April 14, 2006

First Person:

Trying walking out to the Library

By Al Carlos Hernandez

Last week, half a million people, mostly Latinos, walked out of school and work at the urging of a few Latino DJ’s. As a former Spanish media Station manager, I am impressed at the power of the medium, yet disappointed that they used their bully pulpit to encourage young people to disrespect the importance of school.

Everyone knows that Latinos have an abysmally high drop out rate, it seems those who needed the remediation the most were the first ones to leave and the last ones to come back.

I have first hand knowledge that you do not need a diploma or even a GED to be a Polin or Cucui. Big respect to the brothers who are racking up huge listener numbers, making Spanish radio number one in many of the top markets in the country. Homies need to use their power for the good not the gregarious.

Young Latinos need to be advised by qualified elders to stop dropping out, stop having illegitimate kids, stop using drugs, stop gang banging, register to vote, and vote, go to college, buy homes, own businesses and re-build our communities.

Walking out of school causing disrespect for the educational institution which are now heavily represented by qualified bi-lingual, bi-cultural and sometimes bi-sexual staff, is like walking out of the Doctors office after being diagnosed with a case of extreme stupidity.

Next time try a sit in, in the school library. That is the last place they would suspect to find Latinos. As a former fuzzy haired protestor myself, I would gladly volunteer to do a teach-in. Most walkouts we did back in the day usually ended up as a walk to the liquor store, and a party thereafter.

No one knows the socio-political ramifications of the walk out yet. Spanish media moguls, who have no more of a political consciousness than Gringo media moguls, are no doubt working 24-7 re-writing adverting media packages touting the fact that advertising on Spanish radio really works. Radio Commercial prices will go up Spanish DJ’s will make more money, Mom and Pop businesses will fund it.

No question that the Immigration issue is a serious class based concern. My opinion is that the bravest from countries that have failed come here to find a new life and are willing to work hard to feed their families, they ironically enough, know a quality education can break the cycle of class based poverty.

I wanted to fault the recent HBO movie, Walkout, which I consider “Moctesuma Esparza’s revenge”, his self- congratulatory biopic about the walkouts in LA back in the day, for inspiring the insurrection, but it wasn’t.

If it was the cause and the culprit, marchers would have gone directly to HBO with tar and feathers. They can be responsible for starting the Buzz word “walkout”. Media gadfly’s and the chronically truant picked up the gauntlet and ran with it, whereby making the concept retro-cool.

Executive Producers of the film were wise enough to go directly to cable broadcast rather than movie houses because the story was so pedantically contrived, poorly written, and with the exception of the young Actress Alexa Vega from Spy Kids, abysmally acted. Walkout would be a reaction to the film rather than its title.

Before I’m accused of player hating, just compare the Walkout film in content, storyline, and pacing against any other HBO film, and then draw an objective conclusion. Just because something is of Latino socio-cultural value doesn’t mean it is good.

A historically important film like this had to be made, but is should have been a Documentary, and made a compulsory legitimate part of National High School curriculum.

It was Che Guevara, who said, “We have a tendency to show our disrespect for the people by our lack of giving the quality”.

I surmise that if Che were around today, tortuous in this body politic, he would be critical of the apolitical, egregious and irresponsible capitalistic posturing of Spanish radio; he would take the licensing fees from the use of his image on T shirts and teach the next generation the value of reading.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

Return to the Frontpage