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Mexican State Violence, A Presentation

in The Word is Text by

by Laura Gallegos



The Chicana and Chicano Studies Department the Mexican State Violence & Resistance: a conversation with Nestora Salgado and Felicitas Martinez Solano.

Nestora Salgado was wrongly incarcerated by the Mexican police in the state of Guerrero for protesting against the cartels and wrongdoing by the government to the indigenous people of the land.

She was jailed for two years and eight months. She was denied the right to a lawyer and from seeing anyone for a whole nine months. “I was treated worse than any criminal. We all know who el Chapo is, he had a lawyer right by his side and was treated with decency. Ms. Salgado was treated like she had committed the worst possible crime,” Ms. Salgado said. Ms. Salgado commented on how the Mexican government could falsely fabricate criminals and crimes they did to her in attempts to convict her of a more serious crime.

Protests for her arrest were ongoing and even ended up being delegated in front of the UN where they deemed her arrest to violate her human rights. Upon release, she decided to use this experience as motivation to spread awareness of what is going on in Mexico, “Narco-politics” and the state of Guerrero in its self. Ms. Salgado commented on how the Mexican government could falsely fabricate criminals and crimes they did to her in attempts to convict her of a more serious crime.

The second speaker Felicitas Martinez Solano talked in depth of the land being taken from them as part of Plan Merida  and how the United States directly plays a key role in the atrocities occurring in Mexico.

The Whitsett Room was filled with students that were interested in Ms. Salgado and Ms. Martinez Solano experience. Audience members asked questions about their presentation. Ms. Salgado and Ms. Martinez Solano asked the audience to please support their cause and make changes happen through our own government by demanding answers and demanding change in attitudes towards what is occurring in Mexico because it could have been our uncle, aunt, father, mother, sister, brother, etc. affected by this.


A New Way of Life, Starting a New Path

in The Word is Text by

by Andrea Mejia, Cyrus Carrillo, Eduardo Laguna, Maria Castro

Susan Burton, founder and director of A New Way of Life (ANWOL), saw a need to help formerly incarcerated women coming home from prison who faced tremendous institutional barriers, rules, laws, policies and attitudes that operated to deny them access to employment, student loans, permanent housing, public assistance, and many other services.  Susan like many others was one of the 67.8 percent of prisoners who are reincarcerated. Burton realized for these women to challenge such obstacles in isolation would be a futile exercise. After experiencing the cycle of incarceration, Ms. Burton  owned a house where she and 11 other women would live in between their incarcerations.  She experienced first hand what was needed in order for reintegrating into society after being in prison. Ms. Burton states that in order to reintegrate successfully there must be a support system to help emotionally because you go from having no rights in decision making to deciding even what clothes you’re going to wear.  ANWOL provides housing, transportation, legal support, education, leadership development, and help in attaining a job.. While in prison Susan, Paulette, Megashia, Lily, and Johnny have all experienced the injustices of being imprisoned.  They spoke about how while in prison there wasn’t any type of rehabilitation that would prevent them from falling back into the cycle.  ANWOL is a way for many women to break that cycle, these are their stories.

Ms. Burton was part of a panel of speakers at the “The Criminalization of Women: Formerly Incarcerated Women Speak Out” event that was sponsored by WEEC, Department of Sociology Chicano/a Studies, College of Humanities, Academic Programming, and Gender and Women’s Studies. The panelist spoke about their experiences after incarceration.

Ms. Paulette Villa spent  20 years for being an accomplice in a murder with her cousin, who at the time had not met prior. Ms. Villa now understands that she could have made the right choice but did not. She was recently released almost five months ago. In her life, she witnessed and experienced a lot of abuse, alongside with love. Growing up she began drinking and doing drugs which became a very normal thing for her. In her teen years, she got married to an abusive man who did not let her have contact with her family. During this marriage to her former husband she had three daughters, but would later end in divorce due to his drug abuse and infidelity. After being released from jail, she became a drug and alcohol counselor with the help of ANWOL.

