US lacks Latino historical sites and landmarks, scholars say
By RUSSELL CONTRERAS
Monday, October 15
GLORIETA PASS, N.M. (AP) — A makeshift memorial to Hispanic Civil War Union soldiers in an isolated part northern New Mexico is a typical representation of sites linked to U.S. Latino history: It’s shabby, largely unknown and at risk of disappearing.
Across the U.S, many sites historically connected to key moments in Latino civil rights lie forgotten, decaying or endanger of quietly dissolving into the past without acknowledgment. Scholars and advocates say a lack of preservation, resistance to recognition and even natural disasters make it hard for sites to gain traction among the general public, which affects how Americans see Latinos in U.S. history.
The birthplace of farmworker union leader Cesar Chavez sits abandoned in Yuma, Arizona. The Corpus Christi, Texas, office of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, where the Mexican-American civil rights movement was sparked, is gone. And no markers exist where pioneering educator George I. Sanchez captured images of New Mexico poverty for his 1940 groundbreaking book “Forgotten People.”
“People need to see history, they need to touch it, they need to feel it, they need to experience it,” said Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a journalism professor at the University of Texas who has worked to preserve Latino historical sites. “When something is preserved, it’s a daily reminder of our history.”
Many states have historical markers and sites dedicated to Latino history but they usually center around the Spanish exploration era, colonial times and Old West settlement periods, scholars and advocates say. Those are “safe” sites because they downplay the racism and segregation Latinos had to overcome, said Luis Sandoval, a nonprofit consultant in Yuma who is pushing for the region to honor Chavez’ legacy.
As the nation’s Latino population grows, local tourism groups and the National Park Service in recent years have responded.
In 2012, the National Park Foundation’s American Latino Heritage Fund launched a campaign to improve the representation of Hispanics in national parks. The National Park Service also convened an “American Latino Scholars Expert Panel” made of members like Rivas-Rodriguez and Yale history professor Stephen J. Pitti.
Before leaving office, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that four Latino national landmarks were among the 24 new National Historic Landmarks. Chicano Park — a collection of murals under a San Diego highway that became a gathering place for activists during the 1970s Chicano Movement — was among them.
But Albuquerque, New Mexico-based activist Ralph Arellanes, Sr., says much more needs to be done nationwide to save Latino sites.
The makeshift memorial in northern New Mexico dedicated to Hispanic Union soldiers during the Battle of Glorieta Pass is a good example. The memorial off Interstate 25 is 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of Santa Fe and was built by retired District Attorney Alfonso Sanchez. It has wooden saints and crude signs explaining a battle that has been called “the Gettysburg of the West.”
“I’m glad it’s there. But it looks like just a taco stand, without any tacos” said Arellanes, whose great-great-grandparents served as trail guides for the Union
The site marks where Union soldiers beat back the advancing Confederate Army, ending the battle for the West during the Civil War. Hispanic soldiers played a key role in that fight.
Arellanes wants state lawmakers to dedicate around $5 million to revamp the site. The Pecos National Historical Park officials give tours of the battlefield, but reservations often have to be made weeks in advance.
Arellanes also thinks New Mexico should preserve the birthplace of United Farm Worker co-founder Dolores Huerta, who was born in northern mining town Dawson. The ghost town is surrounded by a gated fence and is not open to the public.
Besides money, advocates sometimes have to fight local historical commissions that decide whether markers are erected, according to John Moran Gonzalez, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas. That’s why advocates in recent months have struggled to erect a monument commemorating the 1918 Porvenir Massacre — the killing of 15 unarmed Mexican-Americans in a border village by Texas Rangers.
“A lot of these historical county commissions are all white with older members,” Gonzalez said. “Remembering these important moments can be embarrassing to them.”
Still, some advocates say progress is coming.
In Austin, Texas, for example, a group of volunteers operates the Austin Tejano Trail aimed at giving visitors guided tours of important churches, homes and plazas linked to the city’s Mexican-American history.
Earlier this year, a Houston building where Mexican-American civil rights leaders planned President John Kennedy’s historic visit the night before his assassination has been designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation after years of pressure. The LULAC Council 60 clubhouse historical site also received a piece of a $450,000 grant to help with damage caused by Hurricane Harvey last year.
Sandoval said these are encouraging developments as activists try to work on commemorating Chavez in his birthplace of Yuma, Arizona, along the U.S.-Mexico border. He said Yuma’s powerful agricultural business interests resist most efforts to honor the late farm worker union leader.
“But the Latino population is growing down here,” Sandoval said. “They are going to be a powerful voice soon, too.”
Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP’s race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras.
