The “Train” has historically been a symbol of destruction for our people—indigenous Chicanos Mexicanos, dating back to when the Pacific rail tracks were laid out across the Southwest after the Mexican American War.
The Pacific Rail Line from the Eastern United States “acquired” huge amounts of land on both side of the proposed tracks, as they literally ate up land and resources to build the road for the “Iron Beast,” as it was called. The Pacific Rail Line took the land by any way it could, land that belonged to tribal nations and Indigenous Mexicanos who happened to live where the “Train Authorities” wanted to lay out their track.
There was no negotiation or consideration— THEY JUST TOOK. Therefore, to the political powerful, the train has been a representation of “Progress” in the Dominant society.
Thus, with this power and this privileged attitude they — The Government, with those that control the money strings — pushed their destruction where ever they see profits, with no regard for poor working class communities. And justify their greed/actions with “IT’S PROGRESS.”
Even when it is clear that it will be devastating to an already socially and economically depressed community, they justify all their political abuse and insensitivity with “We Must Move Forward” — it is for the good of everyone or in the future you’ll be thankful. Yet if we oppose their destruction, division or displacement we are labeled as backward, ignorant, against progress or worse — extremist, nonconformist or, God forbid, even Communist.
To make things worse, these historical abuses and political dictates have ingrained in our people the idea that we cannot go against the state or their projects. Some even think our opposition will create political backlash in the community. Thus it does no good to voice opposition to this abusive use of political power.
And all these years I thought we lived in a democracy.
Our history as a people is full of this type of economic/political abuse. This is how Chicanos/Mexicanos lost a good portion of their land.
This happened to my grandfather, who was coerced and pressured by racism during the “Great Depression,” as the Mexicano Community was used as the scapegoat for the U.S. economic crisis. My grandfather and his family were bullied into leaving the home they had built on the Mexican/Chicano side of the City of San Fernando. And in 1931 he left his little farm, his children’s future, and his job at the San Fernando Cannery for resources he was told he would receive in Mexico which he never got.
As a result of this displacement, three of his children died of starvation on the way to Mexico City. Another glaring example of this inhumane treatment towards our people is what happened to the Community of Chavez Ravine, as they were forced off their land at gunpoint and tractors. Then in the 1950s-1960s, in the Northeast San Fernando Valley, the African and Chicano communities were displaced by the dumps, the 5 Freeway and, as with my grandfather, my father’s family was displaced by the 118 Freeway — and our communities had no say so.
Today our community is in danger once again of being divided, destroyed and displaced in the name of “PROGRESS” with the SR 14 route of the High-Speed Rail down our historic San Fernando Road. “Communities Against Displacement” (CAD), a coalition of which La Raza Unida is part, has made it clear to the High-Speed Rail Authority how destructive the SR 14 route is. We have even provided proof of its destructiveness, as outlined in the impact study by Pacoima Beautiful.
CAD is an independent coalition made up of Pacoima/San Fernando organizations and individuals. CAD has made it a point to be present at all the HSR “Community Meetings,” making sure that our message is load and clear — the SR 14 route down San Fernando Road, is the most destructive option to people and community. It will divide, destroy our community and displace our people — and, once again, in the name of “PROGRESS.”
It is important to understand that our communities — Pacoima, San Fernando and Sylmar — will cease to be if the SR 14 option IS SELECTED. There is no benefit to our Chicano-Raza community whatsoever. Regardless of what [Los Angeles Councilmember] Felipe Fuentes says, it will only divide our communities, displace thousands of families and construct a 20-foot wall on both sides of the four tracks almost as it we were in prison.
WE SAY “HELL NO, HIGH-SPEED RAIL HAS GOT TO GO”!!
Jenaro G. Ayala is the chairman of La Raza Unida in San Fernando.