Austin’s Latino Identity

Austin’s Latino Identity


– [Voiceover] “Civic Summit”
is made possible in part by Texas Mutual Insurance, providing worker’s compensation
for Texas employers. – That’s very interesting. – Okay, so I’m supposed
to say just one thing? – I know that
vocabulary towards us has a lot of controversy to it, I, for myself, I’m definitely
American first and foremost and then my culture is Hispanic and I bring a lot of that and
try to integrate it together. – I personally am
good with both. – I don’t really care the label. For me I am Hispanic,
I am a Latina, I am an immigrant. – Hispanic has a
different connotation, it means that I am
of Latino origin, I speak Spanish and I live
here in the United States. – For me it’s more
secondary than primary. – The bottomline here
is that our community is no longer a monolith, you can’t typecast
or generalize it. – I am Mexicana, but when it comes to
putting it down on paper in general I’m Hispanic. I’m just Hispanic, yeah. – I am an American, and so at the end of
the day I am an American and that’s the term I
prefer over everything. American. – I don’t define
myself by a label, I am who I am and I’m very
proud to be a US citizen. We have double citizenship
and I don’t wanna anybody to label me
as just one thing. (vibrant music) (audience applauding) – Hello, and thank
you for joining us for “Civic Summit:
Austin’s Latino Identity”. I’m Josefina Casati
editor of “¡Ahora Si!”. Austin’s Latino community
is large and diverse, 35% of Austinites call
themselves Hispanic or Latino. Tonight we’ll discuss the
challenges our community faces. Some of our panelists pioneered the Chicano Civil
Rights Movement, others continue to
the legacy of working to improve the lives
of Latinos in our city. Beginning from my left, Senator Gonzalo Barrientos. Senator Barrientos served
in the Texas legislature from 1975 to 2007, some years in the House
and some in the Senate. He was a pioneer of the
Chicano Civil Rights Movement and continues to be an outspoken
advocate for our community. Mona Gonzalez is the
executive director and founder of the River
City Youth Foundation. Her foundation provides
educational, technological and life enhancement programs
for youth in Dove Springs. Next to Mona is
Doctor Emilio Zamora. Doctor Zamora is a professor
at UT and was an active member of La Raza Unida party. And next to Doctor Zamora
is Carmen Llanos Pulido. Carmen is a native of Austin, a multi-issue
community organizer and director of “GO!
Austin/VAMOS! Dove Springs”, a public house initiative
in Southeast Austin. I’d like to start our discussion
by focusing on identity. The first question I’d
like for us to all start, if you can all answer it, is: What is a Latino? And, specifically, what
is an Austin Latino? – That could take an hour but, generally speaking, Latino is
a term, just like Hispanic, I think that was
derived from the senses to cover a lot of us who
have some kind of Spanish, Latin American roots. I prefer Mexican-American,
I prefer Chicano, but since we have any
number of Americans who are Puerto Ricans, Cubans,
Guatemaltecos, etcetera, so that’s the general
word that is used for those of us who has those
roots, have that language and have a little sun tan. – Nice, thank you. Mona. – I’d say ditto to that. For me the term Latina/Latino is kind of like “una
sombrilla”, like an umbrella. It’s magnificent because
it really brings together over 30 nationalities,
and growing. And so when we
talk about identity we are who are we are and
started when we were children because the identity is formed in “la familia”, in the family. We get labels put on us
all through our lives but our identity, who we
are, we know who we are, we know our “cultura”,
we know our culture, we know our traditions, we know if we like
“tortillas de maiz” or “tortillas de harina”, okay? We know, but now we have this
terminology of Latino and it is beautiful
because it is so unifying. – As I noted it’s
a self-referent, people consciously
choose to call themselves Latinos or Mexican-Americans
or other terms, but it has not only
a personal meaning but it also has a social
meaning in many cases. To be a Latino is also somebody
who has some consciousness of their position in society and as members of
the Latino community, and even more than that. I think that self-awareness
is expressed politically in terms of identifying
and promoting the interests and
hopes and aspirations of the Latino community. – Well, I agree with
everything that’s been stated and it is a very large
umbrella that covers lots of us because not only
do we draw roots from many different countries, we are first, second,
third, fourth, fifth generation and beyond. So some of us have lived
on both sides of the border and some have been
here their whole lives, but there is a deep
rich tradition. And we also are black,
white, brown and Asian, so we are across the
whole racial diaspora and some of us are
not even necessarily identified as Latino
by the outside world until we speak Spanish or
until we reveal something, but I think everybody
who is Latino or identifies with that root, there’s something very rich
and lasting in our culture that does unify us. And people have hold on
to at times specifically because of the way people
have been marginalized. – Let’s talk a little
about culture and, are we losing our culture because we’re not
teaching the right culture in our curriculum at schools? What options do we have
for our future generations to really connect
with their heritage? – First of all, let me take
part of that last question and move into this one. My opinion, because of CNN,
MSNBC, Fox, etcetera, etcetera, on the national level, there are a lot of people,
specially non Spanish-speaking, Anglo, should I say, Americans, who have this image that anybody who’s named Gutierrez,
Sosa, Sanchez, etcetera, and has a little sun tan we just walked across
the border two years ago. They have that image, when most of the
Hispanic population has been in this
country for generations if not even before the
Europeans came to Plymouth Rock. So we have our own history
here with our own background going back hundreds if
not thousands of years. I for one found out that
I had a great-great-uncle who was a soldier in the Union
Army during the civil war. At any rate, the