OPINION: Evolution of Religion
By Kary Love
Science answers many questions but not of morality or wisdom. Human judgment is responsible there.
But morality began with evolution. It was useful work that people did that had survival value. So, the tribe recognized that those who carried their load and were able to contribute above their need were desirable members of the tribe. They were selected for mating and their genes reproduced. Whatever gene copy accounted for this was, over time, inbred. People did for others really for their own benefit. To be selected for reproduction. And so, the circle goes. Until doing for others is part of the DNA, the gene pool, the selection process.
It becomes “second nature.” Instinctual. To do good work. It is human nature.
Human observation discerned the positive response to doing good work and found it good. Human curiosity sought to explain such goodness in an often bleak and unforgiving world. Nothing in the world seemed to explain it, so speculation arose it came from beyond this world. Over time, this speculation became religions.
Religions made sense in the face of insufficient knowledge. With the advent of scientific knowledge, the borders of the “out there” explanation becomes smaller and smaller. Human responsibility increases exponentially with every scientific advance. Surely, we know enough by now to realize “out there” is not coming to save us from ourselves. The science of nature’s god is astonishing. Our ability to use it stupefying. This god gave us a miraculous gift! But, our capacity to use it for self-destruction is not only appalling but insulting. It is the ultimate sacrilege in both religion and science.
To continue good works, this is the human imperative. Not all get it, there are mutations. But if this great good work is to go forward, there must be humans to do it. Given our creation of nuclear weapons, given our military’s massive consumption of fossil fuel and thus production of planet-killing greenhouse gases, rejection of war and violence has now become a species imperative. Lucky, we have been. Statistics and mathematics suggest that luck will run out. Human judgment alone stands in the way. Our second nature—to do good, to be kind—must become First Nature.
Kary Love is a Michigan attorney who has defended nuclear resisters, including some desperado nuns, in court for decades and will on occasion use blunt force satire or actual legal arguments to make a point.
Trump administration steps in to kill police-reform plan
By MICHAEL TARM
AP Legal Affairs Writer
Friday, October 12
CHICAGO (AP) — The Trump administration informed a federal judge in Chicago on Friday that it’s seeking to scuttle a plan negotiated between the nation’s third-largest city and the state of Illinois that envisions far-reaching reforms of Chicago’s 12,000-officer police force under close federal court supervision.
In a statement announcing the intervention, Attorney General Jeff Sessions blasted the roughly 200-page plan, also known as a consent decree, because of the court oversite. And he offered a full-throated defense of Chicago police, saying they must take the lead in stemming city violence.
“There is a misperception that police are the problem and that their failures, their lack of training, and their abuses create crime,” Sessions said. “But the truth is the police are the solution to crime, and criminals are the problem.”
An 11-page Justice Department statement of interest — filed with Judge Robert M. Dow Jr., who must grant the proposal final approval — says the reform plan, as it is, would deprive police of flexibility to do their jobs right. And it criticizes criteria in the plan meant to assess police compliance as vague.
It asks Dow “to allow state and local officials — and Chicago’s brave front-line police officers — to engage in flexible and localized efforts to advance the goal of safe, effective, and constitutional policing in Chicago.”
The filing and Sessions’ comments came a week after jurors convicted white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder for shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014 as he walked away from police with a knife.
A video of the shooting, released about a year later, sparked outage nationwide and led to an Obama administration investigation of Chicago police, which was followed months later by a damning report that found widespread police abuses.
The Department of Justice Friday simultaneously announced the creation of a “Gun Crimes Prosecution Team” at Chicago’s U.S. attorney’s office focused on gun crimes. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will assign five violent-crime coordinators to work with federal prosecutors.
Responding to the announcements, a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Matt McGrath, said the city appreciated the additional resources, “but we don’t appreciate efforts … to impede our public safety reforms or inhibit our efforts to rebuild the bonds of trust between officers and residents.”
Illinois Attorney Lisa Madigan — without objection from Emanuel — sued the city last year to ensure any police reforms would be overseen by a judge. That killed a draft plan negotiated with Trump’s administration that didn’t envision a court role in reforming the department and led to the ultimately successful talks to create the current plan.
The reform plan now on the table foresees far stricter rules on the use of force by officers. One provision requires officers to file paperwork each time they point their weapons, even if they don’t fire.
Sessions again echoed President Donald Trump, who told officers at a convention in Orlando on Monday that a three-year-old agreement between Chicago and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois to curb stop-and-frisk procedures by police prevented officers from doing their jobs.
“When police are restrained from using lawfully established policies … when arrests went down, and when their work and character were disrespected, crime surged,” Sessions said. “There must never be another consent decree that continues the folly of the ACLU settlement.”
