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Independiente

Fall 2015

Fall 2015

A publication of the University of Arizona School of Journalism

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South Tucson at


South Sixth Avenue and City Hall, lower right, in South Tucson in an earlier time.

Photos Courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star

El Independiente Staff School of Journalism, University of Arizona Photo Editor Aidan Heigl Copy Chief Karen Schaffner Newsroom Manager Julian Cronen Spanish Editor Karen Lizarraga

Reporters: Kendal Blust Julian Cronen Emily Ellis Valeria Flores Aidan Heigl Jennifer Hijazi Karen Lizarraga Emily Maloney Amanda Martinez Maxie Ruan Silvia Sanchez Karen Schaffner

Faculty Advisor Maggy Zanger Design Advisors Annie Dickman Gawain Douglas

Translation by the Translation and Interpretation Program of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Editor: Lizeth D. Castellanos. Translators: Maritza Flores and Hiriana N. Gallegos.

Cover photo by Jennifer Hijazi. A lantern lights an ofrenda at Mercado San AugustĂ­n. 2

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Fall 2015 | Issue 5


Ballet Folklorico Tapatío practices a dance.

Table of Contents

South Tucson at 75 4 Letter from the Editors

32 One of the Last Yoeme Artists 33 Boots Crafted for a Cowboy

Historia

Arte y Cultura

5 Yaqui and Tohono O’odham Nations: A Central Part of South Tucson Culture 8 Southside Presbyterian: More than 100 Years of Fighting for Social Justice 13 The Chinese Neighborhood Market: A Vanishing Era

Gente y Lugares

16 Familiar Faces: Perspectives of Life in South Tucson 20 Explorers Get Hands-on Experience 21 Jovenes Reciben Práctica Policial 22 If You Can Sit on It, He Can Cover It 23 Sam Lena Library: Beyond Books 24 Arlene Lopez Puts Community First 25 Center Continues to Inspire 26 Casa Maria Nourishes South Tucson 27 Sister José: More Than Shelter Since 28 Sister José es Más Que Una Casa 30 Since1944 Greyhound Racing Entertains Tucsonans Fall 2015 | Issue 5

Photo by Aidan Heigl

35 Día de los Muertos is a Time for Remembering Lost Loved Ones 38 Appreciation or Appropriation? A Fine Line Between Participation and Disrespect 40 Art Panocha is ‘Doing what?’ 42 Vox Urbana Sings of Struggle to a Beat that Raises Hope 44 Tapatío, like the Sauce, Spices Up Latino Culture

La Frontera

45 Hotline Aids Families of Missing Border Crossers 48 Línea de ayuda a los familiares 51 Families Unite Across Border 52 Group Defends and Advocates for Transgender Detainees 54 Borrando la Frontera: Art on the U.S.-Mexico Border

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From the editors:

The Pueblo at 75

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as a time. There was a time in South Tucson, like in much of America, when neighbors took care of each other. Someone lost a job. Or needed a place to live. Or needed medical care. Just a bit of help. And neighbors pitched in and helped however they could. Nobody had much, but families shared what they had. There was a time when the nuclear family was the norm. Dan Eckstrom, the former mayor, remembers. Others remember. But even then, families came in different sizes and shapes and all parents tended to all the kids in the neighborhood. The kids showed respect to those parents – all of them. They knew they had to. “We used to know each other,” Eckstrom says, “so we had to be respectful.” Neighborhood kids played outside ’till they knew it was time to go home for dinner. And then after dinner, if they were lucky, there’d be a streetlight and they

could hang out under it and play into the darkness. When families couldn’t afford textbooks, there were fundraisers. “Lots of fundraisers,” Eckstrom recalls. So kids could move on from Mission View Elementary and pay for high school textbooks. Hot dog sales, bake sales. And the Big One: La Fiesta de la Placita. Always money to be made there. Money to allow kids to move on to Pueblo High. Generations of families perpetuated a unique Mexican-American border culture. Chinese immigrants founded businesses. Native Americans from far flung parts of the Arizona-Sonoran Desert found freedom and safety. African-Americans found common cause. More recent immigrants from Central America found a language and culture they felt comfortable in. The neighborhood slowly changed. TV arrived. Children found Game Boys and Play Stations. Bars opened. Drugs came. Prostitutes came. The city government struggled with financial desolation, law-

The establishment of the Sam Lena Library in 1986 was a success for South Tucson.

suits and corruption. Families struggled to keep kids out of gangs and in schools. Social service agencies moved in to replace the neighborhood families. But many kids did go on to Pueblo or Tucson High. Some went on to the university or to start businesses or moved into politics and social services. They took the neighborhood with them. And they came back. They remembered la gente, the people who helped each other out. And they returned home to embrace it, enhance it and make it a better place. They wrote grants, they joined El Movimiento, they fought for neighborhood centers, ran for school boards, organized neighborhood watch groups, and demanded libraries. They remembered the best values and qualities of the place they came from and sought to move them to the fore. “There are a lot of people who want to serve and help,” says teacher Grace Beltran. Today, as the city of South Tucson struggles to avoid financial ruin, residents like Manuela Estrella still welcome all comers to her chapel in her front yard. Dan Eckstrom, who retired from the Pima County Board of Supervisors in 2003, still sees Mission View from his house. “Our city is very welcoming,” Beltran says, “and very giving — always open to embrace new ideas to better ourselves.” Poet Madeline Kiser says it’s all about the people. “I am struck by the number of devoted people in the neighborhood groups who have decided to stay and belong. I think a lot of people are in it for the long run. Not looking out for themselves, but for the community.”

I Courtesy of the Sam Lena Library

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n this issue, we look at what it is that makes South Tucson a community. We look at the city in its 75th year and we salute the people and the places they have created that constitute the city at another turning point in its long life. We examine the art and culture that continues to nourish the people and we look at the border that continues to divide a shared culture.

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Arizona State Museum University of Arizona, George Iacono, Photographer

Mattachinis and Pascola-dance group dancing back and forth between Cruz Mayor and altar of church to bless ground for litter. U.S. flag and Pascua flag on church. 1965.

Yaqui and Tohono O’odham Nations: A Central Part of South Tucson Culture By Maxie Ruan

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n 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, got lost and landed in the New World, where he instigated the genocide of millions of indigenous people. That’s not exactly the story that’s taught in schools, but it’s a truth for indigenous people. The voyage and “discoveries” made by Christopher Columbus are celebrated in the United States on the second Monday of October. However, some cities have stopped celebrating Columbus and instead use the

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holiday to honor indigenous people. Earlier this year, South Tucson joined the movement and declared Indigenous People’s Day would be celebrated in place of Columbus Day. The proposal for the holiday was raised by the Indigenous Alliance Without Borders organization, and was supported by both the Pascua Yaqui and Tohono O’odham tribes. “Columbus was made a hero,” says Jose Matus, Yaqui elder and executive director of the organization. “We’ve been here since time immemorial. Columbus Day shouldn’t be cel-

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ebrated; Indigenous People’s Day should.” With the indigenous people being celebrated across South Tucson, it’s important to recognize the history of these tribes and how they came to be a part of the city.

A Brief History of the Tribes South Tucson is located in the traditional and contemporary homelands of the Pascua Yaqui and the Tohono O’odham tribes. The Yaqui’s original homelands were in what is now Sonora, Mexico. In the late 1800s,

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the Yaqui were forcibly removed from their homelands by the Mexican government and pushed into Yucatan and central Mexico. From there, many Yaquis fled north and into what is now Arizona, according to anthropologist Edward Spicer’s Yaqui Villages Past and Present. After 1922, many Yaquis settled in Tucson, mainly in New Pascua Village and Barrio Libre in South Tucson. They received federal recognition as a tribe in 1978. In more contemporary times, Matus says a majority of the Yaqui community in South Tucson has been separated, with many moving back to New Pascua Village nation, just south of Tucson. However, those who remain in South Tucson are still mainly concentrated in and around Barrio Libre. In addition to the Yaqui, the South Tucson area is also part of the ancestral homeland of the Tohono O’odham. The O’odham lived throughout the Sonoran Desert in both Arizona and Mexico prior to European contact, according to Tohono O’odham Fariseos at the Village of Kawori’k, an article by Thomas Kolaz, an assistant cura-

tor at the Arizona State Museum. Today, the O’odham are scattered across three reservations in Arizona, including the San Xavier Indian Reservation, southwest of Tucson. The San Xavier Indian Reservation was established in 1874, but was made the main Tohono O’odham reservation in 1917. The tribe created its first constitution in 1937, after the Indian Reorganization Act was passed, which forced the tribe onto the reservation. Due to its close proximity, the O’odham share living space within the South Tucson community. The Treaty of Guadalupe ended the Mexican-American War in 1848 and effectively divided members of both the Tohono O’odham and the Yaqui tribes into two countries. Members of both tribes were cut off from family with the new border, according to Eileen Firebaugh, an associate professor at the University of Arizona, in The Border Crossed Us: Border Crossing Issues of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. Even today, tribal members complain of harassment when they attempt to cross the border. Not only did the border affect free pas-

Presence in South Tucson Components of the Tohono O’odham and Yaqui cultures are interlaced in the larger South Tucson community, from worship to cuisine to organizations. The Southside Presbyterian Church was originally known as the Papago Presbyterian Church and still offers services to the Tohono O’odham community. The church was founded in 1906 as a place of worship for members of the Tohono O’odham nation who were not yet widely accepted into the greater Tucson community. Even today a sign outside the church depicts the Man in the Maze, a traditional O’odham design symbolizing the journey of life. (See page 8.) The indigenous cultures are also present on the food scene of South Tucson. Café Santa Rosa, 3303 S. 12th Ave., special-

Photo by Amanda Martinez

Steve Cupis flips a frying popover at Cafe Santa Rosa.

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sage through ancestral homelands, but it also hindered both tribes’ ability to celebrate their cultures. It became difficult, for example, for Yaqui members on opposite sides of the border to come together and celebrate Easter.

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Mrs. Chico polishing a large water olla. Several pots ready to bake around her. 1943. izes in Tohono O’odham and Mexican cuisine, serving traditional fry bread and cemait, an O’odham tortilla. Café Santa Rosa was named after the O’odham village the mother of the owner, Sylvia Gonzales, grew up in. Gonzales’ mother taught her how to cook and when she opened the restaurant two years ago, she knew she wanted to serve the food she grew up with. “I love to cook,” Gonzales says. “I’ve always tried to learn what my mom had to teach.” The cafe specializes in the food that would be found at O’odham gatherings, including red chile con carne, beans, squash and cemait. All food is made from scratch. Their red chile, for example, is made from pods, not powder. The cemait is made fresh daily. In addition to Café Santa Rosa, the culture of the indigenous community was represented at the South Tucson’s celebration of its 75th anniversary in September. Many vendors offered Indian tacos and traditional art forms. Equally as important to Southside and Café Santa Rosa is the Indigenous Alliance Without Border, or Alianza Indigena Sin Fronteras. This organization was created in 1987 after members of the Yaqui and Tohono O’odham tribes grew frustrated with the difficulties they

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Arizona State Museum University of Arizona, Rosamond Spicer, Photographer

face when attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. “The organization was created to deal with border issues,” said Matus, the executive director of the organization. The mission of the group has grown beyond just border issues, according to Matus. The idea for Indigenous People’s Day came about in January 2015, when the organization began to discuss ways of celebrating native culture. “We as indigenous people were treated badly by Columbus and that’s never looked at,” Matus says. “We are who we are because of that and we shouldn’t celebrate it.” The idea of an Indigenous People’s Day was supported by the city of South Tucson, Tucson, the Pascua Yaqui tribe and the Tohono O’odham tribe. “A lot of people don’t know who we are or understand who we are,” he said. “We are trying to promote indigenous culture and language.” As for the future, Matus is hopeful the organization will continue to teach and inspire others to learn about Native cultures, particularly youths. “We hope to see the youth have that desire

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Arizona State Museum University of Arizona, George Iacono, Photographer

Pascola dancer with goat mask, which is rarely seen in Tucson. Other pascola dancers watch in background. 1955. to learn about their people,” he said. “We want to promote traditional languages and provide a forum for learning so they learn about their history.” From the establishment of Indigenous People’s Day to the small businesses and artisans striving to keep the Yaqui and Tohono O’odham cultures alive, the indigenous contributions to the community of South Tucson survives and thrives.

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Southside Presbyterian: More than 100 years of fighting for Social Justice and Human Rights in Tucson and Southern Arizona By Kendal Blust

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arly morning sunlight streams down from windows high in the smooth walls of the circular room, illuminating a wooden table in the center. The table is laid with a striped, multicolored cloth, white fringe dangling from the sides. Two votive candles flicker in the near silence. A pile of stones spill across the table’s surface. Each bears a name and a date. Each represents a migrant whose body was found in the desert this year —133 in all. This is Migrant Sunday at Southside Presbyterian Church: a worship service dedicated to honoring those who have died in Arizona’s borderlands. Southside Presbyterian Church is anchored on the border between Tucson and South Tucson. Originally built for Tohono O’odham Presbyterians due to social and political segregation, Southside has grown into an inclusive space and a hub for activism and social justice. From the civil rights movement to the Sanctuary Movement, Southside continues to redefine the role of the church in the community.

Inclusivity and Diversity While these days Southsiders pride themselves on inclusivity and diversity, that wasn’t always the case. Founded in 1906 as Papago Presbyterian Church, Southside was built for Tohono O’odham Presbyterians who were not accepted in the city of Tucson or its churches. Though they were needed as laborers on the railroads and in private homes, “Native Americans were considered to be less than civilized and Christian,” said the Rev. John Fife, pastor emeritus at Southside. “Literally, there were signs in Tucson that said, no dogs or Indians allowed in business establishments.” The church remained solely a Native American congregation for nearly four decades until the congregation invited the Rev. Peter

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Courtesy of Southside Presbyterian Church

Southside Presbyterian Church before it was renovated in 1993 to a Kiva style building. Samano to lead Southside in 1945. Samano accepted the position, under one condition. “He made it very clear that he would only do it if it was for a multicultural congregation,” said Teena Cross, 71, who joined the congregation in 1952, with her mother Mona Toombs. Toombs later became the church’s music director. Cross is a tall African-American woman with short hair and long, beautifully manicured fingernails. Like her mother, she is an active leader in the congregation. The presbytery pushed back against Samano’s suggestion at first, arguing that language and culture would be a barrier to mixing the congregation, according to Fife. But Samano prevailed and, for the first time, Southside became a multicultural church. Native American families, MexicanAmericans, African-Americans, some Chinese Americans and a few “adventurous whites” all worshiped together at a time when most churches were highly segregated, Cross said.

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As one of the only churches with a multicultural congregation, Samano wanted to “show them off” to the white churches in the community, Cross said. All the kids from the children’s choir piled into two small cars with pastor “Sammy” and her mother, the church’s music director, and drove to other parts of town to sing. “We just had fun,” Cross said, smiling fondly. “We got to ride in the car. We got to go across town. They would have goodies to eat.” It wasn’t until she got older that Cross realized the reason for these trips was to break down barriers. “You don’t know exactly where or how,” she said, “but you know that the exposure had some effect on the community at large.” At least that seemed to be Samano’s plan. Some of Cross’s favorite memories are from Mexican dinners the church held as fundraisers. “At a time when folks would never come to the south side of town, they would come from all of the Presbyterian churches for our

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Photo by Kendal Blust

Bandanas like those worn by people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are hung around the walls of the Kiva on Migrant Sunday at Southside Presbyterian Church. Mexican dinners,” Cross said. Then she added, laughing, “They wouldn’t necessarily stay, but they would come get a plate of food.” This kind of outreach was important during a time when Tucson still had distinct racial divisions. Samano used his congregation as evidence those divisions weren’t necessary. “This had all to do with Peter Samano’s ability to go out in the community and gain the trust and admiration of people,” Cross said. “He provided us with things we would not otherwise ever have experienced.”

Picketing with the Pastor After Samano, the Rev. Casper Glenn, was called as the pastor in 1957. An African-Amer-

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ican and the president of the local NAACP, Glenn brought the civil rights movement to Southside in full force. He led protests and brought the church members along, sometimes right after a worship service. “So we picketed and we marched and all of those types of things that were going on around the country at that time,” Cross said. Cross knows she didn’t really understand what it was all about as a child, but she knew she was limited, and it left an impact. “You don’t grow up being black and not know there are things you can and can’t do,” Cross said. “It’s still evident today.” In those days, it meant that Cross, her brother and their friends went to the House of Neighborly Services to swim, but never to the

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parks or pools north of 22nd Street. “You just knew that wasn’t for you.” Schools were segregated. So were parks, hotels, housing and restaurants. Just as Samano did before, Glenn continued to use church as a force for social change. And that’s what made Southside Presbyterian exactly the type of place the next pastor, the Rev. John Fife, wanted to be. Fife, who served as the pastor at Southside for 35 years, had joined the civil rights movement and marched with Dr. King as a student in seminary school. It changed his way of looking at the church and the community. “The church was a vital place of organizing and sustaining movements for social change,” Fife said. He wanted to test the role of the

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Photo by Kendal Blust

Stones representing people who died in the Arizona desert, candles and offerings surround the migrant shrine at Southside Presbyterian Church. church, and Southside’s strong, socially active congregation seemed like an ideal laboratory. But first, he had to face other challenges.

