Monday, March 23, 2009

Not "My" President: A Letter to Barack Hussein Obama

Dear Obama,

You are not "my" president. I am not recognizing you as "my" president nor am I considering any other person "my" president. For me, recognizing you as "my" president means that I agree with the system that you are perpetuating – and I don’t. Also, recognizing you as "my" president is not giving me "hope" for "change". And furthermore, recognizing you as "my" president would mean I am acknowledge you as my leader, but the only thing that I am following is my heart. Obama I am recognizing you as part of this universal family of life guided by love, and although I am not recognizing you as "my" president, I know you and I are "one".

I am not recognizing you as "my" president when the army you are "commanding" is killing people all over the world. I don’t agree with that system. I am not in agreement with sending more troops to Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other country on a path to peace. Choosing a "path to peace" that includes "shock and awe" strategies consisting of tons of bombs, bullets, and dead bodies is not liberating anybody nor bringing peace to anyone. I am agreeing with Mahatma Gandhi’s spirit saying that "there is no path to peace. Peace is the path." Planting a seed of violence can only produce violence; planting an orange tree will not produce apples. I am agreeing with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh who says that "only deep listening, mindfulness and gentle communication can remove the wrong perceptions that are the foundation of violence."

I don’t recognize you as "my" president because I do not agree with the American myths being taught to the citzens of this "country" in the mandatory public education system, and dramatized by the media corporations, which hides the true nature of these systems. Christopher Columbus did not "discover" America and help initiate the spread of freedom and democracy, but rather intiated the invasion and occupation of the Anahuac continent. These lies are hiding the truth and setting the precedent for other nations like Israel, which is receiving military aid to keep exterminating the Arab people who’ve lived in Palestine for thousands of years. According to the Israeli myth, Palestine was "a land without a people for a people without a land."

Obama, I know that this government allowed the creation of a private bank in 1913 (the Federal Reserve Act, 1913) owned and operated by private bankers. I know that this bank prints money and loans it to the government at "interest" which helps keep the government in debt to these bankers who in turn have the power to manipulate the economy by raising and lowering interest and is allowing them to stage depressions and what not. This system is allowing these bankers to buy up other banks, corporations, and foreclosed homes when the economy collapses. I know these bankers practically own Wall Street and contributed the most money to your campaign and are receiving bailouts consisting of billions of dollars from taxes. I don’t agree with that system.

I am not recognizing your presidency as "hope" for "change." I know that in this universe the only thing that is constant "is" change. Change is happening every moment. I don’t need to have hope in anybody to bring change to this world, country, community, or myself because it is happening naturally, right now. I have faith in the great spirit of the universe. Most people call this unifying energy God and the Great Spirit, among other things, but I like to call it Love. Love is life. Life is love. It is one. I am not recognizing you as "my" president while you are running a system rooted in slavery. I am living to love and loving to live every moment which naturally brings "true change"; a change I can experience inside of me and all around. This change is guided by love inside of me and inside of everything else in this universe. No external force is giving me "hope" for a change to all the suffering in this American system. Change is happening naturally, we are not making it.

Obama, I believe that when we are born there is an energy called love which is leading our lives. The energy and the actions are "one." Love is the language of the heart which allows us to continue living. The heart is what is leading our lives, showing us how to breathe, digest, grow, etc. It is the only thing that is guiding all the actions I am taking and all the thoughts I am expressing…all the love I am living. I am listening to the heart because it has all the answers that I need. I know that everyone’s heart is holding all the answers they need to live free and there is no need for us to have an external leader. No external force is leading me or anyone else to freedom. Not democracy, nor technology, nor hope. Only faith. Faith in love. Faith in life. Believing that everything is "one" and constantly changing, living, loving. No amount of wealth or power is changing our life or leading it to "freedom and justice for all," it is simply perpetuating this system of lies. The truth is inside of us all and we are all one. Acknowledging our oneness can allow us to stop looking at external forces like terrorists, or "others" as being the cause of our troubles and allow us to find peace inside of ourselves.

Obama I am living the truth. I am living free. I don’t need you as "my" president. This is not a declaration of independence, this is a declaration of "interdependence." You are not "my" president but everything in life has a purpose and I am glad that I am here in this universe and you are here and we are "one."

Jaime Agredano

Our Form of Expression

Geronimo Souza Valdivieso

There are many forms of expression; I just chose one to relieve
Some tension, my poems are an extension of a mind out of body
Experience. Give perfect execution like hanging someone
Without breaking their neck and letting ‘em suffocate, and if you

Think that’s sick… you better check how we do nothing, but love
To watch other people suffering… And I can be equal to my
Surroundings, but once I flip on the television, I get a high interest
In negligence and feel a need to resort to violence, to run on my

High emotions, in a world packed with self-glorification instead
Of self-determination, and you really ain’t nothing, being the
Survivor on Big Brother, doesn’t constitute you as the American Idol,
You chanting we are the champions and winning a championship,
Is fictitious and irrelevant and prevalent to ignorance. The way you
Define yourself, puts you in a bit of a predicament…

You call yourself African, after the Roman General Scipio Africanus,
And you call yourself Latino or Hispanic after the Roman Language,
This not an influence, it’s been forced on to us, down our throats,
Living from Pax Romana down on to Pax Americana, still getting
Your brain washed by the Nazi Propaganda… You’re becoming one

Hell of a pasta, a stereotypical Scarface, Godfather, Mafia,
It’s like the T.V. defines the living room, like a gun defines our youth…
This country is based on bondage, I guess we like getting beat
And punished, and let it be video taped and shown to an audience,
That seems to have a fetish for a history of violence… and so…

You don’t have to be on death row in order to be a dead man walking,
Little by little you’re dying, as you take in the stench of failure,
It’s intolerable; you can’t cover up a drug war scandal, making
Money off the barrios, going from Iran Contra to martial law,
How is it a person goes from looking for work to being a criminal???

The light is starting to beacon, like deception under a lie detector,
So I can’t hold it in, so it’s not my balls that are turning blue,
It’s my tonsils, ‘cause I had enough of people not having a clue,
How they’re getting used, and how society looks down on you, with
A sick perverted mind, lookin’ you up and down, undressing you, and
While you speak, hearing you moan and groan like if it was sex phone…

I guess in this society you got to constantly wear a condom, ‘cause if
You don’t constantly protect yourself, it’s like playing an extreme sport,
With no protection, ending up with broken bones and barely left with
Life, on life support, dealing with the political storms that you can’t even
Control, your cognitive dissonance makes you think you can relate to
The world behind close doors in a studio…

Hate and tolerance shouldn’t have a place here, ‘cause they can break
At any given point, ‘cause how long can you tolerate being slapped
In the face, being harassed by the police, innocent but still losing
The case, and all you achieved lost in a blaze, marching peacefully
And still getting pepper sprayed and maced, watching others succeed
From the other side of the gate???

