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  • San Quintin and the Anger We Hold

     

    By Noe Lopez

     

     This Article was first Published in the September-December Issue of Critique Magazine at Delhi University, India. Do not cite without the author’s consent.

     

                @Rexiste, Facebook

     

     

    As I write this piece for an audience in India I cannot stop thinking of the history of colonisation and imperialism I share with this audience. I cannot neglect to mention a certain explorer who arrived to the American continent thinking he had discovered a route to India and, thus, erroneously called my people 'Indians'. This explorer, Christopher Columbus, changed the routes of the history of my people for centuries. I personally don't appreciate the word 'Indian' for its colonial legacy and, although others claim it with pride, I cannot forget its role in history. It has impacted indigenous racism and classism in Mexico, influenced migration and indigenous labor, and defined our place in Mexican society. In fact, this history and its consequences still affects me and angers me.

     

    First and foremost, let me explain this anger.

     

    Anger, Coraje, a feeling of antagonism, the feeling of burning heat in the heart and attitude demonstrated by through embodied movements such as the frown of my eyebrows. It is what the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) calls 'digna rabia', or dignified rage, a humanised rage of oppressed peoples. I speak now not as an academic but as an indigenous migrant living in the United States, in displacement, and as the son of indigenous farm workers.

     

    I am angry and I will not apologise for it.

     

    It is with this anger, coraje, that I think of the strikes in San Quintin valley, a region in northern Mexico that serves as a hub for agricultural industries catering to world markets in the production of different varieties of berries and vegetables. Many impoverished people around Mexico, especially indigenous people from the southern part of the country, migrate to this region to work in this industry. Earlier last year, on 17 March 2015, farm workers in San Quintin made headlines in Mexico as they struck work, engaging in peaceful protest by ceasing to pick crops in the agricultural fields in protest of the inhuman work conditions the industry subjected them to. This included sexual abuse, 17 hours of work per day, with no basic necessaries (i.e. water, bathrooms, medical services) and the use of child labour. The protests turned violent when policemen raided the protests with gum bullets and gases, as well as showed up in people’s homes, looking to detain organisers and protesters, thereby criminalising them. The protests prolonged as farmworkers attempted to negotiate for better working conditions with agro-industry companies and growers, and defend themselves against police violence. As a result of the strike, many crops went rotten due to the absence of labourers for weeks and even months. In May 2015, many growers accepted the demands of the protesters by promising to end child labor and increasing wages to $200 pesos ($15 U.S. dollars) a day instead of the $300 pesos demanded by protestors. Until today, the implications of the negotiations are part of the dialogues of the protesters because state institutions have not responded effectively to demands of healthcare and other social services. Also, many companies have begun to terminate employment of those who participated in the protests.

     

               @gloria Gracida, Facebook

     

     

    San Quintin: Media and Neo-Liberalism

    As the strikers and residents of San Quintin protested they have posted videos of police shooting gum bullets at protesters though Youtube and Facebook. National media in Mexico turned their attention to these migrant workers using terms such as 'jornalero' (daily wage labourers), 'migrantes' (migrants) and 'trabajadores de campo' (farmworkers), often neglecting their indigenous identity. International media such as CNN and Los Angeles Times began writing reflective pieces on how these workers pick up food to feed the United States population for less than 10 dollars a day, when minimum wage workers in the U.S. earn the same amount in an hour.

    In videos posted on the Internet, we saw women yelling at their friends and family to protect themselves from the shootings. Articles focus on the treatment of women in the agricultural fields. Women are often sexually abused in the workplace. Child labour has been another important issue in this region. Children from ages thirteen to eighteen assist their parents in the fields, in violation of international human rights and state laws.

    The abysmal working conditions in San Quintin are closely related to the growth of Mexican neoliberal economic state policies. Allowing for the entry of foreign capital with the promise of providing employment to Mexicans, U.S.-based companies like Driscoll’s, that are dedicated to growing and marketing berries, are amongst those that are responsible for the exploitation of workers in San Quintin, and who simultaneously benefit from their exploitation. These corporations work through ejidos, communal agrarian holdings, and ranchos, plantations owned by certain families and private proprietors. These ejidos and ranchos hire primarily indigenous labourers to work in their fields, who hail from southern Mexico and migrate north, leaving behind their communities, in order to flee poverty and political conflicts. Thus a capitalist chain of labour and profit is created; indigenous people work for the ranchos/ejidos and these make contracts with transnational corporations such as Driscoll.

