Digging the Roots

I was happy and encouraged to see Daniel Hernandez’s comments about Mexico’s Afromestizo heritage in “Relatives in the Mirror” [August 3–9]. As a Southland public schoolteacher, I have spent my career teaching primarily Mexican-American students, not a few of whom have clearly shown some degree of black African genes, for all to see, right there in their phenotype. As a black American of considerably mixed racial heritage, I have found this African strain in the Mexican community’s gene pool fascinating; but I have also learned that it is not something openly acknowledged by the community either.

We tend to see ourselves, we people of color in the United States and in the Americas generally, as living extensions of the Old World. We label ourselves according to colonial standards and perceptions even though the year is 2007. I call myself “black” and “African-American.” Others call themselves “Latino” and “Hispanic.” But we are almost all, all of us, children of the New World, to some degree or another — mestizos and mulattos who, let’s face it, do not come directly from Spain or England or Africa.

How many Angelenos know this little fact, I wonder: Of the 44 Mexicans who first settled Los Angeles, in the area we now call Olvera Street, the majority were Negro and mulatto. We don’t just share a root. We share the same sun, sap and soil; we are branches and leaves of a world-tree called the Americas. Tragically, we can’t see the tree for the forest.

Robert Adan Williams

South Pasadena

Body Without a Backbone

Marc Cooper hits the nail squarely on the head several times in “Fabian Núñez’s Big Break”[August 3–9]. Our union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, joined the Hotel and Restaurant Employees, the California Federation of Labor, and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor in opposing the compacts only after we made attempts to recognize tribal sovereignty with one of the tribal organizations. Our attempts met with little success, despite our willingness to understand and be a part of the tribal sovereignty issue. Governor Schwarzenegger didn’t lift a finger to negotiate labor rights, nor did the state Senate. The backbone needed to come from the state Assembly, the body of the legislature commonly believed to be the closest to the people.

In my opinion, Fabian Nuñez, as speaker, had an absolute responsibility to represent “the people” — including the tens of thousands of men and women who work in California’s tribal casinos. Speaker Nuñez failed this modest test. I am truly saddened he could not stand up and be counted. On behalf of the working men and women of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, I thank all of you who work each day to make the L.A. Weekly a fine paper, and Marc Cooper for courageously saying what needed to be said.

Lee Pearson

General Vice President, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Western Territory

Rancho Murieta

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Highness

Regarding “DEA’s Scarlet Letter” [August 10–16]: The purpose of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the protection of every individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. An individual who possesses or cultivates marijuana violates no one’s rights. Just as the government has no right to dictate what foods we ingest or what books we read, it should have no right to dictate what drugs we take so long as we do not violate the rights of others. And in the case of people with terminal diseases, forcefully preventing them from using drugs that might alleviate their pain is unconscionably immoral.

David Holcberg

Ayn Rand Institute


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