Monday, November 2, 2009

¡Ask a Mexican! ?

On November 18, from 6-8pm, Gustavo Arellano will speak at California State University Channel Islands as part of the campus' Chicano/a Studies "Crossing Borders, Linking Communities" fall semester speakers series. For those outside of the Chicana/o and SoCal cultural loop, Arellano is a staff writer for the OC Weekly and author of the irreverent 2007 book ¡Ask a Mexican! and Orange County of 2008 and is one of a rising number of Mexican American cultural critics on the experience of Chicanas/os in Southern California and the nation. The talk will be in room 1360 of the Broome Library. Campus parking is $6.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

CSU Channel Islands Chicana/o Studies Lecture Series

Last Thursday California State University Channel Islands’ Chicana/o Studies program kicked off its fall 2009 Crossing Borders/Linking Communities lectures series. UC Davis Professor Lorena Oropeza, author of the acclaimed ¡Raza Si! ¡Guerra No!: Chicano Protest and Patriotism during the Vietnam War Era, spoke to the significance of Reies Lopez Tijerina to the Chicano Movement of late 1960s and 70s. In this regard, Professor Oropeza argued that Tijerina’s New Mexico land grant struggle positioned Chicanas and Chicanos within the historical narrative of the United States (up until then omitted) as well as complicated the nation’s notion of a black/white racial paradigm. A model, by the way, in which many Mexican Americans favored in identifying themselves as white; after all, that is where the rights and privileges of citizenship existed. Among other points made, Professor Oropeza posited an adroit definition of cultural nationalism in context to the era’s movements of civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam war. This being that cultural nationalism sought to instill a love of self in historically stigmatized populations such as people of African, Asian, and Mexican origins in the nation in order to promote unity that would ultimately translate into political power. This explanation is important when considering that academics have a tendency to bandy about concepts (such as cultural nationalism, post-structuralism, post-modernism, and other isms) without clearly explaining their own understanding of them.

The next presentation of this 3 part Chicana/o Studies lecture series will feature UC, Irvine History professor Dr. Anna Rosas on Wednesday, October 13th starting at 3pm. Professor Rosas will speak on the Bracero (Guest Worker) Program and its influences on families on both sides of the Mexico-US border. And in the following month, on November 18th, Gustavo Arellano, OC Weekly syndicated columnist and author of ¡Ask a Mexican! and Orange County: A Personal Narrative,will speak starting at 6pm. See the accompanying poster for details.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

a reflection

In my reading of movements influenced by literary expressions of politics and culture (that reconcile the past and present in the popular mind), the virtual complete silence of the Chicana and Chicano experience within the print media is deafening. Colleagues and friends within the world of Chicana/o Studies often lament how the mainstream press christens selected voices that will represent people of Mexican origins in the nation. To a significant degree they are correct in this criticism when considering that there exist a core group of academicians, journalists, and cultural workers who do not shy away from the monikers of Chicana and Chicano and unapologetically question prevailing understandings relating to achievement gaps in education, citizenship and residency, gender, and the shifting nature of capitalism. These commentaries are easily located within academe but scarcely outside of it. Perhaps what is needed is an accessible slick focusing on Chicana and Chicano perspectives. Of course, this requires sympathetic deep pocket sponsors in which there is a limited number with this interest—I suspect.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Alice McGrath in

Image: Frank P. Barajas and Alice McGrath at UCLA 2006

The following is an address given by one of Ventura County's treasures. Alice is a central character within Luis Valdez's play and movie Zoot Suit, which is based on true events of the past. Alice inspired me to write an essay within the academic journal Aztlan titled, "The Defense Committees of Sleepy Lagoon: A Convergent Struggle against Fascism, 1942-1944."
Address by Alice McGrath 2009 Commencement at Wooster College, Ohio

