Encuentro con Rosalva Fuentes y Fortin de las Flores, Pt 1

    I’ve been hearing various program leaders articulate their respect for Rosalva throughout the past two weeks, so it was wonderful to be able to yield the floor to her and Fortin de las Flores this past Thursday to learn from them. I came in with a head heavy with acronyms and numbers, and Rosalva’s presentation and the games we played added a rich layer of comprehension. We were moving, watching, and listening, and I came away with a deeper understanding of the situation created by laws like SB 1070, as well as a greater appreciation for the activism that went on (and still continues) standing up to those laws.

     But first, we started with a brown vs white soccer game. Rosalva explained to our Border Studies group what we’d be doing, then led us all out to the courtyard of the Historic Y. Rosalva was going to be our referee, and we were to stop when we heard her whistle. We divided into teams and stood around awkwardly, some of us opting for bare feet, other shod in flip flops or high heels, myself in Tevas. As soon as the ball dropped and we all scrambled for it, laughter broke out and the fun began. Far from being a normal soccer game, Rosalva would periodically blow her whistle, take the ball, and turn it over to the white team. This happened when the ball went out of bounds as well. At one point Rosalva authorized one of the white team members to simply pick up the ball with her hands and walk it into the brown team’s net, scoring the white team a point. The game ended soon after, and we debriefed quickly about the whistle as a symbol for power. The one’s with the whistle are able to call the shots, to change the rules to the benefit of themselves. It was pointed out that no one protested as to the unfair favoring, and I thought about the pitfalls of white allyship when one doesn’t want to realize or potentially forfeit privileges in their favor in the name of greater equality for all.

     We went back inside and fairly quickly went into a skit. Three white volunteers were gathered from amongst our Border Studies ranks and told that they were Canadian and driving a car. They drove until they were pulled over by a cop played by one of the men from Fortin de las Flores. He spoke in Spanish to them, questioning them, took the driver’s ID, and returned to his car. And then we waited. And waited. Rosalva came in dressed as a Border Patrol agent, and again spoke in Spanish to the people in the car. I should note here that my Spanish is a significant work in progress, and so I’m not sure of many of the specifics of this interaction. The skit soon ended and we debriefed yet again, hearing from the actors about their experiences. One person commented that this was a difficult situation to act from, because it would never happen to that person in real life. It would’ve been easier to joke about it, but that wasn’t the point, and dwelling in that knowledge and the situation was discomforting. We discussed the use of Spanish, and how it was difficult to be in a situation with someone with significant power and not understand all of what was going on. Rosalva noted that as Border Patrol she had been pretty nice, but that it wasn’t unusual for Border Patrol agents to be nasty about people speaking Spanish. And we discussed the time that had been spent waiting for Border Patrol. Our actors only had two wait two or three minutes, but the reality is often hours, often with a family in the car in the heat. We were told to think about what would be running through the heads of those people in the car, not knowing their fate but just needing to wait.

     We then broke for dinner, and came back to a timeline Rosalva had put up with some of the laws we had been reading about along with their dates. She took us through a presentation, fleshing out what these laws meant (and still mean) to the Latin@ community in Tucson. She included two videos, one from immigrantsforsale.org, and one from Pan Left Productions, “Friday Night Injustice.” All too soon, however, it was time for the presentation to end. Rosalva picked the perfect video to end with, another from Pan Left Productions featuring video footage of the students who chained themselves to the chairs at the school board meeting over Mexican American studies. I’d seen pictures of this action but never the video, and it left me with goosebumps all over and tears in my eyes. I am grateful to Rosalva and Fortin de las Flores for coming and playing with me, feeding me, inspiring me, and teaching me so many things.

– Genevieve Beck-Roe

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