There are few things lamer than Chicano yaktivists whining about negative coverage that shed light on sordid truths. It happened earlier this year when the Los Angeles Times published an epic four-part series on the once-proud United Farm Workers, an organization that went from the moral center of the post-King American civil rights movement into a group that places founder Cesar Chavez on corn flakes boxes. Rather than admit they've strayed from their path, the UFW responded with lawsuit threats, retraction demands, “community meetings” with Times editors and other such bitchiness. End result: a couple of corrections on the Times' behalf, but nothing crucial to reporter Miriam Pawell's thesis, and the UFW came off as whiners
Flash forward to this Thursday, when former Times writer Daniel Hernandez made a name for himself with new employer LA Weekly (our mother publication) with a depressing account of what's going on in the current Chicano cause celebre: helping out the immigrants who've transformed a dirt lot in South Central LA into the largest urban farm in the US de A. Turns out that some farmers have issues with lead organizers Rufina Juarez and Tezomoc, and Hernandez goes about detailing some of the strife.
Enter the Chicano All-Stars.
Those are the true believers: the folks who think the MEChA slogan “Por la raza todo; fuera de la raza, nada” is gospel and not an embarrassing 1960s relic. The people who vote by “consensus”. The PC pendejos. The people who are calling Hernandez a vendido–a sell-out.
Hernandez tells me the LA Weekly has already been bombarded with letters, but we won't get to read them until this Thursday, when the paper goes to press. In the meanwhile, Juarez and Tezozomoc have resorted to printing their own letters. One, from the Latino Urban Forum, claims that the “piece of 'pulp fiction' was not a very well researched” but doesn't elaborate on Hernandez's supposed mistakes. The author also says that Hernandez “forgets to realize that Tezo and Rufina Juarez are the only ones in this City of 3 million that has kept the gates opened for the last 3 years through tireless organizing.” And it ends with the curious statement, “Life in South Central is desperate, therefore desperate times call for desperate measures.”
In other words, any sins by Juarez and Tezozomoc are fine because the end justifies the means. That's not community; that's Maoism.
More ludicrous is the letter by Devon Peña a professor of anthropology at the University of Washington. Peña begins his lengthy letter by stating, “I believe the author was previously terminated at the L.A. Times and I can now begin to understand why this was likely the case.”
Baboso: Hernandez left the Times on good terms. How do I know? I was one of the guys who told him to join my company.
Peña called the South Central article a “poorly researched, inaccurate, and libelous hit piece.” Does the good profe offer any corrections, or examples of libel? Nada. Instead, Peña uses the lovely red herring and appeal to authority ruses of logic by going on and on about the South Central farm's virtues:
As an anthropologist and ethnobiologist, I have carefully studied the biological diversity of the 14-acre site. My studies document a world-class level of biological diversity that includes rare species of heirloom crops native to North America. The South Central Farm is a biological treasure that rivals the botanical collections of any herbarium or university collection in Southern California.
No pinche duh, dope. The beauty of the farms wasn't the issue for Hernandez; problems with leadership were. And Peña never bothers with those points.
“Why the hell should I care about El Lay?” you're asking at this point. Porque this: the Hernandez/South Central tiff shows how thin-skinned Latino activists can be. They are the future leaders of this state and nation, and demographic changes guarantee this. What's worse is that many of them actually believe the press should give them a free pass because they're Latinos. Do them a favor: pin them under a microscope.
(Full disclosure: Hernandez works for our sister paper, and he's the guy who wrote that hagiography about me a month ago for his former employer. Doesn't matter: PC pendejos are PC pendejos)