Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Coffee" - Poem For the People of Acteal, Chiapas, Dec. 22, 1997

In honor of the massacred at Acteal 10 years ago, here is an early version of my poem, "Coffee" - May there be peace with justice and dignity for all.

René Arceo -
Linocut by Rene Arceo



In Guatemala the black buzzard
has replaced the quetzal
as the national bird. The shadow
of a man glides across the countryside,
over the deforested plantations; a death
cross burnishes history into myth
as it scours the medicinal land into coffee;
burial mounds that could be sites
of unexcavated knowledge hold only
blasted feathers and the molding bones
of freedom. Golden epaulets glint
in the fluorescent offices, crystal
skulls shine in the eyes of the man
with the machete, within the site
of an AK-47. Under the rubble
of the ruling class, a human heart
beats in the palm, the tumba of ritual mercy
drums in the thunder clap, a hurricane wind
sounds the concha. In Quetzaltenango, foreign
interests plot the futures of Mayan hands
and Incan gold. While on Wall Street,
the black sludge of a people trickles through
cappuccino machines like hissing snakes.


Acteal. December 22, 1997. Bloodied
mud sucks the plastic sandals of a child,
velas gutter through the saged prayers
in the little church blasted through with
twenty-two splintered holes the size
of a baby's tender fists. Melon heads pop
and the hacking drum of a machete
meeting bone counts down the hours
of matanza. Somewhere, a telephone
rings off the hook. The Vicar of the Diocese
calls in twenty minute intervals. 140 federales
stand smoking in the twilight, at their feet,
the trampled harvest of peasants gleams
through the saturated leaves. Homero
Tovilla Cristiani picks up the phone: "I have
notified General Jorge Gamboa Solis. Everything
is under control. There is no massacre in Acteal".
He places the receiver again off the cradle
on the well-ordered desk. Meanwhile, a young
Tzotzil bloodies her knuckles scratching a hole
in the adobed wall of a cave feathered with Jaguar,
fur where 14 women and children wait,
shivering in the dark. An infant picks up the call.
The first woman in line gazes into the coked-up eyes
of her assassin projecting his automatic weapon
into the ear of the whimpering baby at her breast.
500 years of history gets written in her eyes, as a Tzotzil
mother wedges her sleeping newborn into the hole.
She spits on the reddening dirt, and covers
her luz like a cat. Forty five pair of shoes
get lost in Acteal. Matted hair clings
to the coffee plants, each green leaf,
another listening ear; each red seed,
another eye, dislodged from its skull. I hear
nothing happened in Acteal. And if it did
no one knows who they were. The PRI
press machine stands on the ridge
of Destiny, staring Truth in the eye
as men lie to the cameras. Twenty yards
away, the survivors are speaking
the names of the men paid 600 dollars
American. Men with no families but a spoon
and a copa. Men with no names but the trademarks
emblazoned across their chests and on their running shoes.
I hear forty-five graves being dug today.
The women form a chain of hearts.
They have dried the earth baked with their tears.
Each one carries a red mud brick
from the killing floor where the people
were hacked into pieces the size of a bat.
Here, the "Bat People," Tzotziles, will
build a house for their dead, and pray.


Alonso Vázquez Gómez
María Luna Méndez
Rosa Vázquez Luna
Veronica Vázquez Luna
Mícaela Vázquez Luna
Juana Vázquez Luna
Juana Luna Vázquez
María Jímenez Luna
Susana Jímenez Luna
Miguel Jímenez Pérez
Marcela Luna Ruíz
Alejandro Luna Ruíz
Jaime Luna Ruíz
Regina Luna Pérez
Roselia Luna Pérez
Ignacio Pukuj Luna
Mícaela Pukuj Luna
Victorio Vázquez Gómez
Augustín Gómez Ruíz
Juana Pérez Pérez
Juan Carlos Luna Pérez
Marcela Vázquez Vázquez
Antonia Vázquez Vázquez
Lorenzo Gómez Pérez
Veronica Pérez Oyalte
Sebastian Gómez Pérez
Daniel Gómez Pérez
Pablina Hernández Vázquez
Rosela Gómez Hernández
Graciela Gómez Hernández
Guadalupe Gómez Hernández
María Ruíz Oyalte
Catalina Vázquez Pérez
Catalina Luna Ruíz
Manuela Paciéncia Moreno
Margarito Gómez Paciéncia
Rosa Gómez Pérez
Doida Ruíz Gómez
Augustín Ruíz Gómez
Rosa Pérez Pérez
Manuel Vázquez Pérez
Juana Vázquez Pérez
Josefa Vázquez Pérez
Marcela Capote Vázquez
Marcela Capote Ruíz

We are One Spirit, One Heart and One Mind.


Marseilles. Summer of 1940.
In the Cafe Rue d' Bohéme, a poet,
Hans Sahl, sits waiting for someone
to buy him a cup of coffee in exchange
for witty repartee. He is a dead man.
His name has appeared on a list of German
refugees commanded to "Surrender on Demand."
He is convinced he will never leave France
except by cattle car. A compatriot tells him
an American was asking for him by name,
that "Varian Fry is now waiting" for him at the
Hotel Splendide "with money and an emergency
visa." He thinks the man is crazy or
it is a joke crueler than fate for a Jew.
He sits in the Cafe all day, writing his last poems
on the coffee splotched napkins. He writes:


Not to lost causes present your heart.
Nor love those who cast you from their midst.
Forget dark visions your dreams impart.
Forget the hand that pushed you into emptiness.

Let not phantom sounds tear you apart
That yesterday's world brings to your ear.
Not to lost causes present your heart.
Guard yourself until your hour's here.

He empties the bitter cups of coffee, knowing
they are the last he will ever taste in unoccupied
France. That fall, he sits in a Greenwich Village
cafe, the cooling coffee sweetened with the blood
of the funny little man who brushed in the stamp
on his forged exit visa. He vows to spend the rest
of his days praising the man who defied the orders
of nations, Nazis, industry, collaborators,
gendarmes, and the United States Consulate.


Work is the refuge of sadness.
"Only when we remember does sadness
overcome us and we cry. It's better
to just keep busy," says María Ruíz.
The women knead the masa under the heels
of their hands, cupping the balls of cornmeal
pocked with a few black beans. They pat
the bolas into palm-sized portions: golden
ears of corn, black eyes of frijol, red tongues
of chili. On December 23rd there is laughter
in Polhó. The señoritas giggle at the gringo's
questions. "Qué tiene? Qué tiene?" Meaning
What is inside this humble feast they are
preparing for the ones who have come with
provisions and witness? "What's the matter?"
"Qué tiene?" The gringo insists. They smile,
a coy reply. "Nada." Nada. There is nothing
in Acteal. The federales have stolen the well-packed
sacks of coffee, a year's hard labor. They have
torn-up the clothing, peed on the grain, slaughtered
the animals, taken radios, cooking pots, weaving,
looms. The same soldiers who shit in the kitchen
now sport yellow arm bands reading Labor Social.
Work is the refuge of sadness.
Work is more than the sum of a job.
"We need to finish off the seed!"
Mícaela heard them shout.
She had been praying in the chapel since six.
At eleven she heard the gunfire start.
Men and women were on their knees.
Some stood up and began to run. Some fell
in the chapel. The only way out was the steep
embankment. Her mother took her by the hand
and carried the two youngest. The bullet
entered her mother's back. They were found
by the children's cries. First they shot her
mother, then the babies. She made no sound
under her mother's cooling huipil. "Diego,
Antonio y Pedro. More than fifty from Los Chorros,
Pechiquíl, La Esperanza, Acteal. They were dressed
in black. The ones in charge had military uniforms."
She testifies to the National Human Rights Commission.
She testifies to anyone who works to listen. How they
stripped the dead women and sliced their breasts,
forced sticks between their legs, opened the wombs,
passing the fetuses from machete to machete....
Where once she worked to silence her siblings,
at 11, Mícaela's work is to be the mouth
of a people. Behind each of the names
is a life, lost between the reporter's lines
and the photograph's caption.


