Charles Ndeki, Bourama Seydi and Lamine Fati all stepped on land mines on their plantations in Senegal, West Africa. In his interview with Brinegar, Bourama said, "Journalists, they come and they ask us questions, take our picture and they write and then they leave and nothing happens." (©Felipe Jacome)

Seeing poverty and seeking to change the world, word by word

Editor’s note: This blog is part of a series of first person essays about identity written by UTEP Liberal Arts Honors students during the spring 2013 semester. EL PASO – Last summer I was standing in front of the Martyr’s Monument in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  There was this being, an old man, lying on a thin mat. He looked like he was dying there as people walked around him, unchanged. One, two, three…I could count his ribs. His arms and legs were as thin as a broomstick, bones jutting out like knobs in wood.

Carlos Montes after one of his court's hearings in L.A. (Courtesy of Julia Wallace.)

Chicano activist Carlos Montes now fights for his own freedom

EL PASO – El Paso born Carlos M. Montes has been a solidarity activist since the late 1960s, denouncing wars and fighting for immigration rights and better public education, but lately he can be seen surrounded by posters with a much different message –“Save Carlos Montes.”

Wearing his black newsboy cap backwards and a ‘Chicano Nation’ t-shirt, Montes, 64, walked with a swagger through El Paso’s Mayapan Mercado Mayachen museum, and in midsentence pointed to a picture on the gallery wall and said, “Oh shit, that’s me!” as if looking through a personal photo album that he’d forgotten existed. The gallery documents the plight of Mexican immigrants as well as Montes’ own lifetime of struggle. The scattered protest posters scream out, “Alto Policía Represión,” “Don’t privatize public education!” and “Stop the war!”

In May 2011, police officers and the FBI raided Montes’ home in Los Angeles, he said, destroying everything in their path, confiscating papers, his computer and cell phone, dragging him out and throwing him into handcuffs. He was charged with four counts of perjury for neglecting to mention a conviction that happened 42 years ago when he was purchasing a handgun. He was also charged with possession of a handgun and ammunition by an ex-felon.