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UNICA/CAIGA Letter in Support of the UCLA Chicana/o Studies Department Name Change

On November 15, 2019, the faculty of the UCLA Chicana and Chicano Studies Department will take a formal vote to change the department name to César E. Chávez Department of Chicana, Chicano and Central American Studies. We have attached UNICA’s, la Unión Centroamericana de Estudiantes, and CAIGA’s, the Central American Isthmus Graduate Association letter in support of this name change. La Gente supports this decision and we stand in solidarity with UNICA and CAIGA for their continued advocacy for this change. UNICA/CAIGA Letter in Support of the Name Change of the UCLA Chicana/o Studies Department

UNICA/CAIGA Letter in Support of the Name Change of the UCLA Chicana/o Studies Department

Bell to Open Shelter for Central American Refugees

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More than 100 Los Angeles and City of Bell residents packed the City of Bell Community Center Wednesday evening to discuss a letter from the Salvation Army proposing to open a 30 day shelter for 137 Central American children. Thousands of children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have recently made the dangerous journey from Central America to the U.S to flee gore and corruption that has plagued their countries.

Though the Salvation Army’s proposal is humanitarian at heart, many residents at the meeting argued against it.

A Bell community member remarked during public comment, “These people coming into our country are breaking the law. I am totally in disagreement of having these children here. These parents should have the responsibility of protecting their children. What they did is kick them out to the streets like dogs. I am in total disagreement of that.”

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Some residents spoke up in favor of housing the children in the currently abandoned warehouse that is owned by the Salvation Army. One speaker commented, “We are all products of immigration. Each and every one of us. When Murrieta residents spoke with xenophobic attitudes against these children, who have been redirected to a Detention Center where they sleep sitting up, 30-40 in a room, they do not understand the traumatizing experience of being an immigrant. Of being new again in the U.S.”

After three hours of public comment, the City Council unanimously voted on supporting the effort to turn an abandoned building into a temporary refuge.

Like many cities and neighborhoods in Southeast Los Angeles, the City of Bell is a city of immigrants, primarily Mexican and Lebanese.

This decision does not automatically mean that the warehouse will be turned into a shelter just yet.The vote was to support a letter the Salvation Army drafted to receive federal funds in order to build and upkeep the shelter. The shelter will be built once those funds are received. Bell residents will not be paying a dime.

“I think the community of Bell is a compassionate community, full of kindness and understanding,” Mayor Nestor E. Valencia said. “While not wealthy, we can come together in this humanitarian effort and be a fine example of ‘America the Beautiful.’ ”

Bringing Central American culture to life through film

Ana Ruth Castillo, Los Angeles based artist with roots from Guatemala, contributed this artwork to the festival. Inspired to reflect culture and ancestry, the beauty of the natural world, and the sacred feminine, she paints on walls and canvas to share and connect. A college graduate from UC Santa Cruz, she dedicates her life and career to working with youth.

UCLA’s Latin American Institute held the Central America and Reel Politik film festival at the Main Conference Room in the Charles E. Young Research Library from Wednesday October 19 to Friday October 21.

Attracting over three hundred people throughout its run, the festival featured work from rising artists that showcased a region that is typically understudied.

The Reel Politik film festival was organized by Gloria Chacon, a fellow at the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The term Reel Politik refers to the German term Realpolitik, referring to politics that is based on power and sometimes of coercion. The term highlights the effort to shed light on the political, eocnomic, and social issues of Central America through film.

She organized the festival in part “to really showcase the vibrant culture and different points of views and people trying to tell their story. Or trying to recuperate the story of their past.” She wanted to take part in the slow but growing study of Central America.

“To educate, to showcase, and to inspire,” Chacon said, explaining her hopes of using the festival as a way to inspire students to begin telling their own story through film.

The festival took around one year to organize, and it fell solely on the shoulders of Chacon with one student aid for help.

A few years back, the Icaro Film Festival in Guatemala impacted her by showing documentaries and films produced in Central America.

Chacon set out to collect a film archive for the UCLA library. However, the difficulty in obtaining films not easily available to the public meant each director had to be contacted directly. Her established contacts allowed her to bring attention to the event throughout the planning stage, resulting in full support by the administration.

The Central American community fully embraced the festival. At the film festival, many local consulates participated with Beliz and Guatemalan representatives providing small discourse on their respective country.

For Chacon, the involvement of the local community allowed the possibility of many to connect with others. Understanding people’s history is a necessary step in pushing diversity, especially on a college campus, she says.

At the event itself, the education of the countries was on full display. Books were sold to further touch upon the issues raised in the films. Students from diverse backgrounds participated in the Q&A. Different films provided insights into current social problems, and the effects past events currently have in society.

Although this was the first year the festival was held, Chacon hopes to do it again, but with some modifications. She would like to include short films by students and give awards to the best documentary, feature, and student films shown at the festival.

Regardless, this year the UCLA library gained a rich variety of films to provide commentary on Central America, a region that is currently growing among the fields of study. This gives the school an opportunity to become one of the emerging locations that are aiding the growth of Central American scholars. These films will become resources for all those students and community members that wish to focus on the region.

Every film showed, and many more, will be available for regular checkout at the Charles E. Young Research Library.

