The Trojan Horse: How it Destroys Chicana/Studies

I rarely overreact to the university administration’s movidas chuecas (shady deals); I expect them. But the UNAM (The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) deal shook. Like a Trojan Horse virus it is insidious. It gives the illusion of being innocuous; you don’t know it is even there: Who could against student and faculty exchanges? However, the closer I examined the project, the more I realized that it represented the greatest threat to Chicana/o Studies since its inception.

A lot is at stake. Not only is the Cal State University Northridge California State University Northridge the largest Chicana/o Studies, if not the largest ethnic studies program, in the nation, but has been under the illusion that it was an equal partner and that it had a voice in the university governance.

However, the administration’s movida chueca threatens this voice and our ability to defend the access and interests of Latino students and the immigrant community. In the eighties and nineties, we were a haven for undocumented students and have been at the forefront of defending progressive issues.

The Trojan Horse threatens this illusion. Because the virus is so subtle, I will briefly address the threats and negative impact that these structural changes threaten the future of Chicana/o Studies. It goes to the core of the department’s ability to play an advocacy role for the access of Latino students, faculty and workers.

The oppositions to the UNAM movida go beyond una falta de respeto. The administration blatantly circumvented rules, procedures and traditions of the academy that protect areas of study and department autonomy, and we do not yet know what has been damaged.

Our anti-virus has always been academic protocols and precedents that we used to protect the department’s interests. University governance is the way universities are operated; it refers to the internal structure, organization and management of the institution. In principle, departments cannot encroach on each other’s area of study. More or less the administration has respected these boundaries.

In the case of the UNAM movida President Dianne Harrison and Dean of Social and Behavioral Science Stella Z. Theodoulou planted their virus and encroached on departmental space. Without consulting CHS the campus entered into a deal with UNAM to establish a Mexican American and Latin American Studies research program.

Why? Theodoulou openly told professors in her college that Chicana/o Studies did not have a monopoly on Mexico. Why weren’t we told about the negotiations then? Because they knew would challenge the modida chueca.
Yet when CHS labeled the UNAM deal a Trojan Horse, the administration was offended. The opposition was based on the fact that it lessens the power CHS to protect the interests of the department, the community and our students.

Like in the case of a computer virus, this Trojan Horse has been difficult to remove because the administration dribbles out bits and pieces of information on the deal. At first it assured us that it would not involve classes. It then qualified this statement saying that they may teach English courses, and UNAM could offer online classes through the Tseng College–a fully privatized (CSUN) college that students can attend by paying $1000 a unit.

Apparently CSUN plans to bring in upper middle class Mexican students to take English classes so they can later enroll at prestigious institutions such as UCLA and USC. Further, the students would stay at the student dorms, which were built and subsidized by CSUN students who pay for the costs of the dorms but cannot afford them.

The administration has refused to talk about the class differences between potential Mexican students and U.S. Latinos. It refuses to address the attitude of UNAM representatives who frankly treated CHS faculty like pochos.

My central concern is how the UNAM movida and other administration schemes to privatize the university will further impact student access and the affordability of education. The administration has responded to the lack of state aid by raising student tuition and fees. Tuition in the past forty years has risen from $50 a semester to $3200. The administration to stay in rhythm with neoliberalism and has converted the university into a for profit operation. CSUN has lost thousands of blue collar and support staff — from janitors to food service workers. Like in the fields Mexicans are herded in by labor contractors. The contradiction is that while the bottom has suffered the number of administrators has proliferated.

For the past 45 years, CHS has been able to defend departmental autonomy. It employs over 70 professors and instructors. Latino student enrollment has climbed from under 100 to about 12,000.

The only area CHS has failed to change is faculty diversity. It has repeatedly demanded the data on how many Latino faculty members work at CSUN. Departmental web pages suggest that 75/80 percent of departments do not have a single Mexican American professor. Psychology has 50 faculty members, fifty percent of its majors are Latino, yet it only has one Mexican American tenured professor. Similarly, the racism in programs such as urban studies have driven qualified Mexican American professors out of its ranks.

I am not trying to be sarcastic when I say that the UNAM deal perpetuates white rule. It focuses on the study of Latin America; however, as it is presently constituted the great majority of the CSUN professors are white. None specialize on Mexico. As was the case 45 years ago, brown students wanting to know about Mexico will have to learn about it through white professors. At one time, it was called this colonialism.

For the masses of people higher education is the key to social mobility. Lack of access is the reason why students in Mexico are taking to the streets. Like Latino students here, they know that without a degree they will be stuck in jobs earning the minimum wage if they can get them.

History informs us that Mexican Americans made great strides in the 1970s because of increased access to universities. It led to the widening of a Mexican American middle class – something that was made possible by the Chicana/o Movement.

These gains are now threatened by the privatization that freezes opportunity. The struggle to just maintain the status quo will be difficult because university presidents such as Harrison rarely say “I am sorry.” Instead they invent their own narrative and expect others to play by it.

Adding to the dilemma is the disconnect between Chicana/o Studies and politicos who have to be educated. Few candidates raise higher education as a priority issue. Even less talk about structural changes.

In order to remove the Trojan Horse, Chicana/o Studies must secure its exclusive jurisdictions over the areas of Mexico and Mexicans in the United States. Its rights to self-determination and control over its area of study are now being attacked and that is unacceptable.

One anti-virus that could protect us from the virus attacks is a required impact report before agreements such as the UNAM-CSUN movida are finalized. Additional oversight over grants and new construction on campus must be demanded. They affect students since students pay for the administration’s movidas. Environmental impact studies are required on every new land development, and the same standard should be applied to programs negatively affecting students.

What is startling is that the traditional departments do not see the threat of the Trojan Horse. Perhaps it is because the horse is white.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o Studies, CSUN, Education, History, Mexico, Political Science, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Which Side Are You on?: History Absolves the Losers?

People keep asking me whether I feel bad about Eric Garcetti’s trip to Mexico City and his apparent support of CSUN President Dianne Harrison in signing the UNAM accord. I am disappointed with him, but I am more upset with some of our alumni who should know better. Without knowing the facts they have become uncritical cheerleaders. In the case of CSUN President Dianne Harrison I expected as much.

I have been around for a long time, and I have no illusions about winning. The capitalist system favors the wealthy. In order for Garcetti and other elected officials to stay in office they have to smile for the cameras.  They have bought into the neoliberal model, and rationalize that they are privatizing to shore up the public function.

We tried to stop Harrison, but failed partially because of her duplicity and partly because of the silence of the lambs. We lost the battle, but the truth is that this was neither the first time nor the last time we will lose.

It is similar to our efforts to stop NAFTA in the 1991 when  I wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times:

Congress has now put negotiations for free trade with Mexico on the “fast track,” giving the Bush Administration a tremendous edge that could result in a railroaded treaty. Now, anyone who raises objections will be accused of Mexico-bashing. There are, however, very real concerns that a treaty unchecked by vigorous debate could do serious damage to the interests of working-class Latinos on both sides of the border.

Latino organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza, were more interested in getting Latino businesses export privileges than learning about how Latino workers would be negatively affected.

At California State University Northridge, I have experienced similar attitudes from Latino and white faculty in response to the UNAM deal; they care more about their own privileges than the students or campus workers. As with NAFTA, they have become cheerleaders for neo-liberalism.

I also wrote,

President Carlos Salinas de Gotari is hyping free trade as the key to Mexico’s future. It solidifies his program of privatization, deregulation and attraction of foreign investment. Says Salinas, who has bought the rhetoric of globalization, “What we want is to find ourselves in rhythm with the world.”

The UNAM deal is similarly veiled with platitudes. But the bottom line is that as with NAFTA, the deal benefits PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) and its anointed leader Enrique Peña Nieto in furthering the privatization of Mexico.

The disagreements surrounding NAFTA were nasty. I had heated disagreements with my friends Raul Hinojosa and Southwest Voter Registration President Antonio González who had temporarily lost their senses. But the defense of the UNAM deal is much cruder and it makes no attempt to show how students will benefit, or if it will impact student tuition costs and labor relations. On the way it unnecessarily disrespected the Chicana/o studies department and the Mexican community.

After the fact we have received verbal assurances from the provost that in the future CSUN will act responsibly – I guess just like American corporations in Latin America.  I don’t want to sound cynical but I have heard that story before.

I am not an alarmist; however, in 1991, I wrote:

I am concerned about Mexican sovereignty. Take a confidential memo from U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte to Asst. Secretary of State Bernard Aronson, complaining that, although Mexico did 60% to 70% of its trade with the United States, its vote in international forums is often antagonistic to U.S. interests. The memo suggests that the free-trade agreement would bring Mexico around.

History has proven me correct, and Mexico has become extremely compliant to the United States and the International Monetary Fund. Yet the U.S. Latinos have learned nothing from the failed policies of Bush I and Bill Clinton – and they just don’t give a damn.

Meanwhile, the CSUN administration is more blatant than the Bush or Clinton administrations. To guarantee passage of NAFTA, Bush/Clinton strategist fast tracked the treaty. They cut debate and hearings, muting the voice of labor. As bad as this was, CSUN one upped Bush/Clinton and silenced all debate; there was no consultation until well after the accord was signed.

I went on to predict:  “Free trade will accelerate plant closures, increasing an already swollen secondary labor market at a time when spending on education and social services are being drastically cut.” 

It has come to pass. NAFTA killed the Mexican small farmer, and uprooted millions of Mexican workers and their families, while creating eleven billionaires and more corruption.

Economists estimate that NAFTA displaced 682,900 U.S. jobs. In pre-NAFTA, the U.S. had 16.8 million workers employed in manufacturing. By 2007, that number fell to just 13.9 million. Those good-paying manufacturing jobs were replaced by low-paying service sector jobs with little or no benefits. NAFTA accelerated undocumented migration that increased to 12 million from 3.9 million in 1993.

Mexico lost at least 1.3 million farm jobs. Mexican farmers are forced to use more American fertilizers and other chemicals at a cost of $36 billion per year in pollution. Rural farmers have been forced to encroach on marginal lands, resulting in deforestation of 630,000 hectares annually. The prize! Mexico is the leading importer of American corn; Mexican farmers cannot compete with subsidized U.S. farmers; and large corporations such as Monsanto have invaded Mexico.

Further, NAFTA accelerated the privatization of Mexican higher education. A consequence is that today students are protesting the lack of space in Mexican universities. This makes the UNAM deal even more insidious. UNAM and CSUN are entering into private deals to bring in more foreign students that will displace local applicants.  Why?

On January 1, 1994, the day that NAFTA went into effect the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), revolted in Chiapas. The EZLN cited the neo-liberal policies of PRI that threatened their autonomy and way of life. The EZLN was right.  Today PRI is scrapping the 1917 Mexican Constitution.

Mexicans care about education; they won this human right in a bloody Revolution. Yet there are hundreds of thousands of high school graduates who are annually turned away from Mexican public universities. Twenty years after NAFTA, fewer Mexican students are attending college from working-class barrios and Mexican rural villages.

Mexico ranks first among the 34 OECD countries in high school dropouts and last in the percentage of students seeking bachelor’s degrees. Only 12 percent of Mexicans in their 20s are studying. This is despite the fact that access to a free higher education is constitutionally guaranteed.

The similarities between Mexico and the U.S. are striking. Today fewer U.S. Latino students are being admitted from hard core barrios; access is restricted to those who can afford it. The safety net is being shredded and Pell and other forms of aid are threatened species.

As with Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Peña Nieto’s accords with the U.S. and foreign corporations are giving away Mexico’s sovereignty, and the UNAM/CSUN accord is much different from the vantage point of history and Mexican students than it is from Harrison’s privileged perch.

Ironically, some of my former students and Latino elected officials refuse to see the links between NAFTA, the UNAM deal, and the privatization of American and Mexican universities. Sadly at one time some of them passionately supported the Zapatistas and wore Zapata tee shirts and more recently “Yo Soy 132”.

