Monday, October 13, 2008

Maurice Jourdane’s memoir recounts the struggle for justice for farm workers

Maurice Jourdane’s life is nothing if not an example of a person who has lived the American dream but who never forgot to give back to the community. His new memoir, Waves Of Recovery (Floricanto Press), allows us to learn of his remarkable personal and political journey.

Jourdane grew up in southeast Los Angeles, witnessed the hard life of farm workers in Delano during law school, helped ban the crippling short-handled hoe, stopped California from labeling mentally retarded Spanish-speaking students who scored low on an English-administered intelligence test, was a Superior Court judge in Monterey County, and recovered from a nearly fatal auto-oil truck collision. In the words of the publisher Floricanto Press:

Mo's life reads like a Greek mythic tale in which the hero suffers and endures moral and physical endurance in his quest, his now legendary legal fights and successes against the powerful California growers and agricultural interests. This biography is a testament to human strength in behalf of justice for Latinos. The success of César Chávez's civil rights movement and union organizing efforts cannot be fully understood without knowledge of the life and sacrifices of Maurice Jourdane, El Cortito. His legal successes, at great personal costs, solidified Chávez's leadership and prepared the way for the consolidation of the Farm Workers' Union, and ultimately for the farm workers to prevail against the powerful political and economic interests of the California growers… He followed César Chávez's motto: "Sí se puede."

Playwright and author Luis Valdéz offers these words: “Waves of Recovery is a powerful account of the struggle for justice for farm workers in the face of brutal, violent opposition by growers and Agribusiness... Written with true honesty and courage, it is nothing less than inspiring."

After retiring from the Superior Court in Monterey County, Jourdane returned to Southern California where he is currently a deputy attorney general fighting to improve the working conditions for farm workers, construction workers, truck drivers, cab drivers, and others who have fallen within the underground economy. In other words, the fight continues.

◙ In the San Antonio Current, B.V. Olguín offers an article entitled, Queering the Movimiento: Gregg Barrios's Theater of the Repressed, Recovered, and Revolutionized. Olguín’s piece begins:

When bleached-blond Danny De La Paz rollerbladed onto a minimalist stage at Our Lady of the Lake University on August 13, 2005, wearing a glass tiara, a muscle T-shirt, and tight, bulging shorts while Brian Adams’ campy anthem “Heaven” played in the background, you knew this wasn’t gonna be just another Chicano gangbanger story.

The actor who debuted as the ill-fated cholo Chuco in the classic gang saga Boulevard Nights, and later played a fratricidal Mexican Mafia assassin in American Me, is all grown up and out of the closet in Gregg Barrios’s play I-DJ Mofomixmaster.

De La Paz opened the one-night stand with an adaptation from Hamlet:

“Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue.”

With a perfectly delivered comic pause and femme aside, he deadpans: “Weren’t you expecting Shakesqueer?”

This seemingly dissonant appropriation of the Bard’s classic work of existential angst to explore the 1970s Los Angeles dance-club scene enables a provocative queering of Chicano identity and even British literary history.

“After all, Hamlet is a play within a play,” De La Paz’s character reminds us. “How queer is that?!”

Barrios’s Shakespeare gloss provided an unexpectedly good staging device for a drama about an aging DJ who recalls how his search for validation as a Chicano on West Coast airways coincided with his coming out. The storyline is simple yet profound: A young gay Chicano wants to proclaim his existence by joining the Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and ’70s — el Movimiento — but his fellow Chicano activists respond by paraphrasing Eldridge Cleaver’s outrageous party line, that the only position for a woman or a fag in our movement is the lateral position.

To read the entire piece, click here. More on Gregg Barrios: his play, Rancho Pancho, continues to make news, this time over at Book Critics Circle which included the Barrios play in this literary news roundup.

Agustin Gurza, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, tells us of Pilar Díaz’s reemergence after the break up of Los Abandoned, which, says Gurza, meant that Los Angeles “lost one of its most creative bicultural bands…” But all is not lost:

At the time, lead singer and songwriter couldn't get herself to talk about why she had abandoned the acclaimed quartet, whose logo was a broken heart.

"It was heartbreaking, the toughest thing I ever had to do," Díaz said this week on the eve of launching her solo career. "The reason is really simple; it's just like what happens with any other band. I just wanted to start doing something new. I wanted to see what else is out there for me, how much more I could grow and challenge myself."

Her reemergence shows that breaking up may be hard to do, but it can lead to unexpected and fruitful places.

To read the entire piece and learn of Díaz’s upcoming show, click here. If you have story ideas for Gurza, email him at (Photo credit: Los Angeles Times.)

◙ Not to get all political on you or anything, I just read an interesting piece at entitled, Hispanics turn cold shoulder to McCain by Ben Smith. It begins:

Despite championing immigration reform in 2007, John McCain is poised to lose the Hispanic vote by a landslide margin that is well below President George W. Bush's 2004 performance.

Polls show Obama winning the broadest support from Latino voters of any Democrat in a decade, while McCain is struggling to reach 30 percent, closer to Senator Bob Dole's dismal 1996 result than to Bush's historic 40% four years ago.

McCain seems to have wound up with the worst of both worlds: He appears to be getting no credit from Latino voters for his past support for immigration reform, while carrying the baggage of other Republicans' hostility to illegal immigration.

