Nuestra Palabra Turns 21 and Transforms Houston & Latino art
To All Active Duty Soldiers:
Your Commander-in-chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern US border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving North towards the US are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women—with families just like yours and ours—are fleeing their homes is because of the US meddling in their country’s elections. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive dictator.
These extremely poor and vulnerable people are desperate for peace. Who among us would walk a thousand miles with only the clothes on our back without great cause? The odds are good that your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. lived similar experiences to these migrants. Unless your ancestors are native to this land, your family members came to the US to seek a better life—some fled violence. Consider this as you are asked to confront these unarmed men, women and children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. To do so would be the ultimate hypocrisy.
US is the richest country in the world, in part because it has exploited countries in Latin America for decades. If you treat people from these countries like criminals, as Trump hopes you will, you only contribute to the legacy of pillage and plunder beneath our southern border. We need to confront this history together, we need to confront the reality of America’s wealth and both share and give it back with these people. Above all else, we cannot turn them away at our door. They will die if we do.
By every moral or ethical standard it is your duty to refuse orders to “defend” the US from these migrants. History will look kindly upon you if you do. There are tens of thousands of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. You are better than your Commander-in-chief. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone. It is much harder to punish the many than the few.
Former US Army Ranger, War-Resister
Former US Army Ranger and Infantry Officer, War-Resister
On September 11,1973, General Augusto Pinochet’s troops stormed Chile’s presidential palace. Organized by Henry Kissinger and the CIA, the coup targeted Chile’s popular socialist President Salvador Allende, who the Nixon administration feared was another Fidel Castro in-the-making. As the attack unfolded, workers in the basement of a Santiago publishing house shop were hard at work printing what was to be the military junta’s 500-page economic plan.
Believing himself to be a messianic figure, Pinochet put his faith in a coterie of young Chilean advisers who had trained under Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago’s School of Economics, the academic vanguard of neo-classical economics. With his bloody crackdown on dissidents, artists, college students and union leaders, Pinochet’s repressive regime censored the press, banned labor unions and political opposition parties, murdered an estimated 5,000 leftists, tortured another 30,000 and handed the “Chicago Boys” – as they came to be known – a blank check to remake Allende’s nationalized economy, and return the country at South America’s southwestern edge into the Empire’s orbit.
Nearly 15 years before economists coined the phrase “Washington consensus,” and a decade before Reagan’s trickle-down policies began dismantling the New Deal in the U.S., Chile was the guinea pig for anti-Keynesian macroeconomic policies designed to fatten corporations’ share of global wealth. Pinochet slashed duties on imports, from an average tariff rate of 94 percent in 1973 to 10 percent by 1979. He privatized all but two dozen of Chile’s 300 state-owned banks, as well as utilities and entitlements such as social security. By 1979, he had cut public spending almost in half and public investment by nearly 14 percent. He lowered taxes, restricted union activities and returned more than a third of the land seized under Allende’s land-reform program.
Pinochet’s reforms worked like a fast-acting virus. A recession in 1975 caused Chile’s economy to shrink by 13 percent, its greatest decline since the Great Depression. The recovery that followed was fueled largely by foreign cash, which poured into the country as investors gobbled up utilities and stashed money in Chile’s currency markets. The prices of imports fell sharply; between 1975 and 1982 the number of foreign cars sold in Chile tripled. Domestic manufacturing shriveled by 30 percent. Domestic savings plummeted. Wages fell, and the income gap between rich and poor widened by a factor of 50.Monetary policy was liberalized on two important fronts. First, Pinochet allowed “hot money” — speculation on the currency market — to flow in and out of the country without obstacle. And in 1979 he fixed the exchange rate for Chile’s peso, requiring the central bank to keep $1 in reserve for every 39 pesos printed. This kept the bank from merely printing money to pay bills and curbed an inflation rate that had soared to nearly 400 percent annually under Allende.
By 1982, Chile had accumulated $16 billion in foreign debt — nearly $42 billion in today’s dollars — and foreign investment represented a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. The money flowing into the country flowed out just as easily, to pay debts and bills for imported goods and through capital flight as investors soured on Chile’s currency market. The economy had overheated and was now in a meltdown.
With a third of the workforce unemployed and unrest growing, by 1984 Pinochet began to “reform the reforms,” the Chilean economist Ricardo Ffrench-Davis said in a 2003 interview.
