Notes from Aztlán
On Thursday, November 14, 2013, the parents, family, and dozens of community supporters of Carlos Oliva gathered at the East Los Angeles Sheriff substation to demand justice for Carlos who was killed by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs while unarmed on September 10th in City Terrace.
Carlos was a twenty-three year old college student walking in City Terrace with a skateboard and cell phone in hand when the L.A. Sheriff descended upon him. As the questioning took a violent turn due to racist overreaction by the sheriffs, Carlos pleaded for his life telling the sheriffs on the scene that he just wanted to go home.
An article in the Los Angeles Times (9/19/13) stated that the police officer in question had already been involved in six previous shooting incidents with at least three of those shootings occurring while the “suspect” was unarmed.
How many times have we heard of this narrative before?
Furthermore Capt. Robert J. Tubbs, who supervises the Community Oriented Policing Services bureau, said of the police officer in question, “We’ve had our bumps in the road with some of his tactics, but overall he’s been outstanding,” Tubbs said. “Tony has a propensity to be able to find criminal activity anywhere. He’s a lightning rod. He’s a great street cop.”
Looks like the officer has a propensity for hating Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os with his shoot first and never ask questions mentality, which has been a trademark of the occupying police force of Los Angeles since time immemorial.
According to Attorney Luis Carrillo, evidence clearly points to Carlos being shot in the back and at the current moment the Sheriff’s Department along with the Los Angeles Coroner’s Department are refusing to release the autopsy to the family. This is an injustice.
At the press conference, the family denounced the tactics of the L.A. Sheriff’s which has begun a strategy of intimidation against witnesses in the police murder of Carlos Oliva. The parents demand justice for their son and end to further police violence by the sheriffs against the Chicana/o-Mexicana/o community.
Jaime Cruz of the Chicano Moratorium Committee linked the latest violent outburst by the sheriff’s department to the same type of racist police operations that led to the death of Ruben Salazar in 1970. Another Chicano long-time activist Carlos Montes, echoed similar sentiments when he spoke about growing up in East Los Angeles in the 1960s and standing in front of the East LA Sheriff substation to protest the death of a Chicano at the hands of the sheriff’s department.
The L.A. Sheriff’s Department has been under recent federal investigations for police brutality of inmates at its central jail. The L.A. Sheriff’s Department has a history of racially targeting Chicanas/os-Mexicana/os, including the Sleepy Lagoon Case of 1942 when over 600 young Chicanas/os were arrested in a racist police dragnet.
The community will continue to press for justice and once again renew the call for complete community control over the police force.
More updates to come.
23 year old Carlos Oliva was killed by L.A. Sheriffs while unarmed Sept. 10th. Carlos was a college student doing nothing wrong.
The Sheriff’s Department and L.A. County are refusing to release the autopsy to the family! The Oliva family will hold a demonstration today at 10am at the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station, 5019 E. Third St. East Los Angeles, CA 90022, to demand the release of the autopsy results, and Justice for Carlos Oliva! Basta Ya! Community Control Over the Sheriffs and Police!
MEChA de CSULA invites you to a screening of The Harvest (La Cosecha) on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 6pm in the U-SU Theatre. The film will follow with a Q&A panel discussion with undocumented students will share their stories of struggles and agency.
At a time when Chicanas/os-Mexicanas/os and Central Americans continue to be targeted by racist and sexist raids and deportations by the US Government, students and their families demand an end to raids, deportations, and In(Secure) Communities that divide families. FULL LEGALIZATION FOR OUR PEOPLE.
What: The Harvest
When: November 13, 2013 at 6pm
Where U-SU Theatre at California State University, Los Angeles (5151 State University 90032)
Who: MEChA de CSULA
This is a compilation of poems that I have written over the last decade. As a teenager I was given the honor to become part of the Mexica Movement and to begin my decolonization process. With each lesson learned and book read, I began to see myself as an Indigenous woman. No longer did I wish for an identity of false pride or self-hate. I began to know who I was and I began to understand the system of white supremacy. I offer you these poems with love and a hope that you too will understand this hidden history. These are my poetic expressions of the decolonization process of an Indigenous woman who represents Native American, Mexican, Central American, and South American experience as Indigenous people under European occupation. I am a Nican Tlaca woman. These poems are my obsidian blades meant to rip through and destroy the matrix of white supremacy racism. I want to help denounce the colonialist crimes against our people for the last 521 years. We are not hispanic or latinos. We are neither a new race or a cosmic race. We are an ancient people trapped in the colonialist paradigm of power and justice. I will not allow myself to be used for colonial agendas. This is a glimpse into the mind of someone who is seeking to decolonize herself while at the same time using all of the tools to destroy white supremacy and to help liberate our people. Colonialism has never ended on this continent. We are the survivors of the world’s largest genocide yet we have no clue. Poetry has allowed me to express centuries of injustice and it has become my war cry for decolonization.We must wake up from this matrix of white supremacy and begin to cleanse ourselves from the claws of Euro-centric ideologies.
