¡ASK A MEXICAN! Letters
GIVING VOICE TO IGNORANCE
The Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network/Jobs with Justice stands with CAUSA and the local Latino/a community in expressing our outrage and disappointment about EW‘s decision to continue running Gustavo Arellano’s offensive and dangerous column, “¡Ask a Mexican!” If EW wants to “ask a Mexican” in order to educate our community about Latino culture and history, we are blessed to have many local activists and educators who could share meaningful, relevant information, rather than encouraging racist and ignorant stereotyping.
Arellano has a right to express his brand of cruel humor, just as the editors of EW have a right to run the column. However, by doing so, EW is showing that it is more committed to giving voice to ignorance and fanning the flames of racism than it is to respecting the requests of many local readers, including ESSN/JwJ, who want to see the column canceled.
We would much rather read a column written by local Latino/a activists who can share with EW readers the realities of Latino/a life in our community!
Maybe we could actually learn how to be better allies rather than seeing a weekly opportunity for racist stereotyping!
For the Steering Committee of ESSN/JwJ,
Bayla Ostrach, Eugene
Was Lenny Bruce funny? Is Margaret Cho funny? I think, to respond to Roscoe Caron’s comment (letters, 11/29), that Gustavo Arellano knows exactly where he is (Orange County) and exactly how dangerous his humor is. If humor isn’t dangerous, it’s not effective. You can’t use safe humor as an organizing tool. Maybe that’s why the labor movement has nearly collapsed: It’s afraid of humor. If a comedian isn’t walking a tight rope, no one pays any attention.
I think that Arellano’s columns are full of love. I hope the Weekly continues to run them. They are some of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen in this newspaper.
Ann Tattersall, Eugene
HEED THE FEEDBACK
I hope you will heed the voices of our local community who are asking for the “¡Ask A Mexican!” column to be replaced with a regular column written by Latinos and Latinas in the Eugene-Springfield area.
You’ll undoubtedly attract a larger audience with these local voices, which beats the alternative of offending people who are already assaulted daily with hate speech, hate legislation and so much other singling out for unequal treatment.
I know your intent is not to publish material that hurts innocent people, and it’s also probably not the columnist’s intent. But the effect is what counts, and the effect in this community is what you’re being asked to stop — and you can do your part to stop it.
Thanks for what I hope is your willingness to heed community feedback from those who are on the frontlines of anti-immigrant sentiment. Let’s all of us who have any bit of power do everything we can to make a difference and make Eugene a welcome place for all!
Hope Marston, Eugene
THE SPICY APPROACH
When I suggested to the Weekly editors that it was way past time for a regular column by local people of color, or rotating local people of color, I have to admit that my bias for Latino writers tended towards Richard and Patricia’s “Column of the Americas” more than “¡Ask A Mexican!” But like Dan Savage’s “Savage Love,” “¡Ask A Mexican!” is hella entertaining.
If you’ve ever hung wit’ Latinos, then you know part of what you’re getting is the simulated thoughts of a cultural insider speaking in a vernacular that only white people willing to hang with people of color with their hair down and their culturally smiling masks (and gloves) off would know.
In order to hang wit’ ’em, you can’t be a stereotypical culturally amnesiac American ignorant of commonly known (among us anyway) history. We have to know about Shakespeare and Chaucer, while you remain ignorant of, say Vincente Riva Palacio. Parlez-vous double insult, cabrones?
Basically, when a white calls all Latinos Mexicans, he’s turning the cultural tables, and yeah, it’s insulting both ways. But which voice do you hear most from? That is assuming [Arellano] is Mexican, and not a white guy fronting.
To the degree that satire is enlightening is the degree that one can get past the shock and insult and dig for the facts of what he’s referring to. What is the reconquista? What about white invasions of Mexico and California? Why would Mexicans think the Spanish named states of the U.S. were stolen?
The drawback to the spicy approach is that some people are so dense they won’t take the time to learn from either a low-brow or high-brow approach.
Mark Harris, Eugene
Oregon is white and bleeding red (spirit of Indians), and there are very few Hispanic writers in good ol’ Oregon. How many of you gringos read the Hispanic News, Noticias, Puertolandia?
