Seemed like December brought some more good news. A long awaited interview by Robert Boyd is finally out on Glasstire. Back in September Robert became the first person to dialog with at my installation in DiverseWorks (see previous blogs). He was soon commissioned to interview me for the online art journal. It was a long conversation, recorded over several hours. The transcription, written in the article, is a fraction of the overall interview. So here it is, a month later, yet I am appreciative of Robert’s work, Rainey Knudson, Christina Rees and all the staff on Glasstire. And a special thank you to Xandra Eden. Click on the link or the image to understand a little more about my background.
La Unida Once (the United Eleven) had a Christmas party on December 17th, which also served as an award ceremony. In addition to serving delicious Mexican food, they passed out certificates of appreciation, coffee cups with their logo and t-shirts to the people who helped them the past year. Well, the items are not nearly as important as having the recognition from this group. They are establishing an immigrant family network in the East End, as they did in southwest Houston. Because I provided a space for them to meet at LOCCA, they wanted to show their appreciation during the ceremony. Im just happy to offer a safe and convenient location. Thanks La Unida Once and to Raul, their main organizer! I appreciate the "Appreciation".
LINES DRAWN, the exhibition, closed on Saturday Nov. 18th. I want to thank curator, Xandra Eden for inviting me to be part of this great show and providing me a platform to introduce new ideas about citizenship and extraterritorial art spaces.
Thank you to everyone who came to visit me and to all the artists in the show. It was great having conversations throughout the show having learned more from the exchange and about the people who I engaged with.
The show had to close early at 5pm because it became a venue for a wedding of Sixto Wagan, University of Houston Director of the Center for Art and Social Engagement. We met through various meeting of Arts Takes Action Houston. He was very sorry because never come by for a conversation. Still, I decided to make a sign in honor of his marriage. It said “Asunto de Amore por la Justicia”, “Love matters for Justice”. Which of course is the subtitle of Nussbaum’s book, Political Emotions. It made him tear up.
Jim Pirtle, founder/owner of Houston downtown establishment/art space NotsuoH is an dear, old friend. We’ve known each other since the height of the Commerce Street Warehouse days in the late 80’s. On the last day of the exhibition he and I talked about how emotions affect society. Jim described the Bad Apple Theory - the jerk, the slacker, and the depressive pessimist; his theory of five personality traits that describe communities; how he hates safe zones and how some arts spaces that do not challenge people’s ideas can only serve their own tribe. Ironically, he says how anger is the most destructive emotion in a democratic society.
I challenged him about how righteous anger can be beneficial. I mentioned the example of Martin Luther King Jr., he talked about the rhetoric of Malcolm X. Jim said he read a study how women are better than men about reading emotions when only looking at the eyes of another person (27/30 for women to 17/30 for men). This was an intense and animated conversation reinforced by years of intimate, intense experiences.
Alice Serna McDougall, on the other hand, is a brand-new friend. We met through volunteering with United We Dream earlier this year. In addition to UWD she is a member of LGBTQ support groups and the ACLU observer. She always has been a civil/social rights advocate since the aids crisis in Houston in the 1980s. It’s what she’s about. I admitted to her that I worry about her and others like her from the burn out that eventually happens during charged periods of our lives. Caregivers for the traumatized need help as well. This is a lot of daily stress for her, her partner and family.
The Resistance will test the stamina many activists. Alice reassured me. She’s a veteran and knows how to take care of herself. It seems she is impervious to falling apart, she will never burn out. Then maybe I worried about myself.
Other last day visitors:
Angel Latrigue is a young artist making work about the intersection of cultural identity and bio-science. I encouraged him to stick with it and how this type of work is an open frontier that very few people have tread upon. Must let him borrow my book, The Molecular Gaze, by Suzanne Anker.
My Aunt Laura, in town for Thanksgiving, came by to see what I was doing. A long time public school teacher, she’s another outraged progressive. She loved the work and told me she was very proud.