Rebuilding Community After Glenn left, the church changed. The leadership wasn’t as strong, and the church went without a pastor for about three years. The congregation shrunk to the point where the presbytery wanted to dissolve the church and combine it with another congregation. When Fife arrived, he and the congregation, which was fewer than 25 people at the time, wrote a proposal for the Presbytery to give them three years to rebuild the congregation. “And the church bought it,” he said. “It was an interesting beginning, but we were able to put it together and the church started to grow and we were in business,” Fife said. “I thought it was a great place to do ministry and I never changed my mind about that.” Fife reclines in his old office, sitting behind the desk with one cowboy-booted ankle crossed over the other knee. He abounds with stories, laughing as he talks about the success and struggles he’s seen over the years. He’s relaxed and at home here, describing himself as “unabashedly a gringo” who “ doesn’t have

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any illusions about who I am and the skills and history I bring.” His first step to bringing back a vital and active congregation was getting the music right, he said. A few months into his role as Southside’s pastor, Fife attended a gospel music concert at another Tucson church. Rosie Johnson was leading the music. “The next morning I was at her house, crying, begging. It was not a pretty sight,” Fife said. He convinced her to come to Southside, where she remained the music director for the next 25 years. “She lit it up around here,” he said. To Fife, black gospel music was a perfect fit for a congregation of people facing poverty and discrimination. For years, the church grew and was involved in local issues from fighting to build the El Rio Neighborhood Center, to working with the Manzo Area Council on legalizing the status of community members, to building low-income housing for Native American families. Then, Fife was called to a position in the Presbyterian National Church. While he remained the pastor at Southside, his new role required that he focus his attention elsewhere. Fife spent much of the 1970s working

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with the Presbyterian Church’s investments, pressuring powerful companies like Nestle and Coca Cola to make ethical decisions. His greatest success, he said, was getting General Motors to “divest from all of their plants and investments in South Africa during the Apartheid era,” Fife said. He learned a lot, and his congregation at Southside had continued to grow. By 1980, when he left his position at the national church, Southside was strong and viable, ready to take on the role that brought Southside into the national limelight a leader in the Sanctuary Movement.

Sanctuary Fife got involved with Central American refugees and asylum seekers early in the 1980s. “They were fleeing death squads and torture and massacres of villages. About 80,000 people were killed by military and government there during that time,” Fife said. Along with others, Fife was part of the legal aid community fighting to help people fleeing persecution receive legal status, something the United States government was resisting. “Then I made the mistake of getting involved with a Quaker by the name of Jim

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Corbett,” Fife said. Corbett convinced Fife that the only thing to do was to start smuggling people across the border, recalling the success of the abolition movement and the failures of churches in Europe during the Holocaust. Corbett said they couldn’t stand by and watch. “He had a pretty persuasive argument.” So in 1981, Fife, Corbett and a few others started bringing people across the U.S. border and letting them stay in their own homes. It wasn’t long before the Border Patrol realized what was going on. Threatened with indictment, Fife suggested they call it sanctuary. They knew they couldn’t stop, but thought this would at least bring them a base of support in the church and the community when they got indicted, he said. “Everybody thought it was a good idea if it was this church that tried it,” he said of Southside. The question was brought to the congregation, and after a long deliberation, only two members of the congregation voted against becoming a sanctuary church. But they weren’t indicted. Instead, to Fife’s astonishment, a movement started. “Other churches and synagogues got the idea of sanctuary as a way of public resistance to government violations of refugee rights and human rights,” Fife said. Southside Presbyterian had 50-100 Central Americans sleeping on the floor of the church every night. The flow of Salvadorans and Guatemalans fleeing violence and death continued through the 1980s. “There wasn’t anything else to do but keep going,” Fife said. They called it the new Underground Railroad, with more than 200 churches across the country offering sanctuary. Others churches helped move refugees between these havens. Universities and even entire cities joined the movement, too. “So the government decided to move against us,” Fife said. Undercover agents infiltrated Southside, pretending to be volunteers. In January 1985, 16 people were indicted for their participation in the movement, including Fife. “We were a real bunch of desperadoes.” Mainly pastors, priests, nuns and other religious people from Arizona, New Mexico and Ambos Nogales, they thought they had a great case, but two days before the trial, the judge ruled that the defense could say nothing about five subjects: U.S. refugee law, international refugee law, conditions in El Salvador, conditions in Guatemala, or religious faith. Under these restrictions, they didn’t fight the case. “There wasn’t much point,” Fife said. “So we were found guilty.”

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Photo by Kendal Blust

Southside was redesigned as a Kiva to honor the church’s indigenous roots. But during the trial the movement doubled in size, and the sentencing judge had a problem. “The government had gone to all this trouble to put us in jail to stop this sanctuary movement stuff. At the same time, he literally got thousands of letters from senators and congress people and human rights groups and church international groups on our behalf,” Fife said. “So he was really in dilemma about our sentencing.” In the end, they were all sentenced to five years of probation.They continued their work in the movement and brought a civil case against the U.S. government. When they got permission to put several government officials under oath, the justice department decided to negotiate a settlement, according to Fife. “The last thing they wanted was those guys to have to tell the truth under oath because, as we learned later, they were involved in all kinds of illegal and unconstitutional stuff going on in Central America during that time,” Fife said. The government agreed to stop deportations and give Salvadorans and Guatemalans temporary legal status. Then, in 1992, peace accords were signed in Central America. “That pretty well used up the ‘80s around here,” Fife said. Southside alone gave shelter to more than 13,000 Central Americans during that time.

No End to the Fight Even with the Sanctuary Movement over, Southside remained involved in social justice issues.

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“The next human rights crisis that emerged on the border was, of course, the walls and the border enforcement strategy that has led to the literally thousands of deaths out here in the Sonoran desert,” Fife said. The church helped start several organizations to address these issues that continue working in Tucson as non-profits: Border Links, Humane Borders and No More Deaths. Among Southside’s current efforts are the Cross Streets program that provides meals and showers for homeless and migrant people two days a week; the Tucson Samaritans, who search the desert to help migrant border crossers; and the Southside Workers Center, where migrant day laborers and employers can connect. In 2005, Fife retired after serving the congregation for 35 years. Alison Harrington was called to be the pastor in 2006. Harrington was drawn to the church because of its history and also because of the sense of family and community she found here. “I think there is actually something about the worship service itself that lends to the establishment of a community of welcome and hospitality,” she said. She believes the practice of including different languages, English, Spanish and Tohono O’odham, is representative of the way the congregation learns to love and accept each other. “You can’t always understand everything that’s being said, but you’re making space for somebody else,” Harrington said. “I think that gives us a deep sense of hospitality and that propels us out into the world to be able to live

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Photo by Kendal Blust

The communion at Southside Presbyterian Church surrounded by water donated for the Samaratans to leave in the desert for migrants.w that out.” Part of that has been a resurgence of the sanctuary movement at Southside. First, Daniel Neyoy Ruiz entered Southside in May 2014 to avoid deportation. He stayed for 28 days, until receiving a temporary deportation stay by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Then, Rosa Robles Loreto entered Southside on August 7, 2014. “It’s a different crisis on the border, and in Tucson,” Fife said. “Now the threat is to families and children from the deportation policy of the U.S. that is, again, a violation of international law and human rights.” The decision to bring Robles into sanctuary was unanimous, Harrington said. It was a decision based on family and on faith. Sanctuary is the “unique gift of the faith community,” she said. “We need to know that every person is a child of God that is worthy of protection,” Harrington said. On November 11, 2015, after more than a year in sanctuary at Southside and with support from thousands of Tucsonans, Robles finally returned home to her husband and two sons. Her lawyer, Margo Cowan, reached a confidential agreement with federal immigra-

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tion authorities that insured she would not be separated from her family, according to Harrington. “We’re continuing to encourage other people to think about the call of sanctuary,” Harrington said, especially as governors, including Arizona’s Ducey, are rejecting refugees. “There’s communities like Tucson across the nation that are saying, ‘our elected officials don’t reflect our values about what makes our communities strong.’ It’s about welcoming people in,” Harrington said. That is a message the Southside congregation continues to support. Southside is a place where faith extends beyond worship on Sundays. “It’s an affirming community, it accepts GLBT,” said Josefina Ahumada, a social worker who has been at Southside since the early 1990s. She heard about the church and knew it was multicultural. “Being a lesbian, I found it a very welcoming and open community,” she said. “I could bring all of myself.” Today Southside is busy. Members are involved in the community and they will continue to be, Harrington said, because that is part of their roots. “We’re a small church,” she said, “that does

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big things.” The sermon ends on Migrant Sunday. A reverent silence falls over the congregants as they leave their pews around the Kiva, filing forward from every side into one weaving line of people waiting to approach the communion table. Each person picks up one stone from the pile. The stone bearers cradle their charge with the tenderness with which one might handle a precious heirloom. Some caress the stone between their two hands. Others stare at the name, as though it might reveal to them something more about the person this rock has been laid here to represent—a person who died on our border. The choir sings quietly as the procession squeezes into the small courtyard outside where each individual places his or her migrant at the base of the cross. Heat from lit candles rises to meet their hands and faces as they place these symbolic lives in the pile that has already grown large from previous years. Finally, the last stone is placed. The singing dims until the last voice fades. A few final words are spoken and the crowd parts, leaving the migrant stones and the church, for now. Southside’s work is not done.

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The Chinese Neighborhood Market

A young Gee Suey Keen, owner of T&T Market from 1971-1985, stands at the counter surrounded by customers.

Courtesy of the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center

A Vanishing Era of Community, Culture and Cooperation By Jennifer Hijazi

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enyon Gee slips behind the meat counter to slap some pork steaks into a bag for a customer at T&T Market on Sixth Street. “How long have you been shopping here?” Gee asks. “Oh, a long time.,” the customer says, laughing. “Thirty years, right? At least,” Gee says. “Oh, a long time.” The man takes his steaks and moves to the door, thanking Gee as he runs off to work. Another loyal customer served at T&T – a market that’s seen the face of South Tucson change for more than 70 years.

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Nowadays, most of what’s left of Tucson’s many Chinese-owned markets exists only on glossy poster boards that line the walls of the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center. Each panel, covered in vintage photographs, is labeled by store name: Jerry’s Lee Ho Market, Chan and Kong Herbs, Continental Store. Tucson’s Chinese population first arrived in the 1880s, and contributed to the local culture most notably through commerce and public works. In the 1960s, there were as many as four stores per block. Today, however, the grocery stores that once peppered the blocks of southwest and downtown Tucson have largely faded, but their history speaks of simpler

Interior of T&T Market today. times and intimately connected communities. For Patsy Lee, a board member

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Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, memories of those days are plentiful.

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“There’s probably two to three grocery stores within a couple blocks of each other,” Lee says. “So my neighbors could be going to my parent’s store, they could go to another Chinese store, and another Chinese store.” She explains that neighbors got to the next paycheck by having credit at three or four stores. “You just had to keep track of which Friday you’re going to pay each store.” Lee’s family owned Alan’s Market in Barrio Hollywood, one of the many groceries in predominately Latino neighborhoods. The Chinese credit system is a remnant of the earliest days of Tucson marketplace culture, when laborers would rack up grocery bills all week before settling the debt on Fridays with a cashed Photo by Jennifer Hijazi paycheck. T&T Market, located on 6th Avenue in South Tucson. “That’s how we did business,” Lee says. “You didn’t have to from California, says his wife’s come in with money ’cause we father found his way to the states knew they all had pretty good under the name of a brother who jobs in the mines.” had been proven a U.S. citizen in Tucson’s first Chinese business court years earlier, but later died owners, three men all convenienton a return trip to China. ly surnamed Wong, opened up the After a successful legal battle, O.K. Restaurant on the southChin’s father-in-law assumed east corner of Church Plaza and his brother’s name and settled in Mesilla Street and collected 75 the United States. Soon after, he cents per meal in a laundry basket brought his wife from China and which doubled as a cash register. the couple moved to Arizona. The men presumably arrived at “The smaller towns were less the end of the 19th century, perprejudicial,” says Chin. “And so haps even as early as the 1860s. the Chinese went to places where The Wongs, and the migrants who they were more welcome. They would soon follow them, moved came to Tucson.” to the southwest with the promise The Chinese who settled in of work and escape from the the area originally worked on the rampant racism that had settled expansion of the Southern Pacific in California on the heels of antiRailroad, but new, less strenuous Chinese legislation. labor options began to emerge With conflict mounting bein the form of laundry and food tween ethnic laborers, the Chinese services. workforce felt the pressures of “The Chinese were thinking, discrimination, especially in large ‘Wait a minute. I can make more cities like San Francisco. In 1882, money and work not as physically the racial discontent peaked with hard.’ And so that’s how they the Chinese Exclusion Act, which jumped on the other side of the prohibited Chinese immigration table,” says Lee, who claims that and naturalization for the next 10 this first move into a merchant years. Subsequent laws extended lifestyle was the start of the the bans indefinitely and was not Chinese grocery store legacy in repealed until 1943. Tucson. Some people found clever By the early 1900s, more than ways around the ban. Lincoln Courtesy of the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center 30 Chinese businesses were Chin, a member of the Tucson John Lee stands in front of Alan’s Market in Barrio Hollywood, owned by Alan operating south of Congress Chinese community originally and Jean Lee from 1949-1992. and along Broadway. In those

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Explore Tucson’s Chinese History

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or those interested in Tucson’s diverse cultural heritage, the history of the Chinese community is well documented. News organizations, cultural centers, museums and scholars have all contributed to a colorful cache of evidence that spans all the way to the 19th century. To learn more about the roots of the Chinese community in Arizona and Tucson, visit the library at the Arizona Historical Society and inquire after the vast collection of Chinese documents, photos and testimony collected in their archives. For a more personal experience, members of the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center would be happy to walk you through their Chinese grocery exhibit, which catalogues the huge variety of Chinese-owned markets in Tucson with historic storyboards of vintage photographs and testimonials. Additionally, the TCCC is slated to host “I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story,” produced by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Center, complete with events and films accompanying the exhibition. For more information on past, present and upcoming historical programs, call the TCCC at (520) 292-6900, or visit their website for more information.

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neighborhoods, the Chinese and Latino populations lived and worked with each other daily. Many of the women within the Chinese community would simply go by the name, “Maria,” to make transactions a bit easier for neighbors. “So that’s how, you know, the grocery stores just thrived,” Lee says. “They had a hard time, they spoke Spanish. We had a hard time, we only spoke Chinese. But we all needed the same thing, we all needed to help each other.” Lee recalls her mother, who spoke primarily Chinese and Spanish, also made a point to give kids in the neighborhood lessons in business when she could. “My mom always wanted the kids in the neighborhood to be good at math,” Lee says. “Math is a universal language. Mom didn’t have to speak to them in Spanish or in English or Chinese. She would just tell the kids, ‘You know how much it costs, you know how much money you gave me, and you know how much change I’m going to give you.’” “No Maria!” the kids would say, threatening to report to their parents if Maria from Alan’s didn’t give them the correct change, forcing them to do a bit more work than usual. “And my mom would say ‘Good. Tell your father. Your father’s gonna thank me,’” Lee says. “It’s one thing my mom knew that she could help the kids. If mathematics could take care of their finances, they’ll be OK.” Stores like Alan’s Market would often share a block with multiple groceries owned by different families. Lee says at one point as many as 46 stores may have shared a mile of the downtown area, but competition was not at the front of anyone’s business model. Store owners would coordinate when buying wholesale to keep prices down for their neighbors, and each market was just a bit different from the next. “Everybody sold something different. Like, the brown sugar, the panocha. My dad may carry one style, the other Chinese store across the street would carry another style,” Lee says. “We knew we were competing with people but we never worried.” For many, the grocery was at the center of the community, and neighbors relied on market services for every aspect of daily life.