My brothers and sisters, you got nothing to debate, you been giving
Chase, but you can’t play catch up in a maze; you need to put down
The blunt and get out of the blaze, let the fresh air touch your face,
Look and gaze at yourself and reflect, in a constant mental conflict,
Gather strength, and put your thoughts into context, and you’re
Bound to make mistakes and errors, that’s why pencils have erasers…

But take it one step at a time, like reading a book together, we got to
Be on the same page, ‘cause one wrong step and we’ll be looking
Like Juan Gabriel, falling off stage, but the world is not a stage,
Because actors are the best liars, and those who read from a script,
Can’t really think for themselves, so when the going gets tough,
They’re the first ones yelling: Everyone for themselves!!!

And no matter how hard they try to squeeze their grasp, the sand will
Still slip from their hand
, while we
get it together our hand will form
A fist
, the legist is a test in a mess, where people think less of
Themselves, so they’re like agents and scouts, making wealth off the
Disenfranchised, to capitalize, to create a franchise, built on lies,
Like drug ties… So a word to the wise… Like my sister Michiboo, put it:

You can’t put the words wise and dumb together to make the word wisdom!!!

That’s one hell of an oxymoron, like giving to charity and asking for a tax
Deduction refund… And so we need to quit falling for the images, the way
Society depicts women as frigid, off pseudo-doctors opinions, ‘cause it’s the
Man whose impotent… that’s why the man needs a medicine to give him a lift…
But this ain’t no free ride, like winning a fake ass election by a landslide…

In life you got to cut thru the grime, like 409… There’s always a beginning
And an end, and life is the in between, but life ain’t about getting cream,
And dying ‘cause of all the beef on the street, get off that level of being
The dirt lying beneath the pebbles, and get out of the rubble, or else you’ll
Be as self-conscious as freshmen conversations in college…

Never able to understand… our form of expression

Who Am I?

Jesus Cortez

Who am I?
Well my name would not
answer that question.
To think such a thing could
define someone as me
would mean that a prisoner
is no more than a number,
so you might wonder
and ponder on why my name;
I did not choose it, first or last.
You might cross yourself
as I walk by in mockery,
or ask if I spell it with an "s"
or a "z" – what difference does
it make, if I ache from the pain
of not knowing my true name?
In another time, I might have
been Mexica, now I am "indio",
"mestizo" with a brand on my body,
not my hand or my back.
I’m no savior, I’m no "conquistador",
my name is as meaningless as
words made up by colonizers
to excuse their crimes.
I am more than my name may say--
as "nice" as it may be.
So I inherited the name of my "father’s"
father and probably someone else’s
father, and someone’s slave and someone’s
master. Oh what disaster to think
I am who I am, when I’m not who
they say. I like my other names much
more; as a boy even an insult sounded
much better than my name.
Torturous sounds of a teacher’s
pronunciation, and my indignation –
it’s not Gee-zus, it’s JESUS,
it’s not Cor-tayz, it’s Cortez; and me
foolishly telling them it was in Spanish,
when how "Spanish" am I really.
I am more than my name, a name
that confines me to be a half-breed.
I am the son of the colonized and the bastard
of the colonizer, branded with fire
upon my brain, to think I am who
I have been told I am –
Jesus Cortez

Poema de amor

Roque Dalton

Los que ampliaron el Canal de Panamá 

(y fueron clasificados como "silver roll" y no como "gold roll"),
los que repararon la flota del Pacifico
en las bases de California, 

los que se pudrieron en las cárceles de Guatemala, 

México, Honduras, Nicaragua, 

por ladrones, por contrabandistas, por estafadores, 

por hambrientos, 

los siempre sospechosos de todo 

("me permito remitirle al interfecto 

por esquinero sospechoso 

y con el agravante de ser salvadoreño"), 

las que llenaron los bares y burdeles 

de todos los puertos y capitales de la zona 

("La gruta azul", "El Calzoncito", "Happyland"), 

los sembradores de maíz en plena selva extranjera, 

los reyes de la pagina roja, 

los que nunca sabe nadie de donde son, 

los mejores artesanos del mundo, 

los que fueron cosidos a balazos al cruzar la frontera, 

los que murieron de paludismo 

o de las picadas del escorpión a la barba amarilla 

en el infierno de las bananeras, 

los que lloraron borrachos por el himno nacional 

bajo el ciclón del Pacifico o la nieve del norte, 

los arrimados, los mendigos, los marihuaneros, 

los guanacos hijos de la gran puta, 

los que apenitas pudieron regresar, 

los que tuvieron un poco mas de suerte, 

los eternos indocumentados, 

los hacelotodo, los vendelotodo, los comelotodo, 

los primeros en sacar el cuchillo, 

los tristes mas tristes del mundo, 

mis compatriotas, 

mis hermanos.

Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran revolutionary poet.

At The Bottom: Desperate Measures

Jesus Cortez
He stood on the corner, with the same workers he had advocated for at one point— now he was one of them.

"Damn, it’s already noon, and nothing…" remarked Bruno.

"Is okei my fren, tomorro," responded an older man in broken English.

Bruno wondered why his education had not paid off yet, but this made him understand the stories he had heard once at the same corner: he had met ex-rebels from El Salvador, teachers from Mexico, doctors from Guatemala— all waiting for someone, anyone to pick them up and give them work for the day.

"I should head on home, there’s no way I’m getting work for today" he thought to himself as he placed his hands in the empty pockets of his khaki pants. The afternoon had turned cold, and he felt it through his worn-out white shoes and his thin grey sweatshirt.

As he arrived at his apartment complex, he read the graffiti on the walls; some names he still recognized, others were new to him. He thought about the days when he would roam the streets with his friends and his then-girlfriend— at that time his pockets were full and he felt invincible. He walked past the young men with baggy pants, white t-shirts and tattoos. As he approached his apartment door, he could hear Etta James’ song "Fool That I Am", and his daughter’s laughter—he could also smell the scent of beans. Before he could open the door completely, his daughter ran to his arms.

"Daddy!" she said, as his mother turned with a smile. She always smiled.

"Any luck today, son?" she asked with a grin.

"No Momma, not a damn thing" he said frustrated, as he rubbed his bald head. His brown eyes began to water, but before he could cry, his mother gave him a stern look.

"Don’t you dare cry, Bruno Gonzalez," she finally said.

"Okay, okay. Not in front of my baby" he said, and he picked up his three-year-old daughter.

"So, what did you do today little Xochitl?" he asked her. She responded and kept talking for hours; that was his favorite part of the day and the only thing that brought Bruno peace of mind.

Later that night, after tucking his daughter in, he had a conversation with his mother.

"How much money do we have, Mom?" he asked with a worried look on his face.

