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Ruben Salazar and the Indigenous Imperative

by Marcos Aguilar

“The anniversary of Salazar’s assassination and the Chicano Moratorium, remind us of how far we have yet to go to achieve the basic levels of autonomy and self-determination Chicanismo imagined almost fifty years ago.”

Assassinated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department during the historic Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War protest rally in East Los Angeles on August 29, 1970, journalist Ruben Salazar has become an enigmatic symbol of a low point in the crimes against the Chicano communities of Los Angeles. This date marks the anniversary of the killing of four people by police forces as civilians were targeted as enemies of state. With outrage over police violence echoing to this day across the United States, Salazar reported on the injustices protested by Chicano students and teachers in East Los Angeles high schools and had witnessed the massacre of students by CIA coordinated Mexican government forces in Mexico City. These experiences challenged Salazar to contribute to the struggle for civil rights through the media, instead of covering it up. Upon his return from witnessing the student massacre at Tlatelolco in Mexico City, Salazar reportedly stated, “Manito como han cambiado las cosas…”. Certainly, given the state of affairs we face with militarized police forces and continued systemic educational failure, the social causes the Chicano Movement stood for remain relevant to this day.

Understanding the Chicano Movement has been both personal and transformational to me. Born in 1970, I only came to understand Chicanismo in college while attending UCLA. As a committed student and community organizer, I eventually led the call for a UCLA Faculty Center takeover and a hunger strike in 1993 that led to the establishment of the UCLA Cesar Chavez Chicana and Chicano Studies Department. Two score and four years ago, basic proposals of the Movement such as Chicano Studies, had only started to take root in the university. Recent research projects have documented Salazar’s insightful writings about Chicanismo. “Mexican-Americans, though indigenous to the Southwest, are on the lowest rung scholastically, economically, socially, and politically. Chicanos feel cheated. They want to effect change. Now.” Clearly, Salazar echoes the voice of the Plan de Aztlan and Plan de Santa Barbara, seminal documents of the Chicano student movement. Once again, this anniversary serves to remind our community of the importance of expanding access to quality Chicana and Chicano Studies for our youth as indigenous peoples. This change is needed not in the sterile environment of a conference, but in every public, charter or private classroom, school and college our youth pay to attend.

Forty-five years after Salazar’s exacting words, Los Angeles, California still stands as the largest historically Mexican city in the United States. Of Los Angeles’ school district’s almost 500,000 students identified as ‘Latinos’ (about 75% of all LAUSD students). Around 200,000 LAUSD students are Spanish speakers classified as ‘English Learners’ - most certainly a euphemism for the District’s massive Mexican-origin student demographic majority. Yet, even as a majority, the Mexican community is timid in its demand for the effective implementation of research validated, community generated models of culturally relevant college preparatory curriculum and programs. Schools like magnets, charters and the recently expanded IB programs in LAUSD are great for the few who attend them but what about the roughly 80% of indigenous Mexican and Central American students who graduate ineligible to attend a UC or CSU, or the at least 40% of students who are pushed out every year and don’t even graduate at all. In 2011, the Office of Civil Rights of the U. S. Department of Education again documented the systemic educational discrimination prevalent for ‘English Learners’ in the LAUSD – but what has really changed? Accessible, required and well-designed Chicana and Chicano Studies courses in our high schools could change how poorly public schools engage our youth in a very short time. In education, inspiration is priceless and prescient. Chicana and Chicano Studies is above all else, a methodical, strategic and informed curriculum designed to empower and inspire our youth based upon culturally rooted values and inquiry into their own human condition. It is time to lay Salazar’s spirit to rest and demand more of public education in the spirit of the Plan de Santa Barbara, a seminal declaration of the Chicana/o student movement, “At this moment, we do not come to work for the university, but to demand that the university work for us.” Otherwise, Indigenous students will continue to ‘turn off and tune out.’

My daughter, a top graduate of Anahuacalmecac International University Preparatory in East Los Angeles, just recently started UCLA as well. I am proud to think that students of my generation organized and sacrificed to successfully open the doors a little wider and make the university serve our community more effectively. My daughter is excited to take her first university level Chicana/o Studies course in the fall and I am hopeful that the experience will be true to the movement that birthed it.

While Salazar’s assassination most certainly deserves our respect, the injustices that plague us continue to demand our attention, now. It is our future, our Semillas, which ought to command our disciplined passion to regenerate as Indigenous Peoples and renew our own humanity in our ways. Ought we continue to operate as the minority demographic in our minds, or command the effective right to a public education we merit? To be sure, the clearest example of human autonomy and self-determination must be witnessed in the raising of our children. Shall we give them up to others, with contradictory values and imposed languages and then wonder in our old age why our progeny no longer sing our songs or worse yet, die for a city street name or in some foreign legion? We believe that Chicana and Chicano Studies today is as much about defending our access, “to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination,” as called for by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as it is a struggle for our own spirit, our very existence.