“During that time, people did not have refrigerators,” Chin points out. “And they did not have cars. So if you eat breakfast, you go to the store and you buy your breakfast food. And then come lunchtime, you go to the store to buy your food for lunch, and then when it’s dinnertime, you go to the store and buy the food for your dinner so you may be shopping in that store three, four times a day.” At T&T Market today, many customers have died or moved on, but Gee says he still sees longtime patrons who frequent the store. “The loyalty was so deep that it was generations, you know,” he said. “It was the grandparents, and then their kids, and then their kids. So we still have some grandkids, grandchildren shopping here.” Gee’s family has owned T&T Market since 1940. His grandfather started as many Chinese immigrants did, peddling fresh produce in a pushcart in San Francisco. Gee took over 50 years later and has managed it ever since. But the era of the Chinese grocery store is nearing the end. “Yeah, there’s just a handful of us left,” Gee says. A fact reflected in the legacy of the Tucson Urban Renewal Project, which demolished blocks of historical barrio land to make room for the convention center. Between the destruction of the Barrio, the loss of the next generation to new opportunities out of town, and the rise of chain convenience stores, the influence of the Chinese market has dwindled. Only two Chinese-owned groceries remain in South Tucson. “It’s so different now. This whole store used to be full, you know? Full of merchandise,” says Gee. Nowadays, chains like Circle K have ascended the ranks of convenience and become the mom-and-pop reboots in an increasingly hurried world. “The mom-and-pop’s in the ’50’s, or how I grew up, was your neighborhood grocery store,” Lee says. “The momand-pop stores are now what we call Circle K’s.” But for the locals who remember the days of the neighborhood market, memories of community and connection endure beyond brick-and-mortar storefronts. “There was really a closeness, you know? Between the customers and the grocery store,” Lee says. “They are like family.”

The Chinese went to places where they were more welcome. They came to Tucson” Lincoln Chin

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Familiar Faces: Perspectiv Name: Alonzo Morado Role/Title: Primavera Community Engagement Coordinator, Healthy South Tucson Coalition Q: What are some changes you wish to see in the community? A: Put a lot of seeds in the ground for businesses to grow. The potential of South Tucson is ahead of us, not behind us. There are so many things aligning- we can take this community in the right direction.

Name: Meg Cota Role/Title: Principal of Mission View Elementary School, Member of Healthy South Tucson Coalition Q: What is one thing you want readers to know about South Tucson? A: You see people persevere. (They) work hard to make sure their students are successful. It’s really what this city is all about. I view it as Nana’s House: It’s not always perfect, but there’s a lot of love. It feels good.

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ves of Life in South Tucson Name: Chief Michael Ford Role/Title: Police Chief, Advisory Board for House of Neighborly Services, Committee Member for Healthy South Tucson Q: What are your future goals for the city? A: Strong sustainability programs. Sustainability is for people to have confidence, professional, and reliable services. Overall, this will support the growth and infrastructure of the neighborhoods, schools and the city as a whole.

Name: Grace Beltran Role/Title: Neighborhood Watch Captain, Pueblo Gardens Elementary School Teacher in English Language Development Q: What is something you have learned from being in your administrative role? A: Unconditional servitude, where it’s not a burden to do what you do. When people choose to care and grow, they are inspired to give back to the community that gave back to them.

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Name: Edward Beltran Role/Title: Captain of Neighborhood Watch, Juvenile Detention Officer, Board Member for Primavera Foundation, Member of South Tucson Police Assist Team Q: What is one thing you want readers to know about South Tucson? A: There is a lot of hope and need here. Those who volunteer want to help the community and the people in it; I think this is what encourages me to continue to give back. They have the same heart.

Name: Madeline Kizer Role/Title: Director of Inside/Out Poetry and Sustainability Program, Juvenile Detention Teacher, Poet, Community Connector Q: What is something you have learned from being in your administrative role? A: I continue to be surprised by the people who seem to have lost everything. Just to see how they long to live a meaningful life despite the hardships.

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Name: Peggy Hutchinson Role/Title: Chief Executive Officer of Primavera Foundation Q: What are some changes you wish to see in the community? A: We all understand the assets that we have and that if we work together with a common vision and strategy, there is so much that we can do. Our strengths are with others. We learn and together bring that vision‌ So the people here determine their destiny. So much has happened within the last few years. There is this momentum; we want to continue that momentum with a plan and strategy.

Name: Sister Mary Anne McElmurry Role/Title: Project Yes Facilitator, Director of the After-School Program, Dominican Sister, Educator Q: What is something you have learned from being in your administrative role? A: How to be sensitive to approaching parents with different concerns about their child. You can be an agent of change if you are positive and consistent. Everything stems from the family. If the family is on board, you can get far with the kids.

Photo Essay by Aidan Heigl Fall 2015 | Issue 5

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Photo by Aidan Heigl

The South Tucson Police Explorers in training.

Explorers Get Hands-on ExperienceE By Karen Lizarraga

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he young man takes one deep breath, closes his eyes and with arms shaking pushes up one last time. “You’re almost there!” shouts a nearby officer, offering encouragement. The man gets up, swipes the sweat off his face and sprints to the end of the low-lit street. He puts his hands over his head to catch his breath but wears a smile. It’s just another Friday evening for the Explorers of South Tucson. The South Tucson Police Explorers Program began in 1976 and was first named Junior Police. Today it consists of 35 members, which is almost twice as many police officers in the South Tucson station, and offers the community’s young people hands-on experience in learning police duties. Members learn traffic control, burglary investigation and interviewing and get the training a typical police officer would receive. Designed for young adults between the ages of 14 to 21, participants are required to demonstrate an interest in the field of law enforcement. However, the program is about the Explorers, not the police department, according to Dennis Rankin, a sergeant with the South Tucson Police, and a field support specialist

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and program co-director. “The goal of the program is to provide confidence, discipline, and teamwork,” Rankin says. Marilyn Ochoa, 19, a lieutenant in the program, knows firsthand how Explorer activities can keep a young person on the right track. Because of family violence, she, her mother and younger brother moved to Tucson to start a new life. Her experiences were traumatic but she says being an Explorer gave her the confidence to believe in herself. “It helped me so much, getting over the obstacle of having to move here,” she said. She isn’t the only one with a tough childhood who found a place to build self-esteem in the Explorers Program. “We all have our different stories,” Ochoa said. “When we come here it blocks everything.” Rankin says some of those who have completed the program have gotten assistance in getting into the Pima Community College Law Enforcement Academy, the next step to becoming a police officer. They have also been asked to come back to South Tucson as a reserve police officer. One of those who decided to follow the path of a law enforcement career was Alejandro Gallego. After being in the program for six years,

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Gallego realized he wanted to pursue law enforcement. Now 20, Gallego attends Pima’s academy and plans to be an officer when he graduates. “It is a really amazing program,” Gallego says. “It’s not easy, but worth it.” Explorers get professional development but leave with personal growth, Rankin says. “It brings you out of your shell,” Rankin says. “You have to talk in front of people. You have to talk to people.” Every year members have the opportunity to go to the Colorado Explorer Association competition, where they compete with similar groups from across the country in basic police training such as homicide investigation, behavior inspection and traffic management. Last year the South Tucson Explorers received 10 trophies. Rankin says that it was not easy but the group’s passion and dedication paid off. That was last year. This year’s explorers have to stay fit for the next round. The sun begins to set behind A Mountain but the explorers face the other way. “No mires para atrás (Don’t look back),” screams one explorer to the other. “Te queda poquito mas (There’s only a little left). “You’re almost there. You got it!”

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Jovenes reciben práctica policial

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Por Karen Lizarraga l joven respira profundo, cierra los ojos y con sus brazos temblando se impulsa hacia arriba por última vez. «¡Ya casi llegas!», un policía cercano le grita, ofreciéndole ánimos. El muchacho se levanta, se limpia el sudor de su rostro y corre hacia el final de una calle con poca luz. Pone sus manos sobre su cabeza para recobrar el aliento pero luce una sonrisa. Es otro viernes por la tarde para los Exploradores de South Tucson. El programa de los Exploradores de South Tucson se estableció en 1976 y empezó con el nombre de Policías Juvenil. Hoy en día tiene 35 miembros, doblando el número de los oficiales de la comisaría de South Tucson, ofreciéndoles a los jóvenes de la comunidad experiencia práctica para aprender los deberes policiales. Aprenden la regulación del tráfico, las investigaciones de robo con allanamiento y hacer entrevistas, obteniendo la práctica que un oficial de policía por lo general recibiera. El programa está diseñado para los adolecentes entre las edades de 14 a 21 años y es un requisito que cada participante demuestre interés en el campo del orden público. Sin embargo, el programa es sobre los Exploradores y no la comisaría, dice Dennis Rankin, un sargento de la Policía de South Tucson y un especialista de apoyo en el campo al igual que el codirector del programa.

«La meta del programa es proporcionar seguridad, disciplina y la habilidad de trabajar en equipo», agregó Rankin. Marilyn Ochoa, de 19 años de edad, es una teniente del programa y sabe de primera mano como las actividades de Explorador pueden ayudar a los jóvenes a mantenerse por el buen camino. Debido a la violencia en su familia, su madre, su hermano y ella tuvieron que mudarse a Tucson para comenzar una vida nueva. Sus experiencias fueron traumáticas pero dice que ser parte de los Exploradores le ha brindado la seguridad para creer en sí misma. «Me ha ayudado mucho a superar los obstáculos de tener que mudarme aquí», dice Ochoa. Ella no es la única que ha encontrado un lugar así, en el Programa de Exploradores, con una infancia difícil para construir su autoestima. «La gente sabe quiénes somos», Ochoa menciona. «Todos vivimos en South Tucson, en la pobreza, pero eso no es todo. Todos tenemos nuestras historias diferentes. Cuando venimos aquí nos olvidamos de todo». Rankin dice que algunos de los que han terminado el programa han recibido ayuda para asistir a la academia de fuerzas policiales del colegio Pima Community College, el siguiente paso para ser un oficial de la policía. También se les ha pedido regresar a South Tucson como un oficial de reserva. Uno de los que ha decidido seguir el camino del orden público como oficio es Alejandro Gallego.

Gallego se dio cuenta que quería embarcar una carrera en el campo de la fuerza policial después de ser parte del programa por seis años. Él tiene 20 años y está en la academia de Pima con la meta de ser un oficial cuando se gradúe. «Es un programa increíble. No es fácil, pero vale la pena», comparte Gallego. Los Exploradores obtienen desenvolvimiento profesional al igual que crecimiento, menciona Rankin. «Te saca de tu caparazón», agrega Rankin. «Tienes que hablar frente al público y hablar con el público». Cada año los miembros tienen la oportunidad de competir en la Asociación de Exploradores de Colorado con grupos similares de todas partes del país, en entrenamiento policial básico tales como: investigaciones de homicidio, inspección de comportamiento y control de tránsito. El año pasado los Exploradores de South Tucson recibieron 10 trofeos. Rankin comparte que no fue fácil, pero la pasión y dedicación tuvieron su recompensa. Sin embargo, eso fue el año pasado. Este año los Exploradores tienen que mantenerse en forma para la siguiente ronda. El sol empieza a meterse detrás del cerro de la A, pero los Exploradores ven hacia el otro lado. «No mires para atrás», le grita un Explorador a otro. «Te queda poquito más. Ya casi llegas. ¡Tú puedes!»

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South Tucson’s Explorers entrenamiento.

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Foto por Aidan Heigl

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If You Can Sit on It, He Can Cover It By Valeria Flores

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Photo by Aidan Heigl Eduardo Baca, owner of Baca Enterprises Upholstery in South Tucson, covers a stool seat with oil cloth. He has owned the Fourth Avenue business since 1982.

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duardo Baca, 62, has spent countless hours learning how to sew a straight line. Now he is proud to say he not only sews a straight line, but also upholsters car seats, chairs and boat interiors. But it wasn’t always that way. He began small. “The first pieces of furniture that I had upholstered were my own and then I started with a friend who wanted me to upholster his truck,” Baca said. The South Tucson businessman didn’t always want to sew for a living. Baca moved to Tucson from Mexico in 1972. First order of business: look for a job. He worked in a restaurant, delivered furniture and ultimately looked for work as a mechanic. Eventually, he was referred to an upholstery shop. Baca had no idea what upholstery was but when he showed up for the first day on the job, he made a discovery. “When I got home that night, I told my wife that I had found what I was looking for,” he said. “I’m going to make my own upholstery shop.” Baca has been upholstering anything with a cover in his Fourth Avenue shop since 1982 and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He has five employees at the shop and two who work from home. Baca’s youngest son, José Luis Baca, manages Ballet Folklorico Tapatío, another business created by Baca, located right next door. (See story page 44.) “My dad, he wakes up at 4:30 a.m. and he’s here at his shop at 5 a.m.,” José Luis said. “He doesn’t leave until 6:30, 7 o’clock at night. He’s a hard worker.” Baca spends about 13 hours at his shop and hard work doesn’t define him, he defines it. “I am happy; I am very happy,” he said. “I love it. I am very happy with my business.”

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Photo by Kendal Blust

Boys play computer games in the children’s section of the library.

Sam Lena Library: Beyond Books By Kendal Blust

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nside a two-tone stucco building with a façade of high arches, a soft rumble of whispers, clicking keyboards and shuffling pages reverberate. Tall shelves of books, rows of computers and artwork from local elementary school students line the walls. An older gentleman sits at a large table reading El Imparcial, a newspaper from northern Mexico. Three young boys play games on the computers in the children’s area and a mother helps her daughter with homework. This library is about more than books. “We want to be a community hub,” said Marissa Alcorta, the managing librarian at Sam Lena-South Tucson Library. “We want to provide what people need, even if it’s just a comfortable place to come in and sit.” Alcorta, who has been a librarian in Pima County since 2008, grew up visiting the Sam Lena branch. Though it has changed and expanded, “it still has the same feel,” she said. Sam Lena Library was named for a South Tucson politician and member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. “He was one of the people in the community who pushed to get a library in this area,” Alcorta said. The library opened in 1977 as a small trailer with an outdoor ramada where librarians held children’s programs. “It was very limited back then,” Alcorta said. In 1986, the library

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building was completed and five years later expanded to the size it is today. The facility now includes conference rooms and office space that are available to the community. Although the library was recently purchased by Pima County, the sale won’t affect services, according to Alcorta. “It’s just a change in facilities,” she said. “Every library is a little different,” said Alcorta, who has worked in several since earning her master’s degree in library science from the University of Arizona in 2006. Sam Lena caters to its neighborhood, which includes many Spanish speakers. Among the books in Spanish are fotonovelas, which “are super popular here,” Alcorta said, describing small, graphic novel-type books in Spanish that are “high drama.” The library also connects patrons with social services and nonprofits in the community. “We have a large displaced, homeless population that comes in,” Alcorta said. “We try to meet people where they’re at.” Some organizations, like Literacy Connects, use meeting space in the library and bring volunteers to teach courses for patrons. Library programs include English and GED classes, job search help and even yoga. Sam Lena is the only Pima County library with citizenship classes in Spanish. Leticia Bermudez, a library program instructor, tutors students and helps patrons with job searches. She also helps people like Olga

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Photo by Kendal Blust

Olga Arvizu gets help writing a letter during tutoring hour at the Sam Lena Library. The library offers tutoring help at various times during the week. Arvizu, a South Tucson resident, who came to the library for help writing a letter. “It feels like I’m doing something that makes a difference,” Bermudez said. Many patrons never check out a book, said librarian Mary Margaret Mercado. But they do read. “A lot of people who come in only read here,” she said. “They come in every day and get the same book and pick up where they left off.” “We’re always going to have books. We’re always going to be a place where people can come for information,” Alcorta said. But Sam Lena’s role in the community goes beyond that, too. “This is a safe place to come in. It’s a welcoming place,” he says. “It’s a fun place.”

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Photo by Aidan Heigl

Arlene Lopez at a recent meeting at the House of Neighborly Services.

Arlene Lopez Puts Community First By Valeria Flores or South Tucson native Arlene Lopez, service to community has always come first. And it has always come close to home. She practically began in her own backyard. “I was involved as a youth with the House of Neighborly Service, and that (was) right behind my house,” she says. “I guess that’s what got me started in being involved in my community.” From that early start, she moved on to more than 22 years of working for Tucson city government as an aide to George

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Miller, who was a city council member for 14 years and mayor for eight. “I listened to people’s concerns and tried to help solve those concerns,” Lopez says. “The mayor didn’t believe in an automated system of answering phones and we answered every call.” She retired in 2003 and decided to return to the backyard of South Tucson. Today, she directs a Neighborhood Watch program which helps residents keep an eye on their block. At the meetings, local organi-

zations describe their activities or announce upcoming events. The fire and police departments share their latest reports to keep residents updated on crime and prevention efforts. Finally, participants, as many as 40, share a potluck dinner and wrap up with an open discussion of problems, such as what to do when prostitutes or drug dealers move into the neighborhood. Lopez’s work doesn’t end with the sometimes contentious Neighborhood Watch, however. She also focuses her considerable energy on helping with events. She recently gave her

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time as a police volunteer for the City of South Tucson’s 75th Anniversary Music and Arts Festival. “I was afraid to try that. I don’t have the flexibility that I used to and the stamina,” she says. “But you know what? I was able to do it.” One person well-versed in what Lopez is able to do is husband Herman Lopez, a South Tucson city council member. “Her drive is inspirational, non-stop,” he says. “I enjoy watching the glow in her eyes as she accomplishes the task at hand or helping those in need.”

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From left, Daniel Dominguez, Sevanni Badilla and Alejandro Gallego reflect on the activity the group just participated in.