"No more genocide in my name. . . ."
A young girl in trenzas sings outside
The Mexican Consulate in Denver.
"Go back to where you came from!"
shouts a car of gringos speeding down
memory lane, and are nearly drowned out
by the ritual drums and the Native chants.
First World faces sing out above the placards
like severed heads or scalps. "No more Genocide . . ."
. . . in Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Chile,
Sand Creek, Wounded Knee . . . . Not with arms.
Not with training. Not with money. No more
of my tax dollars to buy the man who drives
the Humvee that transports the soldier who shoots
the bullet that blinds the toddler, that enters the heart
of Guadalupe López Méndez who dies in Ocosingo
asserting her civil rights. No more Genocide
in my name. We shall not overcome. We shall fight
this way forever. Estas son mis armas:
la computadora, el video, la pluma.
La plumage de justicia hangs from the broken
arrows of palabras breaking the media block
of Truth and Consequences of Free Trade Agreements.
Horrific to read, to imagine, to know, to tell ..
but the only end to bullets for profit is knowledge ..
knowledge that will not appear wedged between
commercials for Taster's Choice and
Nobody Doesn't Like Sara Lee like the living body
of an indigenous child found two days after a massacre
in a bullet-ridden cave. Is this any way to fight
a drug war? Coffee, sugar, chocolate,
cattle. . . . "N . . . É . . . S . . . T . . . L . . . E . . . S . . .
Néstles makes the very best . . . MUR . . . DER!"
310 kilos of cocaine are found in Mazatán,
the municipality where the governor, Julio César
Ruíz Ferro, has two large mansions, a ranch
with a hundred hectare banana plantation and
is building a luxury hotel with 100 suites, underground
parking, boat dock, restaurant, bar and disco.
Revenue from taxing an impoverished indigenous
population was good this year. Meanwhile,
the Mexican Red Cross sends contaminated
and expired drugs to the thousands of refugees
dying of exposure, pneumonia, and other infections
in the frigid mountains. "Néstles makes the very best . . .
MUR . . . DER!" 15 billion served, ground flesh
for the masses. I will grind Zapatista coffee
with the tongues of witness. I will wear
the huipil and honor the mothers. I will write
the dark into dawn. I will sit in the offices,
shut down the lying dog press, picket
the congress into action. I will not bank
with assassins. I will buy crafts, not Kraft,
Néstles, Proctor & Gamble, McDonald's, Sara Lee. . . .
I will fight this way forever. Estas son mis armas:
la computadora, el video, la pluma.
"A culture isn't vanquished until the hearts
of its mothers are lying on the ground."
I will fight this way forever: I will say.
I will fight this way forever: I will pay.
I will fight this way forever: I will pray.
Amen. Y Con Safos.

Lorna Dee Cervantes

El Cinco de Mayo, 1998

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Who Are the Indians - M.I. McCreight (5/5/47)


An Address Before the Utopia Club (of Jefferson County, PA)--May 5, 1947

By M.I.McCreight

Who are the Indians? They are the race which the People of the United States have most to dread at the judgment bar of the Almighty God! So said Wendell Phillips. I agree with him and I know.

For I have lived with them--had intimate relations with them for more tha sixty years--been a chief for more than forty years--studied them a long lifetime--wrote and spoke of them innumerable times--yet the subject is wider and deeper than can be covered in a single evening.

If you would know the truth I urge you to read the wonderful books of George Catlin; he was the first to record the facts. He lived with them--painted them--and wrote accurate decriptions of their daily life--in their natural environment--exactly as the white man found him. In 1832 he went to the mouth of the Yellowstone--on the first steamer to ascend the Missouri--and there he met the Blackfeet, the Sioux, Crows, Minniterrees and Mandans. But 28 years before, Lewis and Clark camped over winter at this Mandan village--a wonderful colony of wonderful people.

It was here that they found the Shoshone girl Sacajawea, without whose guidance they never would have succeeded. To her is due the everlasting credit for gining to the United States the great states of Washington, Idaho and Montana. Her story is the one of great romance of U.S. History.

But fifty years after Catlin, I went to the last frontier--met these same tribes--to find that all of Catlin's predictions were being verified--buffalo gone,and the Indian tribes rapidly facing extermination--Mandans already extinct--the rest facing starvation, disease and death--from the ruthless advance of the white man's so-called civilization--the advance armed with bullets, firewater and forked tongues!

I trust you will not charge me with ego when I tell you of another book now being published--the result of my experence with old time chiefs, who dictated to me their side of U.S. History. It will give you a startling revelation--perhaps a new slant on true U.S. History. Its title, "Firewater & Forked Tongues." Ready in September. Drop a card tp Trail's End Publishing Co., 725 Michigan Boulevard, Pasadena, Calif. for announcement.

Real history is yet to be written, for the 300 years--Roanoke to Wounded Knee--there was only the white man's printing press! The Indian's side of that 3 centuries of bloody warfare lives on rock-painted cliff and flesh-side of tanned buffalo hides.

Looking back to discovery date what do we see? Africa--Black; the Pacific & Far East--Brown; Asiatic Europe--Yellow; Central Europe & Britain--White and all the Western continent--RED. North America, South America--all Indian.

Half of the world belonged to and was occupied by the Red Race.

A glance at the old world toda--a vast sepulcher--a wrecked and ruined human habitation--done by white men! Yes, in the battle for supremacy, the White man won.

But in the MINORITY Race still. The Browns, Yellow, Blacks--are a formidable majority--and they are smart--they have learned to fight, and they DO NOT like the white man.

What will another century see?

Yellows, Browns, Blacks and Whites lived together, fought together and died by millions in never-ending wars--to gain the highest civilization ever known to man! Egypt, China, Greece, Rome!

A new count of Time began with the birth of the babe of Bethlehem when nearly a thousand and a half years passed--a Genoese induced the Queen of Spain to trade her diamond necklace for a sail boat and hard-tack--and these he borrowed--to discover the Red Man's world.

We drop the curtain--on the old and talk and think of the New--or Indian world--this found by Christo Colombo--the great new continent belonging to the red man alone. It was then just as old as the rest of the earth--but without the five thousand years of history--to tell us WHAT it was--WHO its people were and what it all meant! Of the total of then recorded history, we have since accumulated 455 years of biased account--gleaned out of continuous warfare--carried on the beads, bullets, butchery and booze to almost complete extermination of the original possessors--the legal and rightful owners of all the lands discovered.

From the landing of Columbus, it took but 27 years to complete the practical extermination of the natives of the West Indies! Those who met the Spaniards with kindness were forcibly taken from their families and homes and placed in irons and sent to Spain to be exhibited as curiosities--and sold as slaves--to shortly die of homesickness and despair. That twenty-seven years was spent in making steel helmets and armor--collecting an army and building vessels, when the band of marauders, headed by Cortez, invaded and destroyed the home and superior government and people of Montezuma! Immediately on arrival at Vera Cruz, Cortez captured and seduced a beautiful Indian girl--educated and of royal blood--conquered her spirit and made her slave to his beastly desires and savage will! To Marina and not to Cortez is due the success in overcoming the great Azrec nation--then more civilized than Spain itself. The story of that inhuman campaign cannot be reduced to written or spoken words!

And so, within forty years after the discovery, Mexico was ruthlessly robbed of fabulous stores of gold--its princely and well-regulated governmental organization utterly destroyed--wiping out of the richest and most densely populated section of the western world.

Five years later came Pizzaro to invade the equally rich and highly civilized Peru. He robbed and slaughtered there worse, if possible, than was done by Cortez in Mexico. He captured and imprisoned Atahualpa--promising him freedom when he had delivered a room full of gold--but when only 16 millions had been collected, he orderd the king burned alive, because of failure to fill the room to its ceiling.

Faith in humanity quails at the claims of the conquistadores, who say that their inhuman acts were in the name of religion--commanded by their accompanying priests.

Another ten years saw the coast of Florida drenched in blood in a death struggle of Spanish and French, trying to outdo Cortez and Pizzaro--in vain search for gold. And soon came Raleigh to camp in the sand dunes of Roanoke--English deported undesirables--they missed a tincup--a couple of Indians were shot as penalty--later found one of their own party had it. But Indians were only pagans and killing a few meant no harm--to a Christian.

Twenty more years saw the English at Powhatan's village, to be received with kindness--when kindness and charity were sorely needed.

For a long time, Powhatan furnished Smith's starving knaves the corn and other supplies they must have to save their lives. Then it became a burden his people could no longer stand, but when he told the idle and hungry colonists so, they demanded more corn--began taking it by force. They stole his daughter Pocahontas--held her for ransom--later taking her to Europe where she died of a broken heart. They tried to steal another daughter--harrassed the great chief to his untimely death.

Here we have in milder form a beautiful Indian maid responsible for the English obtaining foothold and control of the Indian's lands in Virginia--as Marina had gained an Empire for Cortez.

Next--and soon--came Hendrik Hudson and the Dutch to Manhattan, and the Puritans to Massachusetts Bay--all met as usual, with a smile and handshake. In return for this we have records of the most diabolical murders and hideous massacres of natives, by the whites, as can be found in any literature in any land. Read, if you can for tears, the horrors perpetrated upon men, women and little children in Philip's War, and of the still more outrageous slaughter of innocent natives at behest of Governor Kieft, in 1642. These were the beginnings of the three centuries of brutal outrages that make up the black pages of our otherwise glorious history!

