New film series on Latino Americans on PBS

There is a new documentary series on PBS on Latino Americans that starts airing Tuesday September 17th. I thought it would be good for our audience to be aware of it. This post could also be a discussion space for commentaries and reviews about the film. The following article appeared in the New York Times.  intro by Nat Winn


The Hidden History of a Substantial Minority

‘Latino Americans,’ a Six-Hour PBS Documentary

by Anita Gates

Have you ever heard about the American pilot who took off from an aircraft carrier on Dec. 7, 1941, for a routine check of its next port, Pearl Harbor? His last words were a desperate "Hold your fire" message, just before he was shot down — no one is sure by which side — as one of the first American casualties of World War II. That was Ensign Manuel Gonzales, as viewers will learn through "Latino Americans," an important and enlightening three-part, six-hour PBS documentary that begins on Tuesday night.

Then there was the soldier who in 1836 shouted, "Remember the Alamo!" and led a regiment in Sam Houston's Republic of Texas Army to victory over Santa Anna's Mexican forces. You know: Juan Seguín. And the World War II hero who won the Silver Star for capturing 1,500 Japanese prisoners of war. That was Guy Gabaldon, a Mexican-American who, in the movie about his exploits ("Hell to Eternity," 1960), was played by the blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter.

For those who sometimes imagine that Latinos arrived in the United States in the 1950s, just in time to audition for "West Side Story," it is a particular revelation that Latino American history goes back quite a bit further and has been, to a distressing degree, Anglo-washed. The documentary's story moves along quickly, though: by the third hour, Dr. Hector Garcia is working with the Johnson administration in the 1960s.

"Latino Americans" is the kind of polished, intelligent documentary series that PBS does so well. The format is a traditional one now, with vintage film clips, zooms and pans of old paintings and photographs, and an assortment of thoughtful talking heads. But this time, those heads belong to historians named García, Montejano and Ruiz; political organizers named Gutierrez, Velásquez and Esparza; academics named Padrón; and journalists named Suárez and Salinas. Adriana Bosch, the documentary's Emmy Award-winning producer, moved to the United States from Cuba in 1970.

Most of the time, we meet the successful adults — like the actress-singer-dancer Rita Moreno, whose acceptance of her Oscar in 1962 we see at least three times — and then are familiarized with their backgrounds. Ms. Moreno was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York with her mother when she was 5. In one case, though, we hear about an activist's early years first. In 1946 a Navy war veteran everyone called C. C. desegregated a movie theater in Delano, Calif., just by taking a seat one night in the middle section with the Anglos. After this story, we learn that C. C. was Cesar Chavez.

By the middle of the 21st century, there are expected to be about 127 million Latino-Americans, nearly 30 percent of the projected United States population. Some Latinos see today as "the Hispanic moment" and urge that opportunities be seized now or lost.

The second and third parts of "Latino Americans," whose subjects include Chavez, the Chicano movement, the Dominican Republic, Central America, the battles against bilingualism and the Mariel boat lift, will be shown next Tuesday and on Oct. 1.

Latino Americans

On PBS stations on Tuesday nights (check local listings).

Produced by WETA Washington, Bosch & Company Inc. and Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB). Jeff Bieber and Dalton Delan, executive producers for WETA; Sandie Viquez Pedlow, executive producer for LPB; Adriana Bosch, series producer; Salme Lopez, supervising producer; Nina Alvarez, Dan McCabe, Ray Telles and John Valadez, producers; Sabrina Avilés, Yvan Iturriaga and Monika Navarro, associate producers. For re-enactment sequences: David Belton and Sonia Fritz, directors; Cathleen O'Connell, producer. Benjamin Bratt, narrator.


