Wednesday, May 23, 2007


From the Los Angeles Times
A place to call their own
Many who fled war at home for refuge in L.A. seek designation of the MacArthur Park area as 'Central America Town.'
By Teresa Watanabe
Times Staff Writer

May 7, 2007

The first place Francisco Rivera headed to after fleeing war in his native El Salvador in 1980 was the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles. There, churches and community volunteers had created a haven of shelter, support and sustenance for war refugees like himself, then a 28-year-old poet and writer whose literary group had been targeted by right-wing death squads.

Within a year, Rivera helped found El Rescate, or the Rescue, a community organization on Union Avenue and 8th Street that aids Central American refugees.

Another nonprofit, Clinica Msgr. Oscar A. Romero, named after the Roman Catholic archbishop assassinated by Salvadoran death squads, was established a few blocks away to provide free medical care. Other organizations offering legal aid, low-cost housing and other services have sprung up to serve the hundreds of thousands of Central Americans who have made Los Angeles their refuge.

Today, the area bustles with merchants hawking Central American music CDs, restaurants serving Salvadoran pupusas and bakeries offering Guatemalan pastries. A monument in MacArthur Park depicts the harrowing journeys of the war refugees; a mural nearby salutes the Central American diaspora with colors of blue and white, which are shared by the national flags of El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Rivera and others are seeking formal recognition of the area's crucial role in giving new life to the war-weary refugees. They plan to submit a petition Tuesday asking the city to designate as "Historical Central America Town" an area bounded by the 110 Freeway, 3rd Street, Washington Boulevard and Hoover Street.

"This has been our dream for years," Rivera said. "We want to change our invisible community into a positive, visible one."

The petition, with 500 signatures of area residents and business owners, marks the first step in a recently adopted city process for naming districts. It was established last year to bring greater structure to addressing the profusion of requests for both ethnic monikers, such as Little Armenia, Little Ethiopia and Historic Filipinotown, and neighborhood names, such as Hancock Park and Larchmont.

The old policy rested primarily on the approval of the City Council member representing the area. The new one requires petition signatures, public hearings and review by transportation, planning and redevelopment officials; it also sets up a formal complaint process, said Avak Keotahian of the city's legislative analyst's office.

Rivera and others said that securing the Central American designation would help protect the area's distinct identity amid rapid gentrification and the arrival of residents and businesses with no particular connection to their heritage.

A few years ago, they said, a shopping center opened, featuring a Starbucks, Food 4 Less and Home Depot. It was a development they welcomed but feared could contribute to a fading of their community's history in the area, they said.

Celso Hernandez, an El Salvador native, opened Playa Las Tunas Restaurant in a strip mall on 11th and Alvarado nine years ago when the shopping center was nearly deserted because drug-dealing gang members in the area scared off vendors.

As better policing and gentrification have improved the neighborhood, Hernandez said, he has been approached by several non-Central Americans to buy him out. He has turned them all down, determined to keep his colorfully decorated restaurant a center for Salvadoran food and entertainment.

"The community has known me for years, and I want to stay here for them," he said.

Not everyone supports the Central America Town moniker. Restaurant owner Norm Langer said he was "100% opposed," noting that the area was largely Jewish when his grandfather opened his family's popular deli restaurant, Langer's, on 7th and Alvarado six decades ago. He said the area should remain known as the namesake of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

"It would offend me to see signs calling this area Central America Town because it's not," he said. "It's Los Angeles. It's Westlake-MacArthur Park."

Rivera and others said the designation would not change any neighborhood names. It would, they say, simply give a historical nod to their community with signs on area streets; the advocates also seek to put markers on the 110 and 101 freeways.

During a recent tour of the area, representatives from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala — including Tomas Zuñiga, a member of Central America's black ethnic group known as the Garinagu — shared their dreams and frustrations.

In the last 25 years, they say, the community has burgeoned to more than 600,000 Salvadorans, 100,000 Nicaraguans and about 30,000 Guatemalans and Hondurans each. Yet, they say, it is still too often associated with such violent gangs as the MS-13 and perennially overshadowed by the city's far larger Mexican American population.

They say that not one Central American has yet been appointed to any city boards or commissions, let alone elected to political office, in Los Angeles. And they said that they do not receive a fair share of the city's budget resources relative to the tax revenue they produce.

"Central Americans are the least represented community in California," said Rafael Nadal, chairman of the National Central American Roundtable, an L.A.-based group that promotes the community's civil rights and economic development.