"Not much. Maybe for another week, but after that we still gotta pay the rent," she responded, as she ran her finger down a list.

"Damn, if that stupid woman had not taken all our savings, we would be alright!" A tear fell from his eye and rolled down his cheek and onto his mustache—he wiped it off. Bruno missed her more than he hated her for leaving him for his cousin. His mother turned on the radio and they listened to a few more songs by Etta James—"At Last" and "I’d Rather Go Blind"—then they were both silent.

"It’s gonna be alright mi’jo, don’t worry" she said soothingly, as she stroked his wet cheek.

The next morning, he got up early, got dressed in the same clothes, and drank his coffee—he was ready to keep searching for work. He trusted his mother, and if she said things would be okay, he had no reason to doubt her words.

As he stepped out of his apartment, he heard a voice call out "Psycho!" At first he thought it was the chilling wind blowing, or maybe he was just hearing things, but soon after, another young man appeared near the gate to the apartment complex.

"What, you can’t recognize an old friend or what, punk?" said the young man as he approached Bruno. Bruno had not recognized his old friend Andy. As soon as they were close enough, they shook hands and embraced.

"Take a ride with me," Andy said as he wrapped his arm around Bruno’s neck.

"Nah man, I have to look for work. I’m almost out of money, my kid needs food and the rent has to get paid," responded Bruno.

Andy insisted; he had just purchased a 1965 black Chevy Impala in mint condition and he wanted to take Bruno out for a ride. Andy knew that Bruno had been going through a rough situation lately, and he wanted to help. In the car, Bruno saw Daniel, his other close friend, and smiled.

"What’s up foo’, aren’t you gonna say wassup, or what?" Bruno said as Daniel stepped out of the car. Daniel was a giant in height compared to Bruno who was only 5’2 tall. When he got out of the car Bruno had to step back to make room. He greeted Bruno as he did in the old days—by play fighting.

Finally the three got in the car; Bruno sat in the backseat. They drove around the city for a couple of hours, listening to funk, Hip Hop and oldies, while Bruno looked out the window, thinking about his daughter and the things he should be doing. Bruno told Andy to turn up the volume when they played Tupac and Scarface’s song, "Smile". Bruno especially liked the introduction,

There’s gonna be some stuff you gonna see that’s gonna make it hard to smile in the future, but through whatever you see, through all the rain and the pain, you gotta keep your sense of humor, you gotta be able to smile through all this bullshit.

They made a stop at their favorite taco shop. Bruno had not tasted tacos in weeks, not since his daughter’s mother had left him. After a few hours of eating and talking, they got in the car again and drove around some more. In the evening, they took Bruno to their favorite bar.

There, they met up with another old friend who had just been released from prison after two years.

"Damn, when did you get out, foo’?" asked Bruno in disbelief.

"Last week," responded his friend. He had been drinking for a few hours, so he was already a bit drunk. "I hear you have some financial problems, ese."

"I’ll be alright Stranger, don’t even trip. It’s good to see you foo’. It’s been a while," responded Bruno.

"So, how’s college, you still going or what, eh?" asked Stranger.

"Nah, I had to quit for this semester… gotta take care of my little girl and my momma you know," responded Bruno as he took a sip of a beer his friends had bought him. He was only 19, but he had been going into bars since 17—his thick mustache made him look older than he was.

"I might be able to help you out, ese," said Stranger, as he sat on a stool stroking his thick mustache and beard, "but let’s go play pool and we’ll talk about it".

Bruno worried; the last time Stranger had tried to help, he ended up leaving the state for a few months, Daniel had gotten shot, Andy had left to Mexico and Stranger had ended up in prison serving two years in Susanville State Penitentiary. But they went ahead and played pool, as Andy and Daniel watched and cracked jokes. They talked about old times, when all it took was the four of them to control the neighborhood.

"Hey foo’, remember when we messed up that foo’ Robert?" asked Andy, as they laughed noisily.

After a few minutes of jokes and laughter, Stranger said "I might have a way for all of us to get paid".

They all knew this might be a bad idea, especially Bruno, but he was desperate for money. He had done some terrible things in his life, and did not want to go back to that lifestyle.

"I’ve seen you on the corner with the day laborers, foo’. You shouldn’t have to struggle that much, man. I’m telling you, just listen to my idea," said a drunken Stranger. "Okay, let’s hear it," said a not-so-convinced Bruno.

Stranger’s idea was to break into the neighborhood’s drug connection and rob it. Bruno thought Stranger was crazy. He knew who was in control of the drug connection, and though he was not afraid, he thought it a bad idea. They argued for a few minutes, but Bruno’s desperation was incredible. He finally agreed—he imagined himself driving around in a nicer car, not his mother’s beat up Monte Carlo, and imagined buying some nice clothes for his daughter, and paying the rent for a few months.

"Alright, I’m down" he finally said. "When and who else is rollin’?" he added. "Just us four, like the old days. We got everything ready, and a sawed-off shotgun, especially for you—like the old days," said Stranger. Everything was prepared for the robbery, because the job had to be done that same night. It was the end of the month, and they knew that the connection had taken advantage of pay day in the neighborhood.

"Go home, change, and meet us in front of your apartments, in 20 minutes" Stranger commanded.

Bruno went home, but said nothing to his mother. He ran into his room and changed into his black pants, black hooded sweater, black Nike Cortez; he put a black bandana in his pocket. He kissed his daughter, with a tear in his eye, but hoping his actions would lead to a better life. His mother questioned him. She asked him what his hurry was.

All he said was, "Nothing Momma, it’s gonna be alright," and left.

When he arrived at the front of his apartment, his friends were already there in Andy’s car.
They sped off and soon were on the same street where the drug connection was. "It’s that house." Stranger pointed across the street from where they were parked. As they sat in the car, they downed 40oz of beer, Stranger snorted cocaine, and Andy and Daniel smoked marijuana—Bruno just drank, and held the shotgun close to his chest. Many thoughts went through his mind, especially how long it had been since he had last used it. He thought about his mother, how disappointed she would be and about his daughter, but he decided to think about his ex and his cousin to get mad and more willing to go through with the robbery.

"Are you foos’ ready, or what?" questioned Stranger.

"Simón," was the automatic response from everyone.

They stepped out of the car quietly. They could hear Spanish music coming from the house, but no one was outside. They thought this would make the job easier. They walked quietly across the street: Bruno with the shotgun, Andy with a nine millimeter automatic revolver, Stranger with an AK-47, and Manuel with a Smith and Wesson .380.

They knocked on the door, and when it opened, a drunken man appeared. Stranger pointed the rifle to his chest and told him not to make a sound. They all walked in with their bandanas covering their faces and pointing their guns in different directions.

"Nobody make a damn move!" they all said.

