Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Power Shifters in Raza Futures

Book Signing in LA Council Chambers Honors Raza Trailblazers
Michael Sedano

Review: David R Ayón; George L Pla. Power Shift. How Latinos in California Transformed Politics in America. Berkeley: Berkeley Public Policy Press, 2018. Isbn 9780877724568.

What if an author gave a book talk and no one showed up? That nightmare may have stolen sleep from George L. Pla and David R. Ayón until Friday afternoon, when guests filed into the marble-columned chambers of Los Angeles City Council, buzzing with excitement.

Mayor Eric Garcetti waits as he's introduced
Pla and Ayón, veteran participant-observers in SoCal’s political landscape who know everyone who is everyone, hosted by Councilman Gil Cedillo, an everyone, had come to the seat of power in North America’s third-largest city, to autograph the authors’ vitally useful history, Power Shift. How Latinos in California Transformed Politics in America.

The event was a living QED. The Mayor, a Chicano, spoke. Cedillo, otro Chicano, can write his own ticket in local politics. The Emcee was a teevee luminary from Univision, Gabriela Teissier.

Garcetti and Cedillo stood up there like they own the place.

They do.

That’s owing to the ten elders whose narratives comprise the heart of Power Shift: Alatorre, Cedillo, Contreras, Durazo, Molina, Polanco, Roybal, A.Torres, E.Torres, Villaraigosa.

Esteban Torres, Richard Polanco, Gloria Molina
Each of the Elders who could attend, Esteban Torres, Gloria Molina, Richard Alatorre, Richard Polanco, Maria Elena Durazo, Gilbert Cedillo, answered a probe from Teissier, who took off her emcee chaqueta to don an investigative journalist’s fedora.

She asked hard questions that focused each person on an issue, as opposed to a “how does it feel now that you’re old?” softball lob. The Elders were caught by surprise and answered with the substance inherent in their achievements, if not necessarily Teissier's question.

Garcetti gives an eloquent talk, an impressive, finished speech. If that’s a stump speech, he’s got some good stuff, the speech has substance and duration, not something I expected in a ritualizing setting like a book release and signing. Clearly the man respects the event by putting significant effort into the message. It made up for his being late, delaying the event and reminding gente that even high-class raza run on CPT.

A montón of staffers take a breather. Someone from Cedillo's office hands out bottles of water. A couple
of the suits here work up a sweat schlepping folding chairs to later arrivers. 
The mayor—he calls himself el alcalde--may be extemporizing off an outline. If so, I’m doubly impressed with that speech. The delivery is so natural I can’t tell if he's reading, memorizing, reciting boilerplate, or making it up from the heart. There's a concept in persuasion called "ethos," defined as the character of the speaker, real or assumed. El alcalde comes off as a hero.

He takes a portfolio with him when he steps away from the lectern. I’d like a copy of that. I reckon future rhetoric and public address theses and dissertations will follow Garcetti's oratory and incidental remarks. They'll find the manuscript in his Library.

Most notably, given the raza audience, the Mayor smoothly code-switches out of Standard American English when time comes to pronounce Spanish words. Then the words roll off his tongue like a native speaker. Órale, Eric. Ethos.

I don’t pay him much attention and maybe all Garcetti’s speeches have a lot of code-switching in them. It’s an effective rhetorical identification. One thing for sure, the Mayor's attendance and speech shows his debt to the power shift feeding the Mayor’s political ambitions. Whatever, nothing is beyond grasp. There's been a power shift.

Rep. Maxine Waters greets David Ayón, Loyola Marymouth Profe and co-author

Maxine Waters attended. Imagine a Tulsi Gabbard and Maxine Waters ticket. Maxine and Garcetti. Imagine the possible. The six Elders attending, Esteban Torres, Gloria Molina, Richard Alatorre, Richard Polanco, Maria Elena Durazo, Gilbert Cedillo, illustrated a key characteristic in common. Big time accomplishments out of regular gente.