Ms. Megashia Jackson grew up in an abusive home. She used drugs and sex to gain friends, in middle school and sold joints in an effort to be cool.  After high school Jackson had three children and made the decision to move to Kansas in hopes to provide her children a better lifestyle.  In Kansas, Jackson found herself caught in “modern day prostitution”.  During her prosecution she  was charged with 13 federal charges that belonged to her pimp.  She took a plea for one of the charges in an effort to get out of the situation.  Jackson had a salon and while in prison Jackson kept her cosmetology license and was able to keep her salon open.  In prison Jackson would wake up early on visitation day and would provide hair and makeup services as a means to make money on the inside.  While in prison Jackson did everything she could to keep her children but when she was placed on probation she was forced to do things she didn’t feel was safe for her children ie. taking her children to meetings where there were rapist and killers present. Today Jackson is staying at ANWOL and continues to spread awareness.

Lily is a formerly imprisoned woman now studying at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Getting into a four year university was a long journey. Lily continues to face many adversities while on campus. As a felon, she wasn’t given any opportunity to an education. While in prison, there were no educational programs. Her only form of knowledge where books provided to her by relatives. After serving her time in prison, she left feeling lost. She found her way to Homeboy Industries, where she found was a supportive community that helped her find her strengths, develop as a person and become a contributing member of the community. As a student at CSUN, she was hesitant to explore the campus. After meeting others under the same situation, she began to open up and explore the campus and discover the resources available to her. She is involved with the student life on campus and is creating a resource of her own to be able to help out others who have been affected by the prison system. She is an inspirational student on her way to receiving her degree.

Johnny is a former incarcerated man who is also now studying at California State University, Northridge. When Johnny first got to CSUN he had a feeling of not belonging, This uneasiness around his peers was caused by the time he spent in prison. Through his brother he learned of a support group at UC Berkeley that helped its former inmate population reintegrate into the student population. This gave him an idea to implement the same system into the CSUN’s student body. Through talks with Lily another former inmate they are in the works of creating a support group called “Formerly Incarcerated Students and Allies.” They asked for signups from those in attendance who were either incarcerated or affected by mass incarceration. With more people involved and more effort they hope to have their idea made into reality.

Today A New Way of Life owns 5 houses in total where women previously incarcerated and their children can live.  If you’d like more information please visit Also if you would like to join Johnny and Lily’s efforts in creating Formerly Incarcerated Students and Allies, you can visit the Department of Sociology for more info.

Environmental Disasters, Not Just in the Valley

in The Word is Text by

By Ricardo Zenon

On October 23, 2015 a massive gas leak was discovered by employees working at SoCalGas. The leak was coming from the a well that came from the underground storage facility in the Santa Susana Mountains. This well, which was the second largest well of it’s kind, belonged to the Southern California Gas Company. Six months later, on January 6, Governor Jerry Brown issued a state of emergency and had the community of Porter Ranch evacuated. By February 18 the gas company and state officials announced that the leak was permanently plugged. Over 100,000 tons of methane and 7,000 tons of ethane were released into the atmosphere. The Aliso Canyon Gas Leak is considered the worst natural gas leak in U.S history in terms of the carbon footprint that was left behind.

From the time that residents of Porter Ranch first began to smell the gas to the time the well was officially plugged six months later. However, in Boyle Heights a similar issue has been going on for over thirty years and the residents of the community are still dealing with it. The Exide Technologies Plant is a battery recycling plant that is located in Boyle Heights. For decades Exide has continued its normal operation polluting the city with dangerous chemicals such as lead and arsenic into the environment. It has been responsible for 25% of Los Angeles’ annual pollution. It is believed that now over 10,000 homes across six communities have been contaminated with poisonous lead. After decades of operation the plant was finally shut down by environmental activists but the communities around Boyle Heights are still dealing with the nightmare of the damage that was done to their neighborhood.

Now both of these issues are equally important and they both had huge environmental ramifications but there is more behind these two stories. Why is it that the gas leak that occurred in Aliso Canyon only take six months to fix but it has taken decades for anything in Boyle Heights to be done. Professor Stevie Ruiz who is a Chicano Studies professor at CSUN says race has a lot to do with it. Porter Ranch is predominantly an upper middle class white neighborhood, as soon as the residents started smelling the gas they were able to higher a private firm to do an ecological study. The residents of Boyle Heights didn’t have such a luxury. The reason action was taken quickly in Porter Ranch is because they had the money to hire lawyers to speak for them.