I admit that it appears as if we have lost this battle. But as with NAFTA, my belief is that history will absolve the losers and condemn the winners. Unfortunately, the real losers are the poor – they have been sold out. Meanwhile, Which Side Are You on?

– Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, CSUN, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, Mexico, Political Science, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

The Silencing of the Lambs: The Hispanic Generation

“Silence of the Lambs” is from the Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel that was made into a movie three years later starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. It is about the imprisoned cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter.

I suspect the title was first used by shepherds referring to the lambs being herded to slaughter. It is commonly used today to refer to masses of people going quietly to their deaths. Like lambs they react with a deafening silence. Similarly it refers to deer or a rabbit caught in a car’s headlights — so frightened or surprised that it cannot move or think.

I apply it to today’s Hispanics and progressives. My point of comparison is the 1960s when people expressed moral outrage toward injustice, which emotion seems to have been spent. Like lambs, our silence is today deafening.

We appear to be paralyzed by illusions. Witness how most sit dazed as tuition is raised beyond the average student’s means. How baby boomer professors are immobilized by their privilege –lost in memories of the past.

Meanwhile, higher education the main vehicle for social mobility is being privatized and sequestered. Half of Mexican Americans have no hope of going to college while reforms such as ethnic studies programs meet the fate of the lambs.

The privatization of Cal State Northridge moves like a slow cancer. Most faculty and students are immobilized and think that conditions will improve. They delude themselves that the headlights will dim or go away.

The CSUN-UNAM (The National Autonomous University of Mexico) deal is a case in point. Despite the protests of Chicana/o Studies and students most remain like the lambs—silently waiting for the slaughter.

During the sixties many would have been moved by the murmurs of the lambs. Today they listen to CSUN President Dianne Harrison announce that she loves the rich Mexican and Latin American heritage and CSUN’s reputation for ethnic diversity. The lambs ignore that she has signed a deal with UNAM not once talking to Chicana/o studies.

Harrison knows the Mexican Americans’ objections but does not give a damn. She doesn’t respect us. The silencing of the lambs accelerates the privatization of the state universities who ignore that tuition has increased to $3200 a semester; and dorms like flophouses rent beds at $800 and charge over $3000 for a meal ticket.

Most non-skilled jobs have been outsourced, and jobs throughout the university have been lost to labor contractors. We have a two tier system where you can buy a graduate degree from Tseng College for $1000 a unit.

We grin as Harrison says that she is doing it so students can learn more about Mexico. We forget  she has done nothing to support Chicana/o studies — the only department at CSUN that has a critical number of courses on Mexico. If she loves Mexicans so much, why does she not consult talk to members of that department?

Harrison has repeatedly lied. Her provost has told us that it was not about Mexicans, it is about Latin America. Apparently the 35 million people of Mexican descent in this country don’t count.

This is not only a slight to Mexican Americans. Working class students are also part of the flock. Harrison has ignored claims that her deal will affect all students and parents. As I have mentioned, the campus has lost thousands of jobs to outsourcing, tuition has zoomed from $50 per semester to $3200 and is still rising.

At a meeting, I raised the question of the rising tuition and how students pay for the cost of instruction and construction of stadiums and other facilities.  Harrison replied that students could afford it, they had Pell grants.

I care deeply about studying about Mexico, we all care, which is why we founded Chicana/o studies and have unsuccessfully pressured CSUN to offer courses on Mexico. We care about the privatization of Mexico and what the War on Drugs is dong to it.

I am more disappointed at the silence of Latino politicos past and present. Tony Villaraigosa was once a friend, but once he became mayor he acted as if he did not know us, frequently visiting the campus without once visiting the Chicana/o students. He knew students we were at odds with the former president over rising tuition and ROTC, but he could not pass up the photo-ops.

Harrison knows some people will be lulled by the glitter of the UNAM agreement. The truth be told, many Hispanics are satisfied with someone whispering “amigo.” She is relying on the public being silenced by her perfidy. Second rate institutions and their leaders have no pride, and the lambs are trapped by te headlights.

I am doing exploratory research on the topic of Chicana/o politicians and their role in the silencing of the lambs. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the more Latinos and Latino elected officials we have, the more deafening is their silence on issues such as police brutality and access to higher education.

In 1946 we did not have one elected Latino official. However, the lambs murmured when in July, a sheriff’s deputy in Monterey Park, California, shot Eugene Montenegro, 13, in the back. Allegedly the 5’3” Montenegro was seen coming out of a window and did not stop when the deputy ordered him to. Eugene was an honor student at St. Alphonse parochial school.

In September 1947 Bruno Cano, a member of the United Furniture Workers of America Local 576, was brutally beaten by the police in East Los Angeles. Cano attempted to stop police from assaulting three Mexican youths at a tavern. Officer William Keyes had earlier shot two Mexicans in the back. In March 1948, Keyes and his partner E. R. Sánchez shot down 17-year-old Agustin Salcido. When the inquest exonerated him, the Los Angeles CIO Council and community organizations held a “people’s trial” attended by nearly 600 Mexicans.

Between 1947 and 1956, the L.A. Community Service Organization conducted 35 investigations of police misconduct.

On January 27, 1960, L.A. Police Chief William Parker before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission testified: “Some of these people [Mexicans] were here before we were but some are not far removed from the wild tribes of the district of the inner mountains of Mexico.” Police Commissioner R. J. Carreón Jr. supported Parker. Councilman Edward R. Roybal demanded an apology and/or Parker’s resignation. The press and the city council accused Roybal of demagoguery.

Throughout the 1960s the Mexican community protested injustice. In September 1966, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in cooperation with the CSO, opened a center in East Los Angeles. From September 1966 to July 1968, the ACLU investigated 205 police abuse cases — 152 were filed by Chicanas/os.

Ruben Salazar was assassinated on August 29, 1970 along with three other protestors. It was one of the last times that we heard the rustling of the flock.

By the 2000 Latinos had grown to 1,719,073, 46.5 percent of L.A., up from 10 percent in 1960. We had un chingo of Latino elected officials. But when the Rampart Division police scandal broke, and it was discovered that police had assassinated and framed Latino gang members — Latino elected officials and National Latino organizations were silent.

So do numbers empower the lambs or contribute to their silencing? If elected officials truly had the interest of the people in mind, you would expect them to ask, why the universities are being privatized?  Why tuition is at the danger level? And why only 5 to 6 percent of the professors are Mexican American?  Isn’t it logical to ask, will their children be able to afford a higher education?

– Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, CSUN, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Access: Coming Home (February 18, 2014)

I would like to thank the Cal State LA history department especially Enrique Ochoa for inviting me. I am always reluctant to accept awards because I am alive and grateful to still be teaching at the age 81. Why should a person be honored for doing what s/he is supposed to do? It is like getting a senior citizen’s discount. The truth be told, LA State laid the foundation for my tumultuous career.

Forty-five years ago I put together the curriculum for a Chicana/o studies department at San Fernando Valley State College (I was not the founder of the department, the students were). Today we offer 172 sections in CHS per semester employing nearly 70 full time and part time instructors. We are larger than the history or political science departments that often resent our presence because they think we stole FTES from them.

The period that I attended LA State College was a special time, and without this experience I doubt whether I would be here in this capacity. It was a very trying time in my life; I had just returned from the army and was worried about how I would continue my education and support a family. Loyola University and USC were no longer options, too expensive.  UCLA was too far, an hour away on the surface streets, and UCLA’s hours were not worker friendly. LA State was a gift that I would never have considered when I graduated from Loyola High – but as it turned out it was perfect. Five dollars a semester and near my employment.

It was not much of a campus at the time. When I enrolled, my classes were in bungalows at Los Angeles City College. Within a semester we moved to the muddy hills just north of where I was born in Boyle Heights. I did not expect much – what I wanted was a degree, a teacher’s credential and to get the hell out of there. However, I stayed in school because of the history department that at the time had professors who were research university wannabes but as a group was the best teachers I had encountered either at Loyola or USC. To be frank I did not care much about my other classes; it was history that kept me from missing school.  I did not care if I earned a “C” or even a “D” in English or some other discipline; I just wanted to listen to the stories of the characters teaching history.

They were a collection of people who by themselves were not distinguished but as a group were outstanding. They never made us feel that we were inferior because we were not attending USC or UCLA. To name a few I remember Emmett Greenwalt; he taught the History of the West. He looked like and sounded like Pa Kettle and spoke in that slow drawl. He was not politically correct and today would be out of character. He once spent three classes describing the Gunfight at the OK Corral. The lecture ended abruptly when one of the students asked him if it was true that in Alaska someone had slapped Wyatt Earp and that he had backed down. Greewalt backed into the chalk board, in semi-shock, and  he kept repeating “Not Wyatt, not Wyatt.”

There were other professors: Guerrant who I would go to class to look at his nasal hairs that like a mustache he would twirl. Professor Tipple would commute three times a week from Santa Barbara in an MG, taught European history, and was rumored to have married Santa Barbara money. He would arrive five minutes late and leave class ten minutes before the hour. Fantastic lecturer.  Lindsey was boring but you knew he cared and could talk to him. And finally Louis deArmand who nurtured my love for Latin American history with his stories about Pisco Sours.

Marvin G. Pursinger was not formally a member of the LA State history department but he supervised my student teaching at San Fernando Valley State that was at the time an annex of LA State.  Pursinger was the great imposter. He said that he had a PhD from Oregon in Russian History. He also doubled in Education where he supervised teacher cadets. Fortunately he took me in when no other professor would because I would arrive 10 minutes late for the methods class. I would drive to his home on Saturdays and help him clean his pool. We would talk about the TV series “Rawhide” and how the weather unsettled the cows who were sensitive to climate changes. I always remember his telling me that when there was a stampede to get to the front of it or I would be trampled. Unfortunately it was discovered that he did not have the union card and was dismissed, leading to the first large scale student protests of the time.

But it was not only the professors at LA State. While the student body was overwhelmingly white, it was different. Many students were veterans, unlike the students at Loyola and USC. It was more like the army – a bunch of misfits. I would arrive at 7 a.m. for an 8 a.m. class after working all night as a janitor. I would snooze for 15 minutes and go to the make shift cafeteria and buy a giant cup a coffee and a hot cinnamon roll. Breakfast and lunch. There I met people like Ray. He was a Chicano who would tell me about his life and how he had always felt dirty. He was, according to him, a bastard child, and at the age of 10 began working to help his single mother and his siblings. He worked for an old man picking up trash starting at 3 in the morning. The good part of the job was that he accumulated a library stocked with discarded books that he rescued. One of these books was the Communist Manifesto which he read and reread, concluding that Marx was talking about him. He was ashamed to go to school because he did have time to bathe and, according to him, smelled.

The years that I attended LA State were different. They were special. Not enough Mexicans, but we did have access. Today students are being denied what I got and it is not uncommon for them to work two jobs paying $3200 a semester in tuition. Classes are difficult to get into, and the characters are just not there. Instead of welcoming change many professors blame the victim. “Students are not what they used to be.” Racist code words. Today there is less faculty governance than there was then so faculty turns on students although they pay 75-80 percent of the costs of instruction. Gone are the characters. However, the wisdom of Marvin G. Pursinger has stayed with me over the years; it has kept me alert to the changes; it has kept me from getting trampled — I always try to get in front of the stampede.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Autobiography, Aztlan, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, CSULA, CSUN, Education, History, Identity, Resistance | Leave a comment

The University A Bastion of White Supremacy

Chicana/o and ethnic studies department at California State University at Los Angeles is under siege. Led by the administrations and faculty bodies at these institutions, the goal is to cut access of the ethnic studies programs to general education. GE is important because it is the monopoly board that allocates the Boardwalks and other academe properties to programs. It tells students what knowledge the university believes is necessary and rewards students for taking favored courses.

At Cal State LA, there are not many freebies for Chicana/o studies on the board other than to Go to Jail. The academe like the greater society has a hierarchy composed of a pope (the president), a provost (cardinal), deans (bishops) and priests (faculty). They control the university, and like society they are white. Very few people of color are admitted to these elite circles.

