Women’s March on Washington D.C. (Chicago Version)

Being part of this epic movement of women and people across the world marching to battle racism, hatred, sexism, misogyny and xenophobia, I felt energized. Like in the past, I’ve felt united with my people, however this massive event makes the other protests look small. I saw people of all ages walking, chanting, singing some Aretha Franklin songs and capturing the moment. Of course, though, the signs were the best. We saw Carrie Fisher make an appearance, men reminding everyone that they can be feminists, too and of course the epic Shepard Fairey posters that came in every size.

Thanks for taking a look. Leave a comment. Share your photos, too!

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I’m not an immigrant and I’m still scared. This is why.

The journalist side of me tries with all its might to stay objective. The Latina in me caps the emotions that I feel toward people who hate.

I’m used to writing about elections from an objective standpoint. However, this year has been hard and the lack of communication and understanding by so many is making the results of this election and presidency much harder to handle.

I’ve been paying attention. I’ve been listening and watching. I wasn’t a fan of either candidate and although I agree with so many that said, “I want a nominee that I can stand behind and that will represent who I am, not someone that’s just an alternative to hate,” it was really hard not to want to just stop Trump.

Since the beginning the things that he was saying seemed like the biggest joke. Extreme, inconsiderate, hateful and usually targeted to particular segments of the population– Mexicans, Muslims, people with disabilities, women. In a country that supposedly stands its ground on Christian virtues, the same population that says “there’s a war on Christmas” and always aims to bring Christianity into politics– how do you support hate?

I was always taught to look out for my fellow human being. I was taught to help, be a woman for others. Even though I did not grow up undocumented, poor or under privileged, I’ve seen the impacts on my community because I chose to be a part of it. I also am because of my skin color, because of my name and because I’m bilingual. Those are things I cannot deny.

Privilege

This election really brought out the question of privilege. Male, white, wealthy privilege. I’ve had my run-ins with it on varying degrees.

This is an example of what white privilege is: At a point in time, I was in a position where I had to communicate and work with older white men with more money than I can conceptualize. I was at a bar, sitting with one of them when we struck up a conversation about college. “So, where did you go to school?” he asked me. “University of Illinois in Champaign,” I responded. He says to me, “Oh! My son is there. He’s fourth generation Illini.”

Let that sink in for a second. Fourth generation. Fourth. Not first, not second, but fourth. This man’s grandfather had obtained a college degree. That means a good job, money, savings, understanding of corporate structures (because he probably started one), business savvy, and something to pass along to his children. By the fourth generation, college is a given– not a question. By the fourth generation, money issues (if dealt with well) aren’t a problem. Language, no issue. Then after graduation, you have a multitude of resources, parents that know just what you need to do to be a white-collar worker with nothing to complain about besides the lack of a raise.

I said the only thing I could say, “Wow. That’s great.” What else could I say? I was a first generation college student. Although my uncles had degrees, my mom had an associate’s, my father graduated high school and my grandmother didn’t even get an eighth grade education. How am I supposed to compete with a fourth generation college kid? Our worries were not the same. Our concerns were not the same. Regardless of the situation, I was always going to have to prove myself.

College wasn’t exactly the most welcoming place either. It didn’t matter who I was, but what I looked like mattered to many. We were feared after a frat party decided to celebrate a Tacos and Tequila event by dressing up as Mexicans– border jumpers, pregnant, wearing the flag. We were called spics in the street. I was talked to plenty of times only in Spanish and it was usually assumed that I was born in Mexico.

Once after being around my friends at La Casa, I returned to my dorm upset only to be asked, “Are you upset about some Mexican thing again?”

After college, outside of my comfort zone, people tried to pigeonhole me. They tried to figure out why I spoke English so well. “You’re so articulate!” I’d hear as if it were a surprise. Was I supposed to say thank you?

Since I talked to my friend Teresa about it, I will always remember something that she gathered from an instructor of hers: “They don’t know what they don’t know, so they don’t know.” It all made perfect sense after that.

The Last 18 Months

I never liked Trump. His smugness was so stereotypically masculine. He had all the money in the world, he turned his nose up at people who didn’t like him and he wasn’t prepared at all. I guess you can say he was a real white rich man in America that could do what he wanted because– privilege. Money gets you everywhere. Didn’t you know?

