Author Archives: Rudy Acuña

Charter Schools


Response to a dear friend regarding charter schools.
Didn’t write the article on charter schools but my beef is not so much the charters, not all are the same, but twith he privatization of education.Your school has a special mission but most charter schools do not. They are private public schools and for the most part they turn away high risk students. Neoliberalism is a cancer. I fear that charter schools will be taken over by religious nuts such as the current Secretary of Education. I also fear Richard Riordan who wanted and tried to privatize the LA Public Library. You remember Olvera Street when he said at a meeting in his office that he wanted to make Olvera Street a Taco Bell. One of the reasons that I don’t like the Democratic Party is its romance with the neoliberalism. Also look at Mexico it is eroding because of neoliberalism. Schools such as your sare valuable because they are experimental and should be incorporated within the main body that is ironically neoliberal. Finally, we are all for the preservation of the Indian ejidos. But look at the contrdictions and what is driving the privatization of the Indian lands. It is neoliberalism. The Zapatistas knew this and it is why they revolted on January 1, 1994. That is why the Yaqui has been revolting since the mid-18th century. I know that I am kooky and seen intransgient. My friends avoid me on the subject of the Dodgers; however, in my limited way I want to keep alive the collect memory of our people. Chavez Ravine was wrong, privatization is wrong and we cannot forget it. Gentrification is wrong and it is destroying that memory and our will to fight. The bottom line is that I hate capitalism — like the Pope I consider it evil.


T vas a volver loco

What we don’t want to know


Rodolfo F. Acuña


There is an old saying that goes “Out of sight out of mind.” If we don’t think about the shit that we live in, we won’t smell it. And if we don’t think about it, we are not compelled to do anything about it. In other words, the more you know, the more you smell the injustices.  Perhaps my grandmother was right when she told me, “Hijito don’t read so much te vas a volver loco.”


When in college, I learned that liberalism that was partially based on a political philosophy or worldview founded on liberty and equality.  It melded into the drive to secularize modern states in the 19th Century.  Liberals believed that individuals should have the freedom to use land and other resources in the ways they wanted, and that they should not be limited by government.  Accordingly, communal properties hampered progress.


This philosophy again melded into the positivist belief of the survival of the fittest.  Liberals believed in the secularization of Church property and abolishment of communal property. The individual should public properties and profit from the land and resources of a society; the individual’s freedom to exploit the land should not be limited.


I have always believed that micro-history better informs us best of the lessons and definitions in history. In the mid-1990s Bill Clinton spread the cult of neoliberalism. It was a blend of 19th century and modern liberalism that favored free-market capitalism. It was based on the policies of Ronald Reagan; Clinton triangulated it. Neoliberalism was also nurtured by the 1970s the ideas of Milton Friedman and Chicago University economists who popularized the myths of the free market.  Under Augusto Pinochet, Chile became a proving ground for neoliberals who spread the phenomenon worldwide; this same neoliberalism is today destroying Mexico where people are getting poorer and the number of billionaires is increasing.


While I have no problem understanding neoliberalism on a macro-level, my understanding is enhanced by micro events. Arizona, for example, taught us that we sometimes simplify the cause of racial conflict by blaming white racism, while true in some cases, it is much more complex. The more I studied events, the more I realized that neoliberalism was the underlying cause of the anti-immigrant and anti-ethnic studies legislation.  Arizona made possible the Trump disaster.  There was widespread profit and privatization.


Comparatively little literature exists on the impact of neoliberalism or privatization on higher and public education in the United States.  Articles mostly focus on the spread of charter and for profit schools. I thus found it necessary to apply my experiences in Arizona and my home university both of which are totally privatized.  The process was so rapid that it was hardly noticeable.  Within the universities the main casualties were faculty governance, a decline in fulltime faculty employment and the elimination of civil service employment.


Confrontations with the administration and the idiot deans have made most Chicana/o studies faculty more aware of the threat, which brings me to my main point we cannot allow any further erosion of governance.

