Category Archives: History

An Interesting Poll of Brown Folks

NALEO and Latino Decisions have just released a poll on where Latinos stand as the presidential primary gets going. And the results are not surprising–at all.

Latinos are paying attention to the Democratic primary  process and no one candidate is the de facto Latino candidate. The top five with the highest favorables are Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, and Kamala Harris. The poll also shows that Latinos feel that Dems are mostly doing a good job in speaking to Latino voters, while Trump and the Republicans are mostly hostile to Latinos. But Dems still need to work on it–a lot.

In regards to issues, it is health care, wages, immigrant rights, job creation, and stopping Trump’s agenda among the issues of which Latinos are more concerned. As always, immigrant rights may not be the top issue, but it is an issue that affects the Latino community, whether it is about the immigration and detention process or about the racism that is emboldened by Trump and Republicans. One way or another, all of the issues are intertwined.

In fact, 72% of Latinos want Obamacare to stay in effect, while 77% of Latinos also believe that migrants are not a threat and should be allowed through the asylum process. And Latinos respond negatively in high numbers to Trump.

Democrats have a real opportunity for Latino engagement and communication, as always, They just need to want to do it. Considering California and Texas are among the first states to decide on who should be the Democratic candidate, it would seem that small states like Iowa are still the “go-to” states for candidates and it is quite annoying. And it’s an easy way to escape a major portion of the list of issues Latinos deem important. You know, like immigration. The other side is certainly attacking–in rhetoric and policy.

On immigration, I’ve only heard good things from Julian Castro, who has an actual plan, and Bernie Sanders, who has a nice list of policy pronouncements. although Sanders hasn’t been artful in communicating against the Republican “open borders” attack. Frankly, this is an attack that all of the Democrats need to learn to combat. The Republicans are too good at spreading racism and hatred and this poll shows that fact, as well. Latinos are obviously tired of Republican racism.

Thanks to NALEO and Latino Decisions for putting out this poll. I do suggest that a “Latino debate” be held in California or Texas as the Florida one doesn’t excite me at all.

Advertisements

Same Characters, Same Border Fear-Mongering

The Lite Gov of Texas told El Cheeto he’d build the wall for him and the orange one ran with it.

“One of the things that Dan Patrick suggested, which I thought was very interesting, was: Give the state of Texas a relatively small amount of money — they’ll build a wall themselves, cause they wanna build it,” Trump said.

Talk about boondoggles.

Although, I still think I can do it cheaper than you. … You do things very well in Texas, and I like that idea, so we’ll take a look.”

If this doesn’t sound like a competition for kickbacks on kickbacks, I don’t know what else it could be. Of course, there’s also the racist nature of Trump and Patrick who salivate at the thought of banning brown people from the USA.

Patrick’s idea is a 200 mile wall from Brownsville to Falcon Lake–basically, South Texas. And Texas will still spend another billion dollars on the current boondoggle of a “border surge” that has destabilized communities and militarized the border.

Needless to say, the Texas legislative session just got a little more interesting.

Here in Houston, Chief Art Acevedo joined the debate by stating that the border issue is overblown and that more money is needed for law enforcement on the streets of Houston. A recent murder of a child by alleged gang members has brought the gang issue back into the light.

ABC13 reported on this with the cops union boss blaming the border and immigrants for Houston crime, thus supporting Trump’s policies. This is nothing new as the cops union has supported racist policies like SB4, 287g and Secure Communities in the past.

This is why I’ve always told “progressive” politicians: Stay away from bigoted policies and those who support them! You’ll never out-bigot the bigots.

I’m expecting border issues to become localized as the cops union gets involved and somehow it all makes it into the mayoral debates of 2019. When Houston is experiencing a host of issues, lack of money, and lack of political will, blaming others for problems is to be expected.

Stay tuned, folks.

Chicano Political Prisoner Ramsey Muñiz Released

Although I had heard through activist friends that Ramsey Muñiz had been released in mid-December, the AP finally reported his release from federal prison a month later.

Muñiz, a policy-saavy, charismatic, well-spoken, Baylor-educated lawyer, was La Raza Unida Party’s 1972 gubernatorial candidate. It was those qualities he effectively utilized to put a scare into the Texas Democratic Party by earning over 210,000 votes in a three-way race which almost ended the career of Dolph Briscoe and Democratic power in Texas. The usual historians write it off as Muñiz only garnering 6% of the vote, but it was 210,000 Chicanos who united in calling out the Democratic Party for their lack of respect of the people.

