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Arizona, Why Us? Why Anyone?

Author: Juan Pacheco
Created: 07 May, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
4 min read

   I have asked myself many times in many different ways over the past few weeks this one question, why, why us. You see at my age I just want to be at peace and live my life. A lifetime of tension filled scenarios should be replaced with the freedom to be who I am and not feel the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention when the word Mexican is spoken in a crowd of strangers. Or feel that my rights are infringed upon simply by being in Arizona and looking and acting like an undocumented worker.

   You see Arizona is the birthplace of my maternal family. My Grandfather, Ventura Armenta, was a miner. My niece has researched and found that they lived for a time in a mining town called Happy Camp. Now that is a name, which fosters visions of peaceful coexistence. Happy camp, I wonder if the Latino population struggling with being isolated and targeted for “special treatment” would refer to any place in Arizona as Happy Camp just now.

   My Mother told me stories, which fascinated me as a child. She told me about playing with nuggets of gold and silver, which her family kept in a jar on their kitchen window. Of learning how to drive at the age of 12, flying across the desert in my Grandfather’s Model T. Firing at quail with a 45 and sitting happily between the feet of a huge draft horse named Jerry, a Clysdale my Grandfather owned. The idyllic life she spoke of always filled me with pleasant memories and fostered within me a love of Arizona.

   My Grandfather and Grandmother, Refugio Jaime, a native Arizonian married there and had three children. The first, a boy died. Then came my Mother Hortencia and my aunt Eleanor, or Lioni as she was called throughout her life.

   As the story goes on, my Grandfahter was the oldest of his family and when his parents died, and left them orphans, he became the head of the household and raised his sisters, my Aunts Carmen, Mage and Tonia. And although they migrated to Los Angeles sometime in the 1920’s, Arizona was always referred to as their home state.

   I have always considered Tucson, Arizona a special place because of the deep roots and the richness of life my Mother often spoke about. She loved the desert, its climate, plants and peacefulness. A love I am sure fostered by her early years living in Tucson.

   I wonder how my Mother would react to the new Arizona. Well, actually I do know.

   She was never one to shy away from conflict. She was proud of being a citizen of the U.S. As an example, I distinctly remember sitting in a theatre in Mexico City, in the late fifties and my Mother standing and clapping loudly when a newsreel, showing Dwight Eisenhower waving to a crowd after his recovery from heart surgery, was shown on the theatre screen. I recall the quietness surrounding her applause and the look of grave uncomfortableness on my fathers’ face. Although in later years she became disenchanted with many of the policies, which governed the less fortunate in U.S. society. Not just Latinos but anyone who was being treated unjustly. I am sure she would have a lot to say about the latest infringement on our human rights.

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   We want to be treated with the justice and dignity inherently due any world citizen. We do not wish to be singled out by a law, which under the guise of “immigration reform” targets a group of individuals who look and behave a certain way. The response so far from Arizona politicians is to say that this is not the case. That they will not target anyone “just standing on a street corner” but will only ask for proof of citizenship when being stopped or held and questioned by police for “just cause.” Anyone who has experienced this hypocritical scenario knows that the institutional racism, so historically prevalent in this society, especially within the institution of law enforcement, makes this rationalization almost infantile and does not rise to the level of honest discourse.

   We will be singled out because of what we look like and who we are, pure and simple. And no sour faced sheriff, given access to spew his hatred and misinformation by the U.S. media, will convince anyone with any reasonable experience otherwise.

   I will close with this comment.

   We need a just and economically viable set of immigration laws in order to balance the aspirations of immigrants who come here to better themselves, while paying their taxes and contributing to their communities. A fair set of regulations, which address the reality of our historical presence in the U.S.

   Ellis Island closed in 1954. Many Europeans immigrated here and quickly assimilated setting aside their culture, language and history. It is now the descendents of those people who would deny us the right to a fair share of the opportunities available here in our historical homeland.

   Therefore, I ask Arizona, why?

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