By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
This is not to say tensions do not exist, but, as some leaders have asked rhetorically, are we to focus on divisions or improve upon unity? “Let’s be brutally honest about the impact,” said civil-rights attorney Connie Rice, during a roundtable on ethnic politics at the start of the National Latino Congreso, “but let’s also keep in mind that we have the power to write the script so that everyone gets in the story.”
Yet these sorts of statements are not new. In fact, not much of anything that’s been said during the fledgling immigrant-rights movement is particularly striking or transgressive. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who mentioned the immigrant-rights struggle during a talk on the environment at the NLC, used the sort of maddening, middle-of-the-road rhetoric common among Clintonian Democrats when recalling “these people,” the immigrants he said he greeted with deep pride at City Hall on March 25.
“They come here to work, they come here for a better life, they come here to participate in the American Dream,” Villaraigosa said. “And while we all recognize that every country has the right to secure its borders and enforce its laws, to hold people accountable for breaking the law, a great and generous America also should and must provide a pathway for citizenship for these people.”
In the end, isn’t it our artists who are our seers?
Over the weekend, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, the gender-bending, border-busting performance artist, came to town to present a new work exploring the connections between “war on terror” and the “war on immigrants.” At one point, Gómez-Peña led a call-and-response incantation with the audience. He shouted out the name of a major city and an aspect of its corresponding cultural reality. “Repeat after me: London! Is! Pakistan! . . . New York! Is! Puerto Rico!” and so on. And when he called “Los Angeles! Is! Central America!” I found myself making the call plaintively up to the ceiling.
Los Angeles is Central America. All you had to do was see MacArthur Park on Sunday, when the Central American community gathered for its annual fiestas patrias festival. Stalls were set up selling Honduran, Salvadoran, and, of all things, Filipino cuisine (“as eaten in Spain!”). Others hawked suburban-subdivision parcels in Guatemala at $5,800 a pop. Reggaeton, cumbia and ’80s electro-pop blasted from speakers placed all over. The Central American diaspora, in all its multishaded glory — fair, brown and black — strutted about Wilshire Boulevard bearing flags and headbands of their home countries, dressed as cowboys, cheerleaders, hip-hop heads, in pairs, as families and, of course, selling stuff without permits.
There were far, far more people in attendance than at any of the recent immigrant-rights rallies.
“Wasn’t it just for women?” asked her friend Guadalupe, a 28-year-old Mexican immigrant, also a house cleaner.
Both women, both undocumented, said they attended the big marches in L.A. in March and May. This time around, they just didn’t bother. Why? They replied with shrugs.
“We’re just waiting,” Escobar said.
Waiting seemed to please them just fine.
After all, regardless of what Congress does this year, which likely won’t be much, everyone knows you can just buy your authentically inauthentic California ID, the carrying card of a true Americano, a short walk away down at Wilshire Boulevard and Alvarado Street. It’s good ole supply and demand, as American as chop suey and veggie burritos. And a reminder that the only aliens in this new brown nation, as it turns out, are on Capitol Hill.