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reporting, you should find ways to let other people know you believe that. if you see a column or a news report that you believe is doing a really good job, let them know. and when those editors make their next decision they will realize it is not just everyone who cares about this carries on this one side. i don't know if that is a totally satisfying answer? >> that is a brilliant answer. said that i didn't plan to end on this note but we have to wrap up. ending on the note of hugging your local reporter and supporting them that is it.
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> you're watching two-day coverage from los angeles from the campus of the university of southern california, the los angeles times festival of books. this is their 16th book and a regular event for booktv. we're so happy you're with us. we're going to be showing you scenes from the festival, and we will be covering nonfiction book panels, and in between those panels we will have call-in programs with authors. we're about to begin the first of those call-in programs and, ironically, booktv from washington and out here in los angeles our first guest is a fell washingtonian.
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garrett graff, the subtitle is the,fbi and the age of the globl war on terror. with the changes the president has announced in his national security team, robert mueller still in place, and you make the point he is the longest serving -- been there since 9/11. >> yep. >> and through two presidents and lots of changes. how has the fbi changed? >> robert mueller started work september 4, 2001. he was actually sitting in, basically, his first briefing on al-qaeda and the threat of al-qaeda on the morning of 9/11 still getting up to speed on that. and he is now the longest-serving fbi director since j. edgar hoover himself and the last of the president's national security team still in his same job since 9/11. he's on his second president and is about to finish out his
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ten-year term this september, thept -- september 3, 2011. and what he has done is really remarkable. he's on the cover of "time" magazine this week which is one of the first times he's gotten any recognition for the work he's done sort of leading this evolution of the fbi towards an agency much more focused on counterterrorism and national security than a lot of the traditional crimes we still think of the fbi as being involved. in. >> this is what the book looks like, and this is a participatory interview. we'll put the phone numbers on the screen, and our twitter address is at booktv. so get involved with this discussion about the role of the fbi and national security, and we'd very much like to hear there you. first, a detailed question. the fbi director is a ten-year term. what was the thinking on that? >> guest: this was a decision
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congress made after hoover died in 1972. and hoover just had, as everyone knows, this incredible term. he was fbi director for 48 years from a period three years before charles lindbergh crossed the atlantic until a period three years after we landed on the moon. i mean, just a quarter of all american history he was the fbi director. and after he died there was a decision by congress that no one in a democracy should be able to amass the power and the longevity that hoover did. so they instituted this ten-year term. what's been interesting is that since hoover no fbi director has hit that ten-year limit. and i think with robert mueller what we're seeing right now is an almost cal ripken-like record that we have never seen since hoover and are unlikely, i think, ever to see again. mueller was sort of this right mix of a low-profile individual who was very driven, very
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ambitious but didn't seek out the spotlight. and can was able to weather a lot of controversies and a lot of storms, serve his presidents and his attorneys general well and is on track to leave office in september with what almost everyone seems to think is a very successful ten-year term. >> host: the homeland security concept was created because of the lack of coordination among the agencies, and i'm wondering as you document this growth in the role of the fbi in counterterrorism, was that a vacuum that robert mueller jumped in to fill, or was it an intentional division of responsibility? >> guest: it was actually a vacuum that began after the end of the cold war in the late '80s when you had what was sort of referred to in washington as the peace di tend -- dividend, sort of these big reductions in defense spending, big reductions in the intelligence budget. the cia layed off -- laid off thousands of staff and closed many of it overseas stations.