Danger! Gustavo Arellano is an educated Mexican; that’s what this whole fuss is about. Reading the responses by all the whiners, I saw no criticism on historical evidence or research presented by Arellano. I read: “He is racist! He is reinforcing stereotypes!” Blah, blah, c’mon progressive liberals (Google “freedom of speech”).
More than a voice, Arellano provides a little history on white hypocrisy and Mexican bigotry and homophobia, but most of the time he brings positive notes to the table. I think it’s safe to say: White, middle-class-hippie-organic-vegetarians in Eugene feel guilty with so much history (read, the lies my teacher told me); they hide behind the rhetoric: everything is fine, as long as these pitiful minorities keep quiet and don’t raise their voices. Once somebody like Arellano provides a piece of research to all of us, suddenly we abandon our salsa dancing lessons and our foreign films (sound familiar?) to scream at the EW editors. Oregon, we love dreamers, but sometimes we have to see the realities. I’m not scared of those rednecks who are blatant explicit racists; I’m scared about the backstabbers who hide behind the peace sign, just like a cheating wife or husband or partner.
Hey gabachos, rather than complaining against a compadre, why don’t you complain against your compadre Lou Dobbs. Oh, by the way, we felt abandoned by the progressive hippies during our May 1st demonstration (read Sensenbrenner bill) last year in Salem, Corvallis and Eugene.
Si yu laiter, amigos.
Pedro Rosa-Meleño, Eugene
OVER THE TOP
My two cents on your running the “¡Ask A Mexican!” column is that it is that the extreme sarcasm of Arellano’s humor is a bit over the top for current Eugene to the point where many people, Anglos and Latinos alike, will perceive it to be nothing more than offensive.
I think if you are going to persist in running the column, you should at least go to the effort of running some serious stories, commentaries, etc. on local/statewide Latino realities. Especially in a year when immigrant and Latino communities are under severe attack by racist and right wing forces, I look to you to be supportive of human rights and positive, inclusive social solutions.
Herb Everett, Eugene
THE RACE CARD
Since Gustavo Arellano clearly thinks the U.S. should welcome the tsunami of humanity pouring illegally across our southern border — and since EW apparently agrees — why don’t you write a piece on what Mexican authorities would do to a U.S. citizen or a Guatemalan caught trying to enter Mexico illegally?
Arellano had no intelligent response when I “asked a Mexican.” Instead, he — like most open borders proponents — plays the “race” and “hate” cards against those of us who want our laws enforced.
Jerry Ritter, Springfield
JUST A SMOKESCREEN
I guess I’m just one of those people Gustavo Arellano has labeled a “PC pendejo,” but I still can’t see how his insistent use of a racist piece of crap like his logo can turn said crap into a shining tool for undoing racism. Maybe this kind of postmodern alchemy works in grad-level sociology classes or maybe even in his Orange County stomping ground. But unless he can show his work, I’m tempted to believe that the rambling rationales he gave in his interview in the Nov. 29 issue of the EW are just a smokescreen for what he’s really trying to do: draw attention to himself.
It’s not for nothing that Arellano has been dubbed “the Paris Hilton of the Latino journalism world” by L.A. Times critic Agustin Gurza. In fact, speaking to the L.A. Press Club recently (video available on YouTube), the rationale Arellano gave to that audience was that the logo draws young people’s attention to his column.
Despite protests to the contrary, Gustavo Arellano really is the “Mexican” voice of EW. Our community deserves a local Latino voice, to address Latino issues from a local perspective, not a snarky, self-serving, syndicated columnist who tries to offend as many people as he informs.
EW can be an outlet for local community voices, or a weekly collection of ads and movie reviews with filler from “edgy” syndicated columnists. Which is it gonna be, EW?
Scott Miksch, Eugene
BEYOND COMFORT ZONE
Ha ha, you all kill me. Seriously, do you think we’re so advanced that we need not discuss race? There is a time for everything, and cleaning the dirt out of the wounds is what is needed now. Yes, you will be somewhat uncomfortable. Deal with it! Actually, we’ll all deal with it as a community. Yes, we should be uncomfortable. I’d be ashamed to not be.
