Things That Matter

Ernesto Galarza Is The Chicano Pioneer That You Probably Never Read About In Your History Books

The majority of Mexican-American studies in this country mention, at great length, the contributions social activist Cesar Chavez had on the Latino farmworkers movement in this country. But there’s another Chicano pioneer who I didn’t learn about until a recent conversation I had with my dad…

Meet Ernesto Galarza one of the first Chicano scholars who began organizing for Latinos in 1948.

CREDIT: Facebook/@GalarzaErnesto

But I didn’t learn about Galarza in my history class, chicano studies lectures or even from reading on my own. 

The way I discovered the incredible legacy of Galarza wasn’t through history books or in college. It was through my dad. 

CREDIT: That’s my mom and dad back in the ’80s when they were field workers.

During a phone conversation, my dad told me that people in Jalco (the small village in Mexico my parents are from) had honored a native writer and poet in the town’s plaza. “A poet?” I asked. “A poet from Jalco…what the?” Most of the townspeople in Jalcocotán, Nayarit are hardworking laborers, caretakers, moms and dads, teachers, lawyers, nurses, but certainly not poets. When I asked my dad the name of the poet, I quickly Googled him and what I found was astonishing.

Galarza wasn’t just a poet but a profound historical figure in Latino history who lead major movements as a young boy.

CREDIT: Facebook/Man of Fire: Selected Writings of Ernesto Galarza

Galarza was born in Jalcocotan, Mexico on August 15, 1905, but moved to Sacramento when he was a boy. There, he quickly learned English and excelled in his studies. Because his English was so good, local farm workers in California asked him to protest on their behalf because polluted water had gotten them sick and even taken the life of a baby in the camp. He did that commendable act when he was just a kid.

He went from the fields on to attend Occidental College, Stanford and Columbia University. NBD, right?

After graduating from Occidental College, he got his master’s degree in Latin American History and Political Science in 1929 at Stanford UniversityHe was one of the first Chicano alumni from Stanford. He also got a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University in 1944. All of this left me astounded.

That was just the beginning. Here’s more of his incredible accomplishments that contributed and aided the Latino community in the United States, and in Mexico.

Between the 1940s and 1950s, Galarza led the National Farm Labor Union.

CREDIT: @GalarzaErnesto

His work with this organization led to many accomplishments for farm workers including the initiation of the Bracero program, but it also included the exploitation of these works by the U.S. government.

The National Farm Labor Union birthed a movement that gained another Chicano activist and that was Chavez.

Chavez’s work with this organization led to numerous strikes mainly in California, but also throughout the country. Galarza believed he could help the Latino community more effectively through his writings than through activism.

Between 1920 and 1982, Galarza published numerous essays, books, and poems.

Some of the books he wrote include “Merchants of Labor: The Mexican Bracero Story,” “Spiders in the House” and “Workers in the Field,” among others. 

In 1971 he wrote what is now one of my favorite books—his autobiography “Barrio Boy,” which, among other things, discusses in great detail his childhood in Jalco.

Reading about my dad’s hometown, my history, in such an eloquent structure was very emotional for me. Jalco has always been this little town that I wish everyone knew about, and here I was reading about it in a book.

Here’s an excerpt about Jalco from that book:

CREDIT: Immigrant Voices: New Lives in America, 1773-1986.

It was because of this tremendous volume of work that in 1976 he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature.

CREDIT: Facebook/Man of Fire: Selected Writings of Ernesto Galarza

That alone is an amazing legacy, but there’s more!

I found two elementary schools named after Galarza. One is in San Jose, Calif., the other in San Francisco.

CREDIT: Facebook/ sjusd.org/galarza

There’s also a research center that bears his name at the University of California, Riverside.

In San Jose, which is where Galarza lived until he passed away, is a monument dedicated to him and his advocacy work.

Man of fire.

A post shared by Lorenzo Tlacaelel (@c0pal) on

The artwork located at the San Jose Peace & Justice Center states the following: “Man of Fire commemorates the great and influential teacher and civic leader Dr. Ernesto Galarza. The artwork references Dr. Galarza’s life-long pursuit of bridging academic and civil life. The design of this commemorative work seeks to physically and conceptually connect San Jose State University with Plaza de Cesar Chavez, in the heart of the City’s downtown.”

