Category Archives: Para La Gente

Librotraficantes Launches Trip at Casa Ramirez

An energetic crowd turned out to support Tony Diaz and his Librotraficante crew this morning at Casa Ramirez Folk Art Gallery, a popular Heights storefront for culture and literature. The caravan takes with them a payload of contraband books to Arizona while creating various Underground Libraries throughout the Southwest.

The historic weeklong journey includes stops in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas; Mesilla and Albuquerque, N.M., and culminates in Tucson, Ariz., touting a celebration of Quantum Demographics, or multifaceted cultural unity, by highlighting Mexican American, African American and Native American literary works along the route. On St. Patrick’s Day, Saturday, March 17, we’ll host a huge literary celebration of El Batallion San Patricio at 6 p.m., celebrating Irish and Mexican collaboration of the past.

The entire schedule is available online at

Librotraficante is part of a response to recent laws in Arizona created to abolish Mexican American Studies programs. In some schools, books have literally been taken out of classrooms and stored away, thus banning them. Librotraficante has collected books and will traffic them into Arizona to ensure books are available to students.

“Arizona made me a Librotraficante,” said organizer and author, Tony Diaz, who has also brought together various banned authors who have donated to this cause.

Participating in Banned Book Bashes and Cultural Caucuses along the route are Sandra Cisneros, who kicked off our fundraising efforts by making a generous donation; Guggenheim Fellow Dagoberto Gilb, whose work recently appeared in the New Yorker and Harperssimultaneously; and best selling author Luis Alberto Urrea, with multiple titles found on the banned book list, was the first to enthusiastically support the project through Twitter.  Other literary giants participating in the Librotraficante Caravan include Rudolfo Anaya, whose seminal novel BLESS ME ULTIMA is banned; Denise Chavez, FACE OF AN ANGEL, who is hosting the caravan in Mesilla, N.M., and who organizes the Annual Border Book Festival; Lalo Alcaraz, creator of the syndicated comic LA CUCARACHA and who coined the phrase “Self Deport”; and Rene Alegria, founder of Boxing Badger Media and, who attended one of the impacted high schools in Tucson.

“Politicians in Arizona have become experts in making humans illegal. We did not do enough to stop that, thus that anti-immigrant legislation spread to other states such as Alabama and Georgia. Now, these same legislators want to make thoughts illegal. If we allow this to happen, these laws, too, will spread. Other branches of ethnic studies will be prohibited, and other states will follow suit,” said Tony Diaz, author and director of Nuestra Palabra, organizer of the Librotraficante Caravan.

For more information and donate to the cause, please visit


Send-Off for LibroTraficantes on Monday!

The Campaign Against Wage Theft in Houston

There’s a story in today’s Chron about several workers walking out of Ruggles in Montrose for what is described as lack of pay. Specifically, it is about workers who work for tips getting shortchanged. The owner of Ruggles says he’s working on it, but is also embroiled in other legal issues. Still, legal issues aren’t much of an excuse to not pay some folks.

Again, this is just one example of an ongoing crisis called wage theft. Here in Houston, there is now a movement asking Mayor Annise Parker and Houston City Council to take a stand against the practice:

It is time to take action now considering that: Wage theft disproportionately impacts those who already live in poverty ; Workers who aren’t paid are forced to fall back on public safety nets and government assistance in order to keep their families economically afloat; Wage theft is unfair competition since employers paying prevailing wages cannot successfully compete with businesses that reduce their costs by committing wage theft. We believe that you can take action to level the playing field for responsible businesses and bring economic justice to thousands of hard-working Houstonians. We urge you to work together to make Houston a Zero Tolerance city for wage theft.

While the Mayor and other politicians present a positive picture for corporations and small business, I think it would be a good idea to combine that with a pro-worker environment by taking a stand against wage theft.

The campaign is a coalition of organizations which represents the interests of ordinary folks–people who work for a living, provide for their families, and keep the economy running. Unfortunately, it is this very group of people that is easily targeted for wage theft by those companies who are more interested in profit than a good product.

The Coalition is asking the Mayor and City Council to draft a Wage Theft Ordinance that “expedites the process to resolve wage theft claims, includes a viable enforcement mechanism, and aims to prevent future wage theft cases.” And through a strong process, a message is sent that Houston will not tolerate such practices.

If you are part of an organization that represents community interests, become a part of the coalition. If you’re a concerned member of the community, sign the petition and even give a little.