Although La Raza Unida had achieved much in various South Texas counties and even fielded candidates in Houston and Harris County, it was this venture into Texas politics that helped earn it a special place in Texas political history. LRU even fielded a Chicana for Lt. Governor. And it also caused a change in the way Democrats treated Chicanos in Texas–some might say, at least on the surface.

During the time, as Chicano scholar Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez found out through FOIA requests, the FBI targeted various Chicano activists through surveillance and other methods. Chicano political activity was constantly under attack and effectiveness was always challenged because those in power would never allow for shared political power with Chicanos. Gutierrez has a new book coming out in March in which he details the surveillance of the Democrats’ favorite brown person, Cesar Chavez.

It is said that Muñiz was among those targeted when in 1976 he was charged federally with attempting to smuggle marijuana into the US from Mexico. After pleading guilty to one count and being sentenced for 5 years, La Raza Unida Party lost popularity and died a slow death, while Democrats picked up what was left of Chicano activists who were salvageable for political purposes. Later, he’d be charged two more times, thus given a mandatory life sentence in federal prison.

Many believed Muñiz to be a political prisoner imprisoned on false charges, forced to plead out in order to save himself from long-term sentences on the first two charges.

A mandatory life sentence from a 1994 charge, though, is what caused him to reside at Leavenworth the last 24 years. Yes, a military prison for what are small-time charges compared to cartels and major drug dealers. Like other prisoners deemed to be imprisoned for political reasons, he requested early release from Presidents, including Obama, only to be denied. Because of failing health and age, he was finally released on December 10, 2018.

There is little doubt that the burgeoning activism in the Chicano community of the time was demoralized by those in power. That voting and activism in the community was at an all-time high during the time only to be cut off at the knees perhaps shows why Chicano voting patterns have taken decades to improve. No doubt, there is a lack of trust of anyone in power and with good reason. We are seeing similar responses to recently elected Latinos with strong opinions–just a thought.

Anyway, I’m glad that Mr. Muñiz is home with his wife, Irma, whom I met in 2003 at a conference I helped coordinate at Texas State University. She and a close circle of friends never gave up on achieving his release. And he’ll always be considered one of my influences as far as political communication is concerned.

A Weekend of Voting and Cultura

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a pretty active weekend of voting and culture this past weekend.

Early Voting Sabado was huge and I got to experience a part of it by spending some time at Moody Park with the hard-working folks of Tacos and Vote and then headed out to MECA’s  and Casa Ramirez’s Dia de los Muertos festivities to get a dose of culture.

My friend Dr. Reynaldo Guerra and his crew put together their Tacos and Vote GOTV effort at three early voting locations. Open to all, the festivities included a Taco truck, mariachis, a jump house for kids, and plenty of fun at Moody, Bayland, and close to Ripley House. All of this after blockwalking the surrounding neighborhoods. It was good seeing Adrian Garcia, Democrat for County Commissioner Pct 2 working the crowd at Moody. From the looks of it, Moody had a good turnout on Saturday and reports from the other locations stated their events were a success.

Afterwards, it was off to MECA to enjoy some culture while celebrating and honoring  those who have departed this life. From the looks of it, a diverse group of thousands enjoyed all sorts of food, music, ofrendas, and the Retablos31 exhibit throughout Saturday and Sunday.

I caught an excellent performance by Mas Pulpo–Vladimir Castellanos on guitar and Roberto Rodriguez on the squeezebox. They took us through some classic Tex-Mex standards that all enjoyed, but their show-ending Volver Volver was cause for a sing-along.

After a taco at Teotihuacan on Airline, it was off to Casa Ramirez, the folk and culture bookstore on 19th Street in the Heights. They held their annual Dia de los Muertos Celebration and March. The ceremony was opened by Danza Azteca, which provided Aztec ritual, history, and dance before hundreds of attendees joined a march to Casa Ramirez. Attendees enjoyed tamales, polvorones, and live music by Bossa II, while visiting the ofrendas offered by families honoring deceased loved ones. It was definitely a family affair enjoyed by all. And emotional, too.

I don’t care what the high-priced consultants tell you, politics and culture go together; especially if we’re adding some resistance to it. Brown folks have a target on their back and it is through cultural celebrations and political resistance with which victory can be achieved.