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and so what ended up happening was that the fbi expanded it in ways that it was not originally set up to do, that it expanded overseas, over the course of the 1990s the cia closed 20 overseas stations, and the fbi opened 22. the fbi has become this huge tool of u.s. foreign policy chasing criminals overseas, chasing terrorists overseas in a way that i don't think that the american public really fully recognizes. >> host: in fact, a line from your book that i wrote down was the u.s. will never go to war without an fbi contingent. >> guest: and so after 9/11 you have fbi agents on the ground in afghanistan, in iraq that the fbi now has agents deployed in 80 countries overseas, most of them not in war zones, obviously, but that the fbi has grown this huge international presence such that the bureau now has an overseas force that's
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about a tenth of the size of the entire u.s. foreign service. >> host: 202-585-3885 is our phone number for you to join in the conversation as we talk about the role of the fbi and specifically this profile contained in the book of robert mueller, the fbi director, finishing up his ten-year term. also great history of the earlier years with j. edgar hoover inside this book if you are an officionado of that period of time in american history. mountain and pacific time zone 202 585-3886. before we do more detail on what the fbi role has become, how did this book come about? >> guest: it actually grew out of a piece i had written in 2008 profiling director mueller. as i said, he's kept this remarkably low profile. he gives very few interviews, doesn't really like press conferences, doesn't really do the sunday talk show circuit in washington, and what struck me as i got in to covering him and writing about him was that the
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fbi that existed in my mind from pop culture, the hoover-era bank robberies, kidnappings, john dillinger, bonnie and clyde that this really wasn't what the fbi did anymore. that it had grown into what i argue in the book was the fist global police force -- first global police force. and they're engaged in kidnappings in africa and gangs in central america. the fbi under robert mueller actually has worked its first case out of antarctica, and all of this national security work, all of this counterterrorism work has received very little attention, certainly compared to since 9/11 all that's been written about the cia or war in iraq or the war in afghanistan. that actually the lead agency in the u.s. war on terror is, in many ways, the fbi. >> host: and has this come at the expense of the white collar crime that they were so heavily involved in? >> guest: it has. and that's been something that
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mueller and the bureau and eric holder and the department of justice have been working on over the last couple of years. there has been this repriorityization has been, i think by most accounts, pretty devastating to the bureau in terms of white collar fraud, in terms of kidnapping, in the terms of what they call the drug enterprise cases, the bigger drug cases they work. one of the clearest causes of the fbi's repriorityization has come along the southern border where mueller pulled 2,000 agents away from the crisis along the border. and if you look at that over the last decade, the rise in violence in mexico among the drug cartels matches pretty closely the disappearance of those 2,000 agents. >> host: what has congress' reaction been to that? >> guest: well, in many ways as
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much as the fbi has grown in terms of national security, that has mostly been at the expense of pulling agents out of the criminal division. and many of those agents have not been in government terms back filled. the fbi has not been hiring new agents at the pace that it's been redeploying agents within the system. so this is something that i think congress is beginning to take a little bit more seriously. joe biden, actually, when he was in the senate pushed for hiring a thousand new fbi agents to sort of try to back fill some of that criminal work. but in some of the budgets during the bush administration the fbi, for instance, would only get one, two, three new agents. >> host: we did learn a lot in the years after 9/11 about the antiquated computer system inside the fbi and the frustration that agents would have with getting, sharing basic
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information among agencies and within their own. there's a lot of money that's been put after that. is the system working well for the agents now? >> guest: it's gotten a lot better, but that is, to a certain extent, a relative measurement. in the summer of 2001 during the run-up to 9/11 when the bureau was desperately chasing al-qaeda knowing that a plot was afoot, in san francisco they intercepted an e-mail and had no way to transfer that e-mail securely to the case agents in new york who were working it. so an fbi agent ended up having disk, get on a plane, fly commercially to new york and hand deliver the disk in the summer of 2001 in order to pass it just between the fbi themself. so they're doing a lot better than that. there's still a long ways that the bureau has to come to catch up from its sort of missteps in information technology. and i think one of the things that the bureau has not been investing in the enough is the
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rising threat of cyber crime, that we are underinvesting in cyber crime-related issues this decade the same way we were underinvesting in terrorism in the 1990s. >> host: and are we likely to learn about that and deploy funds after the fact? >> guest: i think, unfortunately, that's going to be the case. one of the challenges of the way that we treat the fbi in the united states is that the fbi since hoover's days has fought public enemy number one. it fights the thing that we as a nation are most afraid of. you know, from bank robbers and kidnappers in the 1930s to nazi saboteurs in the '50s to the communist sympathizers in the '50s to you have in the '60s the ku klux klan and all of that and the weather underground of the black panthers and so on and so forth. what that also means is the fbi
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has a very hard time being forward looking because if we're not afraid of it as a nation, it's not necessarily something we're going to fund them to chase. >> host: we're going to mix in questions from our viewers. your camera's right oh there. let's -- over there. let's begin with omaha. you're on the air with garrett graff. >> caller: yeah, i was wonder oring if you could tell me of the fbi's involvement with the atf. they were reported to have lost several automatic weapons to mexican drug cartels, and i was just wondering what the involvement is with the fbi and the atf. >> host: thank you. >> guest: the fbi and the atf continue to have, despite i think what you will hear from executives, a very difficult working relationship in many instances. they serve together on some task forces, but it is something that you see a lot of the bureau on the case level really still struggling with.