At Cal State Northridge, Latino enrollment approaches 40 percent. Yet there is only one high ranking Latino administrator. Seventy-five to 80 percent of the academic departments on campus do not have a single professor of Mexican American extraction, although over 50 percent of the university’s service area is Latino.

The university is supposed to search for the Truth. It is supposed to prepare students on how to interact in society, and impart knowledge that is important for an educated person to have. The most elementary truism of epistemology is that how we get knowledge determines our outcome.

That is why when Justice Sonia Sotomayor was appointed to the Supreme Court, she said  “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”  Sotomayor acknowledges that it is important to bridge the epistemological chasm separating her and her almost all white colleagues. How we acquire knowledge forms our attitudes and conditions our decisions.

This year Cal State LA entered the process of recertifying its General Education class. Chicana/o Studies, Black Studies & Asian American Studies made a modest proposal to an near all white Academic Senate. They asked to sit at the lunch counter and have one course included as part of the General Education (GE) package in the fall 2016.

This modest proposal was met with racist, irrational and derisive responses: the CSULA faculty used coded language such as “reason” “truth” and “objectivity.” The members said that “Ethnic Studies” was not inclusive of “others” as if white studies were. They charged that white people would be kept out of this ethnic studies requirement.

It must be kept in mind that the demand was for one ethnic studies course. In contrasts to CSU Northridge CHS offers circa 170 sections per semester and students have the option of taking up to 12 classes in the GE package.

Most CSULA professors don’t really care about the needs of the surrounding community. Most ignore the East side’s rich history of diversity. Professors sit on top of Mount Olympus caring little about the Eastside’s diverse racial history.

The truth be told, Chicana/o and other ethnic studies programs have been marginalized from the beginning, starting with the removal of Dr. Ralph Guzmán (1968), and throughout the 1970s when CHS was led by a succession of non-tenured graduate students. In 1979 by a vote of 8 to 7 the CSU Trustees appointed James Rosser president of CSULA over Julian Nava. The CSULA faculty openly conspired against Nava fearing that a Mexican president would lessen faculty hegemony.

Many white professors openly played off blacks and browns, and fanned the political ambitions of Trustee Claudia Hampton. For thirty-four years Rosser pursued a policy of dividing and conquering, giving Dean Donald Dewey cover to pander to the white leadership’s obsession of keeping ethnic studies weak. The administration sunk to new lows and encouraged warfare between Chicana/o fulltime and part time faculty who fought over appointments. This is a policy that led to open warfare.

Chicana/o and ethnic studies has not recovered from this chicanery. I am not absolving minority faculty members for allowing this colonial to persist.  However, the basic difference between the LA and Northridge campuses is that we were not as much of a threat in the early stages. Also, CSUN student and faculty leadership was unwilling to take it — not only went to the brink of the cliff — but were prepared to go over the edge if necessary.

Even so, we are not free of white racism.  Because of a fall in the enrollment in the College of Humanities, Dean, Beth Say, an academic of limited intellectual capacity has decided to cut CHS  faculty allocations back, basing positions on majors rather than enrollment. This is the epitome of racism or stupidity or both.  Indirectly she is attacking our presence in General Education by minimizing our important role as a service department.

Say has no understanding of what a service department is. Like traditional departments service departments explore the corpus of knowledge of neglected fields such as Chicana/o studies while supplementing the needs of other departments which have minimal or no courses, for instance, on Latinos. Successful programs do this through GE and Liberal studies.

The reality is that over 80 percent of the departments and majors do not have a single Mexican American or Latino course. Most white students have not had a professor of color. In effect Beth Say wants to limit the students’ knowledge of the Latino population.  Her failure to understand the importance of cultural competency and teacher prep is proof that Say is not an educator. The hypocrisy is that just a couple of years ago Say was trying to save her home department by converting it into a service department.

These controversies were played out in the context of former president Blenda Wilson receiving having a plaza named after her. I complained to the provost that this was the same Blenda who had held up my merit pay because I did not support her against the Chicano student organization. This was the same Wilson made a deal with David Horowitz to pay for the ZBT’s attorney fees for refusing to stop singing the Lupe Song that talked about screwing a dead 13 year old Mexican girl.

Harry shot back “I guess you see this in historical context; they [the selection committee] see it as contemporary symbolism.” This offended my sense of intellectual honesty and I answered that it was a matter of principle: “Do we name a building after David Duke because he gives the university a million dollars?”  Adding, “My point is that people do this over and over, and then are sanitized because she was the president of a tier 5 university — something is wrong. Delmar Oviatt has a library named after him. He was part of the Mormon Mafia and a leader of the ultra-conservative cabal. Because of him eight black students did hard time… Do we cherry pick our values?”

Postscript: CSUN President Dianne Harrison and Dean Stella Theodoulou are returning to Mexico City to finalize a deal with UNAM. Apparently Harrison has little respect for Latino students or the Latino community and does not care about what is happening her campus. Hierarchies never do, they are infallible.  That is why we say, “never trust a Mexican smoking a cigar or a gringo/a speaking Spanish.”                       

We received $750 in donations for scholarships last year. Anyone wishing to donate please go to If you would like a free Student/Teacher Guide to Chicana/o Studies go to and download it free of charge. Fight racism on your campus and community.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, CSULA, CSUN, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, Indigenous, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Lowriting Book Signing at Mi Vida Boutique in Highland Park

Lowriting Book Signing at Mi Vida Boutique in Highland Park

Lowriting Book Signing at Mi Vida Boutique in Highland Park

Posted in Chicana/o, Chicana/o Literature, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, Illustration, Lowrider, Palabra, Photography, Poetry, Prose, Resistance, Short Story | Leave a comment

Obamacare: Greed and Health Care Gap

In the John Grisham’s  1995 novel The Rainmaker, Rudy Baylor, a graduate from Memphis State Law School, is about to take the bar. While waiting for the bar results, he becomes an ambulance chaser. One of his clients is a poor family, Dot and Buddy Black. They have an insurance claim that could be worth millions.  Their son, Donny Ray, is terminally ill with leukemia that a bone marrow transplant could cure — his identical twin brother is a perfect match.  Great Benefit Life Insurance routinely denies claims, and is backed by cadre of ruthless lawyers headed by Leo F. Drummond. The motive is profit; Great Benefit plays the odds.

In a David and Goliath story, Rudy beats Drummond and gets a judgment of $50.2 million. However, Great Benefit goes bankrupt. Rudy becomes disillusioned with the law and quits the legal profession. The Rainmaker was later made into a movie starring Matt Damon and Claire Danes.

The tendency among Americans is to read or watch stories such as Great Benefit Life Insurance and conclude that they are aberrations. The Rainmaker after all is fiction – it is a book, a movie, and Americans to read about injustice and procrastinate.

Euphemisms and satires have always been a popular method to attack power and corruption. It disguises the views of the author. For example, William Shakespeare often used it in his plays to attack the powerful. During the 17th and 18th centuries Luis de Góngora, a Spanish Baroque lyric poet, employed a style called culteranismo. Las Carpas Mexicanas, traveling troupes, used farces to mock the government and corruption. Luis Váldez took it to a new height in the founding of the Teatro Campesino.

However, American society is so full double speak that it is difficult to separate the tale from reality. Americans laugh at the absurdities or as in the case of The Rainmaker, bite their nails and later admit to similar experiences with insurance companies or the medical establishment, but when pressed they say you can’t do anything about it.

They even resent comparisons of the American medical care to Wall Street, an industry based onGordon Gekko’s principle that “Greed is good”. Liberals get insulted when you say that Obamacare has done very little to correct this inequity. Like Wall Street insurance corporations are too big to regulate.

The quality of health care depends on how much money a patient has. Witness the absurdity that 26 million residents of this country will not be covered by Obamacare. But still many liberals insist on comparing it to Medicare.

I have been accused of playing the race card for saying that my opposition is based on the fact that a large number of Latinos will be excluded. The truth be told, Latinos are the least likely to be covered by health insurance in every state of the union. Some 11 million undocumented Latino immigrants in the United States will go without health coverage even after the implementation of Obamacare.

The insidious part is that it divides the Latino community much the same as green card have, creating two Latino communities. In California where undocumented people can get a form of Obamacare, immigrants are weary of applying. They don’t trust the government. Support for the act is among those with green cards or citizenship.

Obamacare favors the large insurance and pharmaceutical providers at the expense of doctors. It is logical that if we want to save money, cut the middle man. Instead the government pays $8,233 per year per recipient, more than two-and-a-half times as much France, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The logic is idiotic.  Americans who say the cost may be unfortunate but the U.S. has “the best health care in the world.” But do we?  I learned that I had diabetes in Cuba where I went into a semi-coma. I was treated free of charge and received excellent care. I have received near free medical care in Mexico ($5), Spain (no charge) and Germany ($2). But if citizens of those countries come here, they pay through their noses. In the case of the undocumented, most pay taxes that are never redeemed.

The principle beneficiaries are Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) that did not exist before the 1970s. The result is that they have lessened the control medical doctors and put medicine in the hands of hospitals and the insurance industry – following the American principle that “Greed is Good!”

Like Emilio Barzini, a head of the Five Families in The Godfather (1972) argued at a meeting of thecapos “If Don Corleone had all the judges, and the politicians in New York, then he must share them, or let us others use them. He must let us draw the water from the well. Certainly he can present a bill for such services; after all… we are not Communists.”

Just as the capos blamed African-Americans, Americans blame the poor and the immigrants for the rising cost of health care. Instead of expanding Medicare, and creating a single-payer health care system it has cut the capos of the health industry in.

“We are not Communists” so in 2010 the U.S. spent $8,233 on health per person. Norway, the Netherlands and Switzerland spent at least $3,000 less per person. The average member members of the other 33 developed OECD countries spent $3,268 per person for health care. The U.S. lagged behind other nations in hospital beds per 1,000 patients; it had less practicing physicians 2.4 physicians per 1,000 people compared to 3.1 for the other OECD member states.

But “We are not Communists” so we share with the other capos and spend nearly $900 per person annually on administrative costs. France spends $300 per person.

Who profits? Corporations don’t pay for medical research, the taxpayers do. Corporations profit from the grants and once the product is developed sell it at a profit. You would think that they owed the taxpayer. No that would be communist.

If you have ever been to an emergency room, the first thing they ask you is if you have insurance. Just as in the case of education and government itself, the medical industry has been privatized and more and more hospitals are for-profit, and as one critic put it “the opportunities for patient manipulation and exploitation are endless” as the physician-patient relationship is eroded.

Does Obamacare address these problems? Who will be affected? Well, we are not communists so the rules are twisted. Like urine it will not trickle down to the base. In California you can getMedicaid and receive a subsidy, but that does not insure you the same quality as a person with money. Your choices diminish considerably when enter the Medicaid ghetto.

Lastly, have you ever filed a grievance against even a high end insurance group such as Kaiser Permanente? You will encounter the same bureaucracy as Donny Black did with Great Benefit Life Insurance. All grievance procedures are handled internally, the reviewers are staff members. From personal experience I know that it takes a hundred hours of phone calls, grievances and complaints all handled internally without you seeing a physician. You will eventually appeal to the state which is capo friendly. Can you imagine what a person with limited English will go through, that is if they get coverage?

Mexican and Poor People Need Not Apply! My refrain is answered by, “Rudy, the glass is half full!” Is it?

A Gift

Every time I come out with a new edition of Occupied America, I feel guilty. The cost of books has gone through the roof. For this edition I wanted to say thank you so I am posting online a 194 page Student/Teacher Manual—or, as I call it, the “Mini-book”—that is over 194 pages. It is designed to accompany Occupied America, it is also meant to guide the students through Chicana/o history as well as periodically refresh their knowledge of the field. The manual also makes Occupied America and the field of Chicana/o history more online friendly for teachers and students. It makes heavy use of the internet. If the hyperlink is down, please email me to It is available free of charge at   It is also available on the link for Center for the Study of the Peoples of the Americas (CESPA; . It is not much but perhaps it will facilitate more Chicana/o History courses and you’re learning.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Education, Gender Studies, Health, History, Identity, Immigration, Political Science, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul


lowriting_COVER by Emilio R. Medina of muyCreative

Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul by Art Mezais now available through AmazonBarnes & Noble and other online book retailers.  It may or may not show up in your local bookstore but that’s where you can help!