Then started the Mexican talk. Then the people with disabilities talk. Then the condoning violence and the beating of innocent people because… because… the man was Latino? Then came the accusations of bias because of heritage. Then the whole pussy-grabbing thing.

This man was in no way representing me. At all.

Voters and supporters of him say, “American Sovereignty!” Sure, I believe that since you know, his platforms and plans are so well thought out and planned, right? I don’t have a clue what this man wants to do besides put up a wall on the Mexican border, try to deport Puerto Ricans and end the Affordable Care Act.

To that I say, whatever. The American government will never please everyone. If he makes America function better than it has, great. White men have always governed this country and they will continue to for a very long time.  

My greatest fear is for all of us who are different. Because of what he has been saying, because of his mockery of people, because of his attitude, he has made it OK to harass the minority. He’s made those intolerant people show their true colors. He’s making it OK to demean, hurt and put down these individuals for what?   

Trump has said in the last 18 months everything that makes racists xenophobic, bigots homophobic and intolerant, and men pigs. He’s brought to light anything and everything that could possibly upset the white privileged and less educated people. Simple words, simple phrases that stuck. Those same phrases that made me say, “What the hell?!” made other people nodd in agreement.

And as Van Jones said on CNN, “It was a white lash.”

The Fear

I remember learning about the Holocaust. Learning about slavery. Learning about how Mexicans were treated as second class citizens. I remember learning about Japanese internment camps, the Native American trail of tears and the fact that every president during those time frames were some of the most vocally racist people this country has seen. I just saw 13th on Netflix that connected all the dots for me.

I don’t want to live through that. In a country where we’re taught that freedom prevails and equality is justice, I’ve seen very little of it that is blanketed over all people.

It doesn’t exist. It’s an ideology that people keep saying we have, but I don’t see it.

For the most part, after reading about all that has happened in history, I want to just think that it’ll never happen again. Everyone out there is going to have enough sense to say, “I’m sorry, no. Genocide is not right. People are citizens with rights if they’re born here. Human rights apply to all people.”

We’ve seen Hitler’s rise to power. We know what Stalin, Mussolini and Franco did. For those of us who have any idea of what happened during the World Wars, the rhetoric and jargon used in this election mimicked that of horrible times in history.  

In many, if not all, of those instances, there was a cleansing of the countries. Getting rid of the problematic people, uniting under one God, one flag, one country.

For those of us who have been verbally pinpointed by our president-elect, he may as well have put a target on our back. That’s the first step, isn’t it? Making the target feel less than and letting everyone else know they’re susceptible to indiscriminate behavior is the way to start breaking people down. Kids at Royal Oak Middle School in Michigan are already doing it. They heard what the man said and they’re acting upon it because they can. Then there’s this— a recap of what was done and said after the election. We’ve already seen it throughout the campaign trail and now that their leader is the president of the “free world” what more validation do you need to hate?

What Next?

I’d love to say that I could give him a chance to lead, but I’d be a liar. I’m scared. I don’t want to be a number, I don’t want to be harassed more than usual. I don’t want to be put down because of my last name or because I’m Latina.

As far as the government goes, it’s been Red before. I just hope that they all have the common sense to put a stop to the hate and stop him from being the next dictator. It will be the end of anything “united” and in fact, will divide the country as it’s doing so right now.

I’m proud of those who are speaking out and calling the election for what it is. Those people are the ones that start the conversations and bring the issues never spoken about to light.

The protests that happened across the country last night were against the fact that this person could be put in a position of power. It was a staging of First Amendment Rights. It was a staging of energy, anger and fear for what’s to come and proof that not all of the United States are backing a man just because 50 percent of the country voted him into the White House.

Those people that came together are activists, organizers and community folks who’ve been working their tails off for a more just society. They work at non-profit organizations, they work with the people of the community, trying to better their situation and way of life. How do you think so many people knew about and acted on the protest? Because of organizers.

There were some good things to come across the election– quadrupling the number of Women of Color in Congress was one. Let’s see how they do against the privileged Red. More states are legalizing marijuana on different levels.

