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On Memorial Day, we commemorate the service of those who have served on behalf of our country and have given the ultimate sacrifice. We should honor and remember these brave men and women, not just by honoring their sacrifice, but by recognizing who they were. This Memorial Day, we should take a moment to remember all those who served and gave their lives since the founding of this great nation, including our Latino servicemen and women.
• American Revolution: During the American Revolution, soldiers from Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic fought along side of the colonists for independence. There were many acts of courage and sacrifice by Latinos during the war, with Bernardo de Galvez leading a diverse Army and contributing to General George Washington’s success at Yorktown.
• World War II: Half a million Latinos served in the Armed Forces during WWII, and more than 9,000 Latinos gave their lives in defense of our country. Eleven Latinos received the Congressional Medal of Honor, including Marine PFC Guy “Gabby” Gabaldon who single-handedly captured over 1,000 enemy soldiers in the summer of 1944, more than anyone else has in the history of military conflicts.
• Korean War: Just over 300 Latinos gave their lives during the Korean War, with eight Latinos awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their bravery. The 65th Infantry Regiment – a Puerto Rican regiment – participated in nine major campaigns, captured 2,086 enemy soldiers, and killed 5,095. Individual members of this regiment were awarded four Distinguished Service Crosses and 124 Silver Stars.
• Vietnam War: In Vietnam, 80,000 Latinos served with distinction, with one out of every three Latinos wounded and one out of every five Latinos killed in action. In addition, fourteen Latinos were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for their bravery. Navy Lt. Everett Alvarez became the first American prisoner of war, and remained so for over eight years, the longest confirmed POW in American history. The last American to leave Vietnam was Msgt. Juan J. Valdez, who served at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and departed by helicopter on April 30, 1975.
• Iraq and Afghanistan: As of July 31, 2006, there were 24,188 Latino officers and enlisted soldiers deployed, with more than 360 Latinos sacrificing their lives for this country in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the first combat casualty of the Iraq war was a Latino – Marine Lance Corporal Jose Antonio Gutierrez, who died on March 21, 2003.
Latinos have and continue to serve and sacrifice to protect the American way of life for all. In fact, Latinos have received more Purple Heart medals than any other ethnic group.
Source: The website of Senator Robert Menendez
The UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center announced in March 2009 that the public can now access the Arhoolie Foundation’s Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings (http://frontera.library.ucla.edu) — the largest online digital archive of its kind. The archive is financed in part by a $500,000 donation by Los Tigres del Norte Foundation.
Los Tigres del Norte bandleader Jorge Hernández said, “Los Tigres del Norte is very proud to have been a part of the preservation of so many historic recordings from our musical forebears.
“This collection will provide the next generation of Mexican and Mexican American music artists with previously unimaginable access to our rich cultural history, and in doing so, will help them expand the appreciation of Spanish-language music even further in the future.”
The archive includes more than 41,000 recordings and is a treasure trove of historical Spanish-language songs dating from the early 1900s to the 1950s.
Los Tigres Del Norte are the undisputed legends or “Los Jefe’s de Jefes” of Norteno music. Billboard magazine declared the family of musicians as the world’s “most influential regional Mexican group… Los Tigres Del Norte are not just a popular musical act …. Instead, they’re widely viewed as the voice of the people.” Los Tigres Del Norte have been singing border stories for more than [four] decades”. In fact, the year 2008 marked the 40th anniversary of Los Tigres Del Norte. In this time, Los Tigres have recorded more than 500 songs over the course of nearly 60 albums, have sold over 35 million albums around the world, received countless Platinum records and numerous awards—including multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy awards and the Latin Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Beyond the album and concert sales though, what truly makes the legendary Los Tigres Del Norte the most significant Regional Mexican group in the world, is their unquestioned role as the leading voice of the immigrant community. According to The Los Angeles Times, “Los Tigres is the most enduring binational band today because it hears the humble… Los Tigres [are] the most perceptive chroniclers of the Mexican American experience. In song, they reflect its most personal feelings, and [take] the side of these millions of immigrants who are voiceless on both sides of the border.
On March 18, the HBO cable television network premiered “Walkout,” a film based on the 1968 protest by thousands of Mexican American students from five East Lost Angeles high schools.
On March 27, some 40,000 high school students in Southern California walked out to protest of anti-immigration legislation. “Walkout” director Edward James Olmos was right when he said the struggle for equality and civil rights is far from over.