To the coming of Wm. Penn it was the same. We have the audacity to say that his treaty with the Indians was never broken, yet, thereafter it was merely a change from the old way to the new way--of no less wicked, heartless and inhuman treatment of the natives by the whites. Mass murder was reduced. Fraud, trickery and studied dishonesty became the white man's mode and warfare of extermination--and Pennsylvania was bathed in blood for a generation. From the Delaware to the Rockies--from Lancaster to Wounded Knee, it was a century and a quarter of unrestrained murder and massacre--the last--after I had left the frontier when 200 innocent natives were shot down--mostly women and children by our troops with Gattling guns and left ro lie in 20 below zero storm for two days. When the frozen bodies were collected to be corded like firewood, in a trench--two mothers who fell together--had each of them, a babe clasped to the breast within blankets and both were still alive--one was living, at my last inquiry.

Who can read of the awful massacres of Indians by whites--such as Gnadenhutten, Sand Creek, Washita and the Baker slaughter, and stop a shiver of horror and bitter resentment!

For me, it would take several evenings to relate what I know of the long and lurid tale of exterminating the Indians. Once I turned the tide of a threatened massacre of whites by a band of ferocious Indians who were being robbed and cheated by unprincipled settlers and rum-peddlers.

Except for education, the Indians have no superior in any race--white, black, brown or yellow. They are superior to all but the whites--and by average comparison--equal to them. They have tolerated suffering at the hands of the whites--that no whites could or would submit to.

They have yet no real liberty but are subject to the tyrannical political machine--the Indian Bureau--which ought long ago to have been abolished. When I look back at the suffering I have seen--women and little ones gaunt-eyed and shivering from cold--following the slaughter of the last buffalo by unprincipled white hide-hunters, I echo the charge of Wendell Phillips: "The Indian race is the one which the People of the United States most dread at the judgment bar of Almighty God." I repeat it with emphasis, because I KNOW.


Postscript to "The Last Sun Dance" And A Call For Donations to Pine Ridge

While searching for the friend of a friend for the obituary of Lakota Sun Dancer, John Cross Dog, who tragically passed a few days ago from complications from pneumonia, I found a website of a book, The True Story of Custer's Last Fight (as told by Chief Flying Hawk and written by M.I. McCreight) which included a chapter, the last, on the "last" Sun Dance in 1928 which was interrupted by a candidate looking for a photo-op with the Chief. I'll also be posting the transcript of a talk he delivered in 1948. This is the postscript to the chapter and the book.

* * * * * * * *
On returning to the east a current magazine was delivered for attention to a marked article appearing in it, viz.:

"Gaunt poverty is in almost every Indian reservation today, and so is hunger and so also is contagious disease, and so is complete subjugation of person and property of the Indian. Because of their valor in the World War the Indian was made free by law—they assume—they are entitled to the same treatment as white folks get."

"He cannot sell his own land; he cannot worship in his own way; he cannot rear his own children. If he leaves the reservation without permission he can be thrown into jail with ball and chain on his body and held any length of time without trial—no counsel, no right of appeal. The agent can do as he pleases—recognizes no superior. The Indian is a slave and a pauper in a country which abolished slavery after the bloodiest war in history, to do so."

To know from experience of many years, to see, to hear and feel at first hand, the truth of our terrible national crime, and to realize the cold-hearted indifference of Congress and the officials responsible for these conditions, is to wonder if there is a Law of Justice.

Is it any wonder they doubt the power of the white man's prayer? What has the white man's God done for them? And we hear in reply: "Ever since we heard of the white man's Manitou we have been persecuted, robbed, cheated, debased, diseased and rum-ruined by white men; nothing they told us but has proven false. What right have we to believe in him or in his God?"

To one who understands, no apology, explanation or "reason" is necessary to appreciate the gathering together of the northwest tribes, at great inconvenience and suffering, to pay a last tribute of reverence to the only God they know and understand and believe in,—by joining in the sacred ceremonies at "The Last Sun Dance of the Sioux."

And, has anything changed? Conditions remain the same on the reservation -- through another long cold winter. Please take time now to donate what you can to The People who are still suffering the lack of their rightfully owned monies and property still being held (and lost!?) by the BIA and U.S. government. You can search for your local organizations participating in holiday caravans and other efforts, or contact:

The People are suffering this winter due to the spike in propane costs, among other things -- such as pneumonia which also felled Floyd Red Crow Westerman last week. You can find info for quick PayPal donations as well as gift drives for the children and youth on the res. Please donate in memory of John Cross Dog and others.

Also, I found this URGENT plea for help, posted in October, for the Porcupine Clinic which will have to close -- the only hospital for Indian people is also facing government closure, and the people will have to drive almost 200 miles to Rapid City if they require hospitalization. PLEASE HELP! Anything you can give over this holiday season and beyond, however small, is more than the people have now.

Porcupine Clinic, located in the small community of Porcupine, South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Oglala Lakota [Sioux] Reservation is out of heat. According to Stella White Eyes, Administrative Assistant for the Clinic, the Clinic has closed its doors until it can find resources to fund their heating costs. Porcupine Clinic is the only independent Indian community-controlled health clinic in the United States. It is not connected with the Federal Indian Health Services (IHS) program and is funded primarily by grants and donations. Unfortunately, those resources have become exceptionally rare this year.

Porcupine Clinic opened its doors in 1992 and serves the entire Reservation as well as the Porcupine District in which it is located. Patients are billed according to their ability to pay and many patients, including low-income Elders and children, receive free health care there. In 2004, the Porcupine Clinic opened its dialysis unit, saving countless lives of those diabetic patients who could not journey 120 miles away to Rapid City for needed dialysis treatment several times a week. The only other dialysis treatment available on the 11,000 square mile (2.7 million acres) Reservation is located in the small IHS Hospital in the community of Pine Ridge. But that facility hosts only a handful of dialysis beds, is up to 100 miles away from the more remote areas of the Reservation, and is completely unable to treat the vast need of the entire Reservation.

Recent statistics state that the diabetes rate on Pine Ridge is 800% that of the National average and the life expectancy rate is 52 to 58 years old. It is said that 55% of the adults on Pine Ridge over the age of 40 have diabetes. Ms. White Eyes states that the Clinic has been unable to pay their annual propane tank rental fees of $245 (for both the Clinic and dialysis unit tanks) or for the propane to fill them.They have three tanks: a thousand gallon tank which services the main clinic and two five hundred gallon tanks servicing the dialysis unit. The minimum propane delivery from their provider, Western Cooperative (WESTCO) out of Chadron and Hay Springs, Nebraska, is $360. If all the tanks were filled, at $1.69 per gallon, it would cost well over $3,000. Further, that will need to happen more than once this winter. While the dialysis unit helps to fund at least part of its own propane use, the Clinic is out of funding now, just as winter is approaching fast.

Harvey Iron Boy, Porcupine District Vice President and Head Man, spoke of the vital role that the Clinic plays in the local district as well as the Reservation as a whole. Not only are the health care services, bi-lingual assistance, diabetic education, and dialysis treatments all meeting critical needs on the Reservation but there are more basic needs met by the Clinic as well. He pointed out that locals often come into the Clinic simply to get warm on days when they have no heat in their own homes. Ms. White Eyes has contacted various non-profits and assistance organizations but has largely gone unanswered.

Link Center Foundation, a small all-volunteer non-profit organization out of Longmont, Colorado, was contacted this week and was also unable to help. With their own heating assistance program for the elders and disabled on the Reservation struggling due to lack of donations, there simply was no funding available to help the Clinic. However, Audrey Link, Founder/President of the Link Center Foundation(, personally paid the $245 out of her own pocket for the annual tank rental fees for the Porcupine Clinic and dialysis unit on Friday. Largely retired and on limited income herself, Link stated that she couldn't go to sleep tonight if she thought the dialysis patients and Clinic were going to lose their propane tanks. At least now, if they can raise any money at all elsewhere, they can use the money for propane to fill them.

Anyone wishing to donate towards propane fuel for the Porcupine Clinic may do so directly to the propane company. Please contact: Loretta at Western Cooperative (WESTCO) 170 Bordeaux St Chadron, NE 69337-2342 Call Toll Free 800-762-9906 Credit Card and Bank Card donations by phone will be accepted. Small donations are also welcome and will accumulate until the minimum delivery has been reached and then the company will make a delivery of propane to the Clinic.Please clearly mark any donation "For Porcupine Clinic." Donations may also be sent directly to the Clinic.For more information, please contact:Porcupine ClinicStella White Eyes, Administrative Assistant P.O. Box 99 Porcupine, SD 57772 Internet Information: 605-867-5655Note: Due to lack of heat, there may or may not be anyone available to answer the phone at the Clinic at this time. Please leave a message.

