Chicana/o Studies – Publishing an Alternative View Since 1970 – CSU, Northridge

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El Popo Staff has 140 articles published.

Giving a Voice to LA Students: Inside Out Community Arts’ Political Theatre

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by Jose Medrano

“Inside Out and all it’s members teach me more about myself every year I’m with them. Because of Inside Out I’ve learned to embrace my creativity in all aspects of my life. The program has allowed me to take my all my emotions  and let them run free by throwing it all on the stage. I’ve been burned and bruised in order to give it my all out on not only the stage in a theater, but the stage of life. The support system and experience I’ve gained and continue to gain from Inside Out is something I am eternally grateful for.”

When I was in the seventh grade, two theatre artists walked into my my arts class and asked if anyone in the class was interested in acting, dancing, and singing. To my surprise, maybe three hands (including mine) went up in the air and everyone else seemed a little shy or uncomfortable.

The follwoing Wednesday I found myself sitting on the stage of the John Adams Middle School auditorium surrounded by a small group of other students, playing an improvisation game based on hitch-hiking while embodying the emotion “hyperactive.” Some of the students were just like me and were excited and ambitious, jumping at every opportunity to go first in a game, and others were more quiet and perhaps even a little afraid. There was one thing we all had in common, however. All of us in that room grew up in the same area of South LA and had issues we needed to work out or speak up about, and Inside Out Community Arts gave us the opportunity to do so. 

Later that semester after several weeks of acting, creative writing, and visual arts workshops, we went to see what was for many of us our first play. Then start writing our own plays that would culminate in a showcase of several twelve minute plays created by the student groups at each of the three greater LA area schools Inside Out hosted each Spring, and later for three years in the Fall as well in the South Bay area. The name of the showcase, which remains the name to this day: What’s On Our Minds? We filled up a white board with several social topics that interested us: ranging from topics such as divorce, bullying, and depression, to my very first play topic – animal abuse.

The program itself, founded by Camille Ameen and Jonathan Zeichner in 1996, was founded as a response to the Los Angeles Uprisings. We went up to a three-day camp in Malibu which we hold every year and rehearsed our plays, and had fun activities with the other schools such as painting scenic flats to use as posters for our shows. I remember feeling so safe and heard in this theatrical environment. I’d never felt this sort of freedom before – the freedom to express myself openly and talk about the issues that matter to me, and the freedom to dress up in wild costumes and wear make up and sing songs. 

In eight grade, I returned and did a play on a silly topic – celebrity obsessions. Come high school, I volunteered as part of the formerly existing alumni mentor program (which is unfortunately on hiatus at the moment and I’ve been told the program is being restructured). Each year of high school, I mentored students and helped them learn to express themselves, participated in mentor program plays and even directed a short film developed by writers from ABC. I helped direct scenes for the plays with our teachers (dubbed Artist Leaders) and at times even fill in the roles for missing students. I gained the most, however, was during my years as a post-mentor program “A-Team” member – helping run our yearly camps. I developed such a strong name for myself within Inside Out Community Arts, and I use my skills and talents at camp to push students to their limits. My goal every year is to make sure they feel fearless, confident, and ready to speak their minds.

At this year’s 2018 Spring Camp, the students are working on much more serious political topics that reflect the current political climate. One of the plays, We Stand Together, deals with racism through the expression of microaggressions, subtle forms of discrimination that in this case are rooted in racism. Another play, The End?, students discuss the idea of a corrupt government which leads to an apocalypse that leaves the remaining few stuck in a world where they struggle to bring nature back. Perhaps the most directly relevant play is Please Stop This. Think About It., which deals with school shootings and the effect they have on the students and the community. Our middle school students have always had something to say and this year their voices were louder than ever.

