Category Archives: July-August 2012

History and the People Who Make It: Sonja Diaz

transcript edited by Pierce Butler

This is the ninth in a continuing series of transcript excerpts from the collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.

Community organizer Sonja Diaz was interviewed by Prof. Paul Ortiz [O] on June 3, 2010.

I am a third/fourth generation Chicana. My dad’s side of the family was born and raised in Southern California back to my great grandparents. My mom is sixth generation Tejana. My mother was a farm worker and my father grew up in East L.A., a construction worker with my grandpa. Both of my parents were the first in their families to go to college. My mom was active in the UFW and my father in the East L.A. Walkouts. I grew up in East L.A. in a family that was very socially conscious. Every weekend we’d go to an art event, a protest, a march. For instance, the César Chávez marches in East L.A.; protesting Prop. 187, to take away social services for undocumented people; Prop. 209 which ended affirmative action. We called it “Radio Fire activism” ‘cause my brother and I would get in our red Radio Fire and our parents would drag us along. So, activism was spurred through our family: my father, being an urban planner and advocating on behalf of urban communities of color; my mother, working in social services and for empowerment of blacks and Latinos. It just was natural at UC Santa Cruz to continue activism along racial/ethnic lines. So, definitely East Los Angeles, El Sereno, and my parents shaped who I am today. It gave me that community education that was so lacking in LAUSD public schools. They taught me in a way where I felt proud of not only being a Chicana, but also of where I grew up and of the people and community that supported me.

My mom started working the fields at age five. She talked about not having water, not having bathroom breaks, not getting paid. She told me about my grandpa, who was born in Mexico and didn’t have formal education, taking notes about all the hours that his compadres worked because they weren’t getting paid for everything.

On my dad’s end, both my grandparents were very vigilant that they went to Catholic schools. If you had more than three kids, after the third it was free, so it was a deal for them. But it was very racist and he would talk about discrimination based on skin, based on class.  His counselors refused to give him a college application. And to this day, I look at that story as something—wow, you know—that’s what used to happen, but it’s still happening.

Continue reading

Weeding Through the B.S. – Note from the Publisher

by joe courter

Publishing a small news magazine in this age of information overload has its pluses and minuses. There is a lot to write about and report on, but sheesh, there sure is a lot to choose from. Do you write about things coming up, or things that have already happened? From an activist orientation, the Iguana wants to present information to inform and inspire, to try and convey that the struggle for a better world is long and slow, with bursts of hope that, when proved fleeting, should not be seen as defeat but as part of the process of change.

A good friend last week expressed to me that she wished the Iguana was bigger or came out more often, ’cause it is one media source she trusts. Well, as this publication is run both on volunteer time and on a shoestring budget, that is unlikely. So it is up to everyone, via libraries, selective use of the media, or their computer to get out and dig up meaningful stuff, and not settle for the mainstream BS that passes for news now.

Beyond that, there is also an ethic of solidarity, the common struggle. We see resistance to austerity measures around the world, a collective “NO!” to the demands of sacrifice that the rich and powerful impose on, very often, the ones with the least, but also on the compliant. Because they can. For now.

Continue reading

The Iguana Guide To The Aug. 14 Election

by joe courter

There’s Election Day, when all should cast an informed vote, and then there is the Process and all the varied ways one can participate in the build-up to the day(s) when votes are cast.

Those who don’t vote because of their disappointment in the national races hurt all those local candidates whose term in office will affect you directly and for whom your vote is significantly more powerful. Like I said last month, people died for their right to vote; it is not too much to ask for you to participate.

So on the big scale, where are we? On Nov. 6 there will be a Democrat and a Republican. We know them. There will be the Green party and the Libertarian Party, both small, principled and, as usual, ignored by the media. The proposed other third party effort – one Dem and one Repub in an online-determined primary ballot called “America Elects” – quietly collapsed in mid-May. That kind of killed the idea of a major third voice getting into the D&R party-controlled debates.

What we will have is a pretty sharp contrast between the disappointing but eloquent Obama and the less articulate and tied to a hard right party Romney. And a tsunami of right-wing money unleashed by Citizens United muddying the discussion to a point of potential disgust for most sane people.

It will be a long 18 weeks from press time in July to the vote. Money and greed have us in a bad mess. Military Madness has the world hating us.

Locally we have City and County governments hamstrung from Tallahassee budget cuts, trying to deal with the shortfall amid much squealing about paying taxes to make up for it by the Republicans (whose own party did all the cutting in Tallahassee in the first place). Add to that the poisoned political climate fostered by hate radio and the corporate media, which focuses on the simplistic and sensational.

Continue reading

Dear Mr. Econ… What Happened to the American Dream? Part II

What happened to the American Dream of a college education and home ownership?

–   Anonymous Iguana Reader

This is the second part of a three-part series addressing the reader’s question about the American Dream. In this installment, Mr. Econ tackles home ownership.