After the Black Lives Matter movement, the senseless killings and all the other messes we’ve found ourselves in recently, we want to move forward. But in all the different ways of looking at it, as a proud Latina, I’m afraid we’ve just taken one giant step backward.

Testimony: Being The Mind Reader

I always wonder what people are thinking. In that sense, I try to put myself in their position and in their shoes to understand their point of view, their perceptions. See, I was taught in high school by a very good friend of mine that we should do one thing and that was to love everyone around us. Love was the way that we were going to make the world a better place and loving individuals was the answer to a lot of complications in the world. Smile, hug, compliment, talk. There are different ways to love.

My friend who taught me so much in high school, Mr. Chris LasPiñas.
My friend who taught me so much in high school, Mr. Chris LasPiñas.

In turn, I added another thing to that: Listening. That’s one of the ways I show I care. I listen. It might also be because of the journalistic background I have that comes piled with curiosity and the need to know information; though for the most part, I don’t pressure people into telling me anything. I leave it open for them to express however they choose.

Along with that comes the understanding and the insight, which leads to relationship building and trust. I like to understand people, spend time with them and learn from them. This helped immensely with writing feature articles. Let me tell you.

So on a daily basis, based on what people say, I like to try to figure out where they’re coming from. Makes for great questions and conversation. Then I try to relate it to something bigger; a bigger societal issue, a bigger personal issue. Not always, but when it comes to public display of opinion, I do.

I usually wonder what people think of me. Not that I care, although it does depend on who I’m questioning. If you missed it, I wrote my first Testimony: The Daughter of Immigrants, which got great feedback. In that first testimony, I talk about the racial experiences that I have been through along with “outsiders'” perceptions of who I am and who my family is. I reread it and some of those passages and stories along with this Marc Anthony fiasco and the Sebastian De La Cruz drama with singing God Bless America and The National Anthem, respectively, at large sporting events, got me thinking.

So unAmerican we hung a American Flag bow from our door!
So un-American we hung an American Flag bow from our door!

I mean, if there is anything to make us feel that we are racially judged for looking a certain way, this is it. People feel that they can say what they want on social media without being badgered, yet I guess they haven’t realized (just like they haven’t realized that Puerto Ricans are citizens, we’re not all undocumented and Latinos are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S.) that about 70 percent of us Latinos (who aren’t REAL Americans) are online. “BAH! They’re everywhere!” 

So after reading a few of these tweets, I thought to myself, why would they think like that? Let me put myself in their shoes. After some thoughtful (and not so thoughtful) consideration, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t put myself in their shoes. I guess I understand where they’re coming from, which is a place of ignorance. What I’m saying is that I suppose I know too much about our American and U.S. history to even make those horrendous accusations. I’m here trying to educate myself and learn about everyone while they’re sitting in underground lairs, apparently. I mean, they called Marc Anthony Mexican. Do they not use Google? 

This reminds me of a quote from Walk Two Moons: “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”

This, makes me consider two things that I’ve heard many people talk about. One is that because the way we look does affect the way people treat us, whether we want it to or not, we have to up everyone on it. As people of color we have to push the limits and make ourselves better than the norm, which goes back to me feeling like I need to prove myself, mentioned in the first testimony. However, this is a bit more than proving. It’s taking what you know and making it work for you to the utmost potential. Being ambitious and working for the betterment of self.

The second thing is straying from stereotypes. The reason why there are stereotypes is because we have created them ourselves. All Mexicans eat tortillas, teenage Latinas are almost expected to get pregnant, teenage Latinos are all in gangs and we’re all undocumented. This is shenanigans. We have to be able to go against the stereotypes and live what we say: We’re not all the same. Okay, so prove it. Show me how much you’re not the same.

Reminds me of the key chain and t-shirts from mall kiosks: “I want to be different, just like everybody else.”

If we don’t try to understand from the inside, nothing will change. If we don’t try to understand each other and educate ourselves first, we have no hope. The only reason why people cut their Twitter accounts after those fiascos was because someone was their to educate them on the reasons why they were wrong.

It’s a challenge, for sure, to try to share knowledge without coming off as a jerk or a know-it-all, but hell, if YOU don’t do it, who will?

