December 31, 2003

2003 Year End Review

A glimpse into one memorable year

For 28 years now, La Prensa San Diego has been doing year-end reviews, and each year has been unique and interesting in its own right. Yet year 2003 stands out as one of the more interesting years in regards to diversity of stories and their impact on the Hispanic community and vice-versa the impact the Hispanic community had on the issues of the day. With society’s penchant for seemingly remembering only the latest story, the year-end review allows us the opportunity to go back over the events that got us to where we are today, as we look to the future.

January 2003

Year 2003 started out under a cloud of a depressed economy and the looming war with Iraq on the horizon. Many issues were facing the Hispanic community and America in general. To better understand the issues, and in particular the issues of the Middle-East, La Prensa San Diego collaborated with the Persian American community and Ramin Moshiri in starting the biweekly column “La Prensa Persa”.

The intent of “La Prensa Persa” was to provide a voice for the Persian American community and at the same time discuss many of the same issues that the Hispanic/Mexican American community has been facing such as civil and human rights, immigrant rights, border issues, and discrimination. This column went on to gain recognition not only locally, statewide, and nationally, eventually being recognized at a statewide awards program as a “Bridge Builder” filling the gap between minority communities.

The impact of the newly created Department of Homeland Security was starting to be felt and addressed by civil rights groups as individual freedoms were coming under attack. The intent of the Bill of Rights was being eroded as the Federal government tried to address the threat of terrorist attacks. In the meantime the Hispanic community looked to the future and the impact these new laws would have on their rights.

With war imminent, the specter of restarting the draft is raised by Congressman Cruz Rangle, Rangle’s rational was that, with the minorities overrepresentation in the Armed Forces, it was time to start drafting the privileged. Editorially, we reacted strongly to this proposal, despite the intent of the proposal the reality of a draft is that 80% of those that are sent into war are represented by minorities. This proposal never did get off the ground thanks, in no small part, to the strong opposition from the minority communities.

January 8th is the one year anniversary of President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative. Despite the lofty goals of the program, primarily closing the gap in the education of Latino students, it comes under attack from such groups as MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense Fund) which criticizes the program for the lack of funding.

January also sees Governor Gray Davis start his second term. His immediate concern was the $35 billion budget shortfall that was soon discovered as a huge underestimation and the beginning of the end for Davis.

On January 28th in his State of the Union speech, President Bush lays out his rationale for the war on Iraq, they are: (1) to eliminate Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD); (2) to diminish the threat of international terrorism; and (3) to promote democracy in Iraq and surrounding areas. Bush beats the drums for war citing the eminent threat of terrorist attacks by Iraq, the nuclear threat, and the biological threat by this country. That was the rational, but reality proved to be much different

While most of the country fell in lock-step with the plan to attack Iraq, there were some quarters that questioned the rationale and the supposed proof of such a war. La Prensa San Diego editorials also questioned the supposed proof presented by the Bush administration as did other sectors of the community. But it was a war Bush wanted, and it was a war that he got.

The University of Michigan’s affirmative action program has reached the Supreme Court and the President has challenged the program labeling it as reverse discrimination and/or as a quota system. To the Hispanic community this is seen as an extension of the racists’ attacks launched by California Governor Pete Wilson and UC Trustee Ward Connerly in the form of Proposition 209.

While the war with Iran looms, there is a “Silent War” going on along the border as describe by reporter Mariana Martinez. On January 9th 3 immigrants were killed when the pick-up truck they were riding in became involved with a high speed chase by the border patrol. A spike strip was laid in the road blowing the tires of the truck. 17 people were in the truck 3 were killed. This brings the total of immigrants killed since 1994 to 1,700.


“Raza, Don’t Kill Raza!”, by Raymond Beltran, was the cry when Latino youth and organizations gathered together to ‘Walk for Peace, Unity and Justice’ in response to a recent shooting where two raza youths were injured and one murdered. San Diego activist organizations decided to beef up their solidarity and be one voice, a voice of peace with a cry for unity.

Zasueta Unceremoniously Dumped! It came as little surprise when Southwestern College President, Serafin Zas-ueta, was fired from his job. The firing was not in response to a dismal job performance or grievous misconduct, but as a casualty of the struggle over who runs the college – the President or the Teacher’s Union (SCEA), described La Prensa editorial.