DREAM ON @ LOCCA was a successful event on Nov. 10th! It was LOCCA’s the first collaboration this year with United We Dream. The volunteers did a remarkable job of setting up with posters, banners, food and refreshments. Undocumented story tellers recalled and presented their experience to an audience of supporters and elected officials: State Representatives Gene Wu and Alma Allen, Houston City Councilmember Karla Cisneros and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. This bipartisan group was asked to state before cameras their support for a clean Dream Act. They all did. Our undocumented immigrant speakers were all in turn more articulate, eloquent and compelling than the next. More than a chance to appeal to elected officials for firm political support, DREAM ON was a celebration. The night ended with a thirty-minute set from the Mydolls, Houston’s legendary punk band. It was amazing, mind blowing, to see them play in LOCCA’s backyard!! My thanks to all the UWD volunteers who helped set up and break down. Looks like we may do this again next month. Stay tuned!
“Sovereignty still struggles to control the body.” Delilah Montoya’s definitions of sovereignty addresses bloodlines and genetic origin…unlike the term that refers to nation states with jurisdictional borders. Delilah recognizes the 17th/18th century Spanish and Portugese practice of systematizing and classify the hierarchies of races and ethnicity with portrait paintings using her new book of recent photos “Contemporary Casta Portraiture: Nuestra Calidad” (Calidad = pure blood or status).
Instead she photographs families she knows from New Mexico and Texas and pairs them with the results of DNA test to determine their biological origin. Her book exposes how all humans are a mixture of different ethnicities and backgrounds. Considering that the current times we live where the sentiment of “blood and soil” has becoming a frequent refrain, this is noteworthy art project. Her photo book and her process becomes symbolic of the thesis behind the work. “Casta Portraiture” is a “hybrid” collaboration between the artist and the families portrayed with the use of digital technology and bio-sciences. Our conversation went further into the notions of “passing” (see Rachel Dolezal). In Delilah’s opinion, Doleza “passing” as black (stealing or gaining agency) denied an African American that same agency. Talked about the Badanius Manuscript (the first herbal medical book made in the Americas, authored by two Aztecs); and learned of the cultural theorist Homi H. Bhaba and his ideas of how people used mimicry, ambiguity and hybridity to create new identities in the New World.
Felix E Salinas (87 yrs), my father’s long time law partner, came so see what I was doing. I’ve talked with him before about this type of art making and art practice. He didn’t understand at first and seemed skeptical. Now he’s starting to understand more how the law office fits with the art. After all he still practices there, showing up 5 days a week. It helps to visualize what the work means. Interestingly he put together LOCCA with its mission and how circumstances, the events in my life precipitated my move back here and affected its purpose. “It’s unfortunate they died because of their health that you decide to move here and this started for you another journey. You go through hardships, and maybe it was meant to be, in order to accomplish what you are doing.”
Oct 28th was non-stop for me. 7 visitors and 4 conversations that day.
First, my sister Leticia comes by with my Aunt Licha. I spent time explaining the LINES DRAWN show to her. She liked the Pablo Lasch work as well as Jorge’s and JP’s. I wasn’t sure how our conversation was going to develop but she instantly started talking about how her name has changed over the years. From her birth certificate, to her marriage and driver’s licenses’, passport, bills and bank statements, etc. This was not by her design or choice but because it was imposed on her by authorities that did not understand the Spanish surname custom of the order of maiden name to marriage name. One could also say English speaking, Anglo/US authorities are confused or ignorant of the culture, or perhaps the name changes were done for the sake of convenience and preferences. Her original name, Maria Louisa Garcia de Villareal, has changed four times throughout her life. She now goes by Mary Garcia Herrera.
This is an example of someone without a choice in deciding her identity. It was made by one authority after another making the decision for her. Leticia pointed it out that a male relative of ours resisted this simplification in his passport and made sure his name was written and spelt in the way he wanted. This example runs contrary if you are a woman as the name clarification becomes more complex when the marriage name change is adopted. Still it seems that there is one rule and custom for men, another for women.
Deborah Grotfeldt (long time Houston arts leader) showed up with guest. It didn’t take me long to see that it was Caroline Huber (former director of the first DiverseWorks). Wow! This blew me away. I haven’t seen or spoken to either of them in almost 26 years. I tried to explain my history from Houston to New York and now back again. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to engage in-depth in conversation. Turns out they had leave for Deborah Colton Gallery to deliver a talk that afternoon about the Houston art scene in the 70’s and 80’s. I would really love to talk Deborah Grotfeldt and sound her out for advice about my project. Caroline spends her time in California, but she recently bought a place here in Houston. She will be here part-time. It would be great to have her back. I am still really so amazed that they remember me at all!
