Coco, Un Poco Loco

9 12 2017

By Abel Macias

A Chicano’s dilemma with the film by Pixar

I begin by saying, that I went to go watch the movie, not once, but twice and hope to watch it again, but this time in español.

My dilemma

As an educator, when I began to come across media advertisements for the film I thought it would be a good topic of discussion for my Chicana/o Studies classes. I showed the trailer for the film in my classes and I also shared the controversy around the attempt by Disney to copyright the former title Dia de los Muertos.

I allowed my students to decide whether they would watch the film and whether they felt that Lalo Alcarez had contradicted himself when he signed on as a cultural consultant. This was an effort to promote discussion and critical thought.

However, after watching the trailer a few times, I actually thought this would be a good film to take my little nieces to. One of them being age one and the other age five. I knew both of them enjoyed watching the film Moana, another Disney film about a young Polynesia girl who turns out to be the hero. I thought to myself why shouldn’t my nieces enjoy a film about their own people and culture.161207_coco_miguel_14a435b7bb6824aba3954206a8ed8480.nbcnews-fp-1200-800

Realistically only I would know about what had happened a year prior with Disney and I was willing to put that aside, since it was only my politics that I was sacrificing in order for my nieces to have a good time. I knew this was just going to be a window into the world of their culture, but it would be a window on the big screen, one that they could identify with hopefully.

Rumble in the Jungle

There were some rumblings on social media about how Chicanas/os shouldn’t see the film, but I knew it wasn’t as simple as that. I knew this situation called for a different response.

My analysis was of the broader society and this decision warranted a more sophisticated approach that took into account many factors, not just a decision based on a blanket position against all corporations and their products. After all we use many products in order to function in our daily lives that are produced as a result of capitalism. We have to be able function in our daily lives and not get hung up on issues that are not going to prevent us from carrying out our work or ability to prosper as human beings. This film was definitely not going to harm us and actually did the opposite and gave me great pleasure in being able to witness a tradition that is related to my people and culture.

The Unfortunate Reality

Unfortunately, the bigger picture here is not whether we should see the film or not, but that we even have to be having this debate.  Chicanas/os can’t just go to the movies and enjoy themselves like “normal Americans”. We constantly have to be wary of what we are going to see when we go to the movies. The history of Hollywood has historically been bad for our people. We have had to endure decades of stereotypical portrayals of our community and culture. That is if we are even given a voice, many times we are relegated to the margins of a script and used only as props to support the heroification of someone else.

One day we will be able to just enjoy ourselves at the movies, but that day won’t come until we change society and until then, we have to extract the benefits from the dominant cultural productions that surround us, while at the same time trying to influence them, since these reach the broadest audiences.

By the way, the film has surpassed expectations and surpassed other box office hits and was number one in it’s second week and looking good going into its third week, the only thing that will stop it is Star Wars. dj-star-wars-the-last-jediMay the fuerza be with you and don’t forget to enjoy yourself when you soak in some scifi fun, because even Chicanos/as love Jedi’s and their crazy friends like Chewie. Oh another by the way if you hated on Coco, don’t let me catch you at the theater watching the Last Jedi, ‘cuz guess who owns Lucas Films now? Yes, Walt Disney cabrones.





Why does Chicano Park have images of Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara?

4 09 2017

By Abel Macias

September 4, 2017

These questions are important in light of the current conditions that we find ourselves in. As we have seen, Donald Trump has given rise to those who believe in White Supremacy and racial hatred. Many of these Neo-Nazi and White supremacist groups feel emboldened by the Trump presidency and secure in coming out of the shadows and expressing their racist views in public.

It was this atmosphere of embolden racism that caught the attention of the Chicano/a/x community when they heard rumors that Neo-Nazis were coming to attack their park. It was the terrorist attacks in Charlottesville that made people feel a heightened sense of urgency and vigilance when they heard someone dared to step foot in Chicano Park to do anything that was perceived as disrespectful.

In essence the community was not having it and is feed up with racist attacks against Mexicans and all people of color.

The response was great, three to five hundred people showed up to defend the park. People drove in from out of town to lend their support. There were Chicanos, Chicanas, Chicanx, socialist, anarchist, Whites, Blacks, Natives and many others who came out in mass to defend the park and its murals.che_guevara_y_fidel_castro

But what murals were under attack and scrutiny? It appears White supremacist and Neo-Nazis don’t like Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra because they were communist. They also tried to equate an ancient Native American symbol which they stole to represent their fascist regime in Nazi Germany.

But what is wrong with communism and why can’t we determine for ourselves who we choose as our heroes? The Chicano community has every right to sympathize with communism, socialism or any other ideology that it feels meets the needs of our community. Who are outsiders to say what we can or can’t believe in? This is the essence of self-determination and what we have been fighting for since those murals were painted back in 1973.