Pinochet allowed the peso to float and reinstated restrictions on the movement of capital in and out of the country. He introduced banking legislation, and ratcheted up spending on research and development efforts through quasi-governmental institutions and other collaborations between the public and private sectors — creating, as one example, the billion-dollar salmon farming industry out of whole cloth.
Still, Chile’s economic woes persisted. By 1989, real wages had declined by 40 percent from 1973, and the percentage of the population living in poverty had doubled to 40 percent. The number of Chileans without adequate housing had also climbed to 40 percent, up 13 percentage points from Allende’s final year in office. The country’s poor consumed 1,629 calories per-day-on average, compared to 2,019 in 1973.
Ill-fed, and ill-housed, Chileans began to refer to the cadre of advisers not as the Chicago Boys but as Si, Cago; Voy — which translates to “Yes, I shit; I go.”
God Bless America. . and everyone else too.
NOTE: The introductory paragraphs of this article by Mint Press News writer Jon Jeter were omitted for length, and all photos/caps were added. To see the original post, as well as links to Jon Jeter’s impressive body of work, click on his name at the top of the screen.
VIENTOS DE PUEBLO (WINDS OF THE PEOPLE) Victor Jara
Once more, they want to stain my country with workers’ blood.
I want to live now with my child and my friend, to go together toward the springtime we’re building each day.
You masters of misery can’t scare me with your threats;
The star of hope continues to be ours!
Winds of the people bear me, carry me, blow through
my throat so that I can go on singing even when death takes me,
down the roads of the people.
MINT PRESS NEWS
CHERAN, MEXICO (Report) — On the road leading into this hardscrabble town in Mexico’s southwest corner, there stands a checkpoint staffed by heavily-armed guards, clad ominously in balaclavas, or ski masks. This scene is not particularly unusual for this violence-plagued country, but Cheran is no ordinary place: seven years ago this month, the mostly indigenous townspeople here grew tired of watching the loggers illegally cut down their trees, and frustrated with the extortion rackets run by the organized-crime cartels, and angry at the politicians who did nothing to protect them or the forest that is central to the local timber economy.
And so the denizens of this community tucked away in the state of Michoacán evicted the bootleg loggers and the mobsters who hired them; they kicked out the police department and the mayor and the city council and the prosecutors and the judges and they decided to do it all themselves.
The gendarmes patrolling the city’s borders are, in fact, civilians.
Cheran is no utopia, but virtually everyone here says they feel happier and safer with the new autonomous arrangement that is reminiscent of the Paris Commune, the radical workers’ movement that governed the City of Lights for two months in the spring of 1871 before authorities and industrialists managed to regain control.
“Little by little, people have realized that this new system is the most suitable for us … now we take care of each other,” David Ramos Guerrero, a local resident, told MintPress News.
Surrounded by lush forests, Cheran is about 200 miles west of Mexico City. Its population of roughly 16,000 is predominantly from the indigenous Purepecha community, who squeeze out a meager living from agriculture — corn, oats, beans, wheat, potatoes, apples, apricots, pears and plums — and timber. The Mexican cartels typically associated with the illicit drug trade want a cut of any lucrative commercial enterprise, and for years the talamontes, or illegal loggers working on behalf of the ruthless La Familia mob, had toppled the trees — by one estimate, they had destroyed half of the 59,000 acres of forest — surrounding the community, hauling them off with impunity, and ultimately jeopardizing Cheran’s water supply.
The townspeople’s complaints to their representatives at City Hall repeatedly fell on deaf ears until finally, the women hatched a plan. On the morning of April 15, 2011, dozens of women gathered at the Roman Catholic Chapel of the Calvary at the town’s edge and waited. As the trucks passed hauling their illegal bounty, the signal was given, and the women, armed only with fireworks and rocks and white-hot indignation, attacked, driving out the loggers armed with AK-47s.
On Sunday, April 15, thousands turned out for a ceremony to celebrate the insurrection set in motion on that day in 2011. “That was the moment that the community, tired of the pilfering of our forest, tired of being manipulated by organized crime and the government, decided to rise up in struggle,” David Ramos Guerrero told MintPress News.
MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — One morning in April, federal immigration agents swept into a meatpacking plant in this northeastern Tennessee manufacturing town, launching one of the biggest workplace raids since President Trump took office with a pledge to crack down on illegal immigration.
Dozens of panicked workers fled in every direction, some wedging themselves between beef carcasses or crouching under bloody butcher tables. About 100 workers, including at least one American citizen, were rounded up — every Latino employee at the plant, it turned out, save a man who had hidden in a freezer.