Rob Greenstein, Chair of DiverseWorks Board of Directors, was another unexpected person. Rob is originally from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and still carries the accent. He’s retired from working with the US Customs and Border protection. Now he spends his time serving with arts organizations and artists, art museums etc. Which makes his “retirement” years spiritually and intellectually fulfilling and fun. We talked in general about how our country suffers from very narrow self-interests of our fellow citizens (from all income strata). Voting against our own national interests leads to the fraying of a working safety net, causes economic insecurity for all and exacerbates our efforts to battle global climate change. There are multiple reasons for this and ironically it comes from the very same issues causing the problems in society. So what motivates some to vote the way they do: short-term tax relief, a sense of false Nationalism, racism? We worry about our desire for short term relief will affect our ability to sacrifice and pay for its consequences in the future. He and I may not be around in 20-30 years. But, I have hope with the millennials in our country. It was a sobering exchange.
On Wednesday Nov. 8th, 6:30-7:30pm, at DiverseWorks, we held an open forum called “Extraterratorial Sites & Persons”, an Artist & Community Roundtable. It was moderated by DiverseWorks Exec. Dir., Xandra Eden and myself. We invited a number of artist that were willing to accept questions from us about that artist's position in society/communities and artist concepts of extraterritoriality and citizenship. The following is the transcript of my delivered remarks about the subject of “extraterritorial” artworks and artists.: ...............................................................................................
Why Extraterritoriality? One of the major concepts of the show is how artists test, challenge, reimagine, disrupt, and question received notions of borders and boundaries particularly in the context of nationality-nationalism, immigration-emigration, equity-inequality of power relations and basic human rights. Extraterritoriality in its strict, historic definition refers the state of exemption of local laws or jurisdiction that are applied to specific sites or individuals where competing national and international interests meet. For example these can be places like embassies, foreign missions, military bases or ships, the UN and to people like diplomats, government officials or workers, or personnel from the armed forces. Extraterritoriality can come from bi-national agreements, treaties, diplomatic negotiations.
Extraterritorial places are where contiguous nations lie next to each, such as land borders or when they share international waters or even the earth’s atmosphere. They can become Extraterritorial zones, such as the border of the US and Mexico. They can be Special Economic Zones. The border becomes the border landscape enveloping counties, cities, municipios, state governments; the people and populations, businesses and homes and the multi-varied authorities, laws, governance mechanisms that exists within the zones. They become places with their own customs, norms, general practices and laws.
Extraterritoriality can extend to the places that juxtapose, overlap, reside in the same place which at times conflict. But let us consider other kinds places that have their own rules, norms. Shouldn’t we consider the spaces of art and artists with their own “states of exception” for imagination? They can be neutral spaces, within the normal public zones, such as the museum, parks and art institutions. But they can be places that suspend, or conflict, challenge traditional norms and rules and establish new types of communities. These can be the private galleries, the art spaces, alternative art venues, artist run projects spaces, installations and even the artist studio. They become the artist extraterritorial space. Like the traditional definitions of extraterritoriality, they also involve communities, transnational communications, with transcultural exchanges which can happen on borders and border zones. Artists, however, have created their own special kind of extraterritorial zones.
During my conversation with Michael Galbreth, one half of the Art Guys, Michael said to me, and a paraphrase: “Territory is how humans organize themselves and establish rules for behavior. Its binds the people in the spaces and places they live. Its called politics: organization of human behavior with agreed upon codified rules and laws. It is traditionally tied to territory. However, people interpret laws and codes which tend to restrict. And artists, like any other citizen, wants to explore the borders and beyond that territory. They want to travel and see other spaces.”
Michael then adds, “extraterritoriality also becomes a framework for thinking, with the “frame” as the context and the border of the ideas and art. As artists we are constantly perforating that frame, exploring around it and exploring outside to the other territories both conceptually and physically. Artist do a very good job of materializing the space. You can touch, smell, feel, taste and become part of it.”
The physical manifestations of “extraterritorial art spaces” develop their own rules and norms. These rules are part and parcel of the artist prerogatives and unique skills sets, such as: a place for having senses, thought, imagination; a place for you to emote freely and beneficially without coercion; a place where you can affiliate, collaborate and becomes friends with people that are not like yourself; and most importantly to have the space to Play. When artists experiment with new norms in those spaces for themselves and their communities it perhaps can provide the chance for many citizens to be part of and enjoy an art extraterritorial space. Perhaps this becomes an example where the rules, codes, and norms are “internal” just as much as they are external.