However, the fact that Porter Ranch had the money to hire lawyers does not excuse letting the people of Boyle Heights live in the same conditions for decades. Professor Ruiz says that a lot of it has to do with racism. He says the only we can keep this from continuing is if we stop putting people with a history of racism into office. If we don’t, communities like Boyle Heights will continued to be put in the backseat and overlooked when another issue like this occurs.

Jose Luis Vargas, Torch Bearer of Opportunity, Dies at 66

in The Word is Text by

By Felipe Villa

Jose Luis Vargas lectures EOP students in the C.R. Johnson auditorium at California State University Northridge, June 2014. Margaret Nguyen/EOP Photographer

Jose Luis Vargas, Director of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at California State University Northridge (CSUN), influenced the development of the Chicano Studies program at Cal State Northridge and whose passion for mentoring disadvantaged students in their pursuit of higher education led thousands to develop into young professionals, died on Saturday March 19th.

His death was confirmed by EOP Associate Director Shiva Parsa in the program’s division of academic affairs page on the Cal State Northridge website, on March 25th. The cause of death is unknown to the public and was only described as a “brief illness.”

 Born in Mexico and coming to the U.S. as a young immigrant to live in the Echo Park neighborhood in Los Angeles in what he described as “a regular low-income neighborhood” filled with families of similar likeness, he attended Belmont High School. Jose Luis was a first generation college student at CSUN who joined via the EOP program himself.

 Jose Luis began his career at CSUN in the late 1960s, a period when the Latino population at CSUN was under 100 students. Those who attended, along with black students, had to fight for their rights. They staged massive protest from 1967 to 1969, the details of which were chronicled in the Storm at Valley State documentary. Jose Luis, having been part of this generation, never let go of those ideals. He continued to fight for disadvantaged people’s rights much like he did for his own.

 His activist spirit, carrying over from his generation’s personal struggle, led him to work in the Educational Opportunity Program where he maintained determined to give opportunity to those those who were underprivileged. The passion and humility he carried himself with garnered him a place in the administration of the EOP. His resilience and unrelenting efforts made him the Director.

 His casual wear, smooth relaxed voice and overall amicability made him approachable to the many students he influenced over the years. EOP students across the board remembered his great demeanor and wisdom. Student Corey Hill best encapsulated Jose Luis’ approachability and wisdom when he said, “I asked him why he doesn’t wear a tie and he said ‘it’s not what you wear or how you talk that makes you who you are’ and that made me more comfortable here at school.” These are the types of interactions students had with Jose Luis, interactions where seemingly insignificant questions garnered you a pearl of wisdom that helped you in the University setting.

 His work with the EOP is perhaps where he had the greatest impact. He helped thousands of students adjust and thrive in the University setting throughout the years.

 Jose Luis’ active role in CSUN administration, as well as the much broader administration on EOP across the country, made him a leader in all he did. His intelligence, poise, and determination made his involvement valuable to many. Ultimately, his heart was with the students and that was his main concern; the success of first generation under-privileged college students.

 EOP’s success while he was director was staggering with his expansion of the transitional program and addition of the Resilient Scholars program made his legacy in EOP astounding. He is credited with being one of the largest factors in the fact that CSUN’s EOP is the largest in the State of California.

 Shiva Parsa, EOP’s Director of Transitional Programs, attended the Vigil for Jose Luis held on March 25th and spoke of his legacy, but, as many, also remembered her love for him as a friend. As she noted, “he was a great leader and an amazing friend.”

Jose Luis is survived by his wife, Yvonne and son, Damian.