DREAMers block deportation bus in Phoenix

There are points where the oppressive nature of this society cannot be easily masked by its rulers and those under the boot of that society at first seeking legal remedies to ameliorate unjust conditions are driven to more radical means and ideas to fight against their oppression. Late on August 21st, Dreamers in Phoenix successfully turned back a deportation bus leaving an ICE center. It was a bold and heroic action with great implications for what the future may hold in store. The following article was posted on the website Popular Resistance. Video footage of the action can be found here. - (intro by Nat Winn) 

Dreamers Stop Deportation Bus In Phoenix

August 22 – Late last night, leaders from United We Dream and the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, an affiliate of United We Dream, engaged in unprecedented civil disobedience and escalated action to stop a bus in the middle of deportation proceedings at the Phoenix Removal and Detention Facility, the ICE post in downtown Phoenix. Six heroic DREAMers sat in front of the bus for more than two hours, before the bus finally retreated back into the ICE complex.

Last night's action shone a spotlight on ongoing detentions and deportations and the urgent need for the Obama administration to stop separating our families and for Congress to deliver real immigration reform.

Over one hundred people encircled the ICE facility until well after midnight to shut down operations and ongoing deportations, before local police arrested two leaders. Those arrested included undocumented youth activist in Arizona, Jose Patino and Ray Jose, a United We Dream leader and recent DACA recipient from Maryland. After being flooded with phone calls demanding the release of the two DREAMers, authorities released both Jose and Patino..

"I am doing this because I am so fed up with people playing games with our lives," said Ray Jose. "My mom and my dad are getting tired. My dad cannot do physical labor any more. It is for the sake of my family, who sacrificed so much for me, that I am ready to do this."

Last night's action was the climax of a week of action from Arizona Dream Act Coalition and United We Dream, including sustained presence outside the ICE facility, including civil disobedience, prayer vigils, press conferences, and Jericho Marches to protest the massive raids in Arizona on Saturday and to share the stories of families that are being separated everyday and the moral crisis in our communities. The escalation constitutes the next phase of UWD's campaign for immigration reform, ramping up pressure on Congress by calling attention to the inhumane separation of families happening every day.

"I did this for my mother, because she works more than anyone in my family, and for my family, because they deserve a chance to fulfil their dreams," said Arizona leader Jose Patino.

This action came only hours after four other heroic DREAM leaders were arrested for chaining themselves to a fence of the ICE complex, shutting down ICE operations. Those arrested were Yadira Garcia and Francisco Luna, who are DREAMer leaders with ADAC and UWD, as well as UWD National Coordinating Committee member Maria Castro and Alejandra Sanchez, a mother of both a U.S. citizen and DREAMers. For the first time, parents of DREAMers are coming forward to lead groundbreaking escalations and apply political pressure to Members of Congress alongside their children, immigrant youth activists.

These actions in Arizona are also targeting Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Congressman Ed Pastor (D-AZ) to urge them to help deliver immigration reform that halts aggressive, senseless enforcement practices, unites families, and creates a clear path to citizenship for Americans without papers. UWD is calling on Congress to act now on immigration reform, as well as challenging the Obama administration to immediately cease deportations and the separation of our families as Congress debates immigration reform..

As some in Congress suggest backwards measures like the so-called SAFE Act, and with Speaker Boehner coming out in support of this legislation yesterday, DREAMers will not let up pressure on elected officials. Bills like the SAFE Act would only lead to the "Arizonification" of the entire nation, implementing "show me your papers" policies nationwide and ramping up our already excessive enforcement system to criminalize all undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

"We cannot accept any legislative proposal that would amplify the pain our communities have been subjected to for decades while blocking our families from a path to citizenship," said Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream. "Terrorizing our communities or creating a permanent underclass is un-American and unacceptable."


The Arizona Dream Act Coalition is the largest immigrant youth led organization in the state of Arizona. Our mission is to have a nation full of educated and integrated immigrant youth. We are an affiliate of the United We Dream Network.

United We Dream is the first and largest immigrant youth-led network in the nation with 51 affiliate organizations in 25 states that organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. UWD's current priority is to win citizenship for the entire undocumented community and end senseless abuses and deportations.