While I sat in during rehearsals, you could see the passion in the words they were writing. Often times, students found themselves struggling with creating scenes because they wanted so hard to make sure their message was clear. These students were discussing ideas that I had never even heard of when I was their age – such as cultural appropriation, mental health initiatives, and those subtle yet destructive microagressions. 22 years in, the students are still carrying on what the program set out to do: to take those feelings and thoughts we typically keep trapped inside, and let them out – put them on a stage, make an audience be aware of the social issues that are impacting our communities.

Mapping the Use of Injunctions to Push Gentrification and Metro

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by Jimmy Ramos

Ellen Reese, Deverteuil, and Thach describe strategies of poverty deconcentration as a way to control and discipline the poor and their command of space in order to create ‘spatial fixes’ of capital accumulation by transforming social landscapes . 

These strategies include the placement of police officers, homeless shelters, and other social services for the poor as efforts to deconcentrate Skid Row which includes the collaboration between government, business and development interests, and nonprofit agencies.  The authors believe that there are two mechanisms of poverty deconcentration.

The displacement of housing and services which includes HOPE VI (Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere) program.  A program that funded the demolition of public housing, its dispersion, and/or efforts at income mixing .

The second mechanism of poverty deconcentration is the criminalization of low-income residents and the displacement by police action and harassment.  This encompasses implementations of ‘zero tolerance’ policies of crime that tends to target poor racial minorities.  These were recognized as ‘Homeless Reduction Strategies’ titled Safer City Initiative which hired additional officers to police Skid Row, ordinances that prohibit camping, urination, and defecation in public areas, and dispersement of social services.  LAPD promoted these police strategies based on the ‘broken windows’ theory of crime. 

The theory is authoritative and involves the elimination of what is believed to be the root of violence in an area (violence can only be suppressed if the ‘quality of life’ offenses that encourage social disorder are punished swiftly and eliminated).  The displacement by police action and harassment justified through ‘zero tolerance’ policies and the ‘broken windows’ theory of crime resonates with civil gang injunctions.

Gang injunctions are civil court orders that prohibit a gang and its members from conducting certain specified activities within a defined geographic area known as a ‘safety zone’.  In Los Angeles, restrictions are the association with other gang members, the use of gang signs, colors, and attire, illegal drug activities (possession/the selling and transportation of illegal drugs), the possession of alcohol, possession or ownership of any dangerous or deadly weapon, graffiti/vandalism and/or possession of graffiti/vandalism tools, intimidation, threats and harassment (ACLU).  The violation of this order can be up to six months in jail or juvenile hall and/or a $1,000 fine. Once a person is listed on an injunction, they are not allowed to congregate in groups of two or more, stand in public for more than five minutes, wear certain clothes, and make certain gestures. According to Ana Muniz from Youth Justice Coalition, they can be arrested if they engage in any of these activities and subject to a ten year sentence .

The map bellow depicts current Gang Injunctions in Los Angeles in grey.  The map also features Metro Gold, Red, Purple, Blue, Green, and Expo Lines. 

The map was designed to visualize the greater context of gentrification which begins with displacement. Gentrification is a process influenced by housing policies, private interests, and the revitalization of Cities and its inner cities.  Revitalization refers to returning capital to the City.

Map of Gang Injunctions and Metro Areas

Both state and corporate power contribute through public-private partnerships and policies that use public funds for private development. This is very relevant concerning the neoliberalistic U.S. housing policies beginning in the 1980s. In the process of gentrification many people of low-income communities of color are displaced. Displacement in Los Angeles’ inner cities are supported by law enforcement through police action and harassment justified through the legal system.  These tactics have been repeated in past waves of “revitalizing” the city such as Bunker Hill and Chavez Ravine where police forcefully removed residents.

In the case of Chavez Ravine, the use of eminent domain was used by the state to hand over Chavez Ravine to the owners of the Dodgers (Private developer). Mayor Norris Poulson and his urban renewal committee were behind Bunker Hill, Chavez Ravine, and the scheme to annex Boyle Heights, City Terrace, and Belvedere to private developers.  Residents of those communities were able to prevent this from happening after what was done in Bunker Hill and Chavez Ravine. Dodger Stadium is a form of revitalization as it attracts people and brings capital. 