Though some of these extraterritorial art spaces may already have embedded societies, they also develop new communities, while being inclusive to outside and incoming groups. While these, sometimes, neutral spaces exist inside the prevalent, normal, traditional, public territory, they reach out and move outside the “frame” in the direction towards the general public and community service organizations, not just art organizations. It is outside of those spaces or here (in the self-made extraterritoriality) that artists can find themselves having another kind of role in society rather than just the author or arbiter of aesthetics.
So what about extraterritorial persons/artist? Many artists can move freely around and outside the “frame” as Michael put it, to explore other extraterritorial spaces. Ideas of internal and external spaces are occupied intuitively and the inclination to slip and cross borders while existing in undefined spaces is continually explored artistically. The “extraterritorial persons/artist” may be born in one country but work globally around the themes of borders and border spaces, for example,:
Alfredo Jaar, born in Chile, lives in New York, but works internationally, explores the sociopolitical division that result from globalization. In 2000 he created the art project called THE CLOUD: a performance that took place at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California consisting of classical music soloists accompanying the release of three thousand white balloons that symbolize the people who lost their lives trying to cross the US and Mexico border, known as “la frontera”, over that decade.
Francis Alys, a Belgian born artist who is based in Mexico, explores spatial and social realties such as national borders with ideas about localism and globalism, in areas of conflict and community. With his art piece called “Don’t Cross the Bridge Before You Get to the River”, he organized a line of kids from the Spanish side and the Moroccan side of the Straits of Gibraltar (the ocean border and narrowest point between Europe to Africa). He had them walk single file into the sea with a boat made from a shoe, they formed an imaginary bridge swimming towards each other shores and so they could meet in the horizon. It was a way to illustrate the contradiction of promoting the global economy while limiting global migration.
One of the artists in our show Mariam Ghani, researches spaces and places where social, political and cultural structures take tangible forms. Though she works on projects in Afghanistan, her family’s country of origin, here at DiverseWorks she exhibits her video “The City & The City” a video narrative of the book of the same title by China Mieville. Her video however follows the geography and the division of St. Louis, MO, as a liminal spaces within the city. This was done at the same time after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, just outside of St. Louis, in 2015.
To bring the conversation back to where we are, in this circle of people within an alternative art gallery; an extraterritorial gathering within the extraterritorial art space which is separate, but part of the traditional territory of Houston, we want to talk about the role of artists in society and how extraterritorial art spaces and artist can work beyond our “frame”.
To give one a sense of the transformations happening at the installation at DiverseWorks, here is a montage of the signs that have hung on the model portico during the course of the exhibition.
Each phrase relates and refers to the types of internal rights that all humans should have and claim to have a fulfilled life and citizenship. (see Nussbaum’s Central Human Capabilities). They are made in Spanish, but I added the translations for our readers. There are two more weeks of the exhibition. The sign changes every week, so two more phrases will be displayed. Afterward, I assemble all the signs at the base of my desk. It becomes a mass compilation of terms signifying basic human rights.
Though we already had a conversation about extraterritorial space weeks ago, Oct. 14th would be Michael Galbreth’s first visit. What a nice surprise to bring along his wife Rainey Knudson!
Michael has been interested in the idea of having his art work notarized since we last spoke. I explained to him that the notary is there to certify documents and affidavits and to verify the signers. It is also about affirming a fact or something truthful within a document before a certified notary. He brought along a proposition placed in a folder: Michael presented an edition of 10 prints, with an artist proof, of the type written statement “The Art Guys are not artists.”, each with their stamp and seal in the right corner and the number at the bottom center. He wanted this art work notarized. Of course, I understood the subtext & subtlety of his contradictory statement. I found this statement to be true and the fact he was claiming it as art-work provided me the permission I needed. I certified the authenticity of the document. But he added, he wanted my notary seal to be part of the piece and asked that I place it on the front, bottom left of the page. I obliged and signed it with a red pen. Is this a collaboration?!
