By Daniel H. Muñoz
In 2013 the down fall of mayor Bob Filner will probably be considered the news story of the year, but for La Prensa San Diego and its Hispanic readers the news story of the year was about Immigration Reform. Not only was it covered by us, on our front pages, it was a constant topic of discussion by our commentary writers and was often fodder for our editorials.
Immigration Reform was such an important part of our coverage during the past year that we asked writer Eduardo Stanley to focus solely on immigration and review the long and winding path that immigration reform took during the year.
In this portion of the Year End Review we will be looking at all the other stories that made the front pages of La Prensa San Diego as we covered the news of the year.
At the beginning of the Year 2013, there was a renewed hope with the economic recovery underway and hope in a new immigration reform policy to be passed sometime during the year, or so we thought. In 2013, there was a focus on individuals within the community, with their success, their issues, their life’s accomplishments, and their commitment to community, we didn’t plan it that way, but, this was where the stories of the year took us!
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In January the person, receiving a lot of attention was Ben Affleck! You are right he is not Hispanic but he did play a Hispanic in the Oscar winning film “Argo.” This film was about super spy Antonio “Tony” Mendez, a CIA operative who led the rescue of six U.S. diplomats from Tehran, Iran during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. For many they saw the title role of a Hispanic being played an Anglo as “Whitewashing An American Hero…” as expressed in a story written by Bel Hernandez of Latin Heat Entertainment.
After President Obama was re-elected, which wouldn’t have happened with the support of the Hispanic community, the community was a little dismayed with the lack of Hispanic appointments within the President’s cabinet. Obama in his first term appointed Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary, and Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary, in 2013 both resigned their positions and it wasn’t until later that Obama finally announced the appointment of Tom Perez to become the next Labor Secretary, the only Latino to serve as a Cabinet member, after much pressure from Latino groups.
The other big story for the month of January was the beating of a young man with Down syndrome. Antonio Martinez, a young Hispanic was walking to work at this parents’ panaderia one morning in Vista when the Sheriffs pulled up and yelled at Antonio to stop. Martinez was confused and continued to walk to the shop. When he did not respond to their calls to stop the Sheriffs attacked him, beating him with batons, hitting, and kicking him, despite the fact that folks who knew the young man were yelling at the Sheriffs that he had Down syndrome. It was a horrible story of police brutality against an innocent person.
On a happier note the Latino Film Festival began the year celebrating 20 years of providing quality Latino films to San Diego audiences, under the direction of Ethan van Thillo.
In February the Catholic community was shocked by the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. La Prensa was fortunate that one of their freelance reporters, Katia Lopez-Hodoyan, who had moved on as a reporter in Rome, was able to give us the opportunity to bring the news first hand to our readers.
Katia Lopez-Hodoyan then brought us the story of the first Latin American Pope, Jose Mario Bergoglio – Pope Francis I. Katia wrote this story from grounds of the Vatican with interviews of folks in Rome, it was an exciting time for Hispanics around the world.
“New honors for Sgt Rafael Peralta” by Citlalli Rodriguez was a story about a war hero who had been denied the Medal of Honor, despite evidence that the honor was warranted. Recognizing the heroism of Peralta the Navy did decide to name a new Navy ship in his honor. The effort to have the sacrifice made by Peralta is still on going and in 2014 there is still a chance that he will receive the Medal of Honor.
“Mesa College Receives $80,000 Gift Supporting Chicano Studies from Gracia Molina de Pick” was the headline in March. If there ever was a Chicana heroine in San Diego, it is Gracia Molina de Pick. Not only did she help found the Chicano Studies department in 1970, she has now established the Gracia Molina de Pick/Chicana and Chicano Studies Department Endowment Fund. It will create an annual student scholarship in her honor, and enable the creation of an annual lecture series that honors her legacy. Of the many gifts and projects, which Ms. de Pick has supported throughout the years, you can include the endowment with the Barrio Logan Library; it has been her moral and social commitment to the community that has made her a true hero.
In April the Associated Press (AP) made a significant concession to the Hispanic community. The AP made the decision to drop the use of “illegal” when referring to immigrants. Up until this time, the AP stylebook condoned the use of “illegal immigrant” in reference to immigrants, when in fact they are not “illegal” until determined by a court of law, and the blatant use of the term is degrading. Dropping this usage was significant in that most news organizations follow the AP style.
For the first time in the history of Chicano Studies at San Diego State University, since 1969, enrollment for the courses has dropped, creating a mini-crisis within the department. Part of the problem is that most Hispanic students now and days do not identify themselves as Chicanos.
“My Friend Chunkenstein Sanchez” by Augie Bareño. This was one of the many local stories about the Barrio Logan community by our good friend Augie Bareño who keep the local history and flavor of the community alive with his writings. This story about Chunky Sanchez was significant in that Chunky, as he is widely known, has had a tough time with his health. Later in the year it would be announced that he would be a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship award.
The month of May is springtime, which means the Carlsbad Spring Festival or Barrio Fiesta. In a story written by Juliana Rico she shares with us the joy of this festival and work of two long residents, sisters Ofie Escobedo and Connie Trejo, owners of Lola’s 7 Up Mexican Market, where the community gathers and the sisters keep the history of the community alive. The Barrio Fiesta is just one of the ways they bring the community together.
Raquel Pomplun raised the eyes of many within the Hispanic community when it was announced she was the Playmate of the year. Pomplun moved from Tijuana to Chula Vista where she grew up and went to school. Many remembered her and wanted to see a story on her, which we were happy to do.
Racism reared its ugly head at the University of San Marcos where signs appeared saying ‘kill Mexicans or Gays.’ Not taking this lightly the students of the university held a sit-in when the university refused to take action against the offending sorority.
If it is June it means high school graduation and were proud to publish the story “Chula Vista student receives $100,000 scholarship to attend Harvard University,” by Pablo J. Sáinz. Not only was Giovanna Robledo a gifted student at Olympian High in Chula Vista, she was interested in helping others. In 2012 she had been an intern with La Prensa San Diego and had written several stories for the paper. We couldn’t help but feel proud of her and that in some small we way helped her earn the scholarship.
“Celebrating the Life of Marta Sotomayor.” We honored the life Marta Sotomayor who passed away in 2013. She was the first executive director of the National Hispanic Council on Aging and the first Latina in America to earn a social work doctorate.
We also honored the passing of Faustina Solis, a pioneer in higher education and public health. A UC San Diego professor emeritus, Solís was also the university’s first Latina provost. She served as provost of the university’s Thurgood Marshall College (then known as Third College) from 1981-1988, and taught at the UC San Diego School of Medicine beginning in 1971. Solís’ contributions were honored when Thurgood Marshall Lecture Hall on the UC San Diego campus was renamed the Faustina F. Solís Lecture Hall.
In August the Little League World Series was an exciting time for this border region. Chula Vista’s Eastlake All-Star team was in the tournament and for the first time in their history, a team represented Mexico from Tijuana. For a while it looked like the two teams might meet in the championship game, but it was not to be. While Eastlake All-Stars played in the championship game against the eventual winner Japan, the Tijuana team played and won the consolation game.
In September the Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, came to Chula Vista to celebrate the success at Castle Park High School, thanks in part to a Promise Neigborhood grant a local organization received last year from the Department of Education totaling almost $5 million for the first year of a five-year grant.
Also in September the man most associated with modern day labor unions, Eliseo Medina, who reshaped labor and immigrant rights movement, retired from the SEIU.
In October, Cirilo Flores became the first Bishop of Mexican origin in San Diego.
In August when Bob Filner resigned as mayor of San Diego, this opened the door for special election. In the race were two Hispanics, David Alvarez and Mike Aguirre. One had a chance and the other did not have a chance in hell.
Mike Aguirre on sheer will power and gumption was able to make himself a viable candidate. On the other hand, City Councilman David Alvarez, who had proven himself to be a capable leader and with the support of the Unions had a huge amount of money spent on his campaign and eventually send to a run-off election. This election will be held in February and there is a chance we could have our first Hispanic mayor ever in San Diego.
In this review we shared with you just a sampling of the many stories that we published throughout the year. If you would like to the full context of any of these stories please visit our web site, www.laprensa-sandiego.org, and do a search with one or two key words and your story will come up.