Galarza’s extended family, some of them from Jalco, visited this dedication last year.

I don’t think I’d ever discover this great Latino trailblazer if it wasn’t for Dad. However, I am even more ecstatic that I can now share the amazing legacy of this labor activist, professor, writer, and the small village where we both have roots.

READ: Most people have never heard of this latino activist, but he’s getting his own movie

Do you have any cool connections to historical figurers? Let us know us by sharing this story and commenting below!

Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee

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Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee

Juan Escalante @JuanSaaa / Twitter

A new proposal brought forth by immigration officials might hike up the cost of immigrants entering the United States as children. According to a New York Times report, the Trump administration proposal would increase fees for applicants by more than 60 percent and handover more than $200 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Friday, the Trump administration proposed increasing a “range of fees” tacked onto applications for those seeking legal immigration and citizenship.

If it is sent into motion, the proposal would increase citizenship fees by more than 60 percent. Under the new plan, fees for applicants would skyrocket from $725  to $1,170. The proposal would also allow the government to charge asylum seekers $50 for applications and $490 for work permits. Such a rule would make the United States one out of four countries in the world to force asylum seekers to pay for applications. Australia, Fiji and Iran all charge for asylum protection. 

If instituted, the proposal would be yet another roadblock implemented by the Trump administration to restrict immigration through legal means.

Over the past few months, immigrants and immigration advocates have seen similar attempts at hacking through the rights of immigrants before. Recently the Trump administration issued a series of policies that work to withhold permanent residency to immigrants in the United States have been deemed incapable of financially supporting themselves. They have also blocked entry to immigrants applying for visas on the basis of health insurance status. On October 4, 2019, Trump published a Presidential Proclamation that prevents entry to visa applicants are unable to provide proof of their ability to obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the United States. 

“Healthcare providers and taxpayers bear substantial costs in paying for medical expenses incurred by people who lack health insurance or the ability to pay for their healthcare.  Hospitals and other providers often administer care to the uninsured without any hope of receiving reimbursement from them,” the proclamation read. “The costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services.  In total, uncompensated care costs — the overall measure of unreimbursed services that hospitals give their patients — have exceeded $35 billion in each of the last 10 years.”

 Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel at USCIS under the Obama administration called the new policy, “one more way under the administration that they are making legal immigration unattainable.”

“Currently, USCIS is conducting its biennial fee review, as required under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, to study the agency’s revenue, costs and needs,” a spokesperson for USCIS told BuzzFeed News. “As always, USCIS will publicly communicate information on its fee review through a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the federal register, should a decision be made to adjust its fees. No determination has yet been made.”

Immigration advocates on social media have been quick to slam the proposal as unfair. 

“The proposal to get rid of fee waivers is a whole statement and stand against the poor. From the public charge stuff to this. Worse thing too is this is how people actually feel,” film director Angy Rivera wrote in a thread that lambasted the policy. “The Department of Homeland Security’s plan will be open to public comment for 30 days starting Nov. 14. Make sure to flood them!”

Other users who quick to underline the significance of taking the funds from these applicants and transfer them to  Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration plans to “transfer money raised through the new proposed fee schedule to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency under DHS that carries out deportations, workplace investigations and other immigration enforcement actions. The money would be used to root out any potential fraud in future applications for citizenship, green cards, asylum and other immigration benefits.” 

“At this point I feel like they are just putting numbers in hat, and tossing it around. This is money we use to live and maintain our families, minimum wage ass job won’t cover this. This is just business to make money, y’all taking advantage of us,” Cristal Ruiz Rodriguez wrote in a tweet.

There’s no doubt that the Trump administration’s latest attack on immigrants is a wealth tax.

The Trump administration’s new policy would not be applicable to immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and asking for asylum. 

Melissa Rodgers is the director of programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and told the Washington Street Journal that the proposed fees would be unaffordable for those who could have had a chance at citizenship.