EEOC Sues Bass Pro Over Discrimination

This just came into the inbox and I thought I’d put it out there. During a time in which people are in need of jobs, companies should learn from this lawsuit. You can lose more than just a good, hard-working pool of applicants if you discriminate.

According to the EEOC’s suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (Civil Action No. 4:11-CV-3425), Bass Pro has been discriminating in its hiring since at least November 2005.  The EEOC’s suit alleges that qualified African-Americans and Hispanics were routinely denied retail positions such as cashier, sales associate, team leader, supervisor, manager and other positions at many Bass Pro stores nationwide.

The lawsuit alleges that managers at Bass Pro stores in the Houston area, in Louisiana, and elsewhere made overtly racially derogatory remarks acknowledging the discriminatory practices, including that hiring black candidates did not fit the corporate profile.

“Excluding qualified individuals from employment because of their race or ethnicity or in retaliation for exercising protected rights are fundamental violations of the laws we enforce,” said Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair of the EEOC.  “The EEOC will diligently protect the rights of job applicants to ensure that hiring decisions are based on abilities, not on race or ethnicity.”

The lawsuit also claims that Bass Pro unlawfully destroyed or failed to keep records and documents related to employment applications and internal discrimination complaints.  Bass Pro punished employees who opposed the company’s unlawful practices, in some instances firing them or forcing them to resign.

Here’s the full copy of the press release. So much for buying some hunting gear there. Cabela’s, here I come.

Spread the Word: Back to School Fest on Saturday

This event information comes to you from…

It’s time for Back to School!

Come out and join us as we celebrate the new school year with a

Back to School Fest

Saturday, August 6, 2011

8:00am – 12:00pm


George R. Brown Convention Center


*School Supplies * HISD Educational Zone * City and Community Resources*

* Uniforms * Back-to-School Immunizations * Health Screenings * Kid Fun Zone * Entertainment *

* Prizes and Fun for the Family *

Available while supplies last

Shot Record required for Immunizations

Proof of HISD Enrollment : Student ID or Last Report Card

Pancho Claus – Christmas In July

This has to be one of the most entertaining events for a great cause this summer. I urge you all to attend. Click image to enlarge for more information. And go to to make your purchase your tickets.

Over 200 Attend Screening of Longoria Affair at LSC-Kingwood

Thanks to folks like Professor Raul Reyes and the Student Activities office at Lone Star College-Kingwood, programs like Monday night’s screening of The Longoria Affair are bring offered to suburban communities in North Harris county. And Monday night attracted over 230 students, faculty, and members of the community.

The Longoria Affair, a documentary produced by John Valadez, takes us back to the days of WWII when a Three Rivers, TX soldier by the name of Felix Longoria died in the field of battle. When his widow was making funeral arrangements and requested a wake at the funeral chapel, the funeral home owner did not allow the wake because his white patrons would not like that.

It was this flash point in South Texas history that began a civil rights battle in which South Texas civil rights activist and physician Dr. Hector P. Garcia took on. As the film navigates through the history, which includes the involvement of then-Senator Lyndon Johnson who worked to have Longoria buried at Arlington National Cemetery, one learns but one piece of Mexican American civil rights history, but one that provided what one faculty member at LSC-Kingwood called, “a Rosa Parks moment.”

One part of the film that I found sobering was how Dr. Garcia formed a relationship with LBJ that took almost 20 years to foment some sort of action. From JFK ignoring the fact that the Viva Kennedy clubs were a major reason for winning Texas to constantly sitting on civil rights legislation, it was not until LBJ became President that the Voting Rights Act provided for a real voice for Mexican Americans, as well as Johnson’s  appointment of Latinos to positions of importance in his administration.

If there are some folks locally (Latinos included) who want to learn about the road Texas Latinos have taken to where we are now, then this is a must-see. One may view it on PBS right now. Or you can go to the website and try to work out your own screening including the producer himself, John Valadez.

I met Valadez and one can honestly see that as an independent filmmaker, he has put in some laborious hours of love into this film. The fact that it made it to PBS and he is just finishing up a 40+ city tour in less than two months shows he has achieved much, thus far. And those of us in the activist community must continue to help him spread those pesky truths that our elected officials and a few educators attempt to avoid, and thus repeat the past.

Dia de los Muertos Poetry Reading in the Heights

The GOPs “Don’t Vote, Mexican!” Campaign

Yes, the Republican Party has a new campaign–stopping Latinos from voting in 2010.  Putting up a few brown faces, the GOP is now blaming Democrats for the lack of comprehensive immigration reform, according to Carlos Guerra at the new site, NewsTaco.