So, how does this apply to mind reading, you ask? Well, usually, it’s because I feel that once I educate or share with individuals about myself, I’m a little more respected and people don’t have to guess anything about me or my life. We don’t always have to be mind readers if we’re open to learning about individuals and they, in return, are open to sharing.

That’s why I listen and learn. The more I know, the more open-minded I am about everyone– even the ignorant people who think they know a thing or two. This is why I got into the story-telling business. Sometimes it’s not about me, but it’s about the people who choose to let me in.

This may be why, if I’ve ever interviewed you, you’ll know I start off by saying, “Teach me.”

Justice Sotomayor: ‘Don’t be afraid to fail’

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor made a pit stop at the Harold Washington Library on Wednesday evening to speak about her new best-selling memoir, “My Beloved World,” one of the very few completely free events offered to the public, stated Mayor Rahm Emanuel in his introduction.

The event drew a crowd of approximately 750 people, many of whom stood in line for tickets since 2 p.m. though the event began at 6 p.m. in the Winter Garden located on the ninth floor of the library.

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Hon. Sonia Sotomayor peeks out from behind the wall during Mayor Emanuel’s introduction.

“I don’t know any other justice that would get this kind of turnout,” said Emanuel, “[but] it’s just a testament to why the president selected her.”

During her speech, Sotomayor talked about her life as a child, her relationship with her parents, overcoming challenges, taking risks and how she finds her center as a person with Type 1 diabetes.

“She’s brought a heartbeat to the Supreme Court,” said the mayor.

Sotomayor, 58, walked on stage thanking the public for attending the event and began by explaining how books, reading and libraries helped  her get over her father’s death when she was a child. She then began discussing the process of writing her book and how her memoir was different than other justices’. “Just talking about the data of my life wasn’t going to touch people,” she said.

In a radio interview with Maria Hinojosa from Latino USA, Sotomayor admitted that it was a question about her childhood from Hinojosa that got her memoir ball rolling.

In a somewhat rehearsed speech, the  author’s most basic piece of advice was ridding oneself of fear and attempting new things, regardless of age, sex or background. Her first read excerpt had to do with mentor-ship and seeing someone do what she wanted to do. It was a confirmation of possibilities, she said, seeing someone like her succeed. “It’s not the idea of reaching a dream,” she said, “but what you can do is enjoy the process of trying.”

Her insight clearly came from the life she lead and even if audience members hadn’t read the book yet, the positive attitude and self-help aspects seeped from her speech. “I disclosed every fear I’ve ever had in this book,” she admitted. “Despite the fear, I just keep going.”

Another piece of advice she repeated: Ask for help. In an NPR interview she explained that she had done it various times while growing up and again while writing the memoir. Sotomayor said she had various trusted readers and experienced writers giving her advice, asking questions and helping shape what this memoir has become. “Most of us fail at what we do because we don’t ask for help when we’re doing it,” she said.

Hon. Sonia Sotomayor walks around the room answering questions from the audience. | Photo Amor Montes de Oca
Hon. Sonia Sotomayor walks around the room answering questions from the audience. | Photo Amor Montes de Oca

Her goal while writing  was to create the best story she could to get her points across. “You try to tell an engaging story,” she said. “You hope that through your stories, people see your messages.”

A clear message that she has expressed since her time in the Supreme Court is that people of the United States should be educated about the differences that exist among the people in the country and work to find the commonalities. A perspective shared in her book expressed this idea and had to do with living in housing projects in New York. She explained that many people have shaped opinions that those living in the projects are drug dealers and criminals. Instead, she shared that she saw “honorable lives filled with a lot of integrity.”

“I wanted the world to see my world,” she explained.

That world includes her chronic disease. Her book begins with the story of being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, something she said, took her time to accept. “It takes a long time to forgive your body,” she said. “I work very hard at finding my center. [I know that] if I feel good, I’ll do more. That goes for everyone.”

There were minimal points about her work as a justice, although she did say that it was harder than she had expected it to be. With that, Sotomayor also stated that she has faced adversity in her position as a Supreme Court justice. “As far as we’ve come, we still have a long way to go to create equality in this society,” she said. “We got to do it together.”

It was clear by the end of her talk that her life had found its balance and spreading the word is her goal. Her secret to success? Not letting fear stop her. “Don’t be afraid to fail,” she said. “Taking risks becomes a little easier.”