The raid occurred in a state that is on the raw front lines of the immigration debate. Mr. Trump won 61 percent of the vote in Tennessee, and continues to enjoy wide popularity. The state’s rapidly growing immigrant population, now estimated to total more than 320,000, has become a favorite target of the Republican-controlled State Legislature. In 2017, Tennessee lawmakers passed the nation’s first law requiring stiffer sentences for defendants who are in the country illegally. In April, they passed a law requiring the police to help enforce immigration laws and making it illegal for local governments to adopt so-called sanctuary policies.
But Morristown, a town of 30,000 northeast of Knoxville that was the boyhood home of Davy Crockett, has drawn migrant workers from Latin America since the early 1990s, when they first came to work on the region’s abundant tomato farms. As stepped-up security has made going back and forth across the border more difficult, many of these families have settled into the community, enrolled their kids in school, and joined churches where they have baptized their American-born children.
So the day Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Southeastern Provision plant outside the city and sent dozens of workers to out-of-state detention centers was the day people in Morristown began to ask questions many hadn’t thought through before — to the federal government, to the police, to their church leaders, to each other.
Donations of food, clothing and toys for families of the workers streamed in at such volume there was a traffic jam to get into the parking lot of a church. Professors at the college extended a speaking invitation to a young man whose brother and uncle were detained in the raid. Schoolteachers cried as they tried to comfort students whose parents were suddenly gone. There was standing room only at a prayer vigil that drew about 1,000 people to a school gym.
Here, based on interviews with dozens of workers and townspeople, and in their own words (some edited for length and clarity), is how it happened.
ANGELA SMITH, 42, A LONGTIME RESIDENT OF THE AREA: My first thought was one of sorrow. Oh my goodness, this is going to hurt so many people in the community. It’s going to hurt their kids, our kids. It’s going to have a ripple effect throughout the entire community because these people are part of Morristown. Immediately, I drive over to the parish center to see what I can do to help. I had to park way at the end because it was so packed. I go in, I said, I’m an attorney, how can I help?
The April 5 operation signaled a return to the high-profile immigration raids that last happened during the presidency of George W. Bush. President Barack Obama’s chief workplace enforcement tactic was to conduct payroll audits and impose fines on businesses found to employ unauthorized workers. The Trump administration, on the other hand, has vowed to quintuple worksite enforcement. Last week, ICE agents arrested 114 employees at two worksites operated by a gardening company in Ohio.
All 97 workers taken into custody in the Tennessee raid now face deportation, though several have been released pending hearings. And much of the town is reeling. Up to 160 American-born children have a parent who could soon be ordered to leave the country; many families are relying on handouts.
NATALY LUNA, 12, WHOSE FATHER WAS DETAINED: My mom had told us one day it could happen, that one day one of them would be taken. The hardest thing is talking about it.
After the raid, immigrant advocates organized a peace march, and Nataly carried a sign bearing the image of her father, a native of Mexico who had been working in the United States without papers for 20 years before he was taken into custody at the meat plant that day. “We Miss You,” the sign read. “We need you by our side. You are the best father.”
Nestled between two mountain ranges and flanked by two large lakes, Morristown is the county seat and industrial hub of Hamblen County, where most of the plant workers’ families reside.
The Latinos who arrived here, especially those who came after the late 1990s, were part of a swelling wave of migrants bypassing traditional gateway states like California and Texas to seek opportunity in the fast-growing South. Word reached their villages that jobs were plentiful.
More recently, as with other places, Tennessee has been struggling with a meth and opioid epidemic. As drug abuse has sidelined many working-age American men and women, local employers have increasingly turned to immigrants.
KATIE CAHILL, A RESEARCHER WHO STUDIES PUBLIC HEALTH AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE, KNOXVILLE: Tennessee is facing one of the highest rates of opioid addiction among states. Within this challenged state, you have a county that is doing even worse.
These days, Latinos make up about 11 percent of Hamblen County’s population and account for one of every four students in its public schools. Immigrants toil in meat, poultry and canning plants, as well as at automotive parts, plastics and other factories that dot the area.
A ragged American flag flutters outside Rosa Castro’s trailer near the U.S.-Mexico border. She has no electricity, no running water, and little hope that she ever will.
Castro is one of about 500,000 people residing in hundreds of unincorporated towns in south Texas, places with quirky names such as Little Mexico, Radar Base, Betty Acres and Mike’s that were created when developers carved up ranchland that was unprepared for human habitation and sold the parcels at bargain prices, mostly to low-income immigrants and Mexican Americans.
