POLITICAL SALSA Y MÁS–WHAT’S HAPPENING IN ARIZONA.
Obviously, “Political Salsa y Más” will address political issues. In terms of the attitude of the Tea Party-Republicans who are in control of Arizona government toward people of Mexican descent, Arizona today is for our community what Mississippi was for African Americans in the 1960s.
These people hate us. They hate our history. They hate us so much they have codified their hate into law by passing abominations such as SB 1070, which questions our very legitimacy in our own land, and HB 2281, which criminalizes the teaching of Mexican American history and literature.
Last month (January, 2013), a federal judge mandated that the Tucson Unified School District, which last year dismantled its Mexican American Studies department, develop and implement “culturally relevant courses” that address Mexican American and African American history in the coming school year.
Whether this is a mandate to reinstate the Mexican American Studies curriculum, as some folks see it, or a vehicle for the school district to impose its own watered-down courses, as others see it, or something in between, won’t be known until the new curriculum is actually implemented.
And it’s not just the Tea Party Republicans whom our community must deal with. The Democratic Party “no hace ni tan malos quesos” (ain’t no great shakes either). The Democratic Party continues to take our community for granted and to work against our interests—for example, by supporting candidates who support SB 1070 and by denying Mexican American candidates the resources of the party (e.g., access to voting lists) that it routinely makes available to white candidates.
I’m old school. I believe that we can’t ethically condemn Republican efforts to suppress the vote of people of color and simultaneously condone Democratic efforts to suppress the candidacies of Mexican Americans. Both of these vile acts violate the spirit of the Voting Rights Act, not to mention common decency. We either condemn both or we condemn neither.
So, there’s much to be discussed in the política side of my blog.
To be true to the “…y más” in my blog’s title, I will write about cultural and other topics. The concept of “culture” encompasses behavioral patterns shaped by traditions; myths and legends; religious and belief systems; ways of perceiving the world; literature and art, etc. Thus, my conception of “culture” won’t be limited to food, music, and dance. I’m based in Tucson and may not be aware of what’s happening in every community in Arizona, but I will do my best to utilize my network of contacts to learn about and report on as wide an array of matters as possible.
A person is the sum of his or her experiences. So as to give readers an idea of what has shaped me and will inform my writing, here is a summary of myself:
I was born on the U.S.-Mexico border, in Douglas, Arizona. We moved to Tucson, where I was raised, in Barrio Hollywood, but I spent many summers in Douglas with my abuelos. I quit high school and ran the streets, resulting in my spending my adolescence in and out of Juvenile Hall and Reform School. Upon my release from Reform School in 1962 I went back to high school as an 18-year-old freshman, graduating at 21. I went on to the University of Arizona, where in 1967 I founded the Mexican American Student Association (MASA) and then the Mexican American Liberation Committee (MALC), which evolved into MEChA, of which I was the founding president.
I quit college to become a full-time organizer for the Chicano Movement, for a $5-a-week stipend (when funds were available). During that period, we—the Centro Chicano—engaged in serious community organizing, which resulted in my being arrested for civil disobedience several times. I helped found El Partido de La Raza Unida (aka LRUP) in Arizona, was a delegate to the 1972 LRUP El Paso Convention and served on El Congreso de Aztlán (the Exec Committee of the LRUP) and ran for City Council in Tucson under the LRUP.
From the Centro Chicano I went on to work as Director of Special Services at Pima Community College and then directed a youth-services non-profit organization for 13 years. In 1982, I went back to The University of Arizona and obtained my B.A. in Sociology and Spanish and then an M.Ed. in Special Education. I served as Assistant Dean of Students, in charge of Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs, at the University of Arizona and served as the Faculty Advisor to MEChA for 18 years. I taught Mexican American Studies for 17 years and was a member and Chair of the Mexican American Studies and Research Center (MASRC) Faculty Advisory Board. My association with MASRC was particularly gratifying in that through MALC I was involved in the establishment of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona in 1971. I retired in 2006.
Since my high-school days, I have been involved in issues and matters involving Raza and civil rights. But other aspects of life have also drawn me in. I taught Catechism, coached my sons in youth soccer and Little League and served four terms as a Little League president. I was a newspaper columnist for Tucson’s afternoon daily, the Tucson Citizen, and have served on a myriad of commissions and task forces for the City of Tucson, Pima County, and Tucson Unified School District and on many community agency boards.
Being of the Chicano Generation, I write from a Chicano perspective although I acknowledge that within the aegis of “Latino,” our community is quite diverse.
I look forward to adding the experience of my years in struggle to further Latinopia’s mission to better our community
Salomón R. Baldenegro
Copyright 2013 by Salomón R. Baldenegro.