Trevor Ballard, Eugene
NOT ABOUT RACE
It’s extremely ignorant to assume that just because we do not want our borders invaded by illegal aliens (many of them are from South and Central America as well as Mexico) and we do not want illegal aliens to live here and work here, that does not mean we have stereotypes of Mexicans, and we have to “be educated.” My Mexican friends in California, who were legal citizens of America, did not like the U.S. being invaded by illegals who come over the border, either.
They were the ones who pointed out the dangerous gangs in our neighborhood who they knew came over the border illegally and were now making our area very dangerous. My friends were legal citizens of the U.S., and they told me they did not like illegals coming over the borders anymore than we white people did. In other words, this dislike of “Mexicans” is not a racist problem; it is anger from all American citizens of having their borders invaded by illegal aliens (of any kind) and having them come over, live here, work, have families and not come through the front door like all the other immigrants are forced to do.
Get that through your head, EW: It is not a “racist problem,” it is an immigration and border-invasion problem. We do not want any race invading our borders, illegally, stomping in and declaring that they have as many rights an any immigrant who has to come in legally. Do you finally understand the problem? Get people to come in the front door of the U.S. or not to come in at all. Stop insulting our intelligence with stuff like (this) “¡Ask a Mexican!” B.S.
D.H. Bucher, Eugene
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
NAKED BIKE RIDE?
As a native Portlander, past Eugene resident and everyday cyclist, it comes as little surprise that the city’s bike commuting rate is shrinking in the face of Portland’s success (news story, 11/21).
Eugene essentially functions like a suburb, its citizens continually fighting increased density, beginning with past building height restrictions downtown in the hopes of “keeping things the same.” These efforts have severely reduced the vibrancy of the urban core and pushed all new development along major arterials (read West 11th, Coburg Road, Highway 99, River Road), effectively preventing all but the bravest bike commuters from riding into town.
The city-sanctified Bridge Pedal has little to do with it — there are almost weekly events organized by Portland citizens, nonprofits and businesses, and if Eugeneans really wanted a bike event, they could organize one independently (naked bike ride, anyone?). But this tradition of (over)reactive citizenship instead of proactive leadership typifies the town; all those abandoned warehouses along the river were just waiting for their Pearl District makeover, and some denser student housing in place of the rotten west campus slums would be an extra bonus.
You want more bikes? Replace all the ground level parking lots downtown with one garage (it can even be underground like Portland’s newest park) and build mixed-use. You don’t need more parks, you don’t need more bike boulevards; the bikers will ride in past the car traffic, and the downtown residents will walk. As far as all the West 11ths/82nds of the world: The sins of the father will visit the children.
Michael Geffel, Portland
GREEN ROOF EUGENE
With all this talk of revamping downtown; the thoughts of tearing down established (and wanted) buildings so the city can allot more money into “new growth”: Why not put more green into Eugene?
I bike around and I see posters saying “Strawberry Fields or Cement” and other catchphrases. Why not reach a happy medium? The city already wants to “invest” a lot of money in making downtown more productive. So I suggest putting what are known as green roofs on the older buildings, and with the new ones that might get built, make it mandatory to put green roofs on them as well.
The idea is simple: Bring back some of the organic material displaced by development these days. We all know it’s always hotter in the city, which makes the energy costs a little excessive during the heat waves. With the placement of green roofs, we would get things like: keeping it cool for those hot summer times. Working with maintaining storm-water overflow. Helping insulate the heat for the rest of Oregon’s breezy and notorious weather. And, of course, bringing back the greenery of what Eugeneans love so much about Oregon. Old civilizations have been documented to do this. People in the Bronx are doing it, Chicago, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., as well. Even Wal-Mart. So why not Eugene?
Gwyn Marlow, Eugene
DANCING & HUGGING
Thanks for that glimpse into the heart of the Holiday Market (Slant, 11/21); you captured the joy of the event so well. The dancing and hugging in the aisles continues daily, and the crowds are showing up and enthusiastically supporting local artistry and commerce. Thanks for the multiple mentions of our event throughout last week’s issue — I think it really helped raise awareness and get folks in the door.