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On Literacy

(This, written at 5 am, was inspired after reading and grading 43 papers from my La Raza Studies class on "Chicanas and Latinas On the the Borderland")

On Literacy

People are going to judge you by how you speak. My mother said it best: What do I gotta do? Draw you a picture? "People are going to judge you by how you speak," she always warned me. She also drilled the Judge into my head, constantly correcting my grammar. As she unreeled The Rebel in me to boot. What was I to do? With the name of a writer and named for a book, but write? I wasn't destined for anything. I was the throw-away sheet, the slim shadow on a wall colored the color of "the Colored" life-sized target of a brown wooden man nailed to the wall of the public swimming pool in San Jose, California in the summer of 1960, under a sign that read "NO COLOREDS" -- that couth curt catch-all phrase. I was tossed from it all as a "nigger" in person and through bureaucratic labelings that kept me out of 7 countries and two continents, that I know of, including my first love: the Celtic Isles I was named for.

This conquest of the dangling participle is an exercise in fear management and a daily practice of grace within a lost land (of mine).


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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sad News: Floyd Red Crow Westerman Passes

I know there were brothers praying for you in the sweat last night. Rest in Peace, Floyd. ~ LDC
Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Sisseton-Wapheton Dakota musician, actor, and activist, passed away at 5:00 a.m. PST, at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles after an extended illness. He was 71.

Westerman, who began his career as a country singer, appeared in over 50 films and televison productions, including Dances with Wolves, Hidalgo, The Doors, and Poltergeist, and Northern Exposure. He appeared in 12 episodes of the 1990s TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger, as Uncle Ray Firewalker.

As a young man, he was educated at the Wapheton and Flandreau Boarding Schools, where he became a close companion and life-long friend of Dennis Banks. He left his home on the Lake Traverse reservation in South Dakota, with a suitcase and an old guitar in hand. He rambled across the country playing country music and original tunes in bars and clubs, living for some time in Denver. In 1969, his first album Custer Died for Your Sins became the background theme of the emerging Red Power Movement.

As a member of American Indian Movement, and a spokesman for the International Indian Treaty Council, Westerman traveled the world extensively working for the betterment of native people. His vision of improved social conditions for indigenous people around the globe is reflected in the music of his second album, The Land is Your Mother, 1982. In 2006, he won a NAMMY Award for his third album, A Tribute to Johnny Cash. During his career, he played and collaborated with a number of notable musicians including Willie Nelson, Kris Kristopherson, Buffy St. Marie, Jackson Browne, Harry Belafonte, and Sting.

Westerman also worked throughout his life to empower Indian youth. "They are our future," he said in a November interview. "Today we are fighting a great battle against the popular culture that surrounds them. It's a battle for their hearts and minds. We need to work to inspire them to embrace their own history and culture. Without them, we Indians have no future."

Westerman will be taken home to Sisseton, South Dakota for memorial services and burial. Plans for a memorial service in Los Angeles are also being made.


STOP S. 1959!

Stop S 1959 - Please Distribute
Category: News and Politics />http://

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Call/write your Senators ASAP, if you haven't already, and then give
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Attention All Americans:

The Home Grown Terrorism bill, S. 1959 is now in the Senate and is to be voted on this week. This bill was previously known as HR 1955 and has already passed Congress.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this bill. Anyone who does not think "in line" with the current government regime will be labeled a "home grown terrorist". This will include all militias, Ron Paul supporters, activists who wish to change current laws, tax protesters, the scope is enormous on this.

The people need to declare emergency powers now, before S. 1959 is voted on in the Senate. If S. 1959 pass's it will be too late to do anything about it other than certain armed conflict. This is absolutely our last chance at peaceful resolution and it is imperative we declare our emergency powers now.

Under S. 1959, "home grown terrorists" will be subject to the same rules as foreign terrorist and also be subject to torture, your right to an attorney denied, you may be taken to an undesignated location without notice or warrant.

Ron Paul is showing the lead in all legitimate polls and it is advised that the people call their emergency powers and enact Ron Paul as president under this emergency until a formal election can be held and legitimate, secure voting procedures can be secured.

We must act on this immediately to provide safety, security, life, liberty and freedom for the people and give this top priority, time is of the essence.

The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007

by Matt Renner

Global Research, November 30, 2007
t r u t h o u t - 2007-11-29

A month ago, the House of Representatives passed legislation that targets Americans with radical ideologies for research. The bill has received little media attention and has almost unanimous support in the House. However, civil liberties groups see the bill as a threat to the constitutionally protected freedoms of expression, privacy and protest.

HR 1955, "The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007", apparently intended to assess "homegrown" terrorism threats and causes is on a fast-track through Congress. Proponents claim the bill would centralize information about the formation of domestic terrorists and would not impinge on constitutional rights.

On October 23, the bill passed the House of Representatives by a 404-6 margin with 23 members not voting. If passed in the Senate and signed into law by George W. Bush, the act would establish a ten-member National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, to study and propose legislation to address the threat of possible "radicalization" of people legally residing in the US.

Despite being written by a Democrat, the current version of the act would probably set up a Commission dominated by Republicans. By allowing Bush and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to each appoint one member of the Commission, and splitting the appointment of the other eight positions equally between Congressional Democrats and Republicans, the Commission would consist of six Republican appointees and four Democratic ones.

The Commission would be tasked with collecting information on domestically spawned terrorism from a variety of sources, including foreign governments and previous domestic studies. The Commission would then report to Congress and recommend policy changes to address the threat. There is no opposition to this consolidation or research. However, the Commission would be given broad authority to hold hearings and collect evidence, powers that raise red flags for civil liberties groups.

Civil liberties activists have criticized the bill, some comparing the Commission it would establish to the McCarthy Commission that investigated Americans for possible associations with Communist groups, casting suspicion on law-abiding citizens and ruining their reputations. The Commission would be empowered to "hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties."

Odette Wilkens, the executive director of the Equal Justice Alliance, a constitutional watchdog group, compared the legislation to the McCarthy Commission and to the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which infiltrated, undermined and spied on civil rights and antiwar groups during the 1950s and 60s.

"The commission would have very broad powers. It could investigate anyone. It would create a public perception that whoever is being investigated by the Commission must be involved in subversive or illegal activities. It would give the appearance that whoever they are investigating is potentially a traitor or disloyal or a terrorist, even if all they were doing was advocating lawful views," Wilkens said.

In a speech on the floor of the House before the vote, Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-California), the chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and author of the bill said, "Free speech, espousing even very radical beliefs, is protected by our Constitution - but violent behavior is not. Our plan must be to intervene before a person crosses that line separating radical views from violent behavior, to understand the forces at work on the individual and the community, to create an environment that discourages disillusionment and alienation, that instills in young people a sense of belonging and faith in the future."

In the same speech, Harman explained why "homegrown" terrorists are a threat to the US. She offered the explanation that adolescents who might be susceptible to recruitment by gangs might also be potential terrorists.

"Combine that personal adolescent upheaval with the explosion of information technologies and communications tools - tools which American kids are using to broadcast messages from al-Qaeda - and there is a road map to terror, a 'retail outlet' for anger and warped aspirations. Link that intent with a trained terrorist operative who has actual capability, and a 'Made in the USA' suicide bomber is born," Harman said.

The bill specifically identifies the Internet as a tool of radicalization. "The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens."

In a press release, Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington American Civil Liberties Union legislative office, took issue with this characterization. "If Congress finds the Internet is dangerous, then the ACLU will have to worry about censorship and limitations on First Amendment activities. Why go down that road?" Fredrickson asked in a press release.

The ALCU has "serious concerns" about the bill. Fredrickson said, "Law enforcement should focus on action, not thought. We need to worry about the people who are committing crimes rather than those who harbor beliefs that the government may consider to be extreme."

According to Wilkens, the bill, in its current form, lacks specific definitions. which would give the Commission expansive and possibly dangerous powers. The Committee would be set up to address the process of "violent radicalization," which the bill defines as "the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change." According to Wilkens, the bill does not adequately define "an extremist belief system," opening the door for abuse.

"An 'extremist belief system' can be whatever anyone on the commission says it is. Back in the 60s, civil rights leaders and Vietnam War protesters were considered radicals. They weren't committing violence but they were considered radicals because of their belief system," Wilkens said.

The bill would also create a "Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States," on an unspecified University campus. Unlike other Centers of Excellence university-based government research centers created by the Department of Homeland Security, the Center established by this bill could have a chilling effect on political activity on campus because of its specific mission to "assist Federal, State, local and tribal homeland security officials through training, education, and research in preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism," according to Wilkens.

"If you are on campus and the thought police are on campus are you going to want to join a political group?" Wilkens asked.

Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was one of three Democrats who voted against the bill, but he has given no public explanation for his opposition and his office did not respond to a call for comment as of this writing.

Neither the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) nor Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, voted on the bill.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut). With overwhelming support from the House, it is likely to pass quickly through the Senate.