As they walked in, they looked around and saw bags of money, and drugs. They didn’t care for the drugs, but they were overwhelmed by the amount of money. Three women came from the kitchen and were told to stay quiet. Two men came from the bathroom and were hit with Bruno’s shotgun on their heads.

"Get the money foo’, hurry up!" said Stranger as Bruno grabbed the bags of money.

"Where’s the rest?" asked Daniel as he pistol-whipped a man who had white dust on his nose. He finally told him where the rest of the money was. Soon, they had three bags full of money all together.

"Tie them up," Andy said to Stranger.

They had the money and all the dealers were tied up.

"You go first and turn the car around," said Stranger calmly.

Andy walked out the door, started the car and brought it around. Bruno, Stranger and Daniel ran out of the house with the money and jumped into the car. They sped off and got lost in the foggy night and city lights.

As they sped off, a young man had been peaking through his window, a friend of the drug dealers—he had seen all of their faces. ¶

Houston, We Have a Problema

Tina Vazquez

It’s never a good sign when you have to begin a book review with, "I really wanted to like …" Gwendolyn Zepeda’s completely uninspired first novel Houston, we have a Problema is disturbingly typical — which is perhaps the worst thing you can be as a writer.

I really wanted to like her Latina protagonist Jessica Luna. I was hoping she’d be fiercely smart, funny, and unexpected. Sadly, she stopped being promising about six pages in. Zepeda allows her character to fall victim to the usual clichés featured in both movies and literature pertaining to the Latino culture. Watch as Jessica Luna worries about the size of her ample ass. Watch as she pines and obsesses over the attractive Latino painter who treats her like shit, but superbly provides the drama she "loves." Listen as she makes earth shattering observations, such as "He was the kind of guy who obviously loved his mother, and therefore he always treated women like gold." Aside from that, Jessica Luna simply wasn’t a likeable character.

Perhaps you’re not supposed to admit things like this in a formal review, but I was reading Michelle Tea’s Rose of No Man’s Land at the same time as Houston, we have a Problema. The two books are worlds apart, but they were both written in first person from the main character’s perspective. Tea’s main character is a young teenage girl, while Zepeda’s is a twenty-six-year old woman. Despite this fact, Rose of No Man’s Land managed to be biting and intellectually stimulating; it had backbone and its character had nuance and layers. Zepeda’s character Jessica Luna lacked depth of any kind and was completely self-involved, uninteresting, and annoying. You’re forced to sit through her every mundane thought concerning her ridiculous love life and her boring job at an insurance company. Her internal struggles are so trivial that her "problems" are laughable. This sad state is only compounded by the fact that she visits a psychic for guidance- should she date the gabacho or the Mexicano? Should she do web design or try for a promotion at the insurance company? By the end of each chapter you’re left thinking who gives a fuck?

Houston, we have a Problema was obviously intended to be Jessica Luna’s coming of age tale, but if falls very, very flat. It also only furthers certain negative stereotypes associated with Latinas; that all of us love drama, that we want men who are bad for us, that we’re meek, apologetic, and indecisive. Though the protagonist routinely says she’s purposely steering clear of marriage, she spends more than half the book obsessing over men. Jessica Luna lets her life pass her by, unwilling to make her own decisions and unable to pinpoint whatever it is that she wants. I’d like to say that the novel ends on a promising note, but it doesn’t. In the end she dumps the white guy and the Latino painter … and then entertains the thought of dating two new men. Big whoop. ¶

Tina Vazquez is a writer for Feminist Review.

Circle of Beach

Commuter’s Corner
Maria Ventura

It was a stormy, wet Monday afternoon and I was sitting at the bus stop clutching my umbrella tightly so that it wouldn’t fly away. That’s when she approached me.

"May I sit here?" she asked in broken English.

"Yes," I replied.

She smiled and sat down and then like two old ladies we sat there huddling at the bus stop holding our umbrellas closely together to protect ourselves from the rain.

"What’s your name?" she asked.

"Maria," I replied as I shook her hand and smiled.

"What’s your name?" I asked.

She said her name but I couldn’t understand, so I just smiled. I had been on campus that day to pick up my Bachelor’s Degree from Admissions and to attend an El Reflejo meeting. I looked onto the street staring at CSULB, reminiscing about my memories as a student there. I was so locked into my own thoughts that I didn’t notice when she asked if I also attended the school.

"No, I graduated already," I said.

"Oh, it’s my first semester here."

"Oh, really?" I asked.

"I am here all alone. I am an international student."

"Oh cool, you’re an international student? Where are you from?"

"Vietnam. Do you know where that is?"

"Yes, I know where that is."

She then offered me raisins which I took politely as we waited for our buses to come; we ate the entire box. A short time later, her bus arrived and she waved goodbye as she boarded the bus that took her away. I was alone once more, waiting for my bus and glad that the rain had finally stopped. ¶

The CSU: Inception of "The People’s College"

Rafael Vásquez

This article is the first of a three-part series where we look at the CSU system: how it relates to other public institutions of higher education namely the California Community College and University of California systems, and the changes that have occurred to its fees. The second article will study the reactions and actions taken by the California community—students in particular—in response to the changes, and thirdly, we will study similar student reactions and actions taken in different parts of the world. Our goal with this series of articles is to collect our findings and organize a summer forum inviting the community to collectively begin conversations on the issue. We bring this to the table in hopes of re-kindling dialogue considering past, present, and future discourses, in shaping the future of the CSU.

California’s public higher educational systems have withstood a lessening of access, quality, and affordability. A dismantling of the educational system looms such that the great equalizer of any given society—education—may become more and more illusory for many California students. Segments of this populace face increased obstacles within the context of the extant overall worsening of educational conditions. So, whereas education often harkened to a bettering of the socioeconomic position of constituents, present exigencies (i.e. lack of financial aid) may effectively stem the opportunities of students in achieving even a small measure of post-secondary educational success. In this series, we tackle the latter issue—affordability and fee increases at the California State University (CSU). In order to contextualize the current trends of "budget cuts" and its adverse implications, we begin by describing the inception of our three-tiered higher education systems and attempt to describe how the CSU situates itself among these.

The University of California (UC) was the first formal system of higher education in the state and a system where its founders weighed heavily on the creation of later institutions—CCC and the CSU. The first formal university of the system, Berkeley, was established in 1868, which was considered among the best universities in the nation, sharing the ranks with Harvard. Along these lines, the UC became among the leading research universities. The founding elements—nonsectarian and nonpolitical decision making, the tuition-free policy, and the mandate for geographic representation—of the UC became extremely important principles, not only guiding the development of this system but also influencing the development of a set of regional state "teachers colleges" and, as mentioned earlier, acting as a catalyst for the creation of California’s junior colleges. Although the system suffered setbacks, it did not incorporate tuition for over a century. In theory, all Californian’s could have the opportunity to attend the state university.