World Series hero sparks debate with ‘I Just Look Illegal’ shirt

It’s rare these days when profesional athletes take progressive political stands, especially on a stage such as the world series champion’s parade. This happened last week on November 1st. We thought our readers should be aware of it and discuss it. We saw the article on

Triumphant Giants Pitcher Sparks Debate With ‘I Just Look Illegal’ Shirt

SAN FRANCISCO, US – The San Francisco Giants completed an epic 4-0 sweep against the Detroit Tigers to claim their second Major League Baseball World Series title.

However, since this impressive win, it has been one of their Relief Pitchers, Sergio Romo who has stolen the headlines.  Taking part in their celebratory parade through the streets of San Francisco, Romo was seen sporting a t-shirt that read “I just look illegal”.

Pictures of Romo’s shirt sparked immediate reaction, with some denouncing his use of the term ‘illegal’ and other praising what appears to be cheeky commentary relating to the recent number of laws passed in US states such as the infamous SB 1070 in Arizona.  Among other things, SB 1070 requires police to stop and detain anyone ‘when there is reasonable suspicion’ that they may be undocumented.  Latino and Civil Rights organizations have criticized this law as racist and unconstitutional.

Born in Brawley, California to Mexican parents, Romo has been part of the relief staff with the Giants since 2009, achieving impressive statistics including a 20-9 win-loss record, and ERA of 2.20 and 277 Strikeouts.  Romo was also one of the stars of the Giants post-season run, acting as the closer and recording striking out the final 3 batters to record the save and seal the Giants victory.

Romo is not the first baseball player to make a statement against this law. The Major League Baseball Players Association came out against this law, stating that “If the current law goes into effect, the MLBPA will consider additional steps necessary to protect the rights and interests of our members.”  The number of Latino players in Major League Baseball has surged in the last two decades, jumping from 13 percent in 1990 to 28.3 percent in 2011.

Interview: Young immigrant communist on Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn

Locking arms and dancing together at the Resistance Festival 2012. photo credit: Eric Ribellarsi

This summer, I spoke with a young Albanian communist who is a member of the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE). The interview starts with  her own story, then moves to the notoriously anti-immigrant group Golden Dawn and her thoughts on revolutionary strategy in the 21st century.

“How do we meet the basic needs of the people in a way that leads to our final goal of communism.”

“The people must come to administer the society themselves, rather than having a group of people administer it for them.

“KOE has a view of emancipation through participation. The people must know that their participation in the movements is a part of them coming to administer the society.

“I want to say that my views on Golden Dawn have been mainly shaped by my orientation as a communist in KOE. I don’t fight them in the struggle as Eva the immigrant, but as Eva, the member of KOE.

“Golden Dawn is a social problem. Golden Dawn came to prominence through the absence of the Left. The Left has offered no reasonable answer or program to the people in relationship to immigration. At this point, there is an immigration question related to huge numbers of migrants who have come, but cannot be assimilated by theGreek society.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Eric Ribellarsi: Can you tell me about how it was that you came to Greece?

Eva Z.: I was born in Albania in 1989. I came to Greece when I was ten years old. We came here by accident. My father’s friend made us a visa to come to Greece, and found a job that paid more than we could make in Albania.

My father couldn’t afford for me and my sister to go to a university in Albania, so we came here. Immigration now has fallen substantially, and many people are now going back to Albania.

It has been very difficult because of the racism here, and when I came here I could not speak Greek. We did not have friends. My parents would work all the time, and my sister and I focused on going to a language school. There was a particular racism against immigrants during this time, and there were almost no other immigrants in my school. Racism kept me from having many relationships.

When I joined the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE), I was nineteen. My sister joined when she was fifteen. My cousin joined when she was fifteen too.

During the December 2008 rebellion, I participated in many occupations, and I decided that I would join KOE. KOE spoke of a unity of left, and tried to overcome divisions of groups working independently. No other group worked in this way. At that time, I wasn’t very familiar with the ideologies of Stalin, Mao, and Trotsky which divided the movement, and I didn’t care.