I was browsing the CSUN web page on my IPhone when I came across an item that said that CSUN was a leader among the Masters’ Level universities in the number of foreign students. This article which I cannot now find put the information in the context of CSUN having achieved academic stature nationwide because of this increase.  Immediately it came to mind that our campus is impacted and that students in certain majors are being turned away. The ratio of Black students has fallen to about 5 percent; it would be lower if the Education Opportunity Program had not made a special effort to recruit Black students. Lastly, it brought to mind that we have about 4200 out of state and foreign exchange students. The administration profits about $80 million dollars annually that goes into a plenary fund for the administration to use. Faculty does not get the accounting that they did in years past.


Another item posted on March 2 reported that “CSU Campuses Recognized Nationally as Leaders in Diversity and Inclusion.”  The number of Hispanic serving Institutions has mushroomed. This was news to me since the administration has increasingly excluded Chicana/o studies from consultations. For close to fifty years we have requested data on the number of Mexican origin professors which the administration has refused to give us. The Dean of Humanities who in the past has done everything she could to obstruct us is promoting grants, and although she knows nothing about Mexicans and indeed has an antipathy towards them, is attempting to monopolize research and Latinx programs. At one time racists like the Dean Beth Say did not want to have anything to do with Mexicans, but now that there are so many of them she sees the dollar signs. For the record, outside ChS only about one percent of the CSUN faculty is of Mexican extraction. This ratio has not changed in fifty years.


The last disturbing item reported in the Los Angeles Times: the California State University Trustees voted to increase student tuition.  Today increasingly minority students are dropping out of college because they cannot afford it. When I first began my trek at LA State College the state paid 100 percent of the costs. I paid $5.00 a semester. Today students pay about 80 percent of the costs of instruction. Aside from tuition students are charged $1.75 for a cup of coffee. They pay for the parking structures, the dorms where they pay $900 a month for a single bed, forced to pay for meal tickets, etc. The university is a Big Mercado; they even have a coffee shop in the library.


No doubt that neoliberalism has converted us from educators into merchants. The problem is that few people notice or care. Like the movie “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” we are the patients and the administration gives us our daily tranquilizers. This is unfortunate because the privatization greatly impact all students.  It will severely limit the expansion of ChS and the ability to advocate for Mexican/Latinx students. Latinx students are the new gold who because of their numbers they are valuable commodities.


Times have changed. In 1969 white administrators and faculty did not care about ChS because  the number of Chicana/o students on campus was small. Today Mexican/Latinos are too large to ignore, witness the growth of Hispanic Serving Institutions. The lack of faculty diversity deprives students of mentors and most of all advocates. The rising tuition limits students from the bottom of the economic ladder from enrolling in college – and finally they don’t have the collateral consume what the neoliberal college peddles.

Challenge to Be Great: The Election of Gabriel Buelna

Challenge to Be Great: The Election of Gabriel Buelna


Rodolfo F. Acuña


One of the greatest disappointments in living a long life is seeing friends who could have been great enter politics surrounded by high hopes and never achieve their potential or your hopes for them. My former student Gabriel Buelna won the recent primary election for the Los Angeles Community Colleges with over 220,000 votes. Only the mayor and countywide elected officials received more votes. Buelna received about ten times more votes than the top city council contenders.


In the past, candidates for the community college boards have viewed these seats mostly as stepping stones for well-paying government jobs such as the state assembly, state senate and city council with the election to congress for the limited few. Term limits made it impossible for most aspiring politicos to master the craft of governing. The days of the Jess Unruhs, Willie Browns, Richard Alatorres and Richard Polancos came to an end with most Chicana/o politicos spending most of their time accumulating a gaggle of lobbyists in order to build a sufficiently large funders’ base for them to tackle the next level.


This filtering process made the candidates less focused on the craft. Very few learned the issues and problems of their districts. In my more the sixty years of studying politics I found that the only city councilman in my opinion that really understood land use was Mike Hernández. Being good at anything takes time and understanding one’s district is essential especially today when developers control Los Angeles.


The challenge for Buelna will be that few of his colleagues are educators, they know very little about pedagogy. Consequently, the dropout and the transfer rates to four year universities are of concern. When I transitioned from the secondary education division (high school and junior high) to Pierce College the majority of the social science faculty came from that sector. For example, I had eight years teaching experience and had trained teachers.