Buyers plunked down double-wide trailers or wood-and-cinder-block houses and waited for the paved roads, electricity, and water and sewer systems to arrive.
For thousands of people, they never did.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas says the enclaves, known in Spanish as colonias, represent one of the largest concentrations of poverty in the United States. Texas outlawed their creation and expansion in 1989. The state and federal government have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve some of the outposts, but have done little in others, for reasons that include the high costs and questions about who owns which land.
Critics of colonias say people frustrated by the lack of services should move to established cities and towns, but residents refuse to abandon their land after years of trying to make it work. They are irked that the state government recently cut funding for health care, water and other services for colonias, and that President Trump is pushing a $25 billion border wall and security upgrades at a time when illegal border crossings are low and colonias could use a federal boost.
“We can’t move away from here. We want Washington to do something,” said Castro, a 70-year-old grandmother. “We’re in the United States after all.”
Jesse Gonzalez, an elected commissioner in Webb County, says he has made it his priority to bring a park and a water pump to La Presa. The county has applied for state grants to finance both projects.
“We don’t live in a Third World country,” Gonzalez said.
About 330 colonias — and nearly 38,000 people — are stuck in the most extreme conditions, without clean running water, sewers, or even clear boundaries needed to develop the land, according to the state. Another 115,000 people live in enclaves without paved roads, drainageor solid-waste disposal.
Residents of La Presa, a community of 300 surrounding a bluish lake at the center of town that is hidden by mesquite and sweet acacia trees, buy bottled water for drinking. Two or three times a week, they hitch empty water tanks to pickup trucks and drive about a dozen miles to Laredo to pump water for their washing machines, sinks, toilets and tubs.
The cost is nominal, about $1.25 each filling, but the supply dwindles fast.
Sylvia Zuazua, a flea market cashier, has lived without running water for decades. She and her husband paid $5,200 for an acre of land in the 1970s, dreaming of raising their family on a small farm. They bought chickens, cows and a pony, but they eventually sold them all because they had no water.
“Supposedly the United States is the richest country,” she said with a shake of her head. “I tell my husband, he’s going to be buried and we won’t see water.”
The improvements that have trickled into La Presa over the years have made a big difference, residents say. Electrical hookups arrived over a decade ago for residents who could prove they owned the land. Around the same time, the government built an adobe-tinted community center where elderly residents play loteria, the Mexican version of bingo, pick up bags of donated sweet bread and ham sandwiches, and gather for meetings.
But for those, like Castro, who cannot prove they own their land, electricity was not an option. And for county officials, some improvements are simply too expensive — extending water and sewer service to La Presa, for example, would cost more than $120,000 per family, which is more expensive than housing in Laredo.
The rightful homeowners in colonias are often unclear because many paid for their land in cash and did not have the land formally mapped out and deeded with the county government. Others illegally carved up existing plots and sold them. And in other cases, the owners died without having a will that would indicate who owns the property.
“Those property owners who have chosen to live in the subdivision without basic services are also free to choose to relocate to an area where those services are available,” Webb County spokesman Larry Sanchez said in an email. “Until there is a significant reduction in the cost per connection or other funding resources are generated, this subdivision will remain without water and sewer service or other utility services.”
Carlos Cascos, a Republican and another former secretary of state, under Abbott, said the state and federal governments should invest $100 million a year for the next 15 years to modernize colonias.
“These are basic necessities,” said Cascos, who lives in the border city of Brownsville and is running for a judgeship in Cameron County. “They’re not asking for curbs and gutters and sidewalks. They’re asking for water.”
Castro said she moved to La Presa more than a dozen years ago, after she lost her house in Laredo to foreclosure. County officials say they can do little to provide Castro access to utilities for her trailer, because it’s unclear who owns the property where she lives, and only a court can resolve the issue.
Officials tried to help her apply for public housing in Laredo, but Castro says she wants to pay her own way.
She says she also did not want to burden her relatives. But as temperatures sank this winter, she sought refuge with a brother who has heat and hot water.
“They’re going to build a park,” Castro said. “We don’t need a park. We need water.”
Enterprising Cubans are training replacements ( pictured above) to serve on the nation’s local chapters of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. Government complaints that the new comrades are overly conscientious have been greeted with national hilarity. President Raul Castro recently announced that he is sending the one hundred top new Defenders to the U.S in a historic gesture of goodwill to Cuba’s thousands of Miami Relatives. Miami has reportedly asked the CIA how many small planes and automatic weapons it will trade in exchange for 100 highly trained communists.
