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No Quiero Cerveza o Taco Bell

If you do not defend your beloved country, it will not be saved

By Roberto Gonzalez y Patrisia Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: April 30, 2004


No Quiero Cerveza o Taco Bell


April could not have ended soon enough, though luckily, it ends in time for a low-carb Drinko del Cinco. With the deteriorating situation in Iraq, we all might need several drinkos, especially after listening to L. Paul Bremer, the head of the American occupation, address the Iraqi people: "If you do not defend your beloved country, it will not be saved."

That's echoes of: "We had to destroy the village to save it."

Speaking of Cinco de Mayo: Last year, we were asked to support a boycott of Cinco celebrations involving liquor. Count us in. (Incidentally, Cinco de Mayo commemorates an event in the '60s when the five largest beer companies got together and decided to have an annual weeklong beerfest.) Also, count us in for a boycott of all fast-food chains, especially those that serve up pesticide-laden and genetically and culturally modified foods.

This year, in addition to supporting liquor-free Cinco events, we've been asked to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' (CIW) nationwide boycott of Taco Bell. The fast-food chain is charged by its workers with refusing to own up to its role in the exploitation of farm workers in Florida's tomato fields. Sure, although we have to think outside the bun on this one as we don't actually know anyone who eats there. Most lovers of Mexican food consider Taco Bell an assault on the culture, if not the palate.

Seriously, we recently met a student at Notre Dame who is part of a series of nationwide actions, from marches and protests to rolling hunger strikes. There, more than 100 students have been fasting, and the hunger strike has now spread to many college campuses nationwide. At Notre Dame, the strikers are also asking the university to purchase fair trade coffee. This action is part of an international movement that seeks to pay coffee workers a fair wage (a rejection of exploitive "free trade"). Such coffee, certified by the Fair Trade Labeling Organization, is purchased from democratic cooperatives of coffee farmers worldwide -- including Zapatista coffee from Chiapas.

It's great to see students nowadays committed to something other than partying, especially as these actions coincide with May 1, when the world pays attention to the rights of workers. Tragicomically, defending the dignity and rights of workers is still associated by some with "communist subversion," though with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, most people have finally put that paranoia to rest.

Here, May 1 has been transformed; in many cities it is now also used to highlight the rights of migrant workers. It's a far cry from a generation ago when the labor movement used to view immigrants as their enemies. Of course, in the post-Sept. 11 climate of fear we're now living in, how long can it be before the right to a living wage, humane working conditions and the right to universal health care is associated with "terrorism"?

Not long. But a pirate shakedown economy that favors the rich -- and an unpopular war -- is causing people to once again identify with these movements.

For example, despite the administration's "good news" pronouncements about the economy, the massive federal deficit and national debt, compounded by record-setting state deficits, have resulted in debilitating nationwide cutbacks to social and human services. Perhaps the worst hits are taking place in the educational arena, where tuition continues to skyrocket and the trend toward resegregation at our nation's major universities continues unabated.

For example, education in California has suffered greatly as a result of the governor's budget decisions. As a result, enrollment at the nine-campus University of California is down generally, but more so for African Americans, Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans. At UC-Berkeley, statistics show that Chicano/Latino admissions fell 7 percent, to 955 from 1,030 last fall. Native Americans declined 22 percent, to 40 from 51. And African American students offered admission there dropped 29 percent, from 298 to 211. These drops in student (staff and faculty also) numbers at major universities are not unique nationwide. In addition to this, the governor has also eliminated funding for diversity outreach programs -- this during the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka desegregation case.

It is in this context that the war looms large: There's seemingly a limitless supply of billions of dollars to destroy, occupy and "rebuild" nations, yet there appears to be no money for our own infrastructure or for human dignity, and none to educate the next generation.

Anyone know how to mount a boycott against institutions of higher learning that practice segregation?

(c) 2004 Universal Press Syndicate

* The Aztlanahuac Mesoamerica in North America UCLA map exhibit officially opened this past April 21. It's a must-see exhibit, especially for students. For more info re exhibit related events (including the May 13-14-15 symposium - schedule to be posted shortly), go to: http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/chavez/Aztlanahuac/index.htm Or Call/write (310) 206-7695 chavez-info@csrc.ucla.edu If you would like to see the same or similar exhibit in your campus//city/community, please write here: XColumn@aol.com

If you would like to see our weekly Column of the Americas in your newspaper, please call/write your local editor and also contact our editor Greg Melvin at GMelvin@uexpress.com or 1-800-255-6734. We can be reached at 608-238-3161 or XColumn@aol.com The column is posted and archived every Saturday at: http://www.uexpress.com/columnoftheamericas/






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