Robert Desposada, a Republican political consultant and Univisión pundit has produced an ad that specifically advises Latinos to stay away from the polls. His reasoning seems to be that a Democratic president and congressional majority did nothing about immigration reform, as if the previous Republican president and congressional majority did something during their reign.

I agree with Carlos. The problem is, the GOP had everything to do with blocking comprehensive immigration reform, and most recently, the DREAM Act. And every Republican campaign has blamed Latinos and immigrants–YOU!

Could/Should Democrats have done more? Obviously, since this tactic proves that the Democrats allowed this tactic to come about because it did not force the issue from Day 1 of the Obama Administration. Still, given the vitriol that is flying about, we know it is the Republicans who are spouting the hate, not the Democrats. You can force the Democrats to get the job done, but Republicans hate Latinos.

Frankly, not voting is not an option. People died for your right to vote–not just in battlefields, but on the streets protesting and demanding the right to vote. And the GOP is willing to do whatever it takes to violate your rights, especially in Houston.

There’s only one way to fight back–VOTE. And Vote Democratic!

Birnberg: Republicans’ Shameful Hostility Toward Latinos

Harris County Democratic Chief Gerry Birnberg called out the Republican Party on its recent treatment of Latinos in a message to party faithful. As much as pundits and “non-profit” leaders attempt to sell the Latino electorate as some sort of independent voice, we have a clear choice:  A party that is at least working on pro-worker, pro-people, and pro-family policies, or a party that is unafraid to show their hate toward whole groups of people.  Birnberg explains it well, but if ever there is an opportunity to vote a complete STRAIGHT DEMOCRATIC ticket, it is now.

Recently every single Republican in the United States Senate voted against allowing that body to even consider the so-called DREAM Act. The Dream Act would have allowed children who were brought to this country by undocumented parents at least five years ago and before the age of 15 and who obtained a high school diploma or G.E.D. a chance to earn U. S. citizenship by completing at least two years of college or two years of military service and fulfilling other demands and requirements. It would be a good deal all the way around – for young men and women who were brought to this country by their parents, without any choice, but who have worked hard, succeeded well, done what has been asked of them, and want to serve their country – the United States – in its military; for the military, which wants the service these you people want to provide; and for the country, which gets good, educated, motivated, contributing citizens.

But Republicans – every single one of them – oppose that.

Once again Republicans showed their deep disdain for Latino families. So what else is new?

Do you realize that if it were up to Republicans, no one would even be allowed to speak Spanish in this country?

Think I’m kidding? Or exaggerating? Well, read the official Platform of the Texas Republican Party passed at their state convention just last July. This is a direct quote from that document: “We have room for but one language here and that is the English language.” Their platform goes on to demand, “One nation, one flag, one language.” And in case you didn’t get the point, the platform also calls for “adoption of American English as the official language of Texas.”

The second most important (for Republicans) item on their education agenda (according to their Platform) is elimination of bilingual education after first grade (for children attending pre-K, which, by the way, they oppose), after the second grade for kids who go to kindergarten, and after the third year of school for everybody.

No bilingual education and no speaking Spanish (or any other language other than “American English,” whatever that means – I guess English speakers from England or Canada wouldn’t be welcome here either, because they probably use “English English” or Canadian English”). How much more hostile to Latino families can you get?

And that after deciding that Cesar Chavez shouldn’t be in the schoolbooks our students study.

Republicans also want to kick children younger than 26 off their parents’ health insurance policies and allow insurance companies to refuse to cover kids who have preexisting conditions. They want to eliminate all programs that deal with early childhood development. The Republican platform also calls for repeal of hate crimes laws and unashamedly advocates use of racial profiling.

And I haven’t even mentioned the “I” word yet – immigration, where Republicans want to increase deportations dramatically, amend the Constitution to eliminate making anyone born in this country a citizen of the United States, allow hospitals to refuse to provide care to undocumented individuals, and do away with “Adjustment of Status” in immigration cases (among other things), while vehemently opposing “any” path to citizenship for folks who entered the country without documentation or overstayed their visas.

How can anyone doubt the hostility Republicans continually and unabashedly display for Latino families? Or vote for people who associate themselves with those beliefs and “values”?

It’s simply beyond me.

Gerry Birnberg
Chair, Harris County Democratic Party
September 23, 2010