The Return of the Nativo

Lopez rises from political graveyard to lead immigrants againbut will he harm more than heal?

"First of all, I refute your terminology," Lopez thundered to Dobbs before a national audience. "You don't say 'kike,' 'paddy,' 'wop,' Okay. You don't say 'nigger'! You're using language that's offensive to me and offensive to my people! You pollute the air every day, Dobbs. You are absolutely wrong. That language is offensive, it's derogatory, it's denigrating, and don't use that terminology to me again, referring to my people!"

But it's hard to find "the people" Lopez claims are his, except in the abstract. His last three mass-mobilization efforts flopped. In late 2003, Lopez ordered California Latinos to stage a one-day economic boycott to protest Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill that would have allowed illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses; few Latinos participated. Shortly after Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor revealed his plans to give local police immigration powers, Lopez announced a boycott of any business that wouldn't publicly denounce Mansoor; those plans died after anti-Mansoor business owners dismissed Lopez's idea as unrealistic. And Lopez predicted 5,000 people would show at the April 2 Costa Mesa rally; the subsequent strong showing of 1,500 was overshadowed by Lopez's hyperbole.

On that day, a slew of Chicano all-stars addressed the crowd. Lopez. Amin David, chairman of the local civic group Los Amigos. State Senator Gil Cedillo. Only at the end did the superstars yield the floor to local activists like Coyotl Tezcalipoca, the man Costa Mesa officers beat before a live television audience after a council meeting.

Tezcalipoca didn't blame Lopez for his late speaking slot, but he did question Lopez's sudden interest in an issue Tezcalipoca and other young Costa Mesa activists have battled for almost a year.

"I never saw him in any council meeting except one," said Tezcalipoca. "There are a lot of hard-working people in Costa Mesa, and this is not about giving credit to a specific group or leader. But if you look at the media, it's always Nativo speaking. I don't know what his intentions are."

GARELLANO@OCWEEKLY.COM

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