This is true with Metro light rails /Transit-Oriented Development and its relation to housing.  Downtown is surrounded by low-income communities of color and the largest homeless population in Skid Row.  Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is a tool to maximize the amount of residents, business, and walkability. Los Angeles County has planned Transit-Oriented Development around certain stations including the Gold, Blue, and Green Line for the future.

This map aims to visualize the relationship between Gang Injunctions and Metro Light Rail /Transit-Oriented Development.

A Family’s Encounter: Creating Fear in America, A Continued Saga

in The Word is Text by
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by Maria Concepcion Toledo

An on going fear is running throughout the Latino and other immigrant communities.

Recently, many immigrants fear going to work, going to buy groceries and even fear to take a stroll in their neighborhood with their families. These immigration raids have caused panic, and for my mother it was nothing different.

In March, my family had one of the biggest scares that we have ever had. Having an immigrant single mother, my brothers and I grew up with fear that if my mom was taken away, we would be left alone without any family,

Just like her typical morning routine, my mom was headed out to work and like every other morning, she stopped by to buy a morning coffee and a piece of bread.

But that morning, she had her first ever encounter with ICE. This terrifying encounter occurred on Vermont and Santa Monica, not far from the LACC campus. She expressed this experience as the most frightening thing she has ever gone through. She was sitting in a back corner of the shop when the rush of ICE members made her panic. She froze and the only thing she could think of was her child. She said that within the few seconds ice raided the location.  She saw the owner signal to her to immediately leave and, she did. With worry, she rushed out and walked to her job which was just around the corner. In tears, she made the dreaded call and told me what happened. I immediately left school and went to pick her up. Since the incident, my mom lives in terror that she might one day not be with us.

Our family was torn to pieces thinking that within a blink of an eye my mom wouldn’t be with us. And although all immigrant families lives with this while growing up this was so realistic, once an encounter like that happens it takes a toll. It took a toll not only on my mother but also my brothers. This not only was seen with in the Latino community but more recently there was also an encounter with 7-11 chains. Although not specified by the Trump administration many can argue that this targeted the Muslim communities. This was sent as a “warning” for all business owners from the trump administration but since then there has not been another big chain company that has gotten raided throughout the entire United States. It’s a fear of terror that unfortunately many of us face but we take it day by day hoping that tomorrow wont be the day we have to say goodbye.

Gentrification Engulfs Grand Central Market

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    picture of grand central market in downtown los angeles

by Guadalupe Canales

Chile Stand Grand Central Market Downtown Los Angeles
Chiles Secos: Grand Central Market

Living in the Valley at times can feel as if you need to venture out a bit more and discover all the other things this city has to offer. Grand Central Market in downtown LA should be one of your pit stops to discovering various foods and witnessing the change in the Los Angeles gentrified landscape.

Grand Central Market, back in the days was known as the only place to find fresh produce for many families who not only lived in downtown but also worked in downtown. This location was not visited a few years ago because it was part of skid row where many suffered from homelessness. Now that Downtown has amped not only Broadway, but also most of the downtown, Grand Central Market has become a major attraction for its various food stands and other foodie attractions. I personally love going to Grand Central Market because I can eat tacos, ramen, buy some Chinese food and even pick up a few groceries along the way it’s a one-stop wonder.

Grand central market became a huge hit after it was featured in the hit film LA LA Land. It was then that I realized that Grand Central Market was changing fast. But perhaps not all change is good for many business owners within the facility. The changes are visible to those who are frequent visitors to the market. Many vendors have left because of the high rents, and for those who stay, they have increased the prices to meet costs.

Gentrification has left many of the GCM vendors out. Thus leaving the Grand Central Market without some of the uniqueness that the place had when I first walked the aisles . 