Every three years of so about 300 social scientists would take history and political science exams and the top scorers would be given interviews. I wanted to go to East Los Angeles College or Valley College, but was hired at Pierce. Very few of the community college instructors had doctorates. The truth be told, doctorates at this level are not essential. After teaching history and political science for eight years you pretty much knew the field. The important thing was to know how to teach and in reality very few PhDs know how to do that.


When I had the good fortune to form the Chicana/o Studies curriculum and hire the first faculty I was frankly fortunate that there were few PhDs available. The two that were hired had PhDs but they had also been high school teachers. In retrospect the best teachers, not necessarily the most popular, were credentialed teachers. They met our needs because most of the students came from high schools that had not prepared students for college. Our mission at the time was teaching of identity (motivation) and skills.


Gabriel has it right when he says that the biggest challenge for the community colleges is to tackle the dismal transfer rate. It is true that the two year colleges are severely overcrowded and suffer from years of neglect. Although they teach most of the students in higher education, they have received the least financial support and oversight. With that said, I would urge Gabriel to consider the role of teaching. This is not a popular proposal since the teachers’ union will take the position that the teachers are already professionals and doing a good job. The unions say that they should not be blamed for the failure of students to go to four year universities. It is, however, a shortsighted view because no one is blaming them; the blame goes to those who run and fund the schools. No one objects to medical doctors having to attend seminars and take proficiency exams. That is what professionalism is about.


It is also vital that something be done about the LACCD structure. It is in bad shape administratively. It needs to be turned around and we cannot afford for it to serve as a stepping stone for Latinx political aspirants. Gabriel is facing the greatest test of his life; however, he is capable and has the tools to succeed. But he must focus on the task ahead. He does not want to end up like the washed-up boxer turned longshoreman, Terry Malloy, in “On the Water Front” muttering “I could have been a contender.” If he seizes the moment and makes a difference in the LACCD he could be a champion. The most tragic words when you grow old are “I could have been.”

Still can’t say the “M” Word in Dubious Battle

Still can’t say the “M” Word in Dubious Battle
Rudy Acuña: In the 1970s like most Chicanas/os of my time I was intrigued by huge agricultural strikes of the 1930s particularly the 1922 San Joaquin Cotton Strike involving 18,000 strikers and their families. The state in collusion with the growers intentionally starved nine Mexican babies and short down Mexican strikers on the picket line. The strikers in their majority were Mexican. Similar strikes took place throughout California. In reading John Steinbeck and other authors the general impression was that the strikes were generated by white Oklahomans. Steinbeck was a political man who loved Mexican History so he knew better. However, he was also an author who wanted to sell books and above all sell a message. He feared that white readers would not relate to Mexican protagonists. In Dubious Battle was based on the Tagus Ranch peach strike in August of 1933 and a cotton strike throughout the San Joaquin Valley that October. The protagonist was Pat Chambers, the lead communist organizer of both strikes. Pat was a short man who is probably one of the most sincere and dedicated men I have interviewed and whose insight of the strikes I used in my book Corridors of Migration. He along with Caroline Decker were the lead organizers of the San Joaquin Strike. (Also see Loftis, Witnesses To The Struggle, 2, 45-65. Jamieson, Labor Unionism, 15, 19-21, 36, 93. Pat Chambers interview, April 19, 1978—the latter available in my papers in special collections CSUN). My point is that last year James Franco made a movies titled In Dubious Battle and could have gotten it right and given Mexican workers and their families their due. But again the role of Mexican workers and families don’t sell.

Thoughts from Facebook

In response to friend on Castro’s involvement in El Salvador: “Wendy then why was the United States financing Arena and the Salvadoran military? In was in El Salvador in 1991 and never saw a Cuban but I did encounter American military advisers. Castro can be criticized for the initial policy on LGBT but the shoe also fits the U.S. Change only began in both countries in the 1990s. You must remember Elizabeth Taylor’s valiant smuggling in of AIDS drugs. The truth be told, the world does not have a good history in re: to LGBT rights. We should all be ashamed.