I am encouraging everyone (that means you!) to request this book at your local bookstore, library and school. If you know a school, library or bookstore that would like to carry Lowriting, please let them know that they can order it through Ingram distribution or throughBroken Sword Publications.  Every little bit helps!

One of the major differences between major publishers and indies is the advertising and marketing budget.  Your word of mouth helps! I cannot stress that enough. ¡Ban This! went far, let’s push Lowritingeven further!

In the mean time, I am still waiting on my copies and will sell direct as soon as I have them.  I will update as soon as I get them in stock. Quantities will be limited!!

lowriting_BACK-COVER by Emilio R. Medina of muyCreative

Here is the full list of Lowriting contributors:

Angel Diaz, Art Meza, Lalo Alcaraz, Luis J. Rodriguez, Danny De La Paz, Andrea J. Serrano, Anna C. Martinez, Allen Thayer, Enrique Arroyo, Jason Hoyt, Nancy Aidé González, Nikkeya West, Luis Alberto Urrea, Tara Evonne Trudell, Jim Marquez, Gina Ruiz, Daniel Villarreal, Gloria Moran, Noelle Reyes, Raúl Sánchez, Manuel Gonzalez, Benjamin Quiñones Reyes, Viva Flores, Xicano X, Robert Flores, Ricky Luv, Roberto ‘Dr. Cintli’ Rodriguez, Lizz Huerta, Angelo Sandoval, Richard Vargas, Santino J. Rivera, Alvaro Rodriguez, Lawrence Gandara, Steven Alvarez, Gustavo Arellano, Josh Divine, Emilio R. Medina, Mayra ‘Hellabreezy’ Ramirez

If that list doesn’t knock your socks off I don’t know what else to say.

Don’t delay and order your copy right now! Support indie publishing and let’s get Lowriting on the literary map!

- S|J|R

Posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Literature, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Education, History, Identity, Illustration, Lowrider, Palabra, Poetry, Prose, Resistance, Short Story | Leave a comment

Ivan Illich’s Toe

Other than my stint in the army, the first time I had ever been outside of Los Angeles for more than a week was in the spring of 1971 when I visited Cuernavaca, Mexico for several months.  Bored as hell I gravitated to el Centro Intercultural de Documentación (CIDOC) – a think tank founded by that Ivan in 1961. Illich was a guru who warned against the First World’s the imposition of its cultural values on Latin America, founding CIDOC to train priests and nuns to think of themselves as guests and not the saviors of the poor.

Like almost every intellectual hippie of the time, I was anxious to listen to Illich, a radical priest who was in hot water with the Vatican for his criticism of Western culture. Born in Vienna to a Croatian Catholic father and a Sephardic mother, Illich spoke at least eight languages and had a doctorate.

Part of his mystique was that he had worked as parish priest in a poor Puerto Rican New York neighborhood. At 30, he was appointed as the vice rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. Controversy followed him, and he resigned from the priesthood. He had come to the attention of the Vatican through Opus Dei.

Illich’s publication of Deschooling Society (1971), a critical discourse of public education, moved him to the eye of the storm. According to Illich, universal education through schooling was not feasible, and he said de-institutionalizing education was starting point in de-institutionalizing society.

Schools, according to Illich, confused process and substance. Students were “schooled” to confuse teaching with learning, and success with a diploma. According to Illich, they schooled the students’ imagination to accept service in place of value. His solution was to get rid of the myth that bureaucracies guided by scientific knowledge were efficient and benevolent.

Illich called for collaborative learning. Admittedly, Illich’s hyperbole created a storm with approval of libertarians of the right and left who interpreted him they the way they wanted to.  The value of Illich was not his theory; he was not a scientist but a thinker, a philosopher. He contributed to awakening the intellectuals’ cultural consciousness to the insidious effects of institutional dependency.

Illich’s dragon was the monopoly of the schools of education that in turn blinded poor people and gave them the illusion that schooling was the answer to their problems. The objective of schooling thus became the acquisition of material goods in order to increase their consumption.

According to Illich, schools served a function similar to that which the established church once played in claiming a monopoly as the repository of society’s myths. Illich distinguished between skill acquisition and humane education. Only by deschooling society would we be able to eliminate hierarchies and the mass production of education.

As an educator I was not enamored with the idea of eliminating schools. I had spent most of the sixties fighting for better access to education for minorities, and for me it was a question of who controlled the schools. Illich’s vision at the time seemed too utopian.

About this time, Illich sauntered into the CIDOC’s courtyard. He was wearing black cotton pants, a white guayabera, and sandals. But the only thing I saw at the time was his big toe; it was enormous. The crowd of a couple of hundred people went wild. “Ibán!” “ee-bán!” They shouted, “Ibán, what is knowledge?”

It all began to come together with his next book Tools for Conviviality (1973), which continued the theme of specialized knowledge and technocratic elites in an industrial society. Illich boldly called for the reconquest of practical knowledge. “The result of much economic development is very often not human flourishing but ‘modernized poverty,’ dependency, and an out-of-control system in which the humans become worn-down mechanical parts.”

Illich argued that we needed convivial tools; people had become the servants of machines. The book put Illich at the forefront of critical pedagogy along with Paulo Freire.

Illich attacked the do-gooders and their paternalism. In this book, Illich uses phrases such as “The altar of science,” explaining “Many shamans and herb doctors familiar with local diseases and remedies and trusted by their clients had always had equal or better results.”

According to Illich, “medicine has gone on to define what constitutes disease and its treatment.” Convivial Tools were a means for individuals and communities to take back control over technologies, which had been monopolized by professional elites.

Convivial was defined as the degree of a person’s control over a tool. People controlled a telephone but not television. Building homes was at first a convivial tool, but with the rise elite of housing contractors and strict building codes a person lost the option of building his own house in his spare time.

Ultimately, Illich was concerned with people’s freedom to be creative; he insisted that creative activity required the use of tools, which can be controlled by the individual using them. Her mastery and control of the tools  “Tools foster[ed] conviviality to the extent to which they can be easily used, by anybody, as often or as seldom as desired, for the accomplishment of a purpose chosen by the user.”

Over the years I have related more to Tools for Conviviality than Illich’s other works, although my admiration for him has grown. I can think of many theoreticians but very few pure thinkers.

This week I begin another semester. I am often asked how my present students differ from those of forty-four years ago. That’s where Tools for Conviviality comes in. My classes are overwhelmingly first generation university students, three quarters are Latinos, and almost all are working class. Every semester I ask them how many can use a sewing machine, keeping in mind the pedal powered Singer that we had when I was growing up.

When I first asked the question over three-quarters raised their hands. Last semester the number fell to two and that included me. Only two knew how to sew buttons on their shirts or blouses, and none had ever darned a sock. These were all routine when I was growing up.

On some Sundays I go out and watch immigrants hit the garage sales, picking up perfectly good clothes often almost new. A button is missing, or a zipper is jamming. They take the piece of clothing, put a button on it or a zipper, wash, starch and iron it, and give it to relatives back home.

When I was a child we would go downtown and window shop. My aunt would sketch the latest fashions, and if she liked a dress she would buy a pattern and a piece of cloth and make it. Today my students buy a blouse for $35 that they could make for $2.00.

My rumination about Illich’s toe was triggered by a conversation that one of my colleagues had with a part time instructor. Apparently the latter was miffed about our fight with the administration over the privatization of the university. She responded that why make a big deal about it, we could do nothing about it.

The part-time instructor thought of herself as educated, after all she had read Michel Foucault in grad school. But I guess she cannot appreciate or hear the chants of “ee-bán!” or admire his huge toe, and perhaps that is why she does not know the definition of the word struggle.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

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El Baruyo: Context in Understanding History Unforgettable Characters

Context is everything in understanding what happened in the past.

Historical context refers to the moods, attitudes, and conditions that existed in a certain time. Context is the ‘setting’ for an event that occurs, and it will have an impact on the relevance of the event. Context is an important factor to consider when describing something in history.”

It is difficult to understand the sixties without the proper context even if you lived through them. Much of what is being written today overly relies on oral histories or war stories as they are called.

While I take pride in having lived through the sixties, I realize that living through the decade does not guarantee that you know what happened. The closest that I can get is to develop a feeling for the decade. Even newspapers and documentaries are often as opinionated as oral interviews.

The sixties were an awakening for me. They were an escape from the fifties that were stifled by the army, marrying young and hustling a degree, as well as working 40 to 60 hours a week and carrying 16/18 units. The sixties’ baruyo (the commotion, the disorder and the chaos) seduced me. I was the last one leaving a meeting because I thought I was going to miss something.

Los Angeles in 1950 was the whitest major American city (78 percent white). The 1960 Census counted 3,464,999 Spanish-surnamed persons (an undercount) in the Southwest.  Texas and California housed 82 percent of them. During the 1960s, Los Angeles County’s Mexican population doubled from 576,716 to 1,228,593—an increase of 113 percent. The white population decreased from 4,877,150 to 4,777,909—a 2 percent drop.

During the sixties, Los Angeles became a Mexican City, not just because it had more Mexicans outside of Mexico City and Guadalajara, but because it was a media center.

At the center of the baruyo was the Los Angeles Times that ruled Los Angeles. By 1959, the Times’ ruling elite realizing that LA was changing hired Ruben Salazaran El Paso reporter, as a foreign correspondent and columnist.

It is safe to say that the baruyo seduced Salazar who became more engaged. Being a columnist for the Times put Salazar in the eye of the storm. At the time the rap was that if you wanted to read the funnies (comics) or the sports page buy the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner; if you wanted serious news read the Times.

Salazar had an immediate impact on Mexican Americans. Most the Chicana/o activists anticipated Salazar’s articles, and we would discuss them.  Mexicans in print then were as rare as people of color in the reader Dick and Jane.

When I read about the sixties, I am dismayed that no one has really put Salazar’s articles into a historical context. His 1963 and 1964 articles are keys to understanding Mexican American identity.

By 1963 Salazar hit his stride, reviewing the disparate labels describing Mexican Americans: la raza, pocho, Mexican-American, cholo, American born-Mexican, Spanish-American, and Latin American. Salazar covered the rare Mexican American conferences and the school dropout problem.

Salazar opened an article with a photo of “Hoyo Mara” (Maravilla or Marvelous hole). He explored problems that plagued Mexican Americans that many thought they had left behind, interviewing gang members and exposing the tuberculosis epidemic that was a serious threat in Mexican American barrio.

By then the journalist began identifying with his readers. In March 1963 he wrote an article titled “Mexican-Americans Have Culture Protected by 1848 U.S. Treaty.” Salazar wrote critically about assimilation and bilingualism. Admittedly most of us knew little about our history or its problems.

One of the unforgettable characters Salazar relied on for information was Marcos de Leon, a Los Angeles City School Spanish teacher. According to de Leon, the Mexican American was the marginal man; he had a hamburger in one hand and a taco in the other. He was obsessed with cultural blending, and he prophesized that one day the Anglo would be culturally deprived if he did not correct the error of his ways and become bilingual.

De Leon never used the word “if” in predicting the inevitability of bilingual-biculturalism. For him it was a hemispheric cultural blending. He made war on the schools’ attempt to assimilate or absorb Mexican children. To many of us, Marcos was the reincarnation St. Paul the apostle.

Thus far, the link between Marcos and Salazar has not been explored. However, Salazar’s articles are replete with interviews and references to Marcos.

Another of the many disciples for educational reform was Uvaldo Palomares,  one of the best presenters I have ever met. We did not have a lot in common but worked together. At one point he wanted me to team up with him on the condition that I tone down my presentations because white teachers felt threatened.

