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Racial Borderlands: Suburban Plantation Culture and 'Rancho California (por favor)'
Unformatted Document Text:  Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.25 contributor had reason to question the utility of the piece. Clinic workers wanted more healthcare and less process footage. Nutritionists wanted more pedagogy and less dialogue and reflection by those who needed the knowledge most. Even the dramatized responses to food security choices carried a symbolic, imaginative dimension-- something difficult to lock-down within any single NGO’s mission statement. 25 One discussant noted that this was the exception that proved the rule; that the video meant finally "that they are taking the Latino community into account." But others were more specific in their critiques of media representations and stereotyping. Amor Vegetal was not just about harvesting. For one, the tape offered "active, participating," and "positive image(s)." Another noted that these are "very different from the (media) images of the Latino as fat and lazy." Although the community was multi-racial and comprised of gardeners from many different countries and states--Guatemala, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Oaxaca, Jalisco, Argentina, Puerto Rico, the French Carribean, and Canada--it stood symbolically as both a strategic foothold, and as a world of "willed affinity"; a world where diverse ethnic groups coexisted productively. 26 One campesina noted the severe consequences of living (and disappearing) in the camp zones outside of such safe-zones: “I've already told them, if somebody takes me away, they should not even look for me here. And to advise all of my family in Vista, so that they'll take care of my children.” 27 My subsequent visits to the Superior Court in Vista, California to further document the indigenous translator project in practice revealed a number of sobering factors. Being locked up, because one did not understand either Spanish or English, for example, clearly hit others hard as well. Mothers with several small children from Kanjobal families came to court, in sometimes-desperate attempts to learn the whereabouts of their incarcerated (non-Spanish speaking) husbands. This situation underscored a pattern I had first seen in the muddy migrant camps—of gendered isolation. Mishandled indigenous court cases, that is, proved to be one more way that migrant men could be isolated from indigenous women. The following year, Victor Gomez and other Kanjobal leaders staged a press conference in the Pico-Union district of Los Angeles to announce the success and expansion of the Mayavision Indigenous Translators Project. 28 Sergio Mendez explained: “Because there was a need for the people who were most exploited, the people who are most misunderstood, or who receive no help are the people from Oaxaca; the indigenous people who speak Mixtec.” Arturo Gonzalez talked of his personal frustrations with the language: “And sometimes the supervisors would talk to us, but I couldn't understand Spanish, because my town, where I grew up, my family where we are from, we spoke very little Spanish. Very few people spoke it. I grew up speaking all Mixtec.” 29 The pervasiveness and extent of this transportable system of domination is evident in Sergio Mendez’s remarks: “Others were in jail, another died in Pala. All indigenous people. If they are in Salinas, because they don't speak Spanish, they pay them less than the other workers. If they are in Santa Maria, in Oxnard, wherever, they are a focal point for exploitation, because they don't speak the language.” 30 Sergio stated: “I think that the Binational Indigenous Oaxacan front is the only organization that represents the interests of migrants today. There have been groups from other states-Sinaloa, Michoacan, Zacatecas—but they only have their clubs for get-togethers, to dance, party, to play music, eat carne asada, birria, that's all. We don't. We do organize.” (ital. his) 31 Sergio explains: “It is about integrating communities and also organizations. The front, has a binational character. Every action that companeros take in Mixteca, san Quentin, Manadero, Tijuana, takes place in el norte, Los Angeles, Fresno, all the way to San Jose. The consulates are approached, and demands are made. And that's how we negotiate with the government.” 32 Sergio dramatized the difference between “free-trade” globalization and indigenous transnationalism: “NAFTA only comes to exploit the natural resources--manual labor—and to pay the salaries of Oaxaca: 13 or 15 pesos per day. So with all respect, NAFTA is good for nothing. It is good only for the manufacturers in helping them to exploit those who are most in need.” Sergio Mendez was describing the two-edged results of free-trade agreements like NAFTA, which had the effect: first, of emptying Mixteco villages of working men and boys (who went to take low paying factory jobs in Oaxaca and Mexico); and second, of precipitating the importation of low-paid homeless workers to the suburbs and arroyos of Southern California. 33 After covering a large community celebration by the indigenous front in Los Angeles, for example, Univision and KMEX (normally representing the network’s Miami-oriented perspective of mono-“hemispheric” Hispanic identity) acknowledged the lesson being taught their reporters that day by the Mixtecos and Zapotecs. The KMEX/Univision report that night included the following curious

Authors: Caldwell, John.