Just a little story. My generation of Chicanas/os usually attended USC for graduate degrees. Many of its offering were after 4 PM and I don’t know of many Chicanas/os who had scholarships. It was the GI Bill and work. There were no freeways to UCLA that did not offer grad or regular courses after 4 PM. We usually lived in the basin and worked there so we could not afford to lose 2-3 hours driving to Westwood. Many Chicanos, Blacks and Asians were also critical UCLA being situated in Westwood and believed it should be where Cal State is today. This resentment increased when Pepperdine moved to Malibu to escape South Central. Previous to that Loyola had left inner LA.It is only until the 1960s that UCLA opened its doors. LA State, ELAC, LACC were/are the working class schools. Chicanas/os are becoming more numerous at UCLA because of the Chicana/o Movement; we should not forget that we are there because struggle and sacrifice of that movement.Lamentably USC and UCLA have become money making institutions with a third of their students being out of state and international students. How much is made on parking alone? In sum, we are at these institutions because we fought our way in not because we werw their first choice.


Thanks to see another New Year. Life has been good to me, I have remained a teacher. Got my first three degrees, BA, General Secondary and MA in History from LA State College and continued teaching a a teachers’ college. It was a gift, kept my arrogance in check. The death of others define my own mortality. 12/16

I was asked why I posted a photo on 19th century Chihuahua patriarchy because some of the remarks were frankly sexist. I published this response: ” It is part of history, it is a part we should remember and not repeat. I saw it during my research on Chihuahua,my colleague Jorge Garcia posted it to condemn it, it is part of the pretensions of Mexican Liberalism (Juarez, Diaz etc who wanted to be white) and it is being repeated today under the guise of neo-liberalism. We should have learned but didn’t, i.e., with the election of Trump.It is also my reaction to all of the postings exulting a Mexican cuisine that most poor people rarely eat. You also cannot deal with the attitudes by covering them up. Look at the photo, these are upper class Mexicans trying to be European. I am surprised that you would ask why I posted it. If the respondantschihuahua are revolting they should be called out. It is like when I criticized Juarez for selling out the Mexican Indians some of my Mexican friends would not talk to me. The truth is the truth. We live in a cesspool and it will stay a cesspool for as long as we let it fester.

Is there a difference between Republicans and Democrats? The former are universally bad. Name one piece of social legislation since the 1950s and even before passed on Republican initiative. One of the things that I had against Bill Clinton is that undid much of this legislation, deregulating Wall Street and setting back welfare reform. He stepped up the War on Drugs. My criticism of Obama is that he never passed immigration reform even in his first two years. The truth be told, there has been no major social legislation out of perhaps Obama Care (a sop to the medical establishment and pharmaceuticals. However, objectively speaking Democrats are much better and do protect most social gains.





Infantile Disorder

“Words and actions should help to unite, and not divide, the people of our various nationalities.” Chairman Mao

Infantile Disorder


Rodolfo F. Acuña


People are often insulted by my sarcasm. However, I have never taken the movement lightly – I have always been this way. In order to explain myself I go way back. Before 1969 things were straight forward, we did not have to worry about elitism. In 1968 there were only 100 Latino PhDs according to ERIC, 50 of who were Mexican Americans.


By 1970 the number of Chicano undergrads and grads had grown considerably forming our so-called vanguard class. Those believing they were in the forefront were mostly concentrated at doctoral granting institutions. The presence of graduate students brought an almost immediate change. Chicana/o studies programs at teacher training institutions had a difficult time communicating with the avant-garde whose gods were their gringo professors. The vanguardia carried the works of Gundar Frank who quickly was replaced by Wallerstein. Most were elitist. I tried to hire one of them who told me that he had not studied for a PhD to teach high school. I admit I contributed to this because I insisted that everyone teach four classes and be on campus five days a week, holding office hours.


This elitism trickled down to the community where some barrio organizations were dominated by youth. The vanguardia in this instance called Chicano Studies cultural nationalistic. On one occasion one of these organizations demanded we get rid of our mariachis. Nationalism according to them was what caused sexism and kept us in a state of under development.


Universities became centers for the new escapist elitism. Many of the vanguardia did not see the contradiction of their criticizing those beneath them with participating in sniffing of white powder. This attitude was infectious and could have easily decimated ChS programs such as SFVSC. When I assumed the chair ship, I knew the students were going to be nationalistic, unprepared and Catholic. Many new programs ignored this and they quickly joined the fishes in ocean.