culture, the language. The language brings
people together. Now, I was telling some
friends a story a while ago about an undocumented who
was telling me one day, he said in Spanish, “No, no,
a mi no me gustan los Texanos, “se creen muy grandes
y no hablan Español”. He said, “No, I
don’t like ‘Texanos’, “they think they’re big shots
and they don’t speak Spanish”. And I told him in Spanish,
“¿Sabías tú, mi amigo, “que cuando nosotros
estábamos en la escuela “si hablamos Español los
maestros nos golpeaban?” “When I was in school
that if we spoke Spanish “the teachers would paddle us?” And he said, “¿De
veras?”, “Oh, really?” I said, “So there are reasons”, and we’re losing some of
that culture, that language, and we must teach our
children who we are, where we come from,
as proud Americans. – [Carmen] I think what Senator
Barrientos is pointing to is a thread in all
these questions which is a history of oppression and a
history of resistance to that. And ever since this
country was founded as a, from a European colony, there has been
pressure to assimilate. So there was pressure
on ethnic Europeans to become Anglo and
to speak English and to leave behind
their customs, and there has been pressure
on every incoming group to be as mainstream
in that mold. And so in my generation it’s
difficult to get a job now if you don’t speak Spanish, and learning Spanish correctly
was very, very important in my family and
in my operating, but most of my
parents’ generation were punished in school
for speaking Spanish. And so we’re in a real
inflection point right now where our country is
really having a struggle between a right nationalism
that is Anglo, European-focused and claiming the country back, which is its own narrative, and actually embracing the
richness of this country as a multi-cultural place
and an immigrant nation. And I think in that inflection
point is where we find where our culture is going
to be preserved and live on. And I definitely can say
that it’s incoming immigrants who have helped me
practice my Spanish. I married to a
first-generation Colombian and this is something we
talk about all the time. But I do have hope
for our future that we’re starting to embrace
what was for so long shamed, and I think that was the
source of a lot of the tension between immigrant
youth and Latinos who’ve been here for
many generations, is that everybody
is trying to fight to get out of that oppression, you either get out by
assimilating as best as you can or by trying to actually
overcome those systems. And I think that’s where
we find ourselves now. – I’d like to add to this, the schools and
other institutions have subjugated our
identity and our knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that our
culture has remained static, it’s always evolved, there is no such thing
as static culture. And it’s evolved for
a number of reasons, of course there’s loving parents
that nurture the children and promote important values
as part of our culture, we talk about it in
terms of familism, but there’s other people
that are also reinforcing very important positive,
constructive, generative values. In the social-political
movement, we often associate
these movements in terms of material
gains we’re gonna make like improving wages and
political representation, which are good, but there’s also
a cultural element to the political movement, we also promote mutualism,
reciprocity, respect for elders. And I think the
social-political movement is reinforcing very
positive cultural values that maintain our identity
with the eyes on the prize, that is equality and so forth. But I think when we speak, by culture there’s obvious
things like language and stuff, but I think that we also
need to look underneath what are the values that are
promoting good change for us, cultural revitalization is
what these movements involve. And I think people, when
they go up and protest or vote for a particular
candidate that promises change they’re reinforcing
their modeling, the kind of behavior that
we wanna have among us. We wanna reinforce
mutuality and reciprocity and caring and respect
for each other. So our movements go beyond simply that the material
gains that we seek. – I’d like to talk a
little bit more about both the language
and the values. Language, whether you speak
Spanish or not, specifically, tends to really impact the way that individuals see themselves, or their comfort
level with identifying as Latino, Hispanic or not. How much value do
we give to language? Does that feel some
of the conflict between recent immigrants
and longer-term Latinos who don’t have the language and don’t have that
ability to communicate? – [Emilio] Well, I think
that’s part of the problem that we face. I think we often times
are influenced to think in negative ways
about ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with
the language you speak, whatever you wish to speak, but we’ve been made to feel
ashamed about who we are and that’s what I meant by
subjugating our identity. I tell my students at the
beginning of every semester when I teach
Mexican-American history at this university, I tell them, “I do not wanna see any of you “playing language
politics with each other, “because if I see it I’m
gonna come down on you “one way or another”. That’s created divisions
among us that do not help us, do not help us advance
anything, it only sets us back. So, schools by denying
us to speak Spanish, I think are promoting
that self-hatred or the shamefulness
that we feel. But we also promote that by playing language
politics with each other, and putting down people that
don’t speak the language the way we speak it. (vibrant music) – [Teacher] For the most part children in our public schools, and this is in Austin, they are not
getting a curriculum that responds to their
culture, their identities, their communities in ways
that affirm who they are. Children that come
to Academia Cuauhtli have an opportunity
to learn these things and learn that
they’re not marginal, that they’re actually
members of communities that have roots that
go all the way back to the original inhabitants
of this continent. The idea was to really build on the district’s current efforts. The Austin Independent School
District has 60 plus schools that teach dual language, but there’s really not
