town of 15,853, where half of the residents are Hispanic, the school mascot is the Whiteface, and until two years after the drug bust of 1987, no Chicana or Chicano had ever won an election to a position in city or county government. Irene Cantu never claimed that her husband was innocent. “He was an addict,” Cantu said, on the day before Christmas Eve three years ago. Her husband, indicted five days after he was discharged from a drug-treatment program at the Vernon State Hospital, was seeking help. What he received was 30 years for the sale of .02 ounces of heroin to a Hispanic undercover agent. That is not how they treat drug addiction “on the other side of town,” Irene Cantu said. She went to work organizing the Hispanic community, recruiting candidates, working to register voters. “They busted only people from the poorest side of town,” Cantu said. “I think the other side of town might need cleaning up, too.” The most immediate result of the organizational work of Irene Cantu, many others in the local Hispanic community, Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, and the ACLU was the election of Hereford’s first Hispanic city commission member, Silvana Juarez. Claudia Stravato, who now works as one of Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock’s top aides, said in 1988 that she “never really understood the concept of empowerment” until she got involved in political organizing in Hereford. Stravato, who then worked with the High Plains Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that all that was required was support and organizational skills from groups like Southwest Voter and the ACLU. The leadership, Stravato said, immediately came from the community. And most in the community recognized one local leader when an interview that Amarillo NBC reporter Sue Speck did with Cantu was aired. Cantu was eloquent and compelling. Stravato characterized her as one of the most impressive women she had ever met someone who was at the time just beginning to realize her own potential. Three years ago, on the afternoon of December 23, Irene Cantu was preparing lunch for her four sons, packing suitcases, and making plans to drive on the following day some 400 miles to visit her husband in prison. As she worked, she talked about the need for prisons in the Panhandle, and how much more successful rehabilitation might be if it were done closer to the community. Two years later, Cantu would become the second Hispanic elected to the Hereford City Commission. Since 1987, two Hispanics have been elected to county office. All of this began when the community organized in response to the selective application of the law. Irene Cantu still serves on the city commission; her husband, unable to return to Hereford because of the terms of his parole, lives in Amarillo. MARTA CASTRO was starting medical school in San Salvador just about the time the government shut down the university. She fled the country with her parents, after the family was warned that their work in the Christian communidades de base might result in imprisonment or death. They made their way to Houston in 1980 and landed at the Casa Juan Diego, a temporary shelter operated by the Catholic Workers movement. Eight years later, the Castros \(not their real the Southwest Freeway. Marta Castro, who still hoped to attend medical school, was studying by night, helping a sister teach a Irene Cantu LOUIS DUBOSE .group of Central American children at a Southwest Houston Catholic Church, and, with her parents, doing volunteer work in Houston’s Salvadoran community, which three years ago was estimated to be near 100,000. She wanted to continue to apply the skills she had acquired working with the base communities in El Salvador, Castro said. Most days she cleaned houses, though working nights, cleaning in office towers in southwest and downtown Houston is more profitable. But it is exploitative: “What supervisors demand of women, and the way women are treated, is not fair. And some women take drugs to stay awake. I’ll clean houses. But no offices.” BRYAN HEHIR, the Roman Catholic ethicist and social theologian, describes today’s Catholic Church as both a post-immigrant and newly immigrant church. Roman Catholics whose families only two generations ago lived on the edge, have now made their way to the society’s center, only to be replaced by new immigrants living on the edge. Among the church’s greatest challenges, Hehir contends, is providing some mechanism for communication between those on the edge and those on the middle. That, I believe, is what this publication is best positioned to do in the secular world of Texas politics. A former editor, Rod Davis, wrote that the Observer doesn’t belong to Ronnie Dugger, it belongs to the people. I’ve never asked, but I think that Ronnie would agree with that. To it I would only add that it works best when it provides space for those people on the edge to talk to those in the center. I can think of no better example than Michael Vines’s 3,000-word discussion of prison reform, informed by 17 years of the writer’s own life in custody of the Texas Department of Corrections. But with the exception of the Industrial Areas Foundation’s regular meetings with representatives of government, business, and academic communities, that space doesn’t seem to exist in this state. If I had another four years to invest here, it is at the edge that I would begin. And there would not be a suggestion of irony in my Socratic method. For these past four years, I thank Ronnie Dugger for hiring me and allowing me what former Observer editor Larry Goodwyn describes as the editorial freedom to make your own mistakes; Geoff Rips, whose skill as an editor made my submissions reasonably acceptable for publication long before I joined the staff here, and whose advice I continue to value; and Dave Denison, my former editorial colleague who last year left this office to take a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University, and who continues to remind me that facts are as important as the truth. Our current associate editor, Brett Campbell, has somehow kept the process going and allowed me a little time to get out on the road to do some reporting, and to spend some time with my children. Without Cliff Olofson, the ascetic managing publisher who keeps the Observer alive, this entire enterprise would have collapsed under the accumulated weight of debt and old bound volumes years ago. Stefan Wanstrom, who came to this community about the time I mailed in my first submission, has somehow managed to accommodate our often-erratic mailing schedule and still maintain some sense of order and humor in the office.. And when typographical or grammatical errors occur in this publication \(see cover, TO, we have somehow managed to circumvent our copy editor, Roxanne Bogucka. Unable to find a foundation to supplement my salary, my time here was underwritten by my wife, Jeanne Goka, who for seven years has taught English and the values of liberation theology to a generation of high school students in Austin. As for me, had I met only Bodie Pryor, Irene Cantu, and Marta Castro during this four-year gig, I would consider that I had cheated the subscribers and funders of the $58,000 and four T-shirts I got out of the deal. Those three will remain my personal heros and heroines. They are the exemplars that I hold before my children, to whom I promise that I’ll be home as soon as I finish this final editorial. Adelante. L.D. 4 MARCH 22, 1991
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