Therefore, I wrote into the course of study a class on Chicanos and Religion. We purposely hired Catholic and Protestant role models. Hired many high school teachers because the primary purpose of ChS was literacy – to read, write and think critically not to regurgitate Wallerstein and Brother Karl.


We brought in an Irish Priest, a member of the IRA and Mexican nuns. We worked closely with the Newman Center. This was criticized by the vanguardia. I remember an exceptionally that long question asked me by an exceptionally bright student in the 1980s at the University of Houston: what I would say if he asked inane question about Occupied America? I told you I would tell him fuck you and encourage him to write his own book. That was and is my personality; it fit the mode of the barrio kids I was working with.


For the past 60 years, I have not changed much. Coming from an elitist high school and being treated by my teachers as special I have been in a perpetual state of revolt against pedanticism. From day one, I listened to sages such as Octavio Romano who condemned the growing professionalism of Chicano academicians. They were however aghast when I proposed that we seed future generations by giving all of our students BA’s and in this way seed a second generation of college students. Even then there were class differences between research universities and teacher training institutions.


Thankfully we outgrew this infantile behavior. Today, even many Marxist embrace spirituality. However, Catholicism left me cynical.  I believe in learning from history and I do not want to repeat the babosadas of 70s and 80s. Think about it, we had no problems when we were pagans; it was only after we insisted that was one true god that we started to kill others for not believing.


This is why I am reacting so harshly when I hear ex-Marxists whose generation was part of the problem repeating their errors and opening up unnecessary arguments. It is infantile to correct others for the use of Aztec or Maya words especially when I have not studied Nahuatl or Mayan. Perhaps I am simply in the fuck you stage. Academicians or scholars as they like to be called have pretensions of elitism and without realizing it they are being destructive. I am neither a Catholic or believer, a spiritualist nor in the vanguard. I just want to teach others and in order to do that infantilism is destructive of that end.

Millennial Generation

It really pisses me off that the millennials are being blamed for losing the election as if the Democrats had given them so fucking much. The generation that is blaming them had free tuition ($50 a semester in 1970) and abundant benefits. The millennials in California are paying tuition of $3500 a semester ($12,000 at UCLA and $18,000 at state universities on the East Coast, They have to pay for everything and work two jobs to make it. I have students who eat one meal a day and some that even work as strippers to survive and these smug son of bitches who point the finger at the millennials wallow in their senior citizen discounts and tax breaks.Ronald Regan said in 1968 that tuition should be raised so students are too tired to picket. Well did the millennial elect Reagan? Did they elect Bill Clinton who increased poverty by his so-called welfare reforms? Were they the stupid ones who erased the emails, invaded Libya and took usurious speaking fees from people who should have been in jail. Go to Boyle Heights and you see more senior citizen centers than youth centers. Given what I know right now if I lived and went to school today I never would have gotten my PhD. Could not have afforded it. I am an atheist but I still rememberand adhere to the saying “there for the grace of God go I.”

Latinos and the Fracturing Democratic Coalition

Protesters greet Hillary Clinton at East Los Angeles College, May 2016.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections saw old alliances and loyalties shattered by the fall of the Democratic Party and the rise of con man Donald Trump into so many pieces that they, like Humpty Dumpty, can never be put together again. Politics as we know them are beyond repair.

Although Latinos formed a vital piece of this makeup, the non-Latino American public made little effort to learn anything about them. The political pundits reduced them to numbers and stereotypes. Absent were Mexican American newscasters or political players; to the media, every brown-skinned person was an immigrant. Latinos — Hispanics in polite society — looked and thought alike.

The lack of intelligent an analysis failed to counter the fake news Trump and his supporters spread via social media and the networks. Truth be told, Latin American nationalities share colonial history but that is far as it often goes. They are racially and culturally different. Not all Latinos, for example, enjoy or eat spicy foods, and they do not all live in the same places.

