Standing in front of a wall-to-wall mural featuring a who’s who of revolutionaries, including Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, and boldly displaying the motto Patria o Muerte, Venceremos!!! (Fatherland or Death, We Shall Overcome!!!), a group of teachers, students, parents and community activists in the Los Angeles Unified School District gathered last month for an unusual field trip–to Arizona, to protest that state’s controversial immigration law.
A video posted on YouTube shows LA social studies teacher Jose Lara interviewing teachers and students on May 28 at the headquarters of an organization calling for a Mexican revolution on U.S. soil. Soon after he shot the video, many in the group left for an overnight “freedom ride” to Phoenix to protest what Lara tells the camera is a “racist and outrageous” law.
Four days later, the school board president implored the superintendent of schools to ensure that students in the district be taught that Arizona’s law is “un-American” and Jim Crow-like. The law, passed in April, empowers law enforcement officials to question the immigration status of people they think may be in the country illegally.
Lara, who made the video, teaches at the Unified School District’s Santee Education Complex with Ron Gochez, another social studies teacher who came under fire last month after he was identified making incendiary remarks in a widely circulated YouTube video that shows him speaking at a 2007 rally for La Raza, a revolutionary group calling for Mexican revolt inside the United States.
In that video, Gochez referred to Americans as “frail, racist, white people, and to California as “stolen, occupied Mexico.” The video’s posting led to a groundswell of anger and a flood of calls for Gochez’s firing, but a school district investigation found him fit to continue teaching history to public school students.
Both Lara and Gochez are active in numerous revolutionary groups, including Union Del Barrio, a La Raza organization that Gochez helped establish across the street from Santee High School.
In the video shot before the trip to Arizona, students, teachers and others are seen gathered at the Union Del Barrio meeting hall and cultural center in Los Angeles, called Centro Cultural Francisco Villa–a nod to one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution–where wall murals picture revolutionary leaders–including Ho Chi Minh–holding machine guns.
Beside portraits of the revolutionaries is a hand-painted rendering of the famous and long-living revolutionary motto: Patrio o Muerte, Venceremos!!! Popularized by Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution, it’s been used by Latin American leaders including Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia, who declared it the official motto of his nation’s army three months ago.