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A Prison for East Los Angeles

July 20, 1986

Well, it seems that something funny happened on the way to the "Decade of the Hispanic." A prison gets dumped on East Los Angeles with the help (if not outright plotting) of our Hispanic "leaders for the future."

I'm speaking of the Richard Alatorre-Richard Polanco clique that has swooped over the Eastside in a true carpetbag tradition that threatens to divide my community as no right-winger could ever hope to.

The sad part is that this exercise of power is "punishment" for another Hispanic leader, and a woman, Assemblywoman Gloria Molina. Her crime? Speaking out, leading, taking--not asking for--a chance to participate in the political world.

The idea of a East Los Angeles prison in itself is minor and it can be lived with by people who face adversity every day.

The prison is no big deal. However, its symbolism is tragic, that the powers (Democrats and Republicans alike) would overwhelmingly pick East Los Angeles has deeper meaning than "necessity" or "revenge."

This selective dumping is an indictment of a whole area--an entire people. The not so subtle message is this: "You are the criminals, you keep them yourself." It perpetuates and solidifies a myth, and it embeds in the minds of our youth what we are supposed to be.

However, (are you listening Richard and Richard?) East Los Angeles is more than a political steppingstone, more than a collection of working-class families and striving businesses, more than you'll ever know. It's the site of the infamous zoot-suit riots of the '40s, the confrontations with brutality and neglect in the '60s and '70s, the center of Latin immigration of the '80s, East Los Angeles is the symbolic capital of Hispanic peoples.

But now in our "decade" we await our punishment, East Los Angeles will house our next prison.

And in the end everyone (almost) will get what they want: Alatorre gets his power, Polanco gets his payback, Molina gets her martyrdom, and the real winner--Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) gets his knowledge. He knows now that Hispanic unity is a myth, that this is the decade of nothing, and that the term, "Hispanic Leader" is an empty phrase of contradiction.


East Los Angeles

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