By Daniel Muñoz
With the new year here and as we prepare take on the challenges and greet the surprises that await us in the New Year, we take the time to look back at the year that was 2007.
While 2007 was dominated by several major events during the year, the Iraq War, immigration, fires, mortgage melt down and the Presidential races, there were also exciting, fun, and monumental events that took place within the Hispanic community. We will go through the twelve months of the year and highlight, through word and picture, the good and the bad things that we talked about during the year in the pages of La Prensa San Diego. So let’s get started with January 2007.
In January we started the New Year discussing the hanging of Saddam Hussein in December. Saddam, who was the face for all that was evil, finally paid the price for his cruel regime of Iraq. The hanging, though, was wrong on two counts. First as a Christian nation and people the hanging was a cruel and archaic way to end one’s life. This coupled with the fact that the hanging was then displayed over the internet was just wrong. Second the killing of Saddam did not resolve any of the problems or issues that Iraq presented, in fact it was anti-climatic.
In California, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villagairosa was being hailed as Man of the Year and pegged as one to watch, a possible future candidate for the governorship. Turns out Villagairosa was indeed one to watch as his personal life turned into a soap opera, with him having an affair with a television news anchor and with him leaving his wife.
Sports fans were excitedly awaiting the playoff games to start. The San Diego Charges had just completed a 14 win 2 loss season and the anticipation was that a Super Bowl appearance was within their grasp. That dream soon faded with the Chargers losing the first playoff game.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) started a new strategy of raids in major corporations starting with six meat packing plants belonging to Swift & Company. 1000 agents arrest 1282 workers deporting the workers. The first question asked was what about the children left behind? The issue of immigration would dominate our pages throughout the year.
In local news there were some interesting opportunities taking place:
In National City the residents were facing the prospect of the Paradise Valley Hospital a non-profit entity being sold to a for-profit corporation, Prime Healthcare. The overall fear was that Prime Healthcare would take over the hospital eliminate many of the services that this low income community depended upon or worse yet sell the property to a developer for future homes. The sale finally went through and to date seems as though nothing substantial has changed.
Chula Vista is going through changes. At the Elementary School Board they were going through an appointment process and at City Hall there was a protracted process of selecting a city manager continues to drag on. The school board did appointment a new member to the board and as it turns out the appointed member comes from the community of Bonita which makes it five for five of board members coming from this small community. This action would spur political action to change the representation on the board to reflect a much broader spectrum of the community.
The race for the Presidency in 2008 has already started and Hispanic candidate Bill Richardson is a top contender. During the year states will change the date of their primaries trying to be earlier than the other states. California will change their primary date to February 2008.
In February 2007 the topic of the day was education. In 2007 the No Child Left Behind legislation is up for reauthorization and the debate about the effectiveness of this legislation was to take place all year long. We discussed the impact the NCLB. While test scores improved across the board, the achievement gap between minority students and white students persisted, there was no closing of this gap.
Jorge Mariscal wrote of Ken Burns’ upcoming WWII documentary that had been previewed and was set to appear on KPBS later in the year. Mariscal discussed what was missing in this documentary the Mexican-American contributions to this war. It was a slap in the face to the Hispanic community 14 hours of documentary filming and not one mention of the Mexican-American contributions to WWII. This was to be a festering sore with the Hispanic community throughout the year and was to be a topic of discussion across the internet which culminated with Burns having to add extra footage where he recognized the contributions of Hispanics, albeit as an after thought. This did little to appease the Hispanic community which continued to protest against the documentary and by all accounts the documentary was not well received.
In February we published a story about Elvira Arellano an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had taken sanctuary in a Chicago church instead of reporting to immigration officials for deportation. This launched the first church sanctuary case in the United States since the 1980s sanctuary movement for Central American refugees. Arellano was little known on the West Coast, in particular in San Diego. She was to burst on our collective consciousness later in the year when in Los Angeles where, after leaving a church, she had come to discuss the state of the immigration issue in the United States, she was arrested and deported to Tijuana with her son left behind. Arellano was to become a focal point on the cause for a humane immigration solution.
