Friday, November 9, 2012

Barrio Community Wins Big with Propositions

As you no-doubt know by now, I self-identify as Chicano. While some older folks in this community consider it a bit of a derogatory term, where I come from it is not. On the contrary it implies political activism, community involvement, and cultural pride. If thats not me, then I don't know what is.

And when I refer to someone else as a Chicano, I mean it as a huge compliment.

I've written before about my old man and his love of baseball. A die-hard Dodger fan who bled Dodger blue and ensured his kids watched every Dodger game that came on TV. I grew up hearing Vin Scully call the games and my dad yell at the TV when LA was down. Tommy LaSorda was once the Grand Marshall of the Fiesta Bowl Parade and my dad rushed out to shake his hand, in the middle of the parade, as he drove by.

A lot of Chicano kids from my generation played ball in the street and pretended they were Fernando Valenzuela himself. My kid brother was a pitcher and he must've spent hours trying to replicate the mechanics of El Toro's delivery.

We had Fernandomania and always wanted to wear #34 in Little League.

Dad pulled us out of school for the first day of spring training and take us to go watch pro-baseball at the old Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Phoenix Muni as it is affectionately called.

4 boys shared a hot dog, red licorice rope, and a coke. Sometimes popcorn if dad a couple extra bucks. Since we didn't have MLB in Phoenix yet, it was our only chance to watch big-league baseball. Ballgames in the hot-ass Arizona sun are still some of my favorite memories.

As a boy from the barrio, I have a special place in my heart for places in town that remind me of where I grew up. Places like Segundo Barrio and South El Paso remind me of home. Only in El Paso the communities are safe and people greet each other in the streets.

That doesn't happen back home. Which makes me love El Paso even more. Thats why I'm a big fan of the work done by groups like La Fe and other organizations that provide barrio kids with access to resources they probably would never have otherwise.

Tour the places. See what they have. Its a place were a kid can walk inside and not feel ashamed of where he's from. On the contrary, its a place where his culture is not only embraced, but celebrated and nurtured.

Its a place were they can have access to some of the same resources little rich white kids from the westside have.

Thats why I think one of the best stories that almost no one knows about in terms of the proposition is the $13 million allocation for a state-of-the-art community center for the Chamizal neighborhood. For those of you reading this that have no idea where that is, its in the barrio.

The community there has been trying to get something like that in the area for almost 30 years. Now, because of the propositions passing, they will have a community center that will include components for seniors, a satellite library with computers, recreation activities, and after-school programs.

And the community is excited about it.

The public debate over the propositions became about the stadium, personalities, egos, and the process.

It should've been about the community. It should have been about infrastructure. It should've been about the kids.

But at any rate, yes we will have to pay a little for it. And yes, there are projects going to other parts of town.

Nicer parts of town.

All stuff meant to improve the quality of life in this town.

The ear mark for the Chamizal area community center project was done by the city rep that represents the richest and whitest part of town, City Rep Cortney Niland.

As I've said time and again, there are very few votes for her to win in this area. Relatively few are eligible to vote, even fewer actually vote. If she wanted to direct resources somewhere to score political points, there is plenty of space near The Willows.

But she advocated for something where there was a need.

It pisses me off when so-called Chicanos and community leaders take shots at people who've helped barrio communities because they are rich white people.

So what if they are rich white people? I'd prefer the rich white people that want to help the barrio than those who would do otherwise.

Lets not forget, the political patron saints of Latinos are the Kennedys. They were rich white people too.

I don't recall any of them helping with non-profits in the Segundo or securing funds for a community center in South El Paso.

Thank God that the naysayers that voted against the Propositions because they didn't like the process or don't trust city hall or don't like Joyce Wilson (I'm not her biggest fan either btw) or because of a document dump of mostly irrelevant and pointless emails ,didn't get their way. In fact, so far the highlight of those emails so far seems to be Wilson insulting members of City Council, lets be honest we all do that from time to time, and Steve-O showing he should stick to his day job and never try comedy.

And thank God a community who needs some resources is finally going to get what they've wanted for 30 years. A safe place for seniors to interact and a safe place for kids to learn and play.