Uvaldo’s pitch was the “Magic Circle”; as one follower put it “Consider the circle.  That shape has been a universal symbol for God.  It suggests the infinite, never-ending inclusion of all.” The Magic Circle facilitated student participation. The objective was for students to develop self-awareness, positive self-concepts and behavior.

Uvaldo was a guru. A consultant to various school districts, he founded the Human Development Training Institute.

Another pied piper was Leonard Olguin who wrote Shuck loves chirley: A non-technical teaching aid for teachers of bilingual children. The title says it all. The manual was about cultural awareness, cultural difference, intonation, responses, and phonology, as well as student and teacher attitudes, all in under 100 pages.

An education professor at California State University, Long Beach, I rarely see him cited, but he was a huge influence on the development of my course on “cultural conflict.”

Leonard developed the Olguin Diagnostic Test of Auditory Perception (ODTAP). It had six scales each intended to represent six phonological categories of juncture, consonants, vowels, digraphs, airflow, and intonation. In other words “Shuck loves Chirley.”

The baruyo was a time of hope. We honestly believed that we could educate Mexican children and bring about equality. The importance of Ruben Salazar was that he gave us a common purpose and a unified vision. De Leon was an apostle spreading the gospel that there was nothing wrong with us. We were not disadvantaged; it was society that was culturally deprived. Both Uvaldo and Leonard experimented with pedagogy. Within the Magic Circle Uvaldo incorporated history and culture while Leonard examined specific language blocks to English language acquisition by native speakers of Spanish.

The baruyo seduced us; we believed that educational reform was doable. Today the baruyo has quieted and the innovation of those times has been disregarded. Experimentation has become a bad word, and dropping out of school has become like high unemployment – it is part of the cost of doing business doing business.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Chicana/o, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, Political Science, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Back to Bachimba: Why History Makes Us Important

History has been important to me for as long as I can remember. As a child I loved hearing my relatives tell stories about the past. However, it was not until I was older that I realized that the stories meant something; they were key to understanding the present; and why we are what we are. As my awareness increased, I became serious about the past — so serious that it often got me into trouble.

Shortly after Occupied America was published in 1972, I attended a historians’ conference. In a session I was asked why I wrote with so much emotion. I replied that I was not a prostitute; I did not make love without emotion. How can a person write about lynching and injustices and not get emotional?  For me it was like a personal relationship, which should mean something.

The past is about sacrifices that people who were at one time you. They made it possible for you to have a better life. In a very real sense their sacrifices were not just for individuals but for society.

Slowly I was drawn into the world of stories. One of the stories I remember best was Enrique “Hank” López’s “Back to Bachimba” – published in the Winter of 1967 in Horizon, appearing three years later in a longer version in American Heritage Magazine. López was troubled that his father was the only private in Pancho Villa’s army when everyone else’s’ relatives were non-commission officers or officers.

No doubt my chagrin was accentuated by the fact that Pancho Villa’s exploits were a constant topic of conversation in our household. My entire childhood seems to be shadowed by his presence. At our dinner table, almost every night, we would listen to endlessly repeated accounts of this battle, that stratagem, or some great act of Robin Hood kindness by el centauro del norte….

Hank continued in the 1970 version:

Aside from being the only private in Pancho Villa’s army, my father had another distinction—he was probably the only man ever to be dragged into an army at the end of a harness. But, as any fair-minded person will concede, he was not trying to avoid military service; he was simply resisting an outrageous expropriation of his personal property.”

In reading about the Mexican Revolution, I began to appreciate that not everyone supported the Revolution. When I was doing research in Camargo, Chihuahua, I was surprised to find that many families there still harbored resentment toward Villa for executing several dozen women in 1916 when they challenged his shooting their loved ones. Elena Poniatowska memorialized the executions in her book Las Soldaderas (Cinco Puntos Press 2006).

The lesson I learned from the Camargo experience was to never romanticize Pancho Villa, the Mexican Revolution or even the proletariat.

A movie that taught me about history was director Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard (1963). It was about the time I was preparing to apply to my doctorate program; it was also the year that I first read C Wright Mills’s The Power Elite (1956). In combination with my community work with the Latin American Civic Association, these works formed my historical consciousness.

The Leopard is the story of the decaying Sicilian aristocracy, but it is much more, it is the story of Sicily.

In the book Guiseppe Di Lampedusa wrote that when the Prince looked out at what he considered “the real Sicily” and he saw the landscape around Donnafugata, its “aridly undulating to the horizon in hillock after hillock, comfortless and irrational, with no lines that the mind could grasp, conceived apparently in a delirious moment of creation; a sea suddenly petrified at the instant when a change of wind had flung the waves into a frenzy.”

The description reminded me of parts of northern Mexico where the harshness of the land has formed the norteños’ character. This sketch helped me to understand the differences between the behavior of Villa’s troops when they entered Mexico City and contrast it to that of Zapata’s troops.

My approach to history was forged not only by friends like Hank López, the movies, and activism, but it was also formed by the classroom – both as a teacher and student. In 1964, I enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Southern California. It was a matter of convenience; I had to work full time as well as continue to be involved in LACA and the Mexican American Political Association where the discussions fleshed out what I was learning about Chicana/o history.

Little things made a difference.  I did not want to go into the field of Latin American Studies because I had by this time taught U.S. History for over eight years and had acquired a Master of Arts in history. But Manuel Servín who was starting the USC Latin American Studies program convinced me that I was better off working under him than under some of the people in the history department. Manuel thought my politics would get me into trouble. Servín was the first Chicano professor that I had ever met and I felt comfortable with him.

Well, Manuel only had limited influence so I was not able to get full credit for my U.S. History courses. It forced me to take an additional 40 units.

In retrospect, it contributed greatly to my development as a historian.  Reading Spanish and Brazilian literature gave me more depth. I had always been a fan of Charles Dickens who had given me a greater understanding the transformation that were taking place in the 19th century. The same was true  of Spanish and Latin American literary works, ranging from Lazarillo de Tormes toLos de Abajo to the great José Martí.

Much as Dickens influenced me I was awed by Carolina Maria de Jesus’ Quarto de Despejo (Child of the Dark) (1960).  It was about her life in a favela (slum) in São Paulo, Brazil. It impressed me much more than Oscar Lewis’ The Children of Sánchez which was also impressive work; the difference was the presence of the Brazilian author.

The point that I am trying to make is that history is ubiquitous; it is not learned in the library but it involves living. I do not minimize the influence of education. I learned a great deal from listening toRamón Sender and Arturo Serrano Plaja – who were both involved in the Spanish Civil War, although they belonged to different anti-Franco factions and refused to speak to each other.

Life teaches you that the good are not always right and the bad are not all wrong. Institutions such as the Catholic Church also have opposite poles. By and large it has not been the champion of the poor; however, there are instances where its contribution to justice has been vital.

The process of distinguishing good and bad is learned from life experiences. I am reaching the point where I am planning my last hurrah. My theme song is la golondrina,  which seems appropriate. History like life is generational (evolutionary).

This is not to say that theory should be disregarded or minimized.  But, if you don’t take care, the meta language can seduce and obscure rather than add to  your understanding. By far, living is the greatest history teacher. Like Auntie Mame said “Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!, so “Live! Live!” History is made by the living not the dead.


Every time I come out with a new edition of Occupied America, I feel guilty. The cost of books has gone through the roof. For the edition I wanted to say thank you so I am posting online a 194 page Student/Teacher Manual—or, as I call it, the “Mini-book”—is over 194 pages. It is designed to accompanyOccupied America, it also meant to guide the student through Chicana/o history as well as periodically to refresh their knowledge of the field. The manual also makes Occupied America and the field of Chicana/o history more online friendly for teachers and students. It makes heavy use of the internet. If the hyperlink is down, please email me to It is available free of charge at  – —click on to the link “Occupied America Manual”. It is also available on the link for Center for the Study of the Peoples of the Americas (CESPA: It is not much but perhaps it will facilitate more Chicana/o History courses

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Autobiography, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Education, History, Identity, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Art Meza at Vapegoat on Saturday, January 11, 2014 (7-11pm)

Art Meza at Vapegoat

Art Meza at Vapegoat

Posted in Art, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Photography | Leave a comment

The Word Neo is not New: The Age of the Billionaires

Every day I realize more how little we have progressed since the nineteenth century in terms of ideas. Our technological advances dwarf our ability to conceptualize new paradigms. It is as if we are trapped in a twilight zone.

Take, for example, the word liberal. During the 18th Century Enlightenment, it meant the secularization of society, i.e., the privatization of Church properties. Today a liberal is someone who is for social justice and a mixed economy – she is for voting rights, abortion rights for women, and government programs.

However, currently the term neo-liberal has crept into our vernacular. This usage is based more on its 18th and 19th Century definitions than that of the sixties.  Today the neo-liberal is for economic liberalization, free trade and open markets, i.e., privatization, marketization and deregulation.

In the 19th Century, the positivists advocated a laissez-faire policy toward capitalism, believing that the brightest should be left alone to take society to a higher stage of development.

In Mexico, the cientificos (social Darwinists) claimed to be neo-prophets of progress. During the regime of Porfirio Díaz (1876-1910), he and his gaggle of cientificos (not to be confused with scientists) privatized the country. It took the Revolution of 1910 to dislodge them.

Since 1940 the Mexican Revolution has been sold out. The neo-cientificos are back; this time as heirs of the Mexican Revolution. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is a tragic figure. He is so innocuous that he is disarming, and it is difficult to perceive him as a neo-cientifico.

And as much as Mexican leaders want to distance themselves from the United States, they end up being Mini-Me. They revere the 19th century Robber Barons, the ruthless American capitalists who became wealthy by raping the country; they were free-market capitalists such as John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and J.P. Morgan who used government as their personal piggy bank.

The Robber Barons became so unpopular that they turned to philanthropy to clean up their act. Following the lead of Andrew Carnegie, they put portion of their fortune in trusts. These foundations shielded their fortunes from taxation and over time they evolved.

Today the neo-Robber Barons use these foundations to push conservative agendas, get tax write-offs, and get their Robber Barons’ names on buildings.

The rich have always had the money to buy history. After the Great Depression of the 1930s, Allan Nevins and U.S. business historians revised history and re-christened the Robber Baron “Industrial Statesman.”  Research is not neutral and scholars follow the money.

The neo-liberal model was adopted by the Russians in the 1980s; Perestroika restructured the Soviet economy. The popular thinking was that the Soviet Union economy was counterproductive, and that the path to democracy was giving away the nation’s resources, scuttling what was arguably the world’s second-largest economy. Democracy meant the making billionaires. So the state gave away its petroleum, public utilities, communication industry, and by 2004, Forbes listed 36 Russian billionaires.

During the same decade, the Mexican economy collapsed. The World Bank’s solution was austerity and privatization policies. Again, the standard was the number of billionaires. Mexico where fifty percent of the people lived in poverty by 2012 had 11 billionaires.

A leading beneficiary of privatization was Carlos Slim Helú, who became the richest man in the world — a Mexican business magnate, investor, and philanthropist.  As of December 2013 his corporate holdings amounted to US $71.2 billion. Slim made his money in communications, technology, retailing, and finance.

Slim was a war profiteer of sorts; he bought on the cheap. Unlike the Mexican middle-class his money was sequestered anywhere but in Mexican banks. In concert with France’s Télécom and Southwestern Bell Corporation he bought a landline telephone company Telmex in the 1990s from the Mexican government. By 2006, 90 percent of the telephone lines in Mexico were operated by Telmex. His subsidiary a mobile telephone company, Telcel, operated almost eighty percent of Mexico’s cellphones.

Some 50 percent of Mexicans live below the poverty line; 17 percent live in poverty. Critics charge that Slim’s monopoly prevents the growth of smaller companies, and his monopolistic practices have resulted in a shortage of paying jobs, contributing to migration to the United States.

Every day Slim is becoming more American. He bailed out the New York Times with a quarter of a billion dollar loan. Slim contributes billions to high profile foundations such as the Robert Kennedy Foundation. However, Slim does not contribute much to programs that fight poverty because they, according to hime, build dependency.