City Councilman Ed Reyes, whose district includes the area in question, said he has worked hard to represent Central Americans. In the last six years, he said, the district has received three new libraries, two police stations, three schools and thousands of housing units.

Reyes said that it would take time for the relatively new Central American population to begin electing representatives of its own ethnic heritage but that he would "stand on my record" of producing benefits and an open-door policy for its people.

Reyes said he would withhold judgment on the petition pending the outcome of public hearings and completion of the required city process. But he said he generally supports ethnic district monikers as a way to celebrate the region's rich cultural history.

"The designations are markers of history, and there's no reason you can't have them," Reyes said. "It behooves us to acknowledge and revere all of the diversity in our great international city."


PRESS CONF: Renaming Pico Union Central America Town Thurs
Body: National Central American Roundtable, Inc.
1501 W. 8th Street, Suite 101, Los Angeles, CA 90017 Telephone (213) 927-0992 Facsimile (213) 387-9189

News Advisory

As of yesterday, the City of Los Angeles through the Office of the City Clerk has Received and accepted the petition and application of residents of the communities of Westlake/Pico-Union to have the designation of Historical Central America Town after receiving near 800 hundred signatures of residents and business owners of the area with other required documentes related to this petition, as it was reported on May 7 by the Los Angeles Times in a feature article in the California Section title: A place to call their own.

Among the petitioners there are Korean American merchants, Thai merchants, Afro-American merchants, Nicaraguan Business Owners, Salvadorans Business Owner, Guatemalan Business Owners. Mexican immigrants as Well as Mexican-Americans are supporting the designation. The Westlake Pico Union
Area has the largest concentration of Central Americans living outside their home countries.

As of tomorrow, Thursday, May 24, the City of Los Angeles will create a Council File and send the application and petition to the Departments of Plannning, Transportation, Community Redevelopment Agency and will go into communite wide consultation with stakeholders in the Designated area, including the neigh borhood councils.

Amid the debate of the immigration reform, amid the May 1 incidents at MacArthur Park, this community has decided to take a new approach about community rebuilding, from a maligned and criminal stigma, it would be renewed into one of the best latino areas for urban renewal, in a concept of gentrification with latino and Central American flavor. Welcome to Westlake Pico Union, the Historical Central America Town.



TIME: 10 A.M.

WHERE: MacArthur Park, south corner of Park View and Wilshire Blvd.

WHO: Francisco Rivera, National Central American Roundtable
Julio Cardoza, President, Casa Nicaragua
Cecilia Rodriguez, President, Honduran Alliance of L.A.
Oswaldo Cabrera, President, Latin American Coalition
Teresa Tejada, Executive Director, Association of Salvadorans in L.A.
Representative from Councilmember Ed P. Reyes
Representative from State Senator Gil Cedillo
Representative from Congresswoman Lucille Royball Allard
Representative from Speaker Fabian Nuñez
Representative from Supervisor Gloria Molina
Representative from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Monday, May 14, 2007

Did you know even Permanent Residents are getting deported?

The deportations of undocumented or even permanent resident parents of citizen children is really shocking and never would have taken place before the "reforms" of 1996. Previously, this would have qualified as "hardship". Now the criteria is extreme hardship and the bar is so high that it can rarely be met. Furthermore, most judicial review has been taken away so in most cases, the judge in immigration court has little recourse but to deport people.

The sanctuary movement families are "poster families", undocumented parents of citizen children who are integrated into their communities and have exemplary records. The attorneys working with the movement are the best in the country and are hoping to create precendents that will help others.The Bill of Rights guarantees due process, etc. to persons, not citizens or legal residents. I am shocked at how many rights have been taken away and how little due process there is at the moment.

This cannot continue to exist! The rights of all of us are affected by the denial of rights to immigrants.

Churches offer sanctuary to immigrants

L.A. cathedral among those making statement about U.S. immigration policy.
By Peter Prengaman, Associated Press
Long Beach Press Telegram
Article Launched:05/09/2007 09:33:45 PM PDT
LOS ANGELES - Churches gave sanctuary Wednesday to two men from Mexico and Guatemala to protect them from deportation and launch a nationwide effort to pressure lawmakers to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

More than 30 priests, pastors, imams and rabbis blessed the men during a raucous ceremony attended by 300 people at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in downtown Los Angeles.

"We are here to raise our voices for those who can't raise their own," said Pastor Cesar Arroyo of San Pablo's Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, which will house the man from Guatemala.