     

                 @Dado Maximo Supremo, Facebook

     

     

    San Quintin and Mexico’s Dominant Society

     

    The San Quintin protests have historical roots and demonstrate the Mexican state’s contempt towards its indigenous population. Often, media reporting on these issues fail to analyse the historical inequality of indigenous people. Based on its colonial legacy, the Mexican nation state is founded on and dependent upon patriarchal-racist systems of oppression that have historically relegated indigenous people to poverty and political conflicts, thus making them 'exploitable' and forcing them to migrate.

    In Mexico, there is a phrase that justifies the exploitation of indigenous people: 'trabajo de indio', or Indian work, a phrase that is based on the racialisation of bodies and that justifies the exploitation of indigenous peoples as agricultural workers. A YouTube video goes on to exemplify the ideologies of employers. In this video, it states that the life of an indigenous person working in agricultural fields is worth less than a slave because Indian work is easily found and easily exploited, as they are ignorant and worthless. What could possibly justify the broadcast of such a narrative? These violent ideologies demonstrate the normalisation and racialisation of the exploitation of indigenous bodies in Mexico.

                What do I mean by normalisation? I mean that Mexico’s national culture breeds images of the subordinate indigenous labourer. We see Mexican 'telenovelas', soap operas, where light-skin-rich families have workers portrayed by actors that 'behave' and 'look' indigenous—characters with dark skin, broken Spanish, and submissive personalities.

    The Mexican media portrays indigenous women who are domestic workers as docile, vulnerable, and hopeless. The domestic labour of the indigenous, is therefore, gendered and racialised. A perfect example of this is the Mexican caricature of La India Maria, the Indian Maria, a popular indigenous character in Mexico reproduced in a series of films portraying the image of the 'Indian woman' as submissive and hopeless, often dehumanising her agency. These ideas are founded on paternalism, a form of exertion of power that is often masked by a discourse of care. Such discourses are also found in the academia. In one such instance, an academic in my graduate school coined the phrase, 'racismo de amor', or racism of love, in to order to refer to this form of paternalism, acted on domestic indigenous workers. On hearing such a formulation, however, I was angered, as I do not believe any form of racism is based on love, but is always based on oppression. In yet another instance of the normalisation of this form of paternalism, La India Maria was described by a professor in class as being 'part of Mexican culture'. Mexican society has, similarly, been blind or reluctant in recognising indigenous communities' identity, power, and autonomy (unless of course, if it involves neoliberal tourism).

    It is until our anger is performed; until our people speak up, stand up, protest, and rise to arms (such as San Quintin and EZLN) that we get national and international attention. It is when we disturb the bourgeois-upper-class-white-mestizo-Mexican society; it is when we go against the colonial social norm that we get acknowledgements. Acknowledgments that often negate our identities. They call us 'daily wage workers', 'migrants', peasants', but not Ñuu Savi, Triqui, , Tarahumara, or Purepecha.

     

     

    San Quintin and Colonial History

     

    The exploitation of indigenous workers in San Quintin is part of a longer history of exploitation beginning in the colonial period. During the colonial period, for instance, the strategic development of the haciendas, or large-scale plantations, was based on the basic principle of the dispossession of land and the use of indigenous bodies for labour. The development of haciendas in Mexico during the 16th century marked the beginning of displacement of indigenous people from their lands converting them into labourers.

    During the Porfirian period, between the 1870s and 1910 under the rule of Porfirio Diaz, foreign investment and land appropriation became exaggerated, also leading to a growth of industrial production geared toward export products. Many indigenous people were forced to give up their land and work for the production of agricultural and mining commodities. According to various historians, people were often hired when they were drunk and basically kidnapped. People worked as peons, domestic servants (especially women), many of which were dominated by paternalism on the one hand and physical violence on the other. In addition, the agrarian reform of 1915 after the Mexican Revolution failed to compensate indigenous peoples for their stolen land, creating land conflicts that have lasted until this day, causing people to leave their homes.