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>> host: next is a telephone call from denver. you're on for garrett graff as we talk about the fbi. go ahead, caller. >> caller: yes. quick story and then a comment. >> host: okay. >> caller: i was on a chat room shortly after the election. there was somebody on there who came very, very close to physical threat against president obama. i called the fbi to find out if they monitor chat rooms, and i called three times. they eventually called me back, asked me why i was asking, gave me -- we had quite a conversation, and they said, yes, they do monitor chat rooms. so i was very surprised. >> host: and did you have a question besides that comment? >> caller: just that. it's that kind of -- is that kind of transparency surprising to the author? >> host: the fact that they answered her question? >> guest: yeah. you also raised this other interesting point in this which is the fbi -- and i sort of
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trace this through in the book. we have this pendulum in the unite that swings back and -- in the united states that swings back and forth between civil liberties and national security. so one of the challenges that the fbi has historically struggled with is how much to do thing like monitor chat rooms, to send informants into mosques, to try to uncover plots and threats in advance. and that this has been a big push for robert mueller since 9/11, to prevent attacks from happening, to be proactive. and you'll hear fbi agents and executives talk about this all the time, but at the same time we as a nation, i think, are very uncomfortable with the idea of the fbi monitoring protests with sort of them watching anti-government groups who haven't necessarily committed a crime. and that every couple of years you do see these scandals where the fbi ends up monitoring sort
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of the wrong group and getting caught up with sort of innocent americans sort of wrongly swept up in these fbi dragnets. but at the same time when we say we don't want the next attack to happen, what that ends up meaning is you have to be able to be there to stop the plot in advance. >> host: we're here at the l.a. times festival of books, and this is the book we're talking about with garrett graff, "the threat matrix." garrett graff is the kind of writer that you think, where do you get all that time? [laughter] in addition to two years in the making of this book with lots of research and details, you can tell from the footnotes and the index. he also is the editor of a well-read magazine in washington, the washingtonian. he teaches internet and social media courses at georgetown and is a regular political commentator. how do you fit that all in? >> guest: it's a lot of early mornings.
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l i wrote the book mostly sitting at a coffee shop between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. >> host: what kind of access did you get from the fbisome. >> guest: i actually got remarkably good access, i think. i demonstrated over the course of two years of working on this that i was taking it seriously, that i was sort of thinking about this and trying to understand the work that they were doing. and i think, unfortunately, in the media that's relatively rare for a government agency like the fbi to have journalists who have the time to devote to really sort of delving into issues. i certainly didn't have them answer all of my questions, but i ended up interviewing about 180 people for the book, most of them current or former fbi officials. and within the bureau the fbi did make available to me over the course of the book every single person that i asked to speak with. >> host: reno is up next as we talk about the fbi.
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you're on the air, caller. >> caller: hello? >> host: yes. your question. >> caller: yes. my question and combined comment, what about did the gentleman comment on the fbi after hoover? because when hoover passed away watergate was about ready to snowball on, in to the media, and the subsequent consequences of watergate and how it interacted or how the fbi interacted with all of that kind of events? thank you. >> guest: yeah. this is, actually, a great story and one that really surprised me as i got into this. i set out to tell the story of the fbi since 9/11, and what i discovered is as i got into this i actually needed to start much further back and that one of the things that fascinated me was that where the fbi was on 9/11,
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actually, the foundation for that was laid in the wake of hoover. he is, as susan is showing, the first picture in the book because the fbi still is very focused on sort of the legacy left to it by hoover. and, in fact, in the wake of hoover's death you had all of these scandals come out, the so-called co-intel probe scandals, the fbi's what one might nicely call extralegal surveillance programs aimed at groups like the domestic terror groups, the earth underground and the -- the weather underground and the black panthers and also people like the reverend martin luther king jr. so one of the things that sort of comes out of this is this new set of guidelines of how to conduct surveillance on domestic groups. now, what's interesting is that the man who is in charge of setting that up at the department of justice is someone
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named alan cornbloom who ends up in the summer of 2001 still the person enforcing the rules that keep the fbi, the fbi agents in new york who are working al-qaeda from being told by the cia that there are al-qaeda operatives working within the united states. these two men, of course, end up being two of the 9/11 hijackers. but that this tension over how you create an environment where the fbi is not wrongly persecuting innocent americans who have not done things wrong ends up creating exactly the environment in the 1990s that leads the fbi, i think, to underprosecute and underpursue terrorism. >> host: massachusetts is up next. your question. sorry, let me -- i've got the wrong order. montana caller, you are on the air.
