Tag Archives: Human Rights

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2011

5 Oct
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month 2011

“Renewing the American Dream”







By: Leyla Tess Berlanga

September 15th through October 15th has been proclaimed as National Hispanic Heritage Month and has been given the theme “renewing the American Dream.” On September 15th President Obama’s “proclamation” was released and I found it to be quite interesting. In the proclamation, the President mentioned how influential Hispanics are to the American community as a whole, stating that things such as “strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service” have enhanced our nation’s character. The President also expressed that “the future of America is inextricably linked to the future of our Hispanic community. “

The President is also in the midst of “selling” The American Jobs Act to the American people as well as to Washington; Hispanics account for two-thirds of the country’s population growth, are currently experiencing an unemployment rate of 11.3 percent, and there are currently over 50 million Hispanics in the United States; so I think it is safe to say that the support and vote of the Hispanic community is very important and crucial to the Obama administration.

The President has proposed the American Jobs Act to help the entire Nation, and particularly Americans like the nearly one million Hispanic-Americans who have been out of work for over six months. The President also mentioned topics such as “improving educational opportunities, and expanding access to affordable, quality health care” and stated to remain committed to fixing the country’s “broken immigration system”. He mentioned key issues that we, the Hispanic community, are concerned about and I hope that these statements weren’t made simply in lieu of this being Hispanic Heritage Month, but rather made with the intentions of being executed efficiently, properly and in a timely manner.


“El Ángel de la Justicia”

26 May

By Doris Marquez    @Matt.org

Jessica Domínguez , una abogada en asuntos de inmigración es considerada como “ El Ángel de la Justicia” en EE.UU.

Esta mujer de origen peruano, tiene un enorme y apasionado compromiso con su comunidad, además el incansable sentido de la defensa de los derechos de los inmigrantes son su  pan de cada día.

Ella misma fue víctima de las leyes. Ni su hermano ni ella tuvieron un abogado que les preguntara su opinión sobre la separación de sus padres.

 Domínguez comentó, “Un juez tomó una decisión que afectó mi vida hasta ahora”, recuerda. “Fue una injusticia, yo apenas tenía cinco años; nadie conversó conmigo para preguntar qué es lo que yo quería”.
Esa experiencia y los consejos de sus abuelos Raquel y Jorge la motivaron a que decidiera a  estudiar leyes. Porque ella misma sabe lo que significa no tener a alguien que defienda sus derechos

“Fue algo doloroso”, rememora, durante la entrevista en sus oficinas de Century City, California.  Su abuelito siempre le decía tienes que ser doctora o abogada.  Así, la lucha legal gratuita encabezada por “El Ángel de la Justicia” y su grupo de expertos en asuntos de inmigración tuvo un final feliz, con el respaldo del gobierno estadounidense, las autoridades de El Salvador y de México.

“El Ángel de la Justicia” sin embargo  se fundamenta en su fe y su creencia en Dios. Una filosofía compartida por ella y su  equipo de trabajo y a si mismo cada día con dedicación, responsabilidad y compromiso luchan por los derechos de los inmigrantes más desposeídos.

“Considero mi licencia de abogada como un regalo de Dios”, dijo. “Es un gran privilegio poder ser el vehículo de bendición que El utiliza para ser de bendición para muchas familias, ya que El me utiliza como la voz de aquellas personas que no pueden tener voz”.

Foto: Cortesía de aol.noticias

“¡Hasta La Madre!” – Poetry in Motion Stirs Up Controversy Over Drug War in Mexico

3 May

by Carlos Arredondo @ MATT.org

In the beginning of April he penned a letter open to the public at large and directed to the politicians and criminal organizations of Mexico, with the media resources and broadcasting muscle to make it count. Within days he had amassed a grass-root non-violent protest with some 50,000 participants mobilized in the streets of Cuernavaca, Morelos (the largest in the state’s history by the way). But wait, it wasn’t just Cuernavaca, masses took to the streets in over 40 cities throughout the Mexican nation, and internationally throughout Europe, South America and North America to unite in his cause. Then, with another bigger protest march already scheduled for early May in the zocalo of D.F. he begin to drill plaques with the names of men and women killed in the war onto the local Government Palace, and calling on citizens throughout all of Mexico to do the same on the municipal and state government halls in their own cities. So influential was his voice that even “Subcomandante Marcos” personally wrote to him expressing his solidarity and the commitment of his limited participation. But he has the attention of both rebel and orthodox alike… President Calderon also personally received him in his presidential palace in the wake of these events. And it seems the momentum is escalating, not waning…