In the time since then, KOE has been much more advanced than the rest of the left. Its positions have been adopted by the other organizations months and even years after KOE developed them.

The rest of the left and the system were constantly attacking KOE even though we are a relatively small organization. We are not an organization that is interested empty revolutionary slogans, but rather sound revolutionary practice.

Eric Ribellarsi: So what about today? How is the situation now?

Eva Z: At this point, I’m a student in Greece. The difficulties I’m facing are very similar to the difficulties of the other Greek students. My parents don’t have the same rights that the Greeks have. And like most Greeks, they don’t have a job.

We face the difficulty of racism. The children of immigrants won’t say they are immigrants because of the racism. And we have to deal with being forced to use different ID cards. We don’t tell people we are immigrants. It is the only way to have ties with the community here.

Eric Ribellarsi: So, many people internationally have heard a great deal about the Nazi political party called Golden Dawn. One evening here in Greece, we ourselves saw a Golden Dawn attack on people in a bus.

Could you share your thought on this party?

Eva Z.: Golden Dawn is a Neo-Nazi party that mainly organizes in the middle schools and high schools where the left has not been present, something the Golden Dawn has taken advantage of.

High school students face the lack of ability to get a job, social problems at home, and many other problems where the left is absent. Golden Dawn takes advantage of these problems by saying that immigrants are the source of all the social-ills.

My appearance allows me to hide from groups like Golden Dawn.

I want to say that my views on Golden Dawn have been mainly shaped by my orientation as a communist in KOE, more than being an immigrant. I don’t fight them in the struggle as Eva the immigrant, but as Eva, the member of KOE.

Golden Dawn is a social problem. Golden Dawn came to prominence through the absence of the Left. The Left has offered no reasonable answer or program to the people in relationship to immigration. At this point, there is an immigration question related to huge numbers of migrants who have come, but cannot be assimilated by Greek society.

Eva Z. at a communist festival in Crete. photo credit: Eric Ribellarsi

The previous Greek Left relied on empty slogans like “immigrants are our brother and sisters” which are of course true, but which lack political substance and don’t get at the actual essence of the contradiction.

More recently, the Left has adopted positions on opposing the Dublin II treaty, which demands that the Greek government not give travel papers to the refugees who come here.

Golden Dawn grew by being the only political force that would raise questions of national sovereignty and patriotism, which the Left refuses to acknowledge. When the Left does this, it yields territory to Golden Dawn.

Many people voted for Golden Dawn as a punishment to the parties that passed the memorandum. People on the Left did not vote for Golden Dawn. The voters of Golden Dawn are people on the right who are against the memorandum who do not want the rise of the Left.

A lot of people actually believed that if they entered the parliament, they would beat and attack the two main political parties of Greece.

I believed that Golden Dawn’s electoral percentage would fall in these elections, but it did not. KOE has not yet been able to have a conversation about this.

Golden Dawn is over-emphasized. Let me point out that the Italian fascist right consistently gets more votes than the Golden Dawn, and Golden Dawn is much smaller than parties like SYRIZA or even the other far-right parties. Half of the riot police may have voted for Golden Dawn, but really, the riot police beat us with or without the Golden Dawn.

The riot police cultivate an ideology of beating elderly people and students. They are a separate unit of the police that has voluntary recruitment, with a very difficult brainwashing training. The riot police are brainwashed fanatics.

For many years, Golden Dawn has been carrying out actions against immigrants in buses. Now after the elections, they believe that their attacks are legalized.

These attacks are the result of the Left not providing a program and solution to the questions of economy and immigration in Greece. The most important thing for dealing with the Golden Dawn attacks is developing the organization of the people.

Eric Ribellarsi: I’d like to ask you a side question… Could you share with me your thoughts on Albania, and the history of the communist movement in that country?

Eva Z: There are many differences.