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>> caller: i enjoy watching "criminal minds" on tv, and it's supposed to be based on the behavioral analysis unit of the fbi. i wondered if they did work with the agency itself and use dramatic versions of their cases sometimes? >> guest: yeah. "criminal minds" is in many ways an accurate representation of the work that the behavioral analysis unit does. it's an elite group of profilers based at quantico where the fbi academy and laboratory is. one of the things that's sort of wrong about the show, understandably for dramatic reasons, is that very rarely do those behavioral analysis officials or sort of profilers end up actually deploying to the scene of an evolving crime. they're often called in remotely via conference calls or sort of examine cases over a long period
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of time. they're not often on the front lines of solving a breaking, evolving crime in the way that they are for "criminal minds." >> host: just basic statistics, how many fbi personnel are there? >> guest: the total staff is about 34,000 of which about 14,000 of those are fbi agents, the special agents that we sort of think of as making up the bulk of the fbi. and what's interesting as i was talking about earlier in terms of the fbi's growth after 9/11, that's actually only about 3,000 more agents than there were on 9/11. and that much of that, that's a much smaller percentage of growth than what you have seen in a lot of the other agencies that have been sort of tasked with counterterrorism and national security since 9/11. and it's really striking to me. britain, for instance, when they really refocused their agencies on counterterrorism, doubled the
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size of their agent deployed to that. the fbi, we only gave them about 3,000 extra personnel nationwide. >> host: what's the budget? >> guest: the fbi's budget is about $9 billion which in sort of corporate terms puts it about on the scale of ebay and larger than many companies like visa. i mean, it is a big, you know, fortune 300 entity, you know, operations in 80 countries overseas and, you know, a big, global footprint just like any big multi-national corporation these days. >> host: and here's a factoid that you report that surprised me. in 2010 "businessweek"'s hottest employees, the fbi came in third behind google and disney. >> guest: yep. and robert mueller sort of teases that he's not sure he will ever overtake mickey mouse and theiphone and google. but this is an agency that has a very, very intense cameras ri --
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camaraderie and one with a very intense set of values, fidelity, integrity and bravery, the fbi motto, in a way that you don't see in many american constitutions anymore. >> host: now massachusetts, you're on the air. >> guest: i lived in the sat for eight year, so i kind of know a little bit about you and your dad. well, i know your dad. anyway, speaking of, like you said, in the '90s they expanded in all these different countries. i don't recall having, seeing any hearings or reading about any hearings in the congress about this. and most of these companies, are they receptive to the fbi being there, or could you tell me about that? >> guest: yeah. you raise two very interesting points in this. the first being i think one of the things that's interesting about the fbi's budget is it is micromanaged in a way unlike many other government entities
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and certainly like the intelligence community that has sort of the so-called black budgets where no one really knows where a lot of the money goes. the fbi sort of agent by agent is broken down in the appropriations budget that comes through congress. and so all of these expansions overseas, you know, point by point have been approved by congress and appropriateed the funds by congress. but i think you raise the larger question that i don't think we have really had which is that i don't think the american people fully understand how much of a global role the fbi now has. and that's one of the things that i really tried to set out to tell in the book. now, the sort of second point about the fbi and the counterterrorism mission and all of that, i think that this is something else that we are still really, really struggling with. >> host: los angeles, where we are right now, is our next
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caller. scwhrk thanks for taking my call. i just wanted to find out, did you talk about the main motivation for 9/11 which was u.s. support for israel as page 147 of the 9/11 commission report conveys? khalid sheikh mohammed, who's currently in kwan tan mow bay, of course, had conveyed that, and i'm willing to bet you didn't bring that up in your book. and lastly, about the dancing israelis on 9/11 that the fbi arrested that were, basically, doing surveillance? i'm just saying they knew about 9/11 ahead of time, and the fbi arrested these israelis as they looked at the burning twin towers, and they're holding up cigarette lighters -- >> guest: well, i ended up not doing so much about al-qaeda and its background because that story has been very well told in "the looming tower" by lawrence wright as well as, of course, by the 9/11 commission report. i was trying to set out to tell the u.s. response from the fbi's
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standpoint about the way that the bureau has evolved both before and after 9/11. >> host: that caller specifically is someone critical of u.s. policy towards israel, as you could tell from his remarks. can you talk a little bit about the fbi and its relationship with israeli security? >> guest: the fbi does work -- the fbi has a different role as a law enforcement agency than an intelligence agency like the cia overseas. and so one of the things, and this was raised by the previous caller, of course, as well that the fbi in many ways has an ability when it goes into a foreign country to be more open, you know, sort of the fbi is investigating crimes. it's doing this openly with an aim towards prosecuting in an open courtroom. and so the fbi is not going in undercover. it's not going in to conduct espionage on a host government. and so the fbi is able to work very closely with the host
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governments when it opens these offices, and it is able in many ways to develop sort of a healthier relationship than the cia is able to do. so in some cases the fbi ends up being welcomed into areas that the cia is asked not to touch overseas. >> host: it's hard to believe that half an hour's long in the television time, but this is a 600-page book and very complex and covers many decades of the fbi's history since its founding. and is i want to tell you that garrett graff's in an event that we covered on the web site if you'd like more detail. this, again, the book is called "the threat matrix." i want to thank you for being here. this is tough, but what's the most interesting and surprising thing you found in the course of writing this? >> guest: i guess one of the things that really surprised me is that the fbi has actually done a better job than i think
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we thought it was or at least what i thought it was going in. the fbi in many respects since 9/11 has carved a different path from the cia and the dod, and it has refused to participate ie extraordinary renditions, the domestic surveillance programs of the nsa. so the fbi has ended up sort of being very bound by its constitutional responsibilities to protect and serve. >> host: can he be reappointed, mr. mueller? >> guest: it would take a special act of congress to extend his term, something i don't think we're going to see. >> host: thank you for your time. >> guest: my pleasure. thanks for having me, susan. >> host: booktv's continuing coverage of the los angeles times festival of books you're watching on this weekend the last of april, beginning of may, and up next is another panel session. it's a panel that looks at, specifically, the history and identity and purpose of california chicanos and beyond, and among the panelists here are