Violence Across Two Countries

in The Word is Text by


When will our world be free of violence and tortures? Why can’t individuals feel safe to walk on their lands without someone wanting to hurt them? We all ask this questions, but our world is full of hatred that peace is not the answer for many. Peace is what many hope on obtaining, but there are many individuals out there in the world who destroy the only hope many carry in their hearts. When will the world be at peace? When will harsh, cruel and bloody violence stop? Around the world, countries face brutal violence that we yet have not opened our eyes to see. Above all, many wake up in the morning hoping that today will be the day that the sun will shine peacefully and that nothing will get on its way. El Salvador is a small country whose people are facing a tremendous amount of violence through gangs who are an organized group of criminals known as “La Mara Salvatrucha.” This dreadful violence is bringing the country to the ground and leaving the people who live there wanting peace for their country because they are tired of not living in peace. La Mara Salvatrucha has affected every individual who lives in El Salvador, but people hope for tomorrow to be the day were men, women, children and animal find unity and love towards their country.

When El Salvador Civil War occurred, many individuals migrated to the United States in hopes of a better lifestyle. Nevertheless, they found themselves a different place they called home. La Mara Salvatrucha was founded in the barrios of Los Angeles of Pico Union neighborhood composed by Salvadorians, but other refugees as well such as Guatemala, Honduras and more joined in the 1980s. The terms “Mara” means group or gang, “Salva” means El Salvador and “Trucha” means clever. Not only is the gang name “La Mara Salvatrucha” but the gang members also write it as MS13 because when the Mara Salvatrucha allied themselves with the Mexican Mafia, they adopted “13” as part of their name out of respect. Since the “M” is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, they add it to the name. Towards the end of the Clinton presidency, the government sends refugees from Central America back home. About 20,000 Central Americans returned home between 2000 to 2004. Moreover, it has extended to El Salvador, Mexico, USA and Canada because of deportation.

Today, about 60,000 to 80,000 are estimated to be involved in the most horrifying and violent gang. The members of the gang make money through extortion, kidnapping, controlling their neighborhood, drug trafficking robbing and more. One of their most opposing gang is called “Barrio 18” in which constantly, there is a great amount of number of deaths every day due to their violence against one another.

It wasn’t easy trying to interview individuals who have been and keep being strongly affect by the Mara Salvatrucha. I interviewed an elderly woman who visits the United States. She has family here. She loves El Salvador and she wouldn’t trade it for any other country, but sometimes, she doesn’t feel safe. She believes that the country is facing something similar to the Salvadorian Civil War because of the number of deaths, the awful violence and the awful feeling of being frightening if tomorrow they will be alive or not. Members from the Mara Salvatrucha have approach her for money although they know that she hardy has money for herself. She pointed out that people in her “Pueblo” can’t walk around with phones or else the gang members steal it from them. Moreover, she explained that when the people in the “pueblo” find a dead body in the street, no one says who it was because they perfectly know that the Mara Salvatrucha did it due to the victim not minding their business or for other reasons.

She went on by stating that La Mara Salvatrucha has affected her and her family members because they can’t be walking around the streets with stuff that may appear that they are wealthy. To some people, the gang members ask for monthly money (payment) if they don’t do as they are told to, they suffer the consequences. Families that live in the United States can’t travel back to their home land because they are afraid of what can happen to them due to what they hear in the news and what the family say to them. The elderly woman worries that when she is dead, the future of the new next generation will be awful and that the country will fall to the ground. Furthermore, one of her sisters told me that she loves El Salvador, but she wouldn’t go back at least not right now due to the situation that the people are living in. She wishes that everyone would be free of violence and be able to walk the streets peacefully how they did before.

Moreover, a young woman by the age of 25 never thought she was going to fall in love with a member of the Mara Salvatrucha. When she met the father of her daughter, she didn’t know he was one of the main rulers from the gang. Eventually, she found out and couldn’t walk away from the relationship that easily. The Mara Salvatrucha affected her because to begin with, she couldn’t let go of her boyfriend easily. Her boyfriend didn’t allow her to break up with him. Throughout the time they were together, she experiences a life that she will never forget. She pointed out that she saw many gang members die in front of her something she never wish she would have witness. She lived a different life that from what a normal person lives. She wasn’t allowed to walk the streets without his permission nor visit her family because her boyfriend had her trapped in a room. Recently, she moved to the United States with her daughter and her boyfriend is locked up in prison and sentence for life. She feels safe out here in the United States and knows that they have a better future for both of them.