"100 Words and Nine Haiku Into the Distraction of You"

100 Words and Nine Haiku Into the Distraction of You

Your face — distraction
Distracting as a hickie
You me everywhere

Too darned many forms
Of you — earth air fire water
Your enormous sea

Opening into
Dawn this talking fast walking
Slow touching — silence

Tree limbs branching out
Every flowering memory
In hummingbird's dream

This autumn burning
You distract me — smoke
From some ancient source

Cloud banks frost flies long
Red-Faced leaves — you leave me won
On some dream window

You your long rainbow
Of distraction — every hue
Anew new world too

Eucalyptus pods
Serendipitously sweet

Two windows / one world
Our passing through expands us
A distraction — you


Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Life and Death On the Border - Interview with Poet/ Photographer, Francisco Dominguez

“Life and Death On the Border: An Interview With Francisco Dominguez” by Danielle Fodor
Broadcast on “Sparkplug,” Free Radio KDRT, January 11, 2006, in Davis, CA

D: Francisco Dominguez is an artist, activist, teacher, and documentary photographer as well as a friend. And today he will be talking about the project he's been working on for over a year now called “The US/ Mexico Border: Documenting Life and Death Along the Border.”

I guess I want to start out by asking you, how did you get started on this project?

F: Well, I've been documenting farmworkers here in California since around 1989. Actually, my father came here on the Bracero Program from Mexico City in the late 1940's to work. And the Bracero Program was a program set up by the U.S. Government to bring in workers from Mexico because of the shortage of labor after World War II, for people to work in the agricultural industry here in California. So, my father did farm labor work, and also my mother, who grew up in Abeline, Texas, they used to work in agriculture too. They grew cotton around that area. They used to pick cotton in Abeline in their youth. So then also, growing up in Sacramento we used to, me and my friends, we'd always go work in the pears along the Sacramento River in Cortland every summer. That was our way of making some extra cash, to go work in the pears. Yeah, we were the “Pear Guys.” I've been around, you know, that type of work most of my life. And so, naturally, I had an interest in that. And as a photographer I started documenting the farmworkers. And when you do that you start looking into a lot of labor abuse, pesticide abuse, pesticide poisoning within the workers, racism, sexism, you name it, it's out there, because a lot of the workers are undocumented and so they are basically targets of this type of a behavior because they can't complain to anybody with these types of abuses. They're living in fear. When you don't... when you're not documented you're not going to go to officials and talk about these type of things. So, that's part of my background. And just wanting to uncover some of the things that are happening that are out there. That's always been my goal. Also, for education. And as a photographer, to give a face to the worker, to give a face, a human face to the farmworker to the public. Because that's something we don't see. We go to the store, we see the apples and the cabbage, carrots, walnuts, but we don't see those faces that pick it. So that's been my goal - is to show that.

D: My next question then is, how do you change from documenting farmworkers who were here working in fields to documenting the border?

F: Well, two years ago I was spending some time in Mexico in Oaxaca and I ran into an artist friend of mine, his name is Alejandro Santiago who's one of the major artists of Oaxaca, actually all of Mexico, and he was doing a migrant project, and he was doing ceramic figures of native Oaxacans who are leaving Mexico to go work in the United States. Actually there are whole ghost towns now in southern Mexico, in Oaxaca, where because of NAFTA, because of policies of the Mexican government, people are leaving because they cannot compete with the corporations, the multinationals that are coming in and are setting up farms there. They can't survive as small farmers so there's a massive exodus to the United States of workers. Just since 1994, it's been estimated there's five million workers that have come into the United States from Mexico—undocumented workers. And probably out of those five million at least one million indigenous people from Mexico. So you're seeing huge numbers. And he told me he was going to have some shows. He's going to show these because he shows on the ceramic figures the physical and psychological abuse these people go through to leave their country to go work in a foreign country, dealing with a racist society, the loss of their culture, the acculturation of their kids here to go to school, to be part of the “American” culture. A lot of these people come from tribes, and it's actually very destructive on their own tribal culture, their own ceremonies, because once people come here, once, if they go back they don't really want to be involved in that. So, he's looking at the loss of their culture, the destruction. And so he, uh, well, I showed him some of my farmworker pictures. I'm a photographer, so I had some of my work. He said, “Well, we're going to work together in the future because people need to..., because you're..., what you're doing is the end product of the exodus. What people are doing.” So I started documenting workers here in San Francisco. Because now labor, with Mexican labor, people are doing everything, from roofers, cement workers, bus boys, you name it, nannies, maids, everything. So I started documenting that. And then three years ago I started going, taking trips down to the border. The first trip was down in Douglas, Arizona. Then into Sausabay which is underneath Tucson, and we went down into Altar which is 80 miles from the Mexican border. It's like the main launching point for undocumenteds coming into the country from all over Mexico. It's this little town of 1,500 people but it's the major launching point, so we went down in there. We did some photography, some interviews, volunteered at a migrant center with the Catholic church. Then we came back and actually did a ride-along with the Border Patrol in Douglas. So I got to see that aspect. They took us to the jail. They showed us everything. It was pretty amazing. And then we met with some groups in Tucscon, some from Derechos Humanos group, then some from the Methodist church. And they go out and take barrels of water out to the desert. And they put these flags, these blue flags on them that are about 20 feet tall so that when people are going through the desert they can see those flags and know they can get water. Because the temperature average is over a hundred, you know, 110, 120 out there. It's a brutal heat in the summer, even in the springtime. So what is happening with the situation now, because they're building more fences and beefing up the patrols, so they're going to the most treacherous parts to cross, the most desolate,
and we're seeing an increasing number of people dying. Actually, the number has been going up every year, since, like, ten years now, but this year was the highest. I think it's up to 400 in 2005, I think the number was 485 people they found dead this year. And it's interesting because you would think because they pretty much doubled the amount of Border Patrol agents on the border, put more electronic devices, video cameras, you would think there would be fewer deaths, but actually the number is going up.

D: Now, I don't understand that, because, for me, it makes sense that there would be more deaths. The reason why is that as the border becomes increasingly militarized and these physicals barriers are built, and the walls are raised, people are going into more and more extreme areas in order to evade being caught. So it seems to me that would be a direct cause of an increase in deaths. The other thing I wonder is, how many deaths are actually occurring, because if people are going through more and more desolate areas in order to cross the border, I'm guessing that a lot of these bodies aren't being found.

F: Right. Yeah. Like this number from this year, 480, that's just the bodies they have found. And, because it's in the wilderness a lot of animals get a hold of the bodies and the bones are spread, and the buzzards.... Yeah, it's sad because you have families that crossing, women, you know, that are never found. And then their families are back in Mexico and it's just a mystery on how they died, where they are, and it's a very sad and tragic reality for a lot of people. And this past September I went to the Holtville cemetery in... it's by the border in Calexico, and it's the county cemetery. And at that, they added on to it to bury the undocumenteds they found out in the desert. And a lot of the bodies are found with no IDs because they are just skeletons or whatever reason, they don't have any Ids, so they just..., there are little headstones which are just bricks, they just say “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” and that's it, you know. So it's a very sad thing that is happening. You know, you have the wealthiest country in the world, then you have people dying crossing the border to come here to work. And there's no outreach; or that it's a very hostile environment, very racial. And it's very sad because we have a history in this country of civil rights and you don't hear too many people speaking up about it. And it's not good because even..., I'm going to be giving a talk at College of Marin on February 16th with the Peace Club there and also the Interfaith Council on Latin America from Marin County are sponsoring me, and that group specifically said they want me to come because they said the anti-war people are not making connections to what's happening on the border, people aren't getting involved, and they want people to know what's going on. Which is very sad because we, in this country, what happened here in the 60s and 70s where people were coming together, you know, and I think the Viet Nam war brought a lot of people together interracially, people working together, but now that's not happening anymore. Hopefully, that'll come back, you know.

D: I guess I have a comment and I would like to tie this into issues, and how our, this administration is dealing with issues of terrorism and fear, a lot of people that I've heard have..., who are supporting the increased militarization of the border draw on fear of Arabs coming into the country, other than Mexican, and one of the interesting statistics I was reading today online was just that the US/Mexican border is the most commonly crossed border in the whole world, both in terms of legal and illegal people crossing that border, the largest number of any border in the world that's crossed.