While I did not live in Albania under Enver Hoxha, I am familiar with the right-wing propaganda after the collapse of that regime. The bourgeoisie used anti-Enver Hoxha propaganda to destroy the Left and all communist organization. But the truth is that quality of life of everyone was actually much better with Enver Hoxha. But there were also real problems of democracy and free speech in that society.

Very small countries like Albania and Greece have problems of dependence. It is very difficult to have socialism in such a society. The international environment has a major impact on these societies. The balance of powers is now very different, and socialism will have to look very different.

The main question is: How do we meet the basic needs of the people in a way that leads to our final goal of communism. The people must come to administer the society themselves, rather than having a group of people administer it for them.

KOE has a view of emancipation through participation. The people must know that their participation in the movements is a part of them coming to administer the society.

We must study history, and learn what went wrong in China and the Soviet Union, socially and economically. We must take lessons from these attempts, both good and bad. We have to recognize the conditions are very different, that revolution in 21st century will be very different, and socialism in the 21st century will look very different.

The international situation for a socialist country will look very different, and KOE will become a new kind of organization before that can happen. It will have to play a very different role than the organizations of the past. Will it become a party? We still don’t know.

For example, we are not explicitly against the form of the socialist state of the 20th century, but we also think this kind of form is very unlikely in a society like Greece. The form of socialism for Greece we still do not know. These days, time is very compressed, and things are changing very quickly.

It’s my personal opinion that the production relations in Greece are very different from societies like Russia and China. In the first world countries, the superstructure plays a much higher role, even in a peripheral first world country like Greece. The middle class is becoming impoverished. Their ideology and mentality is shaped by this, and to create socialism we must first reconstruct the culture of the people.

The Cultural Revolution is a big inspiration of the relationship between the communists and the masses. It exposes how the communist movement can overcome the rightist turns of communist parties. Some say the solution is gulags. Some say the solution is to duck our heads to counter-revolution.

Under historical circumstances, these choices were pursued by the communist movement. And we don’t want to judge them out of their historical contexts.

The Cultural Revolution also points to the importance of the mass line, “from the masses, to the masses.” In the squares, we used the symbol of the helicopter. The left thought it was politically immature, and that instead we should put forward ideology.

In the Chinese revolution, they had to cooperate with the GMD. They had to form united fronts. KKE in Greece thinks that fronts should be formed on the basis of one self. ANTARSYA thinks only the anti-capitalists should unite. We think very differently.

Solidarity healthcare to reconstruct Greek society

Tabling for solidarity healthcare at the communist Festival in Crete. photo: Eric Ribellarsi

"Maria made an important distinction:

“What we are doing is solidarity, not charity. There are many NGOs who come here like Doctors Without Borders, but what we are doing is very different.”

"...The solidarity healthcare is politicized and coupled with a view that this is a part of the resistance to the E.U. and I.M.F. rulers of Greece. And it is also a part of KOE’s view of 'reconstruction of the society.'”

This is part of the reporting by the Winter Has Its End team exploring revolutionary politics and possibilities in Greece this summer.

by Sara Khaled

HERAKLION, CRETE - I sat down at a small table in a café with two comrades from the Communist Organization of Greece (KOE), Maria and Lefteris.

Maria and Lefteris have been pivotal in the initiation of the Social Solidarity Medical Center of Heraklion, a free healthcare center that has emerged in response to the austerity measures to public healthcare.

This center began after the Squares movement, initially to provide healthcare, mostly, for the undocumented. As the socio-economic landscape of the country has changed dramatically over the past couple years, the center has had to expand its services to many Greeks that have little to no income. Bathing in the always bright sun of Heraklion, I learned about the devastation of the people’s healthcare and the collective responses to it.

Maria and Lefteris tell us that the Social Solidarity Medical Center of Heraklion began in resistance to the neo-liberalization of the health sector. Maria says that the basis for this center actually emerged during the Squares Movement of Greece in 2011. Doctors and medical assistants were organized to care for those injured by the police brutality and heavy street fighting.