Beto’s Immigration Ad Is Pretty Good!

I was hoping Beto O’Rourke would hit back at Ted Cruz on immigration in some way and soon. I must say his ad, which I saw last night during the local news, is pretty good. He hits Cruz hard on his fear-mongering and support of deportation policies, as well as his obstruction on moving the conversation forward. Hopefully, it’ll be on rotation through November 6.

Check it out:

Little Joe Headlines Houston GOTV Event

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Around 200 East End voters and activists attended a Get Out The Vote Rally at the East End Events Center on Saturday afternoon. Headlining was the legendary Little Joe y La Familia, with Dallam County Band opening the event with some toe-tapping country tunes.

Little Joe has endorsed Lupe Valdez for Texas Governor and was part of this event which also showed off Sylvia Garcia for Congress, Lina Hidalgo for County Judge, and Adrian Garcia for County Commissioner, Pct. 2. But beyond the political speeches, it was good mix of multi-generational fun and celebration of cultura–all a great combo when it comes to Latino GOTV.

There was no doubt as to the progressive nature of the event–the Harris County Democratic Party was among the driving forces behind the event, so Party Chair Lillie Schechter deserves kudos for this. But it was the candidates and their stories which energized the crowd. Whether it was farm worker kid Lupe Valdez going through the ranks to become Dallas County Sheriff or Lina Hidalgo’s trek from a drug-torn Colombia to the United States and a life of public service, the crowd was energized by all of the candidates.

Little Joe Hernandez, the King of the Brown Sound, also spoke on the importance of this election, giving a rousing endorsement of Valdez while also declaring victory after viewing Valdez’s debate performance against Greg Abbott. “I had never been prouder of a candidate for representing us and fighting for us. As Dolores and Cesar said, “Si, Se Puede!”

Valdez spoke regarding the uphill battle, as Abbott is running anti-Latino ads on TV paid for by wealthy friends who then get appointed to choice positions in the government. “This campaign will be fought, not bought,” has become theme for all Democrats. Valdez added that she’s fought uphill battles all her life–in life, in the military, and in politics. “One more battle is nothing!”

Lina Hidalgo reiterated her theme that she’ll show up to work as County Judge every day, and not just when it floods, noting that the people of Harris County need a proactive leader that gets ahead of problems, rather than waiting for problems to arise.

Adrian Garcia, vying to upend an entrenched Republican who has cut various program that benefited families and the community stated that his opponent and the current administration play off the same sheet of music and that new leadership is needed. He also pointed to the campaign of Penny Shaw, running in Pct. 4, as a need for change and a new majority in Harris County.

Leading the charge was State Senator Sylvia Garcia, who for all intents and purposes, will become the next Congresswoman of the 29th District. Still, she hasn’t stopped getting out the vote for Democrats. “Vote Straight Democrat and we’ll elect the right people–all of them,” she stated. It should also be said that she arrived after an afternoon of blockwalking in the East End.

Also at the event were judicial candidates Raul Rodriguez and Alex Salgado; Richard Cantu for Harris County Dept. of Education Trustee; Carol Alvarado for HD145 and SD6; among other elected officials.

Hopefully, this is the first of many GOTV events targeting Latinos.

 

Albert Peña Bio by Jose Angel Gutierrez Wins Best Biography

Congrats to one of my favorite mentors, Chicano scholars, and one of my dad’s old customers at Medellin’s Texaco in Cristal, Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez, on winning Best Biography at the 20th Annual Latino Book Awards for Albert A. Peña, Jr., Dean of Chicano Politics.

My 2006 post of Peña’s obit continues to earn traffic. Along with fighting for school desegration in the 50’s, Peña’s history includes having defended activist Angela Davis in 1972, which was cause for him to lose re-election to the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court because of Davis’ Communist Party affiliation. Davis was recently in Houston for a UH speaking engagement.

Here’s the full press release:

The 1st place winner in the category of author of the Best Biography in the Non-fiction Awards section of the 20th International Latino Book Awards Ceremony held on the California State University Dominguez Hills campus in Carson City, California on September 8, 2018 was Crystal City, Texas native, Jose Angel Gutierrez.

He is best known as the last standing member of the Four Horsemen of the Chicano Movement. Dr. Gutierrez has written over a dozen books and is Professor Emeritus of the University of Texas Arlington as well as a practicing attorney in Dallas, Texas. He now resides in Redlands, CA.