Chicago officials and the ACLU have said those and similar claims by Trump administration officials are exaggerated, get the data on crime in Chicago wrong and misstate the underlying causes of crime.
Karen Sheley, the director of the police practices project at the ACLU of Illinois, said the move Friday by the Trump administration to sink a plan in the works for over a year was “a last-minute political play at the expense of real people in our city.”
“The Trump Administration and Sessions’ Department of Justice have never attempted to learn about the problems in Chicago or what reform is necessary,” Sheley said in a Friday statement.
Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm
Irish border riddle confounds EU, UK as Brexit end nears
By LORNE COOK
Monday, October 15
CARRICKCARNAN, Ireland (AP) — The land around the small Irish town of Carrickcarnan is the kind of place where Britain’s plan to leave the European Union runs right into a wall — an invisible one that’s proving inordinately difficult to overcome.
Somehow, a border of sorts will have to be drawn between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and EU member Ireland to allow customs control over goods, produce and livestock once the U.K. has fully left the bloc.
That means the largely unpoliced and invisible Irish land border will become the boundary between the EU and the UK — raising vexing questions about trade and customs checks.
Of all the thorny issues in Brexit negotiations, this has been the toughest, because the challenge of keeping trade running smoothly is deeply entangled with questions of identity: what it means to be from Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s Catholic and Protestant communities remain divided decades after 30 years of conflict claimed around 3,700 lives. The peace agreement signed in 1998 provides people with the freedom to identify as Irish or British, or both. It helped dismantle Northern Ireland’s once heavily-policed and militarized border with Ireland — and the last thing people want now is a new one.
“The peace process took identity and borders out of politics. Brexit has put them slap bang back into the middle again,” lamented Northern Ireland business and strategy adviser Conor Houston.
EU leaders and British Prime Minister Theresa May hope to make progress this week as the Brexit divorce saga comes to a critical juncture.
The Northern Ireland-Ireland border zig-zags all over the map. It cuts around properties, veers over roads and dodges villages. People cross it when they leave home to visit their doctor or go shopping. It’s mostly only visible when the speed signs change from kilometers to miles.
The dividing line stretches for 500 kilometers (312 miles) and is dotted with over 250 official road crossings, more than on Europe’s entire eastern flank.
A fine example of the Brexit conundrum is the Jonesborough Parish Church. A padlock secures the gate of this run-down Protestant place of worship in the U.K. An Irish flag flies in the cemetery next door, over the border. In the parking lot, a weather-beaten sign reads: “No EU Frontier in Ireland.”
Not so long ago, 12 fortified watchtowers, 4 helicopter bases, a handful of army barracks and police stations dotted the countryside within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) radius.
Border posts stood for authority and made easy targets for paramilitaries. So police came to guard the customs officers. Then the army was called in to protect the police.
Some think that modern technology — drones and cameras — can defeat old enmities. Others suspect they would be used for target practice.
“For some, that will be seen as surveillance and a throwback to the troubles. Then you’re going to have to decide how to protect those drones and cameras,” said Peter Sheridan, a retired senior police officer with 32 years’ experience in dealing with organized crime.
Still, Sheridan says politicians should not cave in to threats.
“We cannot be pressured into decisions by those who wield the biggest stick,” he said.
About 65 kilometers (40 miles) to the north, in Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast, the barriers are far more visible. In many places, neighborhoods are still separated by high, graffiti-daubed “peace walls.” Schools are mostly segregated.
The territory has the U.K.’s highest poverty, suicide and unemployment rates — and there are fears that Brexit might make things worse.
“The tensions just can’t be underestimated and it’s absolutely pervasive” in parts of Belfast, said Angila Chada from Springboard, a group working with unemployed Protestant and Catholic young people.
It’s not all bad news. Trade — mostly in the agricultural and food sectors — has doubled in the last 20 years and Northern Ireland’s economy has steadily improved. Still, even in the best Brexit scenario, Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium notes there will be “a substantial new administrative burden.”
More checks on goods crossing the border will mean more paperwork. That means delays, and delays create costs.
“There is very little wiggle room for business. These costs will get passed onto the consumer,” Connolly told reporters during a visit to Northern Ireland organized by the Irish government. “It’s literally death by a thousand cuts. The food prices will go up, the fuel will go up, the shirt on your back.”
Creating a “hard border” — something all parties want to avoid — would make things worse.
On average, commercial vehicles cross the border 13,000 times each day. In the future, around 3,000 loads a day carrying beef, lamb, pork, poultry, eggs or dairy products might have to be stopped. Each check would take about 10 minutes, said Seamus Leheny from Freight Transport Association.