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daniel hernandez who wrote a book called "down and delirious in mexico city." mario garcia, co-author of a book called "blowout." live coverage beginning soon. >> hello. thank you and welcome to usc and welcome to the los angeles times book festival. my name is hector tobar. i write a column for the los angeles times, and i'm here to moderate the panel, "history, identity and purpose: california chicanos and beyond." and for this panel we have three authors, three books. our fourth panelist, i'll tell you a story about him in a bit, but he's missing right now in action. we know that he's somewhere right now talking to somebody. he's trying to convince someone
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of what's right and what's wrong. [laughter] our three panelists here have three verying very different books that are about journeys through 20th century and 21st century history and 20th and 21st century latino and chicano identity. our first one, our first author -- i'll go from your right to left is mario garcia. mario garcia, his book is "blowout: sal castro and the chicano struggle for educational justice." now, all these authors, too, will be available later to both sign and purchase, you can purchase their books. mario is a professor of chicano studies in history at the university of california santa barbara. he is also the author of so many books he doesn't really know how many they are. [laughter] i was asking him, he said he's written 10-12 books.
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so, you know, and three of the most important ones are "desert immigration: the mexicans of el paso, 1880-1920," and "the gospel of cesar chavez." so mario garcia is one of our panelists. [applause] >> thank you very much, hector. >> let me just finish the introductions and then i'll go -- >> oh, okay. >> and i have to, also, make a statement which i forgot to do of just sort of general housekeeping. our second panelist is daniel hernandez who is a former staff writer at the l.a. times and the l.a. weekly. he's a native of san diego, is and his journalism's appeared in "the new york times," in the guardian and all things considered on national public radio. he's also currently a resident of mexico city where he works sometimes as an assistant news
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gatherer at the mexico city bureau of the los angeles times. he's a resident of mexico city which is a whole story that i'd like to hear. and our final panelist is someone familiar to all of us who have worked at the l.a. times, miriam pawel, who is an award winning poet and editor. oh, i'm sorry, and daniel's book is called "down and delirious in mexico city." it's a beautifully-written book, has a beautiful cover, and i highly recommend it. and our final panelist, i'm sorry, is miriam pawel who spent 25 years working for newsday and the los angeles times where she was an assistant macking editor -- managing editor. and she recently was a john jacobs fellow at the berkeley institute of studies and her
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book is an amazing journey that follows the story of eight people who were close to cesar chavez, inspired by him and all of them, many of them eventually disillusioned somewhat with the way their careers and that movement ended. but it's an amazing story that sort of takes on a couple of decades of, actually, critical california and american history. so those are our panelists. and as i was saying, these books are owl encompassed -- all-encompassed as journey. this journey in which latino identity and sort of a sense of what struggles should be for the latino community has evolved. so i'll start with you, mario, because your book is about, is about this character who is not present in the room right now even though he said he would be. [laughter] he might show up any moment.
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but sal castro is this amazing figure in los angeles history who's most well known to many of us as one of the leaders and the person who inspired the student walkouts on the east side in the 1960s. [applause] and i think what i picked up most in your book, and it's an oral history, him talking about his life, his childhood in mexico and in los angeles is that, you know, sal castro's known to us as this person who enters l.a. history and when were the walkouts? >> 1968. >> you think of him as this person that just sort of stood up suddenly and decided that, no, we cannot take this anymore. you know, the state of education in the east side in south los angeles for black and latino students is terrible. we need to do something. and this moment arose spontaneously. but what we get reading your
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wonderful book, "blowout," is that, in fact, this man at that moment already had, right, decades of thinking about his role as an educator, thinking about his community and of being politically active. so can you tell us about his journey that he undertooksome. >> thank you, hector. sorry i jumped the gun earlier. i'm sorry sal castro isn't here, maybe he'll show up. he's spoken so many times in my class and we have been going around on the book tour that i literally could give what i call sal castro's stump speech. [laughter] i've heard it so many times. but i started this project some ten year ago because i knew of the historical importance of sal castro, but i didn't know all of his life story. as hector pointed out, he's best known historically -- but he should be known even better -- he was the leader, the teacher, one of the few mexican-american teachers in the east l.a. public schools in the 1960s. he had lived the experiences of
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what had been called already in the early 20th century the mexican schools when thousands of mexican immigrants began to come into the united states in the early 20th century, their children had to attend what were literally referred to as mexican schools. they were segregated school, they were inferior schools. and worst of all, they were schools where teachers had low expectations of their students. and that history goes well into the 20th century. and that leads to high dropout rates, low reading scores, lack of promotion of kids going on to college, the tracking system of putting kids of mexican background, of latino background largely in vocational classes with the expectation that they're going to go right back into the cheap labor market where their parents are working. this is what sal castro experienced himself growing up in l.a. born in 1933. his father was sent back to mexico, part of the great
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deportation that was done in the 1930s. two mexicans living in the united states under the idea that they were taking jobs from real americans even though they had been here many year working in agriculture, in on the railroads, in the mines, building the wealth of this country. now the depression comes, out they go. many were actually u.s.-born children that never should have been sent back. sal grew up as a young shoe shine boy. he witnessed the riots in 1943 in downtown los angeles where navy personnel randomly attacked young mexican-americans, especially the so-called soothe suiters. he graduated from cathedral high school because he also attended catholic high school here this los angeles in 1952. went into the military, was sent to the south. he saw the segregation in the south, it just added to his own witness seeing segregation and racism.