enough curriculum right now. Because there aren’t those
basic kinds of materials the community felt
an urgency about bringing in resources that
could be of use to our teachers. (speaking Spanish) We are teaching
exclusively in Spanish. The children right now are
learning about migration, immigration, civil
rights and local history. A lot of children feel
very united from school, particularly for immigrants, it helps them to feel connected
to the larger curriculum, it becomes a bridge. Children at this level are
studying the Greek gods and getting access
to Texas’ history, and this is an
opportunity to share from a grounded, rooted
historic standpoint what that culture, language, what the culture arts are and
have been for this community. (ethnic music) – I’d like to hear others
from our audience now. Is there anyone up there
who’d like to ask a question? – I have a question. Okay, my name is Jill
Ramirez, I’m from El Paso, which is on the border
of Mexico and Texas, and I think about Austin, since
we are talking about Austin. I moved here in 1983
and I really thought I was moving to this wonderful,
liberal place called Austin that everybody was going
to have this open mind about who you are
as a Latino woman. And when I got here and
I was a bilingual teacher I had kids talk to me and say, “Miss, don’t speak
in Spanish to me “’cause it’s embarrassing”. That’s when I realized
Austin needed to really work on how they see themselves
and their Spanish schools and just their language
and their culture. I was really shocked, and
that was just like in 1983-84. So that’s my experience. – [Mona] Well,
perhaps at that, Jill, we still had a
majority of Anglos in this public school system, but today that has changed and the majority of students
in AISD are Latinos, Hispanics. And so what I’m seeing
slowly happening is that we’re trying to play
catch up in a sense. We do see now with families, we see them embracing
the importance of instructing their children to take pride in their language, but go beyond that because
we are now a global society, it’s really changed a great deal since you and I
arrived here in Austin. – [Josefina] So
you do see a shift. – I see a shift. – With the AISD having more
dual language programs and, you see that there’s
more of an acceptance or even an encouragement
to have bilingualism or just multilingualism.
– Multilingualism. And so the days
when we suffered, because that was what happened, intellectually you can
call it what you want but those of us
that did experience what Gonzalo was talking about, it was suffering. – [Josefina] You
experienced that as well? – As well. It was suffering. You had intelligent,
wonderful young people who were being denied the
opportunity to express ourselves in our language, in
our native language. But today, what I see
happening slowly but surely is that we’re moving
towards embracing, maybe because of
economic reasons because we are becoming
much more global, we are preparing our
future-ready cities, we’re having to move fast
and we’re having to be nimble and we’re having to catch up, but I am seeing a
little bit of progress that’s being made
in the families where they realize that they
are best served as a family by taking pride in who they are and instilling that
in the children. And that’s where
programs and schools and churches and colleges
and all of this come in, that we can inspire them to
move forward in that direction, because once you go
in that direction you will not turn back. – Great, thank you, Mona. – I’m gonna ask, as we see an increasing
gentrification on the East side of Austin
there are a lot of properties that were traditionally
Hispanic or Latino, I think this is what the term
yourselves seated agreed on, that used to be there that are
now going up in apartments, and as these apartments
go up you notice that they have names
like “El Corazón” or in my neighborhood
“El Chicón”. So, how do you feel about that? Is that an appropriate homage to the heritage that was there? Is that a token gesture? Is it unfair commercialization
of the people that were there that no longer can
afford to live there but now the neighborhood
is associated with them? I’m just kind of curious
on your perspectives. – [Josefina] Thank you,
sir, so almost like that, diversity of the neighborhood. Would anybody like
to address that? – Well, I’ll just address
it as somebody who, so my dad lives on the East
side and he’s the last Latino or the last Mexican-American
on his street, and there’s been a large
influx of mostly younger and slightly wealthier
white property owners who’ve come in and either
built homes or have moved in. And he feels very fortunate
that he gets along with those new neighbors and that they actually have
an appreciation for the work that he and many other
community leaders have done to make East Austin
such a wonderful, beautiful, livable place, the work that’s been done
to get industrial toxins out of the neighborhood
that were placed there when the city was segregated. So that’s appreciation, but I think naming a
complex “El Corazón” when it’s not affordable to the
families that were displaced is appropriation, I think that’s very
clearly not appreciation, it’s an appropriation, it’s
capitalizing off of a culture that’s not actually being
catered to in that case. And I think there’s
plenty of room for people to come
in to East Austin, I know a lot of people feel like there’s a huge housing shortage, I think it’s more a question of how we actually allocate
space and housing, are we looking for families
and classes apart of that? But we have to look at
the ethnic segregation that created East Austin, we have to acknowledge
that history and there needs to be
historical recognition for the communities that
made this city what it is, and without that it’s pure
appropriation in my opinion. – And I think we also have
to keep the city council, hold them accountable for
their development policies and the land use policies. It’s pretty obvious
that the city council for a number of years
has used land policies to reinforce previous
segregation based
on racial covenants. Our president, we have a
gentrification once again reinforcing segregation
by moving people out. A friend of mine,
ours, has said recently that the city’s vision that
they call, what is it? Austin? – [Carmen] “Imagine Austin”.