“We would have paralysis here on the border,” he said.
Whether customs and other checks could be done away from the border — at airports, ports, factories or markets — remains to be seen.
In coming weeks, EU officials and the British and Irish governments must come up with a policy which guarantees that goods can be controlled without stifling the economy. Above all, the Brexit Irish border plan must respect the unique identities of Northern Ireland’s people and not inflame tensions, as many fear it might.
Opinion: Any Hint of Humanitarian Reform in North Korea Is Fake
By Donald Kirk
WASHINGTON ― How about Pope Francis inspiring millions of the faithful in North Korea as he did in South Korea four years ago? Can we picture highly organized throngs cheering him on the way from Pyongyang’s sparkling new international airport, blessing one and all while host Kim Jong-un smiles happily beside him in the limo?
In a year full of surprises about confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, it’s still hard to imagine seriously that Kim is inviting Pope Francis to Pyongyang. Nor is it easy to see Francis accepting such an invitation knowing, as aides at the Vatican have to be telling him, that the ladies you see in the lone Catholic church in Pyongyang are basically actresses for whom the demure white veils they all wear are part of the act.
Still, President Moon Jae-in did well to urge Kim to put on a show for the pope in Pyongyang. The suggestion is a challenge, a chance for Kim to prove to the skeptics he’s really reforming.
As in his promises of “denuclearization,” however, any appearance of humanitarian reform in North Korea is fake news. Just ask Kang Chol-hwan, author of “The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag,” or Ji Seong-ho, who was severely injured escaping from North Korea and now runs a group called Now Action & Unity for Human Rights.
Neither can quite understand why President Donald Trump and President Moon are not demanding reform in North Korea as a condition for North-South reconciliation. How, they both ask, can these two consider Kim’s demand for a “peace declaration” in place of the Korean War armistice?
“My message to Trump is simple,” Kang said at a forum in Washington on “Perspectives on the Inter-Korean Peace Process” at which he and Ji, as escapees from the North, spoke from terrible experience. “Without an end to human rights abuses,” Kang would like to remind Trump, “there would not be an end to the war.”
They both seemed appalled by the total indifference to the human rights issue even as the U.S. presses for serious signs that North Korea is giving up its nuclear program, which of course Kim has no intention of doing. Even as Kim offers to welcome Pope Francis, they say, their information from the most recent defectors as well as contacts inside North Korea is that nothing has changed, nothing at all.
Tens of thousands remain inside prison camps where most will die, if not from torture or execution, then of starvation, overwork and disease. It is still a crime, punishable by death, to worship any form of Christianity, and of course, there is no freedom of speech or any other kind of freedom in what remains an absolute dictatorship.
It’s possible to argue that reform of human rights abuses is an internal problem, that it is not the business of outsiders to tell leaders of other countries how to conduct their internal affairs. There are, however, a couple of rejoinders to that argument.
For one thing, Trump in his state-of-the-union address last January singled out Ji’s suffering as “testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom.”
The image of Ji holding up his crutches to the applause of all the Republican and most of the Democratic members of Congress burns in the memory of many of the millions who saw him on television as living evidence of what thousands of North Koreans are going through. Who would have doubted Trump’s commitment to rescuing them from their plight?
Kim, however, artfully engineered a massive shift in U.S. policy, or at least in Trump’s outlook, first by sending his sister to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, then by inviting Moon to the first of their three summits and, finally, by meeting Trump at their summit in Singapore in June. Now that they’re best of friends, indeed “in love,” as Trump rather stupidly put it, he’s evidently forgotten all those fine and moving words.
But Ji and Kang have not forgotten. If the North’s gulag system is nobody’s business but North Korea’s, then what about the six South Korean citizens languishing in North Korean prisons. More important, what about the hundreds of South Korean soldiers, prisoners from the Korean War who were never returned when North and South Korea exchanged prisoners after the Korean War was over?
And what about the Korean Air flight that was hijacked on a domestic flight in December 1969 and forced to fly to Wonsan on North Korea’s southeast coast? The North Koreans did return 39 passengers at the truce village of Panmunjom two months later but have been holding the four crew members and seven of the passengers ever since. Hwang Won, who was working for Munwha Broadcasting, was one of the seven. His son, Hwang In-cheol, crusades in vain for his release.
How about making the release of prisoners of war, of abductees, of kidnap victims, of all South Koreans jailed in North Korea, a condition for signing any end-of-war “peace declaration.” If Moon is going to urge Kim to host Pope Francis in Pyongyang, surely he could bargain hard for the release of these poor people, for whom the war will never end until they all come home.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for Korea Times, South China Morning Post many other newspaper and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.