During the middle of the 19th century, largely influenced by presidents and friends of elite national institutions such as Yale and Stanford to name a few, the junior college movement took-off to meet the needs of all students who dreamed of attaining some college education. It was presumed that many students, who might not otherwise initially be admitted to the UC, should have other opportunities for pursuing higher education. As a result, under the guise of democracy and other elements, in 1910, the first junior college—community college—was established in the state. These new junior colleges had many missions. Among them, to create vocational programs, create terminal degrees, and develop semi-professionals. Since then, the two-year educational system has seen some changes, including the creation of 110 community colleges to meet the needs of its surrounding constituents. Currently, the community college is almost exclusively subsidized by the state, arguably, accessible with modest student fees—although fees have risen.

"Normal schools" were established with the primary focus of training its students to become teachers. These became the first systems of higher education established by the State in 1862. Largely ubiquitous, these institutions were later named "teachers colleges" after the 1920s--appropriate for the type of institution. It was not until after this point that these institutions were able to confer bachelor’s degrees in education and later master’s degrees. The turning-point came after the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which canonized these institutions to what we now refer to as the California State University. It is at this juncture, where its exponential growth can bee noticed and where the universities under this new system became largely financed by the State with a continued emphasis on teacher education.

The rapid increment of college ready "baby boomers" led university officials to create policy to allow them to gain opportunities to enter California’s systems of higher education. Under the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education, admission policies would change, allowing the 12.5% of high school graduates to enroll in the UC and allow the top third graduation high school class to enter the California State University (CSU). In addition, this new policy created a hierarchical grade point average (GPA) system, allowing only some groups to enter the four-year institutions of higher education, while leaving others at the gates. The plan also served to formalize the three-tiered system:

The UC was to remain the State’s primary academic research institution and provide undergraduate, graduate and professional education, with exclusive rights in conferring doctoral degrees.

The California Community Colleges was to provide vocational instruction, remedial instruction, and continue its semi-professional orientation.

CSU’s primary mission was to educate undergraduates and graduates, including teacher education.

Per our discussion, however, the Master Plan sought to reaffirm California's long-time commitment to the principle of tuition-free education to residents of the state. To this end, we begin to delve into the issue of "budget cuts" and tuition increases at the CSU.

It was five years ago when governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, UC president Robert C. Dynes, and CSU chancellor Charles B. Reed reached an agreement on a six year "Compact" that would ensure affordability, among other things. This "Compact" took effect on 2005/06 and continues through 2010/2011. In following, we give a few facts and illustrate how student fees have dramatically risen since then at the CSU:

  • In 2003-04 the CSU Board of Trustees and the UC Board of Regents increased student fees by 30 percent. These fee increases were in addition to 10 percent increases that each governing board implemented in 2002-03.he Governor’s 2004-05 Budget proposed the following fee increases for the CSU in 2004-05:
  1. A 10 percent increase in the system-wide graduate fee, which would raise this fee from $2,046 to $2,251 per year at the CSU

  2. A 40 percent increase in the system-wide graduate fee, which would raise this fee from $2,256 to $3,158 per year at the CSU

  3. A 20 percent increase in the out-of-state surcharge, which would raise this fee from $8,460 to $10,152 per year at the CSU

Look for the second installment of this article in the next issue.

A Day of Remembrance

Mizraim Martinez

To be a minority within this nation is a strange thing. One breathes the same air, shares the same space and believes in the same inalienable rights that were bestowed upon its people so very long ago. With César E. Chávez Day approaching, one can only look back and reflect on how over the past 40 years many battles for immigrant and minority rights have been fought; some were won — while others lost.

One such battle that lives in the minds of many Chicanos is the Boycott of Delano Farms. It was in this fight that the power and resilience of the minority worker was brought to light. The unity created within the Mexican American and Filipino communities shined, while proving to the nation that they would stand united in the struggle no matter how long it took to succeed.

Just as this struggle dominates the minds of many Chicanos, there is also such struggle and injustice that to this day resides in the minds of many of our Filipino brothers and sisters. To put it simply, it was a promise that was never kept.

During World War II, the United States called upon its people to fight in a war that still holds consequences today. As reported by CNN on Feb. 23rd, in addition to fighting for one’s country, "The U.S. military promised full veterans benefits to Filipinos who volunteered to fight." It would be a promise that would not come to fruition for another 64 years, and even then the "benefits" would be limited.

At the time of the war, 250,000 Filipino volunteers signed up to fight. Of those, only 15,000 still live today. It is an astonishing number that only sees the true injustice when one realizes that the "benefits" promised are as follows: those "[W]ho have become U.S. citizens get $15,000 each; non-citizens get $9,000." Even then, the families of those who have passed away waiting for these benefits are not eligible.

Although the recent action by President Barack Obama to finally recognize the service of these veterans is a step in the right direction, this small monetary compensation, "[D]oes not correct the injustice and discrimination done … 60 years ago," as Franco Arcebal, a leader of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, stated to CNN.

While President Obama has not made any follow-up comment regarding the funds to be distributed, I call on him to give these men their just compensation. As a man who ran on the platform of change and equality, he should realize these men deserve more. It was because of the promise of a better life that these men signed up; a promise that was erased as quickly as it was offered.

President Harry S. Truman wrote in a letter to the House and Senate in 1946, "The record of the Philippine soldiers for bravery and loyalty is second to none. Their assignment was as bloody and difficult as any in which our American soldiers engaged." If for no other reason, these veterans — those here and those who have since passed on — should be rightfully and justly remembered.

While this may be an issue that has been fought over in the highest levels of government for decades, it does not have to end there. With César E. Chávez Day approaching, we should take the time to remember our fellow "Brown Brothers" who fought in the war, and make it known that the Latino community has not forgotten about the Filipino community.

By celebrating them, we also celebrate the accomplishments that they helped trigger in Chicano history and in our own lives. ¶

Buscapalabras Chican@

Jaime Agredano

This puzzle features influential people, actions, and figures of the Chican@ Movement.

Dolores HUERTA
Emiliano ZAPATA

Lack of Huevos (PART I)

Jot@s Anónim@s:

There’s no worse feeling in the world than making your parents cry. To know that you are the reason for their discontent is to know betrayal and heartbreak at the same time. That’s what happened a couple of weeks ago when I came out to my father.

I’d been dwelling over it night and day during that week. To confess something that in my heart I felt that he already knew. The morning of my coming out, my sister approached me with the subject.

"I think it’s time you tell dad," she said.

Her freshly plucked eyebrows caught my attention and it was the only thing I could seem to focus on. Or maybe it was that I wanted to shift my attention on anything but my sexuality.

"He’s gone a long way since his drinking days and therapy is doing him good," she continued as she struggled to look for my lost thoughts.