    Article 27 of the Mexican constitution of 1917 nationalised (state-controlled) land and reinforced the distribution of land to rural communities. Land distribution, however, only impacted communal lands of northern Mexico, such as San Quintin, where vast irrigation systems were located, and farms were introduced to industrialisation and capitalist agriculture, focusing on national and international production of commodities, that required cheap vulnerable labour. By 1992, Article 27 was revoked, permitting massive foreign capital investment in Mexico, which increased the price of domestic crops and ruined local rural markets. Many rural indigenous people in the south, therefore, were left with no choice but to migrate to work in northern Mexico and the United States. Together these historical processes account for creating the conditions for sharp inequalities, undergirded by racism, in the valley of San Quintin, bringing us back to the subject of anger.

     

                @Elio Santos, Facebook

     

     

    San Quintin and Anger

     

    Anger is important because we are tired of historical oppression. We have been the backbone of the Mexican economic structure. We have been displaced from our land. Yet here we are making our presence noticed.

    Why does the media not talk about this anger we have held for generations? Why not mention this anger that we hold within the depths of our memories? I remember my grandparents telling me about their work in Sinaloa and Veracruz during the 1940s and 1950s, how they were told 'dirty indios' by their employers to make them feel ashamed of who they were. My father once told me he was physically punished in elementary school when he spoke our language in the classroom. His teacher took his pants off and sat him on an anthill of red ants. I remember how I was told by my family to aspire to be civilised, to become a man of reason and a man of letters. I was told to reject the 'Indian' in me so that I do not suffer like my parents and grandparents did. I grew up learning that to be an Indian meant to be the lowest race, class, and human in Mexico. Let’s not forget, the anger one must feel as a woman.

    San Quintin is that anger we hold; anger growing and developing through history; an anger that must not be forgotten.

     

    Are we just exploited labourers claiming for a fair salary, as the media portray us, or are we also oppressed people striving for dignity by denouncing the oppressor?

    San Quintin is anger. We, the indigenous people of Mexico, are angry. We are angry at Mexican neoliberalism. We are angry at racism in Mexico. We are angry at patriarchy in Mexico. We are angry at Mexican internal colonialism.

     

    We are angry at history: a history of exploitation and oppression.

     

    So I say it, with all the anger that I feel righteous to: Mexico has a colonial racist patriarchal state and oppressive society. It is for this reason that many of us live in constant oppression and exploitation; we live in displacement away from our communities. It is also for that reason we speak up, we stand up, and we create our own future. We speak up because that anger is the foundation of our own definition of justice. San Quintin is part of the anger we hold.

     

    About the author:

     

    Noe Lopez is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin.

  • Cinco de Racist Pages

     

     

    Cinco de Mayo, a United States’ holiday more aligned with fake mustaches, serapes and drunken debauchery than historical fact commences today. Some believe it is Mexican Independence Day and others, less interested in history, at best patron local Mexican restaurants and at worst, host their own fiesta themed party supplied with pin the tail on the donkey and bottomless margaritas. However, leave it to City Pages to jump start the Mexican bashing early.

      

    1. The Bashing

    On Monday, May 2, City Pages published an online article, “Alondra Cano flunks city council 101” by Cory Zurowski. The heart of the piece quotes an anonymous city council member’s interpretation of Cano during a city council meeting on the twenty-year neighborhood park plan. Calling Cano “clueless” and “never paying attention,” the article ends with the anonymous council member stating, "We all know who she is. She's lazy. She's all about talking, not working hard."

     

                Photo Credit: Ryan Stopera 

    In 2013, Cano became the first Latinx elected to Minneapolis’ City Council. On a council of thirteen members, Cano is the only woman of color. She represents Ward-9, one of the most racially and economically diverse wards. Her election reflects a growing Latinx population in Minneapolis.[1] Throughout the entire state there are less than 20 women of color elected officials.

     

     

    The City Pages’ article cannot be dismissed simply as unethical journalism or a failure to enact proper Minnesota Nice etiquette. Racist and sexist language relies on coded undertones to bolster white supremacist heteropatriarchal agendas. Legal scholar Ian Haney-López (University of California, Berkeley) argues in Dog Whistle Politics (Oxford, 2014) employment of veiled racial appeals erodes the middle class by stimulating racial fear. In an interview Haney-López states, “They're [politicians] not necessarily bigots; that's the wrong imagery. I think we ought to call them strategic racists, and a strategic racist is someone who strategically, consciously, purposefully sets out to stoke racial anxiety in others for their own ends.”[2] Zurowski’s coded language adds to legions of anti-Mexican rhetoric, which has plagued our nation’s history.[3]

    1. Historical Anti-Mexican Rhetoric

    During the late nineteenth century well into the early twentieth century academic and socio-political narratives employed the term “the Mexican problem,” to justify the systemic inequities within education, housing, employment, and healthcare. The accounts, stemming from a legacy of biological determinism, insist Mexican culture inherently causes Mexican and Mexican Americans to have low intellect and a poor work ethic.