“I was born in Calgary Canada in 1917. My Jewish parents had fled Russia because their lives were threatened by religious persecution — the pogroms that threatened our lives. They took me and my two sisters to Los Angeles and that’s where I grew up and did some important work in my life.
Because of this I know the immigrants’ story which is the story of our country. I know that many of you have experienced this or have parents or grandparents who are here in our country because of similar circumstances.
Your story, our story is the story of this amazing country, which has its ying and yang, its positive and negative, its Jekyll and Hyde.
In later years as I was growing up I made common cause with others who were outsiders, who in reality are also the life blood of America….
This is our story. This is what makes our country unique….all comers are/ should be welcome as Ms. Liberty invites us to be here on these shores, one of the tired, masses yearning to breathe free.
Years later I became a dreamer of what our country should be about, liberty, justice, social equality for all ….. This was considered dangerous and later in my life during the McCarthy era our government through the FBI considered how I might be deported even though I was the daughter of naturalized citizens and had a right to be here like most of you sitting here today.I have a very thick FBI file. I am most proud that one of the comments is that I had “no known weaknesses.”
When I reached the age of conscience and consciousness, realized that not everyone was treated fairly, justly or equally in our country. We did not meet our higher ideals and expectations for justice. I knew that Racism and injustice were the greatest evils; holding us back from all we should and could be.
I felt a kinship and became a fighter for the marginalized: blacks, Latinos, Asians, women, ….
I worked to organize labor unions, to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work… What a concept!
I protested the against the incarceration of the Japanese in California after Pearl HarborAnd ….I was right… Not one Japanese resident of this country was ever convicted of treason…Later our Congress and even the Supreme Court of the United States had to recognize that we made a terrible mistake against the Japanese people including US Citizens born on US soil.
I ask you to remember that when our country is ready to question people of different ethnicity, religion or background…..please speak up for justice and our Constitution.
In 1944 I became the executive secretary of the Sleepy Lagoon Defense committee….22 young Mexican American men were wrongfully accused of murder. They were convicted in the press and in the court because of their ethnicity.
Alongside their attorneys, I fought the prejudice and ignorance which accused them of being born to be bad; sentiments fed by the racial prejudices of the day. After a long struggle in the courts, with the help of the public, they were released from prison….
This was one of my proudest and happiest days in my almost 93 years.
But I did not rest and went on to take 86 trips to Nicaragua during the contra war years bringing humanitarian relief and promoting a dialogue and understanding between the people of our countries.
I worked later on to organize the Ventura County Bar’s free legal services by volunteer attorneys to those without the means to get their day in court.
Oh yes, and I taught self defense to women and could flip many of you on your back, back in the day….
During my life, I have had the pleasure and honor of knowing intellectuals who shaped our country.
WEB Dubois, the author of the Souls of Black Folks, helped me understand that I had to pace myself. That my passion for social justice should not burn me out, that I should take time to enjoy what life has to offer and to know that tomorrow is another day to fight on. Please do the same…
I knew Carey McWilliams, an important fighter for civil rights for migrant workers and others; get to know who he is… We both knew that our country needed to put an end to racism which is a continuing scourge of our planet.
In 1944 he asked me to be the secretary of the Sleepy Lagoon Defense committee for those wrongfully accused young men. As a young woman without a college degree or relevant experience I said “I’ve never done anything like this before…Then he said the magic words.
This is my message to you…. Now you will….you can live the kind of life I have. It isn’t all fun, but it is never boring and you can’t enjoy complacency.
Use your talents skills and energy and don’t be a bystander in your life and that of your era.
Never be silent in the face of things that matter. You will sleep better at night, no matter what the consequences; and you will make a difference. Our world needs you to step up to the plate, now more than ever.
My best wishes to you today and always….

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In reviewing older posts on this blog, I was pleasantly surprised to see William A. Nericcio’s comment to my muse regarding “Old and New Mexicans.” Professor Nericco is a Professor of English at San Diego State in the Department of English and Comparative Literature and author of Tex[Mex]: Seductive Hallucinations of the Mexican in America (2007).

I was first introduced to Dr. Nericcio by way of KPFK’s 4 o’ clock report with Gustavo Arrellano, author of Ask a Mexican and Orange County: A Personal History. In twice randomly catching the intriguing insights of William on Gustavo’s show, I suspect he is a regular guest. To view Memo’s interesting blog visit Tex[t]-Mex.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Howard Bingham

I went to the California African American Museum (CAAM) yesterday to see the “A Moment in Time: Bingham’s Black Panthers” photo exhibit—one image included Chicano Brown Berets and another Reies Tijerina. On my way out from the exhibit room I exchanged a kindly hello with a man and as we walked by my friend, Ross Fontes, said, “Hey, that’s him.” And it was—Howard Bingham. So we went back to meet him. In introducing myself I said, “Mr. Bingham. . .” and he replied, “I am Howard.” Howard has a new book out titled, Black Panthers 1968.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bracero Project at CSUCI

Last Monday, I attended the Bracero Project Town Hall meeting at Santa Paula High School in Ventura County. The event organized by CSU Channel Islands’ Centers for Community Engagement and Multicultural Engagement in conjunction with the university’s History and Chicana/o Studies programs reached out to the community to gather the contact information of people who worked under the US Bracero (Guest Worker) Program from 1942-1964. The event also sought the contact information of family members of Braceros and those who serviced them in housing, board, transportation and in other ways. The next step will be the conduct oral history interviews by CSUCI students.
Some times an image can sum up an experience quite well. See the following link for more information:

Friday, February 13, 2009

Robert F. Kennedy in La Colonia Oxnard

Dear friend, life-long activist, and former Catholic nun, Lupe Anguiano recently gifted me a treasure in this photograph of Robert F. Kennedy in prayer at Cristo Rey Church in the La Colonia barrio of Oxnard three days before his 1968 assassination. Father Augustin Alvarez is in the background.
Other such historical jewels can be found in her archive at UCLA (


Monday, January 5, 2009

Chicana/o Food?

If your are ever in Los Angeles or Orange County two restaurants to place on your itinerary to eat are El Tepeyac [a.k..a., Manny’s] in East Los Angeles and Super Mex in the city of Cypress. For a filling breakfast, the huevos rancheros plate at El Tepeyac ( ) is outstanding and gets you powered for the day. For a hearty dinner, the #32 carne asada meal at Super Mex ( ) is heavenly. Your favorite company will make your dinning all the more pleasurable.