– “Imagine Austin”, he says, “It’s not
‘Imagine Austin’, “it’s ‘Imagine Austin
without poor people'”. And I think the city council
needs to be held accountable and other political institutions for not only allowing
this thing to happen and reinforcing
trauma in our history, but not be really
proposing anything for the welfare
for the community. I think the city policies
regarding planning and land use, I think it has been
intended primarily for the sake of business
growth and development and less for the
welfare of the people. – It’s a multi-faceted problem. It’s unfair, we’re
talking about big money, and moving that culture away, we shouldn’t do that
but it’s happening. And I must defend the city
council to some extent, I was a chairman of
the Charter Commission which pushed through
the 10-1 to change, to have geographic
representation on city council so that we have more Latinos
and African-Americans on there. And what we’ve
talked about there, that came before that. Now, in terms of what
is done through the city depends a lot on
the city manager and the top administration
of the city, but we most hold all
of them accountable. – Okay, thank you. We have more questions? – Joseph Roland, professor
emeritus of Communication. The term identity basically
answers the question which is “Who am
I?” as individual, as a community, say
the Latino community, the question is “Who are we?”, and usually has reference
like language, territory, history, shared values. For the Latino
community in this area, like Senator Barrientos, some of them are
natives of the area, they’ve been born
and raised here, they have families
for generations, the majority are newcomers. The question I have is, what does anyone in Austin do to help the new Latino
residents of the area? Go through this process of
cross-cultural adaptation so that respecting the
culture they bring, the way they answer the
question “Who are we? Who am I?” can now be incorporated into the new resident
of the community so that you keep your roots,
you keep your heritage, you keep your tradition,
but you adapt, you don’t feel embarrassed
because you speak your language, you speak with an accent, you are allowed to or
help to become integrated into the community? What is anyone doing? And if nothing, then
what should be done? – So you’re wondering what kinds
of programs currently exist to help the newcomers
maintain their culture but also integrate and
assimilate, I suppose? – [Joseph] To integrate
and assimilate, exactly. – [Josefina] Okay. – [Carmen] So “GO! Austin/VAMOS!
Austin” is a coalition, is a resident-led coalition, we work with a lot of immigrants
who are in the community and Latinos,
multi-general Latinos. I think I struggle with
the question a little bit because I recognize
that there are people who have been here for decades and still hold on to their
language and their culture, and, again, it’s
almost who are we, it is upon us to
work with people to find that happy medium, but it’s really upon us to
work on our whole society because how somebody feels
when they speak Spanish or when they speak with
an accent that shows that they are not necessarily
natively from here, how they feel in that
moment has everything to do with the way they’re
treated by the person on the other side of
that conversation. So I think, in terms of
decreasing the stigma, is just like when
I hear people say, “How can we decrease the stigma “around signing up
for food stamps?” Well, we have to talk about
a society that shames people for being on benefits. So I think it’s kind of
two sides of the coin, I think there are a lot
of ways to make sure that our programs
and service providers are meeting people
where they’re at, helping people learn English, providing what they
need to in Spanish, but just this stigmatizing,
that’s on all of us, I think. – The first ones who the
undocumented people come here, the ones who newly arrived, the first people they go to
for assistance are Hispanics, are Mexican-Americans, first, then from then on it works
with some of the programs like these folks are pushing. But we must remember
that this integration has to be a two-way street, that the people who come
here have to learn the ways that Hispanics have here, and also make an effort
to learn English. – So, just to clarify, you
see that there is a value in understanding the history. Are you suggesting
that it is important for recent immigrants to
also understand the history as to why a “Texano”
may not speak Spanish as well as …? – That is very important, that’s why I say it’s
a two-way street. People who come here
really should study or ask, what has happened here before? What did you go through? How did you succeed? What were your failures? – It’s a very valuable
point, thank you. Yes? There’s someone else? – I was gonna add
that there are, and answering your question, there’s a lot of
groups in Austin beginning with the
group that campaigned for single-member
district elections, which is a major victory, and there’s people as a
result that got elected, and there’s people that
have been appointed to Commissions and Committees
that advice those people. And that, I think, increase
effective representation. There’s a large number of
non-profit organizations working in health,
