Chapter 10: "Si Se Puede!"1Chicana/o Activism in San Diego 1965-2000
8. What kind of activism was important in the 1970s?
While Baca and the CCR challenged the oppression of violence, other Chicana/o activists addressed the oppression of powerlessness. In the middle seventies, this face of oppression manifested itself in the lack of representation on the San Diego City Council, the governing board of the San Diego Unified School District, and the Board of Supervisors of San Diego County, the major public policy-making bodies in the city and county.
In 1975 the opportunity to achieve representation on the San Diego City Council afforded itself when an incumbent, Jim Bates, won election to the United States House of Representatives. Jess Haro, chair of the Chicano Federation, accepted appointment to the city council, filling the remainder of Bates’ term. He was inspired to run for a full term when the City Council redrew Bates’ former district into two, predominately minority and Democratic districts, Districts 4 and 8. The demographics of the districts enhanced the prospects for the election of Chicanos to the city council. Mobilizing Chicano and other support, Haro successfully achieved election in District 8 to a full term in 1976.
The achievement of representation on the city council carried the potential for the articulation of a Chicano perspective on issues related to municipal affairs in San Diego. A critical student voice on border-related issues and supportive of Chicano activism remained conspicuous by its absence. In 1975 the voice emerged and proceeded to become institutionalized as students at the University of California at San Diego created Voz Fronteriza, a newspaper. Immediately after its creation, the newspaper rallied to the support of Herman Baca and the CCR as the federal government expanded its border control measures.
In conjunction with other organizations, Baca and the CCR, in early 1978, also documented sexual assaults against women by border agents, beatings in Border Patrol detention centers, and "
Gestapo-type" neighborhood sweeps in cities across the Southwest. Upon its completion, they presented the report to selected federal officials, including Senator Ted Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a member of the Senate Select Commission on Immigration, and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. After Kennedy did not respond to a request by Baca to meet him and other Chicano activists to discuss violence at the border, Baca accused Kennedy of "
stonewalling" immigration and border issues. Baca also drew attention to the resumption of large-scale deportations and pointed out that the undocumented immigration was being used to reduce or eliminate gains made by Chicanos. These included bilingual education and bilingual ballots, a device that allegedly enabled undocumented immigrants to vote in elections. Lastly, Baca condemned racism and the repression and scapegoating of undocumented workers.
Sí, se puede" is Spanish for "
Yes, it is possible" or, roughly, "
Yes, it can be done."