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Racial Borderlands: Suburban Plantation Culture and 'Rancho California (por favor)'
Unformatted Document Text:  Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.24 15 Through this work I came into contact with CRLA in Oceanside, a legal advocacy group engaged in rural poverty issues. 16 Chicano and UFW organizing in the late 1960s, set in motion a long and rich tradition for the teatro in social activism. Since telenovelas are pervasive parts of Hispanic broadcasting in California and elsewhere, we intended to use the televised genre as an updated starting point for creative participation. 17 An awareness of the daily severity of these health issues were underscored by one campesina, who recounted the following story about health-care: “Then the contractor yells at him: "It still hasn't been a half hour! "Why are you going to get your lunch?" Then I told the contractor: "leave him alone, because the people with diabetes get very hungry. Leave him alone!" I am sick also," the contractor said. "But you have a doctor," I said… How are workers going to have a doctor like you? “You talk too much!" he says. 18 Due to high rents, for example, several of the video participants--single, male, Guatemalan workers-- shared one-bedroom apartments and very little furniture with as many as six other workers. 19 I will return to the significance of this shift in the gardener's involvement (from virtuality to self- disclosure) later in this essay, for it resonates with practices in the digital world of the net. 20 This included a thread of talk across numerous interviews (and ethnic groups) that linked food preparation with interpersonal romance. This segment--termed "Amor Vegetal"--became the title for the piece as a whole. Talk about "vegetable love" suggested a far less utilitarian spin to the wisdom-from-the-ground nature of the project. 21 The final video production uses this cycle of the land--from ground-breaking in winter, to planting in spring, to harvest in late summer--as an arc that organizes gardener meditations on food, identity, and life. 22 The south Escondido garden project was successful enough that an even larger project of the same sort was started up in East Escondido the very next year. This La Cosecha Nuestra “sequel” included a larger, 4-acre community garden that would allow for higher quantity agricultural production, including small scale commercial produce. One hundred gardners now would produce food that would benefit five hundred residents (City of Escondido Project Workplan, 1996, 1). The final videotape was used locally in “platicas” or group discussions on health and food-issues in nutrution by the Escondido Clinic and Migrant Education Project. Additional public screenings took place, formally, at the Eye Empowerment Community Center, and informally at numerous weekend barbeques and meetings in the garden itself. The tape, Amor Vegetal: Our Harvest was also exhibited in festivals in Chicago and Barcelona, at the Field Museum in Chicago, and at national conferences on non-for-profit legal work and food security marketing. One hundred and twenty VHS dubs of the production (in both Spanish and English) were given to all of the video and garden participants and their families, as well as to the coalition of supporters who had either managed or donated in-kind resources. 23 In this way, project Cosecha Nuestra also challenged the ways that marginalized populations are typically posed in new media talk. Many have warned of the growing split in the digital age between "information haves" and "have-nots." Such a binary stands as the worst form of conceptual reification, however, for it defines human subjects in externally-quantifiable ways. These folks are either connected to a digital technology that fills them with information; or disconnected in a way that empties them of any meaning. Considering the Escondido gardeners as "information have-nots" naively reduces human agency to data storage; to a level that insults intelligence. Cybernetic thinking must take as a starting point the lay theoretical competencies of media users. Neither "haves" or "have-nots," these gardeners--even without AOL accounts--were data-authors and social agents that both generated and processed networked information. These multi-users engaged each other in very "non-virtual" ways; as coworkers, allies, competitors, and (sometimes) contentious colleagues. There were fights and arguments in Escondidio over directions and policies; and still are. 24 We set about through coalition-building to help enable a community to form where there was none before. This effort mostly worked with the garden community, but largely failed with the coalition of non-profit organizations involved. The city alternately misperceived Project Cosecha Nuestra as either a timely opportunity to exploit for PR, or (once underway) as nagging evidence of the kind of city they did not want to publicly celebrate or promote. The culture of non-profits, on the other hand, exists with a very different set of perpetual needs and severe financial constraints. Because funding is always so short, competitive tensions arise and define the process by which organizations seek to perpetuate themselves. Cooperative projects like this one inevitably face the question of whose interests are most served by the "group" effort. Although the tape was exhibited, used, and distributed as planned, in some ways each

Authors: Caldwell, John.