Meanwhile, back on the farm in Bel-Air, California, they are building mansions for the uber-rich. According to the L.A. Times 20 houses of 20,000 square feet are projected: “They’re all asking over $20 million and were all built by speculators to flip…Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk paid $17 million for a 20,000-square-foot Bel-Air manse, then bought the former Gene Wilder estate across the street for $6.75 million, perhaps to preserve his view.” Meanwhile, in 2011, an estimated 254,000 men, women and children experienced homelessness in Los Angeles County.

The potential profit from privatizing higher education has not gone unnoticed. In 2009, the for profit University of Phoenix generated $3.766 billion in revenues.

The neo-Robber Barons resent paying for higher education. So they have already privatized public higher ed. At California State University Northridge, students forty years ago paid $50 a semester; today they pay $3200 a semester. CSUN’s blue collar jobs are contracted out; food services are franchised; and the Tseng College, a private college, uses state facilities and state technology. Its president and vice-presidents are paid executive salaries; middle management earns the equivalent of private corporations.

The tale is not so much that the cost of education is higher, proportionately it isn’t. The price of education has skyrocketed as state and local financing for higher education has declined at a time that there are more students. The neo-liberal solution is for students to pay the cost of running their neo-Taj Mahals.

The cost of a college degree in the United States has increased “12 fold” over the past 30 years. According to Bloomberg, college tuition and fees have increased 1,120 percent since 1978. Thus, students graduate with huge loans that neo-exploiters profit from.

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan wanted to privatize everything in Los Angeles. He even proposed privatizing the historic Los Angeles Public Library. Increasingly, cities across the country are selling city landmarks to pay off their debts so as not to tax the super-rich.

Universities are following this neo-liberal model. UCLA’s Anderson School of Management proposed not taking tax dollars. It wanted to privatize and live off grants, and tuition. How convenient, the School’s brand had already been established, financed by the People of California.

Public universities such as CSUN are prime targets.  Its rolling 360 acre campus has plenty of room to build. The recently constructed $125-million Valley Performing Arts Center must have caught the eye of Riordans and the Slims of this world. The institution also buys supplies and spends in the hundreds of millions on construction. Privatization would reap another Carlos Slim or two – showing that democracy works.

The corporate rich resent paying taxes for education. They give when they can put their names on buildings.  This resentment has been building up since World War II when they made trillions off war profiteering. In contrast, they hypocritically fought the G.I. Bill on the grounds that it would build dependency.

Education was once considered a right. People died for that right. Today it is too costly for corporations that have their money off-shore and can outsource their technical jobs to the Philippines, India and Latin America. In their neo-liberal worldview, there is no commercial value in educating people for free.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Chicana/o, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, Political Science, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Civil Rights Are Non-Existent In My Barrio

A young man was shot three times in the back, in my neighborhood. There were people near him as he laid face down on the dirt street; by the time the police arrived they stood around, and a person told them to fucken do something. One of the cops looked traumatized like he hadn’t seen a person who had been shot before. The person that told them to fucken do something, started being pushed away from the young man by another cop. A woman held the young man’s hand, and tried talking to him, another cop yelled at her to get away because it was a crime scene, she ignored them, the cop checked his pulse, and yelled out, “We’ve got a pulse.” So the woman kept talking to him, and the young man laying face down, taking his last breaths turned his head toward her. Eventually one of the cops called in for an ambulance and took out a first aid kit from his patrol car, to try to assist the young man. 

My mother recounted this to me a few days ago, along with some other things. The cop with first aid kit apparently really didn’t seem to know what he was doing, because he looked unsure. The cop turned the young man’s body over, and placed something plastic in his mouth, possibly to perform cpr. Somehow when the cop raised the young man’s upper torso, he either lost his grip or lost his nerve, and the young man’s head hit the asphalt hard. A woman in the crowd yelled out, “Oh my God, he killed him!” That’s how hard the young man’s head hit the asphalt. My mother was trying to film everything on her cellphone but one of the cops came over and told her to turn it off, to which she replied she didn’t have to. The cop threatened to take her phone away and keep it as evidence. My mother protested further, but she put her phone down and in doing so didn’t save the incompetence she had been trying to record on her cell phone. The young man passed away, the father showed up, but the officers didn’t let him go near his son, people were questioned.

The day after the murder, some of the young man’s friends gathered in the spot he had passed away. They were having a vigil, paying their respects to their friend. My brother and mother were among the crowd of mostly young men, but eventually some neighbors began to come out to participate. As this was occurring, an Asian cop that patrols the area and is known to intimidate and harass many of the locals showed up, and demand they disperse. He started threatening to arrest people. My mother confronted him, letting him know they weren’t doing anything wrong, they were paying their respects for the young man who had been killed the day before. The Asian cop said, he knew what they were doing, and accused them of having a “gang gathering!” My mother said are you kidding me, and asked him to prove it. He pointed to some of the young men and the way they were dressed, typical teen attire in our barrio, the baggy clothing. The Asian cop yelled out, “I know some of you are on probation! If you don’t leave I’ll arrest you!” Admittedly some of the those young men were on probation, and started to walk away. My mother ignored him and returned to the vigil.

At which point the cop, approached my brother and accused him of being on probation, and said he was going to arrest him. My brother told him he wasn’t on probation and therefore couldn’t do that. Another cop leaned in and started telling the Asian cop to arrest him, just do it. My brother told him to run his name, so he could see for himself that he wasn’t on probation. By this time more cops showed up, my mother approximated ten in total. He ran my brother’s name, found that he had an unpaid parking ticket and said he was going to take him for that. Another guy, with a ponytail was called out from the crowd. Apparently he was the older brother of the young man who had been killed. He told the cops he was going to be honest, he was going to give them his name, but he had just gotten out of prison, and was therefore going to show up as being on probation. But he told them he was there, because the young man killed was his brother. The cops didn’t arrest him, but they didn’t care if he was there to pay his respects, they told him to go home or they’d arrest him regardless. He walked away.

Seeing my brother getting harassed by the Asian cop, my mother walked toward them. As my mother approached the Asian cop, some of the people in the crowd began recording with cellphones. Many of the cops took out their flash lights and turned the light toward the cell phone users, so that the light would make it difficult for the crowd to record. My mother asked the cop for his name and badge number, and he replied he didn’t have a card on him. Pretty convenient she told him, my mother had faced off with this fucker before, and he never had a card. She then said that’s fine, let me see your badge number. He covered his badge. My mother said she wanted all their names and badge numbers, all the other cops followed suit, and covered their badges. One cop eventually offered his commander’s card, which she took. The Asian cop told her he could arrest her. She told him, go ahead do it. He walked slowly toward her, and she stood her ground. But she realized that my brother might get angry, and snap if the cop put his hands on her, so my mother turned her back on him, and walked back to the vigil. The cop felt triumphant, and yelled at her, “That’s right! Stay on that side of the street and don’t come back here!” Little did he know my mother was trying to save my brother from a Rodney King-style beating at the hands of him and his fellow abusers of power bestowed upon them by the badge. My mother called the commander’s number, but was sent to a voicemail, of course, and left a message, asking the commander to please tell his officers to stop trying to intimidate and harass the people in our neighborhood while they were holding a vigil. She knew the commander wouldn’t return her call, nor do anything about his underlings. Eventually the Asian cop released my brother, but accused him of having called him racist. My brother hadn’t called him racist, and my brother told him as much. Another cop leaned in and whispered something to the Asian cop, after which he let my brother get back to the vigil.

The cops stayed there staring down the crowd until they finished. People dispersed, and that was the end of it. My mother told me that at one point she had spoken to the young man’s parents after he had been killed. The father relayed a story about his son to my mother. He told her, that his son had been in trouble and was on probation. He had been walking down the street when he spotted the cops, at which point he began to run. His son apparently jumped over a fence, lost his footing, and injured himself when he landed. The cops had given chase, and had managed to catch up to him. The young man had yelled out, “I’m over here, but I’m already hurt!” Apparently one of the cops didn’t give a fuck, and kicked him in the back. The son had told his parents about this incident, and in true old-school-traditional-Mexican-parent fashion, the father had told him, “That’s what you get for being a troublemaker, cabron!” Having told this to my mother, the father let her know he regretted having said that to his son, after the cops didn’t let him approach his son lay dying.

I’ve lost sleep since my mother told me about what happened with the cops. The cops aren’t supposed to cover their badges or refuse to identify themselves. That tells me, they know they’re doing something wrong, and are covering their badges to avoid complaints being filed against them. They’re taking advantage of the situation, because it’s a Mexican barrio, and they believe they can intimidate and harass people without regard for their civil rights. They figure no one is going to complain, because they think working class Mexicans living in the barrio don’t knows their rights. However once they confront someone who does know their rights, they try to intimidate them more, by threatening to arrest them. This latest transgression is to me one of the worst, fucking with people while they pay their respects to one of the barrio’s sons. As they say in Spanish, “Ya se estan encajando los cabrones.”

The community had tried working with the cops to keep the neighborhood safe, but the way the cops wanted to work with the community was by asking them to report anybody they knew violating probation, or if they saw anything suspicious, like a bunch of cholo-looking teenagers hanging out on the street. They wanted the community to turn in their own people. As a result, the community chose not to work with the cops.

I continue losing sleep, angrily wishing I would have pursued a law degree instead of whatever the fuck it is I’m doing here now. That way, I’d at least be able to protect my family in some way from those cops especially the Asian cop who has done a lot intimidating and harassing, and using shady tactics. All I could offer my mother was to contact the local ACLU even though they lag in their response to such cases in our area. She said she had better luck with a local chapter of LULAC. In the mean time I sit here and stew, maybe its because I’m the oldest son, and feel a need to protect them somehow, but am unable to do so. I don’t think that Asian cop would ever want anyone to harass or intimidate his mother, nor threaten to arrest her for no reason in particular other than she challenged their authority. But he obviously seems not to care about this, all that matters to him, is control of the people in barrio, and making sure they stay in their place.

I don’t know the young man that was shot and killed. My family did, he was friends with my brothers. My mother once found him sleeping in one of our cars after his parents had kicked him out of their home. I hope his murder is solved and may he rest in peace.

I also hope attention is given to the violation of civil rights being perpetrated by the cops in that barrio, and that something is done about it. Wishful thinking.



– by Xicano X

Posted in Autobiography, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Education, History, Identity, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Los Pochos y Los Vendidos: “Viví en el monstruo y le conozco las entrañas”

When I sat down to conceptualize Chicana/o Studies, I was forced to distinguish it from Mexican Studies. If I had not done so, I would have never gotten it through the committees. I also had to differentiate CHS from race studies as well as Latin American Studies. I was fortunate that I had taught U.S. history and government, and specialized in U.S. History for my Masters. My PhD was in Latin American studies so that was icing on the cake.

Academe was caught flatfooted in responding to the challenge of ethnic studies, and it has never really got a handle on them. Many perceive them as race studies, so the inclination is to lump Chicana/o Studies into their flawed model.

I believed that if Chicana/o Studies was to grow; it had to find its own identity. Very early the main thrust of our program was pedagogical. We were there to teach more than a subject; it involved teaching students identity and skills. The truth be told, years of marginalization had damaged Chicanas/os.

It did not take a genius to deduce that what distinguished most Chicanas/os from most Mexicanos del otro lado was their experiences in the United States. Just reading the literature gave you a clue; the great Cuban poet José Martí wrote to Manuel Mercado, “Viví en el monstruo y le conozco las entrañas.” It is the knowledge of the entrañas (the bowels) that distinguishes most pochos from most Mexicans who have not lived in the bowels of the monster.

The variable of race is important; it influences the multiple disciplines within CHS. In the future, research on this experience will grow in importance. The Mexican origin population numbers about 38 million in the United States (114 million in Mexico), and numbers matter.