This first-place winning biography is about the life of San Antonio native Albert A. Peña, Jr., former Bexar County Commissioner. He is the famous icon of the Chicano Movement era for his political acumen, vision in founding so many of our current institutions such as Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, National Council of la Raza, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Presenting the award to Dr.  Gutierrez was none other than Dr. Julian Nava, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico during the President Jimmy Carter years and author in his own right.

The packed-house event featured some of the most creative and brilliant Chicano and other Latino authors of our time. Some winners were repeat honorees, but many were first-timers in the fifteen categories for entries.  This awards ceremony is the largest of its kind featuring authors, illustrators, translators, and publishers of books in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

It is organized annually by the non-profit organization Latino Literacy Now led by Kirk Whisler and Hollywood actor Edward James Olmos.

The winning book is titled Albert A. Peña, Jr. Dean of Chicano Politics and published by Michigan State University Press in 2017 as part of the Latinos in the United States Series, editor Dr. Ruben Martinez of the Julian Samora Research Institute.

RIP: Jimmy Gonzalez (Grupo Mazz)

I was in the middle of celebrating my birthday with some friends and breakfast tacos when I got the alert bearing the awful news of music icon Jimmy Gonzalez’s passing. It wasn’t until I made it home that I got to think about the impact he made in the Tejano music industry over 40+ years of performing, producing, composing, and singing.

An accomplished guitarist, Gonzalez was the musical director of the iconic Super Grupo Mazz, founding the band with his childhood friend and vocalist, Joe Lopez. So close were the two that they were actually both born on the same day, say year, and 30 minutes apart. Started in 1978, the group, with RGV Onda Chicana roots, took a bold turn toward Spanish-language pop and cumbia music producing albums that weren’t easily accepted by Chicanos–who didn’t expect some boys from Brownsville to perform disco-esque music en Español. Adding some much wanted rancheras and polkas to their follow-up albums shot them toward being a radio and fan favorite.

Hoy, Laura Ya No Vive Aqui, Yo No Se, Calla, and many more hits recorded under an indie label provided a solid foundation during the 80s. But when the 90s heyday rolled in, it was labels, such as CBS/Sony and Capitol/EMI that would catapult them toward regional, national, and international success. Songs, such as Laura, No Te Olvidare, and Ven Devorame Otra Vez would turn into record album sales which then turned into year-round touring, which included luxury coaches and semis to carry light shows and professional PA systems. From nightclubs to ballrooms in rural towns to convention centers in big cities and even arenas around the US and Mexico, they attracted thousands to their shows. They’d even lend their talents to political fundraisers throughout South Texas, as both Joe and Jimmy experienced the challenges that most working class Chicano families experienced and wanted to change for the better by supporting good candidates.

Leading the musical charge for Mazz was Jimmy Gonzalez, who took on producing, arranging, booking, and management duties along with his edgy and innovative guitar playing and harmonies. Though the Tejano bubble of the 90s was short-lived while Tejano radio stations closed and an internationalized music industry gave less respect to the Tejano genre, Mazz continued to work, though, by 1998, Jimmy and Joe parted ways, each with their own projects and goals. But, yes, Mazz continued.

With a Texas-based label, Freddie Records, Gonzalez and Mazz would record 18 albums over the course of 19 years. Gonzalez’s latest, Porque Todavia Te Quiero, was just released in April and enjoying the usual airplay earned by Mazz’s reputation for producing good music. Many Tejano Music Awards and Latin Grammys later, Gonzalez was definitely enjoying his success and what he offered the industry. He also enjoyed working alongside his sons who were an integral part of his organization.

My friends at TejanoNation have more to add about Jimmy Gonzalez.

Thanks to my sisters, I was introduced to Mazz in 1979 (on 8-track tapes) and my first live show was a concert thrown by the CCHS Senior Class in 1981 at our football stadium. Yeah, I was a kid at the time. Since that time, I attended many shows and I was even at the live recording of Una Noche Juntos:  Live at San Antonio’s Rosedale Park in 1992, along with 8,000 of my closest (like sardines) friends, during my college days. My mom and her comadre would joke that one was Joe’s girlfriend and the other was Jimmy’s, they loved their music that much. So, one can imagine that many memories were flowing throughout the day and I wasn’t the only one going through this. So many of Jimmy’s fellow musicians and singers, along with DJs and promoters, posted throughout the day of their experiences with Jimmy–at concerts, at recording studios, and everything in between. The Tejano music industry, though competitive at times, is a very tight-knit group. It’s really a family and it has lovingly come together to celebrate Jimmy’s life.