Who was Fidel and why does he deserve a place in Chicano Park? Without getting into a very long history lesson, we should know that Fidel was a revolutionary leader that overthrew the Cuban government in order to bring about change for the people. Because he beat overwhelming odds in defeating the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista who was backed by the United States, he is a hero. He was and is an inspiration to the people who feel they can never win a battle with a more powerful force. But he proved that wrong, he was a shining example of how organization, determination, faith and perseverance can beat all odds.

One of the people who helped Fidel defeat the Batista dictatorship was Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara. Che was an Argentinian by birth, but left his country after studying to become a medical doctor to travel Latin America. He met Fidel in Mexico where the Cuban was making plans to reenter his country with a small group of revolutionaries in order to take power. After their successful overthrow of the dictatorship and implementation of the new government, Che decided to go to Bolivia in order to help build another revolutionary army to overthrow the Bolivian government. Unfortunately, he was unaware the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States was sending support to the Bolivian government in order to stop another revolution in Latin America. Che was assassinated by Bolivian forces with the assistance of CIA operatives stationed in the country.

So to the Chicano Movement in the 1960s Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were heroes in the fight against U.S. Imperialism and Capitalism. These two systems are the same that continue to oppress Chicanas/os today. And it is for that reason that we defend the legacy, imagery and murals painted in Chicano Park. Because even if people do not know the history that is represented in some of the figures and icons that are in Chicano Park they know that no right wing racist or Neo-Nazis are going to come into the park and destroy or deface the murals that we fought for.

Yesterday, was an amazing example of how the people came together to defend what is ours. Now we must continue to organize ourselves and study the legacy of Fidel, Che and many others who fought to make a better world. If we learn anything from these great heroes, we should learn that they analyzed the conditions they were under in order to make strategic decisions that would lead to victory in the face of great odds.

Onward Mi Gente

¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!





Balboa Park Pow Wow 2017

13 05 2017

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Power to the People, Fight Gentrification

5 04 2017

The piece below this image was originally published by me back in 2015 in response to a cover story written by Kinsee Morlan. Here is a link to her City Beat article, the headline of the original article has been changed from “power to the people” to “A Renaissance on Logan Ave” http://sdcitybeat.com/culture/features/renaissance-logan-avenue/

DSC01378After having read the piece in City Beat Magazine (People Power, Barrio Logan, July 22, 2015), I felt the need to write a response and hopefully stir people to think more critically about what is really happening on Logan Avenue.

I was born and raised in San Diego, and I’ve been around long enough to know gentrification when I see it. Plain and simple, what is happening on Logan Avenue is a phase in that process.

I think what confuses people about what is happening is that you have brown folks   involved in the process, some are calling this “gente-fication”. But color is just one thing that informs our judgments; we have to consider how class intersects with this as well.  Don’t get me wrong I’m in favor of the arts and Brown people moving forward, but we have to consider the cost of so called progress and who ultimately benefits from that “progress”.   We must reflect how our actions are contributing to a larger situation that is beyond our control unless we have a highly organized, militant and complex response to what is happening. It may seem cool now, but capital isn’t interested in community empowerment, it’s interested in dollars and how to maximize profit.

You may be reading this and thinking what a *#!?!* hater.  But before you dismiss read on.

The article in City Beat seems to go back and forth around this issue of gentrification, whether it’s happening or not and whether it’s good or bad. Some of the points made lack depth and a clear analysis.

As John Alvarado mentions in the piece, much of Logan Avenue was “overlooked by bigtime developers/investors who wanted to swoop up cheap land close to downtown”, apparently that is changing “it wasn’t until last year that a lot of properties were sold on and around the block”. Alvarado is actually confirming the process of gentrification is taking place. Alvarado represents the small business interest in the neighborhood (or in Marxist terms the petty bourgeoisie) as the Director of the Logan Avenue Business Association.

According to another source for the article, Juan Martinez, a broker for a real estate firm located in Bonita, argues several properties were just sold, but not to worry about gentrification, “at least not for now, because the developers seem to be a good fit for the neighborhood”.  What the hell?  Who are these developers and why does Juan Martinez get to decide what is a good fit for the neighborhood? Were community members at the table when he was meeting developers that were interested in buying?  I doubt it.

Another investor Sasha Favelukis just purchased two properties on the block and plans to open up studios and a restaurant, but claims it’s in the interest of artist. I’m sorry but investors don’t put down hard cash because they are worried about the art scene in Barrio

Logan, they spend money to make money, bottom line.  Based on a recent ad for property  on Logan Avenue commercial property prices have jumped to $2.10 per square foot. This is double the price in some areas of San Diego from just a few years ago.