Rainey wanted something as well. She decided to write on white card stock, “I love my life, I love my family, I love my work” and signed it. This was definitely a statement of fact at the time she wrote it and did so willingly, so I notarized it as well. She also requested my LOCCA stamp and seal to be added to the document as part of the “artist” imprimatur. They were both very lovely and funny. Michael wanted to add his thumbprints to my notary log. Good thing for the red ink pad. Now I have Michael, the Art Guys, thumbprint impression on the notary log! That should be worth something someday. Rainey paid the typical $10 fee for notarizing her statement. Michael on the other hand, gave me the pick of his edition in exchange for the fee.
On Oct. 14th I met with Justin who was visiting the gallery for the first time. He was very candid about his experience with traveling and spoke about the barriers and the necessity of acquiring passports and visas. This was reminiscent of my first conversation with Robert Boyd (please see entry 1 in Blog). Justin would visit particular areas along the US borders to Mexico and Canada and made the interesting observation of our physical and psychological sense of national boundaries. When one is actually looking at a Canadian border crossing the boundaries could be just a narrow street with a patrol officer in a booth; In the case of Mexico, particularly along the Texas border, it is just a river. Justin was comparing the various discrepancies and “holes” or porous spots. Obviously there are legal, political and racial policies that mold the physical character of our northern and southern borders. We didn’t have to mention the various “walls” along Mexico and the US. But he pointed out how our concepts of the national demarcation psychologically shape our sense of what the boundary looks and feels like. WE are not far from each other. WE live just next door. In many ways, its about understanding that the other place is just over there, close by, a short walk or a stone throw away. The real “wall” exists in out minds.
Then he observed, that while some places may seem physically impenetrable, why then it could be so difficult for some and simpler for other? We recognized that for some people (the 1%), traveling to another country is no effort at all, in either the cost or labor. They can pay others to do all the work for them, have someone pack their bags, book a flight, get the visas in order, charter the flight and all they need to do is get on the plane. These people are not encumbered by nationality or commitments to other countries. They can live where they wish whenever they wish. A word to describe these people are, “Supra-nationals”. It would be different that Thomas Friedman’s simplification of these one-percenters; “super empowered individuals.” It is not “supranational” like a multinational body (EU). Perhaps adding the suffix “individual” would help differentiate.
Other questions we considered: Comparing Texas voter registration to New York State; In NY, you can register online. In Texas, registration forms must be mailed. Why not get a passport or visa as easily as registering to vote? We talked about EU passports for citizens to travel wherever in the continent. What about one day having a North American Hemisphere or South American Hemisphere passport?
I sat with Tracy Spruce, poet and English high school instructor and Terry Suprean, artist/founder and director of Civic TV during my office hours on Saturday Oct 4th.
After 7 years teaching in Travis County, Tracy returned to HISD this semester. We got very involved in her teaching methods and the workshop curriculum that HISD has now adopted. Many of us recall how the typical English class was taught with a full reading, with book reports, on the classics of English literature. Boring. I scarcely remember the books we covered. This has now evolved to teaching a reading and writing Workshop where the student themselves create their curriculum by deciding the books they prefer to read. This entails the entire class reading books and writing memoirs at various stages of mastery while all being in the same grade level, in the same classroom, at the same time. Students read what and write what they are interested in and what engages them the most. The teacher honors the decisions of the students, supports classroom collaborations among the students, with a concern for and consideration with one another, and with an open-ended inquiry into social critique. The classroom becomes an extension of democratic society outside the school grounds. It is the English class as apprenticeship for citizenry. Tracy has been teaching this method for 15 years. Now the workshop has been adopted by HISD since 2014 or so.
It’s stunning to know that HISD has implemented a new, progressive curriculum where students co-author their education over the past few years. Which means the first student body educated under the new curriculum should be graduating this year. This bodes well for our young Hispanic students who have the lowest graduating rates in the nation. Tracy teaches at one such school where a majority of the children are “at risk” and finish high school with some of the lowest levels of reading and writing skills in the State.
One student has inspired Tracy how she will work and guide her class. She refers to him as her “Spirit-Animal” child. Her students invented a new word inspired by her energy; “Spruciful.”
Terry Suprean and Alex came later in the day. Terry also teaches high school, though at a private school. It is his position that all artist serve as perpetual teachers. We serve not just as instructors, but as mentors, life examples and perhaps future collaborators. “Art is play for adults.” As an artist, he instinctively understands the importance of play in the public life and how having an affiliation and connection with artists and art classes are important for having a tolerant and democratic outlook. It just so happened that the new statement on the façade above reads, “El Jugar es Deber”, (Playing is Duty).