Photo by Aidan Heigl

Center Continues to Inspire By Amanda Martinez

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ozens of elementary school students in maroon, navy blue and white polo shirts tug at each other’s arms, whisper in friend’s ears and shriek unexpectedly. They dart around each other, hyper after a long day at school. Everyone holds popsicles, scarfing them down before they melt. Gloria Hamelitz-Lopez, director of the John A. Valenzuela Youth Center, shouts for them to head inside once they finish. The center provides afterschool and summer break youth programs for elementary, middle and high school students who live in the city of South Tucson. The center, 1550 S. Sixth Ave., just south of West 22nd Street, was named for South Tucson Police Department Officer John Valenzuela, who was killed in the line of duty on May 17, 1993. “Any time that we do our work we know that it is much more than just providing a youth service,” Hamelitz-Lopez said. “And somebody gave his life for us. And for us, that’s a huge motivation in what we do and why we do our work.” In the year after his death, the community asked the city council to commemorate his legacy and commitment to children by building a youth center. It opened in May 1994 next door to Ochoa Community Magnet School, where Valenzuela served as the school resource officer. The center is in its 21st year

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of operation. “They help me with my homework,” said Ricardo Tovar, 14. “They keep me off the streets.” Inside, tucked into the corner of a tall, airy room, four large plaques hang from the wall and tell Valenzuela’s life story through pictures, text and mementos from his childhood in a sort of miniature museum. A shadow box holds his University of Arizona diploma, some of his favorite comic books and toys, his police badge and his First Holy Communion outfit. Valenzuela stressed to all the kids he worked with the importance of education and having a dream, Hamelitz-Lopez said. A native of South Tucson, Valenzuela understood what it was like to grow up in an area where people assumed your only options in life were drugs or gangs. The center is operated by the Pio Decimo Center, a member of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona. The city has contracted with them to provide youth services since the 1980s. Today, the center offers programming through a 21st Century Learning Center Grant from the federal government to provide afterschool homework help, a computer lab, a bike riding club, snacks and healthy-cooking classes. Adolfo “Chuck” Peralta, who has been at

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the center for 20 years, said celebrating happiness and sharing hardship with the kids is what makes his job special. He wants to live up to Valenzuela’s expectations every day at work. “That’s why I try to – not enforce, but help – kids understand how important education is,” Peralta said. “You got to give 100 percent to your responsibilities and your own expectations to become a good citizen.” Hamelitz-Lopez said hiring from within the community is a way the center can make change happen – not from the top, but from a grassroots level. Anjelica Alderete first came to the center as a student. At 14 she became a youth intern and today she is employed as a program aid. “You get to be a kid with them all over again,” Alderete said. In the center’s office, a photo of Valenzuela in his powder blue uniform, mop of curly hair and dark mustache hangs over the heads of students and staff. His words are etched into a gold plaque, continuing to inspire students after his death. “Students, as part of growing up there will be the temptations life will bring to you. You will be presumed to join gangs and try illegal drugs,” it says. “One good way to overcome these temptations is to know what you want out of life and work towards it. For if you know what you want out of life, it will show.”

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Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

For decades Casa Maria has been serving meals to people in need.

Casa Maria Nourishes South Tucson By Karen Lizarraga he kitchen becomes a sauna inside walls of concrete. Blue baskets overflow with fresh baguette bread. Tubs of consomé de pollo (chicken broth) sit on the counter. Seventeen pigeons coo by the door looking for crumbs but fly off, scared away by Food City workers unloading a truck of bread. The dilapidated old house on the corner of Third Avenue and 26th Street is more than a soup kitchen. It is a part of a morning routine for those who have close to nothing. The modest structure is well known to South Tucsonans in search of a meal, new shirt or spiritual aid. Since 1981, Casa Maria has opened its doors at 8:30 a.m. daily. The volunteer-based service passes out as many as 500 brown paper bag lunches by 11:30 a.m. “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” says Brian Flagg, the director of the charity, quoting the credo he lives by. Flagg got off a Greyhound bus in Tucson in 1983 and found Casa Maria. He never

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Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Brian Flagg

left. Along with five others, he receives $10 a week for his efforts and the benefit of living in the house. Resident Cesar Gonzalez says the remuneration is enough, especially because the volunteers’ work does not go unnoticed by the regulars. “El Americano always treats us right,” says Juan Ruiz, 70. Flagg is “El Americano” and Ruiz is a 50-year resident of South Tucson who occasionally comes to Casa Maria with his wife for bread or other food. Others depend on the services to survive. Jenna, a regular, relies on Casa Maria for her daily fare. She comes for the meals to save money, which has to be spent on her husband’s expensive cancer medication. She

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usually waits for everyone to leave so she can help wipe off the dirty tables. “Without Brian I wouldn’t know what to do,” said Jenna, who declined to give her last name. Though Casa Maria provides help to those in need, it also provides opportunities for the public to volunteer. One of the many daily volunteers is Elsa Vaquero, a Salvadoran single mother of two. Vaquero says that even though she has had her bumpy times, she believes her purpose in life is to help those in need. But she doesn’t do it alone. “I ask my God every time I wake up to give me strength, wisdom and life,” says Vaquero. “ I feel blessed.” Without the regular donations of food, clothes and time, Casa Maria’s work would not be possible, Flagg says. But what he really stresses is how they treat people and the relationships they build with each individual. “It’s not about being grateful,” Flagg says. “It’s the other way around. That’s what life is all about.”

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Sister Jose: More Than Shelter R By Karen Schaffner omeo Julieta, 48, knows firsthand just how mean the streets can be for a woman. Especially for a woman who suffers from a condition such as epilepsy with grand mal seizures. “Last year I had a seizure at the bus stop right in front of the hospital and I got raped,” she said. “I woke up a day or two later and I was in a dark room with a male doctor and that was kind of spooky. I was just surprised that someone would take advantage of me in that condition.” But life wasn’t always that way. Romeo, who declined to give her real name, grew up in Texas and enjoyed a middle class life, with parents who had great jobs. Her mother, who died last year, was a federal investigator for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and her father was a federal judge. She went to boarding schools and wanted for nothing. Then she discovered drugs and alcohol, and her descent began. She says hers is a cautionary tale. “This can happen to anyone,” she said. Today, Romeo is clean and sober. But coming back from rock bottom can be a hard climb. Sometimes she needs a little help. Enter Sister Jose Women’s Center, where homeless and almost homeless women can do laundry and get a shower, a meal and sometimes a bed. It’s also a safe place where someone will look you in the eye and ask how you are. That doesn’t happen too often for women who live on the street. “We will have women come in and say, ‘This is the only place where I count; this is the only place where people hear me,’” Star Wynd said. She’s one of two paid staffers at the center. “They’re not always seen on the street. Most people avert their eyes or pretend not to hear. It’s so much easier not to see and not to

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hear,” she said. But that’s not what Sister Jose’s is about. “That’s what we’re here for. To see them and to hear them. Wynd said. “Our little motto is, Sisters helping sisters.” Women like Romeo appreciate Sister Jose’s. “The girls, when you’re down and out, will give you a hug,” Romeo said. “That matters a lot when you don’t have any emotional support.” The center is jammed into a small house, about 700 square feet, at 18 W. 18th St. On an average day, 35 to 50 women will stop by. Just a few rules keep order. Only women 18 and older are allowed and emphasis is placed on keeping in stock supplies and clothing only women would need. Guests may not bring children, though they may bring their pets, either cats or dogs. Dogs are allowed in but cats have to remain outside, so crates are available on the porch for them. “We find that every pet for these ladies is a service animal,” Wynd said. “It does them a service of keeping them companioned and protected.” Romeo agrees. “I have a service animal and everybody (here) has been very loving to her,” Services at Sister Jose’s begin when a guest walks through the front door. A volunteer greets her and she is asked what services she would like. She signs her first name and then a shower or meal or laundry can get underway. The center is supported by donations so all services are free. Because the house does not have a commercial kitchen, no one is allowed to cook. Meals are simple, though plentiful. Breakfast is generally coffee, juice, milk, cereal, toast or bread and peanut butter and jam. Forty bag lunches are donated every weekday by Caridad Community Kitchen, a part of the Community Foodbank of Southern Arizona. Inside the bag, a diner will find a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a cup of yogurt and sometimes, if the

Photo by Karen Schaffner

The ability to wash clothes is one of the services Sister Jose’s provides. center has it, a small bag of potato chips. Now that it’s winter, hot dinners are available. Volunteer Charlotte Speers is one of the people who helped get the five-year-old center up and going. She has known trouble herself so she has empathy for the guests she serves. She said you never know what can happen in a life that lands a woman on the street. It’s not always drug or alcohol abuse, which, she said, is the perception of most people. “We have such stereotypes of homeless people. ‘She’s a drunk, a drug addict,’” Speers said. “If we were on the streets, we’d probably have a drink or two ourselves if we could.” People like Speers do their best

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to fill needs. “There is a lot of help here,” she said. Meanwhile, it’s a busy day at Sister Jose’s. Two washing machines and a dryer keep up a steady hum. Drew Carey presents another prize on the television that hangs on the wall in the small living room. In the dining room, four women sit around a large dining table while they wait for their turn in the shower and a couple of women nap on the cots in a wide hallway. There’s life here. And pleasant conversation, too. “Once you become part of the circle, part of the family,” Romeo said. “You’re always welcome here.”

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Sister José es más que un albargue

Foto por Karen Schaffner

El Centro de Mujeres Sister José. Escrito por Karen Schaffner Traducido por Maritza Flores ister José es más que una casa. Romeo Julieta de 48 años de edad, sabe de primera mano que tan crueles pueden ser las calles para una mujer. Especialmente para una mujer que sufre de un padecimiento tal como epilepsia con convulsiones tónico-clónicas. “El año pasado tuve una convulsión en la parada del autobús en frente del hospital y me violaron”, comentó Romeo. “Desperté uno o dos días después en un cuarto oscuro con un médico en frente de mí y eso me espantó un poco. Me sorprendió bastante que alguien se aprovechara de mí en ese estado”. Sin embargo, la vida no siempre fue así. Romeo, quien negó su verdadero nombre, creció en Texas y disfrutó de una vida de clase media, con padres que tenían excelentes trabajos. Su mamá, quien murió el año pasado, era una investigadora federal para la Administración de Seguridad y Salud Ocupacional (OSHA, por sus siglas en inglés) y su papá era un juez

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federal. Ella fue a la escuela en internados y realmente no carecía de nada. Pero después descubrió el alcohol y las drogas y fue ahí cuando empezó a decaer. Ella dice que su historia es un ejemplo admonitorio. “Esto le puede pasar a cualquier persona”, ella dice. Ahora Romeo está limpia de drogas y sobria. Pero recuperarse después de tocar fondo puede resultar más que difícil. A veces necesita ayuda con ese proceso. El Centro de Mujeres Sister José, es donde las mujeres sin hogar o que están a punto de no tener hogar, tienen un lugar donde puedan lavar su ropa, bañarse, comer y descansar. También es un lugar seguro donde alguien se toma el tiempo para preguntar cómo estás. Eso no pasa muy a menudo para las mujeres que viven en la calle. “A veces tenemos a mujeres que llegan y dicen ‘este es el único lugar donde valgo, este es el único lugar donde otras personas realmente me escuchan’”, comenta Star Wynd. Ella es una de las dos trabajadoras en el centro con sueldo.

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Foto por Karen Schaffner

El albergue también ofrece ropa para las mujers.

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“A estas mujeres no siempre se les toma en cuenta en las calles. La mayoría de personas las apartan de sus vistas o pretenden no escucharlas. Siempre es más fácil no ver y no escuchar algo como esto”. Pero en el Centro Sister Jose, es diferente. “Para eso estamos. Para ponerles atención y escucharlas”, dijo Wynd. “Nuestro lema es: Hermanas ayudando a hermanas”. Mujeres como Romeo aprecian mucho a las Hermanas. “Cuando uno se siente triste, las chicas te ofrecen un abrazo acogedor”, dijo. Romeo. “Eso vale mucho cuando una no tiene ningún otro apoyo emocional”. El centro es un lugar apretado debido a que es una casa pequeña con alrededor de 700 pies cuadrados, ubicada en 18 W. 18th St. En un día regular, alrededor de 35 a 50 mujeres acuden al centro. Solamente unas cuantas reglas son necesarias para mantener el orden. Solo se permiten mujeres de 18 años en adelante y se pone un énfasis en tener una reserva de materiales y ropa para mujeres. No se les permite traer niños a las personas que acuden al centro, aunque si pueden traera sus mascotas, ya sea perros o gatos. Los perros sí pueden entrar al centro pero los gatos tienen que permanecer afuera, así que el centro tiene cajas en la terraza para los gatos. “Nos hemos dado cuenta de que para estas mujeres las mascotas son un animal de servicio”, dijo Wynd. “La mascota les ofrece compañía y ellas se sienten protegidas”. Romeo está de acuerdo. “Yo tengo un animal de servicio y todos aquí la quieren mucho”. Los servicios en el centro Sister José comienzan en cuanto una visitante entra. Uno de los voluntarios le da la bienvenida y le pregunta a la visitante que tipo de servicio le gustaría. Entonces ella escribe su nombre y comienza ya sea con un baño, comida o a lavar su ropa. El centro es financiado por medio de donaciones, asi que todos los servicios son gratuitos. Debido a que la casa donde está el centro no tiene una cocina comercial, a nadie se le permite cocinar. Las comidas que se sirven, son platillos simples, sin embargo satisfacen muy bien el hambre. Para el desayuno, por lo general se sirve café, jugo, leche, cereal, pan tostado o pan con crema de cacahuate y mermelada. El centro de Caridad Community Kitchen a diario dona cuarenta bolsas con almuerzo, esta organización forma parte del Banco de Comida del Sur de Arizona. Las bolsas incluyen un sándwich, una pieza de fruta, un yogurt y a veces, si el centro tiene en su almacén, una bolsa de papitas. Ahora que se viene la temporada de invierno, se sirve cena caliente. Charlotte Speers, una voluntaria de cinco años, forma parte de las personas que ayudaron a fundar y hacer funcionar el centro. Ella misma ha vivido dificultades similares y por lo tanto, tiene simpatía con las personas que acuden al centro para recibir ayuda. Ella dijo que uno nunca sabe

Fall 2015 | Issue 5

Photo by Karen Schaffner

El Centro de Mujeres Sister José. que es lo que pudo haber pasado para que una mujer termine viviendo en la calle. No siempre es a causa del alcohol o las drogas, lo cual ella comenta, es la percepción de la mayoría de las personas. “Tenemos estereotipos acerca de las personas sin hogar, tales como: ella toma o ella es una drogadicta”, Speers dijo. “Si estuviéramos viviendo en la calle, probablemente tomaríamos si pudiéramos”. Personas tal como Speers hacen todo lo que pueden para satisfacer las necesidades. “Aquí se ofrece bastante ayuda”, ella dijo.

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Mientras tanto, es un día bastante ocupado en el centro. Dos lavadoras y una secadora se mantienen trabajando. Drew Carey presenta otro premio en la televisión la cual se encuentra en el pasillo de la sala. En el comedor, cuatro mujeres se sientan alrededor de una mesa mientras esperan que se desocupe uno de los dos baños y otras cuantas mujeres descansan en los catres en un pasillo ancho. Hay vida en este lugar. Y conversación placentera también. “Una vez que formas parte del círculo, formas parte de la familia”, dice Romeo, “aquí una siempre es bienvenida”.

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Since 1944 A muzzled greyhound poses in front of the press box before racing on a fall night at the Tucson Greyhound Park.