The lines to have the six Elders, along with the authors, sign their complimentary copy of Power Shift, moved “like taking Communion,” the Emcee announced en Cristiano. The cultural in-crowd got it. On the internet, Power Shift has a hefty $117 price tag at Abe books. 2019 Update. Abe Books now lists Power Shift at $13.19.

I happened to chat with Gloria Molina the next day. I told her I’d enjoyed the book. “Did you read it in one day?” the trailblazing person asked, surprised I think. Power Shift. How Latinos in California Transformed Politics in America, is an easy read. Once a reader gets into the rhythm of the straightforward style, third person past tense, the eyes zip across the paragraphs. A paragraph from the focus on Gloria Molina illustrates the colloquial narrative style that engages informed readers:

Gloria, who decades later became the first Latina to win one major elected office after another in California, was from a family that started out in a decaying, southern part of unincorporated East LA, later annexed by the towns of Montebello and Commerce. Her neighborhood was known by the name of Simons, short for Simons Brick Yard No. 3, a giant family owned business that had built the town for its Mexican workers and was said in the 1920s to be the biggest Producer of bricks in the world.9

The book, lightly footnoted with a good bibliography, is an historian’s endeavor. Footnote 9 in the Molina narrative above, refers to an LA Times article, a book, and primary source interviews with the retired public servant. Here, the historians would have enriched the readers with a literary reference, too. The most notable story about Simons comes to readers of Alejandro Morales’ The Brick People, a novel of those Mexicans, and the brick yard masters. The novel isn’t mentioned in the bibliography.

A final observation on a highly readable history: When gente today talk about the movimiento in terms of the rallies and mass protests, personal stories get lost. For example, Esteban Torres is the person who applied for the permits that allowed gente to mass for the Chicano Moratorium on August 29, 1970. Without doing things the right way, getting the permits and stuff, the cops might have gone on a riot.

CPT. Press mills at the front exposing footage while the organizers wait the Mayor's entrance.

World’s Best Yerno

The things a photographer does for a good foto. The poetry circle encouraged me to sit in the center and pivot from reader to reader. At the end of the reading, I clumsily pushed myself up from the floor using only my right arm and shoulder. The shoulder failed. Pop pop pop. A week later, the massive rotator tear went under the knife. Six months later, yesterday, the surgeon declared failure.
Foto with normal lens across the poetry circle

When you get a massive tear, he explains, surgery has two outcomes. One, alleviate pain. Two, return the arm to function. The surgeon hemmed and hawed a bit and said the word “fail.”

The shoulder doesn’t hurt any more. I can’t lift my right arm above my waist. I can’t play piano except sloppily. Don’t Wittgenstein me with the one-handed concerto. I’m not that good. It’s relaxing to sit and whip out some old-timey tunes. I do a mean Ojos de Sancha improv but only for a few seconds before the right arm gives out. So it goes.

My son-in-law had his shoulder repaired, too. It didn’t come back entirely, either. But that didn’t stop him from taking over my pond refurbishment project that got interrupted by my February surgery. He stored my water plants and fish, dried and scrubbed the empty cement walls, put two coats of a high-tech epoxy on the walls, and installed a deluxe pump and aeration system.

My water garden has returned thanks to his skill and effort. Birds, insects, marauders are returning and baby zancudos don’t stand a chance against the voracious gold carp. Now all I need is some turtles and frogs and I’m a happy water gardener again, bum arm and all.

When my daughter was a little girl she’d profess eternal love for her mom and dad. “Of course,” I tell the little girl, “but one day you will bring home the man of your dreams and you’ll say, ‘Dad, I want you to meet Lester.’ And my daughter would go ‘oh, Da-aad!” Well, Lester turned out pretty good.

I am digitizing all my vinyl from the sixties. My yerno gave me a Nashville Skyline several years ago. I wasn’t listening to vinyl then, but he said I could frame the cover. I added it to the records boxes. Yesterday, I used el yerno’s gift in the digitizing project, and that surface is clean and noiseless, I can hear every plunk and note, not a wow or flutter scratch or pop in the bunch. ¿Ves? The perfect son-in-law.

1 comment:

jmu said...

I knew people who grew up in the Simons Yard. Sadly, all but one have passed on.