January 8, 1999

1998 The Year That Was —

Año 1998 en Retrospectiva


La Prensa San Diego, the chronicle of the Mexican American, Latino, and Hispanic communities of the San Diego region completes 22 years of reporting the important stories that impacted on our community. It has been a labor of love and fulfillment of our deepest desires. As 1998 flowed by our senses, the staff wrote and reported on the silly, the funny, the innocent, as well as the hurtful stories that captured the essence of our daily lives.

University of California, San Diego students and faculty demonstrate against the desmantling of affirmative action.

In this first issue of 1999 we touch on some of these stories to remind our people that "once in print it is in history".

January 1998

January was a sad beginning for the Publisher of La Prensa San Diego, Daniel Muñoz and his family. The Patriarch of the Muñoz family, Federico Cano Muñoz, departed from this earthly life on January 4, 1998. It was with great sadness that we bid farewell to him. Needless to say it was a foreboding start for the New Year.

California Mexican Americans solidified their hold on the Assembly of the State. Assemblyman Antonio R. Villaraigosa was selected by the Democrats to be the Speaker of the State Assembly. He superceded former Speaker Assemblyman Cruz Bustamante who could not run for reelection because of term limits.

February 1998

February opened up with threats of war once again against Iraq. San Diego, a major seaport for naval forces began to feel fear. Too many of our residents would once again be placed in danger.

The warning signs political divisiveness surfaced with members of the Republican Party placing on the upcoming ballot PROP 227 a move to eliminate bilingual education. Wedge politics were heating up. Governor Pete Wilson signed up as major sponsor of the Unz Initiative.

Superior Courts issued restraining orders that prevented the Wilson administration from stopping publicly funded prenatal care for undocumented immigrants. 70,00 women, mostly Latino, would have been impacted. The Pete Wilson divisive politics were in high gear.

Marco Polo Cortes was elected as the new Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president. Patricia Cole, Rosana Herrera Ortega, and Maris Ortega were also sworn in as vice president, treasurer, and secretary.

March 1988

Local Politics got interesting with the entry of David Gomez as a candidate for the Eighth Council District. Gomez vowed to unseat Councilman Juan Vargas. Voters showing displeasure at the lackluster performance of Councilman Vargas warmed up to the Gomez race.

Continuing a disturbing trend the local Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce injected itself into local political scene. It not only financed the campaigns of three San Diego Unified School Board candidates with public monies but also interfered in the appointive process for the position of Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School district. Utilizing its position of influence and financing, it managed to have appointed, in secret, Alan Bersin the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District. Without an ounce of experience, the Board of Trustees appointed him without a whimper. La Prensa San Diego strongly objected to the Chamber using non-taxable donations for political purposes.

The end of Affirmative Action Guidelines, under the Wilson administration caused dramatic declines in the numbers of Mexican-Americans, Blacks, and American Indian Freshmen admitted to the first fall classes at all UC Campuses. Once again the divisive policies of Governor Pete Wilson took its toll on the minority population of the State. Thousands of students would pay the price of Wilson's political move to court the extremist Right-Wing Conservative voters, mostly White, and demonstrate his willingness to sacrifice all non-white members of the state.

We closed the month of March with a celebration in print in honor of one of our charismatic MexicanAmerican leaders of the 20th century: César Chávez. We vowed to make it a practice of La Prensa San Diego to bring forth our history in this country and to recall those of our people who willingly manned the trenches to make our life meaningful. Thousands of Chicanos marched, protested, and took the necessary political action to improve the life of the migrant farm workers of this state.

April 1998

Teenage Pregnancies became our front-page story at the beginning of April. Statistics made it clear that our country had the highest teenage pregnancy rate out of all the industrialized nations of the world! We wondered whether our values were changing. Had our morals that had sustained the institution of the family for centuries somehow been set aside? The pregnancy rate amongst our Latino youth was alarming. How could a society based on the Catholic religion ignore the tenants of their religion so easily? What did all this mean for the institution of the family was it becoming a `throw-a-way' irrelevant institution? Was the problem based on other factors such as poverty, drugs, a permissive society, or was it a breakdown of our traditional values? Our coverage came up with more questions than solutions.

