Every year for the past five years, I have looked forward to the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival that takes place usually in July. It is an excellent festival that is spearheaded by Edward James Olmos and features Spanish, Portuguese and English language films from all over the world. It is held at the prestigious Egyptian Theater in Hollywood and is well regarded in the community as is testified to by the large numbers in attendance.
There is, however, one thing that has marred this great festival. In the past two years there has been a large group of well-intentioned but malinformed anti-Olmos protesters at the event. They are protesting Olmos' involvement in an animated film named "The Road to El Dorado". The theme of the movie is about two Spaniards who con their way to the New World in their search for treasure. The protestors insist that Olmos is a sellout for being involved with a project that promotes or glorifies the injustices that the European conquerors committed on the indigenous peoples in Central and South America.
If you see the movie, it is indeed a parody of the actual events that transpired in the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortez and his armada. We all know what occurred there after the defeat of the Aztec Empire in Tenochitlan; subjugation, genocide, enslavement, and annihilation of a way of life.
In my opinion, I think the Chicanos that are protesting against Olmos are way off base. I don't question their right to picket. It is our God-given right as Americans.
What bothers me is how misinformed this group truly is.
First of all -- and rightfully so -- they cite the atrocities committed by the Spanish on the Aztecs. However, they completely ignore the fact that the Aztecs were conquerors in their own right. These Aztecas were not indigenous peoples from the Valley of Mexico. They left their ancestral home of Aztlan in the North and migrated to Tenochitlan. Along the way, they subsisted by taking what they needed from the many tribes they encountered on their march south. In their migration they were seeking a place to settle that was mentioned in their mythology. According to their myths, they would know this place when they encountered an eagle perched on a cactus eating a serpent.
They found this place on an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. It became Tenochitlan and eventually Mexico City. However, just because they found this mythological place did not mean they owned it. They still had to defeat the inhabitants of this area, the Toltecs. Once this was done, they proceeded to build one of the most important and splendid civilizations in the Western Hemisphere. They did this by subjugating most of the tribes in Mexico and making them pay tribute in goods and in slaves to be sacrificed to their Gods.
So, when Cortez and his indigenous allies vanquished the Aztecs, it was a case of a conquering people defeating another conquering people.
Secondly, these protestors in defense of indigenous people fail to acknowledge a very important fact: most of us are Mestizos. That is, we are racially and culturally mixed. What these protestors are doing is denying their European heritage.
We have in us the blood of both the conquered and the conqueror. So, how can they deny the part of our roots that gave us our present language and religion as well as provided us with foods, customs and even our physical appearance?
Finally, how can minor participation in an animated film negate all the good that James Olmos has done for society in general and La Raza in particular? Can they not see he is doing everything he can to promote the arts, culture, education and self-sufficiency for our people and doing it with a minimum of political rhetoric?
Can they not see the example he sets by using his name and fame to bring us the L.A. Latino Film Festival, the annual Latino Book Fair, the National Council of La Raza, the Americanos book and exhibit, Nosotros, and many other countless endeavors?
Who amongst us can forget the solitary figure of James Olmos sweeping debris on our neighborhood streets during the L.A. Riots? Is this the portrait of a man who is a vendido, a sellout to his people and community?
I think not.
Willie Qui?ones is a Craft Supervisor in the L.A. Community College District. He considers a social/political activist that writes for the pleasure of crafting words. A Tejano from El Paso, he now resides in Little Siagon area of Westminster, CA.