Back in 1968, Latino students were tired of racial injustice, discrimination in the school system and lack of equal opportunities. The youth came together and led a multi-school walkout that became part of the rising Chicano movement. “Walkout” shares that historic story.
The movie shows how students organized walkouts after lobbying the school board for improved facilities, bilingual education, revised textbooks and the ability to speak Spanish in class without being reprimanded.
The youth-led movement, inspired by the civil rights movement, also demanded implemention of a curriculum that included Latin American history, and elimination of janitorial work as punishment.
“Our schools are the back of the bus,” yelled one student leader in the movie.
The walkouts were peaceful demonstrations that erupted into unnecessary acts of violence when an overzealous and aggressive racist police force beat and arrested unarmed students.
An outraged community was awakened and a fight for justice was born that first got parents involved, then community leaders, eventually forcing the school board to pay attention.
In the end the Chicano movement produced real changes, increasing Latino college enrollment by nearly 25 percent two years after the protest.
Moctesuma Esparza, who produced the film, was a college student at the time.
He was one of the main organizers of the student walkouts of that time and was arrested with 12 others — “East L.A. 13,” as they became known. All were eventually acquitted.
“I remember, growing up in the ’50s, when someone said you were ‘Mexican’ it was almost like being slapped in the face,” the 57-year-old recalled in a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle.
Esparza went on to say, “How one’s ancestry could be pejorative is hard to grasp today, but there have been people who have experienced discrimination and overcame it, and that’s one of the things we were looking to do, to stand up for our rights and be treated like all other Americans.
“The free speech movement of ’64 at Berkeley, the civil rights movement of Dr. Martin Luther King, what Cesar Chavez was doing in the fields and the growing women’s movement were all very vivid examples to us.
“There was a feeling we could change the world,” he concluded. “That’s what protected and motivated us.”
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Author: Pepe Lozano
The Reel Work May Day Labor Film Festival takes place in California’s central coast communities in and around Santa Cruz each year during the week of May First.
Reel Work presents cultural events, bringing together award-winning documentary film producers, workers, activists, students, and the public with the goal of increasing community awareness of the central role of work in our lives, to discuss economic and global justice issues, and to bring alive the history and culture of the labor movement in the US and abroad. We highlight how workers and community members band together in united effort for mutual benefit to achieve justice and dignity in the streets, fields, and workshops.
Cinematic representations of labor each year include local and international works, world premieres as well as classics. We inspire festival participants to join in the struggle for worker rights locally, nationally and globally to achieve social justice and international solidarity.
Reel Work was founded in 2002. Credit goes to Myrna Cherin and Ginny Hirsch, long-time union activists and members of the Retirees Chapter of SEIU Local 415 in Santa Cruz. To make a little money for their retirees group, they had the idea of showing some movies honoring union organizing, which they mentioned to the then-President of the SEIU Local, who had also been looking for a way for union members to learn their own history. It was obvious to everyone involved in the project that most opportune date for such a festival would be May Day, celebrated worldwide as International Workers Day.
Made in L.A. is an Emmy award-winning feature documentary (70 min) that follows the remarkable story of three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment sweatshops as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections from trendy clothing retailer Forever 21. In intimate observational style, Made in L.A. reveals the impact of the struggle on each woman’s life as they are gradually transformed by the experience. Compelling, humorous, deeply human, Made in L.A. is a story about immigration, the power of unity, and the courage it takes to find your voice.
Three immigrant women come together at L.A.’s Garment Worker Center to take a stand for their rights. Against all odds, these seemingly defenseless workers launch a very public challenge (a lawsuit and a boycott) to one of the city’s flagship clothiers, calling attention to the dark side of low-wage labor north of the U.S.-Mexico border and revealing the social fault lines of the new globalization.
As seen through the eyes of María, Maura, and Lupe, the workers’ struggle for basic economic justice and personal dignity yields hope and growth, but it is also fraught with disappointments and dangers. As the campaign drags on through three long years, meetings at the Garment Worker Center become more contentious and the women undergo dramatic moments of conflict and discouragement. But then the story takes a surprising turn, and the three women find the strength and resources to continue their struggle.
For Lupe, Maura and María, the long campaign is a turning point from victimization to empowerment, and each makes life-changing decisions that they never could have envisioned.
To see where there will be a film screening near you click here.