She is right, I thought. My father is no longer the man who would disappear on the weekends in one of his alcohol-fueled binge parties. He is no longer the man who struck me down for my lack of masculinity. He is what you call a sober person.

Though I’ve long forgiven the man who would carry a round leather flask, I’ve yet to find the man who I can call my friend.

In my heart, I just knew it was time.

There is no book on how to prepare your coming out to your parents, let alone your Mexican dad. Maybe there is a Chicken Soup for the Ashamed Mexican Son Who Won’t Come Out To His Father Due To His Lack of Huevos, but I’ve been too obsessed with David Sedaris lately to read anything else.

I worked late that night, so my father came by my job to pick me up. I tried to make conversation to open some sort of dialogue between us. I asked if he was hungry. He only nodded. I tried the almost rainy weather, the family back in Mexico, my old shoes, and even President Barack Obama. It was useless. I only managed to get a few words from him.

It was right around the corner from my house that I opened with "I have something to tell you."
As we parked in the driveway and both of us were silent, the rain started pouring in the most cliché way possible. And then it was just the two of us. Inside his car. With the pouring rain outside. I cannot make this shit up.

"Just say whatever you have to say," he said.

He wouldn’t look at me. The both of us were staring at the white garage door in front of us. The cracked wood from the garage door created some sort of nifty design, nearing a piece of masterpiece artwork. The kind of artwork that you just don’t understand but cannot take your eyes away from because you don’t want to accept the fact that you don’t know shit about art.

"Look dad, I think you know what I want to say and I just don’t know how to say it," I said, looking him in the right side of his face.

He knew what I was talking about. The tears began to pour from his eyes. It was as though he was competing with the tears coming from the sky. His were tears of sadness and disappointment.

"I assure you that I wish I wasn’t gay." ¶

Look for 'Part II' in the next issue.

AB-540 Ally Training

Mojad@s Anónim@s:
"Leticia del Rio Bravo"

Last Friday, March 13th, several faculty and staff from California State University, Long Beach attended the campus’ second AB-540 Ally Training.

Passed in 2001, Assembly Bill 540 allows non-residents to pay in-state tuition as long as they meet a few requirements. These requirements include having attended a California high school for three or more years, graduating from a high school or attaining a GED, and being accepted into a California college or university. Undocumented students who fulfilled these requirements were exempt from paying out-of-state tuition. Upon acceptance to a university, these students file an affidavit stating that they qualify for Assembly Bill 540 and will apply for residency as soon as they are able. The passage of Assembly Bill 540 was only the beginning.

After being accepted into a university many students maneuvered through the system undetected and unnoticed. It is not hard to see why many students did not speak out about their situation. Maneuvering under the radar comes with some consequences, though. If people don’t know you or know about you, how can they help you meet your needs? That is the problem that we undocumented studentscontinue to face, and until now we did not have enough resources to reach out the faculty. More importantly, we did not have security.

After the passage of AB-540, some years later, countless organizations on different university campuses have emerged. There is an entire network of support groups for AB-540 students on most colleges and universities. Some of these groups include: IDEAS (Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success) from UCLA, Voces del Mañana from Glendale Community College, and FUEL (Future Underrepresented Educated Leaders) here at CSULB. Yes, there is an AB-540 support group at CSULB as well.

Established in Spring 2007, FUEL members have been involved in several high school outreaches, fundraisers, and immigration forums. In weekly meetings, FUEL members often discussed the frustration with the faculty and staff on campus; students felt afraid to approach them regarding their "situation." They felt frustrated at the insensitivity received or they felt afraid of disclosing information to the wrong staff. That is where the idea of training the faculty and staff began.

Dr. Elena Macias, assistant Vice President of Governmental & Community Relations and FUEL’s Faculty Advisor, listened and understood our frustrations. She, along with Jamie Johnson from the Upward Bound Program on-campus and a member of the Orange County "Dream Team" for the past 5 years, ran the first training in the Fall 2008 semester.

Dr. Elena approached and asked us, "What if students could identify the people with whom they could speak about AB-540?"

When we first heard this we all simply replied, "Well, we would feel more comfortable, we wouldn’t have to explain everything to them, and we wouldn’t be afraid. But how would we know whom to approach?"

Dr. Macias and Mr. Johnson established the training around the needs that we, FUEL members, needed. At our Fall 2008 retreat, we sat together and compiled a list of things that we needed in an ally. During the trainings, Dr. Macias has shared with the staff and faculty what we feel we need from them. Fortunately with the training, our allies will give us confidentiality and we will no longer feel afraid to approach them.

A particular lack of information has been of great concern to me, however: the origins of the training. It is very important to acknowledge that the Ally Training was inspired by the LGBTQ Safe Zone training. It is also important to recognize the similarities between the undocumented student population on campus that cannot speak out to just anyone and the LGBTQ community that cannot just come out to anyone on campus either. A student is able to recognize the AB-540 or Safe Zone plaque and immediately understand that it is a place of confidentiality. The link between these groups is important because both can be considered an invisible minority on campus. If a person can understand the frustration of one group, they can begin to understand the frustration of the other. I do believe that the similarity between the Safe Zone Training and the Ally Training can help establish solidarity between many groups.

That is exactly what we need right now. All groups fighting for social justice to join together and understand each others’ struggles. ¶

For more AB-540 student resources, check out CSULB's AB 540 On-Line Resource Guide.

Whose Legacy?

Yadira Arroyo
El Reflejo should have attacked this measure before the voting took place. I know, I know.

Thankfully however, the Beach Legacy Referendum did not pass.

If it had passed, the BLR would have increased student fees at Cal State Long Beach by $95 per semester ($70 for a summer semester) starting in 2010 to fund athletic scholarships, a new soccer field, a new track, and a women’s something-or-other sports team so that the school wouldn’t lose a men’s sports team.

Well, it did not pass, so what use is it now to break down the arguments? No use really, except perhaps to record my own humble opinion. So, I won’t do that. At least not thoroughly. What I can’t seem to put aside though, were the peculiar events that took place on the first day of voting.

A bunch of us were scheduled to flyer at 2pm on Wednesday March 11. I marched to the Raza Center to gather the troops, but perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or the revolution was not scheduled for that time and I missed the memo, because several of my peers seemed puzzled, or a bit lax when I announced, "It is time." I left the Center alone, with a stack of flyers that Indira, part of Students for Quality Education, had provided for us.

I called Julio, fellow Reflejo staff member and cartoonist extraordinaire, only to find he was actually way ahead of me, at that moment fighting the good fight at Maxson Plaza, right outside of Brotman Hall. I met him and Indira there.

Traffic was slow and we decided to move our actions to the walkway by the Psychology building and bookstore. Julio left and I was glad to see members from La Raza Student Association and FUEL arriving to replace him. There, we happily flyered – until they came.