The anniversary of Salazar’s assassination and the Chicano Moratorium, remind us of how far we have yet to go to achieve the basic levels of autonomy and self-determination Chicanismo imagined almost fifty years ago. Mandated access to community-based pedagogy and curriculum, such as Chicana and Chicano Studies is one essential step towards closing the achievement gap and better serving the Indigenous youth LAUSD and other school systems struggle to retain. Sterile top-down standards-based exams will continue to do nothing to address the needs and potential of our most vulnerable youth.

“Chicanos will tell you that their culture predates that of the Pilgrims,” once wrote Salazar. I will tell you that this is still true, but how many of our youth today understand this? The imperative today is to remember our roots in order to bring about a world where many worlds fit.

Originally posted at Radical Regeneration

Marcos Aguilar has been an educational leader for over two decades, first as a prominent student activist in the nineties, then as a history teacher in LAUSD and finally as a traditional Aztec dancer and community organizer.

For interesting insights into the work of Ruben Salazar, please visit the Ruben Salazar Project

La Gran Tigrada of Chilapa, Guerrero

Every 15th of August, children and adults keep alive a more than 500-year-old tradition of paying homage to Tepecyolotli, benefactor of agriculture and giver of rain, by dressing as jaguars.

Image via Bernadino Hernández, Cuartoscuro

Welcome to Oaxacalifornia: Oaxaqueños in the Global City of L.A

Date: Sunday, August 03, 2014
Time: 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Location: Central Library - Mark Taper Auditorium

In celebration of Oaxacan Heritage month, the FIOB will be presenting Welcome to Oaxacalifornia, Oaxaqueños in the Global City of L.A.

This event will highlight the contributions of Oaxaqueños in the city of Los Angeles by presenting two panels. The first panel will consist of Gaspar Rivera Salgado, Elizabeth Gonzalez, Aaron Sonnenshine and Xochitl Flores Marcial sharing their expertise on the Indigenous Oaxacan community. The second panel will be grass root community organizers sharing their experiences working in with their respective communities such as Candida Hernandez (AON), Maria Isabel Sanchez (FIOB) and Isai Pazos (ORO).

To compliment the panel their will also be a pop up photo exhibit of the Oaxaqueños community in Los Angeles through the lenses of Antonio Nava, Devra Weber and Lesha.

For more information, visit the Los Angeles Public Library website

Images: Califas Designs, Grupo Folklórico Huaxyacac

Guelaguetza 2014

The Guelaguetza is an annual celebration of Oaxaca’s Indigenous communities typically held during the last two weeks of July.

‘Guelaguetza’ is a Zapoteco word meaning system of collaboration and exchange. Scholars say it has been practiced since the days before pre-European contact and was preserved as a means of surviving the trauma of colonization.

Although commercialized, La Guelaguetza gives Oaxaca’s Native Peoples an opportunity to showcase their culture and traditions.

Members of a teachers’ union and a student group attempted to block the entrance to La Guelaguetza on the celebration’s last day over a dispute with the government on Monday.

Photo credits: Cuarto Oscuro, Revolución 3.0, Estación Foto

Spoof Ads Mock ‘Share a Coke,’ Helps Save Lives in the Process

Coca-Cola’s latest marketing campaign seems to feed off many young people’s narcissistic need to be recognized by corporations, which is in and of itself troublesome. Add to that the very real health — and even deadly — consequences that come with drinking Coke (and any other soda), and you have a campaign begging for a response.

In the spirit of Adbusters, these spoof ads, and others like them, are challenging Coca-Cola’s targeting of teens, and forcing all of us to question our own food choices.

With globalization, modern diseases like diabetes and obesity have become a big problem for Mexicans (on both sides) of the border.

Fortunately, the antidote lies within: traditional food and culture. The Decolonize Your Diet movement is strong and growing everyday. For the sake of your health and that of our community’s, we recommend you check it out!

Stay Connected: Twitter | Facebook

Mexico’s Campesinos March for Land Rights, Against Fracking

An estimated 50,000 campesinos and supporters turned out to march in Mexico City on Wednesday. Agricultural organizations from throughout Mexico attended.

Under the banner “The Countryside Is for All,” attendees marched in support of farmers, food sovereignty, Indigenous land rights, and against recent energy reforms that would allow for fracking and appropriation of farm lands.

Organizers were able to obtain a meeting with Interior Secretary Osorio Chong to discuss concerns.

Images via Aristegui Noticias, El Barzón

Stay Connected: Twitter | Facebook

This Day in Mexican History: Francisco “Pancho” Villa Assassinated

July 20 marks the anniversary of Mexican Revolution leader Pancho Villa’s 1923 assassination in Parral, Chihuahua by his political enemies.