     

    In the United States, economic downturn historically causes anti-Mexican sentiments to rise. For example, during the Great Depression scarcity narratives erupted claiming that Mexicans were taking jobs and Mexican Americans were delinquent criminals. In a report to the U.S. Congress Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Dr. Roy I. Garis of Vanderbilt University stated, “Their [Mexicans] minds run to nothing higher than animal functions-eat, sleep, and sexual debauchery. In every huddle of Mexican shacks one meets the same idleness, hordes of hungry dogs, and filthy children with faces plastered with flies, disease, lice, human filth, stench, promiscuous fornication, bastardy, lounging, apathetic peons and lazy squaws, beans and dried chili, liquor, general squalor, and envy and hatred of the gringo. These people sleep by day and prowl by night like coyotes.”[4]

     

    The “lazy Mexican” perhaps is the most widely known stereotype. It features a brown man in a serape and large sombrero sleeping against a cactus. This image first circulated among white U.S. travelers entering Mexico in the late nineteenth century. For example, in 1907, Nevin O. Winter wrote in Mexico and Her People of Today, "The Indians living in the hills took undisturbed position at night, and groups of tired Indios wrapped themselves in their sarapes [sic], or shawls, and stretched their tired limbs out in the cold stones; or propped themselves against the walls of a building to rest." Travel narratives, originally paternalistic but not explicitly racially coded, viewed Mexican Indigenous people as hard working under the Porfirio Díaz state. However, this image quickly shifted. Mexico invested in a national mestizaje project, which relegated Indigenous people to a mythic past and solidified the subjugation of Indigenous people. In the United States, the sleeping “lazy Mexican” image visually represented “the Mexican problem.”

     

    Post World War II, the image proliferated. Once welcomed as low-wage workers during the Bracero Program (established in 1942), Mexicans were now seen, once again, as a national threat. Policies such as Operation Wetback coupled with cultural caricatures devalued Mexican and Mexican Americans. Depicted in cartoons, Hollywood films, and cheap ceramic kitsch statues, the sleeping “lazy Mexican” reflected the ethnoracial oppression of the times.

     

    Today, the mockery and appropriation of Mexican and Chicanx culture persists, especially during Cinco de Mayo. City Pages perpetuates historical tropes camouflaging anti-Mexican hate under the guise of objective journalism. Doubled with the long tradition of dismissing women of color’s intellect and labor, City Pages renders Latinas, specifically Cano, as uneducated and lazy.

     

     

    1. Chicana/Latina Leadership in Minnesota

     

    In a political climate when university campuses across the nation experience high volumes of hate-speech chalked on walkways and violence ensues at Trump rallies, this type of dog whistle politics and fear-mongering journalism continues to conjure historical racist tropes.

     

    As a born and raised Minnesotan and Chicana resident in Ward 9, I observe first hand the continued divestment by local elected officials to advocate for communities of color and Native people. My support for City Council Member Cano is not tied to some shallow identity politics, an affinity solely because we are Latinas. I support her office for continuously working with residents to push forth racial justice policy. When I attend city council meetings I witness repeated dismissal of her leadership, which extends beyond healthy democratic debate. Her bravery to consistently speak out against environmental racism, sex trafficking, and gentrification requires a high level of sophistication and intellect. Too often women of color leadership in the Twin Cities is downplayed, erased, and discredited. The struggle to remain active, persist, and accomplish social change under white supremacist heteropatriarchy is a survival skill. ¡La lucha sigue!

     

    c/s

      

    Jessica Lopez Lyman is a PhD Candidate in Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and an instructor in the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at the University of Minnesota. Twitter @chstlopezlyman.

     

    [1] In 2010, Latinxs comprised over 10.5% of the total population and state-wide the Latinx population increased 75% between 2000 and 2010. The demographic shift matches national trends where regions across the United States have seen similar increases (U.S. Census 2010).