Terry contrasts his experience at his school with the another private, all boys high school across the street with no art classes. One school values diversity, the other does not. “Imagination is the beginning of empathy.”
Terry schooled me on the ideas of Derrida’s “descensus” where discussion and even dissension is part of the democratic discourse and how the “contract” should exist for citizens in private, public as well as with the state. I came back to the concept of “choice” when hearing this.
We both agreed that artists should have a primary role in authoring this new “contract”. But he insisted that a new, ever evolving contract is needed with room for “descensus.” I had forgotten that Terry was once a pre-law student before becoming an artist!
Saturday, September 30th, was my first day sitting at my “Office Dialog” desk installation (perhaps I should call it my office hours). I received curator/writer Robert Boyd and Michael Galbreth of the Art Guys.
Robert and I talked about his dual citizenship with Australia and the US. He was born there to American parents and left at 3 years old. He talked about how he wanted an “out” in case things go bad here in the U.S. after Trump’s inauguration. We conversed more deeply about how life can be different there than here and which place could be more life affirming. Certainly, there are benefits of staying here in the US versus what he could get there. However, there are benefits that he can receive in Australia that are not possible in the US such as universal health care and strict gun control laws for example. I tried to get him into a conversation of what would be more fulfilling as a citizen of each place, what sort of duties and obligations would be needed from him in each country and for anyone else. Personal safety and having an established safety net were uppermost in the type of entitlements that would appeal to me I admitted. However, for Robert, being 6ft, 6 inches and the body of a linebacker, a low crime rate and the threat to his personal body integrity is not what he worries about. Our dialog meandered through the intricacies of applying for an Australian passport, to the writers Bruce Chatwin and Robert Hughes, to the artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov as artists making alterative worlds and private, theoretical utopias. This would not be too dissimilar to the heterotopic space of the art installation we sat in that day. I must go back and study their work again. Thanks Robert!
My conversation with Michael Galbreth was through our cell phones. Michael decided that calling him over the phone would be better for the concept of extra-territoriality.
This got very interesting as we touched upon artists prerogatives and whether that can be realized by all peoples and citizens. “Space” as internal space was discussed. Artists seem to do a very good job of defining and creating extra-territorial space. Michael brought up a very good point about citizenship. For all the concepts of and the value of “choice” to realize true citizenship, we actually do not choose which states we become citizens of when we are born. I wonder how long in infancy and childhood that sense of oblivious statehood exists? There are a lot of ideas that we can expand upon. Ever the erudite person, Michael brought up Leibniz’ Nature and Freedom, and the one and many distinctions of metaphysical views; Thomas Paine’s recognition of small change, “It’s the direction not the magnitude” of our intentions that make a difference in society; and Thomas McEvilley’s Shape of Ancient Thought as something to consider when we think about where our ideas of citizenship originate. I invited him to come visit me in person. It made me very pleased that he complimented my idea for the show of an artist trying to define the internal and extraterritorial space to converse about these ideas. But he especially admired that I can have participant’s statements/notes/drawings notarized if it is truthfull. Praise from Cesar!
The East End Plan is an experiment is to discover the affects civic planning, commercial development and re-uses of the East End’s urban landscape have on its residents. Templates are given for local residents to draw with crayons. Color is associated with the participants "feeling" and “choices” toward the places, they feel safe, congregate, share, fear, wish to visit, find mysterious and to areas they cannot and do not wish to visit.
It is emotional map making and creates a "gestalt of place" that identifies the internal perception of the resident's living in Houston's East End with their neighborhood and its geographic features. “What are the effects on the individual perception towards open, common or private spaces that do not consider or consult with the local population?”
Very happy to announce LOCCA’s emerging presence on Houston’s East End cultural map. The East End Foundation creates a map that pinpoints creative spaces, studios, venues, murals, cultural centers, historical sites, etc. as way to celebrate the East End’s designation as a Texas Commission on the Arts cultural district. While still waiting to have a pin dropped on the map itself, at least they made a fancy cartoon of my place! It was featured on the EEF Instagram: #cultura_eastendhou More to come…..
Everything evolves, transforms, changes… So must the message of my LOCCA. I took my time after the election to consider various possible quotes. I could have painted something out of rage or to instigate a provocation. But I found one that my friends from United We Dream mentioned repeatedly in their twitters, slogans, gritas etc.