Each of the immigrants had two children in tow as they sat in front of the altar.

The Guatemalan, a gardener who only gave his first name as Juan, said he worried about what might happen to his young daughters if he was deported. Both girls are U.S. citizens because they were born in this country.

"I want to ask the politicians to see the suffering of the immigrant families," he said.

The 44-year-old Mexican, who only gave his first name as Jose, will live at the downtown church. He sat next to his two teenage sons who dressed in the latest American fashion and spoke more English than Spanish. They are also U.S. citizens.

Jose said he had been in the country 17 years, working as a cook at Los Angeles International Airport until he was injured and his immigration status was revealed.

After the ceremony, he went to his room in the church, which has a single bed, sink and toaster oven.

"I'm going to stay here until this is resolved," he said, referring to his deportation order.

Organizers don't believe immigration agents will make arrests inside the churches.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has not tried to arrest Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant who has taken shelter at a Methodist church in Chicago since August.

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice declined to say if agents would attempt to arrest others who take sanctuary in churches, but said agents have "the authority to arrest those who are in violation of our immigration laws anywhere in the United States."

Participating faith groups in San Diego, Seattle, Chicago and New York won't initially house illegal immigrants. Instead, leaders will provide legal council, accompany people to court hearings and prepare plans to house them in churches if authorities try to deport them.

Organizers said churches in more than 50 cities nationwide were planning to join the sanctuary effort.

Anti-illegal immigration groups called it misguided.

The faith groups "don't seem to realize that they are being charitable with someone else's resources, and that's not charity," said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors limits on immigration.

The "New Sanctuary Movement" is loosely based on the sanctuary movement in the 1980s, when churches harbored Central American refugees fleeing wars in their home countries. Several activists in a handful of states were arrested, often while transporting illegal immigrants from one place to another.

New Coalition of Christians Seek Changes at Borders
Congregation to Give Haven to Immigrants
href=",1,5723653.story">Giving Shelter from the Storm of Immigration

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Women in Guatemala

The party of indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchu in Guatemala has begun supporting a great number of female candidates for top government positions.

Guatemala, May 13 (Prensa Latina) The coalition Winaq-Encuentro por Guatemala (EG), whose presidential candidate is Peace Nobel Prizewinner Rigoberta Menchu, will also nominate another 40 women for deputies and mayors, party sources said this weekend.

The list of deputies will be headed by EG Secretary General Nineth Montenegro and Winaq leader and ex Culture Minister Otilia Lux de Coti.

In the departments, other women will run for the posts of mayor, including Gladis Sandoval, for Jalapa; Judith de Paz, for Chiquimula, and Karina Flores, for Escuintla.

Rigoberta Menchu's presidential candidacy has raised hopes in Guatemala, where women and indigenous people have been marginalized from the decision-making process.

Menchu's ticket partner is Luis Fernando Montenegro, a businessman who was the president of the Committee of Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations and the National Coffee Association.

Encuentro por Guatemala and Winaq will launch their campaign in the northern department of Alta Verapaz on Sunday.

La noche que supe que mi padre había muerto

Era el año 1975. Había terminado el segundo año de secundaria en la Escuela “Manuel Bisbé”, de Miramar, en La Habana. Estábamos de fiesta porque todo mi grupo había pasado de grado y con buenas notas. Mi grupo era un poco “discriminado”: nosotros éramos “los blanquitos cochinos”, es decir, los “hippys”, a los que les gustaba la música en inglés, por entonces prohibida en las radios cubanas.

Nos habíamos reunido en casa de Smyrna, mi fiel y eterna amiga venezolana. Bailábamos, tomábamos las primeras cervezas y los primeros tragos de ron, más bien, de “Coronilla”, que era el aguardiente que por entonces se vendía en Cuba, así como un vino Vermut y un coñac búlgaro.

Estábamos los de siempre: Moré, el novio de Smyrna, así como sus hermanas Sneyma y Yurinzska. Luisa, la mamá de Smyrna, y un grupo de amigos de ella que eran periodistas de diversos medios cubanos. Luisa trabajaba en Prensa Latina, la agencia internacional y oficial de Cuba, un lugar privilegiado donde llegaban noticias de todo el mundo. Yo hacía chistes y me burlaba de medio mundo. En fin, estábamos en gran jodedera, celebrando el fin de curso. Era finales del mes de junio de aquel 1975.