Nevertheless, the Mara Salvatrucha has affected her and everyone else who lives there because no one feels safe. It’s a war against the police and the gangster. There is no security and no one to fully trust for their lives. Many die from the enemies from the gangs or by police officers. Everyone can’t wait till the day they can walk feeling peacefully in their lands. “It seems as if “La Mara” is watching our every day move” the elderly woman words shocked me because no one should feel powerful enough to control others around them to create evilness around the world. I want to see families safe. It is the hope that one day the violence stops and that the Mara Salvatrucha stops messing with their own people. But, in addition, as the mass deportations that have now focused on Central Americans, people must be made aware that as the US begins to expel families, they are expelling them to a place of violence and hopelessness. This is violence not manifested by a particular street gang, but a state sponsored violence where government agencies send back families to violent places and spaces.


The Far Reaching Effects of the California Drought

in The Word is Text by

by Liliana Valerio

Clear skies, the sun’s rays beaming, and the sight of birds in the trees along with the sound of a lawn mower, a typical morning in California. Sounds like a picture perfect day, unfortunately it is not the case for recent months, not with an ongoing drought that seems to not get any better. Such a natural disaster has prompted many changes throughout the state. Last year, in April, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown enacted Executive Order B-29-15 which directed the State Water Resources Control Board to implement mandatory water reductions throughout the state of California in efforts to reduce water usage by 25%. To make this possible, Brown also directed the replacement of 50million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought tolerant plants, mulch and gravel.

Landscaped home using drought tolerant plants and gravel in Southern California. While the order has been effective in the past year and is beneficial in many respects, it has complicated the lives of many, especially those of Latino gardeners. According to, latinos make up about 38% of California’s population. Also, according to Fox News, “more than 73% of workers in the landscape industry in California are (Latino).” As the drought continues and residents either neglect their lawns or re-landscape their lawns by installing plants, mulch and gravel, which do not need much water, as a means to comply with Browns order, many gardeners have lost their jobs as residents do not need their services, leaving many with hopes that “El Nino” will be their savior to a certain extent.

Home with a neglected lawn as a result of water reductions and drought conditions in Southern California. No matter what the case it seems, many Latinos are being negatively affected by this irreversible natural disaster that is only being made worse by the demands of Governor Brown. Just one of California’s Latino gardeners being affected and forced to face the drought’s effects directly is Pedro Valerio, a Southern California resident who has been making a living and supporting for his family through the business of gardening for about twenty four years. With minimal knowledge on Governor Brown’s water mandate, Valerio started landscaping with drought tolerant plants in efforts to please his clients and avoid getting fired. However, with many people choosing to landscape using mulch and gravel, Valerio constantly worries and stresses about the possibility of losing his job entirely as clients will soon no longer need his services. If such a tragedy were to happen, Valerio says that he would find himself forced to do something else in order to make a living and continue supporting his family, or even go back to Mexico. As his clients reduce their use of water and his amount of work, Valerio spends much of his free time learning about drought tolerant plants, through videos on YouTube, visiting Southern California Nurseries and his brother in law who is a botanist at UC Davis, all the while hopelessly searching for new clients only to be turned down about 20% of the time as they too do not need gardening services for the same reasons. With the struggle to find new jobs and maintain his current clients, and the drought showing minimal signs of improvement, Valerio like many other gardeners finds himself counting on “El Nino” to make the conditions of the drought better as his struggles only get harder to deal with. Pedro Valerio’s case like many others demonstrates the gravity of the drought and the hardships it imposes on California’s working class of gardeners and their families.







Works Cited

Bermudez, Esmeralda. “Gardeners, Nurseries Struggle to Adapt as Drought Outs Their

Business.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

Brown Jr., Edmund G. “Executive Order B-29-15.” Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. –

Newsroom. State of California, 1 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2016. PDF file.

California Drought. State of California. 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Facundo, Marcia. “California Gardeners Say Their Industry Is Drying up Because of Ongoing

Drought.” Fox News Latino. Fox News, 16 June 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

“Governor Brown Directs First Ever Statewide Mandatory Water Reductions.” Office of

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. – Newsroom. State of California, 1 Apr. 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Nasser, Haya E. “California Gardeners Struggle for Work during Drought.” Al Jazeera America.

Al Jazeera America, 25 May 2015. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

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