January 4, 1991
By Yolanda Reynolds
The first year of the last decade of the 20th Century ended Tuesday evening. Last year, 1990, began with the plans to make an accurate people count by the Census Bureau of every man, woman and child residing in this nation.
The census began in controversy and the controversy has not ended. Large cities are challenging the census results, notably New York City. It is one of the cities going to court over the accuracy of the count. Many dollars from the Government are at stake — money for social programs, housing, education and transportation. Census counts influence the many business and governmental decisions made by policy makers.
According to the Census Bureau, the population in the United States now stands at 249,632,692. California’s population grew by 26.1%. California gained seven new U.S. Congressional seats because of the increase’ in population. Until the congressional and legislative districts are drawn up it is not certain exactly where the new Congressional Districts will be.
The Census Bureau admits that in the past census counts has missed people. In 1940 the Bureau estimated that it missed around 8 million Americans. In 1980 the Bureau estimated their under count to be approximately 3.2 million or, 1.4 percent of the total population. There are some who contend that the majority of those communities under counted are inner city residents, such as Hispanics and Blacks, and as a consequence they are impacted the most from that under count.
There was much controversy in San Jose at the start of the census count because of INS raids in a number of predominately Hispanic areas of the east side of San Jose.
Community leaders felt that the community would mistake census takers with INS staff and refuse to open their doors to census workers. San Jose’s population numbers are expected to be available next week when local planners and policy makers will be able to determine if the local count is accurate.
For the Hispanic community of San Jose, the demand that they be included and considered before city policy decisions are made became a major theme throughout 1990.
For example, the largely Hispanic Alviso community protested the continued use of a landfill (dump) in Alviso and presented their concerns for their neighborhood to the attention of the elected officials. The Alvisans also sought greater attention to the needs of the community such as a better branch library and more recreational activities for their children, better street maintenance and improved code enforcement among other issues. They have been successful in cleaning up the trash from the streets and abandoned lots.
In March of last year, Raza Sí, a community based organization, held a number of community hearings regarding INS raids which were reported to be harassing Hispanics. With the support of a number of locally elected ofﬁcials including San Jose’s two U.S. Congressmen, members of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and San Jose City Council, those raids ended.
As the INS raided Hispanic neighborhoods. San Jose’s former mayor, Tom McEnery, announced that he intended to “give” the Studio Theater, the only Spanish language movie theater left in downtown San Jose, to another theater group, the San Jose Repertory Theater.
Again, the Hispanic community had to strongly voice its opposition. Community advocates Kathy Chavez Napoli and others including Los Tigres del Norte, the San Jose based Grammy award winners and popular movie stars drew attention to the plight of the Studio Theater when they made a personal appearance at the theater for a short news conference before leaving for an engagement in New Mexico.
No sooner had that controversy ended with the decision to not press for the use of eminent domain to remove the Studio Theatre; when the Hispanic community became aware of the City’s plans to erect a statue in the heart of downtown San Jose to Thomas Fallon, a former Mayor of San Jose and a favorite hero of former mayor Tom McEnery. Thomas Fallon became mayor several years after the Mexican American War.
To the Hispanic community Fallon represents the worst of the conquerors – a man of dubious morals who benefited royally from the American conquest of California from Mexico. Respected historians of California history generally agree that Fallon was wanting in both character and actual importance to San Jose’s history.
The intent was to place the statue in Plaza Park, i n the very heart of the city. After much controversy and almost a year of discussion the statue is scheduled to be placed in Pellier Park near downtown. For many in the Hispanic community this is not acceptable and they vow that the issue is not settled.
Last year, El Teatro Campesino held a gala anniversary celebration, bringing to San Jose a touch of Hollywood glamour with some of the leading Hispanic movie and stage personalities flying in for the celebration.
The arts and cultural activities took center stage last year for the Hispanic community. As the population of minority communities have grown in San Jose, in particular the Hispanic community – the lack of parity for the Hispanic community in a number of areas is glaring. In some areas; poverty, lack of education and inadequate medical care, the Hispanic community is over represented: but as recipients of public funding for the arts and cultural activities, and meaningful economic development the Hispanic community is underrepresented.
This past election a group of Hispanic student leaders and community advocates were successful at the ballot box with the voters approval of a Measure that created districts for the election of school board members for the Evergreen- San Jose Community College District and the San Jose Unified School District, two very large school districts.
Also, overwhelmingly approved by the San Jose voters, was a two term limit for San Jose City Council members. That limitation, among other improvements, should facilitate the election of citizens to public office who may more closely reﬂect the ethnic makeup of the City.
This past election George Shirakawa won a seat, District 7, to the San Jose City council. Shirakawa whose ancestry is Japanese and Mexican has long been active in the community as an educator and businessman.
This last year the Hispanic community also came to the support of San Jose State students in pressing for relief from the harassment of minority students that has been encountered at that campus.
The personnel practices and the attitude towards Hispanics of a local daily newspaper has highlighted recently when a popular and respected Arts and Entertainment Features writer, Hispanic Nora Villagran, was demoted from a journeyman writer’s position to an entry level position and replaced by a male non-minority writer.
After years of claiming sensitivity to the minority/Hispanic community that daily recently hired Joseph Rodriguez, a native of cast Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Cal State Los Angeles and has a graduate degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. Rodriguez has experience as a reporter and editorial writer since 1983 with the Hanrtford Courant. His newspaper assignments are reported to include housing, social services, and immigration. He began his tenure at the MN Jan. 2. Rodriguez is the first Hispanic to be hired for the editorial staff at that local daily.
Many in the Hispanic community take offense at the insensitivity and demeaning manner in which the Hispanic community is portrayed in that daily by some of its writers.
In an article by Judith Greene, a MN arts critic, she writes that the play. “Shadow of a Man,” was probably necessary to get it out of her (the author Moraga’s) system” as the topic had been covered by many other writers. Green goes on the say that though the play “left many viewers in tears it can he argued that the Chicano audience needs to go through self-analysis before its playwrights can go on to larger things.” This is the same critic who wrote of a break dance ﬁlm featuring black stars. ‘Beat Street.’ “Break Dance films… (are) characterized by sub literate dialogue and subhuman acting: banal themes and improbable situations…”
Another MN writer, Murray Frymar, lamenting the failure of the Rep to take over the Studio Theatre location says “the San Jose Rep tried to get the Studio Theater downtown for its use a few months ago and city officials agreed but, then a flap broke out about turning a Hispanic movie theater into a legitimate-stage theater…”
The word flap implies a minor controversy of no real consequence thereby declaring the objections of the studio theatre displacement small in comparison to the needs of the Rep and their audience.
That characterization is one that persists in much of the coverage of the Hispanic community by the traditional media, be it print or video.
Though there is much progress yet to be made, much progress has been made – 1990 proved that. The Hispanic community is demanding good government. Equal representation, equality, equal opportunity, respect and fairness – the basics of democracy.