education, and so forth. I think we’ve reached the
shift here a little bit more, and a comment on what Senator
Barrientos was saying, and that is we as
Mexican-Americans are really coming into a new period that
is defined to a great extent by demographic change. We’re becoming a major
portion of the population as well as the social
justice community, and we have to learn
how to reach out in both direction, in
multiple direction. We have to learn
leadership abilities in this new environment that
includes class differences and language differences and nativity differences
and so forth. I think, historically, we’re
at a very important point, as Carmen was
pointing out earlier, and I think we’re prepared,
at least in this city, to assume leadership positions in this new people
rights movement. (vibrant music) – My name is Capicci Vazquez and I own Ceremonias
15 and Bridal. Well, the “Quinceañera”
business, I mean, it’s a wonderful business. It’s a wedding
without the groom. The difference is that
you just add color to it, you just make it colorful. I’ve been a business owner
for two years right now. My experience has
been good this year, we’ve noticed a lot
more flow of people, a better revenue. (crowd chattering) – [Voiceover] Welcome to Austin, and I’m excited to tell you what starts here
changes the world. – In 2013 about 10,000
Hispanic-owned businesses that were responsible
for $4.8 billion dollars in terms of contributions
to the economy. I believe that the surge
and the explosive growth of the Hispanic-owned businesses matches the overall demographic. When you look at the
fastest-growing demographic over all it’s Hispanics. We wanna build small
business capacity because at the beginning
and at the end of the day the heartbeat of our American
economy is small business. (slow rhythmic music) – [Adviser] I think that
for Hispanics, for us, it’s not difficult
to open a business. I mean, we are
hardworking people, so imagine adding all
of that to a good idea, then you have a
winning combination. “Emprendedor U” is a
small business program, education program, in which we
help inspiring entrepreneurs and business owners to
grow their businesses, and we do it all in Spanish. Many people think that just
by translating information that makes it relevant for
Spanish-speaking individuals and that’s not the case, you need to culturalize it
because you need to find a true connection so people
can really understand what you’re telling them. – (speaking Spanish)
“Oficina legal”. There are new ideas coming out
from immigrants all the time. My name is Karla Maria Valles
González, I’m an attorney, and since I’ve just
opened my own firm, literally like two days
before the classes started, I went ahead and
took the classes. There are a lot of people
with legal issues that don’t know how to speak English, they have these issues but they’re scared
to access the system, and so to hear that someone
can speak their language and they can understand
what’s going on they need, they need that. And it’s the same thing
with the “Emprendedor U”. There are a lot of
Hispanics here in Austin who do have their
businesses open, it helps them to have more
confidence in their business, confidence in themselves. – [Adviser] I think there’s a
tale of two cities in Austin because, you know, we’re
the “progressive Austin”, the crane is the Austin bird, but we’ve also been reported as the number one most
economically segregated city. There’s 30,000
Hispanic-owned businesses in a five county area, that’s projected to
grow almost 6-7%. But what we wanna do is
make sure that the start-ups that are coming
to the marketplace that they have the capacity to remain here in
this great city and that we don’t push them out. – [Capicci] (speaking
Spanish) “¿Cómo lo sientes?” It’s not easy owning
a business (laughs) but I don’t think I will
go back to be an employee. – We’ll return to our
audience in a little bit but first let’s shift
our conservation slightly to focus on civic
engagement, perfect segue, and how healthy our community is when it comes to
civic involvement. Of course all of you are
very engaged in the community and Austin has a history of
Chicanos and Latinos/Latinas fighting for our rights. How effective are we
now in 2016 in engaging with government
and city programs? – [Emilio] I think we’re more
effective than we were before. In Austin there’s places where
we’ve taken steps backward in other places in the state, but I think we’re in a pretty good position
organizationally. I think one of the things we
need to start addressing too is this basic dilemma, how do you deal with
obvious advances that we’ve made in
the area of education, employment, and so forth? We have, for example, record
numbers of young people that are graduating
from high school and going to universities,
top-tier research universities. A clear sign of advancement. But there’s another
side of the coin always, there’s a serious
gap of achievement between Latino youth
and white youth. There’s gaps in the area
of employment and health that continue to the
point that we can say that they almost seem to be
permanent structural problems. We have to figure
out a way to dialogue in a very frank manner
that acknowledges advances but also that recognizes