Villa led several military campaigns, including one in Columbus, New Mexico. He’s remembered as a fierce patriot and a great military leader.

¡Villa Villa!

#panchovilla #josedoroteoarango #villavilla #elcentaurodelnorte #parralchihuahua #mexicanhistory #mexicanrevolution #thinkmexican

Mexicans Stand in Solidarity With Palestine, Call for Boycott of Israel

Chants of “We are all Gaza” and “Free Palestine” rang out at the doors of Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico City on Sunday.

In repudiation of attacks on Gaza civilians, in particular those on children, and in an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, activists gathered to call for a boycott and other sanctions of Israel.

Dozens of cities throughout the world held similar protests this weekend. Chile and Ecuador have cut diplomatic ties with Israel,

Several news sources are reporting 469 Palestinians have been killed in this latest Israeli offensive, almost all civilians, and many of them children.

#gaza #gazaunderattack #boycottisrael #vivapalestina #freepalestine #thinkmexican

Dr. Mireles: Autodefensa Leader, Political Prisoner

Dr. José Manuel Mireles is a medical doctor who in February 2013 become part of an armed civil self-defense group most commonly known as the ‘Autodefensas of Michoacán.’

He’s currently incarcerated in a federal maximum security prison in Sonora for charges many consider fabricated by those in the government seeking to discredit him.

Dr. Mireles is a political prisoner being punished for exposing the government’s connection to organized crime. Groups throughout Mexico, the United States, Canada and Europe have rallied to his support, and are demanding his immediate release.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

#liberenamireles #autodefensas #epn #hijosdelatuta #michoacan #thinkmexican

“This May Not Be Our Country, But It Has Always Been Our Land”

Protest sign seen Wednesday in San Diego at a demonstration in solidarity with child migrants and their families. In the spirit of Yolanda López, Gloria Anzaldúa, and many more, its truth is powerful and undeniable.

“We want to be the voice of all these children. With their situation, their rights are violated by the government. We ask that they be treated with dignity and respect, to be provided with legal assistance in order to be legally represented,” reads a statement posted by one of the demonstration’s organizers.

Thanks to Kim Moore for sharing her photo with us.

Mexicans in U.S. and Canada Protest Arrest of Self-Defense Leader, José Manuel Mireles

Mexicans living in the United States and Canada are calling for the release of Michoacán self-defense group leader and spokesperson, José Manuel Mireles. Demonstrations in Arizona, California, New York and Vancouver have taken place over the fourth of July weekend.

José Gil, Proceso Magazine writer, says the following about Mireles:

"José Manuel Mireles has proven an inspirational figure to towns in Michoacán and other states trying to build their own self-defense groups. This is what is most frightening to the federal government since there has not been any substantive progress in the fight against insecurity and violence in México. Meanwhile, Peña Nieto continues Calderón’s war on drugs."

The self-defense groups are referred to as ‘autodefensas' in Spanish. An 'autodefensa' is a member of a 'self-defense force'; these are community police organizations enforcing the Mexican constitution at the municipality and state level. The rise of autodefensas has attracted the attention of the Mexican military, and, by extension, the U.S. military too. According to his lawyer, Mireles was tortured. Others also allege Mireles was arrested because he did not collaborate with the dominant political parties in the region, the PRI and the PAN.

The United States has provided training to the Mexican military and police under Plan Merida. This training includes interrogation techniques often referred to as torture. The discovery of Project Gunrunner also provides incontrovertible proof of American weapons making their way to drug traffickers via U.S. authorities. High caliber hardware - the type of weapons provided to the Mexican military under Plan Merida - has also shown up in crime scenes linked to narco-trafficking.

July 4, 2014, New York City, New York

July 5, 2014 Vancouver, British Columbia

July 4, 2014, San Jose, California

July 4, 2014, Phoenix, Arizona

This story was originally published in

Latino: the Manufactured Super Consumer

How corporations and government use consumerism and false identities to subvert Mexicans

by Ricardo Lezama

I. Who promotes the term ‘Latino’ and why?

'Latino' is a marketing term used to subsume Mexicans into other Spanish speaking identities in the United States. While individuals may have their own intuitions about its use, beliefs about empowerment and potential arguments for needing the term, from a marketing perspective, the term 'Latino' is a way for corporations to simplify their relationship with a demographic of consumers. Thus, adopting 'Latino' uncritically as an identity is inherently questionable when so many marketers and corporations have been involved in defining the culture and ideology entailed by the term.

The U.S. media use the term ‘Latino’ to dissociate individuals from their national and ethnic identity and connect them to the consumer market. This allows the U.S. to intervene in these countries without suffering the consequences of domestic protest. They drive them away from political interests and into frivolous consumerist goals.