I welcome you into my ongoing journey of decolonization.
– by Citlalli Citlalmina Anahuac
There is a silent injustice taking place at the campus of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) that is a microcosm of the historical struggles Chicana/o Studies and Chicana/o students have faced on campus since at least 1966.
On the one hand, there is a lack of institutional support in providing genuine academic opportunities for Chicana/o students to succeed at CSULA due in large part to so-called educational budget cutbacks, which cause tremendous negative impact on our community’s access to equitable education and thus the inability to have access to equitable economic and political representation in the county and city.
There is also the failure of Chicana/o Studies to rightfully defend itself or the community from these racist budget cutbacks or worse from the right-wing assault against the discipline.
In particular, on the eve of the 45th Anniversary of the first Chicana/o Studies Department established in the United States at CSULA, there has been a complete failure by both CSULA and the Chicana/o Studies Department to commemorate this historic milestone.
45 years of struggle and resistance seemed to have been conveniently forgotten by the racist “business as usual” attitude that permeates relations between CSULA and Chicana/o students.
Earlier this year, students from Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (MEChA) de CSULA organized several community and campus cultural events to highlight the importance of Chicana/o Studies to the surrounding community of East Los Angeles.
The need to build and strengthen Chicana/o Studies at CSULA was apparent to the students. Yet, these community and campus events were student-led and unfortunately organized without the support of the Chicana/o Studies Department at CSULA.
Chicana/o students, community activists, and supporters have attempted to build bridges of collaboration and communication with the Chicana/o Studies Department at CSULA in the hopes that Chicana/o Studies return to its roots of resistance and self-determination as the intellectual arm of the movement. Yet, student concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
In the current anti-Chicana/o Studies climate that pollutes the country, Chicana/o Studies at CSULA has been complicit in its own weakening by failing to address legitimate student and community concerns, such as lack of classes or the large-scale recruitment of Chicana/o students from neighboring East Los Angeles high schools.
While it is understood that institutional racist structures are in place at CSULA, it should also be recognized that Chicana/o Studies has remained silent on many issues impacting students and community.
The lack of a Chicana/o Studies accountability is an insult to those students who created the department in 1968 on behalf of the community. If Chicana/o Studies has raised concerns in recent years, then, it has failed to work collaboratively in securing student and community input and support.
Chicana/o students at CSULA must be compelled to raise its voice to address the institutional neglect of Cal State L.A. and the complicity of Chicana/o Studies for its failure to remedy racist institutional practices that maintain Chicana/o Studies and the surrounding community in a state of flux.
A weak Chicana/o Studies program equates to a weak Chicana/o community. It is apparent that Chicana/o Studies at CSULA has shifted its emphasis of self-determination to other things that are not readily apparent to the students nor the community.
Chicana/o Studies at Cal State L.A. has a long history of struggle and we find ourselves in the midst of another critical moment in the history of the department. Chicana/o Studies, in its current structure, seems not willing to fight for its survival.
Meanwhile, the petty bourgeois Mexican American and Hispanic/Latino middle-class has been falling head-over-heels over Eva Longoria’s academic achievement: graduating with a Master of Arts degree in Chicana/o Studies from the California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
Yet Eva contradicts everything Chicana/o Studies stands for. Eva clearly positions herself to profit from her “degree.”
In other spaces, some organizations, such as MALDEF and certain individuals continue to celebrate mythical victories in Arizona by using their platform for self-aggrandizement while doing absolutely nothing for the movement.
Similar to Eva, these folks position themselves as the voice of a new Pan-Latino civil rights movement, but are merely confusing everyone with their false talk of “unity” and “resistance,” when in reality they only show up when the cameras are there.