that we’re still concentrated among the dropouts, we’re still concentrated among
the low-wage skilled workers. I think that’s one of
the challenges we face as we assume leadership
positions in the
city as a whole. – [Josefina] Mona. – [Mona] One of the concerns
that I have is that what I see with so many of our
Hispanic, Latino families including those that
have just arrived, they are very busy, and
they are busy surviving. This is a huge number
of the population. When I say that we are growing
very fast in Dove Springs and that we have
the highest number, the fastest growth of youth, I’m very proud of that because those families
tend to be large and they tend to be robust and they are filled with
excitement about life and they wanna succeed, but they’re also very poor. And so when you’re
in that situation UT, which is only about,
what? Six miles away? Might as well be
60 or 600 or 6,000, because they are busy, and
they’re busy surviving. And so when we speak
of leadership we
need to think about the best ways to
teach leadership and to find those
natural leaders instead of them
heading off to gangs and to other negative things, to really find them and
to really excite them about learning
and about leading. And what that
means in this city, what it means in their “barrio”, what it means in
their neighborhood, and how it can really
change not only their lives but truly their family’s lives because they care about that. So I wanna see the
conversation elevated to the level of
deploying the resources for true leadership development, because we’ve given this a lot
of lip service over the years and those kids, they
drop out of school, and I’ll tell you
why they drop out, because they have to go to work. So many of them get to 16,
legal age for dropping oUT, and they go on and
you find them in jobs and they’re supporting
their families. – [Carmen] And
they need to vote. I mean, I think just because on the topic of
civic engagement. What Senator Barrientos
said, we’ve made, and I agree with Emilio
too about the progress, we’ve gotten a step further. I think it’s no
secret that we have low voter turnout among Latinos, and there are a lot
of people who care, and it’s not all because people
don’t have the right to vote there’s a combination of things, it’s a lot of what Mona’s
been talking about. I have a lot of faith
in the dreamers, I have a lot of faith
in the young civic and social justice movements
that are encouraging people to be more of a
political process, and I serve on
Independent Citizens
Redistricting Commission that drew Austin’s 10 districts thanks to the work
of Senator Barrientos and the whole coalition
that pushed it, and it was an intense
election process, there were about 500
people who applied to be on the Commission,
it was narrowed down to 60, and then they, literally
by the luck of the draw, five of the first eight
commissioners were Latinos, four Latinas. So we actually had
to look for white men to even out our
Redistricting Commission and as well as to represent African-Americans and
Asians in the community. And it’s not perfect, and the first round of elections it was a bumpy
ride, it still is, but we are definitely
several steps closer to not only talking to our
kids and our youth about why voting is important,
and civic engagement and leadership in addressing
some of these issues, but also having politicians that live in their
neighborhoods, that come to their meetings,
that come to their schools, and they actually see people
in positions of leadership. And so, we have a long way to
go but we are making progress. – Number one, it
starts right here. I don’t care how
poor people are, it begins with that mother
and father and those children. Government can do
a lot of things, “pero aquí estoy, primero”. As the saying goes, “El que
no habla ni Dios lo oye”, “Who does not speak not
even God will hear”. And people have to realize
that this is a free country, I mean, you don’t
have to go out there and call the city
council members names, but you get up there and give your statement
of how you feel. “Aquí comienza” with
individuals, “el
padre y la madre”. (vibrant music) (slow music) – [Jill] It’s so
excited to see that 10-1 is taking place and
that it’s working so well. Harmony isn’t … My name is Jill Ramirez Coronado and I live in Battle
Bend area of Austin, but of course our
business is in Montopolis, so I’m actually in
two neighborhoods and I’m pretty involved in both. You know there’s a
few bumps in the road but what we have
seen from, you know, after it happened was that
really the representatives are really trying to be more
engaged with the constituents. – I think it’s
going pretty good. We were able to do a lot of
projects in my neighborhood that we’ve been struggling trying to convince
the city of doing. And historically it’s
always been the minority, it’s always been in last in line waiting for anything
to come from the city, and we’ve been
neglected over years. So I believe that that
was one of the reasons why is because we didn’t
have the influence. – But generally there’s
a great man with, number one, ungentleman, I don’t know why
the called it that but a true gentleman
would have never settled for having people who are
second-class citizens. I think that having the