Thanks also for mentioning the great line-up of live music. This community of ours is abundant with talented musicians, and I could easily book twice the number of acts and still not fit everyone who deserves to be heard and appreciated on the schedule. For the past 16 years I have been fortunate to work with these people both as “Whoever’s in charge of the live music,” and as “Whoever’s running the sound board,” which is a rare position to be in. I get to experience firsthand, every week, what this dedicated, generous, talented group of visionaries have to contribute to the spirit of this place we’ve chosen to live in. I get to see them help folks smile and laugh and cry and dance and sit still and listen, and take them away from the everyday with the sounds they make. It’s a blessing to behold.
They say that good management is invisible, so I’ll take it as a compliment that I’m a “whoever” in this case. I do prefer to enable horn tooting, rather than toot my own horn, but just this once, a short blast — I’m Kim Still, manager of market promotions and advertising at Saturday Market and Holiday Market, and I book the music and run the sound board and do all kinds of other Market promoting things.
Glad to know you appreciate the Market. Indeed it is an amazing community resource!
Kim Still, Saturday Market
BEST BEST SERVICE
This is in response to the Nov. 8 letter by Seth Long and the Ring of Fire crew (which itself was in response to the EW‘s mentioning Ring of Fire restaurant in their Best of Eugene issue, Oct. 25). “Though you might receive the best best service if you’re a gay man, service for the rest of us ain’t too shabby either,” EW wrote.
I’m a gay man, but I’m not generally identified as gay, even by other gay guys — I just plain don’t get noticed that way, for the most part. So I guess my restaurant service wasn’t as good as it could be? Don’t get me wrong, I have always loved my dining experience at Ring of Fire. The food is great and the staff are friendly and good at what they do. I just thought it was kind of funny EW wrote what it did, but I also thought it was cool because a Corvallis equivalent of the EW would never have the huevos to write something like that, even about a business everybody knew was overwhelmingly GLBT … if there were any here.
I remembered dining at ROF, and it spurred some introspection. I get the same thing at Snafu (coincidentally a partner business of Ring of Fire), where there’s nowhere besides outside the building to talk to people without screaming at the top of your lungs. I’ve noticed people don’t want strike up conversation unless you look like you fell out of an Aberzombie catalogue, fuck with your eyebrows, are Auschwitz-skinny, or it’s a friend you already knew from Neighbors back when it was open. So when you’re the one who tries to start a conversation, you get snotty comments and/or ignored.
I miss Neighbors. It was a bigger space with places where you could actually talk with people and had a wider (better?) variety of people to meet and chat with.
Ryan Thompson, Corvallis
A BAD DEAL
The BLM’s ongoing Western Oregon Plan Revisions are quickly moving toward opening tens of thousands of acres of ancient forests to logging. These lands were originally given to the Oregon and California (O&C) Railroad Company for construction of a railroad and later came under BLM management. When the management plan for these lands was written, timber was king. Forest management is now guided by an entirely different set of principles where any number of management activities might be prioritized over industrial logging. For example, the Bull Run Watershed, once roaded and partially logged, is now protected for the clean, fresh drinking water it provides for the city of Portland.
We are incredibly fortunate that old-growth forest remains on these BLM lands and clearly it should be protected. Old-growth forests are storehouses of biodiversity, producers of fresh water, factories for clean air, banks of stored carbon and offer opportunities for sustainable economies and refuge for human beings.
Observation and science have shown that fire burns as a mosaic in old-growth forests, resulting in complex landscapes, whereas tree farms burn hot and fast, leaving few structural legacies and stark landscapes with damaged aquatic ecosystems.
The BLM’s statistics show that old-growth forests are far below their historic level while dense, even-aged tree plantations represent more than 30 percent of the planning area. Why doesn’t the timber industry focus on forestry that enhances the existing plantations with a mosaic of patterns and tree spacing instead of logging irreplaceable old growth forests?