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he remembers growing up in l.a., mexican-americans along with african-americans could not attend certain public swimming pools except for the day that they actually cleaned the pools, hence the term "dirty mexican." so he knew racism, he knew discrimination. he saw more of that in the armed services. on one stopover in dallas he had to change planes, and he's dressed in the his u.s. military uniform, and they refused to serve him. he said, the way tres must still remember the alamo in dallas. [laughter] and comes back, goes to -- comes back to college, gets his teaching credentials and ba degree in the early '60s. he's involved in the viva kennedy campaign in 1960 in support of jack kennedy. so he's politically involved. of as a young teacher he's already confronting the racism in the school against mexican-americans and latinos. at his first teaching assignment
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in downtown l.a., he witnesses that the kids are still being tracked and so forth. but one of the things he also thoses is the kids, they're not being encouraged, they're being prevented in the many ways from a role in student government. so he helps to organize some of these kids, and they organize themselves in what they refer -- they call themselves the tms which stood for the tortilla movement. [laughter] and they got elected, but that got sal into more hot water. they sent him to lincoln high school not knowing he would cause even more trouble. [laughter] at lincoln high school from '64-'68, again, he sees the problems in the schools. he knows the problems are not the students even though the schools suggest that the problems are the students themselves, their parents, their culture. sal knows that that's all bs, and he talks with the students, he dialogues with them, and he comes to the conclusion -- as the students also come to the
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conclusion -- that only a dramatic action will bring attention to the problems in the schools. it's the schools themselves and the way that they have approached the teaching of mexican-americans, basically seeing them as not being able to achieve at a high academic level and basically promoting them right back into the low-skilled labor market. ultimately that leads to the blowout or the walkouts of 1968. over 20,000 -- sal actually his t even larger, maybe as high as 30,000, 40,000 students the first week of march in 1968 are out in the streets demonstrating and protesting this kind of treatment of mexican-americans in the schools. they shake the school system up. eventually, the educational, the board of education begins to react. some reforms begin to be achieved. parts become involved now -- parents become involved now, and over a number of years some changes begin to take place that maybe i can go into in the question and answer.