Crisis continues between homeless farm workers and the City of Carlsbad. In what is an annual exercise, was recounted for us by America Barcelo Feldman. The City of Carlsbad had hundreds of immigrant farm workers, workers for the Rancho Fresero Giuamarra in Carlsbad, thrown out of their makeshift homes from land that housed migrant workers for more than 20 years. This left dozens of young people between18 and 25-years-old homeless. Groups such as Ecumenical Migrant Outreach (EMOP), American Friends Service Committee, Franciscan Monastery of Santa Barbara Province, San Luis Rey Church of Oceanside, Saint Patrick Church and Pilgrim Christ Church of Carlsbad, among others, have conducted several protests against this injustice, but as in years past, this protest falls on the deaf ears of that city council.

War with Iraq is immanent and many within the Hispanic community are standing up and taking a stand against the war. Ralph de Unamuno believes it is “Time For Raza to Stand Up: Protest the looming war against Iraq.” Visiting scholars from France, Emmanuelle Le Texier and Dr. Thorsten Becker explain why their country opposes the impending war in their piece “Why We and Our Countries Oppose War in Iraq.” Mexico joins with other international communities and opposes the war.

Local San Diego women bared it all to protest the impending war with Iraq.

“Vigilantes on the Rise at Mexico-U.S. Border” by R.M. Arrieta of El Tecolote brings to us the disturbing story of vigilantes at the border taking the law into their own hands. The group called the Civil Homeland Defense prowl the border in the town of Douglas, AZ. Joining this group was the American Border Patrol and Ranch Rescue.”

Making the news in February were two entertainment news stories. The first was the NBC mini-series ‘Kingpin’. Marcelo Rodríguez describes the irony of the Hispanic community first complaining about the lack of Latinos on television and now complaining about a high-quality show featuring a mostly Latino cast for being too negative about Hispanics. The other entertainment news story was “Ask ‘Dame Edna’ – What Happened to Humor?” by Richard Rodriguez. British actor-comic Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna Everidge is a middle-age drag queen – comedian and in Vanity Fair magazine, while in character made what some would consider a humorous remark about speaking Spanish. This went out via email and before long there was a full blown protest going on. The real humor was that a lot of the protestors thought that ‘Dame Edna’ was a real person. The furor soon died down.

First nominated in 2001 by President Bush the appointment of Miguel Estrada to 10th Circuit Court has been a political hot potato for two years, and in 2003, this nomination is finally coming to a head. The Republicans want Estrada, and the Democrats, with most Hispanic organizations, oppose the nomination. In an opinion piece by Dolores Huerta, “Estrada would destroy hard – fought victories,” she outlines her opposition of the Estrada nomination. In an opposing piece “Filubusted – Democratic Opposition to Estrada Will Backfire,” Marcelo Rodriguez lays out his reasons for Estrada. In the final outcome Estrada withdraws his nomination later in the year.


The story is titled: “Local Marine to Host a Combat Medals Party and Honors Fellow Service Men and Women,” by Dottie Fieger. On the night he was to receive the last two medals he earned for Vietnam valor, retired Marine Sergeant Alonzo R. Rivera, Jr hosted a party to celebrate and honor the memory of fallen American men and women during the Vietnam War.

Education and the budget are of paramount importance and the subject of many opinion pieces and editorials. Carlos Muñoz, Jr., laments that “35 years after walkouts, little has changed for Latino students.” Bottom line is that Latino students are still getting an education. Editorially, we talk about the rising cost to our students to attend California State Universities as tuitions rise due to budget cuts. The biggest losers are Hispanic students who are being priced out of a higher education. The next biggest loser over this budget issue would be Governor Davis.

Southwestern College students (l-r) Gonzalo Quintero, Francisco Navallez and Vanessa Moreno joined hundreds of local community college students in rally and demonstration against the proposed budget cuts and the fee increase.

Sylvia Rios is the Hispanic Port Commissioner appointed by the City of San Diego. We celebrate Cesar Chavez Month and talk about the due date for Mexican “double citizenship” procedure, etc., etc. All good stories, but the biggest story of the month was the “Awe and Shock” attack as America changes the course of the nation by conducting the first preemptive act of war with Iraq. Night after night we were treated to fireworks as displays of bombs pounded Iraq. We went in expecting a fierce battle, weapons of mass destruction, and chemical warfare. It was all over shortly, no chemicals were found, no weapons of mass destruction and not much of a fight. The real fight was to come later.