Photo by Aidan Heigl

Greyhound Racing Entertains Tucsonans By Julian Cronen

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nxious yelps and cries escape eight connected and narrow white crates as the squeaky lure speeds closer to the starting line. The doors swing up. “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit! And here come your greyhounds,” shouts John Scott, the announcer at the Tucson Greyhound Park, over the loudspeaker. Dashing 548 yards through loose brown dirt on a mild October night, JSK FU MANCHU, K’s Ophelia, Cindy Lou and then Algoa Cigar Man speed across the finish line, in that order. “A superfecta! One, two, four, five. Oh my god, I got it,” exclaims Liza Olson, 42, who predicted the order of the first four greyhound dogs to finish the race. Olson remembers going to the park for the first time in 1991, when race night drew a huge crowd and the building was full of energy. You had to get to the park early to beat

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a long line for the restaurant upstairs, she said. She stopped going for many years, but now she and her daughter go because they enjoy watching the dogs run. “This place is so rundown now, it feels like it’s almost lifeless,” Olson said. Maybe, but it’s the only dog racing park operating west of the Mississippi River. Tucson Greyhound Park opened in 1944, and it became the hub for gambling and entertainment in South Tucson. But the Arizona State Lottery, new Native American-owned casinos, and reports about the mistreatment of the dogs have led to an all-time low in participation today. “The track was the center of the entire world. People were getting married here, and there were thousands of people,” said Scott, who announced races on and off at Greyhound Park during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. “You would see John Wayne walking up and down the stairs and, you know, it was a huge deal.” Without competition from casinos or the

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lottery in the 1970s, the greyhound park was the only place to gamble in South Tucson, according to Scott. The track hosted lively events and weekly car giveaways. The clubhouse served steak and lobster. He remembers enormous crowds gathering to watch hall-of-fame greyhounds, like JR’s Ripper, the all-time leading race winner with 143 victories. “People would be sitting here by the thousands, screaming and yelling because everybody in the place had a bet on that dog,” he said. “And seldom did he ever lose.” Greyhounds are bred to race and trained since they were puppies to come out of the box to chase the lure, a fake rabbit, Scott said. “There’s a real personality with the dogs. They’re real athletes,” he said. “Dogs have an amazing sense where the finish line is.” The Funk Co. owned all greyhound race tracks in Arizona, including the greyhound park in Tucson, from the early 1950s until its monopoly was divested in 1976, according

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to tucsongreyhound.com, the greyhound park website. With laws limiting the greyhound park to six months of racing in a year, the company increased business by expanding its racing circuit to Amado, giving Southern Arizona ten months of racing, according to Scott. Arizona became the first state west of the Mississippi to have a state-administered lottery in 1980. Tribal gaming exploded a decade later, according to casinoin.us, a website listing information about casinos in America. Besides the competition from other gambling ventures, business at the park took a hit after stories of the mistreatment of greyhounds surfaced in the mid 2000s. According to The Arizona Daily Star newspaper, in 2005 eight dogs died of heat exhaustion on a trip from Tucson Greyhound Park to a racetrack in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. A greyhound trainer and his assistants had placed three to four dogs in crates, which were only supposed to fit two dogs. “They got a bad name with the dogs and the abuse of the dogs years ago,” Olson said. “That’s what kind of started the destruction of it.” The park used to be a tremendously profitable business, and the track still makes money for the owners, but not like before, Scott said. Most business for the track comes through simulcast and wagering from off-site locations. Today the park makes about $100,000 a night in wagering from seven off-track betting locations in Pima County, 15 in Maricopa County and dozens and dozens more across the country, he said.

Patrons sit at the Dog Days Bar for a good view of the dirt track. Although the park still generates $30 to $40 million in total wagering annually, the scene at the track is much different now. Many areas of what is the biggest building in South Tucson, which is located on a 50-acre lot, are dark and unoccupied. The once luxurious clubhouse upstairs burned in a fire six years ago, according to Scott, and was not rebuilt. The clubhouse had been one of the benefits of the park for long-time gamblers like Luis Valenzuela, 58. “After the fire, everything went bananas,”

A greyhound looks like a blur racing to the finishline. Greyhounds can run at speeds up to 33 miles per hour.

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Photo by Aidan Heigl

he said. “We used to have steaks, hamburgers, good food. It went downhill. But still we gamble.” Although business has slowed down remarkably since the 1990s, the Tucson Greyhound Park still features 16 races a night, four nights a week with eight dogs running per race. “It’s been a part of the community for years,” Scott said. “And it’s just like a lot of things. It had its heyday, and now it’s passed.”

Photo by Aidan Heigl

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Louis Valenzuela displays two pieces of his art in front of a mural at the Arizona State Museum.

Photo by Maxie Ruan

One of the Last of the Yoeme Artists By Maxie Ruan

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hen he was a young artist, Louis Valenzuela sat alone one day in his mentor’s studio painting polyfoam

sculptures. He stopped for a moment to admire a painting of a Yaqui deer dancer standing on a cliff overlooking a family of deer drinking from a flowing river. That’s when he noticed a bright aura surrounding the painting. He interpreted the light as a sign he was on the right path, a path to teach others about the Yaqui culture through his artwork. “That was a big blessing from the Creator,” says Valenzuela, now 52. He is one of the last traditional Yoeme, also known as Pascua Yaqui, artists this side of the U.S.-Mexico border. He specializes in carving Pascola masks for tribal Easter ceremonies, but he also carves small statues depicting Yoeme deer dancers. Pascola dancers are essential parts of Yoeme Easter ceremonies. Known as “The

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Old Men of the Fiesta,” they are the historians of the tribe. They keep history alive through legends, myths and stories. Deer dancers are the main component of the traditional Deer Dance, which represents the battle between good and evil. This dance is a fusion of ancient Yoeme beliefs and the newer Roman Catholic religion taught by Jesuit priests. Born on New Year’s Day in 1963 in Eloy, Arizona, Valenzuela and his family moved to El Barrio Libre in South Tucson, home to many Yoeme people. As a boy, his greatgrandmother took him to ceremonies and fiestas where he witnessed both Pascola and deer dancers. In 1975, Valenzuela met Latino artist Arturo Montoya, who became his mentor. Montoya taught him how to mix paints and to paint polyfoam sculptures with traditional Yoeme designs, such as a small cross on the forehead of the mask, representing the four directions. After briefly attending the Art Institute of Chicago, Valenzuela returned to Arizona

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and continued painting and woodcarving and eventually learned how to carve Pascola masks from another carver in New Pascua Village on the Yaqui nation outside Tucson. Valenzuela carves masks from stumps of wood using a machete to cleave out the shape before he lays down a base coat of black, white and red paint. He finishes by embellishing the mask with painted traditional designs. Although not displayed now, Valenzuela’s work is archived in the Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona campus. Diane Dittemore, curator at the Arizona State Museum, believes the relationship between Valenzuela and his work is more important than just the art itself. “He connects himself and the story he expresses in his art to the outside world,” she says. Valenzuela says the main motivation for his work is to teach others about the Yoeme culture.“A lot of people don’t know about our culture,” he says. “It’s very important to educate people about the beauty of our culture.”

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Juan Quiroz inspects the heel of a custom leather shoe in the Stewart Boots Manufacturing Company warehouse.

Photo by Aidan Heigl

Boots Crafted for a Cowboy By Julian Cronen

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ections of a tanned elk hide are cured by a taxidermist, shipped to the Stewart Boots Manufacturing Company, soaked in buckets, dried, cut, glued, stitched together, molded, nailed to a heel and polished before the finished boots are mailed to the California woman who shot the animal. Handcrafted and customized boots like these move through the cluttered and musky backroom of the South Tucson workshop, where eight employees specialize in the different stages of the manufacturing process. The Stewart Boots Manufacturing Company warehouse on South Sixth Avenue and 28th

Fall 2015 | Issue 5

Street maintains the style of the traditional western cowboy boot, while creating alternative solutions for common foot, back and joint pain. Stewart Boots moved to South Tucson in 1974, four years after Victor Borg quit his job as an electrical engineer and purchased the business in search of a change of pace. “I walked in the door [for the first time] and I liked the smell of leather. That’s probably silly,” said Borg. “I saw guys sitting around on stools, nailing nails, stitching stitches and I thought, this was real, I like this better.” Forty-five years later, Borg is considered a master cobbler by his employees. “People work is not his thing. Boots are,”

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said Beverly Vasiliw, an employee at Stewart Boots. “So Linda and I keep him organized and field the phone calls so that he can get his work done.” While Stewart Boots generates walk-in business from the surrounding areas, orders come from all over the planet. Borg and his staff take custom orders in-shop, over the phone and on the Internet. Events like the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show generate a lot of business, according to Borg. “We bring money into South Tucson from every state in the union and a few foreign countries,” he said. Twenty-five years ago, before massive chain shoe and boot stores entered the market, Stew-

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Origin of the cowboy boot By Julian Cronen

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oot makers in two different American cities claim credit for the first western cowboy boot. But the conceptual origin of cowboy boots can be traced back to the fifth century when Attila the Hun and his warrior armies conquered parts of Asia on horseback, according to Laraine Jones, the Arizona Historical Society Collections Manager. Attila, leader of the nomadic Huns, and his elite horse riding troops wore boots designed for safety and protection, which is the concept behind today’s western cowboy boot, Jones said. The Huns riding boots had a steep heel on the back to securely hook feet into the stir-ups, which allowed for easy escape if a horse reared and the rider was thrown. The Huns calf-high boot also protected rider’s shins and inner calves from rubbing against the leather of the straps and saddle, preventing skin irritation. The concept of a high boot that covers most of the rider’s lower leg was adopted by western cowboys, who traveled through rough terrain with chaparral, brush and thorny plants, Jones said. The Huns moved westward from Asia, and over time their ideas and customs, including the protective horse riding boots, influenced the Moors of North Africa, she said. The high boots moved into Spain with the Moors and then to the New World, where the vaqueros, cowboys of the Spanish New World, spread the boot design into today’s southwestern United States.

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Colorful posters and a custom neon sign cover the walls inside the Stewart Boots company.

art Boots employed 48 people and produced 1,000 pairs per month for about 150 western stores around the country. Today, Borg’s team of eight employees produces 800 to 900 pairs of boots a year for a few scattered western stores and custom orders, like the elk-hide boots. “We have a small niche market that we have been filling successfully for the last 45 years, and we’re smart enough not to stick our nose out of that market and try to be all things to all people,” he said. “It’s better to do a little something and do it real well than to try to do everything and do a crappy job of it.” The company makes heavy-duty work boots, riding boots, dress boots, lace-ups and pullons. Customers can customize their boots with a specially-fit sole, designed stitching or even skin from an animal that they’ve killed, like the California woman. According to Borg, every aspect of Western boots has a specific purpose in protecting a horse rider from injuries. There are few frills on a western boot with the exception of intricately stitched designs.

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Photo by Aidan Heigl

While Stewart Boots is recognized for creating a high quality product, they’re also popular for customizing boots to remedy foot, back and knee problems. “People don’t realize how much their feet affect their back,” Borg said. These chronic ailments can be traced back to wearing the wrong shoes, which can cause common foot issues like plantar fasciitis, heel spurs, bunions and Morton’s neuroma. For customers like Jerry Kellogg, who is missing a toe on his right foot, Stewart Boots provided support and pain relief that his sneakers from the Department of Veterans Affairs couldn’t remedy. “They fit like a glove, and the quality is impeccable,” said Kellogg, a customer since 1981. “He’s as good an orthopedic boot maker as you’ll find.” As with Kellogg, who was referred to Stewart Boots by a friend, many customers visit the shop based on recommendation. “What we’re best known for is a good reputation,” Borg said. “I especially like when people come in here and they’re about to get a knee operation and I make them a boot, and they don’t need the operation. They love me.”

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Offerings to loved ones displayed on artist Jose Duran’s community altar at El Mercado San Augustin.

Photo by Kendal Blust

Día de los Muertos is a Time for Remembering Lost Loved Ones By Kendal Blust

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emembering and honoring her family is a daily ritual for Manuela Estrella. Every morning she gets up early and opens the small chapel in the front yard of her South Tucson home. She built the chapel, dedicated to San Francisco Xavier, in 2007 for her mother to honor her maternal grandfather. “Always remember the ones who have passed,” her mother would tell her. She takes those words very seriously, especially since going

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through cancer earlier this year. “It motivates you to be stronger,” Estrella said. “And I am asking God for permission to live to continue the journey I started with my parents.” Every year, Estrella and her five siblings gather together on Día de los Muertos to remember their parents. She and her sisters make their parents’ favorite foods: red chile, beans, flour and corn tortillas. Her brother brings orange, maroon and yellow flowers. They spend the evening together telling stories. “It’s like the tradition that my

dad and my mom taught me, which I never quite understood, you know,” she said. “But I follow what they did with their parents passing away now that they’re gone.” Día de los Muertos is a fusion of cultures and beliefs. Though it has been practiced for thousands of years in a variety of ways, the holiday remains, first and foremost, a time of remembrance and communion with those who have gone before. As early as 1800 B.C., Mesoamerican peoples performed rituals that were antecedents to

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what would later become known as Día de los Muertos. These celebrations, which lasted for about a month, reflected the indigenous belief that death was not the end but that spirits lived on in a special resting place known as Mictlan. They believed that during this time of remembrance the spirits of loved ones came back to the earth to be with the living. “Instead of fearing death, they embraced it,” said Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, an artist, writer and historian who grew up celebrating Día de los Muertos with her family in Morenci, Arizona. “Life

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Photo by Kendal Blust

Coalición de Derechos Humanos altar for missing migrants at Mission San Xavier. was a dream and only in death did they become truly awake.” This belief did not match Catholic views of death and afterlife the Spanish imposed upon the indigenous people during colonization. Despite converting many indigenous people to Catholicism, aspects of their beliefs remained, including the month-long practice now called Día de los Muertos. “Just like the spirits of the departed, the ritual refused to die,” Bjorkquist said. Instead, it was shortened and melded with the Catholic holy days of All Saints and All Souls on Nov. 1 and 2. Día de los Muertos is now an official Catholic holiday in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, though it remains “intermixed with folk culture,” Bjorkquist said. Attending Mass is just as much a part of the celebration as the continued use of traditional symbols in altars built in honor of the departed. On Día de los Muertos, cemeteries, skeletons and spirits take on a different meaning than they do just a day earlier on Halloween. There is nothing scary, morbid or even sad about this holiday. It is a celebration of life and of death.

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“It’s about reconnecting with ancestors, best friends and relatives,” said Silviana Wood, a bilingual playwright and storyteller. Family members visit cemeteries to clean headstones and leave flowers, wreaths, photographs, favorite foods and other tokens of their love. They also build altars, or ofrendas (offerings) in homes, churches or public spaces. Altars take all shapes and sizes, though traditionally they are built in three tiers representing heaven, earth and the underworld. Altars often include certain symbolic elements intended to welcome and nourish the dead: a picture of the person, a candle to light their way, marigolds, whose strong scent will lead the dead to the altar, water to quench their thirst and the person’s favorite foods and drinks. “It’s a time when the spirits return to the earth for a family fiesta,” Bjorkquist said. “It’s a time to remember and rejoice.” Family members also gather to remember the dead and eat their favorite foods, leaving a plate for those being honored. If several people are being remembered, it can make for a strange combination of foods, Estrella said.

Photo by Aidan Heigl

Food and drinks left for a loved one at Holy Hope Cemetery. “It’s a mix of everything,” she said. “My Aunt Josefine liked the chalupas from Taco Bell, so we bring those. And then my Uncle Ernie liked Chow Mein, so we bring that. And my other uncle liked Burger King Whoppers, so we’ll buy a few and cut them up.” Another uncle loved pancakes and her grandmother loved

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oatmeal. “I used to ask my mom, ‘How are we going to eat the oatmeal,’” Estrella laughed. “My mom just said, ‘You’ll eat it!’ and that was that.” The meal is a time for family members to connect with each other and reminisce about those who have passed on, telling

Fall 2015 | Issue 5


Las Palabras: Día de los Muertos Vocabulary

Alfeñique—A special sugar paste used to decorate sugar skulls, flowers and other adornment. Atole—a hot drink made of corn, water and fruit flavorings typical of Día de los Muertos Calacas—whimsical skeletons that represent death Calavera—the skull, calaveras de azúcar are the iconic sugar skulls La Catrina—skeletons dressed as wealthy women, based on artist José Guadalupe Posada’s famous drawings Cempasúchil—marigolds used on altars for their strong scent that will lead the dead Copal—incense made from the resin of the copal tree Ofrenda—the offering, often used interchangeably with altar Pan de muertos—dead bread, a sweet bread baked with pieces of dough crossed on the top to look like bones Papel Picado—pierced paper, tissue paper cut into intricate designs Fall 2015 | Issue 5

José Duran’s community altar at Mercado San Augustín. stories and thinking about the person. “You know people will say it’s ridiculous because the dead don’t eat, but it’s a tradition that they’ve always done,” she said, “so that’s what we do.” Just as in the indigenous tradition, it is believed that the spirit or “essence” of the person returns and can be felt by their loved ones, said Wood. They don’t literally eat the food that is left for them, but it is a way of welcoming them and showing love. “There is a saying in Mexico,” Bjorkquist said. “You die three deaths. The first one is when your soul leaves your body. The second one is when they put your body in the ground, when they bury you. The last one is when there is no one left on earth to remember you.” When someone is honored on Día de los Muertos, they do not die that third death. The atmosphere is light-hearted and happy, but it’s more than just a party, Wood said. “It’s a time of real devotion. It’s real dedication.” Tucsonans honor their loved ones during Día de los Muertos, filling cemeteries

with beautiful flowers, building altars and gathering at homes and churches to remember and feel close to those who have passed on. Most altars are personal and private, but some have been made into public, communal pieces. “Recently the ofrendas are being installed in museums and art galleries,” Bjorkquist said. In Tucson, public altars are displayed throughout the area in the House of Neighborly Service, El Mercado San Agustín, Tohono Chul Park, San Xavier Mission, the Tucson Museum of Art and elsewhere. Artist Francisco “Pancho” Medina builds an altar each year, usually in remembrance of migrants who died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. This year, however, he chose to commemorate the 43 disappeared students from the Ayotzinapa school in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. “We can relate to them because they were activists,” Medina said. Though the bodies of the students have not been found, Medina felt it was important to remember and think about them. They have been missing since Sept. 27,

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Photo by Kendal Blust

2014. Medina said he makes his altars public because “all of my work is political first.” For Estrella, there is also an element of communal remembrance in the small chapel she built in her front yard for San Xavier. Every year people from all over Tucson celebrate Día de los Muertos by leaving photographs of loved ones on the altar there. “We do a rosary and we pray for each soul,” she said. It is important to Estrella to treat all the dead with respect and reverence, because people outside her family are comfortable enough with her and the chapel to honor their beloved there. One family left a photograph of their baby. “I think he was only five months when he passed,” Estrella said. “And every year they bring it, and he’s here.” Estrella, too, continues to honor her family, not only by putting up their pictures, making their favorite foods and putting flowers on their headstones, but in carrying on the traditions they taught her.