[Editors note: In European politics, the word "liberal" has a different meaning from the U.S. Liberal policies mean "free market" policies. The phrase "neo-liberalization of the health sector" means the privatization of the health sector.]

Initiators of the center used these foundations to create a medical center in the capitol city of Crete, Heraklion. The center was initially created to provide healthcare for undocumented immigrants for the large part, who had a harder time accessing free healthcare.

Since the continual implementation and stress of the budget cuts to healthcare, however, the scope of the center has expanded to providing care for the lowest strata of people who have no income, which now includes many Greeks. Our KOE comrades explain to us that although the center has been busy since its implementation, the volume of patients seeking care has rapidly snowballed.


Sweden: Immigrant youth form Panther-inspired organization

Press the CC button in the playerwindow to turn on english subtitles.

(Thanks to Kim from Goteborg for suggesting this.)

"Don't treat us like animals"


Immigrant workers in Greece: A force for revolution and reconstruction

Mariya writes:

"Could you please elaborate on the contention surrounding immigration? it is not clear from the article how Syriza or KOE treat migrant seasonal and domestic labor in greece country that has long attracted such workforce from the region."



Eric Ribellarsi replies from Athens:

Mariya, at some point, we are planning to travel to Patra, a port city where many immigrants go to try to get papers and leave Greece to the E.U. This city is also a place where Golden Dawn comes to terrorize them. Hopefully we should have a more complete view of these questions at that point.


But let me ake a few points though that I hope will be interesting and helpful:

1. Migrant workers actually really don’t come here to work. There is no work, and the unemployment rate is around 50% for people under 25.

2. A huge number of people, however, have traveled here to attempt to get work papers that they can use to enter the E.U. and work. Unlike immigrants in a country like the U.S., these workers are trying to leave, not stay, which creates a very different set of circumstances and contradictions.


Prison rebellion in Mississippi: Illegal people in a criminal society

Lauren Wood/The Natchez Democrat, via Associated Press
Police on Sunday surrounded a Natchez, Miss., prison for illegal immigrants.

Typical media one-liner: "There was no immediate word on what sparked the riot."

But we all know the reasons: This is a prison for undocumented immigrants. Its very existence is unjust and intolerable. And the people trapped there suffered inhumane conditions, raw racism, hopelessness, and the courage to rebel.

What are we doing? What are we saying?... to amplify their voices, to support their struggle, to end such mistreatment?

Thanks to Greg A. for pointing this out in the Chicago Tribune. Anyone with more info, or voices of the prisoners themselves, please add links or news below in a comment.

Inmates riot in Mississippi prison, one guard killed

by Karen Brooks


(Reuters) -May 21 - Inmates seized control of a privately owned prison in Mississippi on Sunday after riots broke out, and a guard was killed in the chaos in the low security facility, authorities said.

Adams County Coroner James Lee said the 23-year-old guard died of blunt trauma to the head during the riot at the Adams County Correctional Center, a privately owned prison that houses mostly illegal immigrants for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.


Greece: Police beating of immigrant

So very familiar. So very outrageous. So very intolerable.

Hands off Carlos Montes!

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression has created a video on the life of Carlos Montes, and the fight to beat back the attempt to jail him.

Montes is a veteran Chicano activist known for his leadership of the 1968 East Los Angeles student walkouts, the historic Chicano Moratorium against the U.S. war in Vietnam, and the recent immigrants’ rights mega-marches of 2006. Montes was a co-founder of the Brown Berets. In recent years he has be active in the anti war, Chicano, labor and immigrant rights movements. He currently one of the 24 anti war and international solidarity activists who have been targeted by the FBI, and is scheduled to go on trial May 15.

The video urges people to call Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, at 213-974-3512 to demand that all charges against Montes be dropped.

“Everyone should see this video and share it with their friends. It‘s the inspiring story of a heroic activists, Carlos Montes, who facing an FBI frame up. We can’t let him go to prison,” says Jess Sundin of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.