AMENDED LA RAYUELA DE JAVIER “Me gustan los estudiantes” is a song of rebellion By Javier Rodriguez 1 Jan 2012 To all some thoughts just before and after the New Year. “Me gustan los estudiantes-I like students” is a Latin American song that describes the life and courage of activist students in the history of social movements which undoubtedly includes Latinos in the US. The lyrics and music were written by the great Chilean Violeta Parra and the version I just accidentally listened to is Mercedes Sosa’s on you Tube. Along with Puerto Rico’s Danny Rivera it is probably the best ever. It’s a poetic, provocative and an eloquently radical song that brings out youth rebellion against injustice and inequality. I believe it was written in the height of the revolutionary struggles against white colonialism and US imperial domination and it is part of the legacy left by La Nueva Trova Song movement of protest and love for humanity, that flowered in the sixties and seventies in Latin America, Mexico Spain and the US. After listening to it I immediately reflected on the students of today in Chile and Egypt and the Arab Spring and also of the two Mexican university students recently assassinated by government police during the occupation of a bridge in the southern state of Guerrero, land of guerrillas. I thought of the dreamers in the US, who with no papers and risking deportation, have dared to be arrested in civil disobedience demonstrations and in 2010 they publicly broke the travel ban setting a historical and proud example for all Latinos and the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US awaiting legalization. And make no mistake, to the undocumented and their families, the 20,000 or so ICE agents and the rest of police departments in the land of the free, are like nonstop stalkers after female victims, and deportation for immigrants is similar to capital punishment for a poor person stealing food at a market or a family who has lost their home to the bankers and trespassed into a property to find shelter*. Of course because I have been involved in the Occupy LA movement and the Ports shutdown from the incept I have seen the leaderless students, by the hundreds, participating and also leading this movement, camping for months at City Hall Liberty Park, living in tents in the cold and rain, marching and protesting and getting arrested by the hundreds on November 17 at the Bank of America Plaza and on the night of the 30th November when Antonio the mayor set the 1400 humanitarian blue dogs on them. It was a cold night and of the 300 arrestees, almost a hundred Latinos, 40 women and students spent 9 hours on a sheriff bus, all night with tightened plastic handcuffs on, some of them bled and two wet themselves because the sheriffs didn’t allowed them to use a restroom. Of course I also thought of my early years as a student in this country. And boy did it bring back memories of my student years and the memorable good and bad experiences, which were plenty. I’ll share this one with you all. With only three years in the US I then lived with my family in the Pico Gardens-Aliso Village Housing Projects in Boyle Heights in Los Angeles a 1 ½ mile from First and Main Sts. I was fifteen years old and in the tenth grade at Roosevelt High School. One afternoon, I don’t recall the date but it early on in Spring, as I was entering my Social Junior Problems class, which was thought by a Mr. Tom Hatten, a white Anglo teacher, I was stopped cold in the middle of the class room and Hatten asked, “where are your books, As I responded I had not brought them to class he went on a tirade and said, “you damn Mexican why don’t you go back to Mexico where you came from and stop wasting our time here.” The class had Anglos, Asians, blacks and a majority Mexican Americans, mostly second generation, and a few immigrants like me who had recently graduated from the Foreign Adjustment Program, the forerunner to the present ESL. At that moment time and silence stood still, you could hear a pin drop, the seconds became interminable. Though there was no student movement yet at any of the famous Eastside schools, I defended myself, for you see, on that particular day we were to have an outing and venture out to the school’s music room which was actually directed by the same racist instructor. I took my seat and moments after, as all the students were exiting the room, I decided to go see the principal to complain and record the incident. As I turned, David Kubo, a Japanese immigrant student approached me and told me that days before, Hatten had also called him a “dirty Jap.” I encouraged him to go with me and in a form of solidarity, we walked together. Unfortunately Principal Tom Dyer was not in. The school clerk then directed us to the hated Vice Principal Tweedy, who like activist Carlos Montes, resembled a chicken or a bird and mockingly we used to call him “tweedy bird.” David and I narrated our shocking stories and exposed the teacher’s racial misconduct. Tweedy seemed surprised and told us “I can’t have any teacher here say such things.” But in retrospect I believe he was more stunned at the audacity of the two 15 year old teen agers, a Mexican and Japanese immigrants, who dared to confront the system’s colonial authority. So the remedy was to separate us and transfer us to other classes with apparent instructions to the teachers to keep an eye on us. The new teacher I got was a Mr. Sims who for five months treated me with disdain and at the end he failed me, but he could never bend my will. Hatten continued teaching I don’t know for how long. The fact is the administration covered it up and he was shielded. Not long after and in my senior year I had two other confrontations with him. Six years later I was a student at East LA College majoring in Spanish, I was then married with two wonderful kids and I worked the second shift unloading trains and trailers at Sears on Olympic and Soto. It was 1968 and I and all my brothers and sister were already committed and passionate activists in the Chicano civil rights movement. The historical East LA High School walkouts took place involving thousands of Latino students from Roosevelt, Lincoln, Wilson and Garfield. In reality it was a planned and organized student strike against institutional social inequality, racism and discrimination that was immortalized in the film “Walkouts” a film produced “el cabezon” Moctesuma Esparza then one of the student leaders at Lincoln High. On that day at during the noon lunch hour, I was there on Mott St. on the east gate where hundreds of students busted the locks and chains and walked out and struck Roosevelt High, my alma mater. I clearly recall Mr. Crowther, the longtime basketball coach and then brother of the Jack Crowther the LAUSD school superintendent, who failed to stop them, seemed shocked and paralyzed as he saw me and the droves of students enthusiastically walked past him. As part of the documentation of that day, there is a historical photo of Carlos Montez, the late Pete Rolon of the Rolon brothers and myself standing on the sidewalk in front of the opened gate and the mass of students cheering and laughing out of the school. Carlos if you read this Facebook email please post the photo, not just for me but for the youth and the people of today. ZAZ, Javier Rodriguez is a journalist and a media and political strategist. He was the initiator of the historical mega immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006 and directed the March 25 Coalition in the making of The May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott-A Day Without an Immigrant.