David Mildrexler, Joseph
While I wholeheartedly agree on the value of saving trees, I thought I should tell you of one occasion where someone was killed by a failing tree. Working from memory here, but perhaps five or six years ago (perhaps longer) someone was driving down Jefferson, and at approximately 9th Avenue one of the big street trees on the west side of the street had a limb fall as the car passed underneath. It crushed and killed the occupant, a male I believe, and the car ran off the street and crashed into a house a few feet away.
I really enjoy the canopy on Jefferson street but I fear as the trees age we will lose their beautiful arching over the street. I can’t remember offhand, but I don’t believe a tree was ever planted to replace the one they took out after the limb fell.
I have also worked to get the city to replant the big trees in Sladden Park as they fall every few years in the storms. We’ve lost about 10 trees in the last 25 years, and only about three or four years ago was I able to get the city to plant a few new trees. I think they planted five or six.
I was amazed that the city tree “specialist” didn’t understand the concept of the small trees being planted on the west side of the park as a wind break for the big trees in the winter storms. He was particularly offended that I tried to discuss this with him and was rude and abrupt with me afterwards. I don’t know where the city hires their arborists, but they need to study nature more and build an understanding of how trees interact with each other rather than just having a knowledge of single trees.
If we want to be a “Tree City” we should build a canopy, not just plant a tree.
Thanks for the article (cover story, 11/12).
Cathy Evans, Eugene
A few simple requests:
1. Keep running the meth ads. They’re downright disgusting but I appreciate the practical approach regarding these thieving, drugged-up parasites who raise their children on the freakin’ dole (no shit, a couple of them live up the street from me).
2. Local companies — quit crowing about how goddamned green you are and do it for its own sake. Self-righteousness belongs to the right, not the left (if you robots want to categorize such things so simply).
3. Downtown has sucked since our glorious overseers dug out the fountain. Here’s my idea: Put the fucking fountain back in! How’s that for “revitalization”?
4. I’m glad my scooter is a classic so I don’t have to worry about its two-stroke engine being taken off the road, but for those greenies out there, I encourage you to support P-Town Scooters up in Portland regarding their biodiesel conversion for the older two-strokes. For now I’m just happy watching a thick cloud of two-stroke smoke waft down the street when I start the scooter (and I’ll get another one back on the road soon!). Suck it up, hippies!
5. WOW Hall — Quit booking pretentious assholes like Bassnectar who won’t allow the local artists opening for their show to get paid. I went to see a friend spin, she got nothing, and “Suckcheddar” got everything. Sickening.
6. Quit yapping about “diversity” while you live in one the most white-bread cities in the country. It’s tiring. boorish and stupidly loud. I have a better idea: Follow the Golden Rule and shut the hell up.
7. Bier Stein — Find a distributor for Rebel. NOW. Klaster comes in a bottle too big for the lunch break and, by your own admission, Rebel has won most of your lager taste competitions. I promise to buy a six-pack every week. Oh, and your reubens are too gristly, even if the pasta salad more than makes up for it.
Justin Bengtson, Eugene
Thank goodness for EW letters. ‘Tis about the only place to find occasional mention of the War On (some) Drugs. Writer Robert Simms, in his letter “Politics of Poppies” (11/15), makes noise about some of the most glaring points in the perpetuity of failure that is the drug war.
Besides the economic boost our drug war is providing to the Taliban and others in the Middle East, here at home the story is the same but different. Instead of funding the Taliban, we here in the U.S. fund Asian cartels operating indoor pot farms and Latin American crime organizations responsible for outdoor pot “farms” growing thousands and tens of thousands of plants in single locations, ruining domestic water sources and destroying habitat. Where once domestic herb came from the toil of hard-working locals, now we have international criminal syndicates reaping the profits.
The drug war is a boon, a goose laying golden eggs, for the world’s drug cartels (and its corporate counterpart, the for-profit military-drugwar-industrial-prison-complex).
Here in Oregon — where we have probably the nation’s most successful medical cannabis program — “crime fighting” knucklehead Kevin Mannix is seeking to dismantle the state’s self-sufficient Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) and replace it with a policy that would have the state paying for the synthetic cannabinoid pharmaceutical Marinol for patients who want to continue using cannabis medicine. He wants to replace a program (the OMMP) that put back almost one million dollars into the state’s coffers in 2005. How many medical programs put money IN to a state’s funds?