    [2] Haney-López, Ian. Interview. “Talking in Codes.” The Chicago Reporter. 44.1 (Winter 2015): 14-15.

    [3] Cary McWilliams. 1948. North from Mexico: The Spanish Speaking People of the United States. See “The Mexican Problem.”

    [4] Rudy Acuña. 1981. Occupied America. 2nd edition. New York: Harper and Row, 136.

     

     

  • Hunger Strike Against Police Brutality in SF

     

    In much the same way the killings of young black men have galvanized communities all over the country the killing of Alex Nieto has activated residents of San Francisco. Set against the increasingly gentrified tech haven 28 year old Alex Nieto was shot to death by San Francisco police officers. His body was riddled by their bullets.

    From a Guardian Article, "Death by gentrification: the killing that shamed San Francisco."

    Alex Nieto was 28 years old when he was killed, in the neighbourhood where he had spent his whole life. He died in a barrage of bullets fired at him by four San Francisco policemen. There are a few things about his death that everyone agrees on: he was in a hilltop park eating a burrito and tortilla chips, wearing the Taser he carried for his job as a bouncer at a nightclub, when someone called 911 on him a little after 7pm on the evening of 21 March 2014. When police officers arrived a few minutes later, they claim Nieto defiantly pointed the Taser at them, and that they mistook its red laser light for the laser sights of a gun, and shot him in self defence. However, the stories of the four officers contradict each other, and some of the evidence. 

     

    Hungers Strikers have been protesting for 3 days. As 48Hills Reports:

    “We are starving ourselves because the uncomfortableness we’re feeling is nothing like the feeling — and I bring myself back to when Alex Nieto took his last breath and was shot at 56 times, said hunger striker Edwin Lindo. So when I felt that hunger in my stomach I felt those bullets going through Alex and I said I can still sit here. I said, he can’t breath anymore but I can and there’s five others standing with us saying that they’re willing to stand and literally go hungry.”

     

     

    Strikes are demanding the resignation of Police Chief Suhr and the of indiscriminate shooting and killings of the residents of San Francisco.

    For more information you can follow their Facebook Page

     

     

     

     

  • Podcast with Arianna Nason

    Arianna Nason is a queer Anishinaabe person from Fond du Lac based in Minneapolis. Arianna is actively working against commercial sexual exploitation and making sure that there are safety nets in place for those that experience the previously stated. Additionally, Arianna is also a community organizer because all issues that affect the sovereignty and well-being of my people are tied in the liberation of others.

     

     

     

    Kill colonization

     

  • Dos Santos Comes to the Twin Cities On Saturday March 19th!

     

    One of Chicago's best bands is coming to Bedlam Lowertown on March 19th!

     

    "Dos Santos: Anti-Beat Orquesta rocks the sounds of popular pan-Latin American dance genres—from cumbia to salsa. Recently voted Chicago's Best Emerging Artist of 2015 by the Deli Magazine's Readers Poll, their gritty, grassroots approach captures the “golden age” of streamlined tight-knit ensembles that shook sweatbox dance floors with raw and fierce energy throughout Latin America in the 1970s and 80s—honest dance music with no frills and no fear, anchored by piercing guitars, garage organs, and spirited percussion.

     


    The group’s five members (Peter Vale, Alex Chavez, Daniel Villarreal-Carrillo, Jaime Garza, Nathan Karagianis) have their own storied careers in a diversity of styles—including jazz, R&B/soul, traditional Mexican folk, punk, cumbia, salsa, and electronica—in addition to a history of critical involvement in arts education and social justice organizing. Their visceral sound draws from this sonic, cultural, and political well of influence, and is guaranteed to make you move.

    After making their debut in May of 2013, Dos Santos has been steadily making the rounds at Chicago’s premiere live music venues and festivals. In March of 2015, they released their critically-acclaimed self-titled debut album Dos Santos and subsequently made appearances at SXSW, the Pachanga Latino Music Festival, and the Ruido Fest Latin Alternative Music Festival. Shortly thereafter, they hit the road on their ​"Corre Caballo Tour." 

    ​The band is currently working on an EP with producer Beto Martínez of Grammy Award-winning Grupo Fantasma to be released in 2016."

    Pre-SaleTickets can be purchased here for $8 dollars. At the door $12

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