Dear Reader, 

Home ownership was viewed as critical to America and its communities because it provided a stable place to live and raise a family, thereby producing stable communities. Home ownership was also the basic component of “wealth” for a family.

Starting in the 1970s, the U.S. housing market changed dramatically. A home was no longer viewed as a stable place to live; instead, it became an investment.

Prior to the 1970s, homes, home prices and home mortgage loans were the bedrock of the U.S. economy in many ways. Banks were mainly local and did a majority of their lending in the local housing market. In fact, many banking institutions were only allowed to make home loans, and those had to be in the local market.

Banks got the money to make home loans from “Passbook Savings Accounts.” Many economic calculations were historically judged based on what was called the “Passbook Rate,” which was around 5 percent. This is the rate banks paid depositors on passbook savings accounts. Banks lent out this money at somewhere between 5 and 10 percent, depending on the type of loan and the creditworthiness of the borrower.

Continue reading

July/August 2012 Iguana Calendar

Want to know what’s going on in Gainesville this month and next? Check out the Iguana’s July/August 2012 Calendar. Print it out and put it in your wallet, on your refrigerator, or pass it on to a friend.

Have an event you’d like to see on the Iguana Community Calendar? Email it to us at

July/August 2012 Gainesville Iguana

Can’t get into town for the print Iguana? Or did you make it to the box a little late this month?

Well, don’t worry! We have the whole July/August 2012 issue here for your perusal.

Woody’s Birthday Party: 50 Years Ago

by arupa freeman

I found out about Woody Guthrie in the early sixties when I moved to Norman, Okla., to go to college. Someone invited me to an annual event in Norman, Woody Guthrie’s birthday party. I don’t know who organized it or how many years it had been going on, but it was an established tradition. It was always well-attended, but received no press coverage and, amazingly enough, was attended by no police officers (which was all for the best). Hundreds of people gathered in a field known as the Duck Pond. A small stream with ducks ran through it and – best of all – it had trees. Oklahomans have done a lot of reforestation since the 1960s, but back then an area with honest-to-God trees was special.

Hundreds of people, many of them students, gathered in the late afternoon, braving the blinding July heat. A sizable contingent were men in overalls and straw hats, with about three or four teeth each, who were carrying guitars and banjos. The party always started in the same way, with Woody’s sister, from Gotebo, Okla., standing up in front and making a few opening remarks. She was a country woman in a cotton house dress, her hair pulled back into a bun, and she’d have an old black purse clasped to her side. She spoke in a thick rural Okie twang: “I’m Woody’s sister, and I want to thank all you folks for coming to celebrate Woody’s birthday. The main thing I want you to know is Woody was a good boy, and he weren’t no Communist. Now y’all have a good time!”

The men in overalls were Woody’s old friends from all over the Oklahoma panhandle and adjoining parts of Arkansas. After Woody’s sister spoke, they would start playing and they would play into the wee small hours of the morning – bluegrass and country so fine one would have to die and go to Hillbilly Heaven to hear anything like it. They are still the finest concerts I have ever attended. When the sun started to go down, they would go to their trucks and get jugs of moonshine, take long draws, and then hand them over to the audience, where they would start circulating from mouth to mouth. I knew what moonshine was but, as a little country girl from Vermont, did not have the courage to try it. When the sun went down a little further, doobies would start circulating. Pot grew wild in the Oklahoma Panhandle and was an old tradition itself.

As the night wore on, the music would get louder and wilder and more improvisational, and the crowd would become less inhibited, but never to the point of any real trouble. It was all about joy – the vast Oklahoma sky with purple clouds drifting through fields of star, the night-air the temperature of bath water and, most of all, the music.

These memories came back to me when I read in the Iguana that there is going to be a celebration of Woody’s 100th birthday this July 14. I look forward to it. I know the music will be wonderful –how could it not be? It would be nice, though, to have it opened by an old lady with an old black purse who would welcome the crowd and tell them, “Woody was a good boy, and he weren’t no Communist” (even if he was). If Woody is up in hillbilly heaven, he would like that.

Woody Guthrie Centennial Show, July 14

by joe courter

A variation of this article appeared in the summer Media Notes,  newsletter of the Civic Media Center.

Years ago when the Civic Media Center was just getting started, one of the performers came up to me after packing her guitar away and thanked the CMC for including music as part of media. There can be no better example in the 20th century of this than the “hard ramblin’, hard traveling'” Woody Guthrie. In a time when there needed to be a voice of the people, this Oklahoma native traveled and sang out for the common man, against the forces of greed, and at times simply for the joy of being alive.

The North Florida Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration will be Saturday, July 14, starting at 8p.m. on the lawn of the Repurpose Project (519 S. Main St.), just south of the CMC and Citizen’s Co-op.

This gig did some wandering of its own, originally announced for Boca Fiesta, then at the Warehouse Lounge, until finally landing at a place Woody would have loved.   These changes are not a negative on the other locations, but in planning and considering various aspects of the day, it took some, well, rethinking.

Continue reading