While those who oppose the war in Iraq hold large demonstrations and get major airtime on national media, the drug war gets no or little notice. Even though our drug policies affect every community in the nation, seriously continue to erode the Constitution and have police raiding homes in military assault team fashion (anyone remember 5th and Adams?) the War On (some) Drugs remains the forgotten stepchild of politics.
Allan Erickson, Eugene
A VICIOUS CYCLE
I’m a soldier. Every day when I step out my front door, I enter a war zone. To cross the battlefield alive I dodge hurtling missiles of all shapes and sizes capable of tearing me apart. Sometimes I’m assaulted by hundreds of missiles at a time — a day does not pass where I’m not inches from losing my life.
I gasp through low-hanging clouds of poison gas as I make my way as quickly and as safely as I can across the battlefield. I’m jarred by craters and a never-ending array of obstacles blocking my path, threatening to waylay, injure or kill me.
There are days when I feel like giving up. When the battle seems too hopeless. When there are too few standing by my side. When the stress of each day’s hellish journey sets my teeth grinding through the night and my sleep is plagued by nightmares as a corpse is plagued by worms.
Then I remember what I’m fighting for and that I believe in the cause. And that I have an obligation to do what I know is best for my fellow citizens, my country and future generations. Though I’m not a violent person, I realize sometimes you must fight for your freedoms.
So I carry on.
The sad thing is, I never signed up for this war. I wasn’t even drafted. All I ever wanted to do was ride my bicycle across Eugene to work in the morning.
Josh Schlossberg, Eugene
RAIDERS OF THE YARD
About 12 years ago, after moving into our new home, I tried to grow roses. Well, it was a short lived attempt. I planted them, and the next thing I knew they were gone. Oh, not dead. Some rose deprived person felt they would look better in their yard. I attempted to reclaim them. Followed a trail of dirt from First Avenue to Whiteaker school. Unfortunately the trail ended. So, I hope the roses got black spot and it spread to all of your other plants. Well, over the years I have tried to have other yard art. Things have continued to disappear.
The final straw was Buddha from our front porch. You know that person will have bad karma for many lifetimes. So, to the most recent attempt: You know who you are. Are your hands OK? I hope it was a painful attempt at thievery.
Shannon Buck, Eugene
TWO WHEELS ARE BEST
As our tragic occupation in the Middle East rages on, what can we do here at home that can impact it? So many of us have been untouched by this that we don’t even think about it on a daily basis. Well, it’s still going on; innocent people are dying every day and our tax dollars are funding it.
One reason for our presence there is to secure oil supplies for the U.S. Therefore, one way we can impact the situation is to lessen our demand for oil! I live on a busy street. There is seldom a quiet moment from the noise of cars hurling past. This is a bike-friendly community with plenty of local shops that provide waterproof gear of all types. This is the kind of city that should be leading the way for the rest of the nation. Why don’t we truly make an effort, make a sacrifice ourselves and commit to the bicycle commute! Not only will it dampen our push for foreign oil, it will save us money as the cost of oil nears $100 a barrel, and the exercise will get our hearts pumping first thing in the morning.
Want peace? You can start by bicycling.
Margaret Beavers, Eugene
Thanks for publishing Robert Simms’ outstanding letter: “Politics of Poppies” (11/15). I especially liked his line, “this war (drug war) was never meant to be won.”
U. S. drug czar John Walters is essentially the head cheerleader for the drug war bureaucracy. Like all bureaucrats, his goal is the continuation and expansion of his bureaucracy. All bureaucracies want more power and more money. The drug-war bureaucracy is no exception.
The only way to achieve victory in the so-called drug war is to re-legalize all of our now illegal drugs so they can be sold in licensed, regulated and taxed businesses.
Victory is not the goal of the drug war. Victory in the drug war would mean that the drug war bureaucracy is out of business. Victory in the drug war would mean that our robust prison building industry would come to a screeching halt.
Victory in the drug war would mean that thousands of so-called drug warriors would be looking for a job or working at quickie marts.
Kirk Muse, Mesa, Ariz.