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background image
Racial Borderlands/10/9/03, p.25
contributor had reason to question the utility of the piece. Clinic workers wanted more healthcare and
less process footage. Nutritionists wanted more pedagogy and less dialogue and reflection by those who
needed the knowledge most. Even the dramatized responses to food security choices carried a symbolic,
imaginative dimension-- something difficult to lock-down within any single NGO’s mission statement.
25
One discussant noted that this was the exception that proved the rule; that the video meant finally "that
they are taking the Latino community into account." But others were more specific in their critiques of
media representations and stereotyping. Amor Vegetal was not just about harvesting. For one, the tape
offered "active, participating," and "positive image(s)." Another noted that these are "very different from
the (media) images of the Latino as fat and lazy." Although the community was multi-racial and comprised
of gardeners from many different countries and states--Guatemala, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Oaxaca, Jalisco,
Argentina, Puerto Rico, the French Carribean, and Canada--it stood symbolically as both a strategic
foothold, and as a world of "willed affinity"; a world where diverse ethnic groups coexisted productively.
26
One campesina noted the severe consequences of living (and disappearing) in the camp zones outside of
such safe-zones: “I've already told them, if somebody takes me away, they should not even look for me here.
And to advise all of my family in Vista, so that they'll take care of my children.”
27
My subsequent visits to the Superior Court in Vista, California to further document the indigenous translator
project in practice revealed a number of sobering factors. Being locked up, because one did not understand
either Spanish or English, for example, clearly
hit others hard as well. Mothers with several small children from Kanjobal families came to court, in
sometimes-desperate attempts to learn the whereabouts of their incarcerated (non-Spanish speaking)
husbands. This situation underscored a pattern I had first seen in the muddy migrant camps—of
gendered isolation. Mishandled indigenous court cases, that is, proved to be one more way that migrant
men could be isolated from indigenous women. The following year, Victor Gomez and other Kanjobal
leaders staged a press conference in the Pico-Union district of Los Angeles to announce the success and
expansion of the Mayavision Indigenous Translators Project.
28
Sergio Mendez explained: “Because there was a need for the people who were most exploited, the people
who are most misunderstood, or who receive no help are the people from Oaxaca; the indigenous people who
speak Mixtec.” Arturo Gonzalez talked of his personal frustrations with the language: “And sometimes the
supervisors would talk to us, but I couldn't understand Spanish, because my town, where I grew up, my
family where we are from, we spoke very little Spanish. Very few people spoke it. I grew up speaking all
Mixtec.”
29
The pervasiveness and extent of this transportable system of domination is evident in Sergio Mendez’s
remarks: “Others were in jail, another died in Pala. All indigenous people. If they are in Salinas, because
they don't speak Spanish, they pay them less than the other workers. If they are in Santa Maria, in
Oxnard, wherever, they are a focal point for exploitation, because they don't speak the language.”
30
Sergio stated: “I think that the Binational Indigenous Oaxacan front is the only organization that
represents the interests of migrants today. There have been groups from other states-Sinaloa,
Michoacan, Zacatecas—but they only have their clubs for get-togethers, to dance, party, to play music,
eat carne asada, birria, that's all. We don't. We do organize.” (ital. his)
31
Sergio explains: “It is about integrating communities and also organizations. The front, has a binational
character. Every action that companeros take in Mixteca, san Quentin, Manadero, Tijuana, takes place in el
norte, Los Angeles, Fresno, all the way to San Jose. The consulates are approached, and demands are
made. And that's how we negotiate with the government.”
32
Sergio dramatized the difference between “free-trade” globalization and indigenous transnationalism:
“NAFTA only comes to exploit the natural resources--manual labor—and to pay the salaries of Oaxaca:
13 or 15 pesos per day. So with all respect, NAFTA is good for nothing. It is good only for the
manufacturers in helping them to exploit those who are most in need.” Sergio Mendez was describing the
two-edged results of free-trade agreements like NAFTA, which had the effect: first, of emptying Mixteco
villages of working men and boys (who went to take low paying factory jobs in Oaxaca and Mexico); and
second, of precipitating the importation of low-paid homeless workers to the suburbs and arroyos of
Southern California.
33
After covering a large community celebration by the indigenous front in Los Angeles, for example,
Univision and KMEX (normally representing the network’s Miami-oriented perspective of mono-
“hemispheric” Hispanic identity) acknowledged the lesson being taught their reporters that day by the
Mixtecos and Zapotecs. The KMEX/Univision report that night included the following curious


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