Immediately, I could tell that they were athletes. The sweatpants and rowdiness gave the group of women away.

Cackling, they approached one of our allies, whose name I must apologize for forgetting, took flyers from him and asked him for more. And then…

Their fearless leader jumped on a bench, and standing on her toned and tanned legs announced:
"This is what I think of this!"

Rip. She tore one of our flyers to pieces as her teammates cheered her on. And as if that weren’t enough drama, she haughtily tossed the shreds in the trash.

I cringed at the sight. Suddenly, I was flooded with acid memories of high school, where the cheerleaders tormented the geeks, who for the most part, actually gave a fuck about shit. Except that wait – I was raised in South Central and I never went to a school like that. I realized then that I was confusing my life with the one portrayed in white teenager films and television shows like She’s All That, Popular, and Bring It On. That’s where those memories came from!

We continued to pass out flyers and encourage people to vote against the referendum. They continued to harass us – I mean, vouch for the BLR.

"You see her?" exclaimed the leader, pointing at me. "She doesn’t care about her school. She doesn’t care about school pride!"

And what could I say? It’s true, I don’t care about school pride. The last time I thought that sports and pride were essential to a fulfilling college experience, I was a goofy freshman who took pride in her bowling alley, pool tables, Panda Express and video arcade.

"She doesn’t know what she’s talking about!" she continued. "I bet she’s never even been to a basketball game…"

Her buddies roared, because I’m a loser, or an American freak, or something. But then came the kicker.

"…in her life!"

I was bewildered. I looked bewildered.

"Umm, what does basketball have to do with anything?" I turned and asked them.

And I was hoping they’d let me in on the secret. Like, watching basketball has been proven to quicken the path towards graduation. Or basketball is the ultimate embodiment of coolness, like being sexually active. But it doesn’t come.

"Why are you voting ‘No’?" one of them asks me.

"I am voting ‘No’ because I cannot afford to pay for tuition. I had to drop to part-time this semester and even then, it’s difficult to pay."

But, they were armed with the perfect rebuttals. I was no match.

"Wow! Is that the only reason you’re voting against it?"

More cackles.

"Did you know that Cal State Long Beach is one of the best value colleges in the nation? Top 3! You’re paying some of the cheapest tuition anywhere in the States!"

My demands were ludicrous.

"Yeah, and I still cannot afford it."

Somehow, the "I’m one of those for-real broke people," message was not getting across. How could I sit down and tell them of my parents’ financial woes? How could I explain to them that because my parents own property, I cannot receive grants?

And so, they continued. I felt like I was at an anti-war protest. Their "She has no school pride!" taunts reminded me of "You’re not an American!"

I’ve been wondering this whole week whether I can pull the race card on this one. As I looked around that day, I noticed that those of us flyering were Latino, and most of the BLR supporters were white. They wore "Beach Gear" and looked primp and proper. But perhaps the class card would be more fitting.

The results of the elections made me happy, made me believe in people a little bit. Certainly, the economy had a lot to do with the referendum not passing. The majority of voting students saw their request as ludicrous.

As I have flashbacks from that action, the cackling of Cal State Long Beach’s women’s basketball team echoes in my memory. This was but one small victory in the battle for more equal access to higher education. And I can laugh my ass off and gloat in self-righteousness too, but I have more class than that. ¶

Ni una muerta mas en Juarez

Fernando Romero

The Part About "La Violencia"

An all-out war against drug cartels has raged in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico since January 2008. The drug warfare has pitted the powerful drug cartels present in Northern Mexico and the armed troops trickling into the city located on the U.S. - Mexico border across El Paso, Texas. According to reports by the Associated Press, the death toll has already reached over 2,000 as of March 2009. The dead include members of drug cartels, soldiers, law enforcement personnel and innocent men, women and children.

In the midst of la violencia propagated by the dueling sides, the narcos and the federales, the city of Juarez remains a harvesting ground for a phenomenon almost two decades in the sow. In between daily executions, shootings and kidnappings, a familiar terror looms in the city. Girls and women are still disappearing at an alarming rate and their bodies continue to turn up in waste grounds and ditches of Ciudad Juarez. The victims tend to be young women, usually teenagers, but sometimes even younger, most of working-class background who were either students or maquiladora factory workers.

No human rights crisis in Mexico has moved world public opinion more than the rapes and murders of young women in Ciudad Juarez. According to Amnesty International, over the past 16 years, approximately 600 women have been brutally murdered in Ciudad. Juarez, while scores are still missing and remain unaccounted for. As of this March, Women’s History Month, six women have been killed in Ciudad Juarez.

According to an article published at the end of last year by newspaper La Jornada, the current volatile and hostile situation in the city claimed the highest number of murdered women in 2008 at 86. The article cited that 2008 surpassed 2002 when 42 women were murdered. 2007 is third on the list with 32. The autopsy reports all showed indicators similar to previous cases stemming to 1993, which read that at least a third of the victims suffered some form of sexual assault. Within the same timeframe, between January 2008 and March 2009, at least 18 girls and women have gone missing.

Maria Luisa Garcia Andrade, co-director of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa, a non-profit organization based in Ciudad Juarez said the recent disappearances are reminiscent of past years. Garcia Andrade’s sister, Lilia Alejandra, was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2001. The case was never solved. Organizations like Nuestras Hijas de Regreso, and others, work to prevent and denounce the femicides in Juarez, as well as ending gender violence.

Via a phone interview, Garcia Andrade said in Spanish the current disappearances of women have taken a turn for the worse.

"Women disappeared and, unfortunately, soon after that we would find them dead because they had been brutally murdered," Garcia Andrade said. "Unfortunately, now they are disappearing, but we don't know what's happening to them. We don't know if they are alive or dead."

Amnesty International field organizer, Julissa Gomez said the violence has escalated since Mexican President Vicente Calderon declared an all-out war with the drug cartels in January 2008. She added that the situation of violence has impelled a surge in multi-faceted aggression affecting all the inhabitants of Ciudad Juarez, but that gender-based violence remains rife and prevalent.

"The violence has definitely escalated since the drug wars began," she said. "But you still see the same patterns on female murder victims. Still, they tend to be young, working-class, maquiladora workers."

The Part About the Murders

The girl’s body turned up in the Campestre Virreyes district of Ciudad Juarez. A 13-year old girl from working-class background was found beaten, raped and strangled to death. "Alma Chavira Farel – stuck and strangled, violated by two," read the description on the website No Angel Came. The website provides articles, activist links and stories of the departed women in Ciudad Juarez. The account happened in 1993. January 23rd 1993. From then on, the killings of women began to be counted. But it’s likely there had been other deaths before her. Perhaps for the sake of convenience, maybe because she was the first to be killed in 1993, she heads the list. Although surely there were other girls and women who died in 1992. Other girls and women who didn’t make it onto the list or were never found, who were buried in unmarked graves in the desert or whose ashes were scattered in the middle of the night, when not even the person scattering them knew where he was.