Chicana/o students and scholars bring with them the perspective of having lived en las entrañas del monstruo. They have experienced American Imperialism from within, and in my opinion have the potential of knowing and understanding it more profoundly than others – that is, if they don’t identify too closely with the monster.

As a general rule, I have found Chicanas/os more sensitive to American racism than other Latin American immigrants. When I worked in the Central American solidarity movement I remember long conversations with the compas who would say that Chicanas/were too anti-gringo, which we tended to be – much the same as Martí. I would respond that this was true because they were working with mostly good gringos.

In Mexico, the Left talked incessantly about Marxism and revolution. At the same time, they had a tendency to look on us pochos –we weren’t real Mexicans. Once during a heated discussion with the head of the Partido Comunista de México (PCM), I told him what separated pochos and Mexicans was that we had actually worked in factories while many PCM stalwarts were scions of the ruling class, in other words, sojourners, witness Jorge Castañeda.

Pocho students are for the most past First Generation College students, and unlike most Mexicans they have experienced racism on a daily basis. Extending this to other Latino groups, many were raised in their native countries; they have not grown up looking at life through a race prism. Yet their children are undergoing a pochoization.

This is not to say that the parents have not suffered other forms of oppression. Just that being brought up in their native countries they don’t experience an identity crisis. The difference is that they have grown up as Mexicans or Hondurans instead of a hyphenated model. Within this process, there are generational differences to consider.

Because I am a pocho I live the national question. This means that often words carry different meanings or emphases. Words such as scab and vendido have a life of their own. From copper mines to fields of Arizona to the cotton fields of California, the word scab has a nasty meaning. The scab broke their strikes, their futures. It had such a bitter meaning that it turned brother against brother and father against son. There was no middle ground.

The word vendido (sellout) has a similar meaning, although in a sense it is worse. Scabs often crossed the line to feed their families whereas the vendido sells himself willingly. Historically it was a Mexican consul or the politician who sold out the interests of their people. The vendido today is your fellow worker who passes on information to his boss often for as little as a smile.

As a pocho, you learn to respect territory and interests of other working class people. This is often trying because as people at the bottom we compete for the crumbs. In 1964 while working against Proposition 14 that was seeking to nullify the Rumford Fair Housing Act I had many conversations with Dorothy Washington, an activist in the Pacoima area. She told me the story of a white man who when she was a child, she and her friends would anxiously wait for. When he arrived he would throw pennies on the gravelled ground of the schoolyard; the black kids would scramble to get the pennies, knocking each other down. The man would laugh. It was not until years later that she realized that he was not a nice man and that he was laughing at them.

Living the national question I realize that I have a lot more in common with the Dorothy Washingtons of this world than I do with many Mexicans or Latinos. In order to be in solidarity I have had to respect her territory and her issues.

I guess this is why I reacted so strongly to the sneaky deal with la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). It was as if the vendido button had been pressed. I was amazed that liberals in the administration treated it so lightly, and had not even raised elementary questions. In building a stadium, the university is at least required to conduct an environmental impact study.

For me, the UNAM and the CSUN movers and shakers are like the laughing white man, and their Latino cheerleaders are like the children stampeding to scoop up the pennies.

Privatization has impacted my life. I can remember qualifying for a home loan on a janitor’s salary. There was time when my students paid $50 a semester to attend SFVSC, and they could afford to work 10 hours a week. I remember that we had janitors who were state employees. Jorge García and Toppy would spend hours talking to a white haired janitor named Nell Davis from West Virginia. He was a regular state employee who raised a family and was able to buy a house in Mission Hills.

There was the cafeteria on the roof of Sierra North. Mexican servers and cooks were always smiling, and took pride in telling us which Mexican foods to eat. We would tease middle aged women from Guadalajara telling her she looked like a gringa (she was light and had green eyes).

Privatization has ended that world. Students have to work to attend the privatized Tseng College; they have to work 40 plus hours to pay $3200 a semester to attend the public university; they have to work to pay for the dorms; they have to work to pay for the illusionary grants projected for CSUN professors to study abroad; and they will have to work to pay for the hidden costs of the UNAM deal.

As a pocho, I know what a vendido is; we often see them as someone who is trying to help us while they are knocking us down for the pennies.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Chicana/o, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, CSUN, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, MEChA, Mexico, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Corazón del Cielo, Corazón de la Tierra – Documental Completo

Posted in Central American Studies, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Documentary, Education, Film, History, Identity, Indigenous, Maya, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Response to Harry: “Numbers Lie and Liars Figure”

I would first like to thank Harry for his rebuttal of sorts, but again he is not seeing the point. He responds that “I certainly think that the department faculty should be consulted closely on like matters because of their expertise. But ethnicity itself does not confer exclusive expertise. Otherwise, the university would dissolve into clashing clans; ‘the center’ cannot hold.

In this section Harry has tried to make it seem as if Chicana/o Studies is insisting on Mexicans only and that counting individual departments is ethnocentric. Again I think Harry is distorting the facts. First, the objection to having the vast majority in the Center as non-Latinos is an indication of ethnocentricism and a justification for racism. The department of CHS is not all Mexicans. We have tenured professors who are Puerto Rican, Spanish, Guatemalan and of mixed nationalities. We believe that numbers count, and two-thirds of the tenured faculty are women and sexual orientation is not an issue because there are numbers. Numbers matter in our case and should matter in other departments. For example, is there something wrong when a department has fifty percent of its students being Mexican and has only one faculty member who is of Mexican extraction? Harry’s above assertion does not make sense in the world of Brown v. the Board of Education.

I have never made the point that only Mexicans can teach about Mexicans. I respected the expertise and commitment of Larry Littwin, for example, and personally pushed to have Leonard Pitt teach a course for us. They were people who had a demonstrated interest in the field. But, I do think that there is something wrong when three-quarters and above members of a proposed center are white. It is an indication that something is wrong in the broader faculty. In the sixties and seventies we used to talk a lot about forming a positive identity. Identity is often formed by our teachers. For instance, I am not an anomaly, but I do not remember having a Latino or Mexican American teacher in my K-12 experience. My first experience was my mentor in my PhD program – it made a difference.

Harry says, “ethnicity itself does not confer exclusive expertise.” I totally agree. Ted Cruz does not represent my interests because he is a Latino. For that matter, I am critical of many Mexican American politicos. But I really believe that something is wrong when three-quarters of the faculty in the non-existing center on Mexican studies which has been confused with a center for Latin American Studies are white. It all goes back to the department.

I cannot see why Harry cannot see this. Larry Littwin and many others saw it. For that matter, Jerome Richfield and Louanne Kennedy saw it. Why can’t Harry?

I am not a demographer and neither is Harry. I wish that UCLA demographer Leo Estrada would vet the figures. I won’t go into Harry prove-all charts on student enrollment insofar as African American students other than to say that the 5.9 percent offends me. But again I look at the diversity of the faculty in the individual departments. Overall data is misleading. Hypothetically one could say that the College of Behavioral Science has 15 percent African American students so the 15 percent proves that faculty diversity has nothing to do with the outcome. However, 90 percent of African Americans may be in the Pan African Studies Department. Would it then matter if another department in the same college had 40 percent African American students and only one African American professor?

I have dealt with these questions since the early sixties, and I never expected that Harry, a man of self-described liberal thought, would be defending a position taken by Max Rafferty. But let us deal with Harry’s assertion that CSUN is doing a bang up job of recruiting Latinos. I concede that we have many more Latino students although we are doing a dismal job of recruiting faculty. However, Harry, be honest, if the university was still as lily white as it was in 1968, what would the reaction of Mexican American/Latino elected officials be? Your own figures show that the majority of the LAUSD are Latino students (80 percent of whom are of Mexican origin). Still even if you look at the numbers in the most glowing of terms, we fault short.

In regards to Mexican American/Latino recruitment, I am not complaining about the recruiters. I am questioning the policies of over-concentrating on recruiting the cream of the crop. The safe bets. There is a difference between EOP and Outreach. And I think that we have to sit down and discuss this. My view is that policy begins at the top. Because of society and the lack of a quality education in many barrio and ghetto schools remediation has become part of our mission at the California State Universities. This should be our challenge.


These improvements have not been made with cheap tricks. We did not impact to increase the SAT scores and decrease the remediation rates of entering students. We deployed early warning systems, do intrusive advising, and spend one of the highest amounts per FTES in the CSU on student services.

Before we start patting ourselves on our backs, we should thank the increase on the growth of the Latino population. Where would be without it? As a state institution we have not the obligation but the duty to serve the residents of California. I won’t get into Harry’s gyrations and charts in detail. But “numbers lie and liars figure.”


It is not true, therefore, that decreases in these ratios has resulted from a 10% average reduction in faculty salaries since ’98. Clearly, budget cuts to the state allocation—over 33% from ’07-12—were devastating and kept salaries down; but they still were “up” over this period of time, though I use “up” cautiously. I do not have comparable data on executive salaries …

This is hitting too close for Harry. Everything these days is blamed on the budget. The figure that sticks in my craw is that students are paying an ever growing portion of these salaries. My major concern is that Harry does not produce executive salaries. What would satisfy me is a chart listing all the executives in 1990, their salaries and compare them to today. Office by office I would like the executive assistants to be listed separately and those above clerical positions be identified. I don’t know if it is true but today they say that at the college level assistants have assistants. When I started teaching at CSUN, the chairs taught nine units, the deans three units and the associate deans were half time. Harry, there is a gap no matter how you crunch the numbers.


Criticism of our efforts is very helpful. Misrepresentation and mischaracterization are not. I do not believe that Harry has answered the question. Harry’s hero is Woody Allen, and I guess he is posing.

Harry says,

Ethnocentrism compels him [ that is I ]to construe obdurate realities as evidence of conspiratorial racism—personal and/or institutional.

Harry, again you are ranting. I am only asking for unadulterated data. That is why they have experts such as Joe Feagin as witnesses. I would be delighted if Feagin or Leo Estrada would be brought in to vet the numbers. Harry, you are standing with the people who wear hoods on this one. The only reason we do not have de jure segregation and other civil rights violations is because of the parsing of data. A very good case could be made for institutional racism, and it does not matter that you come from Brooklyn; it does not qualify you to minimize my conclusions.

Harry concludes,

The second is that we are agents of privatization. Now, it is true that, as the state has withdrawn funds, we have increased fees and looked to extension to augment faculty salaries and offer programs that are more technical than baccalaureate and that, otherwise, would put us farther over the state-side enrollment target for CSUN. To blame extension for the de-allocation that is leading to more market-like behavior in the university is to mistake an effect for a cause, I agree that this is unfortunate and am willing to go into greater detail, if requested.

Harry, before you begin to play the Music Man, let us talk about privatization at CSUN. This question is at the crux of the dispute over the UNAM and non-existent CSUN center. Privatization is important in Mexico and the United States. CHS has asked for a study on the impact of this sneaky deal on faculty and students.  There are questions such as

  • The relationship of the Tseng College. You said that the UNAM deal would be solely for research. However, we no find out that it projected that Mexican students who can pay the Tseng tuition and dorm costs will in probability be recruited a la the Chinese student exchange.  Nothing comes for nothing. Students pay for the construction of the dorms and those not living there subsidize them. I don’t think it is ethnocentric to study this impact.
  • What is the Tseng College? Why is it not part of the CFA bargaining unit? Wages, budget and the like.
  • How will the principle of the UNAM and non-existent CSUN Center impact faculty diversity now that you say that it does not matter?
  • How does the sneaky deal impact Chicana/o Studies when the principal of faculty governance is ignored? Is the attitude of Dean Stella Theodoulou now the rule of CSUN that CHS does not own Mexico prevail? Is the same standard doing to apply to every department on campus, or are we just going to apply this to CHS?
  • Is CSUN going to continue to deny the lack of diversity on its faculty and deny us the data?
  • Let’s list the examples of privatization from custodial work through food services.