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Appreciation or

Appropriation? Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

Finale ceremony at the All Souls Procession.

A Fine Line Between Participation and Disrespect By Jennifer Hijazi

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es, we’ve all seen them. Stashed among the droves of revelers on Halloween, flooding the streets in small masses of glitter and leather, a Pocahottie will emerge from behind the crowd, with fringed suede frock hiked high above her knees, a feathered headband framing her face, smeared red from the ambiguous tribal paint that didn’t survive the sweaty evening. Next to her, two guys in striped ponchos give each other a high five, disturbing their cartoonish sombreros and skewing their oversized black moustaches in laughter. Saris, kimonos, black braids, and turbans have become staples of Halloween, a veritable United Nations of cultural representation that many would argue is highly distasteful. Cultural appropriation, the adoption of

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cultural elements that are not one’s own, has been a hot button issue in recent years, most notably surrounding the costumes and physical representations of ethnic minorities in potentially offensive ways. This kind of appropriation stems from disregard for context and history, says Nolan Cabrera, an assistant professor at the UA Center for the Study of Higher Education. And that disregard often adds insult to injury through poor behavior. “You know the psychology when people put on masks. They’re more likely to act up,” Cabrera says. “Well, how are they gonna act up when they’re dressed in ridiculous headdress? They begin to embody racist stereotypes of Indian people.” Tucsonan Cesar Aguirre, a Catholic worker at Casa Maria Soup Kitchen, says events like Cinco de Mayo are an excuse to poorly repre-

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Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

A masked participant at the All Souls Procession. sent Mexican culture for profit and partying. People string up margarita piñatas and drink tequila without understanding the roots of the celebration, which is largely undetectable in popular media and society. “I find it really insulting to go downtown during that time of year and see people with

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Families gather with homemade tributes to deceased loved ones at the All Souls Procession. sombreros and ponchos on and acting silly, you know?” Aguirre says. “Very ignorant.” Both Cabrera and Aguirre agree that education is the key combatant against misuse of cultural traditions and imagery. Activists and bloggers also routinely qualify their grievances with appropriation by stressing the importance of historical understanding, claiming that traditions can be adopted as long as they are practiced in their intended context and not transformed into something completely new. For Cabrera, if you can’t see the appropriation in the headdress and moccasins you’ve chosen for your next music festival, then you probably shouldn’t wear it. “Just play it conservatively,” he says, “‘cause there are so many costumes and practices out there that don’t require treading on somebody else’s culture.” In a place like Tucson, where indigenous and Latino cultures have strong roots, issues of cultural appropriation can manifest in complicated ways. The All Souls Procession, held every year in November, is a public event where people can communally mourn their dead. The increasingly popular event receives praise and criticism in equal measure regarding its multicultural aesthetics, particularly through its perceived association with Día de los Muertos. Adam Cooper-Terán, a video

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artist involved in the Procession, explains that the proximity to Mexico means those traditions will be dominantly represented in a public mourning ritual. “Given the history of Tucson and just the cultural lay of the land, a lot of people will assume or presume that it is Día de los Muertos,” Cooper-Terán says. Other representatives insist that the Procession is all-inclusive, and encourages people of all faiths and cultures to participate with whatever they deem best suited to grieve or celebrate their lost loved ones. Melanie Cooley, from Many Mouths One Stomach, the organization responsible for the Procession, says she’s seen all sorts of cultures represented, from Scottish bagpipers to Japanese Obon traditions. The organization, she says, is “completely neutral” on how people choose to remember and celebrate their dead within All Souls. “The procession is whatever people bring to it, and so what’s happened over the years as it’s gotten bigger is a lot of people started to bring Día de los Muertos to it,” she says. “Either because it is their tradition or because people see it and they want what it offers, which is that way of publically and creatively mourning our dead.” Cooley says people tend to seek guidance on how to grieve and gain closure after the

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Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

death of a loved one, rules that are often found within cultures that specifically celebrate loss and life. Aguirre, who initially felt “very disrespected” by the All Souls Procession, admits now he is torn on the issue. Although elements of appropriation still infuse the event, American culture does not have deep-rooted traditions that connect to death and loss and that should be remedied, he says. “I think that’s something that we all can relate to across all cultural lines and all racial lines and we all deserve a way to celebrate that,” he says. “All Souls has really opened the door to get people to think about what life really is and celebrate the life that they had here.” And yet, in a society where themed-party goers can still strap on fake dynamite and brown face with impunity, appropriation will remain a sensitive issue, regardless of intentions. Cabrera says he doesn’t like playing the odds when guessing if knowledge and understanding will improve. “I’m perpetually hopeful but never optimistic,” he says. “And that might be psychologically messing with my own head because if it wasn’t, I might go nuts looking at how bad things can get.”

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Art Panocha is ‘Doing what?’

Photo by Emily Maloney

Preloved Chica Clothing offers free art workshops for the community.

Art Panocha Fuses Art with Health to Start Tough Conversations By Emily Maloney n a back room of Preloved Chica Clothing, Jessica Citlalcoatl spreads out about 20 illustrations of vulvas on a card table. They are different shapes, different colors. Horns have been drawn on one and Christmas tree decorations added to another. In a soft yet serious voice Citlalcoatl says she knows the activity of coloring vulvas might strike some as absurd. When she tells people about the free workshops, they have questions. “‘You’re doing what?’ they ask,” Citlalcoatl says. But that’s

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the point of the group she started: to get people talking about taboo subjects, possibly starting with a sense of humor. Her group is Art Panocha. Panocha literally means brown sugar in Spanish but has come to be used as a derogatory term for the vagina. Naming the group Art Panocha was a way to reclaim and redefine the popular word. Citlalcoatl fuses art with health and healing to help people in the community access thoughts and feelings about the body they might be suppressing or censoring.

Photo by Emily Maloney

Art Panocha met to color line drawings of vulvas by Faviana Rodriguez. The women in the group come together to work on art projects. They keep things fun, perhaps by incorporating a clothing swap, or playing games like bilingual sex ed loteria. With packets of lube

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and condoms used to mark their spaces and prizes like a jade yoni egg up for grabs, the atmosphere is light. That helps start organic conversations about, for example, human papillomavirus strains

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Profit from the sale of donated goods at Preloved Chica Clothing supports programming in their community space. or the pros and cons of copper intrauterine devices versus more hormonal birth control methods. In one workshop, group members selected an item from Preloved Chica Clothing store, where they usually meet, and decorated it to represent their own “bleed through” – the embarrassing experience in which a woman bleeds through her clothes while menstruating. “Why should we feel shame needlessly?” Citlalcoatl asks. At that meeting a newlywalking toddler waddled from room to room, comfortable in the space decorated more like a home than an institution. There’s a couch, a book shelf, children’s toys and soft lighting. Members of the group snacked on artichoke dip and cream puffs while cutting out red fabric strips or painting on a nightgown. Some thought out loud about how to use red yarn or

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red sparkly ribbon. Creating an atmosphere of friendship and non judgement are part of the mission of all the programs offered in the back rooms of Preloved Chica Clothing, owned and operated by community activist Maritza Broce. The sale of donated used goods in the store helps funds activities. The community space – called Fortín de las Flores (Fortress of the Flowers) – hosts a mutual aid society, popular bi-weekly English classes, and a group about racism recently popped up. Several artists will host workshops this spring and Broce is open to hosting other community-oriented groups or meetings. Citlalcoatl recently started providing pay-what-you-can massages in a room that was formerly used by Broce to organize clothing donations. The room is now filled with flute music and the

smell of massage oil on the mornings she does body work. Because of her training as a licensed massage therapist, she is attuned to the “weight of suffering” people in South Tucson experience. She also believes in working at the pace people are comfortable with like the older client who needed massage for her health but wasn’t comfortable with full-body touch. Citlalcoatl started by working with the woman’s hands. That understanding – that it’s important to meet people where they are and let them take away what they want – informs all the programing at Preloved Chica Clothing. The store won’t turn anyone away, whether someone needs new pants for school or a handful of free condoms. And it provides space for creative endeavors like Art Panocha. “The people who come are what

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Photo by Emily Maloney

Celebrate Women’s Day Preloved Chica Clothing and its various programs depend on the generosity of the community. They accept donations of vintage and other clothing and accessories. For International Women’s Day, Sunday, March 13, they will close the street in front of the store, 102 E. 31st St., and join a group of nonprofits to celebrate. Call (520) 245-7867 for more information or visit Preloved Chica Clothing on Facebook.

makes it what it is,” Citlalcoatl says. Citlalcoatl says art provides another avenue into thinking about health, sexuality, and personal issues that can be quite intense to think about alone. She says she likes art projects because it’s easy to bring people together for the fun of it. Then you make something, and it turns out, “that thing is beautiful because it’s yours.”

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Vox Urbana trambone player Saul Milan.

Vox Urbana Sings of Struggle to a Beat that Raises Hope

Photo by Gabriel Flores

By Emily Maloney and Karen Schaffner

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he Hotel Congress audience arrives looking as hip as Tucson is capable of. Beards have been trimmed, shirts tucked in, red lipstick applied, soul patches smoothed down. The music of Vox Urbana is upbeat; it’s music that makes you want to dance and feel good and look good. And yet, when the audience stops to listen – really listen – to the lyrics, the depth of thought might surprise those who speak Spanish. Over the danceable, traditional cumbia beat, the band is singing about the true accounts of those who have crossed the border. “One of the stories could be (about) this Honduran, young individual who came here as a refugee and lost his family while traveling,” says Kiki Castellanos, the guitar player. “They unfortunately died.” This is the new project Vox Urbana has set out for themselves: to collect and tell stories from the Arizona-Sonora area, set them to music

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and sing them out loud. It’s a real labor of love. “I’ve heard a lot of stories, they just stay there (on the border),” David Perez says. He plays the congos and bongos. “There’s too much tragedy there. Someone needs to speak about that.” Last year the bi-national band received a Tucson Pima Arts Council Grant. The People, Land, Art, Culture, Engagement (PLACE) Initiative of the arts council specifically encourage artists to tell stories about place. The band has been making music since 2010, and besides Perez and Castellanos, consists of Jim Colby on keys and sax, Saul Millan on trombone and Casey Hadland on drums. They have written and recorded songs about the borderlands since the beginning. On their last album “La Pitaya,” the song “La Piedra y La Bala,” (The stone and the bullet) addresses the 2012 shooting of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, the 16-year-old killed in Nogales, Sonora, by a U.S. Border Patrol agent stationed near the wall.

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Fall 2015 | Issue 5


The agency maintains the agent was responding to a group of people who were throwing rocks, but there is no evidence that Rodríguez threw any rocks. He was shot 10 times. In homage to his life, Vox Urbana sings, “La bala lució su brillo prefigurando el peso de un infant,” (The bullet showed off its brightness piercing the chest of an infant.) By layering consciousness-raising lyrics on top of a type of music many in Tucson have grown up with, the band imparts a message about human dignity the crowd is ready to hear. “I have always liked the contrast of upbeat party music that has a serious message, like Fela Kuti or Curtis Mayfield,” says Colby. The band has been influenced by several musicians closer to home. “Musically I think you can hear the influence of Tucson bands like Santa Pachita, Sergio Mendoza, Salvador Duran, Saga Mambo, XIXA, Haboob, and many other Tucson bands that weld together various genres in their music,” Colby says. Their politics are locally guided as well. “Our political influences come from many of the local activists that we count among our friends and fans,” Colby says. In addition, they have been influenced by non-profit organizations like Mariposas Sin Fronteras, No More Deaths, and Corazon de Tucson. But the music came before the politics. “I got into politics through music,” Colby says. “Bands like Propagandhi and Rage Against the Machine would often have political information and reading lists in their liner notes, and when I started going to punk shows there were often book and ‘zine distros with political information.” With lyrics written by Kiki Castellanos and David Perez, they set people’s stories to a type of music that is distinctively international. Vox Urbana’s compositions incorporate sounds such as Huapango, a folk music and dance style from southern Mexico, Cumbia from Colombia, Chicha from Peru, Cha-cha-cha from Cuba, with electronic textures such as synthesizers and voice effects. This tendency toward cross-cultural experimentation is ingrained in the band. Members were born in both the US and Mexico. “There is a special chemistry,” Colby says, “that happens when you have people with different personal and musical backgrounds together

The band playing recently at Club Congress.

in the same band. You start to invent your own group vocabulary and style that is refracted through the experiences of all the others.” The resulting music, what the band sometimes refers to as Garage Cumbia, is a malleable genre. It allows Vox Urbana to put their stamp on tradition in both the sound and the lyrics of their music. In their next album and in their upcoming concerts they say they will strive to use their music to give a public voice to stories that are often only whispered about. Whether they play at Club Congress, the Rialto Theatre, up in Phoenix or on an overpass above the parade of ghosts at the All Souls Procession, the band is not just crying out “Cumbia!” “We hope people get the actual message behind all the work and enjoy the music and pay attention to all those stories hidden there,” Perez says. Wherever they play they are shouting into the night about the heartbreak and real deaths that are occurring on the border. They play with awareness for what migrants must endure, but they insist on dancing and celebrating at the same time. That’s just their style.

Photo by Gabriel Flores

Singer, songwriter and guitatist Kiki Castellanos.

Fall 2015 | Issue 5

Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

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Photo by Aidan Heigl

Tapatío, like the Sauce, Spices Up Latino Culture Dancers of Ballet Folklorico Tapatío in an intimate dance moment.

By Valeria Flores

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duardo Baca Sr. realized early on that his eldest daughter didn’t like sports. So he decided to enroll her in a folkloric dance school. Soon, his two younger boys wanted to dance too. Before long, he thought it was time to start a school for his kids and others who wanted to dance. “I didn’t want to see little kids on the street,” Baca said in Spanish. “Especially my own.” Today, the school known as Ballet Folklorico Tapatío is one of the most successful folkloric dance schools in Arizona, with about 130 active students. They have performed at various events like Gran Festival de Folklore Mexicano y Mariachi Featuring Mariachi Vargas in June 2014. The school continues to grow. “Every day, different students come,” Baca said. “It’s a beautiful thing.” Originally, the students practiced on the family porch until Baca built the school on an empty lot next to his Fourth Avenue uphol-

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stery shop. These days José Luis Baca, the youngest son, is the general director of the non-profit school. It was a task he was reluctant to take on. “Actually, it was something that was thrown on to me,” he said. “I didn’t want to do this in the beginning. I just wanted to dance.” But he took on the responsibility and has been successful by stressing professionalism to his students. “Here, you don’t come as the best, you come as a good dancer,” he said. “Here, not only do we make good dancers, we make great dancers.” Folklorico dance is specific to Mexican culture and typically performed to mariachi music. Dancers further the story that the music is conveying. Tradition is key with this art form. It’s important to stay as true as possible to the original dance steps, according to José Luis Baca. He trains and leads the professional dancers who often perform locally at events such as Día de los Muertos celebrations, fundraisers

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and competitions. Another of Tapatío’s teachers, Marisa Gallegos, began dancing in the sixth grade but now teaches beginners and advanced beginners. In fact, she began her relationship with Tapatío as a fan. “I went to one of their shows and was completely blown away by the caliber of the group,” she said. “They don’t just bounce around on stage and do whatever. No, these kids show their steps. They know what they’re doing.” José Luis Baca said schools like Tapatío help young people find their place in the community. “I think it’s important for the students to educate themselves in the culture and the heritage, especially right now,” he said. Baca is no longer directly involved in the school but is there to mentor and inspire students. After all, he is the father of the school and its first students. “This school is a family,” he said. “We help everyone here because this is what this little school is about.”

Fall 2015 | Issue 5


Participants gather at San Xavier Mission for a pilgrimage in honor of those lost on the border.

Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

Hotline Aids the Families of Missing Border Crossers By Jennifer Hijazi

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he office of Coalición de Derechos Humanos is quiet on this Thursday afternoon. At a long table by the door, the knotted brows of volunteers are lit by MacBooks as they comb over papers and speak quietly on cell phones. A tapestry of La Virgen de Guadalupe hangs below a clock by the window, framed by silver tinsel and an oversized purple and white rosary. The single room is dimly lit by privacy windows, afternoon sunlight bouncing off endless stacks of papers, colorful tissue flowers, posters and plastic bins overflowing with white wooden crosses, many of which are labeled “UNK” for unknown.