Yet, on the front lines of the struggle, Chicana/o students have been fighting to reinstate Chicana/o Studies in Tucson and fighting to keep Semillas’ Anahuacalmecac School in Los Angeles open for future generations. Eva and the Hispanics are nowhere to be seen in the struggle taking place in the streets.
With no concern for commemorating 45 years of existence and resistance, Chicana/o Studies at CSULA has become the Brown Tower it was feared it would become when it was first established. Despite being in the heart of the Chicana/o community, Chicana/o Studies at CSULA has tragically become another lost opportunity in the struggle against Empire.
From the Archives: Aztlán Reads Interviews Carlos Montes & Santino J. Rivera at Cal State L.A. (9/10/12)
Olga Talamante is central to the history of Chicana/o self-determination as it developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although her story has been told numerous times in Euroamerican progressive circles, it has largely remained outside the scope of Chicana/o Studies.
Olga’s story is one of agency, survival and community struggle against the power of the State. While the United States engages in imperialist wars abroad and clamps down on legitimate constitutionally protected dissent at home, Olga’s story reminds us that the struggle for human rights and human dignity continues.
Olga Talamante was born in 1950 in Mexicali, Baja California, México to Eduardo and Refugio Talamante. At the age of eleven, she and her family moved to Gilroy, California, the garlic capital of the world.
Her father, Eduardo worked in the fields, while her mother Refugio worked as a waitress. In high school, Olga excelled academically and was elected vice-president of her senior class at Gilroy High School in 1969.
Olga was one of the few Chicanas/os to be accepted and enrolled at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). At UCSC, Olga was active with the United Farm Workers (UFW), the Chicano anti-Viet Nam War movement, and the Chicano student movement.
As a young 23-year-old Chicana radical, Olga graduated with a B.A. in Latin American Studies. While doing field studies in Chiapas, México, Olga met several Argentinian radicals who introduced her to the idea of going to Argentina to organize and to study.
Olga was intrigued by the idea of going to Argentina, especially since she felt she could use her degree in Latin American Studies to further the cause of social justice.
At the time, Argentina had been bogged down by political instability for decades due in large part to several military coups that led to military control of the government. But growing workers’ and students’ dissent led to fragile changes in the political structure of Argentina and to the rise of what is commonly referred to as the “subversive years” (1969-1973) through the work of Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación (FAL).
The election of Dr. Hector Cámpora as president in 1973, moreover, signaled a new era in Argentine politics as hundreds of political prisoners were released.
It was in this climate, then, that Olga Talamante decided to travel to Argentina to work in solidarity with the growing radical student and labor movement.
Cámpora, however, decided not to seek re-election and Juan Perón returned from exile to assume the presidency with his wife Isabel de Perón becoming the vice-president of the country.
Upon her arrival to Argentina, Olga began working in one of the poorest sections in Buenos Aires in the Barrio San Francisco with the Peronist Youth Movement.
The death of Juan Perón pushed Argentina into a state of political chaos as a struggle between the left-wing and right-wing factions of the Peronist movement ensued. Isabel Perón assumed the presidency and the right-wing faction took control of the government.
On November 7, 1974, the Argentine government passed a series of new “State of Siege” laws that according to Olga were designed to halt student, worker, and other opposition dissent.
As Olga would state: “On November 7, the government issued a broad set of security regulations that banned political meetings, labor organizing, anti-government demonstrations. It was the new martial law and the beginning of the repressive period in Argentina.”
In the January 1975 issue of La Raza magazine, it was reported that Olga and twelve others had been arrested while attending a “bar-be-que.”
The new “State of Siege” laws in Argentina made it illegal for more than four people to be together at any one time. There had been at least fifteen people at the party.
Olga was accused of having direct links with the Montonero guerrillas, who were the militant wing of the Peronist Youth Movement, and which had recently declared war on Isabel Perón’s government.
It was also alleged that the Argentine federal police found two .45 caliber guns along with some “subversive literature.”
According to La Raza magazine, there were two other individuals who had attended the party but were not arrested and it was rumored that they had been shot, but nobody could confirm this. Nevertheless, there was no word on their whereabouts.
Olga and the other twelve were charged with violating the anti-subversive acts. Olga was unaware of the gun charge until she faced the judge at her “sentencing.”
While in prison, Olga was tortured. According to Olga, Argentine officials placed a burlap bag over her head with her hands tied behind her back and both feet tied together, while she gasped for air because she was “karate-chopped” in the stomach.