The Easter Season was upon us: La Resurrección. "Hoy cambiemos nuestra tristeza por la alegría," dijo el Obispo Auxiliar de San Diego, +Gilberto E. Chavez. "Cambiemos nuestras sombras de nuestra depresión y fracasos por la luz y sol de Jesús". Así debía de ser. And we prayed for our salvation on this auspicious day.

La Prensa noted with pleasure the appointment of Dr. Marilyn Aguirre-Molina to the position of Vice President of Program Investments for the California Endowment.

A private foundation dedicated to expanding access to affordable, quality, health care for under served individuals and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of Californians.

May 1998

Guatamala occupied our front page… Auxiliary Bishop Juan Gerardi, a leading human rights activists was slain April 19, 1998 two days after presenting a scathing report on human rights abuses during Guatemala's 36 year civil war. Fifty five thousand persons died during that conflict. The Bishop was buried on April 27, 1998 in Guatemala City.

With GUSTO San Diegans' joined in this year's Cinco de Mayo Celebration! For the first time in American History, the Postal Service issued special stamps.

In 1998 Anthony Muñoz was a first round selection into the Pro-Football Hall Fame.

With cries of Boot Newt, the cream of the crop at U.C.S.D. rose up in protest over the proposed invitation by Chancellor Robert Dynes to House Speaker Newt Gingrich to deliver the campus commencement ceremonies in June. "We do not want our University to be associated with Newt Gingrich in any way," said Kathia Romo, chair of the Student Affirmative Action Committee. The students reactions were in line with that in all other college and University campuses. They didn't want a right wing radical that practiced Wedge politics a-la Pete Wilson.

National Image brought their 26th Annual Conference to San Diego. Members from throughout the nation came to the national conference that was held at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center. Keynote Speaker David Montoya, Federal Department of the Interior lite fires under the group with his upbeat speech. He urged the membership to stand up for injustice that is occurring in California's Latino community.

As elections drew near, the State Initiatives drew the most heat and emotion. Prop 226, the Union busting pro-position and Prop 227, the English Language, in Public Schools (anti-bilingual measure); were heatedly opposed by Mexican voters. Both were Wedge issues supported by Governor Pete Wilson and were seen as anti-Mexican issues. Pete Wilson was destroying all support for the Republican Party. The rallying cry amongst La Raza was: "Don't vote for any Republican candidates in the June Primary, send them a message!"

June 1998

The results of the June Primary were in. Prop 227 was approved. The Right-wing won. We lost. The schools are in turmoil. Thousands of little Chicanitos would now be thrown into English only classes. Lawsuits would be immediately filed. The racist in our society won out over logic and the needs of the state. Prop 226 the Union Busting Initiative was also very important to working class Americans. That went down to defeat. Supporting it were the Governor Pete Wilson and the Republican Party.

Democrats won in their Primary. Republicans won in theirs. The battle lines were drawn for the November General Election. Good omens for Raza candidates. The General election would probably see an increase in State elective offices going to Mexican Americans.

Summer Graduations were highlighted as hundreds of College and High School students graduated and went on to higher education or job hunting. David Arambula surprised his family by earning four degrees at the same time! He earned an AA from City College, a B.S. in Work-force Training and Development from Southern Illinois University, an A.S. in Fire Science from Miramar College and a Certificate of Achievement in Oral Communications from San Diego City College. Oh, forgot to mention he is also the father of two children and a full time member of the Marines!