La fiesta fue terminando y nos quedamos un reducido grupo, casi la pura familia venezolana y yo. En eso, sin ninguna precaución, Luisa me pregunta: “Oíme Juan José, ¿en qué paró por fin esa noticia que llegó hace como un mes de El Salvador, en la que se decía que a Roque lo habían matado?”.

Yo sentí como un escalofrío que me atravesó el cuerpo. “No” –respondí inmediatamente y agregué lo que teníamos indicado decir para cualquier caso- “Mi padre está en Viet Nam, hace poco recibimos carta de él y está bien”. Lo cierto que sí sabíamos que estaba en El Salvador y que estaba integrado a la guerrilla.

Luisa quiso cambiar de conversación pero alguien le preguntó más. “No recuerdo muy bien”, explicó ella, “pero la noticia era rara, algo así como que lo había matado la propia guerrilla”. “Creo además que no era cierto porque de haber sido cierto, ya habría un gran escándalo”, finalizó Luisa.

La inquietud y la incertidumbre se apoderaron de mí; la alegría de la fiesta desapareció más de mi alma que de mi rostro; miré la hora y era de madrugada. Tenía que caminar yo solo como más de 10 cuadras: desde Paseo hasta la Calle J. Iba desesperado por llegar a casa.

Teníamos instrucciones de mi madre de contarle todo lo referido a mi padre, cualquier comentario. Así que llegué a la casa, la desperté y le conté todo lo que Luisa me había dicho.

Yo le vi el rostro a mi madre. Ella trataba de ser fuerte pero su mirada la delató. “Andá a acostarte, tranquilo. Mañana hablamos”. Me fui a llorar a mi cuarto, quién sabe cuánto tiempo. Desde entonces no aguanto la tristeza sin que se me salgan las lágrimas como cuando era un adolescente romántico y soñador.

Muy temprano mi madre y mi hermano mayor Roque, nos reunieron a Jorge y a mí en la mesa del comedor. Nos explicaron que había una enorme confusión y que se estaba investigando todo lo referido a mi padre porque las noticias eran que lo habían asesinado, pero que no había ninguna certeza.

Mi mamá y Roque tenían un mes de saber todo lo que estaba pasando pero no quisieron decirnos nada hasta que termináramos el curso.

Los asesinos de mi padre, es decir, la dirección de entonces del Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) –encabezada por Edgar Alejandro Rivas Mira y Joaquín Villalobos-, ordenó el asesinato de mi padre el 10 de mayo de 1975, pero no lo dieron a conocer hasta finales de ese mismo mes en un pequeño comunicado lanzado en la Universidad de El Salvador (UES). Alguien después me contó que no tenían el valor de dar la noticia ni menos justificar el crimen, hasta que tuvieron la "gran idea" de decir que mi padre era “agente de la CIA”.

Ese mismo día que se supo de la noticia mi abuela paterna llamó por teléfono a mi mamá desde San Salvador a La Habana. La sufrida señora fue entrevistada por diarios y medios radiales; ella pedía evidencias, pero los criminales nunca quisieron entregar el cadáver y según una versión, sus restos fueron abandonados en un lugar conocido como “El Playón”; el mismo utilizado por los escuadrones de la muerte de ultraderecha para lanzar a sus víctimas.

Este mes de mayo, como todos los mayos desde 1975, en El Salvador y en varias partes del mundo se conmemora el asesinato de aquel gran intelectual revolucionario que fue Roque Dalton. Su vida fue azarosa: el odio, la envidia, la cárcel y el exilio lo victimizaron, pero su obra es un monumento a la inteligencia.

Su muerte dejó en nosotros una herida que no se cierra pero vivimos orgullosos de nuestro padre, a quien esta sociedad (la salvadoreña) y el mundo ha comenzado a reconocer y a apreciar como un talento incomparable y un pilar fundamental de lo mejor de la cultura latinoamericana.

En contraste, sus asesinos sobrevivientes: Rivas Mira, Villalobos y Jorge Meléndez, podrán vivir en Londres o en Oxford o San Salvador o en cualquier otro lado del mundo, pero cada vez más la historia los coloca como lo que fueron: los miserables asesinos de Roque Dalton, matones impunes y traicioneros.

Autor: Juan José Dalton
Fecha: 3 de mayo de 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

New Sanctuary Movement Coverage

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Roque Dalton-PRESENTE!