“Students organize rally in support of Dream Act.” The Dream Act was the right thing to do. Undocumented immigrants whose young children grew up in the United States but faced much higher cost when going on to higher education because their families did not have papers. The dream of a college education could be accomplished through the Dream Act. This Act would have given permanent residency status to certain undocumented students that have graduated from a U.S. high school, have good grades, and no criminal record. The anti-immigrant movement helped to defeat this act. The anti-immigrant movement continued push for stronger measurements against immigrants; they would also lend their support to defeating driver’s licenses for undocumented workers in California.
Gangs are a problem, about that there is no question. In March we published a two part series on Gang Intervention by Raymond Beltran. The first story “Showing Love to the Hood: A Community Without Gang Intervention” painted a picture of the life of a gang member putting a human face to the problem and the frustration of a community left to deal with the problem. The second part of the Gang Intervention story Beltran took a look at the lack of effective programs that dealt the root problems of gangs and the lack of funding to support those programs that do work. In the meantime the City of San Diego created a gang prevention study group that didn’t provide any new information, resources, and only frustrated the community members.
Jorge Hank Rhon mayor of Tijuana announced his intention to run for the governorship of Baja California. Hank Rhon has long been associated with drug cartels and being the man behind the assassination of a newspaper editor, the prospect of him becoming governor scared many. Rhon loses the race but the outcome is close.
David Avalos is a Chicano artist who is no stranger to controversy. When his art piece “Mi Corzaon Escondido” appeared in an exhibit in Escon-dido it got under the skin of anti-immigrant community, who wanted to cut the funding to the city supported museum. That idea died before it could get very far.
In March the full impact of the mortgage meltdown was just beginning to be felt. Writer Alberto Marrero Salas sounded the warning bell when his story “Real Estate Armageddon: Reality of real estate sets in”. He was right on with this article; it only got worse from that point on.
Hazelton, PA is the city that had passed the strictest of immigration laws in 2006, primarily fining landlords for renting to undocumented immigrants and requiring residents to register with the city to prove their citizenship. Many cities followed suit, including Escondido and Vista. In March 2007 the ordinances went to court to determine their constitutionality. It was a no brainier; the ordinances were deemed unconstitutional, as were the ordinances in Escondido and Vista.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales becomes a topic of conversation primarily over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. The firings of the attorneys were just the tip of the iceberg when considering Gonzales. It turns out that Gonzales was tied to the hip of President Bush instead of being independent as the office required.
In April the lead story was: “Immigration raids rattle the Latino community” It was called ‘Operation Return to Sender’ immigration officers were going door-to-door asking for legal documentation. No documents the individuals were deported. One resident interviewed described the experience as “This is terror just as there was terror in the 1940s, when Hitler terrorized the Jews.”
The issue of immigration had been front and center and it continued with more intensity. Immigrant officials are conducting raids, cities are trying to find ways push the undocumented out, and Chicano/Hispanics are responding in the only way they know how, by demonstrating. Hundreds of people, all volunteers, from national and grassroots organizations across the country traveled to Washington to share their concerns about immigration, the recent raids, and the DREAM Act. Congress was in the process of discussing a new immigration bill. The trip for many was a disappointment. One congressional worker told the group to go back to the country they came from!
Terror in Tijuana. A gun battle erupts at the Tijuana General Hospital where 500 people had to be evacuated.
The ICE raids that we reported about earlier in the month “Operation Return to Sender” has an impact on the Muñoz family. The parents are deported and left behind are three children the oldest 16. Leslie Muñoz must now manage all the bills and take care of her brother and 8 year old sister. It is a jut wrenching story, the children are US citizens and they must now survive alone. This story gets picked up nationally and becomes news across the country.