Immigrant Problems. As usual, June was a busy month for our boys in Green: La Migra. With San Diego being the best place for migrants to cross, it was routine to note the numbers and go on with other news. Some made it, others didn't. With Coyotes shifting their port of entry further east near the mountains and the Sonoran Desert the stories became more terrifying. It became commonplace to report groups of migrants dying of the heat as they tried to cross the desert with little or no water and inadequately dressed. Women, children, young teens and older workers perished as they tried to reach the promise land. Reports filtered in of migrants freezing to death as they tried the mountain routes. Winter was not a good time to go mountain climbing. INS Commissioner Doris Missner announced what she called a "public initiative" to prevent such deaths from occurring. She announced a Bounty Program where in Bounty Hunters would receive up to $5,000 for bringing in illegal aliens (dead or alive?). This plan was immediately attacked by Chicanos and discredited. One wonders what the wunder-kind in Washington D.C. will think of next.

We ended the summer season by covering LULAC scholarship stories, weddings, beach parties, dedicating the Camino Real Bell ceremonies and observed Mariano Escobedo Serrano ring the historic bell. Our Editorials noted the insane idea of Superintendent Alan Bersin hiring people from New York to commute a few days of the week to help him run the schools. La Prensa reported the activities at Balboa Park, Mission Bay, La Jolla Shores, the Museum of Art, Tijuana, the Murph, and of course, at the Theaters.

July 1998

Soccer Mania in San Diego. The streets were filled with Mexican soccer fans, blowing their car horns, waving their flag, painting their faces red and green, cheering, hoping to will the national team toward an improbable World Cup victory.

While Mexican-Americans cheered the Mexican team, fans of the American soccer team watched silently as their team was unceremoniously bounced out of the tournament in the first round. Adding insult to injury in their final World Cup appearance the Americans were beaten by the Iraq team. The team came home from France a bickering, finger pointing group of losers.

In the meantime the overwhelming favorite, Brazil, was in the finals to face the hometown team of France. Team Brazil played without heart throughout the tournament, winning with superior talent and luck. The lackluster performance for Brazil continued in the finals, losing to the determined team from France.

Unionization of Maquiladora factory. While the World Cup kept us enthralled for a while, the striking workers at Tijuana's Han Young factory were facing a much more serious game. The game pitted the newly formed union at the Han Young factory against the Baja California state government. It was to be termed the first test case of NAFTA's side agreements. The workers were fighting for a livable wage, they were earning $8 dollars a day; recognition of their independent union; wage scales based on seniority and experience; and a profit-sharing plan in accordance with Mexican law. The Baja government moved to crush the strike sending in 100 SWAT members to tear down banners, intimidate, and ushered in a contingent of strikebreakers.

The Union looked to the north seeking assistance in upholding the intent of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Amer-ica responded. The U.S. Department of Labor, charged with hearing complaints under NAFTA's labor side agreement, concluded that Mexico wasn't enforcing its own labor laws. And over 500 labor and human rights leaders in the U.S. and Mexico signed a letter asking the Mexican President to overrule the Tijuana authorities.

PROP 227. Opponents to Prop. 227 banning bilingual education suffered the final blow in July. Judge Charles Legge refused to block the measure saying the initiative did not discriminate or violate federal law. The ban would take effect in August.

Mexican History destroyed. Sometimes you die piece by piece. In July a decision made in May by Superior Court Judge Judith McConnell went into affect allowing the California Parks and Rec. Dept. to build over the "Silva Adobe Home" to accommodate the needs of the park by building the James McCoy wooden house in Old Town. The Silva Adobe home was discovered during excavation for the McCoy home. According to the general plan for the preservation of a history that is lacking in Old Town, the Historical Society was looking to have the Silva Adobe home preserved. The history of the Mexican-Period in Old Town is now buried underneath the home of a man with a dubious past.

Hispanos on the Move: Louis Caldera was appointed Secretary of the Army making him the first Hispanic to serve in this position. In Texas Rick Dovalina was elected as the new president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Paula A. Cordeiro is named new USD Education Dean. San Diego County School Trustee, Nick Aguilar, finds himself in hot water after he charges-off expenses to the County School District for a trip to Cuba.