F: Well, if that is true, which I'm not doubting, okay, you are dealing with a First World nation, the wealthiest country in the world that has a border with a Third World country and so that's going to happen. And, you also have a history of migration, of economic migration, throughout the world throughout history where there is a labor shortage and where people go to work. You know, so that's not anything new. As far as that border, dealing with homeland security and that, there has not been one case to this day where Muslims or Arabs have been caught coming into the country from Mexico — there hasn't been one, you know. There hasn't been one. But yet they want to put that out there, that somehow within these Mexican people there are terrorists or, you know. But they, they..., you know, even if you look in the 40s when they were trying to kick Mexicans out of the country, when they had the Zoot Suit riots, they were saying, you know, that all these Mexicans were blood-thirsty Aztecs, you know, practicing human sacrifice. There's always been that type of a racial aspect of dealing with Mexican people, too, so it's a fear. And just in today's paper, in the Sacramento Bee, last week a border agent shot an 18 year old kid there on the border. Basically, there was a confrontation. This kid and his younger brother, and they were caught trying to come across and I guess what the Border Patrol agent said was that one of the kids threw a rock at him, and then they were going back over the fence, back into Mexico. So the Border Patrol agent pulled out his pistol and killed the kid, an 18 year old kid, shot him in the back with a high caliber weapon. And then the kid's brother, who was sixteen, picked him up and carried him into Mexico, to a Red Cross, where he died. You know? Okay, so now because of that this article came out today saying that there's been threats by Mafia in Mexico that they're going to start killing Border Patrol agents. And this was put out by Homeland Security to further beef up the threats and the fear that somehow now our Border Patrol agents are working in hostile situations. When in actuality, they're the ones who executed somebody last week. Yeah.

D: This brings to mind larger issues of racism, and also what we were talking about earlier with the fear of Arabs and Muslims, and people crossing the border, which is actually a racist issue because Muslim and Arab people are not terrorists across the board. It's extremists and Al Qaida, and I think it's important that we show that distinction. And those two issues, of whether or not people from the Middle East are crossing and the entirely different issue of whether or not Al Qaida members are crossing that border, have been mixed in our media. And, the other question I guess I want to bring up is how do you see racism against Mexicans and Mexican Americans tying in on what you've seen on the border? This one example of someone being shot, and now... yeah.

F: Well, the border has its own reality of..., you have towns like Calexico/Mexicali, you have San Diego/ Tijuana, you have Brownsville, El Paso, all these towns along the US/Mexican border where there's huge towns on the other side of the border, Mexico, just as big. So for years and years you've had people who have worked in both towns who have crossed to go to work, crossed to get health care, relatives on both sides of the fence. That's just the reality. So, to close off that type of a border, to close off that type of an exchange, you are separating families and it just creates a lot of hostility because people can't cross as freely anymore; and that's a border situation, people speak Spanish in those towns, freely. I mean that's, for a lot of people who grow up in the United States on those border towns Spanish is the first language still. You know? So, it's a very racial situation on another level, too, because who's to say who is illegal or not? Who has papers? You know? So everybody, at a certain point everybody becomes a suspect if you're brown, or if you're a Latino living in those areas. And also, the, uh, with all the media hype and anti-immigrant sentiment that is being played out in this country, it also has a psychological effect on Latinos and Chicanos in this country, the children of immigrants. It works on people's self-esteem, also. If we look at the high school drop-out rates, the percentage of Latinos in college. Yeah. So, it's not a good picture there either. I mean, on one level, the population is very large, but if you look at percentage-wise, we're not doing very well in school, you know. So this doesn't help add, you know, anything positive to that. And racism, you know, against Mexican people, it's..., you know, when the U.S. Basically took the Southwest from Mexico at gunpoint, you know? Yeah. Basically stole the country, this Southwest, from Mexico at gun-point, that's, that was a defining moment in race relations between the U.S. And Mexico. Because then, at that point, it became, yeah, “You Mexicans.” Yeah.

D: One of my favorite protest signs that I've seen, at a protest I went to in Sacramento that I actually saw you at, against the Minute Men, was “We Didn't Cross the Border, The Border Crossed Us.” Which, I think says, it ties this issue into an historical context really beautifully.

F: Yeah. And if you look at the name of California, it's a Spanish name. New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Utah, Nevada; the names of the towns: Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Mateo, on and on and on and on. Also, to live in that reality, too, you know, knowing that this used to be Mexico, then to have it thrown, you know, through the media, through other forums, that somehow, that, uh, Mexican people are not wanted here, you know? They want the labor, but they don't want to deal with the people, you know? Because America is soaking up the labor. If there were no jobs here people wouldn't come. People are not going to come here and sit around and starve, you know? Just right here in Davis you can go to any restaurant..., yeah. Look who's mowing the lawns, doing the painting, on and on. It's like, people are here — they can't really afford to live in Davis, but they're the ones pushing the brooms and doing all the clean-up. We know that. So, yeah, it's just that, racism is just something that we've had to deal with here since, you know, for a long time; so it's like racism comes in waves dealing with the current political situation. With the war in Iraq a lot of our resources, a lot of our tax dollars are going to fund that war, so all the social programs have been cut. So, when that happens the government basically needs a scapegoat, to blame somebody else for the ills of our society, and basically Mexican people are the targets at this point.

D: I want to ask you more about the groups that you've seen along the border: Who is camped out on the border, apart from whom we normally think of, undocumented migrants and the Border Patrol are the ones I normally see on the news. Who else is there?

F: You mean like the Minute Men?

D: The Minute Men and ....

F: Well, the Minute Men, and there's probably five different Minute Men groups along the US/Mexico border. But recently I heard that they have formed probably 20 different groups now. Because what has happened, specifically in California, there's the Gente Unida, it's a coalition of civil rights groups in San Diego, and they go and monitor the Minute Men, to make sure they are not physically assaulting people, shooting people — just like a border watch to make sure they're not, to make sure no one is being harmed, none of the migrants is being harmed. So, they've disbanded and formed 20 different groups so when they go out, for Gente Unida..., it will be harder for the Gente Unida to go out there and follow all these groups. And they might go out and, uh, like the Minute Men, they'll go out for a few weeks at a time to different cities along the border and they camp out there in their SUVs, they have trailers, and then the Gente Unida people will go out and monitor them. So, they also have protests against them. That's the thing that has happened also. And it's very interesting. There's been a lot of college students that have been going and protesting with the Gente Unida groups. And, a lot of Anglo Americans also, college students, very progressive. You see a lot of hippies out there, you know? They get right in the Minute Men's faces and say, “Racists! Racists go home. We don't want your hatred here.” Which is a very interesting racial dynamic that takes place because the Chicano youth can't do that because there would be immediate violence. But when you have Anglo college kids doing it, those guys don't really know how to react to them, because it's, it's, you know....

D: So for anyone who doesn't know who the Minute Men are, which I think, actually a lot of people aren't familiar with the Minute Men and what exactly they're doing. They're an all-volunteer force that actually comes from people from all over the United States of America that are armed and have formed a militia along the border. And, of course, they claim they are not racists, that they're just supplementing the Border Patrol, and that the U.S. Government is not providing enough military force along the border to satisfy their desires. But, of course the issue is seen very differently by human rights groups.

F: Well, The Minute Men, the majority of them are retired military people, retired police, off-duty police, retired correctional officers or weekender correctional officers, that type. And, you know, there's affiliations with Nazis, with neo-Nazi groups here in this country, Ku Klux Klan members. So, in effect what we're seeing is the rebirth, or the rise of the Ku Kluz Klan again in this country but coming in another face, with another uniform on preaching their brand of racial superiority and racial hatred. And it's very interesting that these groups are funded but no one knows where they're getting their money to do these things. So they are funded. They pretty much get to do whatever they want on the border. The Border Patrol just doesn't do anything to them, you know. They let them do anything they want. And actually when there's the Chicano kids and college kids down there on the border protesting, there's all kinds of Border Patrol watching them, keeping an eye on them. You know? So, it's pretty much known on the border that the Minute Men get to do whatever they want, you know, and actually are not looked down upon by the Border Patrol. Which is really crazy because if you have armed militia patrolling the border, I mean, how long will the government put up with it if a group of Chicanos decided to arm themselves and patrol the border? Groups of African Americans arming themselves and patrolling the border? Groups of Native Americans patrolling their own reservations on their borders? How long do you think that would last? That's my question. You know? And it's just crazy. It's wrong. You know, it's, it's allowing a racial situation to even get worse.

I was having coffee this morning and somebody told me in the coffee shop that the governor of the state of Arizona declared a state of emergency yesterday and called in the National Guard to patrol along the Arizona border. And I still have to confirm that, but this person is pretty knowledgeable. And, so, as we see, the situation is just getting further out of hand. Also, what it does, is by militarizing that border, you have a lot of workers that have come into this country to work in the agricultural industry. Let's say, in the wintertime, when there's nothing to do, they would go back. Now it's harder for people to even go back because they don't know if they can get back in, you know. And you're seeing some farms — there was a report about a month ago, there was a farm in Calexico, they didn't have any workers. Yeah. They didn't have any workers to pick the crop because of the situation there. Usually people, workers would just come over from Mexicali, but now the situation is a lot different. So you have people who are fearful of crossing, fearful of going back, and so you have, now people who aren't crossing as freely; and that's effecting people's families. Yeah.