#iVote because I matter. #iVote because you do, too.

#iVote because I don’t want to be left behind; because I feel like I’m voting for someone who’s going to do right for my community and not just me; because I have a voice.
#iVote because my grandmother came to give my mother, aunts and uncles a better life.
#iVote because my father ventured into an unknown country and gained his opportunities.
#iVote because I want my community to be recognized. #iVote because there are plenty of undocumented, deserving, immensely intelligent individuals who can’t.
#iVote because there is a power in many voices.
#iVote so that my country doesn’t end up in the deepest gutter; so that I can still remain prideful in something my family has put work into; so that people remember that money is not everything, but human beings are.

#iVote because I matter. 

After creating this video with Pícaro and watching the videos of each person highlighted in the short, I have realized why I vote and it’s not just because my mother told me to.

I went to my uncle’s house to record his reasons. After about an hour of sitting there and listening to the majority of his reasoning on politics and his talks with my grandfather and such, he narrowed down his reasoning to loving the country his parents brought him to for a better life. When you love something, you want to be as much a part of it as you can. For him, decision-making is a huge deal and voting affects us all because our life is determined by the outcome of the votes. We need to be a part of it, he said. The fact that my grandfather loved it here also struck a chord with me, especially since I never met him.

This concept idea came after a long development meeting in our partners, Wendy and Matt’s living room. Bottom line came when another one of our team members, Marla, said something about mimes silently condemning drivers for not slowing down at crosswalks for pedestrians. How did this conclude to to an #iVote video? Well, here’s how.

The majority of our parents and immigrant family members crossed the borders into this country of ours in order to survive and make a better life for our families. To hear that voting across the country was dwindling and that people didn’t feel it important to vote, well that’s just a slap in the face to the people who helped us succeed to who we are today. Bottom line, this video was to wake people up and encourage them to vote for what they believed in. Not for policy, but the real reason.

By not voting, in my eyes, you might as well not appreciate what was done for you; it becomes a slap in the face to those who did something to better your future.

My grandfather worked laborious jobs to provide for a family in Mexico, which brought my grandmother, two uncles and my twin aunts in her belly to this side of the border. My paternal grandfather was a bracero, working in the southwest to provide for my dad and his cousins. My father then crossed the border as a teenager to see what opportunities lay ahead for him. All of my family members vote.

In order to be counted, in order to have an opinion, in order to know that you’re not being left in the dust to fend for yourself, you have to stand up and say something. You have to be a part of the whole and in this country, we are privileged to have the opportunity to vote. Now, many have resented this idea, saying that all politicians are corrupt and no matter what we do, we will not have a fair shot in an election. That’s crazy talk!

It’s only because for every one person who doesn’t vote, there’s a whole bunch of people, in other cities, from other parties who do. That’s how we become silenced. Muted. That’s why they don’t hear us.

In Chicago, we have a slew of local and municipal elections which, in fact, affect the bigger picture. Voting in presidential elections is definitely important, but voting for your alderman, judges, state representatives and state senators is just as important because they decide how your taxes should be distributed, how your neighborhood looks, whether or not you’ll have a new park or greenery and they are to be held accountable for any types of mishaps that happen within the designated area.  Find out who your local representatives are!

Because our families came to this country, left what they knew behind and worked their tails off to give us a better shot at success, the LEAST we can do is spend, at most, 10 minutes at the polls this November 6 and every time there is a municipal election.

NATO Summit protests in Chicago

For those of you who live in Chicago, you’ll know that NATO brought a tad bit of fear, chaos and traffic jams to the city. Over two days, world leaders met with the Obamas and with Rahm Emanuel who carries the hopes of spiking Chicago’s tourism in the years to come by approximately $1 billion. It’s amazing what showing off the skyscrapers can do.

While first ladies were being given tours of the Art Institute and Barack Obama was hosting a working lunch at Soldier Field, protesters from around the United States took to the streets to protest everything from home foreclosures to the end of the Iraq and Afghan wars. The most moving of the week-long event (the one which I missed) had to be Sunday’s protest where a group of war veterans gave back their medals in anger and outrage that the war hasn’t yet come to an end. The protests went well into the night, causing a clash at McCormick Place between some anarchistic protesters and the Chicago Police Department.