right personnel at city hall and people who understand
what they went through in East Austin is like
that shared history that is important. – The problem that we’re
struggling with right now is the young people, the young voters up to 30 or 35. They’re turn out is horrible, a lot of them don’t
see up to vote. I really feel like, you know, it comes down to grass root, I like to got to the places
in my area, the businesses, and I talk to people, you know, and one of the things
that I tell them, I say, “You know, you’re the
ones that don’t speak out, “not even the Lord
could hear you”. – I think that they
understand that now they have a way to get their say so, and that that will bring
about voting they go. They did change my
life so, you know what? I need to continue
being involved. (slow music) And the way we’re
used to nowhere, people forgot about us. I do really get a sense
that a lot of my niece in their community
were a priority. – [Voiceover] I welcome
you all to city hall for a truly historic event. – 10-1 gave us a big voice, and we were able to get
four minorities elected. That added a lot of influence. Now we have a voice. – Let’s get to the
questions from the audience, I’m very interested in
following it up with body and what we can specifically
do to change that. – [Attendant] I guess I’ll
just touch on a few themes. We politically navigate through
the world through language and we’ve been talking about
identity in specific terms but I’m more
interested in spelling, because particularly
for like queer and non-gender binary people, Spanish is such a
gendered language. Do you guys, for the
people in the panel, do you, when you consider
yourself in whatever term it is, do you consider also
alternative spellings like Chicano with an “x”
or Latino with an “x” or with the “@” sign at the
end of Latino or Latina, to be inclusive for all, for
even a more diverse community? – [Carmen] The intention
is certainly there and I think we’re addressing it, I think specially — Well, I would say in
younger generations we talk more about gender
politics and LBGTQ issues perhaps more than the
previous generation did, but then again there had been pioneers in this
area for decades and there actually is a
category of like queer
chicana lit, right? Which for some of us that was
such a breakthrough relief to find an outlet that embraces both Latino culture
and queer culture. I learned about spelling
Latina/Latino with an “x” only about three
or four years ago because I had used the “@”
symbol to mean Latina or Latino, and then it was
pointed out to me that that is very gender binary, and if we’re gonna be inclusive
of the whole gender spectrum of people who identify as
transgender or gender queer, or we just wanna get gender
out of it for a second, we spell Latino with an “x”. So I don’t know if the spelling necessarily addresses the issue but at least we’re
talking about it and they know it’s a
relief to a lot of Latinos who have felt kind of on
the margin for a long time. – [Josefina] It’s great. – [Emilio] This is important
symbolic gestures, you know, the “x” and so forth that doesn’t mean it’s not
important, it’s very important, but for me also
what is important is where these issues are raised, and I think the LGBT community,
the feminists earlier, I think discovered that in
these social-political settings where we promote these
values of neutrality, reciprocity and respect
for the rights of others, we have the natural
social-political environment where we can talk openly and
honestly about theses things. And talk about inclusion, including all parts of our
community with respect, and also to promote their
concerns and interests, absolutely. – [Josefina] Great
question, thank you. Miss.
– [Veronica] Thank you. My name is Veronica Forsythe, and I was hoping that you
could comment on what I see as the lack of leadership
in the city and, don’t know if the word
that I wanna use is defend, but talk about
lots of the virtues of the Hispanic community,
Latin community, Mexican-American community, because what I see is
that national level is all this stereotyping us as, I don’t wanna repeat
what you all know what they’re stereotyping us as. And I don’t see
anybody in Texas, any of our leaders
that serve us, coming up and saying,
“Wait a minute, “that offends the
people that we serve “and that is not what we
see in our community”. So I’m like kind of
upset that nobody in a leadership position
has really come up and said anything
to that effect. And our community also
hopefully will unite and stand up for that too, because talking about
stereotypes, as you
can see I’m tall and all time, right? Okay, we agree on that. All the time I’m asked, “and, so, where are you from?” And I have to say,
“Well, I was born here “but my parents are from Mexico, “and they’re from Mexico”, and then it’s like, “Oh, so, but where are
your grandparents from? “They surely are like Europeans” and I don’t fit
in that stereotype so people starts asking, “Oh, so, what about back, back?” I say, “Well, how about
400 years in Mexico, “would that be
sufficient for you?” So, yes, I am tall,
I have an accent, I’m Mexican-American, and I am not happy to see that
nobody has stand up for us to say, “No, that is not
acceptable, that offends us”. So, thank you.