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sal paid the penalty for that. three months later he and 12 others are arrested, the so-called l.a. 13. they're dieted for -- indicted for conspiring to cause the walkouts. sal says had he been convicted, he would have served 150 years in jail, and he would have become the chicano birdman of alcatraz. [laughter] and sal is, above all, sal is a dedicated and committed teacher over the years. he paid a penalty. they refused to allow him to come back to teach at lincoln high school. the students and the community came back. they staged a sit-in at the board of education in the late december of 1968 after sal was refused to come back to teach, and there is sal castro coming in right now. [cheers and applause]
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>> i think that, sal, you arrived late precisely so you'd get that entrance. [laughter] >> i always like to make grand entrances like that, thank you very much. >> i would just say that sal, this community comes back to his aid, they stage a sit-in at the board of education, force the school boards to reinstate him. but after a year back at lincoln he's bounced around. in many '73 -- in '73 he's assigned back to belmont high school where he will continue his role as a committed teacher. one of the last -- we've worked for ten years more or less. i get 50 hours of taped interviews. i then wrote up the narrative. i refer to it as a testimonial in the latin america tradition. an oral history gives you information. a testimonial is done with the
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expectation that it will inspire you, the reader, to take up the cause. what cause in this case? the cause of educational justice not only for chicanos and other latinos but for many, many other kids in our schools that are not really being encouraged to go on to college. so that's -- i don't know how far, if you want sal to pick it up? >> let's move on back down here because i'll bring it back to sal because i think he's going to have a big impact. let's move it down here, give him a chance to get his bearings over there. [laughter] our next author is daniel hernandez. now, daniel has done something that a lot of us sort of dream of doing, and i think that mexico is this force in los angeles. i mean, the memory of mexico is here, many of us have roots in mexico, family in mexico. but a lot of people mexico is a mystery, and i think to you growing up the sense is in some ways parts of mexico were a
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mystery to you. but then you undertake this journey in 2002, right? and you go back in 2007 to live. and he discovers this amazingly complex city, the center where there's everything from crazy wars between emo, and the non-emos. so tell us about this journey and the wonderful book you've written. >> okay. thank you, hector, thank you to the festival of books for this invitation. it's really great to be here on this panel. so my book started out, i try to pinpoint in the book a little bit where my fascination or my intrigue with mexico city came out because i had no connection, really, growing up to the center of mexico. my parents are from tijuana, my grandparents are from the north. so we don't really have any
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bloodline down into the center or the south of mexico. and so growing up on the border in san diego, going back and forth to tijuana i kind of had this sort of dual, dual understanding of what it meant to be mexican and a mexican-american. i went to college, and when i was at berkeley, i remember meeting a girl who told me she was from mexico city. we're sitting there talking, and, you know, somewhere on the south side of berkeley, and i told her, oh, you know, that's cool, you're from there? my parents are mexican, you know, they're from tijuana. and this girl told me, oh, you're not mexican. [laughter] she's like, you're not mexican. that's not mexico. [laughter] really? really? because i always thought that, i always thought i was mexican. [laughter] that's who i thought i was. i mean, that's how i was perceived to the world, and
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that's how i was perceived in san diego, you know? we would sometimes go when we were little to my mom always liked talking us to the nice beach in san diego, not the mexican beach. she thought, you know, we can go to coronado. so we'd go there, and i remember every now and then we would face, we would get slurs and be discriminated against there, yet we always would go to that beach, and that was very instructive for me as well. so i thought, man, the surfers in coronado always called us mexican. i don't understand why -- [laughter] so, and here was a mexican girl, and she was blond, and she was, she had amazing red hair and blue eyes, and i'm like, wow, you're mexican? [laughter] it was a do you dual you're noto that tripped me out. so i thought i'm going to go and check it out. so out of school, like, i got a job and, i got offered an amazing job, actually, with miriam to be a metro reporter at
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the l.a. times. and they wanted me to start right after school. and i said, no, give me the summer. i want to, i want to take a little bit of a break, i want to give myself a break between school and working. and that experience just, just flipped my entire life. i remember i landed, and i was -- i saw a landscape that i could not have ever imagined. this enormous bowl of gray, flat, spiky concrete smog miness. [laughter] it just, i mean, i'm like -- i'm from the beach, you know? we're close to people, and it just completely floored me. and the smell, this like smell of, like, corn and oil and toxicity -- [laughter] and that just, man, there are 20 million mexican knows here? what is going on here? like, what is going on? and i stayed for the first couple of weeks in a
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neighborhood called -- [speaking spanish] if anyone knows, any natives here? a few? okay, cool. so you guys know this huge wholesale market where all the produce and the goods come and then spread out. so i stayed right there with a friend of a friend of a friend of my dad's kind of thing. and they're like, don't stay out past 11 -- don't stay out past 10 p.m. if you go out anywhere, don't come home, stay where you are. when you're on the metro, put your wallet and all your valuables if your front pockets. don't talk to strangers. if someone tries to tell you come this way, don't go. don't get a cab on the street. i had all these rules thrown at me, and i had all this instruction about risk and can aversion and danger. and i remember just sliding in to this culture and being really
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seduced and intoxicated by the sense that here was a place that had been here for hundreds of years and was, it was as foreign to me as tokyo could be. you know? and i felt at the same time so drawn to it that when i came to l.a. and i started working as a reporter, i just was always thinking about mexico and mexico city and the connections that we could make between l.a. and mexico city. so i think that really informed my reporting and the kind of stories that i was going after here in l.a. and i was able in many ways while i was here in l.a. working to -- i tried to think about the connectivity and think about how borders could be criss-crossed and blended and merged within the person and within the individual and within the household and within the neighborhood and the street and the community and the block. and so i went and i covered the 2006 election when i switched over to the weekly.
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switched over the l.a. weekly in march '06, and then like a week later, march 25th happened. the big march in down town l.a. it was just that really -- i was like, oh, my god, everyone's here, and they're standing, and they're wearing white, and they're marching, and they're making their presence known. so i convinced, at that point i convinced the l.a. weekly to let me go cover the election in mexico because i was hearing about this guy, lab -- la ro door who was talking about the poor, and he was forming, trying to form, like, a political power base completely around addressing the deep, violent social inequality that exists in mexico. so i went, and be i covered it, and i did this piece. and then i started hearing from editors who were saying go back and do a book.