In the following photos that I took Monday morning/afternoon, you will see the amount of security on the city’s streets. This is what a militaristic society may look like with beetles walking around. Hopefully, here in Chicago we will never know. Needless to say, they hauled out everyone from Homeland Security to the Secret Service. In a few photos, you will see white vans lined up along Jackson Avenue and Loomis Street. You’ll also see the Chevy trucks lined up on the street outside of the Federal Building downtown. Relatively quiet, the marchers didn’t make their way into the downtown area until around noon and by the time I left, were gathered on Randolph Street near Millennium Park.

After a week-long protest calendar, it was observed that many of the protesters out Monday were of the younger generation. Melissa Howe, a native of Chicago, said that she had always wanted to get involved in Occupy Chicago but hadn’t and thought the NATO Summit would be a good time. Which made me question what she was protesting. As a student in Pennsylvania, the only thing I could imagine would be banks on the premise of high student loans in the future. A New Yorker with a guitar, Stephen Clark, 23, said that he had come out because the capitalistic society that we live in had taken over the music industry in a way that allowed for subliminal messages and bad music to get on the radio waves. “The music industry is ruled by the one percent,” he said. Clark studied music in New York. You will also see photos of him below.

People vs. Police

While many wanted to blame the police for issues, Monday’s protest was peaceful. There were people recording and stating that the CPD were members of the militaristic state while others were telling the officers that they had to respect the protesters because “we pay your salaries.” Take into consideration, the officers were not doing anything that heeded this insight. While standing in place while the organizers of Occupy Chicago spoke to the group, some sitting, officers could be overheard talking to each other saying things like, “You know what’s funny? These kids have better phones than I do,” and while chants emerged from the crowd to the extent of “F*ck Obama” one officer was overheard saying, “But you’re still going to vote for him.”

While many extreme protesters came out to recreate 1968’s National Democratic Convention, more called for a solitary movement, understanding that it was necessary to stand together. One would have to think that the CPD at this point, are a little more level-headed. Yet, I may be overestimating. With officers there to keep watch and maintain peace, protesters were in no way limited to what they could say. In the same sense, the CPD also have to keep in mind that it wasn’t too long ago when they were having their own fight with the king of Chicago. A couple of years ago, Daley had a hard time negotiating with the CPD over their contracts and while I may be suffering from an economic crisis, I’m not putting my life on the line every day. In support for our 17,000 police officers, it’s only fair, isn’t it?

There are more similarities than differences among the CPD and those protesting. Just like everything else, opinions will be different from one person to the next, but pinning one group of people against the other just doesn’t work. Chicago has every right to protect its city and if we have to pull everyone out to do it, so be it. There were plans for Molotov cocktails to be thrown at four police stations Obama’s headquarters and Rahm Emanuel’s home. Good thing they got those guys.

Please note, these photos are not edited. I wanted to get them out as soon as possible.

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Copyright 2012 Christina E. Rodriguez
Photos cannot be used without the written consent of the photographer.

We’re being held captive by Machines

I cannot express in words how disappointed I am to live in the city of Chicago. Yesterday, I was about to delete all my friends from Facebook if they couldn’t show me proof that they had voted in the municipal election. Oh! The horror! Because there were only three or four positions to actually vote for, the voting process took all of about two minutes, so what does that tell you? I probably would have been left with 10 friends.

According to the Chicago Board of Elections 41.73 percent of voters came out to voice their opinion yesterday on who should be the new mayor of Chicago. For those of you who don’t know, Chicago has had the same mayor for the past 21 years, starting his run in 1989. Richard M. Daley decided to step down leaving the door wide open for any person who felt they were good enough, strong enough, knowledgeable enough, to take over the position. Interestingly, you had a variety of people step up to the plate. From congressman, to preacher men, to lawyers and small business owners, a good two handfuls of possible candidates raised their hand and crossed the line into Chicago’s most powerful position, King of Chicago.