The war in Iraq continues and Latinos are some of the first who pay the ultimate price in this war. The names of the first killed and missing in action include José Gutierrez, José Garibay, Jorge Gonzales, Ruben Estrella-Soto, Johnny Villareal Mata, and Francisco Cervantes, Jr. Edgar Her-nandez, age 21, from Mission, Texas, has been listed as a POW. Also included amongst the first killed in combat include Escondido resident Lance Corporal Jesus Alberto Suarez Del Solar Navarro. Fernando Suarez father of Jesus ask the question why? Why were we fighting this war? Mr. Suarez spends the rest of the year asking this question and spreads the word of peace hoping to spare other families the pain of losing a son or daughter in a war that doesn’t make sense.

Fernando Suarez loses his only son in the Iraq war.

State Senator Gil Cedillo introduces SB60, drivers licenses for immigrant workers, Governor Gray Davis is luke warm to the idea. In the meantime the Hispanic community mobilizes to push through the passage of this bill.

Responding to the potential of millions being slashed from school budgets local school districts send out pinks slips to its teachers. Chula Vista Elementary, for example, sent 417 potential layoff notices to 417 teachers and support staff.

SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), a new illness from China, has spread and is now reported in the United States. There are a lot of questions, and Dr. James Santiago Grisolia answers many of the questions about this new disease and helps our readers on the do’s and don’ts in regards to SARS.


If it is May, then we are talking about “Cinco de Mayo.” Professor Raúl Rodríguez calls it “a Cinderella in Mexico’s Civic Calendar and a National Holiday for the Chicano community in the United States.

In May, La Prensa San Diego had visitors from the German Parliament. These were not to be the only foreign dignitaries to visit La Prensa San Diego during the year thanks to the International Visitors Council of San Diego. Dignitaries from Spain, Italy, Ukraine, Africa, and Brazil asked to visit the humble offices of La Prensa and talk about minority politics.

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) is being debated in the U.S. Senate; the House of Representatives version is called the Student Adjustment Act. The goal is for in-state tuition fees regardless of immigration status: the right to education. This debate will go on throughout the year and will be carried over to the new year; the final outcome is still to be determined.

David Bacon brings us the story of “Mother Movement – Juarez Women Seek Justice for Disappeared Daughters.” Mexico’s federal government finally decided to begin an investigation into the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of young women in Ciudad Juarez, the largest city on the U.S.-Mexico border. From 1996 to the fall of 2002, 284 women are known to have been murder, and 450 more have simply disappeared, according to groups organized by their mothers.

In May the offices of San Diego City Council members Ralph Inzunza, Michael Zucchet, and Charles Lewis are raided by the F.B.I. in conjunction with Cheetah’s strip club. The federal grand jury returned an indictment against the Council members charging them with extortion, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The scandal rocks the city and for a couple of days puts the war in Iraq on page 2.

City Councilmember Ralph Inzunza indicted in 2003

Juan Esparaza Loera brings us a story about Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante running for governor in 2006. While this talk is going on, the effort to recall Governor Gray Davis gained a full head of steam. As it turned out, Bustamante does run for governor in 2003.

It is another horrific story about eighteen migrants found dead in an 18-wheeler truck in Victoria, Texas. This tragedy has once again sparked renewed calls for an immigration reform.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to deregulate media ownership. Minorities across the country cry foul, fearing that ethnic media’s civic role may be undermined. With the ability of corporate ownership to expand, minority outlets will be strangled out of business.


The search for WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) has been going on for some time now and so far nothing’s been found. In the meantime, folks back home are beginning to ask questions about the validity of President Bush’s statements to the American people when he originally outlined the reasons for going to war, and more and more American soldiers die. The focus of the war starts to slowly shift from the rhetoric about WMDs to ousting the dictator, Hussein, and providing a democratic society to the people of Iraq.

The recall of Governor Davis is underway and the question is asked how is the Hispanic community reacting to this effort? The answer was simple, there is little reaction at all. This movement was conceived by and paid for the rich, ultra right wing element of the Republican Party. They did not ask or invite the Hispanic community to this party, and when you are excluded from the political game being played, what difference does it make?

On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court, on a 5-4 majority opinion, upheld Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan’s admission program that considered race for admission to its law school. It was stated that Affirmative Action was “Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civil life of our nation is essential if the dream, of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized.” Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

California Governor Davis is proposing floating more than $10 billion in bonds. This would be considered the final nail in Governor Davis’ coffin as he continues to try and thwart the recall effort, to no avail.

Return to the Frontpage