On Feb. 14, 2001, V-Day, 17 year-old Lilia Alejandra Garcia Andrade disappeared. A maquiladora worker and mother of two. Lilia Alejandra was last seen after her shift at a maquila walking toward the unlit area of waste ground that she had to cross every night to reach the bus stop. When she did not come home that night her mother knew something had happened to her and reported her missing the next morning. Four days later some people living near a waste ground in Juarez called the police to report that they could see a naked young woman being raped and beaten by two men in a nearby parked car. No police car was dispatched. Following a second call, a patrol car was sent but did not arrive for over an hour, by which time the parked car was gone. Police made no investigation into the attack, the identity of the victim, or the inadequate response time. Lilia Alejandra’s body was found in the waste ground where the attack occurred only two days later, showing grotesque evidence of physical and sexual assault. The forensic report concluded that Lilia Alejandra had been held captive for at least five days before she was strangled to death a day and a half prior to the discovery of her body.

On March 10, 2008, two days after International Women's Day, Paulina Elizabeth Lujan, disappeared and was later found raped and murdered in the same manner as more than two dozen other young women.

The idiosyncrasies in the murders and investigation teeter on the absurd. In November 2001, skeletal remains of eight women were found in a vacant lot 300 yards from the Association of Maquiladoras headquarters, a group representing most of the city's U.S.-owned export assembly plants. In this case, only the body of Claudia Ivette Gonzalez, 20 years old was identified. There was no investigation into the maquiladoras.

The Part About the Femicide

Femicide, a word that has been incorporated into the lexicon from the Spanish word feminicidio, or, femicidio, can be specifically attributed to the continuing reports of murders and disappearances of women and girls in Ciudad Juarez. The term refers to gender-based violence, and specifically to the systematic killing of women.

Femicide implicates brutal acts of violence. In Ciudad Juarez, the majority of femicide victims were tortured, raped, mutilated, cremated and even quartered. Femicide also implies a disregard for the welfare of all women by the State. Therefore it is considered "femicide" when concurrence of different factors are involved including; the criminal element, the silence of said crimes, disregard for human birth rights, as well as the negligence and complicity of the authorities in charge of preventing and eradicating these crimes.

The term is aptly attributed to the murder cases in Ciudad Juarez and also Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala, due in part that it’s believed authorities are not investigating the murders with diligence on the basis that it involves women.

In fact, the State’s response to the murder cases in Ciudad Juarez has been one of delays, denials, delusions, shoddy investigations and multi-layered exercises all muddled within the bureaucratic realm. Investigations were characterized with botched or even lack of investigation, loss or theft of key evidence and files and mistreatment of victim’s relatives.

The phenomenon and the dimension of the cases have caused worldwide attention, attracting human rights groups, activists and celebrities demanding authorities to stop the continuing femicide from happening and to demand justice for the murdered women and girls. Amnesty's Women's Human Rights campaign has long been active on the femicides in Ciudad Juarez. Its 2003 report "Mexico: Intolerable Killings," along with subsequent actions and activism, has played an important role in bringing attention to the lack of accountability in Ciudad Juarez and the mishandling of the murders by local law enforcement authorities.
Gomez said that Amnesty International has cited many human rights violations regarding the cases in Ciudad Juarez. She said that the lack of persecution of suspects, the rampant impunity; all encompass a disregard for the victims’ families and are all human rights violations.

"Impunity in Mexico has been a problem for many years," Gomez said. "There is a lack of judicial system. That leads to the detriment of human rights. There’s been evidence of investigations just falling apart. There is no justice there."

Authorities claim the femicides are a chapter from the past, but the recent disappearances and killings fit a familiar, sordid pattern. Garcia Andrade said, "Nothing has been resolved here. It’s not my organization that’s saying that. It’s all the murders which continue, that are saying that. It’s the impunity, that’s saying that."

Gomez said that life for women in Ciudad Juarez is dire. She said the societal problems that exist in Mexico and other parts of Latin America contribute to the reasons why femicide continues. She cited the patriarchal society, machismo, and victim-blaming, among other causes, for the continuing femicides.

"It’s a society that doesn’t seem to value women as much as men," Gomez said."This is a systematic problem."

Garcia Andrade uttered what seemed a sense indifference by authorities. "In the end, it’s only women who were murdered. And to top it off, they were poor. What importance does that have?"

The Part About Taking Action

Thanks to the efforts of the families of the victims and local women's organizations in Ciudad Juarez, coupled with international campaigning by the likes of Amnesty International and V-Day, things have begun to change. In 2004, amidst mass protests and rallies, the federal government of Mexico got involved.

Garcia Andrade said the problems in this issue need to be addressed to bring awareness at different levels in society.

Gomez said that Amnesty International’s main concern on the femicides in Juarez is to continue to bring awareness to the issue. Gomez said, "Our goal is to keep this issue in the focus of people’s mind and to not let it become a forgotten issue."

At Cal State University, Long Beach, an event dubbed, "Femicide in the Americas," is scheduled for Thursday, March 26. The event will be hosted by the Women’s Studies Student Association and will tackle femicide directly, addressing the femicides in Ciudad Juarez, Guatemala, Canada, and other parts of the region affected by the issue.

The event will include panel discussions, film screenings and keynote speaker, Lucia Muñoz from Mujeres Iniciando en las Americas. MIA’s mission is to increase public awareness in the U.S. of the femicide and maltreatment of women in Guatemala. Last semester, members of WSSA traveled to Guatemala as part of a delegation to end femicide in that country.

Gomez said that another goal sought by Amnesty International is to continue to pressure the governments of U.S. and Mexico to act. "We’re introducing a resolution to both the House and the Senate, in the hopes to set up a branch of government that will be purposely geared to set up programs in Juarez to combat this issue."

Gomez said Amnesty International will ask its members to call on Congress and push for the resolution bill. She said one of the things that students or the general population can do is to tell friends and keep the issue alive. She added that as U.S. residents, students can call delegates in Mexico and ask to appoint a special prosecutor at the federal level to combat and solve the femicides. Gomez said, "I encourage students to sign on with us, to the keep the issue relevant and focused on people’s mind."

Garcia Andrade said spreading awareness on the issue and educating the public are the best weapons to combat the current femicide in Ciudad Juarez.

The issue has been taken up as a feminist cause, but has trascended the realm of feminism. Amnesty International has recommended for people to get involved in this issue and write to proper authorities, Mexican authorities, Mexican Embassy highlighting concerns, publicize the case in local and national media and distribute details of this case to individuals or groups who may be interested and could potentially pose as allies in this issue. ¶