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2006 Los Angeles Megamarch, E. Morris-Vasquez

2006 Los Angeles Megamarch, E. Morris-Vasquez

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Published by AmericanSappho
youth, children, immigration, border, deportation
youth, children, immigration, border, deportation

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Published by: AmericanSappho on Mar 17, 2014
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 The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies
 73
The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies
, Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 2008, pp. 73 -80
Prometheus Unbound: Poetics of Power and La Megamarcha Dos Mil Seis Los Angeles
Edith Morris-Vasquez Pitzer College To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite; To forgive wrongs darker than death or night; To defy Power, this seems omnipotent; To love, and hear; to hope till Hope creates From its own wreck the thing it contemplates.
 Prometheus Unbound 
, 1820
1
 Percy Bysshe Shelly
Abstract:
This article is a participatory essay derived from the Los Angeles march. It documents and describes the march as a performance of community power and a form of epic resistance connected to poetry and to Latina/o organizational strategic culture across the generations and with a concluding comment on youth politics.
Keywords
: Los Angeles, Latino politics, immigration, performance, poetics, immigrant protests, public performances In ancient Greek myth, Prometheus is the Titan who most loves mortals. Zeus assigns him to the creation of the human race, and Prometheus designs the human race in the image of the gods. While Zeus does not provide the people with a means of survival, Prometheus gives them fire. To punish him, Zeus orders that Prometheus be chained to the highest summit of the Caucasus mountains where his liver is to be eaten by an eagle; because the Titan is immortal, the organ re-grows and is eaten anew every day.
The story of Prometheus’ rebellion against the Olympian chief has been adapted by
writers throughout the ages, and each version has its particular uses. Though almost entirely lost, the original Greek play by Aeschylus had Zeus and Prometheus eventually kiss and make up
after Prometheus is freed and their accounts are settled. In Shelly’s verse drama there is no reconciliation. In Goethe’s poem “Prometheus,” the two are portrayed as natura
l enemies; one is allied with humankind, the other is an authoritarian and unsympathetic godhead. Goethe has Prometheus first ruminate on the innocence of humankind and then declare himself its protector in a notable act of solidarity against abusive power: Here sit I, forming mortals After my image; A race resembling me, To suffer, to weep, To enjoy, to be glad, And thee to scorn, As I!
2
 
 
 The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies
 74
The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies
, Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 2008, pp. 73 -80
Having identified with man, Prometheus, man’s progenitor, vigorously asserts their
common fate vigorously claims
a common fate that they will share beginning with, “to suffer.”
This mutual condition, seen vis-à-
vis Zeus’ omnipotence, leads to the assertion of the final line where identification culminates in what we might today term “coalition politics.” Just like (
wo) man is made in the image of Prometheus, so too will s/he come to defy arbitrary and abusive  power.
Today, the adjective “Promethean” may be attributed to anyone with remarkable
 boldness, ingenuity, and creativity and I would argue these descriptors apply to the immigration megamarch of March 25 in Los Angeles in 2006. The Los Angeles Times reported police estimates of 500,000 people; organizers cited twice as much, placing the number at one million  participants.
3
 Latinos and sympathizers of all backgrounds poured into the L.A. downtown streets not marching in homogenous unison but in polyrhythm. Observers took note of the fact that the march was multiethnic, multinational, and multigenerational. Many a baby stroller, infant backpack, and even family pet accompanied the marchers. And not all marchers were the same. A considerable amount of them came in contingents: student groups, grass roots and  political action organizations, conchero dancers, a large party of the F.M.L.N., religious groups, and the South Central Farmers, among others, marched as distinct groups displaying their respective affiliations peacefully and
en masse
. Sensenbrenner’s H.R. 4437 was the rallying
cause but the potential for such a movement had always been there: as several signs proclaimed,
“The Giant Wasn’t Sleeping: S/he Was Working!”
This was a new cultural event that went beyond the immediate and urgent political goal of rejecting anti-immigrant policy-making. Its elements, which normally extend in individually variegated, private or semi-private gestures of resistance throughout the geographical expanse of metropolitan L.A. and southern California, had been bound together and were in full swing, radiating Promethean audacity. Internal differences aside, the pluralism of the marchers  promulgated a form of unity in coalition, and this was best expressed by the chosen attire of the marchers. Organizers and the Spanish-language media had asked for white to be worn. What could white symbolize? Consensus across a vast coalition of groups and individuals, as well as innocence, purity, and hope itself. The vast majority of marchers did wear white. In addition, many wore national flags draped around their bodies in a cape-like fashion, and many carried multiple flags, the American and the Mexican, the Salvadoran, Honduran, or Guatemalan. This was an embodied, motile manifestation of twentieth century material and political history; a people communally politicized not only by hard work and curtailed civil rights, lack work 
er’s protections and educational opportunities in the U.S., but also by North American
foreign policy, the Central American civil wars, NAFTA, and neoliberalism
 — 
all contributing factors in the contemporary immigration waves. The masses were here and wore their status on their sleeve. No hiding in the shadows. No hushed Spanish. No deferential eyes. Instead fire was stolen from the indifferent and arbitrary powers that be, and exchanged among the marchers. A river of consciousness swam through the downtown streets, all tributaries leading northward toward City Hall. Constituents of concentric circles, each subgroup expressing a Promethean fate that lay within increasingly larger circles of social organization, reflected both their immediate networks as well as a pan-Latino and immigrant political force. Angelica Salas,
director of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants said, “What we are doing is  building a movement that will transform America.”
4
 