National Poetry Month: El Popo Remembers the Poems of Gloria Anzaldúa

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by Jose Medrano

Gloria Anzaldúa is a major figure in the world of chicanx literature and queer theory. Raised in Harlingen and Hargill, Texas, Anzaldúa’s work was heavily inspired by border culture. Her writings focused on the idea of mestizaje and the various cultural influences in one’s life that create a unique, individual experience. In her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Anzaldúa dives into this concept as well as exploring intersectional feminist ideas ranging from violence against women of color to the learning of culture and language and how our words can create obstacles. 

At the end of National Poetry Month, it is important that we look at the greats of our community, and therefore we honor the late Gloria Anzaldúa. It is a shame that her work is often hard to easily find outside of her books, so we are sharing a selection of her poems here: 

“Compañera, cuando amábamos (for Juanita Ramos and other spik dykes)”

¿Volverán, campañera, esas tardes sordas

Cuando nos amábamos tiradas en las sombras bajo otoño?

Mis ojos clavados en tu mirada

Tu mirada que siempre retiraba al mundo

Esas tardes cuando nos acostábamos en las nubes

Mano en mano nos paseábamos por las calles

Entre niños jugando handball

Vendedores y sus sabores de carne chamuzcada.

La gente mirando nuestras manos

Nos pescaban los ojos y se sonreían

cómplices en este asunto del aire suave.

En un café u otro nos sentábamos bien cerquita.

Nos gustaba todo: las bodegas tiznadas

La música de Silvio, el ruido de los trenes

Y habichuelas. Compañera,

¿Volverán esas tardes sordas cuando nos amábamos?

¿Te acuerdas cuando te decía ¡tócame!?

¿Cuándo ilesa carne buscaba carne y dientes labios

En los laberintos de tus bocas?

Esas tardes, islas no descubiertas

Cuando caminábamos hasta la orilla.

Mis dedos lentos andaban las lomas de tus pechos,

Recorriendo la llanura de tu espalda

Tus moras hinchándose en mi boca

La cueva mojada y racima.

Tu corazón en mi lengua hasta en mis sueños.

Dos pescadoras nadando en los mares

Buscando esa perla.

¿No te acuerdas como nos amábamos, compañera?

¿Volverán esas tardes cuando vacilábamos

Pasos largos, manos entrelazadas en la playa?

Las gaviotas y las brizas

Dos manfloras vagas en una isla de mutua melodía.

Tus tiernas palmas y los planetas que se caián.

Esas tardes tiñadas de mojo

Cuando nos entregábamos a las olas

Cuando nos tirábamos

En el zacate del parque

Dos cuerpos de mujer bajo los árboles

Mirando los barcos cruzando el río

Tus pestañas barriendo mi cara

Dormitando, oliendo tu piel de amapola.

Dos extranjeras al borde del abismo

Yo caía descabellada encima de tu cuerpo

Sobre las lunas llenas de tus pechos

Esas tardes cuando se mecía el mundo con mi resuello

Dos mujeres que hacían una sola sombra bailarina

Esas tardes andábamos hasta que las lámparas

Se prendían en las avenidas.

¿Volverán,

Compañera, esas tardes  cuando nos amábanos?”


“Ceremony” by Jose Medrano Velazquez

Is it vile to crave touch?

Is it sacrilegious to crave blood?

Do I speak the words of a heretic

Singing songs of worship

That honor false idols?

All the stars seem to gather at my wrists

And I gravitate towards heathen gods

Each night, the ritual occurs as follows:

The mantra – 

I hurt therefore I am 

I hurt therefore I am 

I hurt therefore I am 

I hurt

The motions –

Up and through

Down and under

Choking

Suffocating

Exhaling, gasping

Breathing 

Seething

Loving

The same silent screams and aching whispers

As the moon teases me

Pulling at the tides of my mind

So that each wave comes with a thunderous roar

Louder and louder each time and I can’t ignore it

Even though I try to blind my eyes

And silence the thunder

Under pillows that smother

I wonder

I wonder if…

Do you?

Do I?

Is this?

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