A scarce twenty years after his tragic, senseless death, the complex facts of Roque Dalton's life have been overlaid — or in many cases clarified and defined — by myth. Even among his closest friends it is nearly impossible to talk about Roque without falling into verbal chiaroscuro effects: superlative and anecdotal exaggerations. His prolific artistic production, cut off at the age of forty, remains a monumental artifact: testimony to his tortuous journey through the twentieth century, revealing his contradictory, dialectical, love-hate relationship with the country of his birth — El Salvador — both in and out of exile, and illustrating his profound conviction that the poet can and must, in his life as well as in his work, serve as the finely-honed scalpel of change, both in word and deed, when he lives in a profoundly unjust, stagnant society.

First, let's take the myth surrounding the undeniable fact of his birth in San Salvador in the year 1935. His father, one of the members of the outlaw Dalton brothers, after a career of robbing banks, disappeared from Kansas and settled in El Salvador with his ill-gotten fortune. He invested it in coffee plantations and grew even richer without ever being molested by the law. He left Roque his surname and a Jesuit education. Roque's mother was a registered nurse whose salary supported the family decorously, but Roque learned about class differences at an early age — in fact, during his first day of kindergarten at Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús, and I quote:

… where I took
my first steps in society
smelling faintly of horse shit:
"Peasant!" Roberto called me
that first day of class
in the Infantile section,
and he gave me a hard shove …

Friday, May 04, 2007

Legal Action against Police Brutality

From: JGGORGEOUS@aol. com [mailto:JGGORGEOUS@aol. com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 7:11 PM
Subject: Re: May 1 police attacks

As one of the attorneys that has agreed to handle cases of people victimized by LAPD officers during yesterday's May 1 rally, I wish to address the following subjects to organizers of the event.

1. We have recruited at least four lawyers to collaborate on litigation representing victims and organizations in a class action which will seek more than just monetary damages. All of us are associated with the National Lawyer's Guild, and have lengthy experience in handling police brutality and class action litigation.

The legal team will be headed by Robert Mann and Donald Cook of MANN & COOK. Their phone number will be publicly disseminated to victims, witnesses, and potential litigants. It is 213.252.9444. They have several staff members available to interview people, including in Spanish. We may need assistance with interpreters if other languages are needed.

Additionally, myself, Jorge Gonzalez (213.670.0063) and Cynthia Anderson-Barker (213.381.3246) will be on the team. Their may be others added to the list by tomorrow.

2. I will dedicate the next two days (Thursday and Friday) to be available to interview people, victims, witnesses, organizers, etc., at the offices of CARECEN. All people who have inquiries, were victimized, are potential witnesses, and who have photographic or video evidence of the events should be encouraged to contact me there. My office phone will forward calls to my cell phone (213.598.3278 - not for public dissemination) . I will meet at noon on Thursday with organizers as a group to discuss potential interviews by Internal Affairs or the Inspector General. DO NOT agree to be interviewed by anyone, not IA, the IG, or the media without talking with me first so that you are properly prepared. My suggestion is that all interviews be coordinated by myself so that an attorney is present and tapes each interview.

3. Everyone and every organization who has compiled a list of witnesses or victims, should forward this information to me. In other words, I will act as the liason with the lawyers and will serve as a clearinghouse for the information. We will need to interview everyone in a formal manner, and I will try to coordinate that. WE can use volunteers for this effort, and anyone interested and available should let me know. We will need to do at least a perfunctory training for this. Anyone who was present during the march should at least make an effort to write down their experiences. Do not worry about completeness, grammar, etc., the idea is to let us know who might have possible useful information.

4. Both CHIRLA and CARECEN will consider being a named plaintiff, and even if you did not suffer injuries, you may be a potential litigant also. The point to class action litigation is we intend to represent everyone who as a class (to be defined) might be injured in the same fashion in the future in any subsequent demonstration, march or rally.

5. It will be especially helpful to compile all known sources of recording of the events, particularly digital photographs and videos. We have already identified some, and people should be encouraged to provide it to us on cd. Emailing it may be alright, but I am concerned some files might be too big to exchange via internet, and a cd or flashdisk would be more practical. NOTE: for any such documentation to be useful in court, we need the identity, address, and telephone number of the person taking the photos or videos.

6. My mind is running a hundred miles an hour and I'm sure much is being left out, but I can be contacted the next couple days at CARECEN to discuss these issues more. Please encourage anyone who has information which might be useful to make an effort to contact me. Please disseminate this to all organizers, organizations, or persons of interest so that this message can get out as widely as possible.

Saludos y gracias.

Jorge Gonzalez


Post Office Box 2739

San Gabriel, California 91778-2739

Tel. 213.670.0063

May 1-Police Brutality