Of the 55 million U.S. Latinos, 35 million are of Mexican origin. Some Mexican Americans have been in the U.S, since before the American Invasions of 1836 and 1845, while a large number of Latinos have arrived since 1980. The media and the political parties persist in treating them as if they were from the same.

This has facilitated the creation of a commodity, with some Mexican Americans declaring themselves “Latinos for Trump” in hopes of privatizing the moment and profiting from the brand. They have no nationality so it doesn’t matter if they have the authority to speak for the amorphous Latino.

Among many millennials this lack of consciousness has resulted in resentment. They know the issues. Attending their protests, you see placards bearing the words “Honduras,” “Palestine” and “No One is Illegal”; and posters denouncing neoliberalism and gentrification. These issues were absent from the Democratic Party’s narrative where, incredibly, there was little or no mention of Latin America or the killing fields of Mexico.

What the Democratic Party is missing is that Latinos are repeating the Baby Boom era of the 1960s. The median age of Mexican Americans is 25; the median for Non-Hispanic whites is 42.3. Although still lagging, their college enrollment has more than tripled. The college educated sector of the Mexican American community knows and thinks about the issues. They influence their parents and the narrative within the community.

It is doubtful that without the participation of the far left in the Mexican American community there will be any mass return to the Democratic Party. A recent Los Angeles march protesting Trump’s election numbered 20,000 participants. It was organized by a Chicana/o Marxist party without any backlash — something that would not have happened ten years ago.

Many millennials resented the arrogance of the Clintons, Hillary and Bill. The stakes in this election were huge. It was clear during the primaries that the Music Man was picking up speed and that positive sentiment for Hillary was primarily a reflection of Trump’s badness. Still the Democratic Party recklessly nominated Clinton, whose political baggage was enormous.

Clinton had too many IOUs. During the pipeline controversy, which proposed transporting crude oil from fields in North Dakota across four states, she tried triangulating this social issue. Despite a potential environmental disaster, Clinton stayed neutral until November 3, not wanting to offend her fossil-fuel-loving friends and donors. She flip-flopped only on the eve of the election. The informed knew of Clinton’s history of backing The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). She first called it a gold standard, and then stopped talking about it at all. Tired of the growing privatization, rising housing costs in their neighborhoods, and job loss, large sectors of American society turned against Clinton. Many did not vote for Trump, but stayed home.

The Democratic Party has lost its moral authority. Today there is only a faint memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-45). I remember my grandmother lighting candles to portraits of the Virgen de Guadalupe, the Sacred Heart, and Roosevelt. She lit them every night. The party’s scandals and its evident lack of principles have killed this allegiance. Many are disillusioned and believe that Democrats have no spine and cave in to Republicans all too easily.

Regardless of what Trump says or does, Mexican Americans and the core of other Latinos are not going away. In the decade from 2000 to 2010, the Mexican American population grew by 7.2 million as a result of births. These children are born American citizens. This number dwarfs the 4.2 million new immigrants who arrived in the United States during the same period. A wall won’t keep them out.

This new generation reacted to the election of Trump by walking out of school. Like the students walking out of Los Angeles and California high schools in 1994 in response to the draconian Proposition 187 that targeted Mexican immigrants, students are forming a collective historical memory. They will fight back. Cries of a Calexit have emerged — this time for the right reason.

Big Tent rhetoric alone will not bring in youth and disaffected Mexican Americans and Latinos. During the election cycle, Clinton tried to win over Latino voters by telling to look at her as their abuelita, calling to mind images of the popular Mexican chocolate tablets rather than any real connection with Latino communities. This gaffe was met by sarcasm from many Mexican Americans. Cultural pandering will not put the old alliances back together again. A popular front against Trump that includes Latinos can only be achieved through political education by a coalition that stands for something other than show politics. Otherwise the Trumps will continue to win the shell game.

Rodolfo F. Acuña is Professor Emeritus in the Chicana/o Studies department at California State University at Northridge, of which he was a founding chair. His books include Anything but Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los AngelesVoices of the U.S. Latino Experience, and The Making of Chicana/o Studies: In the Trenches of Academe. In 2014, The NEA honored him for outstanding work in Human and Civil Rights; in 2016, Diversity in Higher Education presented him with the John Hope Franklin Award. His website can be found at