D: And we often talk about, I know, anti-immigration and right-wing folk I hear on the radio often talk about illegal immigration being costs on our social services, when Mexican workers are here during the summers and able to return to their families in the winter, they're not using any of the social services or food banks that we have in the United States, non-profit resources. But when they're not allowed to cross the border to return to their families it actually — militarizing the border actually increases the costs on our society.

F: Yeah. In terms of incarceration, the beefing up of the Border Patrol, the costs associated with jailing a lot of people, a lot of the workers are charged, you know, or they have their taxes taken out of their checks. They cannot, you know, reap the benefits of that, whether it's through Social Security or county and state tax, you know, so that money is going back into the system and they are not allowed to take advantage of that. So, the economics of the whole thing is ..., it's very economically driven on one level because none of the employers are being put in jail that hire the undocumenteds — and it's big business. You know? So on one level, they're saying, “We gotta stop these guys from coming in, they're taking our jobs. They're messing up our country.” You know? But on another level people are making money off of it and that's why it's allowed to take place, you know. Because if these workers were not here who is going to do the work? In this country, this society, people are just not into manual labor anymore — people, Americans, have moved on from manual labor and they refuse to do it.

You know, a couple of years ago I was documenting the cantaloupe pickers in Dunnigan right up by 5 near Woodland, and I was talking to this labor contractor. And he was telling me in Arizona, he had just come from Arizona and they were working in some cantaloupe fields in Arizona, and this one grower... no, no, actually, it was, they had just come from Arizona and the grower in Dunnigan planted too many cantaloupes and they didn't have enough workers to pick them all. They were ripe. And when those crops are ready they gotta go. So he went to the unemployment office in Yuba City to get a crew, and he got a crew of 20 workers from the unemployment office and brought them out to work. And he asked me, “Francisco, how long do you think those workers lasted out there in that field?” Well, I was thinking to myself, well, maybe one day, you know? He said, “Two hours.” And they all quit. Yeah. Some of that work is very very physically demanding. And, that field we were in, there, it was 100 – 105 degrees that day. They work from about 5:30 in the morning until about 2:00. And it's up and down, up and down all day. You know, so, just some of the work is very physically demanding, and people will just not do that work. You know, so, it's just a very hypocritical situation. And to treat..., for me it's a human rights issue. Every worker deserves rights as a human being. Whether it's to drive a car, whether it's to have fair housing, whether it's to have a workplace where you don't have to deal with racial discrimination, sexual discrimination, uh, yeah. Workers deserve human rights as human beings. Everybody deserves the right to be treated fair in this world. And this situation is just wrong.

D: And I think we should also tie this into rights that people have within our own community, rights to be involved in their city government, and in the schooling of their children — which illegal immigrants don't have those rights, they are not allowed to vote. They're not allowed to be on school boards. And, if violent crime occurs against them, if items are stolen or they're harassed, they have no ability to go to the police and demand those human rights, those protections, that other citizens in our society are allowed.

F: Well, a good example of that is, in December, there was a lawsuit filed by a former member of, uh, an associate of Pete Wilson in San Diego, a Republican politician. He spearheaded a drive to start up a lawsuit against the University of California. And actually, ten UC Davis students are involved in the lawsuit. And they're suing the University of California for allowing undocumented students to go to school and not charge them out-of-state tuition. So, they're not saying they shouldn't be admitted, because there was a bill passed that allows undocumented students entrance into the University of California, that was passed four years ago. Because you have a large amount of undocumented students in the California public school systems, and if you're going to have people in school they're going to want to work hard to go to college, you know. It's a benefit to our society to have an educated work force. But what they're trying to do with this lawsuit is, they're trying to say, “undocumented students have to pay out-of-state tuition even if they were raised here in California.” Yeah. So, so they don't really have to say, “we don't want you here, period.” They're going around another way of doing it, by saying it's unfair that they can pay in-state tuition. You know, to kick them out that way. You know? Because we have undocumented students right here at UC Davis getting an education, doing the right thing: trying to better their lives. You know? And now it's a move to, anybody that's undocumented, it's just, you know, it's pretty crazy.

There was a, a few weeks ago in Arizona, in Douglas, back to Douglas, Arizona, there were two Border Patrol agents, Chicanos, who were turned in by their co-workers for dating undocumented women. And they were both fired, you know, for breaking the law. Okay? Even went to, one guy is being prosecuted because his girlfriend was deported back to Mexico and he went and brought her back. You're talking about love, you know? You're talking about relationships here. So (laughs) he brought his girlfriend back and now he's being charged with felonies, of bringing in people into the country unlawfully. So he lost his job and now he's being prosecuted. You know? So that just takes the situation to a whole other level when you're talking about human beings, romance, people involved, couples, you know? Yeah. And that situation, I'm pretty much sure it was racial, too, because these guys were Chicanos. Yeah. Yeah.

D: I guess I want to ask you one more question — I know you have to leave soon — which is, I want to know a few of the human stories you've seen when you've met people and interviewed them along the border? What are the ..., I know we've talked about some of the side costs, but what are the real life stories that people are dealing with when they make this decision to cross?

F: Well, a couple of stories would be the, uh, there was a whole family I interviewed, all brothers and uncles, that was coming across, and they were going to a poultry farm in Kentucky. And they were basically saying that they can't make it in Mexico anymore, because of the farming. Also, you have that genetically engineered corn that's being grown out there, that just outgrows everything else, you know. And that stuff, actually, is just spread out into people's private farms, and messed up their crops. And they just cannot compete, with the multinationals. So, it's a matter of pack up your bags and go work in the U.S. Or sit there and starve, you know. Or, go into crime. Yeah. So, these guys have left. Think about it, to leave your family, you know. Everybody, the media makes it look like a very cheerful journey here. You know? Just to come work here, people just can't wait. They're leaving their families, you know, the place where they were born, their cities, to go work in a foreign land. Talk about a scary thing. You know? Yeah. Anybody out there listening, yeah, think about that: if you had to leave, pick up your life and go to another country just to work, to live. Yeah. People don't think about that, you know? And that's what these people are doing.

And, uh, another story, there was this woman who got deported from Nebraska, a Guatemalan woman, Indian, native lady, had her two little kids. Deported. They didn't deport her to Guatemala. They dumped her off at the border. Her husband's still in Nebraska, and other kids. She had to find a way to get back. You know? Actually, she asked me to bring her little baby back, because she was afraid of her baby dying in the desert. You know, I told her I couldn't do it, because of my situation. You know? The border is a very different type of place. It's a very..., it's militarized, also, on the Mexican side, you know, because of all the pressure the U.S. Government puts on Mexico. So you have.., I was stopped two or three times by the military in that town of Altar because that's not a tourist town. There's no tourists there at all. And if you come there as a photographer, as a journalist, you kind of stick out, you know? So, so I was asked two or three times, “what are you doing here?” So I couldn't, even if I wanted to bring anybody over I couldn't do it anyway — because I had to tell the lady. So she was there with no money, trying to get back. And, you just have stories like that, you know, of people that are..., who just have it very tough, you know. So, and with the militarization of the border it's just..., we're going to start hearing more stories. You know? Because of the fear — with military, that means more guns, so we're probably going to start looking at more death there on the border.

D: So, for people who care about this issue, and people who are listening to you now saying, “gosh, this is a horrible thing that's happening along our border, I'd like to do something, I don't know how to get involved, how I can be active with an issue this big,” what suggestions do you have? How can people get engaged with this issue and how can they make a difference in this life or death situation?

F: I..., well, um, there's not really an official group here in Davis or Sacramento. There's some groups, there's the Bay Area Coalition Against the Minute Men in San Francisco. There's some border rights groups in San Francisco. I think on a local level, here, start writing letters to politicians, letting people know that you do not like what's going on here, you do not like the use of our tax payers' money to fund this horrific situation there on the border. We want to come up with some kind of sensible solution to this, where people can come here and work with some type of dignity. You know, the labor need is here, okay, let's do something about it. Let's do something that's fair, that's humane. You know, not, just let this situation be some kind of political football in Washington, DC where they end up actually doing nothing, but talking and threatening and bullying. You know? Yeah. Let's come up with something fair here. Not just continue this type of a nightmare. You know? Somebody..., there has to be..., you know, because we can protest and say, this isn't right, but we..., the people that are, you know, trying to do some work, trying to come up with solutions, we have to come up with a solution, you know, to this problem. We just can't let it fester out there, and say it's wrong. We have to come up with our own solutions to this also. Because it's not going to go away. Even with..., well, I mentioned Guatemala. We have.., there's people that come from El Salvador also. You know, across the border. There's people that come from Brazil. So, it's not just Mexico.