It was May Day and Chicano activists wanted to re-create the same mass demonstrations that the country experienced in 2006 when millions went out into the streets to protest anti-immigrant legislation. The 2007 version of the mass marches was much less than expected, but the opportunity did present a good opportunity as a learning experience within the community.
In Los Angeles during the May 1 marches the Hispanic community and news reporters came under attack by the Los Angeles Police Department. It was at MacArthur Park and the gathering seemed peaceful enough when the police reacted to an incident away from the park which quickly escalated into a brutal attack by the police. 240 “less than lethal” shots were fired and television news anchors and camera person were beaten and dragged, it was all captured on film for the whole world to see.
In June it was with the back drop of immigrants and Hispanics getting beat by the Los Angeles Police Department that an immigration bill is winding its way through the halls of Congress. This bill has so many pieces to it that if provides enough issues to create quite debate over the pros and cons of the Bill. The Bill had a short life and died at the Senate door, it never got out of committee. The anti-immigrant forces saw the Bill in terms of an amnesty and most immigrant groups saw it as being heavy on the enforcement aspect and more of a work force bill. Nobody really liked the bill in whole. This bill was doomed from start. In fact no immigration bill was to pass during the year.
In Tijuana teachers are striking to protest their low pay. To draw attention to their plight they march to the border and shut down the San Ysidro crossing, no traffic was moving that June morning.
Meanwhile on the education front the No Child Left Behind Act continues to receive much attention. The question was does Congress reauthorize the Act. The year ended and the Act still languished not yet receiving the reauthorization. We shall see what happens in 2008. Meanwhile the military has stepped up recruitment efforts on high school campuses, which has Hispanic parents upset, and protesting this effort. Instead of war and death, Hispanic parents want to see their children prepared for college.
In National City another fight is going on over Eminent Domain. Under Ron Morrison’s leadership as mayor of that city, they want to impose Eminent Domain on the Community Youth Athletic Center. This battle draws national attention and support all the way from the East Coast where the Institute for Justice (IFJ), a Virginia-based non-profit law firm battling eminent domain abuse nationwide joins in the fight to preserve the Youth Center.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger knew it was not going to go over well before he said it, but he went ahead and said it anyway. In a forum at a convention with the National Association of Hispanic Journalist a question was asked about what could be done to help Latino students pass the high school exit exams? His response was “for Latino students to just turn off the Spanish television set.” That set off a fire storm of debate. Part of the problem was that he said it before many Hispanic journalists who have carved out a niche in Spanish language journalism, not the best a good place to express that opinion.
In Chula Vista many of the residents thought that the deal had been completed between the City and the Gaylord Company to begin the development of their bay front. They were caught by surprise when at the last minute Gaylord pulled out the deal citing contract problems with the local Union and the Environmental Health Coalition. What was even more surprising was the “hands-off” approach that the Mayor of Chula Vista, Cheryl Cox, took with this project the biggest in the City’s history.
The San Diego Minutemen and other anti-immigrant groups have been holding protests at St. Peter’s Catholic Church for hosting a site where day laborers can solicit work for employers. Writer Mark Day describes the situation as violent as the protesters assault parishioners and terrifying young children. That is how we start the month of July.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) releases a study in August that Hispanic representation has grown substantially giving Hispanics greater representation in all important social aspects of the country. Currently there are 5, 129 elected Hispanic politicians. This bodes well for New Mex-ico Governor Bill Richardson who is Hispanic and running for the office of President. He is receiving good press and has established himself as a viable candidate if not for the office of President the office of Vice President still looms as a possibility.
In August we also said goodbye to Alberto Gonzales the embattled Attorney General who finally gave up the fight to hang on to his job. It was a long and inglorious fight that Gonzales put up, but finally it was over.
San Ysidro School Board appoints a new superintendent, Manual Paul. Dennis Doyle is then appointed Superintend of the National School District in September. These appointments followed the appointment of Dr. Raj Chopra as the new Superintendent/President at Southwestern Community College. You couple this with the appointment of Dr. Jesus Gandara in 2006 as Superintendent at Sweetwater High School District and you have a sweeping change of educational leadership in the South Bay.