Obama to visit El Salvador

photo courtesy of whitehouse.gov

President Barack Obama will visit El Salvador on March 22 and 23 to discuss immigration and the spread of Mexico’s drug violence  with President Mauricio Funes.

While El Salvador is Central America’s smallest country, U.S. policy makers need to consider the rise of violence and drug trafficking to El Salvador’s neighbors Honduras and Guatemala. With one of the highest murder rates in Central America, El Salvador has pleaded with the U.S. for aid.

El Salvador’s economy currently relies on remittances sent from the millions of Salvadoreans working in the United States. According to a Washington Post article, El Salvador’s foreign minister Hugo Martinez stated that investing in the local communities of migrants would offer alternatives to out-migration.

Jesuit Massacre Still Haunts Salvadorans After 20 Years

Republished with permission of New American Media

Written by Mary Jo McConahay, Originally posted: Nov. 16, 2009

SAN SALVADOR — Twenty years ago, three colleagues and I were the first reporters on the scene of the murders here of six Jesuit priests, their cook and her daughter, a turning point in the civil war that cost 75,000 other Salvadoran lives. As gatherings the world over commemorate the special anniversary, I remember details of that morning I do not want to forget.

“They’ve killed Ellacuria,” said the young priest in the hotel parking lot.

He had rushed over to tell reporters, he said, and we were the first he met.

We reserved belief. The death of Ignacio Ellacuria, rector of San Salvador’s Jesuit university and a world-renowned theologian, had been announced more than once during the civil war. We jumped into a jeep anyway.

At the university side gate, we knocked on a black iron door. From across the street, a soldier in a guardhouse kept watch. Guerrillas of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) had been trying for six days to take over the capital. The army was fighting back with all the U.S.-supplied arms and aircraft it had. At this hour of morning, just after curfew lifted, you didn’t know what lay behind any closed door.

Inside, on the grass, we saw four bundles covered with white sheets stained with what looked like blood.

“Come with me,” said José María Tojeira, the Jesuits’ Central America provincial. My colleagues, radio reporters, were already striding with their mics toward two clerics, one elderly and one very young, who stood gazing at the bundles. I followed Tojeira.

“Come, look,” he said as we stepped inside the residence.

A man lay lifeless in the hall. A priest, I supposed, but not Ellacuria. A smear of crimson streaked the floor. Tojeira stood by an open door to one of the rooms. He didn’t speak, but tilted his head for me to look inside. A narrow room with a small bed and books, one fallen on the floor, next to a man’s body, some blood. Not like knife wounds, likely bullets. I wrote in my reporter’s notebook furiously, sloppily, tethering myself to the pages. Each time, Tojeira waited.

Instead of returning to the garden, however, we descended a short flight of outdoor steps. A door stood ajar. I asked myself what more might be possible.

The body of a woman lay over that of a girl. The woman’s remains faced the door, as if she had stood in front of the girl at the last moment. I could hardly breathe. My own daughter was three at the time.

By the time Tojeira and I ascended to the garden once more, news photographers had arrived.

“Father, you have to take the covers off the bodies,” I said.

Tojeira looked alarmed for a moment, then decisive.

“Promise me that these pictures, all this, will reach the Jesuits, will be known,” he said.

I felt a jolt. Tojeira’s words told me he was uncertain whether he would live through the day. Jesuits, most notably Ellacuria, had had the ear of both sides in the civil war, from President Alfredo Cristiani of the right-wing ARENA party, to leftist FMLN commanders. The scholar-priests pushed for a negotiated, non-military solution. To radical rightists, this was intolerable. A call for “Death to Jesuits” had surfaced, along with threats to others in the atmosphere of war.

I knew the photographers. I promised Tojeira. The sheets came off.

There was Ellacuria, still in his bathrobe, looking up, as if he had faced his killer. There was Ignacio Martin-Baro, the psychologist I had first met in San Francisco years before, when he explained to me how difficult it was to treat traumatic stress while people were drowning in war. Segundo Montes lay there, the sociologist to whom we always went for facts about the exodus that was making Los Angeles the second largest El Salvadoran city. He had tracked the uprooting carefully, sadly, holding back anger -– it seemed to me -– when he had described how the war was separating families, and emptied old towns.

I did not know the other priests who died that day, Amando López, Joaquín López y López and Juan Ramón Moreno. I did not know (but felt I did) the cook and her daughter, Julia Elba Ramos and Celina Ramos. When I visited the place of the murders recently, I saw that the roses Julia’s husband planted in the days after the massacre had grown to dominate the garden. Ellacuria’s brown bathrobe hung behind glass in the nearby museum.

An engineering student named Martin sat in the little room I had last seen disheveled and smelling of death, with the bodies of the two women on the floor. Young Martin was describing to visitors the history of that day, allowing them to choose which of two photo albums they wanted to see, one that was more “difficult” to pore through, and one that was “softer.” How in God’s name, I wondered, might there be a “soft” version of the images I saw?

I did not feel like speaking, but carried away something I heard Martin say. He was only a toddler on that day 20 years ago, but as he learned how the men worked to end the war, minister among the suffering, and how they died, he decided to join others volunteering for the “museum.”

“We cannot allow forgetting,” he said.

Journalist Mary Jo McConahay’s “Maya Roads, Travels through Space and Time in the American Rainforest,” will appear in 2011, from Chicago Review Press