With all the punning (“March”
and
“march”) and
 stunning outpour, March 25
th
 was an act of transforming culture.
 
 The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies
 75
The Journal of Latino-Latin American Studies
, Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 2008, pp. 73 -80 Most effectively, the march was a transformation; it communicated--not only to the  policymakers, media, and general public, but to the message-makers themselves--that national and even regional divides had best be put aside for the time being. A fully coalesced immigrant rights movement set the necessary foundations in the path toward citizenship. And the cultural
changes coincided with a political platform: “we are not criminals; we, t
oo, are Americans; our
only crime is hard work; I came here to work; we are workers not terrorists.” So it was that the
cultures of hard work and indirect or sequestered civil participation became a culture of direct  political work.
 
As Raymond Williams asserts in
The Sociology of Culture
,
5
 Thus the social organization of culture is an extensive and complex range of many types of organization, from the most direct to the most indirect. (Williams 213) In fact, the multitude of individuals, organizations, and marchers within
megamarchers’
  points to what Raymond Williams understands as an integral part of a given cultural transformation. Addressing Antonio
Grimace’s
 broad and popular concept of intellectualism of the people at large, Williams concurs and further elaborates, All human and social and productive activities involved
intelligence …it
 is then a matter of defining kinds of activity which involve an exceptional degree and regularity of its exercise (Williams, 215). One conclusion about the megamarcha can readily be drawn: intelligence was its guiding force. Calculated to resolutely defeat HR 4437, the march galvanized a self-consciously coalitional effort. Everywhere, justice looked into the eyes of justice and recognized its mirror image. More than a mere poetic tautology, the beaming gaze of political activism spoke of a  brilliant
 fait accompli
. A common chant to be heard was, “ahora marchamos, mañana votamos”
(today we march, tomorrow we vote). This action was not a one-time action; rather it would lead to future sets of actions involving both the individual and organizational level. Politically speaking, a coalition had victoriously emerged, and it did not only speak for immigrants and their fate, it revitalized democratic values at a time when many people in the United States and abroad, had begun to doubt their existence; the unprovoked U.S. war on Iraq; the human rights scandals at Abu Graib and Guantanamo; and the Bush-Cheney position on torture and international treaties on g
lobal warming had forced many to question the nations’
espoused values. But while these were not explicit themes of the march, the march was without doubt the single most important display of public political dissent since the war in Vietnam:
“Attendance
at the demonstration far surpassed the number of people who protested against the
Vietnam War.”
6
 Additionally, the tremendous media exposure shone a limelight on the completely peaceful and civic tenor of the march itself. Supporting political actions took place in other venues such as schools where walkouts
were underway and worksites where a virtual “Day Without a Mexican” was implemented. The
impact of this massive non-participation in the business, industrial, and education sectors, which was accompanied by a one-day economic boycott practiced across the Americas, has yet to be fully quantified and studied.

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