In September we welcomed the former mayor of Chula Vista, Steve Padilla, to the pages of La Prensa San Diego as a commentator.
The San Diego Charges hope to pick up where they left off from last year’s regular season, with a winning attitude. San Diego Fans and most experts were expecting big things out of this football team this year. After a disastrous start the Chargers finally righted the ship and are once again headed to the playoffs. This year we have set our sights a tad bit lower and are just hoping for at least one playoff victory and hope for the best after that.
Reflecting the importance of the Hispanic vote a historic event took place when Univision hosted the first Spanish language Presidential debate. This debate was considered a coming of age of the very politically engaged Latino community. The Republican candidates were invited to a similar debate but all refused with the exception of John McCain.
The Ken Burns documentary on WWII aired during Hispanic Heritage month. This was the 14 hour documentary that did not mention the contributions of the more than 500,000 Latinos who served during this war. Not one mention of the 13 Hispanic Medal of Honors or the 70 Army Distinguished Service Crosses. The Hispanic community protested this outrage and from all indications this documentary was pretty much ignored by the community.
In October the Latino Congreso set the 2008 agenda. Some 2000 Latino leaders and activists got together and ironed out a plan of action and a social justice program of issues for the 2008 elections with the goal of bringing out 10 million Latino voters.
San Diego County is once again burning. Thousands of residents have to flee their homes as three different fires encompass the county from the border up to Escondido. The community comes together and there is much better coordination between the fire fighting services. The chaos and panic that surrounded the ’03 fires was not to be found. With that said the damage was devastating, homes were burnt, and lives were lost. And somehow the immigration became an issue; we were a little dumbfounded about how rescue relief could be turned into an issue of immigration, but the anti-immigrant movement found a way.
After the fire fighting was over and as the evaluation of the response started coming out it became clear that the Hispanic community did not fare well. Despite the glowing reports of the reverse 911 calls there was no Spanish language alternative to alert residents, so if you happened to monolingual Spanish you wouldn’t know what they were talking about. Spanish language information over the airwaves was slow in coming. Migrant farm workers were forced to work during the fire story breathing ash. While most of San Diego was shut down, employees, in particular the lower wage earners, lost income during the two week stretch. Then there were the instances of immigration officers and police seeking papers from families that had to evacuate their homes.
Residents of National City rallied to support a Westside Specific Plan for a cleaner, safer future. Chula Vista residents seek support from the County Board of Education to put on the ballot geographical representation from their school board members. Mexican parents in City Heights are helping each other learn how to use the internet through a program call “Plaza Progreso A-Z.”
At the San Diego County Latino Education Summit there was a call for an effective pre-kindergarten that gets children ready to start school. In the meantime the DREAM Act dies in the U.S. Senate.
In November the feud between the Save Our Centro Coalition and the Centro Cultural de la Raza has ended and the future is cemented with the appointment of Stephanie De La Torre as the new Executive Director.
“The Centro belongs to all of us,” said De La Torre, “and staff and the community are working together towards the same mission of rebuilding and bringing the Centro back up and running.”
De La Torre began her new position at a crucial time. This year, a seven-year boycott of the Centro by artists and activists ended.
Also in November sports take center stage but for all the wrong reasons. Barry Bonds is indicted for lying before a Grand Jury about his steroid use. In fact steroid use will continue to dominate the sports headlines for sometime.
The Presidential races are starting to heat up and “Ask a Mexican” columnist comes to San Diego to answer all those questions you have been dying to ask him. Read about it in La Prensa SD the only paper in the region that carries his column.
In December it is all about surviving. The housing market is scary, the economy is slumping, budgets face drastic cuts, jobs are not safe and amidst all this we prepare for the holidays. In fact the holidays come at a good time. Christmas, La Posada, gives us a time to think about something good for awhile, enjoy the festivities as we prepare to take on the New Year.