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Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.24
15
Through this work I came into contact with CRLA in Oceanside, a legal advocacy group engaged in
rural poverty issues.
16
Chicano and UFW organizing in the late 1960s, set in motion a long and rich tradition for the teatro in
social activism. Since telenovelas are pervasive parts of Hispanic broadcasting in California and
elsewhere, we intended to use the televised genre as an updated starting point for creative participation.
17
An awareness of the daily severity of these health issues were underscored by one campesina, who
recounted the following story about health-care: “Then the contractor yells at him: "It still hasn't been a
half hour! "Why are you going to get your lunch?" Then I told the contractor: "leave him alone, because
the people with diabetes get very hungry. Leave him alone!" I am sick also," the contractor said. "But you
have a doctor," I said… How are workers going to have a doctor like you? “You talk too much!" he says.
18
Due to high rents, for example, several of the video participants--single, male, Guatemalan workers--
shared one-bedroom apartments and very little furniture with as many as six other workers.
19
I will return to the significance of this shift in the gardener's involvement (from virtuality to self-
disclosure) later in this essay, for it resonates with practices in the digital world of the net.
20
This included a thread of talk across numerous interviews (and ethnic groups) that linked food
preparation with interpersonal romance. This segment--termed "Amor Vegetal"--became the title for the
piece as a whole. Talk about "vegetable love" suggested a far less utilitarian spin to the wisdom-from-
the-ground nature of the project.
21
The final video production uses this cycle of the land--from ground-breaking in winter, to planting in
spring, to harvest in late summer--as an arc that organizes gardener meditations on food, identity, and
life.
22
The south Escondido garden project was successful enough that an even larger project of the same sort
was started up in East Escondido the very next year. This La Cosecha Nuestra “sequel” included a larger, 4-
acre community garden that would allow for higher quantity agricultural production, including small scale
commercial produce. One hundred gardners now would produce food that would benefit five hundred
residents (City of Escondido Project Workplan, 1996, 1). The final videotape was used locally in “platicas” or
group discussions on health and food-issues in nutrution by the Escondido Clinic and Migrant Education
Project. Additional public screenings took place, formally, at the Eye Empowerment Community Center, and
informally at numerous weekend barbeques and meetings in the garden itself. The tape, Amor Vegetal: Our
Harvest was also exhibited in festivals in Chicago and Barcelona, at the Field Museum in Chicago, and at
national conferences on non-for-profit legal work and food security marketing. One hundred and twenty VHS
dubs of the production (in both Spanish and English) were given to all of the video and garden participants
and their families, as well as to the coalition of supporters who had either managed or donated in-kind
resources.
23
In this way, project Cosecha Nuestra also challenged the ways that marginalized populations are
typically posed in new media talk. Many have warned of the growing split in the digital age between
"information haves" and "have-nots." Such a binary stands as the worst form of conceptual reification,
however, for it defines human subjects in externally-quantifiable ways. These folks are either connected
to a digital technology that fills them with information; or disconnected in a way that empties them of any
meaning. Considering the Escondido gardeners as "information have-nots" naively reduces human
agency to data storage; to a level that insults intelligence. Cybernetic thinking must take as a starting
point the lay theoretical competencies of media users. Neither "haves" or "have-nots," these gardeners--
even without AOL accounts--were data-authors and social agents that both generated and processed
networked information. These multi-users engaged each other in very "non-virtual" ways; as coworkers,
allies, competitors, and (sometimes) contentious colleagues. There were fights and arguments in
Escondidio over directions and policies; and still are.
24
We set about through coalition-building to help enable a community to form where there was none
before. This effort mostly worked with the garden community, but largely failed with the coalition of non-
profit organizations involved. The city alternately misperceived Project Cosecha Nuestra as either a
timely opportunity to exploit for PR, or (once underway) as nagging evidence of the kind of city they did
not want to publicly celebrate or promote. The culture of non-profits, on the other hand, exists with a very
different set of perpetual needs and severe financial constraints. Because funding is always so short,
competitive tensions arise and define the process by which organizations seek to perpetuate themselves.
Cooperative projects like this one inevitably face the question of whose interests are most served by the
"group" effort. Although the tape was exhibited, used, and distributed as planned, in some ways each


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