Face it, we’re known for our politics. The sketchy, ugly, under-the-table politics that have been around since Antonin Cermak in the 1930s. At that time it was better known as “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine” mentality. He united all the different ethnic groups- Poles, Czechs, Ukranians, Italians and Blacks- and organized against the Irish who wouldn’t dream of having a Czech in office, which is what Cermak was. Oh how times have changed! That led to the Chicago Machine that we know of today, especially when he claimed the mayoral throne. And it all started in the 12th ward.

It’s still there. Yesterday, Jesse Iniguez lost his bout to becoming the next alderman of the 12th ward with hopes of killing off the last bits of the Hispanic Democratic Organization that clearly has done nothing for Latinos in this city, besides building its own mini machine. All of those people were backing Daley, keeping him in office, while they would get nice pay offs with “all the trimmings” as Carlos Hernandez Gomez states.

There are a few main players we should mention in this story. You have George Cardenas who is the incumbent and (not surprisingly?) will be starting his third term in the 12th ward this year. Then there’s Jose Guereca, whose job is a Streets and Sanitation truck driver. He was also a precinct captain for Cardenas. Then we have Tony Munoz, the state senator for the first district, and king of the area.

So the story goes like this. Cardenas was a Daley brown-noser, which was no surprise to anyone. He was fully backed by Munoz, until at some point, was found to not be able to take orders anymore and hence Munoz decided to back Guereca. By the way, Guereca was a fumbling idiot when he first started this run for alderman. By the time the community forum came around, he LOOKED like a Chicago politician; nice gray suit, jet black hair slicked back, bushy mustache. The guy looked like he was already in office. Not to mention that he had taken public speaking classes displayed by his Rahm-ish qualities like counting to three or four on his hand while pointing out how many ways he was going to make assessments and work with the community once he was in office. The guy had no political platform. If anything he was a little monkey placed on the stand to distract people from Cardenas. It didn’t work. Cardenas pulled off a win with 55 percent of the vote. Mind you, a little under 5,000 voters came out.

In a ward that is shaped like a Tommy gun, to say the least, the HDO candidate wins again. Why? We’re still trying to figure that out. Maybe because over 3,000 voters were over the age of 50 and could be swayed by free turkeys and street salt in the winter. Or, was it that they just didn’t know about Jesse and his platform to bring about a cleaner, safer, more educated ward? Or were all those people we contacted and polled before the election lying to us about who they were voting for?

What we do know was that inspectors and different voting posts were being sketchy. On February 21 there was a special election held at a nursing home. One of Jesse’s poll watchers who was supposed to be in there watching over everything was denied entrance, even though he had the proper credentials. The Board of Elections was called. Last night, as the ballots were being counted, one precinct was ready to deny tapes (or tallies) to the poll watchers and another had poll watchers stand outside while the tapes were being prepared. Who do these people report to? Tony Munoz.

For sure, we had believed that Jesse would be in a run off with Cardenas’ lying, cheating ass, but alas he wasn’t. As of yesterday, I have a plan to look into the numbers and find out just what happened. How could pre-voting day polls be so far off?

While I was sitting at the cigar-soaked VFW drinking a beer, I discussed looking into this a little more. The investigative journalist came out in me, as well as the freedom fighter, that my friend Teresa used to call me in college. “We’re going to make all of those people who voted for Jesse, hold Cardenas to his word and role as an alderman!” I said. I wanted to make all those people call him for any little thing they need or want. Revoke the permit parking! Fix the potholes! Bring more cops into the area! Give back the neighborhoods to the families! Cardenas doesn’t even live in the ward, just so you know.

We all cried last night. After putting in your hope and energy into something that’s going to save a community from itself, you can’t help but want to do something to change it. And to have found someone willing to change it, gaining such momentum, being recognized by so many other organizations while trucking forward, we all just thought that it would be a win in our favor. He was endorsed by both major newspapers, the Sierra Club, SEIU, “Chuy” Garcia, Rudy Lozano Jr. and Ricardo Munoz. Did anyone see that? Did anyone care?

But this only builds more momentum and more desire for things to change. You want to be my mayor? You want to be my alderman? Fine. I just hope you can keep up with what I want. I love this city, but I hate its politics. As a person who is optimistic and hopeful for better things ahead, I hope that Cardenas makes changes and Rahm makes moves like he says he will. I can only hope. But this is the beginning. The gears are already rolling in my head. Can I count on you to get yours rolling, too?