August 1998

"Migra Out of Control? Cover-Up" charged by local Chicano group: The editor of the Calexico Chronicle reports that the Catholic Bishop Jose Isydro Guerrero Macias, Bishop of Mexicali was apprehended and stripped searched by the Border Patrol. The Bishop described the strip search as dehumanizing, embarrassing and uncalled for. When the border agents realized the Bishop was who he said he was and not a drug smuggler, he was released with no apology or explanation, as reported by Hildy Carrillo. The leader of Committee on Chicano Rights, Herman Baca, called for an immediate investigation. The issue continued to boil for several weeks at the Calexico border. Mexicali residents protested the treatment of their Bishop and staged a boycott at the border.

Tuna workers feted; One of the pillars of the City of San Diego was the tuna industry. It was an industry that was based in Barrio Logan and employed thousands of Mexican-Americans during its heyday. Once the tuna industries left, the workers became a forgotten people. To honor the workers and the role they played in the development of San Diego Tom Martinez, a former Labor Union official, started the movement to recognize these men and women on Labor Day. Martinez enlisted the help of Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the San Diego Unified Port District, Radio Latina and the Chicano Federation to host a special day for the tuna factory worker.

The November General Elections; Still four months away, yet the rhetoric is already heating up. At the top of the list was the Padres Ballpark complex downtown, Prop MM billion-dollar school bond, and Prop 5 the Indian gambling proposition.

La Prensa noted the selection of Dr. Omero Suarez as Chancellor of Grossmont-Cuyamaca College. Alberto's Mexican Restaurant founders Juan Diego Rodriguez and Alvaro Rodriguez were sentenced to jail for tax evasion. Michael B. Lopez, CEO of Everhealth Foundation, donates $50,000 to Palomar College towards the education Hispanic students in nursing.

September 1998

Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off on September 15. Through October 15 we celebrate Hispanic Heritage in the United States. Highlighted this year was the story of Spanish colonization and the imprint in Arizona and California left by Juan Bautista de Anza. 1998 was also the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Treaty of Guadalupe was a prelude to the 60s Chicano Movement. 1998 was also the 100th anniversary of the Spanish-American War, which coincided with the Cuban Revolution for freedom from Spain. These stories and more were carried in the pages of La Prensa during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Baseball Stadium: It is the classic story of Goliath versus David with the proposal to build a baseball complex in downtown San Diego. On the one hand you have millionaire baseball people, high profile sports stars, millionaire business owners, and rabid baseball fans pushing for a downtown ballpark. On the other hand you have a grassroots organization with very cogent arguments and little money trying to STOP PROP C. This was a slam dunk proposition for the millionaires, but they didn't leave anything to chance, they pulverized the opposition.

Drug Wars: In Baja California, the drug wars reached an all-time low when assassins murder 18 men, women, and children. It is the worst massacre ever. No charges have been handed down as of now.

La Prensa San Diego honored the memory of Mother Teresa. Mexican Americans are pushing to have that WWII war hero for whom the movie "Hell to Eternity" was depicted, Guy Louis Gabaldon, that he be recognized with the Medal of Honor. Isabelle Allende receives the 1998 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize -one of the largest prizes in the arts.

October 1998

Columbus Day: Winding down Hispanic Heritage Month we concluded our series on Hispanic contributions to the Americas with our story on Christopher Columbus. We asked the question: Columbus, hero or destroyer? If you're an Indian (Aztec, Inca, American) he had to be considered a destroyer.

Anthony Trujillo is fired as Superintendent of Ysleta School District in Texas. It is déjà vu all over again! Anthony Trujillo, in 1989, was fired from Sweetwater Union High School district for similar reasons, involving himself in local politics and dubious money management. Community groups, parents organize seeking the ouster of Trujillo. La Prensa finds itself involved throughout with parents from Ysleta, Texas, email, calling and requesting background, and past stories on Trujillo.

