By John Earl and Scott Sink
Increased deportation raids conducted at gun point by “La Mirgra” in work places and homes across America are terrorizing documented and undocumented immigrants alike.
Multinational corporations operating under the banner of “free trade,” and xenophobic hate groups like the Minuteman Project, are the main beneficiaries of what a recent article in Nation magazine calls the emergence of Juan Crow, a reference to “Jim Crow,” the past practice of institutionalized racism used against African Americans.
Against that background, “Terror in the Barrio: The Rise of the New Right in Local Government,” a new book written by former Daily Pilot columnist Humberto Caspa, is both an informative and flawed history of Costa Mesa’s slide toward fascism.
Oddly, although “Terror” is part of the book’s title, there isn’t a single personal case history of that terror present in its pages. This could lead the reader to wonder why, since examples have been plentiful for the past several years in Costa Mesa (see “Chilling Effect,” OC Voice, Oct. 2007).
The specific proposals that marked the city’s right-wing turn, presided over by former mayor, Allan Mansoor (a member of the Minuteman Project), former Pro-tem Eric Bever (they have since switched roles) and former Councilmember Gary Monahan included disbanding the city’s Human Relations Commission, closing the Job Center after 17 years and using the police to enforce federal immigration laws on the slightest pretense.
The book starts off on shaky ground when Caspa lumps a broad spectrum of Mexican, Central and South American immigrants into two groups: Latino, for those who are here either legally or illegally, but were born in Latin America and retain their original nationality; and, U.S. Latino, who are U.S. citizens but have Latino ancestry.
Not everyone who fits under Caspa’s “Latin” label accepts this identity, but Caspa promotes it nevertheless and criticizes others who disagree (they are “anachronistic,” “radical,” “useless,” etc.), not even acknowledging that this question is part of an ongoing internal dialogue occurring within the many groups Caspa lumps together.
“Terror” tries but fails to prove that local citizen-activist, Martin Millard, whose bizarre essays on annihilation of the white “race” by miscegenation, both biological and social, can be sampled on a well known neo-Nazi web site, masterminded and drove the city council’s recent hard-right turn toward fascism.
Indeed, Millard is no ordinary man, Caspa tells us. People sleeping at city council meetings “jump off their seats after Millard’s megaphonic voice hits their eardrums,” and “Poor spiders hanging on the ceiling get knocked down to the floor.”
Caspa offers Millard’s association with Citizens for the Improvement of Costa Mesa (CICM) as proof of his puppetmaster status. Millard was not a member of that group, but had “considerable clout among members,” including Mansoor prior to his joining the city council, largely by posting “well-developed radical proposals” on the group’s web site, Caspa explains.
But Costa Mesa’s recent wave of hostility toward immigrants followed a statewide trend since the 1980s, predating the appearance of Millard, as Caspa himself reveals. A pre-CICM citizen group was already working hard then to hold back an increasing population of immigrants, laying the basis for Costa Mesa’s present day anti-immigrant pogrom.
“Terror” introduces its readers to most of the city’s political players both for and against the crackdown on immigrants. Sadly, however, these profiles are marred by hyperbole as well as personal bias and factual errors or omissions, too many to mention here in full.
Example: “Just as Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Fidel Castro of Cuba or any Mexican president of the PRI era, he [Mansoor] ruled Costa Mesa with an iron hand,” Caspa claims; in the Minuteman mayor’s dreams, perhaps, but there’s no need to drag the Santa Ana River for bodies yet.
On Gary Monahan: “Monahan is about five feet tall, weighs around 155 pounds, has Jack Nicholson’s smile and is as wicked as the devil himself.”
Caspa is also very critical of the Tonantzin Collective (an organization which rejects the term “Latino”), which played a role in organizing against the city council’s anti-immigrant policies. Caspa claims, incorrectly, that the Collective was founded by a group of Orange Coast College students in the Fall of 2005. In fact, it started in July 2004 in Santa Ana and it still works as an independent organization in Orange County.
Caspa’s analysis of the Collective is essentially a personal attack against Coyotl Tezcatlipoca (Benito Acosta), whom the author mistakenly identifies as the leader of the Collective, while snidely describing him as “moderately intelligent.”
Caspa apparently does not understand how a typical collective organization works. There is no “leader” who gives orders to obedient followers. Whereas Caspa wants to slightly reform an authoritarian system like the one he says exists in Costa Mesa, the Collective works on the principle of participatory democracy using consensus and other egalitarian principles as an inherent part of a movement towards a society which holds these values at heart.
Caspa asserts that “Coyotl and his followers failed to fully understand the reality of Latinos and U.S.-Latinos in [Costa Mesa].” Caspa, of course, understands this reality and vainly attempted to show “Coyotl and his people” the light. “I thought I could use my experience and knowledge to persuade the [Tonantzin Collective] to minimize its radical stand,” he laments.
The author apparently assumed that an established organization, or as he inaccurately puts it, “[a group]…too entrenched in its own ideologies to even be open to the possibility of any community healing or reconciliation,” would suddenly abandon its principles and yield to his leadership.
Caspa sums up the protests, community forums, film screenings, etc, of the Collective as ineffective, since the city’s anti-immigrant policies ultimately continued unabated. But Freud had a term for that kind of poppycock: projection, the act of transposing one’s own faults onto another person as a means of denying one’s own faults.
After all, it was not the Collective, but “Citizens for Constitutional Rights,” a group Caspa belonged to, led by Nativo Lopez and others, which marched into town as a junta of self-appointed liberators (most of them from outside the city) to declare a boycott of businesses and police without consulting the people they supposedly represented.
That example of Caspa’s more “moderate” action through the established channels was arrogant and manipulative, which is why the “radical” Collective opposed it and probably why it flopped.
Caspa’s misunderstanding of the Collective could have been avoided if he had bothered to interview even a single “member” or reviewed any of its writings for this book, but he didn’t. As a social science professor and journalist, Caspa knows better.
Caspa suggests that a few changes in local offices and ordinances will end the “terror in the Latino barrio” and bring back a “moderate” state of affairs, but he doesn’t consider the lessons of the past.
One, less “radical,” example of effective organizing given by Caspa is Nativo López’ help in electing Congresswoman Loretta Sánchez to the 46th Congressional District. However, Caspa does not mention Sánchez’ role in stationing an immigration officer in the Anaheim Police Station in 1996 as a pilot program. This is the same arrangement currently in effect in Costa Mesa, which Caspa so vehemently opposes.
Besides politicians and moderate activists, Caspa looks hopefully to the corporate media to discredit the right-wing extremists and stop the terror. The media “have helped uncover the nature of their divisive agenda,” Caspa says, adding, “The future doesn’t look too bright for them anymore.”
Maybe Caspa hasn’t heard about the increase in deportation raids because he doesn’t watch enough CNN (Lou Dobbs) or FOX News, but don’t wait for the political establishment and its media to save us from the terror. Change comes from the ground up.