And maybe, just maybe, they'll be able to catch a ballgame or two downtown and get a glimpse of the next Fernando Valenzuela (he played for the Padres too).

Just like white people on the westside. And thanks mostly, to a rich white lady from the westside.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love Chucotown.


Anonymous said...

Great piece, Jaime. Very true words. I have met Rep. Niland and she is one of the most sincere people I have met in my long life. In addition, she is very, very smart and wants only the best for all of El Paso.

Salazar did NOTHING for anyone but himself in his two short years of office. He has no business starting this nonsense.

anessa said...

It is absolutely amazing that this money is ear-marked for the Chamizal area! Now we await the construction. Jaime, there are many people who are activists in this city and work within the South El Paso area, who work with non-profits, who do the best they can, even if they are not rich. It takes a lot of time and work to be active within this community. Please don't dismiss these people. While many appreciate this help from Rep. Niland, as citizens of this city, we must continue to keep an open dialogue with her and Council so they can be held accountable when need be and so they can continue to hear and understand the needs of this city.

The Lion Star said...

You misunderstood the point I'm making. Of course many good Chicanos are doing what needs to get done. This wasn't about them and I didn't say anything about those that are. I'm speaking about he obnoxiously loud minority that aren't doing anything, but criticize the efforts of those that are.

Somehow those people all of a sudden think they have the right to say someone who's doing something for the barrio, with or without the help of rich white people, is now a sell out?

Thats not right.

But again, I'm not talking about those that are working to do the best they can. On the contrary.

I'm not sure where the confusion came from but please re-read the piece and I hope you'll see what I meant.

anessa said...

"It pisses me off when so-called Chicanos and community leaders take shots at people who've helped barrio communities because they are rich white people."


"I don't recall any of them helping with non-profits in the Segundo or securing funds for a community center in South El Paso."

I think that on my part I am assuming you mean the "naysayers," and many of those people do work with and within non-profits and organizing in South El Paso/Segundo. If I am mistaken, then I apologize. Or perhaps you meant the small minority of the naysayers who don't do anything other than criticize?

It seems that on some level, there is still mistrust among the community here on the border towards rich white people, and this is not a mistrust that should be dismissed. If we want to over come this mistrust, then we need to take the dialogue to a different level. Personal attacks leveled out on both sides is wrong. When that fallacy is used, the true message of what is trying to be said is lost and dismissed.

The Lion Star said...

The part about helping non profits and securing funds was referring to the Kennedys. Not sure how you interpreted that as towards anyone else.

You are correct in what I meant about the naysayers who don't do anything other than criticize. Although I would argue its not a small minority of them but rather the vast majority of them. Especially considering how many of them I know personally.

I get a general mistrust of rich white people. But towards specific individuals that have demonstrated service. That criticism is unfounded and unproductive for the barrio and Chicanos.

The first line you quoted from me directly refers to people who grandstand but don't actually do anything. There are quite a few people involved on that end that just want attention.

Good stuff for a community in need came from the propositions. I want people to know that.

The Lion Star said...

And thank you for engaging in a constructive conversation Anessa. Thats not always the case here on the LSB and I appreciate it.

anessa said...

Jaime, I think it is important to engage in constructive dialogue, here on LSB and in the greater El Paso Community. We must work together, to create a better El Paso.

Anonymous said...

Anessa, I think most intelligent people know about all of the hard work different community groups provide. I think Jaime's point was that just because someone is rich and white does not mean they are evil and never help.

What I find very sad is some people listen to people who slander innocent people. When you hear something bad about someone, especially a public official, approach that person and ask them yourself. You are smart enough to know if they are lying.

Elvia Hernandez and her group came to my home and were saying horrible things about Representative Niland. My impression was they disliked her because she was rich and white. Unfortunately, that is enough to get some people full of hate. I don't roll like that. I made it a point to meet her and speak to her. I have been around a long time and am not easily fooled. You can look in this woman's eyes and see the compassion. NOTHING that Elvia and her group said was true. I wonder what they are up to because it is NOT good.