EL PASO – Before taking a Chicano Studies class this semester, my knowledge of Ruben Salazar was pretty weak. I think most residents of El Paso are also uninformed about the success of the legendary Mexican-American journalist who was killed inside a bar in East Los Angeles during a Chicano anti-war demonstration in 1970.Should the city of El Paso be blamed for this lack of historical information about the prominent journalist, who was born in Ciudad Juárez and raised in El Paso?Why haven’t our city fathers taken time to recognize this ground-breaking native son who became a national and international correspondent for one of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers? Why aren’t any parks, public schools or other public spaces named after Salazar or other prominent El Pasoans? Here are a few others:
Marcelino Serna, immigrated to El Paso illegally in 1916 at age 20, became a decorated solider during the first World War. Another nationally recognized figure, Sandra Day O’Connor, was born in El Paso and graduated from Austin High School.
EL PASO – La Raza Unida Party gathered here in the same city where its first convention took place 40 years ago calling for Hispanics to unify with renewed vigor at a time when their vote is of critical importance in the 2012 presidential elections. “The question is how we control our destiny,” said José Ángel Gutiérrez, 68, a founding member of the party, a lawyer and a longtime leading Chicano activist. The roots of the Raza Unida Party, created to organize and empower new generations of Hispanics, date to the late 1960’s when Hispanics students at Crystal City Texas High School were excluded from some of the extracurricular activities. The discrimination led to student protests and walkouts. Gutierrez soon found himself advising them.
EL PASO – No, not the New York/New Jersey football team, the 1982 alternative rock band, or the 1971 George C. Scott movie. Even better, they are civil rights heroes among us, standing up and moving for what they believe in. March 31 was César Chavez day. A year ago on this day, I marched in honor of César with Erasmo and Sally Andrade, both long-time advocates of social justice. Erasmo died March 30, 2012.
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.
EL PASO — The future of Segundo Barrio is not white or brown, but green. Such is the view of Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe, a health and human services organization that contends economic power will decide the fate of this historic neighborhood in south central El Paso. It is a decidedly pragmatic approach for a non-profit born in the grassroots movements of the 1960’s and grounded in social justice. A visit to the La Fe “campus” reveals an organization that appears to be thriving. In 1992, La Fe consisted of one health clinic, 65 employees and a budget of $3 million, mostly federal funds.
EL PASO – On a warm, windy March afternoon, the inhabitants of one of El Paso’s most rustic and historic neighborhoods gathered for a carnival held in honor of Cesar Chavez. Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe held a carnival for the famed social justice leader on the grounds of La Fe Preparatory School on Saturday the 26th of March. Hundreds were in attendance, many of them residents of the Segundo Barrio, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. “We need to keep the legacy of Cesar Chavez alive,” says John Estrada, who is a member of the board of directors at La Fe. “And this is one of the ways we do it, through Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe.”
The board of directors of La Fe have supported this event for over 10 years, with the event taking place on the elementary school grounds for the past three years.
March 31 declared a ‘no classes’ day
EL PASO, Texas — After several letters of protest, a rally and march to the President’s Office and a Gold Nugget recipient returning his award, Cesar Chavez Day is back as a “no classes” day only for this year. At their monthly meeting Feb. 8, the Faculty Senate voted in favor of reinstating Cesar Chavez Day and Spring Study Day as holidays for students. Last November, the same entity removed both dates from the school’s calendar to meet a requirement by the state legislature that mandated them to choose 12 staff holidays per academic year. The reinstatement of the holiday was announced through an e-mail sent by the President’s Office, which included a statement from UTEP President Diana Natalicio.
ELPASO, Texas — A decision to remove César Chavez Day as an observed school holiday taken by the University of Texas at El Paso Faculty Senate touched a nerve at this Hispanic-majority institution. “We were under pressure to make a quick decision,” said Faculty Senate President Dr. Carl S. Lieb, a professor of biology. The vote on November 9 by the faculty Catalog and Calendar Committee, followed by a unanimous vote by the senate, was in response to a Texas State Legislature cost-cutting directive to remove two holidays from the school’s schedule. “The first recommendation to come was to take away the Spring Study Day and Cesar Chavez Day, or (to) take one of the existing staff holidays during the winter break,” Lieb said. Spring Study Day, a faculty holiday on the Friday of Spring Break also was eliminated.
We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better and more just world for our children. People who make that choice will know hardship and sacrifice. But if you give yourself totally to the non-violence struggle for peace and justice, you also find that people give you their hearts, and you will never go hungry and never be alone. And in giving of yourself, you will discover a whole new life full of meaning and love. César Chávez, Founder, United Farm Workers of America (UFW)
March 31, 1927 – April 22, 1993
EL PASO, Texas — Upon my return to Texas as a young man after completing my Naval duty, I began to hear stories about César Chávez. In spring 1966, Archbishop Robert Lucy of San Antonio appointed me to head the Bishop’s Committee for the Spanish Speaking and to help the melon strikers in Rio Grande City, Starr County, in South Texas. Although I would not meet César personally until 1985, during his work to eliminate dangerous pesticides, his vision for justice and his leadership of the United Farmworkers of America in the 1960s and 1970s strongly influenced my community activism within the Chicano Movement. My personal experience
Starr County rural communities were the most impoverished in the United States. I organized food and clothing drives in San Antonio and Austin for the striking farmworkers there.