pick their nominee and it didn’t change the outcome of the convention. The DNC forced one of the most unpopular candidates down our throats, despite polls showing Hillary Clinton’s unfavorable ratings.
The DNC is not care about beat Trump or any othe Republican. In 2016, poll after poll showed Sanders was more popular than Trump by double-digits. Polls are exhibiting the same trends once again. The DNC had already selected Hillary Clinton before the campaigns, caucuses, primaries, and the conventions. The DNC has joint fundraising agreements in place with Clinton’s campaign since 2015. At the meeting in DNC Chicago of August 2018, they decided not to eliminate joint fundraising agreements. The Democratic party bosses are only accountable to the donor class. The donor class bets on both parties every four years, so they never lose. Both the Democratic party and the Republican party are irrelevant to the lives of working people; it is unreasonable to expect oligarchs to represent the working-class.
The DNC has implemented a “kill-switch” for progressive candidates – the Superdelegates. Even if a progressive wins, the DNC can force the vote to a second round vote just as they did with George McGovern. The DNC controls the rules of the convention. They can make, break or bend the rules however they please. They are a private corporation claiming authority to select their candidate.
The DNC Loyalty Oath which emerged from the August 2018 DNC meeting, makes it even easier to eliminating progressives than superdelegates ever were. The second paragraph confirms that one person, Tom Perez (DNC chairperson who is picked by establishment party bosses), has full power to disqualify anyone he decides is not a “bona fide Democrat” who has, at any time, not demonstrated faithfulness to the party. All Democratic presidential candidates must affirm the oath. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5759585-DNC-Loyalty-Pledge.html
“Didn’t Russia Rig the Election?”
🔴 Apparently, some folks still believe in unicorns and “Russian interference” which made Hillary Clinton lose.
🔴 The “Russian interference” story was hatched by Clinton’s campaign manager the night she lost so the DNC could deflect blame from themselves for rigging the primary and putting Trump in the White House.
🔴 If the DNC was concerned about “Russian interference” they would be backing election integrity activists, like myself, to push for hand-counted paper ballots and publicly verifiable elections but they never will because they benefit from the rigging.
🔴 Also, if the Russian Interference story was true, why would the DNC attorneys have argued in open court that they have the right to select their own candidate. That debunks the “Russian Interference” story, right there. The DNC’s own defense in Federal Court debunks the #RedScare.
It’s time to stop investing time, money and energy into political parties that uphold and perpetuate rigging mechanisms in the interest of party bosses and the donor class. Only by creating, solidifying, and protecting centers of political power outside both corporate war parties, can we effectively challenge them. Chasing two-year election cycles is by design; people are fervently engaged in breathing life into political corpses and never find time to build something new that won’t rise and fall with election cycles. Until then, there is no threat to the continued rule of the oligarchs. Until then, we are subject to dictatorship by private corporations. A broad front coalition for the working-class is the what is needed to unify the fragmented left.
A broad front coalition for the working-class is the what is needed to unify the fragmented left. Historically, new parties are formed in the U.S., when a party’s base is being ignored. Broad-front coalitions in other countries have recently and successfully smashed duopolies and corrupt ruling parties that have ruled for a century. There is no threat to the Democratic party, until the people build one firmly outside both parties.
Mark Torres is quite possibly the most important single figure of the past 3 decades in the life and proliferation of Chicano music made and heard in the city of Los Angeles. The program he founded Travel Tips for Aztlan is an essential building block to the scene that thrives today. Since its debut in March, 1995 Mark’s show was the first of its kind to feature the music of the Latino youth culture giving voice to the previously unknown music from an underrepresented community and now features both emerging talent and international superstars. Several bands that have performed live on Travel Tips For Aztlan and KPFK for their radio debuts and have gone on to win Grammy’s or Latin Grammy’s including Ozomatli, Lila Downs, Gaby Moreno, Quetzal, La Santa Cecilia, Flor de Toloache and Juanes. The quintessential man behind the man, Torres has brought up acts that have gone on to build their legend and in doing so with such love and consistency has built something of a legend of his own.
We here are Tele-Jaguar got a chance to catch up with the great Mark Torres and ask him a few questions. Enjoy.
1) Mark you are an institution. You are like a Chicano Dick Clark or Don Cornelius, an icon that makes icons. Who are some acts that were first featured on Travel Tips for Aztlan who went on to connect with national audiences?
My show Travel Tips for Aztlan has been on KPFK 90.7 FM since 1995. There was a dire need to create radio space for the great LatinX talent that didn’t have airplay, access to record labels, agents, managers, etc… the few clubs that existed at the time.
My show was originally created in the early days to be one hour of recorded music and one hour of live Performances. This allowed all bands at every level a chance to have millions of Angelinos hear their music.