These are just some of the unanswered questions that we would like answered – not by a chart in in a question and answer fashion. Preferably in an open forum with faculty and students invited.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Chicana/o, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, CSUN, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, Labor Studies, Mexico, Political Science, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

The Delusion that You Are Going to Win: “Educating Harry” About the Little Brown Brothers

A couple of years before her death Alice (Greenfield) McGrath, the executive secretary of the Sleepy Lagoon Committee that appealed the conviction of the Sleepy Lagoon defendants in 1942, was asked if when she got involved if she thought that they were going to win. Alice, a lifelong activist, responded that anyone who has the illusion that she is going to make a difference and win just because she put her little body into the struggle is delusional, “The poor don’t win that much,” she said. Alice got involved because of the injustice of the case not because she was going to win.

Right now we are struggling against California State University at Northridge, and faculty keep asking if we are going win. CSUN is one of the largest corporations in the San Fernando Valley. According the university’s 2013-2014 GENERAL FUND BASE BUDGET, its budget is $364,596,558. ( The College of Humanities has a budget of $12,645,616; Social and Behavioral Sciences $14,853,659; and the President’s Administrative Unit $920,662. (My source says that this is the base budget and “usually [there are] other allocations/revenue streams such as Lottery, ExEl , Summer, external funds raised through development, various other augmentations.”)

The same inequities exist at CSUN as the rest of society. According to the campus newspaper from 1998 to 2010 the system’s full-time faculty experienced a 10 percent decrease in their salaries while administrative salaries rose during the same period. This salary gap further concentrates power at the top, and it has greatly impacted faculty governance. At the same time the faculty leadership has grown older and less involved.

Privatizing has taken its toll. At the Tseng College, a private college within a public institution, a student can pick up a degree if she can afford around a $1000 a unit. Tseng has the advantage that its instructors are not part of the California Faculty Association’s bargaining unit.

After the president the most powerful administrator on campus is the provost. He is a super Vice-President and the others defer to him. The provost has his own staff, an entourage of sorts. They are loyal to him and function as his personal cheerleaders.

I like Provost Harry Hellenbrand but like most people he is full of contradictions. As you acquire more power you listen less, believe that you are right, and defend the status quo. I don’t think he personally hates Mexicans but as a powerful administrator he must justify his position, the position of the institution, and his managers at any cost.

Because of this he fails to learn as witnessed by the acrimonious tone that the struggle over la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) has taken. A man of liberal traditions he has become irrational and autocratic, and consequently plays browns and blacks against each other. Harry is from Brooklyn, but he has lived on the West Coast mostly in academe. His friends are from the academy, and from my knowledge he does not spend time consorting with working class Blacks, Mexicans and/or Latinos.

From the beginning of the controversy Harry has been unable to grasp the fundamental concept of respect. In my family there were constant references to respeto and amor propio. My mother carried a slight to her grave. When we were around people who had slighted us, she would say “ni les pedimos agua.” The principal reason why some Mexicans hate gringos is because of their arrogance; their entitlement; their slights; and refusal to take responsibility for their actions.

It would take space to enumerate the number of slights suffered at CSUN. Suffice to say that the UNAM deal ranks at the top. The only department on campus dedicated to the study of Mexico and Mexicans on both sides of the border, we were intentionally slighted when setting up the deal. We expected it of the UNAM people who look down up their own people and see us as educated pochos, but we were delusional and thought we were part of the academic family.

We have earned the right to be respected for our qualifications. If this would have happened on a major U.S. campus the principle of faculty governance would have meant something, witness what happened to Lawrence Summers at Harvard.

The fact that we were slighted is symptomatic of what we call the Ugly American. To add insult to injury, our arguments have been as of late been twisted.

Harry has become a Teddy Roosevelt in dealing with his little brown brothers. His responses remind me of the 1967 film How to cheat on your wife: A Guide for the Married Man. In this farce Walter Matthau teaches Robert Morse tactics of men who have successfully committed adultery. The basic principle was to deny. Even if you got caught in bed with another woman, deny, deny, deny.

This has been Harry’s tactic The University never consulted with us, but he says it did, after the deal had been finalized, didn’t he meet with you? Well, none of the nine Chicanas/os at the meeting call it a consultation. Historically academe consultation has meant being part of a process, an exchange of ideas. Harry’s consultation is the gringo way, tell those Third World People how they are supposed to behave.

The most exasperating part of educating Harry has been his crude attempts to turn our arguments against us. We asked him for raw data on the nationality, ethnicity, and department of each tenured professor. In 44 years at CSUN we have gotten only one accounting and that was at best fabricated. Bottom-line is that the administration wants a license to lie.

Although I have been very careful with my data, quoting mostly official university figures he says that I am lying. I quoted the Sundial, the campus paper, as saying that African American student enrollment had fallen to 5.9 percent. Harry made things worse. “I do not think that your charge of institutional racism helps matters.” The truth be told, the only one responsible for this decline is Harry. The problem is not the recruiters but flaws in the institution. At CSUN everything begins at the top.

Like they used to say in the 1960s the situation has gotten bizarre. We complained about CSUN ripping off students by charging them $800 a bed, $3200 for an apartment when they can walk two blocks off campus and rent an apartment for an average of $1600 ($400 a bed). Because many dorms do not have kitchens students have to pay an additional $3000 plus for a meal pass.

Instead of dealing with these figures Harry says that the university employs union workers accusing me of siding with developers for criticizing dorm costs.

Again, deny, deny, and deny, attack, attack, and attack. The university is the largest corporation in the area. It drives prices. So am I siding with developers? Many functions at CSUN have been privatized.

If Harry as he says is for a liberal public education, why does he support the Tseng College that subverts public education and teacher rights? Why are all the janitorial and vending machines and even the food places on campus outsourced? In forcing students to buy meal passes, isn’t it a fact that most of the food establishments are franchises? Are these workers unionized?

What Chicana/o Studies is calling for is for Harry to tell the truth. Gives us the raw data on faculty diversity; follow the rules of faculty governance; respect the area of Chicana/o studies; respect our expertise within this field; let us have an open forum to discuss the impact of the UNAM deal; and rein in his mad dog Dean of Behavioral Science.

Harry, no te pedimos agua, we just demand respect. Pancho doesn’t live here anymore!

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Chicana/o, Chicana/o Movement, Chicana/o Studies, Community, CSUN, Education, History, Identity, MEChA, Political Science, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment

Lowriting Talk with Art Meza and Tudy

Posted in Boyle Heights, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Documentary, Education, Film, History, Identity, Lowrider, Photography, Resistance | Leave a comment

The Tyranny of Words: Privatization, Marketization, Globalization “Greed is Good”

People keep telling me about the need for an ideology as if it alone will correct the imperfections of society. But what they don’t understand is that disparate ideologies often confuse the problem of communications. The lowest common denominator in communication is the word. With ideology different meanings for the same word create a tower of babble where people speak the same words but they have different meanings.

When thinking about words, I think about Stuart Chase’s The Tyranny of Words (1938). It is one of those books that never lose its message.  Stuart was a semanticist. His book is full of gems like “Language is apparently a sword which cuts both ways. With its help man can conquer the unknown; with it he can grievously wound himself.”

Growing up the meaning of words were important. In my case, it was probably because I did not learn English until I was six. Because I did not know many words, I was classified as mentally retarded.

Armed with a chip on my shoulder, I was very conscious that the sword “cuts both ways”, so I sought to learn how to wield the sword most effectively. I could hear Chase whisper, “I find it difficult to believe that words have no meaning in themselves, hard as I try. Habits of a lifetime are not lightly thrown aside.”

This reliance on words can be very dangerous especially in the world of economists who seem obsessed with the currency of their theory. I keep going back to Chase’s reasoning: “Attitude is your acceptance of the natural laws, or your rejection of the natural laws.”

Words mean something different to different folks. I am old school and words matter. I am more attuned with epistemology than pretentions of “the science of knowledge.” I am a skeptic and I am concerned with what kinds of things are known, how that knowledge is acquired and what the attitude of speaker is.

Words have meaning – what they mean and why they are said is essential. To repeat a cliché “the devil is in the detail” — words are distorted.

Take the words that are presently in currency: reform, privatization, globalization, and marketization. They are intentionally comingled to bring about controlled consent. Unless the words are deconstructed and contextualized their false definitions overtime become the accepted truth.

The word reform has been corrupted to fit the occasion. It once meant the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, and unsatisfactory.  A reformer was to the right of the radical and the far left of a conservative. It was taken for granted that reformers wanted to improve the system. As of late, the word has been appropriated by the right.

For example, in today’s mainstream media the tea partyers are reformers. As of late those trying to change the Mexican Constitution and get rid of constitutional guarantees are not greedy capitalists but reformers who are trying to improve the economy. This change has not so subtly changed the outcome.

The right has adroitly changed the conversation. They have associated corruption with government and reform with interests of the ruling elite. Without context words induce a historical amnesia that absolves capitalists of being corrupt. Like Gordon Gekko said in the movie Wall Street, “Greed is good.”

What is left is what Americans call common sense. Chase opined is that “Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat.” Following this thread”  government has to be reformed because it is basically corrupt whereas corporate crime is a “boys will be boys” lapse.

The fad is the word privatization. Its meaning has been so corrupted and so overused that it is difficult to know its meaning.  When I first got the sense of the word was during the 1950s. The rage then was urban renewal which was supposed to be good because government confiscated property for public use. Rarely discussed was the huge profits made by the contractors and suppliers who benefited from it all. But at least we knew that it was basically wrong to take one person’s property to profit another.

It became outrageous when property was taken for the public good. Here government took one person’s property to give it to private individuals so they could make a killing. It was known as reform.

At a more advanced level this is happening today. Developers in places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Tucson have reaped trillions of dollars by buying city and county properties through “inside trading” that is good in this instance but is supposed to be bad on the stock market. Both are falsely labeled good business.

It was reform that shifted the cost of higher education from the ruling elite to the student. The logic was that the student was getting the benefits of education, and if government taxed business then the economy would falter.

In public higher education privatization is a mixed bag. The privatization of public higher ed follows a different path than the privatization of other state-controlled enterprises, but the logic is the same.

In higher education they use words like marketization that refers “to a set of transformations in which the underlying purpose is to ensure that market relations determine the orientation of development policies, institutions, university programs, and research projects.”  Again, it is not that the educators are privatizing education; the devil makes them do it.

The privatizers say that to understand these diverse strategies that have driven privatization of higher education, you have to place the strategies into a global context. It is merely the logic of the market. It is the  invisible hand of Adam Smith, “the father of modern economics”.

The marketization of higher education “refers to a set of transformations in which the underlying purpose is to ensure that market relations determine the orientation of development policies, institutions, university programs, and research projects.”

Like one administrator explained his illogical actions, they resulted from previous bad policies. In other words, the reconfiguration of the higher education to privilege the private sector is due to human errors not bad intentions.

This process has accelerated from 1970 to the present day. The world view is okay because it is happening globally, and in order to compete business and higher education must change (reform). The error of this logic is not that the product has to be improved, just that it has to become more like the private sector (which after all is not corrupt).

The invisible hand pops up once more in the logic: higher education is only meeting the increased demand for enrollment that was unmet by the public sector. Like in corporations this transformation is driven by a growing top heavy bureaucracy whose healthy salaries are paid by the consumer.

Higher education is not unique. I marvel at how the consolidation and bureaucracy has grown in the college book publishing sector. The logic is more profit so they outsource the editing and all phases of production so they can afford to hire more bureaucrats that drive up the price of textbooks allowing them to gobble up other publishers.

I could go on redefining the tyranny of words. For example, I get angry when I hear the words standards and quality. They are mostly used by the privatizers to turn education into a gas meter.

Epistemology is fundamental to how we think. In order to understand this we have to know the meaning words and why and how they are used. A basic question is who drives privatization. In the case of Mexico and other second and third world countries it is the World Bank. Domestically in the United States it is driven by the ruling elite and organizations such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Words are distorted and their meaning changed for a reason.

Like Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good.”

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Posted in Chicana/o Studies, Cultural Studies, Education, History, Identity, Racism, Resistance | Leave a comment