I’m glad to see someone in the article made sense, probably because he’s already seen it happen. David White was pushed out of his artist studio in North Park and says, “it’ll be difficult to protect the street from the kind of development that raises rent and forces artists out”. He predicts rents will increase dramatically in the next few years. I think White is correct in his prediction. One space is already struggling to keep up and is looking for artist to help cover the cost by leasing space at $300 a month and has even resorted to gofundme.org to raise additional money. Without support from the city the art spaces will have a difficult time keeping up with the cost of operating without bringing in some kind of revenue. [update, this space “The Church” closed soon after this article was published and had to move to a smaller space across the street]

However, the writer Kinsee Morlan tries to end the article on an upbeat note and includes  the voice of an architect Hector Perez. Perez along with other architects bought nine lots in the area not including a design school down the street. They designed a creative building with an image of Cesar Chavez on the side. He admits that the “development sharks” are circling, but thinks that the community can salvage its cultural identity and isn’t too worried.  Well, if I owned property on the block I wouldn’t be too worried either, because any property I owned would only increase in value as the area becomes more gentrified.

Imagery and icons from the Chicano community can be easily appropriated to fit the needs of developers or business interest in general. (see Urban Outfitters for the latest examples)

You can call it what you want, but culture is controlled by those who own the wealth in society and as property values continue to rise, poor and working class Raza will get pushed out. According to the census, the white population in 92113 has jumped from 11.7% to 32.8 from 2000 to 2010.

When a wealthier population moves into an area they will want to see and experience things that make them feel comfortable based not just on income, but also race and social background. So it’s only a matter of time before brown working class residents and artist get pushed out. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth. Perhaps this message will encourage the Raza that are there to think critically about what is happening and face the writing on the wall. If the community wants to save the Barrio than it has to implement guarantees that will protect the social, economic, cultural and political interest of the community that is quickly being displaced and the way to do this is through organization. More importantly these organizations must develop a clear analysis of their position in this process of gentrification or else they are just pawns in the development game.





Solidarity with Standing Rock in San Diego

25 08 2016

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Support for Lakota Nation, Defeat DAP

19 08 2016

Sorry for the short notice, but here is our local effort to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and support Native peoples and Mother Earth.

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Anti Trump Rally Turns…Media on its Head

27 05 2016

Based on the mainstream media coverage of today’s events it appears that all that went down today was a bunch of fighting, well here is another perspective to that narrative.  This is stage one in creating an independent media outlet for San Diego.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Rebel Reporter: Abel Macias

Today the working class came out in solidarity to show their opposition to Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaking in San Diego.

The actions held today were organized by several groups and organizations that all convened at the San Diego Convention Center where Trump was speaking.  The Party for Socialism and Liberation joined the action that was held at Chicano Park and was called by Union del Barrio.  This park has significance to the Chicana/o community of San Diego but also across the United States.  It was at this location that the same community came together to protest the construction of a Highway Patrol Station in 1970.

There were other actions happening as well, most notably one called for by Immigrant Women Rising Against Trump and Corporate Greed, that are janitors who are part of the Service Employees International Union SEIU.  They began their march in downtown on 7th and B street and ended at the Convention Center.  Their demands were for wages, health insurance, immigrant rights and protection against sexual assault and other abuses.

From Chicano Park, the marchers made their way down Harbor Drive toward the Convention Center.  The march was mostly made of Chicanas/os however the crowd was very diverse in many aspects including ethnicity, gender, ability and age.  The head of the march was led by Mexica Dancers and flags from all over South, Central and North America.

The people made their way to the convention center about a mile away leading very spirited and militant chants building momentum to confront the police barricade.

When arriving at the convention center the protest continued but was blocked from getting directly in front of the entrance to building.  This allowed Trump supporters to freely enter the building.  The protest continued for about two hours singing, dancing, chanting and engaging in peaceful demonstration.  There was one incident when a person attempted to instigate a confrontation in order to give police an excuse to attack people, but he was swiftly removed from the crowd where he warmly greeted by the police.  After a couple of hours many people began to leave.

After Trumps hate speech ended many of his supporters began to exit the building and were lead directly into the Trump protestors that had stayed behind.  It was at this point that things became more disruptive.  It was apparent there were many Trump supporters looking to start problems and became very confrontational toward protestors causing reactions and scuffles to break out with some people being arrested.  Eventually the police ordered all people to disperse and started grabbing people out of the crowds and arresting them.  It is unclear how many of those snatched by the police were Trump supporters.

It was very evident that the San Diego Police Department was there to protect the ruling class Donald Trump and allow him to share his neofascists rhetoric.  The thousands of dollars and resources that were used to protect this man and his message is indicative of the type of society we live in.  Where hate speech is protected and defended by the state.

The Convention Center could have denied the Trump organization a space to share his message.  The City of San Diego could have made a statement that Trump was not welcome here in our city, but instead it dedicated thousands of police officers in riot gear to protect him.  Those resources are paid for by the working class people of San Diego.

As a revolutionary I believe we should stand against racism and any attempts to divide the working class.  We must oppose his message and not allow him to speak anywhere in this country.  There is no room for racism, immigrant bashing, homophobia or anti-Muslim speech, regardless of the hypocrisy of so called freedom of speech in this capitalist country.