The early bands that gained success started with Ozomatli. They came up to perform live in KPFK’S Studio A in 1998 and they almost immediately were signed by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’s (AM Records) new record label ALMO Records. We took a trip to Havana that summer together and they came back to LA ready to record their first big label record. They went on to win Grammy’s and open doors for our scene. Quetzal performed the first year I was on the air in 1995, but the music industry didn’t know what to do with a hybrid folkloric rock band. Quetzal would produce fantastic record after record with great critical acclaim. It wasn’t until they signed with Smithsonian Folkways that they would win a much deserved Grammy.
In 1998 KPFK Global Village creator Beto Arcos knew that I had a regular live program that was really helping the LatinX bands each week. He asked me if I would help him engineer a new artist he stumbled upon in Oaxaca, Lila Downs.I said of course, and brought in LA’s best live audio team. Her debut on KPFK launched a career that included a film debut in Selma Hayek’s Frida, Grammy’s and really an industry changing career. Later, Travel Tips live performance alum that went in to great success include Grammy winners include Gaby Moreno and LA Santa Cecilia.
2) As the host of Travel Tips you are both a chronicler and participant in the history of Chicano musical movements. You know better than most that our community rich with talent and yet face all kinds of barriers to “mainstream success.” Why do you think this is and what can we do about it?
It was worse when I started as I said above..Xicano/a bands had very few public spaces to perform in, no radio play no record labels or music industry infrastructure (management, booking, agents, publicity, AR at labels to champion at labels) to help. The Recording Acadamy Grammy Museum just gave a section of the museum to showcase the Latin Grammy winners after 20 years. There have been improvements in all of these areas but there is so much more that needs to happen. There are few Latinos in positions of decision making power and those that are in those positions aren’t doing enough for the incredible talent in our communities. We need to keep being undeniable in our abilities and talent and pushing forward. The few LatinX who have big success and resources need to step up and help the newer generation.
3) Who are some of the most exciting acts of 2020 our audience might not be up on?
Make sure you check out the great women songwriters and performers in 2020: Weapons of Mass Creation – an entire family of talented artist who formed and R&B soulful Hip Hop group spreading based in Orange County. Messaging is knowledge, awareness of greatness of self and culture.
Reverie – a very powerful hip hop artist who has helped forget a community of powerful female hip hip scene with Val the Wonder and others.
Welfair – a very Grass Roots soulful Hip hop artist with powerful messages on community, women, wealth gap, many of the problems we face today
Nancy Sanchez – an artist who blends jazz, Mexican folkloric, pop, and Latin Alternative. Lyrics tell stories of women empowerment, embracing our rich history, listening to our indigenous ancestors, continuing our struggle against intolerance.
Jessica Medina – Jazz and R& B and Carribean influences carry Jessica’s songs of liberation, female empowerment, anthems against injustice and racism. These are just a handful of so many doing great things and making incredible music in an industry not set up for them to succeed.
Each one of these artists, in their own way are creating powerful messages, beautiful music and are breaking through all of the barriers we have been speaking about using the tools at their disposal: Tenacity, Persistence, Energy, Intelligence, Creativity, Talent, Nerve. It is not easy, but it is very possible to make and share uncompromising beautiful music and make a living with Music.
4) Two part question for a multifaceted man. In addition to being host of Travel tips for Aztlan you are the lead archivist for the Pacifica Archive, the largest of its kind in the country. Can you tell the audience just some of the treasures of the archive and what are some of your plans or projects you are planning to bring them to the public?
Rosa Parks 1956 Interview just after being released from jail for refusing to leave her seat in a public bus. One of the most powerful interviews you will ever listen to. A mild mannered women took a stand, risked her life, and changed the world. Fannie Lou Hamer 1963 Interview about her efforts to register Blacks in the South ahead of the 1964 Presidential election. She tells the story of being beaten to within an inch of her life, with permanent physical damage. Inspiring to whole generations to take action when there is injustice.
Bob Dylan 1962 first live radio performance reveals a very talented and creative poet who told tall tales to help create a myth and mystery about him to protect his youth and Minnesota privilege as he quickly ascended to be one of the greatest voices of our time.
Cesar Chavez 1965 before he and Dolores Huerta formed the United Farm workers talking about organizing community and labor. A great lesson to learn about the sleeping power our communities have if we unite and have a common goal.
There are 65,000 of these incredible recordings that many people don’t know about. In 2020, we will begin putting these recordings online so the public can stream these recordings. We also plan to expand our Campus Campaign to give access to these primary source recordings to students at every level around the world.
5) Who is the best poet you ever had on Travel Tips for Aztlan,( no pressure to say Matt Sedillo) ?
Debasing Mexicans is as American as land theft and genocide. It is a central theme of U$ culture and must be produced and reproduced with each successive generation in order for U$ culture to survive each generation of its dying advocates and practitioners. The publication of American Dirt fits well within that continuum. It was not a failure, an oversight, foolishness, naivety, or a symptom of a broken system it is a deep expression of U$ culture of which the humiliation, degradation and dehumanization of Mexicans is a central theme.