In a School of the Americas Watch interview in 2006, Olga further elaborated on her experiences:
They took me into another room where there were several other people. I heard several men’s voices. They untied my hands and feet and ordered me to take my clothes off. I hesitated, but they made it clear that there was no choice to make. Some hands sat me down on a bed. They pushed me down on the bed and spread my arms and legs, which were then tied to the posts of the bed, spread-eagle fashion.
Then the electric shocks began. They knew to attack some of the most sensitive areas of the body. When the electric current was applied, I could only scream.
The terror came after the electric shock. They are going to do it again, I thought. A pillow was put over my head to muffle my scream. I panicked. I must be able to breathe and scream in order to survive, I thought. I must be able to breathe. After about the third time that the electric current was applied, I figured what I thought was a brilliant maneuver.
I waited until the pillow was put on my head, then right before the hands holding it pushed down hard on it, I turned my head sideways and was so relieved to be able to take in a breath. I just had to be really alert so I could move my head back in upright position before the pillow was pulled up. It was a project, and it helped me focus. I knew that was the only way I could survive.
Olga wrote letters to her family and friends in the United States describing her arrest and ordeal. Promptly the Olga Talamante Defense Committee (OTDC) was organized in Oakland, California.
Despite the torture she suffered, in one of her letters to her parents, Olga boldly declared, “I love life enough to struggle for it, and I’m happy to be living this historic moment even if I’m imprisoned, because I know that in spite of it, my thoughts, and others like you, are free.”
In a January 29, 1975 letter, Olga strong in spirit recounted the following:
I’m happy to know that my brother and sister campesinos continue firm in La Causa. It was in the fields that I learned of the inhuman exploitation and miserable living conditions that many of us suffer due to an economic system which puts material riches before a person’s dignity. It was as a Chicana campesina that I learned to struggle and my being here in Argentina is but a consequence of that consciousness. You should all be proud to know that I’m called “Chicana” by the compañeros and by the police, too! The first ones do it with love and international solidarity, and the second ones with hate and international despair.
Meanwhile, Chicanas/os accused the Gerald Ford Administration of complicity for supporting the repressive Argentine government in silencing political dissidents. Time and time again, the Ford Administration claimed that “we are doing the best we can” to release Olga, an American citizen.
Many Chicanas/os suspected that the Ford Administration didn’t want Olga released for fear that Olga’s story would reach the American people as well as embarrass the United States internationally.
Chicanas/os felt betrayed by the Ford Administration and thus they began an all-out effort to unmask the lies and complicity of the U.S. government by sending letters, passing resolutions of support within Chicano organizations, informing the community via the media, and pressuring elected officials to call for the release of Olga and end U.S. support of repression in Argentina.
The Chicana/o community was urged to send letters to Robert Hill the U.S Ambassador to Argentina. One sample letter circulated stated:
The case of Olga Talamante and the twelve Argentines arrested with her show the lengths to which the Argentine Government will go in suppressing democratic rights and the extent to which the U.S. Government will lie to its citizens back home in order to hide its complicity with this repression.
I demand the immediate release of Olga and her companions, Olga’s immediate return to the U.S. and the restoration of democratic rights in Argentina.
After an intense grass-roots effort led by the OTDC, Olga was released sixteen months later in 1976. Olga’s experiences focused attention on the repressive and violent nature of the State vis-à-vis women.
As the United States government uses the pretext of its never ending War on Terror to imprison without trial, kidnap suspected “terrorists,” normalizes the apparatus of rendition, resorts to assassinating American citizens with drone strikes in foreign countries, and most recently having been found to have been conducting mass illegal surveillance of virtually every person on the planet, Olga’s story is relevant today for it demonstrates that illegal U.S. government conduct is not a new phenomenon but part and parcel of a history of governmental criminal activity.
Olga Talamante’s story represents the interconnectedness of the struggle for human rights internationally. Chicanas have always been at the forefront of the struggle for liberation.
Contrary to the Euroamerican and Hispanic narrative that the Chicana/o has been historically apolitical, the struggle of Olga Talamante and the OTDC reminds us that the Chicana/o community has always resisted injustice and has organized to defend its own.
It is a Chicana/o story that must be told, especially at a time when our constitutional rights have been trampled upon by the State, and when Chicana/o Studies is being assaulted by Euroamerican and Hispanic right wing factions who want to erase our history.