◙ Okay, since I am getting all political on you, let me add this: If you’re a California voter and you are happy that our State Supreme Court upheld the right of all people to get married regardless of sexual orientation, then PLEASE vote against Proposition 8. Proposition 8 seeks to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. Regardless of how you feel about marriage, we should not eliminate fundamental rights for ANY Californians. If you want all Californians to enjoy the right to marry, visit No on Prop to find out how you can help.

◙ In the new issue of AWP’s magazine, Writer’s Chronicle, Christopher Buckley offers a powerful and thoughtful piece entitled, Elegy for Desire: Luis Omar Salinas 1937-2008. Buckley says, in part:

Luis Omar Salinas was, and posthumously continues to be, one of the leading Chicano poets as well as an important voice in contemporary American poetry for thirty years. Since 1967, Salinas has been publishing poems and books of poetry, and receiving recognition and awards for his writing. His first book, Crazy Gypsy, (1970), is now a classic of contemporary and Chicano poetry, reflecting the politics and self actualization of those highly charged and changing times. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Luis Omar Salinas was one of the prominent group of poets associated with such major American poets as Philip Levine, Peter Everwine, and Robert Mezey who were teaching at Fresno State College, as it was then known. In his obituary in the Fresno Bee, Levine remembered Salinas when he was first at Fresno State in the late 1960s: “It wasn’t the vocabulary or syntax, but the vision itself. Latino Surrealism gave an unusual edge to his work. I immediately could pick out poems of his out of all my students.” The early hallmark title poem of his first book, “Crazy Gypsy” appeared in the now classic anthology from 1970, Down At The Santa Fe Depot: Twenty Fresno Poets. There he is in his coat, scarf, and hat at the apex of that black & white cover photo, Omar always with a hat…. [Photo credit: Karen Harlow-McClintock.]

◙ All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres at La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!


valrossie said...

There's a lot of exciting stuff happening in the world of Chicano literature. This site is a terrific place to learn for those of us who have inadequate Spanish skills, because it's in English, ta-da! La Bloga: March 2006.

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Anonymous said...

I don't know why Chicano causas have to be mixed up with gay causes. I am a devout Catholic and my beliefs are that marriage is between a man and a woman. Yet, although Catholicism and chicanismo go together like La Virgen de Guadalupe and UFW, somehow I am against people's rights if I want to worship God and listen to his word. I don't see Chicanos and Gay rights have to be one and the same. Yes, I will post as anonymous. After all, I'm a bigot right? That's right up there with racist.

Actors Online said...

How exciting to read about Mr. Jourdane's new work--immediately followed by a post about Gregg Barrios. I grew up in Crystal City during the period of time when Mr. Barrios taught in our schools. With all the problems that Crystal City and Zavala County now face--budget deficits, unemployment, shrinking population, etc.--there was no better place in the world for me to grow up. I was fortunate to enter elementary school in 1969--the very beginning of the social, political, and Cultural Revolution that Crystal City experienced. As a result of that timing, I benefited in several ways.

I was one of the first students in Texas to benefit from their pioneering bilingual education program.
I learned to self-direct and teach my peers in their experimental open-classroom system.
The political climate in Cristal attracted teachers who never would have set foot in our dusty little town. Artists like Amado Maurilio Pena (who was my sister's fourth grade art teacher), Gregg Barrios, and many others, came to Crystal City and opened our small-town eyes.
They made us look at the world through the prism of their experience, their art, and their hearts. While my older sister, Sylvia, had only learned English songs in music class, I learned Yo Soy Chicano and Mexican folk songs. In art class, instead of farm animals and stick houses, we were introduced to muralism and learned about Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera. In English class, we were reading Chicano authors, something we didn't even know existed up until then! My Social Studies classes focused on the struggle for civil rights and we learned about heroes like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Martin Luther King, and Harriet Tubman.

The foundation I received in the Crystal City schools set the foundation for my academic career as well as my legal career. I am so thankful that I grew up there.

There are many other Chicano attorneys that are products of the Crystal City schools. These leaders are making a difference all over the country

People like Gregg Barrios really opened our eyes by bringing theatre to Cristal. He produced full musical productions of Evita and Carmen at Crystal City High School, he arranged for a screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and he always kept our elected leaders on notice by writing the paper, La Verdad.

I am so proud to see Barrios begin to receive the accolades that he deserves.

Daniel A. Olivas said...

Gracias to Valrossie and Toni for their comments. As for anonymous, if you really believe that gay marriage is sinful, then you should shout it from the mountaintops and let everyone know who you are and what you think. I don't mind it when people are honest but hiding behind "anonymous" is cowardly. As the parents of a gay teen, my wife and I want our son to enjoy all the civil rights guaranteed by our supreme court. Such a court ruling does not affect the way you worship as a Roman Catholic. If La Bloga upsets you, please stop reading. Have a nice day.

Francisco Aragón said...

Thank you for posts today, Daniel.

Rebel Girl said...

Thanks for another great Monday post, Daniel. I find the art and politics necessarily inform one another - indeed, how could Chicano lit be taught without teaching about the politcal and social movements that influenced and inspired it -and continue to do so?

I'll be joining you to support equal rights for all on election day.

(side note: On the first day that same-sex marriages were performed in California, my young son and I spent the day outside our Orange County Registrar's office, congratulating the newlyweds, gay and straight, giving them roses and wishing them well. Some of the couples were afraid of protesters so they were happy to see the small crowd that had gathered to support them. It was an amazing day.)

Daniel A. Olivas said...

...and mil gracias to Francisco and Rebel Girl for your comments. Onward!

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