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One cross for every body found in the desert. There are hundreds strewn around the office. “There are 2,771 crosses, so 2,771 human remains since 2000,” says Cristen Vernon, Missing Migrant Hotline coordinator for Derechos Humanos. That number, she says, only accounts for a fraction of those who have died along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. More than 6,330 people have died along the southwest border with Mexico since 1998, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Coalición de Derechos Humanos began fielding calls in the late ’90s, and has since developed a missing migrant hotline for families who seek help locating missing loved ones

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who have attempted to cross the desert. In November 2013, they started monitoring the hotline 24 hours a day, mobilizing rapid responses to emergency calls or providing families with information. Derechos Humanos’ reputation for advocacy and social justice made it a natural focal point for missing migrant inquiries. Anna Ochoa O’Leary, head of the Mexican-American Studies department at The University of Arizona, says Derechos paints a more complete picture of missing persons on the border, filling in gaps of knowledge surrounding the immigration crisis and how many people go missing annually. “You can’t address a problem if you don’t even know what the problem is,” O’Leary says. “So basically it illuminates the problem.”

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Volunteers at Derechos Humanos say a militarized border has “funneled” huge groups of migrants into more and more dangerous terrain, increasing the number of deaths and disappearances in recent years.

The Crossing Derechos volunteer Genevieve Schroeder approaches the wall-sized map of the Arizona border. “This is the only area in the entire state of Arizona where you can walk for 70 miles without hitting a single paved road,” she says as she points out a major migrant crossing path near Sonoita. She indicates the spots where the highest frequency of death occurs. One such spot, shaded in baby pink on the map, is an active bombing range. This area, Schroeder says, doesn’t even allow access to search and rescue groups. In its 1994 Strategic Plan, the Border Patrol introduced its Prevention through Deterrence strategy, which asserted that the influx of immigration and alien apprehensions would decrease if border enforcement were intensified. By the 2000s, the implementation of this policy pushed larger numbers of people into more perilous territory, increasing the dangers of crossing. Although reports from the Pew Research Center show a decline in unauthorized immigration from Mexico in recent years, crossers continue to attempt entry, and fatalities remain constant. “All of these practices are essentially leading to more death,” says Vernon. A 2007 brief released by the Immigration Policy Center reveals a sharp increase of bodies from 1990 to 2005. According to the report, the annual number of recovered migrant bodies increased from 14 by the end of the ’90s to over 160 by the mid-2000s. Vernon says this spike in deaths is felt keenly in phone calls to Derechos Humanos. “So just to put it in perspective, in June of 2014, we had 30 to 40 different phone calls from family members, and this June it’s over 100. So in one year, essentially, the phone calls have tripled.” O’Leary, who has conducted much of her research on the impacts of enforcement on migration and female border crossers, says the militarization tactics push migrants far into remote desert territory, leaving them vulnerable to a host of harmful situations.

Devora Gonzalez works while holding her son at the Derecho Humanos office inSouth Tucson.

“They can trip and fall, they can have accidents, they can be abandoned, women especially. Especially if they’re taking children, they’re considered to be a drag on that fast, quick movement through the desert,” O’Leary says. Trafficking, too, has found its place within the nexus of increased enforcement and precarious crossings. “Once you make something hard enough that people can’t try to do it on their own, then you’ve created a market, you’ve created a commodity,” Schroeder says. Cartels often establish their own checkpoints through crossing areas. They charge migrants for safe passage, threatening beatings, rape and death should crossers fail to pay the toll. But even with cartel guides, who push migrants through areas as quickly as possible, people still find themselves stranded or lost, according to Schroeder. “This whole crossing is incredibly lucrative and incredibly controlled,” she says. The stamp of criminalization, however, is often bestowed on the crossers themselves, stigmatizing assistance efforts. O’Leary says images of the undocumented crosser as the

The calls from the hotline project reveal a crisis that will affect generations of children without mothers and fathers who’ve been lost crossing the border.”

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Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

criminal justifies desires to look the other way concerning deaths and disappearances. Derechos Humanos, she says, established a trust through their advocacy, assuring concerned families that their status would not determine the assistance they receive. The organization has been aiding families and individuals through multiple projects over the years, including employment and wage advocacy and “Know Your Rights” workshops. O’Leary says the stigma of border crossing criminalization makes groups like Derechos a great comfort for people seeking help. “They come into the office and they’re not immediately looked upon like they’re lawbreakers,” O’Leary says.

The Call Devora Gonzalez speaks softly into the telephone, guiding a caller through a series of questions and answers in Spanish as she eats lunch from a plastic bowl. A baby snores quietly in a stroller beside her. Another child speaks loudly from the other end of the receiver over the voice of Gonzalez’s caller, who inquires about her cousin. He has been missing for almost a month. Gonzalez gives out the information for Colibrí Center for Human Rights, a Tucson-based advocacy nonprofit that matches information with remains recovered from the border. The Missing Migrant Hotline at Derechos keeps the small team in constant response mode. When a call is received, it is treated as an emergency if there is any possibility that the person for whom the call is placed may

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Crosses labled “unknown” in Spanish, one for each body found in the desert. still be lost in the desert. Due to spotty reception and low cell batteries out in the desert, calls are usually placed by family members, and rarely from lost migrants, themselves. “Phone calls made from the desert are hoarded really, really preciously because cell phone battery life drops so quickly,” Schroeder says. “People will only make usually a few phone calls on a trip that can take one to two weeks.” Often, people who may be in distress make direct calls to family members, who then contact Derechos’ hotline to seek help on what to do next. Between Internet searches and word of mouth, Derechos Humanos’ reputation for rapid and consistent response has resulted in a swell of calls. “That was the point of the hotline, to be able to have a rapid response to people in distress,” Schroeder says. In certain cases, with enough locational information and assurance that the person crossing has not already been arrested or died, Derechos is able to mobilize help by collaborating with other advocacy groups, like Águilas del Desierto or the South Texas Human Rights Center who can provide certain humanitarian aid like food and water.

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Otherwise, Derechos does everything possible to inform the family members on steps they can take to mobilize a rapid response for themselves. “And with the advice on, hopefully, how they can do that in a manner that is secure, such as knowing their rights, knowing what police and Border Patrol can ask them, and what they cannot,” says Schroeder. From the onset, Derechos takes consent into careful consideration when providing counsel and response to families on the line. In addition to always providing a non-law enforcement number to call, operators for the hotline, like Vernon, make sure families know that even a lifesaving call to 911 means a transfer to Border Patrol. “We are very consent based. We never ask for legal status of a person, but there are times when the situation is very dire medically for the person and they might ask to please call the Border Patrol,” Vernon says. Aside from emergency calls, Derechos also conducts searches within detention centers and collaborates with Colibrí to solve older or less immediate disappearance cases. Gonzalez, who has been helping with the Hotline since 2014, focuses on these older

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Photo by Jennifer Hijazi

cases and follow-ups which may help offer closure for families who have been searching or calling for extended periods of time. “They’re all emergency cases and all of them need attention immediately. I think even the 15-year-old cases need attention,” she said. Gonzalez says Derechos is a community in which people can work with each other for help, education, healing and defense. For Schroeder, the calls from the hotline project reveal a crisis that will affect generations of children without mothers and fathers who’ve been lost crossing the border. With this kind of work, these body counts are not just statistics, they put a face on the numbers. “When you work on a project like the hotline project you start to understand that every one of those numbers is a person. And it’s an experience and has a memory,” Schroeder says. For the volunteers at Derechos Humanos and others across a variety of advocacy organizations, the situation at the border is an increasingly large and dire issue. “It’s so complicated, no one can do everything. And that’s why we’re all trying to find our niches,” says Schroeder. “It’s such a strange reality.”

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Línea de ayuda a los familiares de desaparecidos

Manifestantes en la Misión San Xavier honran a la gente perdida en el desierto de la frontera.

Foto por Jennifer Hijazi

Por Jennifer Hijazi Traducido por Hiriana N. Gallegos.

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a oficina de Coalición de Derechos Humanos está tranquila este jueves por la tarde. A lo largo de una mesa cerca de la puerta se ven las caras consternadas de los voluntarios mientras intentan ver todos los documentos y hablar silenciosamente en sus celulares. Un tapiz de La Virgen de Guadalupe cuelga debajo del reloj al lado de la ventana, enmarcado con oropel plateado y un rosario morado demasiado grande. En la habitación con poca iluminación por las ventanas privadas, se aprecia la luz del atardecer rebotando del montón interminable de documentos. Las flores de papel coloridas, los carteles y las cruces de madera las cuales muchas están marcadas con las letras “UNK” con el significando de desconocido. Una cruz por cada persona que ha sido encontrada en el desierto. Hay cientos desparramadas por toda la oficina. “Hay 2.771 cruces, así que son 2.771 de restos humanos desde el 2000”, explicó Cristen Vernon, la coordinadora de línea directa para los emigrantes desaparecidos de los Derechos Humanos. Ese número solo informa de una fracción de esas personas que han muerto a lo largo de la frontera de Estados Unidos y México, dice ella. Más de 6.330 personas han muerto a lo largo de la frontera del suroeste con México desde 1998, según la

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En la manifestación en San Xavier en octubre.

Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza de los Estados Unidos. La Coalición de Derechos Humanos comenzó a recibir llamadas a fines de los 90s y desde entonces han elaborado una línea directa para los familiares de los emigrantes desaparecidos

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Foto por Jennifer Hijazi

quienes buscan ayuda para localizar a sus seres queridos que han desaparecido intentado cruzar el desierto. En noviembre del 2013, empezaron a monitorear la línea directa las 24 horas al día y a movilizar respuestas rápidas a las llamadas de

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emergencia para así proporcionar a las familias con información. La reputación de los Derechos Humanos de promoción y justicia social han dado un punto de enfoque para las investigaciones de los emigrantes desaparecidos. Anna Ochoa O’Leary, la directora del departamento de Estudios Mexicanos-Americanos en la Universidad de Arizona, menciona que la Coalición demuestra un panorama más completo de los desaparecidos de la frontera rellanando los huecos de la crisis de inmigración e informa de las personas que desaparecen anualmente. “No se puede discutir acerca de un problema si no se sabe cuál es el problema”, O’Leary explica. “Así que básicamente ilumina el problema”. Los voluntarios de los Derechos Humanos dicen que la frontera militarizada ha canalizado enormes grupos de emigrantes a terrenos más peligrosos, incrementando las muertes y el número de desaparecidos en los años recientes.

La cruzada Genevieve Schroeder una voluntaria de Los Derechos se acerca al mapa de la frontera de Arizona que cubre la pared. “Éste es el único lugar en todo el estado de Arizona donde uno puede caminar por 70 millas sin llegar a una calle pavimentada”, ella informa mientras apunta a un camino de cruce principal para los emigrantes cerca de Sonoita. Indica los lugares con la frecuencia más alta de muertes. Uno de estos lugares, sombrado de rosa viejo, es un campo de bombas activas. Esta área, agrega Schroeder, no permite acceso a los grupos de búsqueda y rescate. En el plan estratégico de 1994, la Patrulla Fronteriza introdujo su política de “prevención a través de disuasión”, por la cual según ellos, reduciría el flujo de inmigrantes y aprensión de extranjeros si se intensificaba la seguridad fronteriza. Para los años 2000, la ejecución de esta política hizo que un gran número de personas cruzaran en territorios peligrosos, incrementando los riesgos del cruce. Aunque los informes del Centro de Investigaciones de Pew (Pew Research Center) demuestran una disminución en inmigración no autorizada de México en los años recientes, los que cruzan la frontera continúan intentando entrar a los Estados Unidos, mientras las fatalidades permanecen constantes. “Todas estas medidas esencialmente conducen a más muertes”, agrega Vernon. Un resumen del 2007 que fue lanzado por El Centro de Política Inmigratoria (Immigration Policy Center) revela una

Las manifestantes ponen cruzes en frente de la Misión San Xavier. pendiente aguda de cuerpos desde 1990 al 2005. De acuerdo con el informe, el número anual de cuerpos de emigrantes incrementó de 14 a finales de los 90 a más de 160 a mediados de los 2000. Vernon comparte que este pico de muertes se resiente profundamente en las llamadas hechas a los Derechos Humanos. “Solo para ponerlo en perspectiva, en junio del 2014, tuvimos de 30 a 40 llamadas diferentes de familiares y este junio son más de 100. Así que en un año, esencialmente, las llamadas se han triplicado”. O’Leary, quien a realizado sus investigaciones en los efectos de la ejecución de inmigración y el cruce de la frontera de mujeres, informa que las tácticas de militarización obligan a los inmigrantes tomar territorios remotos y desérticos, dejándolos vulnerables a una montón de situaciones dañinas. “Ellos se pueden tropezar y caer, pueden tener accidentes, pueden ser abandonados, especialmente las mujeres. Sobre todo si llevan niños, quienes son considerados una carga en ese movimiento rápido y veloz a través del desierto”, agrega O’Leary. El tráfico, también, ha encontrado un lugar dentro del vínculo del incremento de ejecución y cruces peligrosos. “Una vez que se hace algo tan difícil que no se puede hacer solo, has creado un comercio, has creado una mercancía”, menciona Schroeder.

“Esa era la meta de la línea directa, la habilidad de poder tener una respuesta rápida para la gente angustiada.”

Fall 2015 | Issue 5

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Foto por Jennifer Hijazi

Los carteles comúnmente establecen sus propios retenes en áreas de cruce. Les cobran a los emigrantes por su pasaje seguro, amenazando con golpearlos, con violarlos o matarlos si las personas que cruzan no les pagan la cuota. Pero aún con los guías de los carteles que llevan a las personas a cruzar esas áreas rápidamente, la gente se encuentra verada o perdida, según Schroeder. “Todo esto del cruce es increíblemente lucrativo y controlado”, dice ella. Sin embargo, la estampa de criminalización está otorgada a las personas que intentan cruzar, estigmatizando los esfuerzos de asistencia. O’Leary explica que la imagen de las personas que cruzan indocumentadas de “criminales” justifica el deseo de mirar a otro lado cuando se trata de las muertes y las desapariciones. Ella dice que la organización de los Derechos Humanos estableció confianza a través de su promoción al asegurarles a las familias preocupadas que su estatus no determinará el tipo de asistencia que reciben. La organización ha ayudado a familias e individuos a lo largo de los años mediante diferentes proyectos, incluyendo empleo y la promoción salarial al igual que talleres de “Conozcan sus Derechos”. O’Leary agrega que el estigma de la criminalización del cruce de la frontera hace que los grupos como los Derechos sea un consuelo para las personas que buscan ayuda. “Vienen a la oficina y no son considerados inmediatamente como personas que violaron la ley”, O’Leary menciona.