“This is a wealth tax on becoming a U.S. citizen,” Rodgers said in a statement. “It’s part and parcel of the assault on the naturalization process.”

500 Years After The Conquest Of Mexico Began, Descendants Of Both Cortes And Moctezuma Meet

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500 Years After The Conquest Of Mexico Began, Descendants Of Both Cortes And Moctezuma Meet

The scars of the Spanish colonization of what is now known as Mexico are still fresh in the racial, social and political relationships that shape the Latin American country. Current president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has continuously demanded Spain and the Catholic Church to apologize for the many crimes perpetuated against indigenous populations during La Conquista and La Colonia, periods in which the European colonizers imposed their will by brute force, enslaving the original owners of the land.

A recent event brought together two of the direct descendants of the Spanish conqueror, Hernan Cortes, and the conquered Aztec emperor, Moctezuma. The meet up was organized by filmmaker Miguel Gleason, who is making a documentary about the conquest. They met at a church were Cortes is buried. 

Yes, it has been 500 years since Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, fell, but the episode still resonates with today’s Mexicans.

Contrary to other countries that were born out of European invasions, such as New Zealand, the indigenous population in Mexico has not been fully assimilated into political life, and many decisions are made for them in the higher echelons of power.

The story of the conquest is still seen as an us versus them, and even for Mexicans who are casually racist against indigenous people on an everyday basis there is a tinge of historical resentment against the Spanish.

It is important to point out that the Conquista was brutal: it was not the joyous founding of a new country, but a bloodshed that saw the indigenous population wiped out by guns and diseases such as smallpox for which they had no antibodies. It was cruel. To add insult to injury, they were also conquered ideologically and religiously by envoys from the Catholic Church that were hand in hand with the Spanish Crown. 

Un abrazo that is worth a thousand words… but are they empty words?

With much fanfare, surrounded by cameras and reporters, two men shared an embrace 500 years after their ancestors first met in 1519 and changed the history of the world.

Federico Acosta, a Mexican man whose family is directed down 16 generations to the daughter of Moctezuma, met with Ascanio Pignatelli, an Italian citizen related to Cortés’ daughter. Pignatelli’s family held one of  the conquistador’s noble titles, but sold it over 150 years ago. This was a heartfelt moment, but perhaps is was too naive. The event was covered by the Mexican and international media, but one should wonder the impact it could really have beyond the wow factor. Acosta said: “It’s not that there were good people and bad people. It’s that, that’s the way things were done”. Excuse us? 

This was a tender media moment, and it is an ideal scenario in terms of reconciliation. But how much can an act like this actually mean?

Pignatelli told Acosta: “I want to ask your forgiveness for all the bad things that happened. We need to leave the past behind us. Today is a day for leaving all the bad things in the past”.

This apology sounds all fine and dandy, but what does it mean for today’s world?

Acosta said: “We are the fusion of two cultures, the European and ours. We are the result of that meeting, the vast majority of us have Spanish and Mexican blood”.

And what Acosta said is true. Today’s Mexico is made up of a melange of heritages that extends far beyond Spain and the Aztec Empire. On the indigenous side there is Olmec, Mixtec, Maya, Tarahumara and many, many other ethnic groups that are often forgotten and still live under precarious conditions, akin to colonial times. On the European side, there have been German, French, Portuguese, European Jewish and all sorts of migrations. So Mexican identity is much more than an Aztec/Spanish dichotomy. 

Now AMLO is asking for an apology… again.

Pignatelli’s apology is something that the current Mexican president AMLO would like to hear from the Spanish Crown. His government’s ideology is based on a look into history and the many debts accumulated towards the marginal sectors of Mexican society. Among them, of course, are indigenous Mexicans.

He said: “I still ask the king of Spain and Pope Francis, humbly, that they apologize for the abuses committed during the conquest and the colonial domination”. This would be a merely symbolic act, as economic elites dominate the country regardless, oftentimes, of race.

Also, this view perpetuates the us vs them political imaginary that perhaps ends up not being very productive at all. But then again, AMLO’s ideological postulates are based on a revisionist approach to history.