Chapter 10: "Si Se Puede!"1Chicana/o Activism in San Diego 1965-2000
17. What was the San Diego Latino Coalition?
As the student activists struggled on campus, the San Diego County Latino Coalition in Education mobilized in an effort to address the educational achievement gap in the San Diego Unified School District. Created in 1997, after the holding of the second Latino Summit on Education, the coalition, consisted of Chicano/Latino organizations from throughout the county, including the Chicano Federation, the Mexican/American Business and Professional Association, and MANA. Under the leadership of Dr. Alberto Ochoa and Olivia Puentes-Reynolds the Coalition focused on the "
English for the children" initiative, which represented cultural imperialism by mandatory English-only instruction in the public schools of California. Adapting the analysis of James Crawford that for Ron Unz, the initiative’s sponsor "
the assault on bilingual education served a broader neo conservative agenda" and reflected his goal of dismantling the social programs and civil rights reforms of the 1960s, the coalition informed parents and educators about the initiative and urged its rejection.
MEChA at San Diego State University, likewise, recognized that gains of the earlier decade were at risk of being lost. Thus in March 1998 when it hosted the annual statewide MEChA conference, the chapter adopted the theme "
Protegiendo nuestro pasado para asegurar nuestro futuro,"(Protecting our past, to secure our future) and focused on educating other MEChistas about the urgency of preserving bilingual education and other programs and the continuing need for collective action. Speaking on behalf of the Steering Committee for the conference, Carlos Razo and Arturo Cervantes declared: "
The struggle for quality education into the next century continues."
To make matters worse, on the last day of the conference the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District offered Alan Bersin the post of superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. At the time Bersin continued to serve as the "
border czar" under whose leadership "Operation Gatekeeper" and the militarization of the border had become institutionalized.
Bersin’s appointment evoked opposition from members of the Latino Coalition. They denounced Bersin as "
anti-Latino" and unacceptable for the position. However, when the opposition did not bear fruit, they grudgingly accepted Bersin’s appointment with reservations, and began to monitor Bersin’s actions. In contrast La Unión del Barrio mounted an extensive campaign, the "
Fuera Bersin! Campaign" against Bersin’s appointment. With the objective of raising consciousness about the "
attacks" on the educational gains of Chicanos. The campaign included protests and community outreach activities. La Unión also engaged in muckraking through its newspaper, La Verdad. The organization criticized the selection process as undemocratic, analyzed how development had occurred, denounced the limited response of self-described Latino advocates, and assessed the results of its campaign to draw lessons for future activists. Then it turned its attention to Proposition 227 and offered analysis of the initiative.
Sí, se puede" is Spanish for "
Yes, it is possible" or, roughly, "
Yes, it can be done."