– [Josefina] Thank you. Do you all agree that no
one is standing up for against the negative
stereotypes? – Part of our problem
throughout the whole country, throughout all groups, is that we have to … If you want something done
and they’re not doing it you get up there and do it. We need fewer politicians
and more public servants, and the way to do
that is to vote. Very simple, very
easy, it’s free, otherwise you’re
gonna keep getting what you’ve been getting. – What can we do? The question I have for
the panelists right now is, what can we do to get
more people out to vote, to exercise their
voice and their right? – [Emilio] Public education,
there’s a direct cause or relationship
between low education of Latino and the franchise, the higher you’re educated
the more you participate. I think that’s one way to do it. The other is to
speak to the youth, our population is
youthful population, youth does not vote, so you need to reach
out to the youth. That’s not to say
people haven’t done it, I mean, we have a long history, the Southwest Voter Registration
and Educational Fund in San Antonio built a
movement around this issue, registering people to vote
and get them out to vote, and it continues. But I’m just basically
affirming some things that I think are important. – Senator Barrientos, you’ve dealt with this
issue for decades. Have you seen a change? What are the effective steps
to get people out to vote? – There has been a change. There are several things that
we have done in the past. One, part of our culture is that you have to ask the
individual, ask, if you don’t ask
they’re gonna say, “They’re not
interested” or whatever. Ask, “Would you please
go out and vote? “Would you vote for me? “I’m going to do this,
this, this and that”. You have to ask first. Number two,
traditionally in Texas and throughout the county,
the Southwest anyway, the money for advertising
and going door to door, and newspapers and TV has gone into suburbs
of white America, and the money not being there
we had to stretch the dollar in order to get elected, we had to make our
own silk screens, our own signs, our own posters, we even put them on coat hangers
and threw them up in trees so that you could see ’em. We did a whole
bunch of new things in order to get the
“raza” out to vote. And they will come out to vote but the campaign has got
to be done just right. – [Carmen] I think it
involves listening too. I’ll just briefly say that
what’s being talked about is, what are the issues that are
affecting people day to day, and we have to create the
space for those conversations and on those
conversations so that we speak for ourselves
in our communities, and our youth can speak for
themselves and not be spoken for ’cause I think for decades
people saw a system that wasn’t working for them,
that didn’t represent them, didn’t see politicians
who looked like them, and then when they do see
politicians that’s, you know, some are really public servants, as Senator Barrientos mentioned, and some are in it
for the politics. And so it’s a slow evolution but it’s getting out there and
talking and it’s listening, and it’s creating the space
for that conversation. I believe it works
on a grass root level but it’s gonna take all of us. – There’s a difference
between internalizing something that you believe in
and you think it’s important and complain, where you do it because
somebody told you to do it or you’re trying to
make somebody happy. There’s a very big
difference in that. I see that for many
of our Latinos, for many, and it’s
just not Latinos, but for many of our youth
who aspire to succeed they have yet to
internalized the value of living in this
country in a democracy and exercising that need
and that right to vote. They haven’t internalized it. Now, why is that? It could be for a lot
of different reasons, but it could be because
they haven’t had the role modeling, perhaps, or perhaps they’re very
intelligent and they are seeing all of the political games
that are being played and they wish not
be part of that. We have to respect that, they haven’t fully internalized. Once they internalize the value they do what you
were talking about, it starts with at home
and it starts with them, and it’s almost
a heartfelt need. When you internalize it you’re going to do
something about it, and that means that you’re
going to learn the issues, you’re going to
attend those forums, you’re going to get excited
about that election. Until the internalization
happens it’s complaints. – I think this bring goes
directly to what a viewer asked, goes to discrimination and
some of this divisiveness that we’ve been speaking about. Juan Zuñiga Jr. asks, “How do you suggest we
handle discrimination “against Latinos and Latinas
and other people of color “when confronted with in a
workplace or other setting?” – If I may take the first shot. There are certain laws
on the books already, people have to try to become
aware of what those laws are in discrimination
in the workplace. The laws are there, they
have to be enforced, but the individual being
discriminated against does not speak up it’ll keep getting what
you’ve been getting. – I think that’s
very, very true, and I also know that for
a lot of people of color there’s retribution that comes from speaking out
against things, so in my experience in
pointing out discrimination, as an organizer you
always have to have power of analysis, so you kind of have to have
a cost-benefit on strategy, you have to know your laws,
you have to do your research, but you also have to
know who are your allies, who are the people who share
the same frame of reference and how can you
articulate what you see when sometimes it
can be very emotional and you can react without
necessarily being helpful. And I think it’s very
important that in the nation we’re talking more about
race and race relations, we’re talking more
about discrimination and things are coming to ahead, but what we often find
is that while the topic of race and discrimination
hasn’t been popular in the mainstream
for a long time if you go into the
households of people of color and immigrants and Latinos, that conversation has been
happening for a long, long time. So we need to make it
a common conversation so that we can come to
come on understandings and have each other’s backs so that when
somebody calls it out we actually analyze
what’s going on, we don’t turn on the person
who is blowing the whistle, because that’s a real threat and that happens with
women facing sexism, it happens with LBGTQ people
facing discrimination. We have to become
each other’s allies and speak a common language
about what we’re experiencing. – It feels like
we’ve just started the surface of the conversation but that is all the time
that we have for tonight. So I’d like to thank all of
our panelists for joining us. Thank you for being here. You can see more KLRU stories
about Austin’s Latino Identity and his Chicano history
by visiting KLRU.org. Thank you for watching, I’m Josefina Casati. Good night. (audience applauding) (vibrant music) – [Voiceover] “Civic Summit”
is made possible in part by Texas Mutual Insurance, providing workers compensation
for Texas’ employers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *