By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
It’s now five years since hundreds of Chicanos and Chicanas protested UCLA’s uprooting of its Chicano-studies programs. There were hunger strikes too, and, since it’s nearly impossible to mount obedient civil disobedience, some unruly moments. These included a sit-in at the Faculty Club that resulted in a police charge, arrests and property damage. Not to mention some ultraright fulminations about the Sanctity of the University that sounded right out of 1968.
But today, at a mature 24, Cindy Montanez remains proud of her role in the 1993 UCLA actions. That’s why she stresses her campus involvement in the literature for her maiden campaign for the San Fernando City Council. "The demonstrations did create a great deal of awareness among many of us," she says, "particularly on education issues." But, she adds, it also helped many Hispanic students of her age to rediscover what the previous generation had learned during demonstrations in the ’60s and ’70s: the strength of solidarity and organization.
It may seem ironic that someone whose first political action was starving herself for 14 days is kicking off a campaign with $10-a-plate all-you-can-eat ox roast. But Montanez has obviously learned a lot in the past six years, both about politics and about her own little city of 24,000. Although she is careful to highlight the importance of programs for senior citizens, she also observes that San Fernando, the only independent municipality entirely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles, is — besides being nearly 90 percent Latino — a young place, with an average resident age of 26. There are many working families with small children. And Montanez wants to make San Fernando a better place for such families.
"We want to attract quality, well-paying jobs," she says, allowing that the town hasn’t exactly been a high-tech business magnet. She’d also like to see a major municipal make-over, a move away from the fenced-and-gated shopping-center look that now dominates business thoroughfares. She wants more "bookstores, art galleries, restaurants . . . even a playhouse–performance center."
Looking around San Fernando, you wonder if anyone ever before asked for such amenities. Unless you happened to notice how the five-digit Los Angeles street numbers shrink down to three digits, you might drive completely across the city, from Pacoima to Sylmar, without realizing you’d ever left L.A. San Fernando has its own police, but it’s in the LAUSD, and San Fernando High is one of the district’s most crowded schools. Then again, you sense the community’s youth, in youth’s fashion, want more from their community than their elders did. Montanez is the youngest council candidate; Richard Ramos — another of the five contenders in the three-seat, at-large, March 2 race — is 29.
Montanez backs increased voter registration, but also notes that because there are "only 7,000 voters in San Fernando, it’s feasible to meet everyone. You can visit them all at home." She expects to expend $10,000 on her campaign for the $5,000-a-year seat.
She also suggests that, as evidenced by the success of other local Hispanic candidates, Latino political awareness is finally reaching critical mass in the east Valley. Tony Cardenas is now well-established in his second Assembly term, and Richard Alarcon, after less than two terms on the Los Angeles City Council, has just been appointed majority whip in the state Senate. There is a long-delayed sense of increasing enfranchisement. Listening to Montanez as you devour that succulent beef, you realize there are far more important political developments going on in the San Fernando Valley than the noisy, Anglo-centered secession movement.
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