And, then, also, if you look at..., there's been a couple of recently elected presidents in Latin America whom are Socialists. You know, so, if you look at the history of the United States with South America, even Central America, it's not a very good history. And so, the situation on the border, I mean, that fence, it's interesting because, you know, eventually they'll probably..., they probably will build the fence (I hope not) all the way across. If things keep going like they are, it's going to be like a Berlin Wall.

D: Or even..., or the Israeli /Palestinian barrier, similar to it, cutting across ecosystems, dividing people, creating a First World nation right next to a Third, and making it a crime to cross between the two.

F: Yeah. Part of this bill that just passed the House in Washington, DC, that the Senate has to look at here in the next few weeks, it's a criminalization of undocumenteds, basically making it a felony to be in this country without documentation. So, you're talking about, if that thing passes, there'll be 10 million undocumented workers become felons. Yeah. And, if you're a felon in this country you can't vote. Yeah. I mean, there's a lot of different ramifications if they pass that thing, to criminalize a whole workforce.

D: And it makes it illegal to ever come across the border again, legally. Because once you're a felon it's illegal to ever immigrate into the United States, it's impossible to ever get a visa, even if, say, you married someone here or you had another way, you had a sponsoring organization, you had a legal way to immigrate.
F: Yes. Exactly. So, there's a lot of bullying, a lot of fear, a lot of finger-pointing out there, and it's shameful that these politicians would even come up with these bills like this, criminalizing..., to criminalize workers, it's just wrong. You know, these are the people who put the food on the table every night, you know, 24/7. Every time we go to the store, you know? Yeah, all that produce, all the other ingredients that's in the food that we eat is picked by Mexican laborers, by Central Americans. Yeah. All that, all the food. They feed this country. Not only this country, all the exports in agriculture that go out to Europe, to Canada, all over the world — the rice that is harvested in this state, California's the biggest rice grower in the world — all done by Mexican labor; the biggest almond grower in the world, all done by Mexican labor; you know, on and on, almonds, right, you know, walnuts, you name it. And, to criminalize is just not right. You know?

So, to..., I think, to finish up the interview..., well, maybe just one more question, but, uh, you know, what we need to do is we need to educate and not hate in this country.

D: I guess my last question, then, is..., we've talked a lot about what is going on with the border and what is wrong about it and what's wrong with our current government's policy towards increasing militarization to deal with this immigration issue, what would a different policy for the border look like? What would a more progressive, more open, solution to this border look like? How..., I feel like this is not really being talked about at all. What is a different approach?

F: Well, a fair worker program where people can come in, here, to this country as, legally, workers. Say, have permits, like for six months, you know, eight months, come here and work. And they can go back to Mexico, come back, you know? Instead of this criminalization. The labor need is here. Why haven't the politicians done the right thing? And created these types of programs where people can come in and work. Instead of this type of criminalization, fear, finger-pointing, “You Mexicans” this, “You Mexicans” that. You know? There has to be some type of a sane policy. You know, because the American business communities are not taking responsibility. The politicians are not taking responsibility. The people are just..., the workers are just being used as a scapegoat. And the situation..., and this has been like his for years. You know? And they just fumble around, you know, fumble around with it like a football in the political arena, and nothing really ever gets done.

And, in this climate that we're in, it's just even worse because now they're saying terrorists are coming in from Mexico, you know? So now, Mexicans are terrorists. You know, I take personal affront to that. It's insulting. You know, Mexican people are good people. Yeah. They're..., we're beautiful people. Yeah, we're a beautiful people. To label us “terrorists” and dope-dealers, and whatever else, is just wrong.

D: Absolutely.

I want to thank you so much for your time. And....

F: Okay. I want to thank KDRT, you know, here in Davis, D-Town, for having me on; I want to thank you for having me on your show, you know. And I'll come back some other time.

And, remember, we have to..., Don't hate, educate. This is one world. We all gotta live together here on this world. The world's becoming a smaller place. Everybody deserves respect. You know. The people that work the earth, the farmworkers, people, you know, they deserve respect. They have a close relationship to the earth. They're the ones who work that dirt. And, to be treated wrong, to be treated hatefully, no one deserves that. You know? And, so, we just have to work to make this world a better place.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"For Phil Goldvarg: Poeta del Pueblo"

For Phil Goldvarg: Poeta del Pueblo

Poeta del pueblo
del río
de la Espíritu
del alma
vieja — poet
of sweet being,
of gentler tides
from the banks
of the heart — corazón
in a long line
of those facing
from the world:
blessed by palabras,
by aves de la justícia
touched by the taste
for freedom,
Poeta facing
the unreconcilable
differences on the border
of living and exploitation,
liquid greed and the flooding
in a river of tearing
apart; Poeta, He Who
Puts Together, who draws
us under his pen,
the sol y luna
in the galaxy of mind,
that mind, that lapping
daily renewal of verses,
flowing heart-songs
from the past
weaving us fast
to the future;
Poeta, Seer
in the healing
rain blessing us
with the sweet
irrigation of his
memory, his courage,
his will to say:


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Monday, December 03, 2007

Lorna Dee Cervantes Performing at Sacramento Poetry Center Tonight, 7:30





LORNA DEE CERVANTES has authored three books of poetry, two of them award-winning books-- Emplumada, From the Cables of Genocide: Poems on Love and Hunger, and Drive: The First Quartet. Her poetry has appeared in 200 highly-recognized anthologies and too-numerous-to-count e-zines and magazines. She has performed her poetry twice at the Library of Congress, & also presented at the Walker Arts Center, The Dodge Poetry Festival, New York YMCA, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Vassar, Wellesley, and numerous other venues, university & college campuses in the US, Mexico, Spain & Colombia.

Freeway 280

Las casitas near the gray cannery,

nestled amid wild abrazos of climbing roses

and man-high red geraniums

are gone now.The freeway conceals it

all beneath a raised scar.

But under the fake windsounds of the open lanes,

in the abandoned lots below, new grasses sprout,

wild mustard remembers, old gardens

come back stronger than they were,

trees have been left standing in their yards.

Albaricoqueros, cerezos, nogales . . .

Viejitas come here with paper bags to gather greens.

Espinaca, verdolagas, yerbabuena . . .

I scramble over the wire fence

that would have kept me out.

Once, I wanted out, wanted the rigid lanes

to take me to a place without sun,

without the smell of tomatoes burning

on swing shift in the greasy summer air.

Maybe it's here

en los campos extraños de esta ciudad

where I'll find it, that part of me

mown under

like a corpse

or a loose seed.

--Lorna Dee Cervantes

ALFRED ARTEAGA, born in East Los Angeles, is author of several books of poetry, creative non fiction, and cultural studies. His latest book of poems is Frozen Accident (Tia Chucha, 2006). He had been a National Endowment for the Arts and a Rockefeller Fellow. He teaches poetry in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley.

Rust, Soft Metal, Cynosure

against night

those beacons being nothing

other ignite eye, flay stratum lucidum

to futile char, at some remove

of heat and kilometer

burn iconic

Behold the night point fire spit, no it is human, in the first instance an English woman knowing men in hoods takes penis for phallus for what else could she? You too and I examine this scene till it pixelates. Yet for three to wonder, there must have been one to have been there live, to have witnessed muffled cries by fabric restrained

Epidermal particulate

and smoke fabricate night

at mid day garrote

all but panic

perhaps the prey

will not arouse

this time from sleep,

and we, not by fire

yet how light beams iconic

split the black eve

crack through smoke at noon

and rouse from dreams

of bodies whole, it so bright

burns even an allure

minimum for

us excites that singular

desire for men’s heads

in bags, for mute


The scheme is taken for a natural law whose alphabet is simple: pyrotechny and mine contain all the bits for a praxis of seizure and annihilation. Each string bares desire, confirms the black hole that sucks at everything. Even light. A pure light and a fabric of fear, a pure fear and a fabric that blinds. All is contained in the sequence of brilliant sight, luminous desire, lucent possession, that is, from night fire beacons to sirens of war to feral excitement. Intense heat and flame indistinguishable unleash a light that recalls the caterpillars to desert

-- Alfred Arteaga

Sunday, December 02, 2007

DON'T HATE, EDUCATE - Interview With Francisco Dominguez

Check out this interview with photographer/poet, Francisco Dominguez, broadcast on Free Radio KDRT in Davis, California, April, 2006. He speaks out about it all: immigration, militarization of the border, racism, ecological consequences, public policy, psychology and politics. Hear him in this long interview tell true stories of life and work on the US/Mexican border and his experiences as a fine arts photographer documenting border lives since the recent rise of migrating Guatemalan workers in 1991 and extending into immigration issues and migrant workers rights and struggles on the border for the past five years. In a nut shell, what Francisco says in answer to "What can we do to end the conflict over illegal immigration?" "Legalize them." Or as Bob Marley sings it, "Don't criticize them."

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