The Cuban public was not impressed.
“Big deal,” said several of the 23 doctors who happened to stroll by during Electrica’s fifteen minute man-in-the-street interview in downtown Havana. “Cuba is full of highly trained communists. ”
The remaining 20 physicians either snorted or laughed, as did the 47 world class musicians, 32 internationally famous dancers, 12 poets, 83 artists, seven engineers, 15 craftsmen, six cigar makers, several rum experts, ten winning Olympic athletes and a small crowd of laughing Rastafarians.
Also, an old man selling bananas illegally from a wheelbarrow
“We know there will be changes in Cuba’s future “, pronounced a popular and handsome orchestra leader, who sat on the front steps of a crumbling old mansion divided into fourteen tiny apartments. He laughed loudly and added, ” But anyone who shows up from Miami whining about getting his grandfather’s land back will be immediately shipped to North Korea.”
So far, CIA sources have stated off the record only that the agency will under no circumstances accept any hamsters from Miami.
The Relatives responded by threatening a radio campaign urging Miami patriots to take down Congress, promising that “Elian will be a picnic in the park compared to this.”
Havana Times photo
Meanwhile, Raul has strictly prohibited all canine members of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution from sniffing any Party member in public.
“It’s times like this that the president misses his brother most,” confided Venezuelan leader Nicholas Madura, as he arrived in Havana to lend his support to Raul. The Cuban president greeted the former bus driver abrubtly, as Madero stumbled over several of the CIA agents who had been underfoot throughout Venezuela for at least six or seven years. Castro aimed a swift, well-placed kick at a senior agent as he stamped out of Jose Marti airport, followed by his presidential comrade, who had faced down American intelligence to be democratically elected. Castro had just snubbed Vladimir Putin’s offer to poison six rude Cuban bloggers and was in no mood for Russian or American mobsters, frivolous dissent, or ambitious dogs , regardless of breed. Well, as Fidel had famously said, a revolution is no bed of roses.
Castro stopped, turned to face a crowd of Granma reporters and addressed the nation.
“Be like Che!” he ordered, “Now, sit!”
Hundreds of good dogs immediately sat.
No further word from Havana at press time.
Thank-you to Paul Siemering for sending me the great photo of the Committee in Defense of the Revolution that appears at the top of this post.
Continued in English just below
Hey Bercian! ¿Estás en tu casa? ¿Hola? It’s Clara. Sólo vine a darle un regalo espléndido: un grande gallo llamado Frederico. Me siguió hasta aquí desde Nuevo México.
Mi abuela y yo estábamos de gira con una banda llamado América Turístico, pero fue despedido por tratar de iniciar una revuelta en Cleveland. Además, somos demasiado perezosos para mover equipo pesado.
Este país es una mierda.
¡Oh no, Frederico ha volado! Ahora que lo pienso, dónde está mi abuela? No estés triste, Bercian. Un pollo guapo y noble como Frederico es amado de de su rebaño. Debería haber sabido iba a regresar a ellos.
Te voy a enviar otro espléndido regalo – un pájaro carpintero gigante desde el Río Grande! De acuerdo a mi abuela, ellos aman para nadar!
VISIT BERCIAN: VIAJES AL FONDO DEL ALSA
I surprise the good artist, writer, and blogger Bercian Langan with the splendid gift of a large, handsome rooster named Frederico, who has followed me all the way from New Mexico. I pass on the news that my grandmother and I have just been kicked off the Rust Belt Tour of the Country/Hip-Hop band, American Tourist. We had proven ourselves useless as roadies because of our strong opposition to moving heavy objects. Also, someone had ratted Grandma out for attempting to incite the Cleveland audience to riot.
“This country is turning to shit,” I tell Bercian.
It suddenly becomes clear that Frederico the Rooster has flown away. Come to think of it, where’s Grandma?
“Don’t be sad,” I tell Bercian, “A chicken as handsome and noble as Frederico is beloved by his flock. I should have known he would return to them.”
Before I leave, I promise Bercian another splendid gift.
“I’ll send you a Giant Woodpecker from the banks of the Rio Grande,” I say grandly.
Maybe I shouldn’t have added that Giant Rio Grande Woodpeckers can swim. At least, that’s what my grandmother told me…
T H E ~ E N D
CLICK HERE: VIAJES AL FONDO DEL ALSA
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