I have not read this book. I do not intend to read this book. The time in which I am compelled by the very state itself to read things that debase me has long passed. The time of being forced to read On the Road and to be taught that my only place in the great American novel was to be as a tragic “mañana” is over. The time of being compelled to read Under the Volcano only to learn that the land of my ancestors was a fittingly strange and macabre place for a troubled white man to drink himself to death because you know, Mexico, is over. The time of being forced to hear the greatness of Walt Whitman, proponent of the Mexican American war who once said “What has miserable, inefficient Mexico—with her superstition, her burlesque upon freedom, her actual tyranny by the few over the many—what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with a noble race?” is over. The days of hearing of the genius of Ralph Waldo Emerson who said “Mexico will poison us” are over. I will not read that book in a box, with a fox, or wearing a red, white and green or red, white and blue shirt, I will not read American Dirt.
This all also has to be seen within a context broader than current print literature. In the 20th Century film and Television became the premier forms of cultural production and the U$ the world’s leading producer. The debasement of Mexicans was a central theme ran through U$ film and television beginning with founding father of racist cinema himself, D.W. Griffith. The same year he directed his deeply Amerikkkan racist opus Birth of Nation, a literal celebration of the Klu Klux Klan, he also produced a film called Martyrs of the Alamo also known as The Birth of Texas. In one of the earliest slides of the silent film the audience is informed referring to Santa Ana “Under the dictator’s rule the honor and life of American womanhood was held in contempt.” Both Birth of a Nation and its lesser known counterpart Martyrs of the Alamo or Birth of Texas were released in 1915. One hundred years later in the year 2015, Donald Trump began his presidential campaign stating Mexico was sending “drug dealers” and “rapists.”
In the 1920 the Mask of Zorro starring Douglass Fairbanks as Zorro/Don Diego Vega, created a great many of the tropes that came to define the action hero genre. While the stereotypes on display, and they are there, are not as galling as the Martyrs of the Alamo, it is important to remember that inspiration for Zorro was Joaquin Murrieta. A legendary figure of the California gold rush and the prototypical bad hombre. The details of Murrieta’s life are matter of historic debate. What is a matter of historic record however is that in 1853 a Mexican was beheaded and that man’s head, claimed to be Murrieta’s, was put on display and taken on tour by the California Rangers throughout the state. The severed head was finally housed in a museum and only then lost in San Francisco’s great quake of 1906. This grizzly trophy/artifact served as a reminder to Mexicans and non Mexicans alike how unruly Mexicans are to be handled and was an early symbol of Californian justice. Reminding Mexicans of their place in society is U$ culture. Decades later re-imagining a man’s beheading as a jaunty comedic tale of romance and adventure is also U$ culture.
In 1948, 100 years after the Treaty of Guadalupe, John Huston released the film The Treasure of Sierra Madre. This film is famous not only for its star studded cast, including Humphrey Bogart but also in large part for the scene where a federale says “Badges? We don’t need to show you no stinking badges!” The treaty of Guadalupe insured that the property rights of Mexicans would be honored with the incorporation of new territory into the U$. Instead between the decades of the 1850s-1890s Mexicans were lynched at the highest rate per capita of any racial or ethnic group in U$ history, often times in obvious naked land grabs under some specious claim of legal authority. Making Mexicans look ridiculous is U$ culture. Violating your own treaties and then pretending like other people have no respect for laws, agreements, paperwork or proper identification of authority is also U$ culture.
In 1969, Anti Mexican recidivist Sam Peckinpah reimagined the U$ army’s 1916 “Punitive Expedition” as the Wild Bunch. The Punitive Expedition later relabled the Mexican Expedition was Led by John Pershing. Roughly fifty years later this murderous campaign to punish Mexico was reimagined by Sam Peckinpah as restless white men who ran out of frontier so they headed south and saved a bunch of Mexicans from themselves. The Wild Bunch is a film celebrated for it’s innovations in the depiction of violence and bloodshed on the silver screen a true landmark of U$ cinema. The blood that was shed was Mexican. 100 years later Donald Trump ran on the campaign promise to build a wall. He promised “Mexico will pay.” This too is U$ culture.
From Speedy Gonzalez to Breaking Bad, Reefer Madness to the Trump Presidency we are awash in anti-Mexican imagery and ideology. This is insult to injury. We are oppressed in this country. We are source of cheap labor in this country. We are fodder for their wars and their prisons in this country. The culture emerges from the conditions. The insult does not stand alone randomly. They debase us because they exploit us. We cannot change this culture without changing the horrific debasing conditions we find ourselves in.
That will take struggle across the board. In order to struggle here or anywhere the first step is building our own networks outside of their machine. We need to build our own infrastructures outside of their machine. It is central to their identity to debase us because it is central to their position in the world to debase us. They won’t stop. They can’t stop. It is who they are. We will not thrive in their system. We have to build outside of it. We need more of our own presses and we need those presses to work together. We need our own studios and we need those studios to work together. New technologies and demographic shift are making new things possible. Things can change. We must make them. There is no other way.