This message has a threefold interpretation (really four). It says in Spanish a message to our elected officials, law enforcement and our national government that immigrants who have lived here for so long and suffered due to discriminatory immigration policies should stay here and have amnesty. It was good enough for Reagan in the 80’s, why not now.
Second, this law office that was bequeathed to me will stay in practice. I have been working very hard on making repairs and renovations, and to ensure its safety in order for the offices to be ready for rent. I want newly barred attorneys to come here to work for the community doing family law, immigration and to provide services that are needed. This was due to my father practicing law for 55 years, and I want to be around for another 55 years to provide affordable services to this Spanish speaking, low income community.
Lastly, it is a message to many of my progressive friends thinking of moving out of the country because of the election of the current White House. There will be a lot of major issues that threaten the country. Some people are trying to divide this country, others are trying to create a more perfect union. In politics many times for every “action” there can be an equal and opposite reaction (Newton’s third law of motion). The thought of leaving the US for states with more welcoming or less right-wing policies is tempting. But consider those left behind that do not have the freedom to choose to up and move to another country. I will follow the examples of my parents and previous generations during and before the civil rights challenges of the twentieth century. In spite of the discrimination they chose to make this place their home. Aqui para quedarse, y luchar!
I also had time to finish the new wheelchair ramp for the office. Now seniors and the disabled can enter more easily.
The beginning of our ERA OF RESISTANCE, Saturday, Jan 14
Yes, this is just the beginning. There was a large turnout for this small space: at least 200. Members from the immigrant rights community, labor unions, student, family and children. There were a few speeches and a symbolic demonstration of what to do with a wall erected for racial reasons: break it down!
The best part of the day (in my view) was listening and recording the personal testimonies from people from all walks of life. They asked the mayor and city council to make this city safe for immigrants, with pro-immigrant policies and a withdrawal by our Houston law enforcement departments from the non-binding agreement (287g) with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement by agencies. Most touching was a place for children to make their own superhero capes and to emblazon (finger paint) with messages of hope.
The screening of “The Longoria Affair”, a documentary by John Valadez, was an opportunity to shed some light on the under-recognized contributions of the American G.I. Forum and Dr. Hector Garcia who advanced the civil rights of Mexican-Americans in the 1950’s and 60’s. Felix E. Salinas, ESQ was the second executive Secretary to the G.I. Forum and worked closely with Dr. Garcia. It just so happens that Mr. Salinas is my deceased father’s partner. Mr. Salinas continues to practice here at the Sanchez Law building. This event was hosted by Mikaela Selley, Hispanic Archivist for the Houston Public Library. We were lucky to have in attendance our City Councilman, Roberto Gallegos and former City Councilwoman, Graciela G. Saenz. After a few words from the Councilman, we ended the evening by having a Q&A with Mr. Salinas and his history with the G.I. Forum. It would be safe to say that many in attendance did not know this part of United States history. I have known Mr. Salinas all my life and I never tire of hearing about his life’s story. What surprised me was discovering that his during his entire time working for the G.I. Forum to defend Mexican-American’s rights (in which his life was threatened more than once) that he and Dr. Garcia worked voluntarily and were never paid.
United We Dream is the organization started by those who are known as the “Dreamers”, the large community of young, undocumented immigrants living in the United States. LOCCA’s first program invited them to talk about their experiences of life living in the shadows, and then courageously out in the open and without fear of their status as residents. Our event was hosted by Veronica Bernal, an attorney representing this community in south Texas. Invited to the panel were Oscar Hernandez, Raul Alcaraz-Ochoa and Citlalli Alvarez Almendariz all organizers for UWD. Not only did we hear about their accounts of living in fear and being discovered by the authorities, but their transformation to decide not to succumb to this condition. Due to President Obama’s executive action, children who are under 31 and without resident documentation qualify for the Deferred Action for Children Arrives (DACA). DACA allows them to get a driver’s license, have a job with benefits, get a social security number, permits them to help their family financially, etc. This program has permitted this section our U.S. undocumented community to come out of the shadows to push for immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship. LOCCA’s partner, the University of Houston’s Center for Mexican American Studies, was on hand as well represented by its director, Dr. Pamela Quiroz.