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and i was hesitant at first because i was enjoying my time here in the l.a., i was liking my work, i was really inspired by los angeles. i was getting -- i felt like i had so many more stories to delve into and so many more questions. but at a certain moment i thought it was time for me to really get out as much as i could out of my comfort zones and really, really explore a different place. so i went and moved to l.a. in 2007. a good omen here. [laughter] and i just started going out, i guess. people ask, like, how did it happen? i just started going out. i went to neighborhoods where i was told not to go. i went to parties that i was told i would not get in. i went to markets that i was told i would not make it out. [laughter] and i just, i just really tried to -- and then i would come home and write. i would come home and write and
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just everything and try to put everything, everything i saw, everything i saw i would be on the train on the subway which they told me to the to take, i would just be writing down words and phrases, and i was so stimulated. i felt like i was constantly, like, on this acid trip. overstimulation, like, on every level. and it just inspired my writing, and the book gradually came together. i would post little bits of something, a photo on my blog, an impression, and then stuff would come out of that. and my editor said, you know, you're young, you're 27, 28, whatever, just focus on young people while you can, while you can still sort of insert yourself a little bit in some of these spaces. and that was, that worked for me because it was fun. i ended up having a great time. i'd go to goth clubs and parties, and i would be confronted with this, so what are you? and i still get it even today.
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are you, like, gringo? like, what are you? [laughter] are you from tijuana? what's going on? [speaking spanish] oh, you're mexican, just like us. or it would be like, oh, okay, so you're a gringo. [laughter] and i would sometimes get that in the span of a day, literally, i would get this polar reaction. so that's the book, and i'm so glad i get to share it with you and with people and with my friends and family, and in particular to the young people who, as you know, if you've been there, they're so generous and open, and they literally will bring you in. they will literal literally, physically bring you into their personal space. and that is such a shift for me. even coming from the west coast of california which has an undercurrent of, a subterranean threat of mexicanness that we
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all live in, there's still not that complete sense that the family and the community and the street is most important, you know? and so that has just been so enriching for me, and that's the book. >> yeah. and if you read daniel's book, it has that feeling of just following him along, you know? like where is he going to take us next, and it really is just an amazing ride, so i highly recommend it along with all the book on this panel. now, miriam, we have your book which is about a person who's at the center of it, cesar chavez, who, obviously, died in '93 and started this movement, and he's sort of been cannonnized. he's sort of a secular saint in many ways. you know, every city has a caesar chavez boulevard or avenue. and yet you follow these people who sort of joined him on his struggle. and they build a movement. but the movement -- and the movement really is about bringing powerful to this -- power to this community and subcommunity of people, farm workers, and really it's about this larger sense of power because cesar was such an
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important chicano icon. but yet you show that this building a movement is something that takes work, and it takes patience, and it takes alliances, and it takes -- and it just becomes this very, very sort of complicated, messy at times, disillusioning, you know, there are victories, and then the victories are sort of taken away. tell us about this journey that people who went with cesar, and tell us about your book. >> you know, one of things that occurred to me while as you said these books are all very different, they have something in common which is they're all about people who felt tremendously passionate about what they were doing. and to some degree all three of them are about people who wanted to make a difference in the world and to change the world. and i came to -- >> [inaudible] >> a little louder. >> sorry. i came to this from sort of a different route than the other panelists, and i was at the l.a. times, as hector said, and i
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spent about a year doing a series there about the united farm workers' union today and what had become of it. and in the course of doing that sort of became very curious about the history and about why the ufw today was really not a major union or a force or a force in the world of farm workers. and if you go into the fields today and ask people who cesar chavez was, they think you're talking about the boxer. and, you know, that, and it's sort of become a punchline, but t really, you know, it's a sad sort of commentary on the conditions in the fields today. so i became very curious about what had happened and sort of where had this movement veered off the tracks. and as i began to talk to people who were involved in it, i met the sort of very amazing group of eclectic people who all sort of became caught up in what i think in many ways was the last great social movement of the
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last century. and today, i mean, young people -- and, you know, unless you're old enough to remember the great boycott, certainly outside of california and outside of the southwest, people really do not know who cesar chavez was. and yet there is a generation of people who did go through that and did grow up with that who are act vuses all -- activists all over the country. and as i met these people who had sort of committed their life and worked for free, most of them, for many years in order to try to do something to change the conditions in the fields and to bring some degree of dignity and respect to people who were, you know, working in the most difficult and oppressive conditions probably of any sort of one group of people, i met all these people who were literally haunted 30 years later by why they had not been able to succeed. and what had gone wrong and why the


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