So by now you must be asking who is “he”??? A politician? An influential and wealthy businessman or tycoon? A celebrity perhaps? A sports or entertainment icon? Well, chances are you would never have guessed. His name is Javier Sicilia, and he is a poet. Yup, that’s right a poet! A native Mexican, Javier is also a novelist, journalist, and a professor of literature. And this scholar poet’s voice seems to be a trumpet awakening the sleeping giant that is the citizenry of Mexico.
But first it was Javier who was jolted starkly out of a passive demeanor into his own current pro-active state. On March 28, his 24-year old son Juan Francisco Sicilia was brutally murdered along with another half-dozen young men. Javier was abroad when he found out news of his son’s death, and wrote an 8-line poem dedicated to his son just hours after. He claimed that this would be his last poem, because after his son’s death, “poetry does not exist in me anymore.” Only days later he wrote his letter (original Spanish version here) to politicians and criminals, which he distributed in mass media to the public. The letter in unfiltered terms criticized both the government and the drug-traffickers alike in a daringly bold and blunt manner. Then on April 6 the people responded in overwhelming unanimity as they marched the streets together in protest. (If you are curious as to the potential effectiveness of non-violent civil resistance, you may want to check out this article.) Not even a week later on April 12, with dozens of local, national and international reporters present after a press conference Sicilia led a company of people in drilling plaques onto the local municipal building in Cuernavaca with the names of 95 people murdered in just the last 100 days there. The first plaque up was one with his son’s name on it. The following day in Cuernavaca’s zocalo, Sicilia and other community leaders announced in the presence of thousands their plan for a march to Mexico City on May 8 in a campaign to end the drug-war. Various religious leaders spoke, heavily quoting Ghandi and King, and nearly 100 more plaques were erected. It was a clever tactic as it put the governmental authorities in a pickle of a situation: if they took the plaques down they would be demonized, if they left them up it would only announce that much louder the point of the message that Sicilia’s posse was trying to make. That weekend (Sunday, April 17), reportedly during the nocturnal hour of 3AM some officials removed several of the plaques, leaving most of them there along with the altar of flowers and candles which had been laid in front of them. But this hidden and hesitative move accomplished nothing as citizens immediately had organized to repopulate the wall and vowed to place two more plaques for each one that had been removed.
Most recently, last Wednesday protestors went to the Paloma de la Paz fountain (translated “Dove of Peace”) in Cuernavaca dying it the color of blood. This was followed by delivering letters in person to the Attorney General’s office and also to the State Congress while deputies were in session. They read their letters aloud and put up large banners saying “closed due to incompetents” and “closed due to impunity and complicity.”
Javier himself has admitted he is not a political person and that it is his convictions that are catalyzing his actions. Nevertheless it is perhaps this very thing that has made him win the agreement of the people so quickly and easily, and created consent for him to be a representative voice. It seems that morals and ethics are root motivators in this whole series of events. He is a poet not a politician, and a wordsmith whose sincerity is obviously transparent as he speaks out of genuine emotions in the wake of his son’s death. His ability to understand so many others who have lost loved ones and live in fear certainly allows most of the population to identify with him. However, Sicilia’s ideology is producing some ideas that could possibly be described as a bit “outside the box” and maybe even radical. And not necessarily radical in principle, but in ambition. He has talked of legalizing drugs, and of making truces or pacts with the drug traffickers to reduce bloodshed and eliminate the “collateral damage” of reckless violence. He also opposes the legislation which would give executive political powers unrestricted access to military force, a privilege that could be easily misused or abused. Add to the mix the support of controversial figures such as Subcomandante Marcos who wrote Sicilia in April saying he would also exercise his constitutional rights by marching with all of his EZLN in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas in May in conjunction with Sicilia’s march.
It will be interesting to see what this movement will evolve into in the near future. At least it seems hard to describe it as anything less than a movement, as small as it may be. It is difficult to say the scale and kind of fruit that the march this weekend will produce. But for those concerned with the welfare of Mexico, it will be something to keep an eye on.

Documentary Film Making Mexican Cinema History, and Sparking Social Change?

26 Mar

By Carlos Arredondo @ MATT.org

The new Mexican Documentary Film “Presunto Culpable” or “Presumed Guilty” is igniting a fire of awareness to an issue that has long ago been swept under the rug. The husband and wife team of lawyers, Roberto Hernandez and Layda Negrete, who are doctoral candidates at UC Berkeley and now filmmakers had the audacity to go digging under this dirty rug that is the Mexican Judicial System. And it is stirring up quite the dust-storm.

Wait, did I say “new” Mexican documentary film? It’s not new, not exactly. Let me explain… The film has been completed for several years now and already been showing abroad in various places since then. As a matter of fact, it has been winning awards since 2009 boasting accolades such as Best International Feature and Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival amongst close to a dozen others. However, it wasn’t until earlier this year on February 18 that it was released into Mexican theatres across the nation. It quickly became a hit, but only after a few weeks showing in theatres a federal judge banned the movie due to a key character in the movie filing a complaint against the filmmakers for violating his privacy rights. The ban was lifted on March 14 and needless to say the whole controversy only exaggerated the buzzing popularity the film had already generated. Before the ban was even lifted, box office sales were already at 12.5 million pesos ($1.05 million US dollars) making it the highest grossing documentary in Mexican history.

So what is all the hype about? Well, the movie essentially is about Tono Zuniga who was picked up off the streets in Mexico City in 2005 and charged for a murder he knew nothing about and then sentenced to 20 years in prison. Lawyers Roberto and Layda, who had already helped another innocent man get his release from prison, took an interest in Zuniga’s case and managed to get a retrial… on camera. What ensued was a three year filming project of an unprecedented look inside the courtroom as the excruciating judiciary processes unfolded.

While the movie maybe does shine a light on a dark closet that maybe has never been visible to the public eye, the subject matter is approached with optimism and its overarching motives are positive. When the filmmakers were asked if they hold out hope for change in the Mexican criminal justice system their response was that they were very optimistic that it could change. And even point out that the corruption is not so much because of a people without morals but because of a poorly architected system that can make anyone corrupt by virtue of its design.

The filmmakers had encountered such statistics as an 80% conviction rate nationally, and 95% conviction rate in Mexico City. When sharing the findings of statistics to policymakers was ineffective to create change, they found that using images and stories was a better method to communicate the discovery of their studies. And effective is what it has been. Already the Mayor of Mexico City has pledged to place cameras in his courtrooms and some film distributors where the movie is showing have pledged to donate film profits toward local legal defense clinics. It has stimulated talk amongst the country’s leaders of judicial reform as well as created a new level of awareness amongst the general public.