From an economic standpoint, this makes perfect sense. If you work at a large multi-national marketing firm, you want to reduce your target audience to as simple of an entity in order to hone your marketing and product development strategy. There is great incentive to do so, as this Forbes article notes:

"The emergence of Hispanics as a consumer force is growing rapidly, with a purchasing power expected to reach $1.5 trillion dollars in 2015. Dubbed ‘super consumers’ Latinos in the U.S. are blowing past the mainstream and other minority groups in this regard."


"Hispanic online and mobile usage is among the highest of any group and continues to increase faster than the general marketplace."

The term Latino implies dollar signs, not a political struggle. Marketers and businesses (an advertiser’s actual customer) use the term to reduce the various complex identities from Latin America in the United States to their most basic similarity: not white and Spanish speaking. The rest, from their perspective, is very irrelevant. If people believe they are ‘Latino,’ then the only problem left for advertisers is refining and expanding the definition so that it better resembles an actual cultural identity.

II. Passive Populations Make Military Intervention Easier for the U.S. Government

U.S. foreign policy in México depends on the Mexican community constantly being on the defensive, confused and complacent with whatever ill-will the government directly and indirectly expresses towards them. In order for U.S. foreign policy to work in México, Mexicans in the United States must dissociate themselves from the political process in México. ‘Latino’ becomes a very useful term in this context. Mexicans are encouraged to just shut up and work towards becoming passive ‘Latinos’ in the United States. This helps Chicanos avoid the ‘cognitive dissonance’ whenever they attempt to make sense of the hostility directed at them. It makes life easy for Mexicans who wish to ‘just get by,’ not think about complex things and make a little money.

For instance, we can view Hilary Clinton’s statement to Greta Van Susteren as a direct attack on our community: “just because your child gets across the border doesn’t mean your child gets to stay” is a very clear message of animosity towards the Mexican community. Why are we not all protesting her statements? What other community has had its history banned in an American state? Just Mexicans in recent memory.

Why is this policy of constant deportation so vehemently pursued by government officials? Perhaps, the government wishes to use the Mexican community as a scapegoat to explain the terrible state of the economy. This was partially made possible because there has been no significant pushback too. Chicanos, as a whole, have been very busy being neutral through being ‘Latino.’

My point is that while some Chicanos were busy being ‘Latino,’ the U.S. government was busy being itself and shipped weapons to undemocratic right wing paramilitary, gave training to the Mexican military and fixed the Caldéron and Peña Nieto elections in México.

The U.S. government would like to reassert territorial dominance over the U.S. southwest and northern México. That is basically what border enforcement and SB-1070 are about. The economic and social fragmentation of Mexican migrants in the United States is not an accident, and has real consequences. For example, most second generation Mexicans are completely ignorant of politics in México and embrace this ignorance as a sign of Americanism. These people often call themselves ‘Latino’ before they call themselves ‘Mexican’ in order to avoid conflict with non-Chicanos. Chicanos now have to deal with the psychological blow of our own people asserting their legal status, inability to speak Spanish and preference for American culture as symbols of their legitimacy. The fact that half of the United States was formerly México is lost in this confusion.

The fear created by the U.S. government’s divide and conquer strategy has served them well. Plan Merida has been virtually unopposed in the United States. Most Chicanos (even those who are educated) do not know the full scale of military intervention in México orchestrated by the United States. Many Chicanos still think Mexican cartels are the most guilty of the harm done to México during the peak years of the “Drug War.” What they do not know is that the United States sent military hardware, personnel and money to the Mexican government. These resources were then turned against activists, the EZLN and also found their ways into preferred drug traffickers.

In other words, the term ‘Latino’ not only turns Raza into consumers, but also into unwilling collaborators with the state. Our acquiescence and ignorance of U.S. foreign policy is a direct consequence with identifying with the word ‘Latino.’ When Chicanos don’t identify with the nationality of Mexican, we stop caring about the political processes that we could positively influence. We forget that we can have two countries instead of none.

The fact that the government and corporations benefit from Mexicans self-identifying with the term ‘Latino’ does not answer why ‘Latino’ is so constantly used by our people. At an emotional level, I think the term ‘Latino’ gives some of us a superficial sense of belonging to a larger community. Somehow people forget - or never learn - the specific history between them and the United States. The term ‘Latino’ helps solidify that ignorance, because it prevents us from grasping a historically grounded reality. The term ‘Latino’ unifies us in the wrong way; it unifies us through collective ignorance of our own individual history.

This article was originally published at La Cartita

Ricardo Lezama is a linguist from Santa Ana, California. He also works as a software engineer at a tech company, and is the founder of