La llamada Devora González susurra en el teléfono, guiando a la persona que llama por una serie de preguntas y respuestas en español mientras se come su alm-

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Devora Gonzalez, centro, da un discurso a las manifestantes en Misión San Xavier. uerzo de un recipiente de plástico. Un bebé ronca silenciosamente en una carriola a su lado. Otro niño habla fuerte al otro lado del receptor sobre la voz de la persona que llamó a González, quien pregunta por su primo. Ha desaparecido por casi un mes. González les da la información del Centro de Derechos Humanos de Colibrí, una defensa no lucrativa basada en Tucson que coincide la información con los restos que se han recuperado de la frontera. La Línea Directa de los Emigrantes Desaparecidos en los Derechos mantiene al pequeño grupo en modo de respuesta. Cuando se recibe una llamada, es tratada como una emergencia por si hay una posibilidad que la persona por la quien llaman aún está perdida en el desierto. Debido a la cobertura irregular y baterías bajas de los celulares en el desierto, las llamadas son hechas por familiares y muy pocas veces por los emigrantes perdidos. “Las llamadas que se hacen del desierto son atesoradas y muy valiosas porque la vida de la betería del celular se agota muy rápidamente”, explica Schroeder. “Las personas regularmente hacen varias llamadas en su excursión que puede tomar una o dos semanas”. A menudo, las personas angustiadas hacen llamadas directas a familiares, quienes se comunican con la línea directa de los Derechos para buscar ayuda para tomar el siguiente paso. Entre investigaciones de internet y el boca a boca, Los Derechos Humanos tiene una reputación de respuestas rápidas y consistentes que han resultado en un incremento de llamadas. “Esa era la meta de la línea directa, la habilidad

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de poder tener una respuesta rápida para la gente angustiada”, dice Schroeder. En ciertos casos, con suficiente información de ubicación y con la garantía de que la persona no ha sido detenida o ha muerto, los Derechos tiene la habilidad de movilizar ayuda al colaborar con otros grupos similares, como Águilas del Desierto o El Centro de Derechos Humanos del Sur de Texas quienes pueden proporcionar con ayuda humanitaria como comida y agua. De lo contrario, los Derechos hace todo lo posible para informar a los familiares de las medidas que pueden tomar para movilizar una respuesta rápida, por sí mismos. “Con la esperanza que los consejos que se les dan les ayuden de una manera segura, tal como el conocer sus derechos, saber qué es lo que la policía o las patrullas fronterizas les pueden preguntar y lo que no pueden”, afirma Schroeder. Desde el inicio, los Derechos toma conciencia de la cuidadosa consideración cuando se les da consejos y respuestas a las familias por teléfono. Además de proporcionar con un número que no tiene que ver con la ley, los operadores de la línea directa, como Vernon, se aseguran que sepan que una llamada al 911 para salvarles la vida significa que serán transferidos a las patrullas fronterizas. “Nos basamos mucho en el consentimiento. Nunca preguntamos por el estatus legal de una persona, aunque hay veces que la situación es demasiado grave medicamente que la persona puede pedir que se le llame a la patrulla fronteriza”, dice Vernon. Aparte de las llamadas de emergencia la organización también se encarga de buscar dentro de

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Foto por Jennifer Hijazi

los centros de detención y colaboran con Colibrí para resolver casos más viejos o de desaparecidos menos recientes. González, quien ha ayudado a la línea directa desde el 2014, se enfoca en estos casos más antiguos y seguimientos que les pueden ofrecer a las familias la clausura que han buscado o llamado por mucho tiempo. “Todos son asuntos de emergencia y todos necesitan atención inmediata. Pienso que hasta los casos de 15 años necesitan atención”, opina ella. González indica que los Derechos es una comunidad en donde la gente puede trabajar en colaboración para ayudar, educar, sanar y proteger a las personas. Para Schroeder, las llamadas de proyecto de la línea directa revelan una crisis que afectará a las generaciones de niños sin madres y padres que se han perdido cruzando la frontera. Con este tipo de trabajo, el conteo de cuerpos no son solamente estadísticas, se les pone una cara a los números. “Cuando se trabaja en proyectos como el de la línea directa empiezas a entender que cada uno de esos números es una persona. Que tienen experiencias y una memoria”, Schroeder dice. Para los voluntarios en Derechos Humanos y todas las organizaciones de promoción y ayuda, la situación en la frontera es un asunto cada vez más grande y grave. “Es tan complicado que nadie puede hacer todo. Es la razón por la que todos intentamos encontrar nuestros nichos”, explica Schroeder. “Es una realidad tan extraña”.

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Families Unite Across Border By Silvia Sanchez

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long the border in Nogales through a worn metal fence with holes smaller than pennies, Joanna Ceyala sees her brother for the first time in three years. They talk, sharing stories of their lives for several hours. Here along the line dividing Ambos Nogales are the fence talkers — people who come to share love with their families, people whom U.S. immigration laws separate. “It is hard to see your loved one through a fence after not seeing her for three years,” said Adan Celaya. “I wanted to hug her and kiss her but I couldn’t.” According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), more than 400,000 undocumented people were deported in 2012. Adan was one of them. This fence is the only possibility he and his sister have to be together. But they are not alone. From the Rio Grande to Tijuana a fence separates thousands of families. They meet to catch a glimpse of faces through red-rusted metal wall. Many talk about what it would feel like to be a normal family again. Many hope for a touch. “It’s the worst feeling to see a sibling through a fence,” said Adan. “But at least I got a chance to look into her eyes and tell her how much I miss her and love her.” The family of four siblings has always found a way to be together, but is now enduring a crisis bigger than deportation. Adan was diagnosed with leukemia last year. He has been struggling in Mexico without the support and love from his family. “I don’t know what I am going to do if something bad happens to my brother,” says Joanna. “I am scared of not seeing him again.” Joanna, 31, and Adan, 27, have been together through the worst times. In 2011 they crossed, walking through the desert, while Joanna was pregnant with her third child. She got tired after walking for 10 straight hours. She told Adan she needed to stop so she could catch her breath when they were half an hour away from their destination. A screeching hawk alerted Border Patrol agents, who arrived immediately after. “My brother could have run,” says Joanna. “But instead, he stayed with me until the last minute.” 

Fall 2015 | Issue 5

Joanna Ceyala talks with her brother Adan across the border in Nogales. They were unarmed but still held at gunpoint. “We have always been there for each other,” said Adan. “For better and for worse.” They were deported the day after through different ports. Joanna left her two U.S. citizen children in the care of her mother and sister. According to a study conducted by the Urban Institute, a research organization that focuses on social and economic issues, there are 5.5 million children living in the United States with at least one undocumented parent. When one or both parents are deported, they often have to choose between living with a parent in a different country or staying in the United States with their immediate family member. A couple of months after her deportation Joanna crossed again. She got to Rio Rico, Arizona, a town 14 miles from the border, after walking for 24 straight hours. Joanna has been back in the United States since, without seeing her family. She has not seen her father, who remains in Mexico since then. The day Adan and Joanna met, their father could not go with him. Joanna says she wanted to see her brother sooner, but she was afraid of getting deported again if she got too close to the border within these past three years. A couple of months ago,

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Photo Courtesy of Joanna Celaya

Joanna spent two weeks in a detention center. She got pulled over by a Tucson Police officer for a taillight not working properly. The officer asked for the proper documentation but she did not have any. The officer then told her that he needed to call ICE. “Do whatever you have to do,” Joanna told the officer. After she spent some time at Eloy Detention Center, she was released. This time the $7,500 bond she had to pay protected her. But she still needs to go to court in Dec. 8 to see if she’ll be able to stay with her children in this country. “Not a day goes by that I don’t pray to God so I can stay with my children,” Joanna said. “I also pray to see my father and brother one day.” Adan explained that they keep in contact through social media and they are constantly calling each other. “I wish we could see each other everyday as we used to,” said Adan. “But, I know this is a sacrifice we need to make for my sister and her children to be better one day.” This was first published by Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona.

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Group Defends and Advocates for Transgender Detainees

Photo Courtesy of Karolina Lopez

Karolina Lopez of Mariposas Sin Fronteras (Borderless Butterflies) which has helped release more then 20 transgendered detainees from ICE. By Emily Ellis

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arolina Lopez considers herself a woman. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents do not. Lopez is transgender. She immigrated to the United States to escape discrimination in her home country of Mexico, only to encounter further abuse in Arizona. She spent three years in the all-male ICE detention center in Eloy, Arizona. She remembers them as the worst years of her life. The guards played keep-away with her false breasts. Other detainees stole her food and she often went days without eating. She received threats of injury and rape. “I would never wish for anyone to suffer as I did,” Lopez said. Such cruel treatment is a reality for many transgender migrants in the U.S. Almost 40 percent of transgender women incarcerated in ICE facilities have reported suffering sexual

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abuse, according to a 2013 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Lawmakers have begun to take notice of such claims. In September, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a Statutory Enforcement Report on the state of civil rights at ICE facilities. The report included a section on the treatment of transgender detainees—the first time such a report had acknowledged the severity of the issue and the need to educate officials. Tucson-based Mariposas Sin Fronteras (Borderless Butterflies) can take some credit for this recent attention. The eight members of the activist group meet in the cluttered kitchen of Borderlinks, another migrant support organization. Mariposas’ work does not focus on addressing policymakers in Washington but on raising bonds for transgender people incarcerated in Eloy and Florence. Members write detainees’ stories on social media sites, hold funding events and work with other organizations to

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spread awareness. Since 2010, Mariposas has helped release more than 20 detainees from ICE. Their voices have spread through a network of human rights groups throughout the U.S. “You have to go step by step,” said Lopez, one of the group’s founding members. “Only that way can you create bigger changes.”

Calling Out the White House One Mariposas case that attracted national attention was that of Nicoll Hernández-Polanco, a 24-year-old transgender woman who fled to the U.S. to escape persecution in Guatemala. Hernández-Polanco was detained at ICE’s Florence Service Processing All-Male Detention Facility in early 2015. She was forced to shower with male detainees, received death threats and was sexually assaulted. Mariposas Sin Fronteras started an aggressive campaign to fund her release and managed to raise her $3,000 bond in six months.

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anything. . . . I didn’t have any family. I got sick from depression.” The Florence Project, a nonprofit organization that provides legal aid for detained immigrants, eventually negotiated for Lopez’s release. But outside the detention center, she found herself lonely and depressed. Founding Mariposas gave her a network of support and a sense of purpose. “My life changed completely with the group,” Lopez said, her kohl-lined eyes bright. “I knew that I had to keep fighting from the outside and help others who had suffered like me.” Training law enforcement officials to recognize the vulnerabilities of transgender detainees will help curtail abuse like Lopez suffered. Ignorance about health, employment and discrimination issues is something that many transgender advocates are attempting to eliminate. “A dynamic I see a lot of with people who work with transgender individuals is ‘We don’t know what to do with this person,’” said Jennifer Hoefle-Olson, the program director of LGBTQ Affairs at the University of Arizona. “Bringing up general cultural awareness and competency is absolutely something that needs to happen to prevent discrimination.”

Mariposas Libres Mariposas members at a Phoenix protest. Hernández-Polanco’s soft brown eyes and shy smile appeared on the signs of protesters in New York, Los Angeles and Washington who called for her freedom. Hernández-Polanco’s quick release was one of Mariposas’ proudest achievements, Lopez said. Hernández-Polanco’s case was cited by the national immigrant activist group GetEQUAL. In June 2015 Jennicet Gutiérrez, an undocumented transgender woman and a member of GetEQUAL, interrupted President Barack Obama during a speech at a White House Pride Reception. She said there was “no pride in how LGBT immigrants are treated in this country.” Although shamed by the president and escorted from the reception, Gutiérrez maintained that her interruption was necessary. “The White House gets to make the decision whether it keeps us safe,” she said in a statement released by GetEQUAL. Guitérrez’s bold approach drew national attention and seemed to produce a ripple effect. On June 19, the Obama administration released a memorandum on the care of transgender detainees. The Statutory Enforcement Report followed two months later, implying

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Photo Courtesy of Mariposas sin Fronteras

that more legal changes were on the horizon.

Karolina’s Story As with Hernández-Polanco, Lopez is a transgender migrant who experienced sexual abuse while detained. But when Lopez was held by ICE, there was no organization such as Mariposas to share her story. “They were the worst years I have ever suffered,” said Lopez, seated on a sagging couch in the Borderlinks office. She wore all black, with a bright blue butterfly printed across her T-shirt. Lopez was detained for three years in the all-male Eloy Detention Center. She spent six months of those years in solitary confinement. “They never told me, ‘We’re putting you here for your security,’” Lopez said. “At the time I was thinking, ‘If you don’t want me here, free me.’” Many transgender women are isolated for their own protection, Lopez said. For her, the six months of solitary confinement were a mental torture far worse than physical bullying. “No one ever visited me while I was in detention,” she said. “I never got a card or

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Education about the plight of transgender detainees is also a key mission of Mariposas Sin Fronteras. The group partners with other organizations in Arizona to raise awareness. One of the organizations is Borderlinks, which sends migrant activist delegations to the Mexican border. “Letting our delegations have a talk with Karolina about the reasons she had to leave her home community and the issues she’s encountered here in the U.S. definitely exposes people to issues that are there,” said Indira Alez, the director of education at Borderlinks. “Just because they may not affect us directly doesn’t mean they’re not there,” Alez said. Besides her role as a spokesperson for Mariposas, Lopez said that one of her main duties is visiting detainees in Eloy and Florence. “What I wanted more than anything was to receive a visit, a card of support,” Lopez said of her time in Eloy. “I remember what it was like being alone. I tell [detainees] you’re going to get away from all of this. I know you’re suffering for being yourself, but with Mariposas you’ll have a family that will help you with what you need.” When asked about the name of the organization, Lopez gestured to the soaring butterfly on her T-shirt. “It’s because butterflies are migrants,” she said. “And because they are free.”

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Activist Steve Teichner helps artist Ana Teresa Fernández paint the border wall in Nogales, Sonora.

Photo by Kendal Blust

Borrando laArtFrontera on the U.S.-Mexico Border By Kendal Blust

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hick, rusty-brown steel plates loom 20-feet high over Ambos Nogales, signaling the physical and symbolic delineation between the United States and Mexico. Ana Teresa Fernández wants to change that. In October, she took to the streets with her tools of resistance, paint and a paint brush, to “erase the border” in Ambos Nogales. She chose a pale blue to give the impression that the wall is an extension of the sky. In 2012, Fernández, a bi-national artist based in San Francisco, painted the border fence in Tijuana, Mexico the colors of the sand and sea that could be seen through the tall posts. Her art in Nogales and Tijuana has gained national attention as part of a larger movement of art and activism along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border that is re-imagining what the border looks like and symbolizes for people along either side. “I don’t use text. I don’t use slogans. All I use is my imagination and paint,” Fernández says. “I used these two things to dream of a space that would allow us to coexist side by side without hate, without violence, without oppression.”

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Fernández painted this 30-foot segment of the border in Nogales as part of a weeklong border art program sponsored by Arizona State University’s Performance in the Borderlands initiative. Unlike her mural in Tijuana, Fernández invited others to join her in painting the border in Nogales. Artists, activists, students, family members and passers-by from both the U.S. and Mexico picked up paintbrushes and added to the mural. “People came from all over Arizona to help,” Fernández said. “But more importantly, there were people that lived on that block.” One painter, Luis Antonio Esguerra López, was deported after living in the United States for 20 years, since he was a young child. The border now separates him from his 16-year-old daughter. He’s glad to see the wall beautified and bringing people together. “As I was starting to work, there was an officer that came over here and started to paint too,” he says. Fernández took notice. Seeing a deported migrant working alongside a Border Patrol agent was one of the most rewarding moments for her. “I never would have imagined that for a million years,” she says. Yet, this kind of connection is exactly the point of the project. Art on the border brings awareness to what is happening on the bor-

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Fall 2015 | Issue 5


der, says Luis Diego Taddei, a visual artist from Nogales, Sonora. He has seen many artists from both sides doing this kind of work. “It’s important because it shows that an interest is growing along the border to bring this issue to the attention of people from both countries,” he says. “I hope there will be greater openness.” Art is a thread that brings people together, says Susannah Castro from the Border Community Alliance (BCA). “It’s powerful to communicate in that way.” She hopes this spotlight on Fernández will draw attention to other artists who have been using the wall as canvas. “Really, the big story is that this is happening all over,” Castro says. Artists from both the U.S. and Mexico have created murals and art installations on the border, but they don’t always get much attention, she said. Castro also points out that border art is being created almost exclusively on the Mexico side of the wall. They can’t do this kind of project on the U.S. side. “It’s militarized,” she said. “They don’t want you touching it.” The Border Community Alliance partners with FESAC (Fundación de Empresariado Sonorense) in Nogales, Sonora, where artists like Guadalupe Serrano have been creating community artwork for years. One of the main goals is to change people’s perceptions of the space. “The border is known for the wrong reasons all over the world,” says Alma Cota de Yanez, the executive director at FESAC. The border separates people, but art can connect them, she says. “Art at different stages of history has become a bridge.”

FESAC is working to bring artists from the both the U.S. and Mexico to add to Fernández’s mural, connecting other sections of the border with paintings of papel picado, or pierced paper, a traditional Mexican art form used in national and cultural celebrations such as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. She hopes projects like this will inspire people to cross the border and see what they are doing. “We really want the world to know the great stuff that happens on the border,” Cota de Yanez says. Activists like Nancy Bennett and Steve Teichner of the Green Valley Samaritans are also anxious to see changes on the border. “When I heard about this I thought, what a wonderful project,” says Bennett. “I won’t live to see the day this wall isn’t here, but the acknowledgement of the offensiveness of the wall I think needs to be brought to people’s attention.” Not everyone enjoyed the Erasing the Border mural, however. Fernández has received angry letters threatening her or calling her a terrorist for trying to change the border. Others just don’t think it is really art. Some people expected a mural, not just a blue wall, says Castro. But she thinks the message is still clear: there is something wrong with the border wall as it exists today. “I like the fact that it will make more people aware of how offensive the wall is and how much it interferes with normal relationships between the two communities,” Bennett says. “And of course, painting it with the sky softens it so much. It at least gives the illusion that it’s not the formidable barrier that it is.”

Really, the big story is that this is happening all over.” Susanna Castro

Luis Antonio Esguerra López, a deported migrant and Nogales, Sonora, resident helped erase the border.

Fall 2015 | Issue 5

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Photo by Kendal Blust

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THIS IS ARIZONA.

Studying for a master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Arizona could take you to Costa Rica or the U.S./Mexico borderlands. You can pair Journalism with Latin American Studies to earn two master’s degrees. School of Journalism 56

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http://journalism.arizona.edu/graduate Fall 2015 | Issue 5

El Independiente, fall 2015  

Published by students at the University of Arizona School of Journalism

El Independiente, fall 2015  

Published by students at the University of Arizona School of Journalism

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