PADRES: The San Diego Padres won the National League Pennant and go to the World Series for only the second time in their history. That was the good news. The bad news? They had to face the best baseball team in the history of the sport, the New York Yankees. It wasn't pretty; the Yankees dismantled the Padres rather handily, winning the series.

ELECTIONS: General elections are just around the corner and La Prensa goes on record with its recommendations. In good consciousness La Prensa cannot recommend one Republican for election and urges the voters to make a statement about Republican politics of divisiveness and immigrant bashing. Nor can we recommend a downtown ballpark for millionaires, nor a billion dollars for school construction, nor sovereignty for Indian gaming. Oh well you win some and lose some.

Bullfights: The Tijuana bullfight season comes to a close. It proved to be a very interesting season with many highs and lows (the season was almost cancelled). And our Taurine reporter, Lynn Sherwood was there to cover every pic and pass.

The 1998 taurine season was a little wierd. Taurnie reporter Lynn Sherwood captured this bullfighter sitting down on the job.

Names in our Media: Monica Lewinsky, enough said. Dr. Antonio R. Flores president of Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities is in town to attend their annual conference and to promote higher education.

November 1998

Election Results: The big story of the year was that Hispanic voters went to the polls and voted in record numbers. The Republican Party was the big loser in this election. It was almost a clean sweep in the statewide elections for the Democrats with Cruz Bustamante becoming the first Hispanic in 120 years to hold a statewide office. The other big winners were the Indian gambling interest; of course you better win when you spend $100 million dollars. San Diego City Schools got their billion dollars, and the Padres got their new ballpark.

In the U.S. Congress there were four Hispanics elected. State Senate, seven Hispanics elected. State Assembly, 14 Hispanic elected to office. In the County of San Diego, 16 Hispanics were elected to various offices from the mayor of the City of La Mesa to the Valley Center Fire District.

Weather Report: November 2nd Hurricane Mitch swept through Central Ame-rica causing mass destruction and death. Millions were left homeless and hundreds of thousands died. The international community responded sending relief and aide to the millions of Central Americans who lost their homes and loved ones.

La Pinta: Throughout the year La Prensa ran a series of articles entitle "Voices From Juvenile Hall." Our hope was to give the youth of our communities a realistic view of life in prison as seen through the eyes of those inside. The final article for the year, written by Mario Rocha, was called "Buried Alive In Prison."

Mario Rocha

December 1998

Hero Dies: A true hero passed away, Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez. A Vietnam hero and Medal of Honor recipient, Benavidez was laid to rest at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.

Elections in Baja: Across Baja California five new mayors were elected and took office in December. The new mayor elect of Tijuana was Francisco Vega de la Madrid.

Xmas: The League of United Latin American Citizens came through once again, collecting enough food to provide overflowing Christmas baskets to 260 families.

Soccer: A local Mexican-American goalkeeper, Linnea Quinones, is helping the Mexican national team make the `99 Women's World Cup.' Quinones, former Bonita Vista High School student and San Diego State University student and player was invited by the Mexican national team to help the reach their goal.

The year 1998 ended amongst much controversy (President Clinton impeachment process), worry (the attack on Iraq), and concern (economic forecast predict a slow down in the economy for `99).

But there is much hope amongst the Hispanic community. Finally after years of predicting of the `sleeping giant' awakening, for the first time in 1998 the Hispanic voter finally flexed some muscle at the polls. With Pete Wilson finally out of office the era of political divisiveness looks to be finally at an end.

(The review was written by staff members of La Prensa . They reflect but a small portion of all the stories that La Prensa covered but they reflect some of the issues and concerns that our editors felt were of primary interest to our readers.

We now say goodby to 1998. "It was the worst of times and the best of times." We were just happy to be part of it.

Adios, Dan Muñoz Sr. Publisher, Dan Muñoz Jr. Editor, staff: Maria Delgado, Bere-nice Cisneros, Paco Zavala, Lynn Sherwood, Fred Sidhu, Raoul Contreras, Roberto Quintana.)

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