DosCentavos sends condolences to the family of Jimmy Gonzalez and the Mazz organization, as well as Freddie Records.

Follow TejanoNation for the latest.

 

Poll: There Is No Trump Party

A political consultant FB friend dropped this polling info from Gallup. Where did presidents stand with their own political party at Day 500 of their presidency, is basically what is asked. Some are surprised at Trump’s high GOP approval rating and others are seething that Democratic presidents’ approval is lower. My response is a scholarly, “Duh!”

Lately, I’ve been frustrated with Democratic activists. It seems they are spending more time trying to save the Republican Party than working on winning in 2018. They’ll defend Republican “moderates” as if they’re not apologists for the hate the GOP espouses. As if the Republican Party is somehow different than it was in years past. The only difference is their leader–a leader who embraces his racism through hateful rhetoric that his supporters eat up and spread. The apologists go merrily along. This political party is still one whose candidates have thrived on the worse the Republican Party offers as far as supporters go. Especially during a primary election where it’s a game of “Whose sheet is whiter?” when their TV ads go up. And they thrive on bigoted policies, such a racial profiling (SB4), and get energized with anti-immigrant executive orders from the Orange One. And the “moderates” don’t seem to mind unless they’re quitting, like Jeff Flake.

So, when I see Democrats sharing an article where old leader Boehner describes the current situation as a Trump party, rather than the Republican Party, well, I call bullshit. Especially on Democrats who waste so much time on this. Stop trying to save the Republicans! They’re the same old bigots they’ve always been. They’re the same party who use data from right-wing, white supremacist groups like Numbers USA to promote a hateful agenda. And they’re so committed to their rhetoric that they can easily poach weak independents who aren’t presented a strong alternative by the opposing party.

Anyway, we’ve got elections to win, locally, statewide, and in other states. If Dems aren’t energizing the base we’ve got with, I don’t know, progressive policies, defense of whole populations, and sincere gratitude for the existence of said populations, then we’re not getting anywhere. This poll shows us that poaching Republicans may not be such a politically savvy notion. It’s hard to think of this as just a data point.

 

Privilege Sure Has Its Privileges

The Austin Police, the Feds, the White House, and the media have done an amazing job of describing the murdering serial bomber from Pflugerville.

He’s “challenged,” says the Austin police chief. Others say he was “troubled.” Friends say he was “reserved” and “nice.” Law enforcement and media parade him around in pleasant photos of some of his better days while stating that he didn’t say “terrorism” in his confession video–or anything about terrorism or a motive. And since he mentioned personal problems, he must have been “challenged.” Certainly, official people don’t think of him as a terrorist.

And these are the same people who push for mandatory minimums, defend cops who kill unarmed black and brown people, and railroad through the courts any low-grade offender who can’t afford a lawyer or bail–mostly black and brown.

But this murderer did plan these attacks. Some might say meticulously. He did build these bombs part by part–from Home Depot! And he even stupidly ended up trying to send them by FedEx, leaving a trail. And he knew he killed two people and injured several more. Hell, he kept going after he killed the first individual and attempted to kill many more. He wasn’t even sorry for it. And he did what most terrorists do well–kill themselves.

This wasn’t some crazed 2-minute episode with an AR-15. I’m of the belief that when you’re at a point of mass murdering during an extended time period, you pretty much know what you’re doing. Some do it for politics, others do it for sheer enjoyment. And if you’re the government or a white supremacist group, well, you can have it both ways. Both get so challenged sometimes, right?

One thing is for sure. The descriptors of the dead murderer, the murderer’s family and all their “god” talk, and some might say the practices of law enforcement, all have exhibited and promoted the privilege afforded to some in our society. Meanwhile, the victims (including their families) are victimized all over again because this murderous man (he’s definitely not a kid) has already been labeled by official people as challenged, troubled, etc.

I won’t get bogged down in definitions of terrorism or his background and upbringing. We already know he did it. But the manner in which official people with badges take up the PR job for people who, in their eyes, don’t fit the profile of a terrorist is quite the art form. And the media is no help in failing to challenge law enforcement.

Privilege sure has its…privileges.