Arizona, Why Do You Have To Make It So Difficult?

Way back in the day when I was a young reporter in Illinois, I sang “Volver, Volver” with Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos. Long story short, a colleague at the paper knew Bruce Hornsby and this got us backstage passes for the Further Festival, where Hornsby was playing that day in St. Louis. Thrilled, my friend and I flew across the bridge to get there before Los Lobos took the stage. We were too late, but backstage we found Cesar Rosas sitting alone on a stool playing the guitar. I introduced myself and said I was from Tucson and I had seen the band play at the Pima County Fair. He said he loved Tucson and told me to sit down with him. We sang the classic Mexican song, “Volver, Volver” together. I’ve since felt a bond with the band because they love Tucson like I love Tucson.

But Los Lobos won’t be going there anytime soon. The band released this statement last week.

 “We support the boycott of Arizona. The new law will inevitably lead to unfair racial profiling and possible abuse of people who just happen to look Latino. As a result, in good conscience, we could not see ourselves performing in Arizona….”

Los Lobos is forgoing a decent chunk of change by cancelling the show near Phoenix and potentially one in Tucson later in the summer. The band is willing to make the decision to support the boycott, but can I?

I already made plans to go to Tucson to see my family and friends. My kids haven’t seen my parents since Christmas and June is a good time to go; it’s not too hot (just barely 100 and bone dry) and many of the snowbirds (a.k.a. people who voted to make Arizona the laughing stock of the country) have gone to more temperate climates. I want to go because my kids love Tucson and they love their Nana and Papi. It’s not so we can stay at a fancy spa (and give a lot of tax money to the state).

Is it fair for me to keep them from their grandparents to make a point? I wrote this blog about Arizona’s new racist immigration law and I took my husband and children to march with me in the May Day rally in downtown Los Angeles. How do I teach my children that it’s important to stand up for what we believe and then cave so we can visit friends and family?I have mixed feelings about going there and spending any money. But it’s not like the state will stop operating because I’m not eating out at La Parilla Suiza, my favorite Tucson restaurant. My friends jokingly promised that we would only frequent businesses owned my illegal immigrants or we could just go to their houses and not spend any money at all.

But it’s not just the immigration law, of course. After the shame of the state voting down the Martin Luther King holiday years ago and the new immigration law, Arizona decided that the Tucson Unified School District can’t teach ethnic studies. I can understand how some people might think the new immigration law is a good thing, and that Arizona is trying to protect itself because the federal government is not. But it’s a big and ludicrous step for the Governor and legislature to go from immigration “reform” to dictating if or how schools can teach ethnic studies. Their attempt to prevent “resentment” by prohibiting schools from teaching ethnic studies is just plain racist and lacks any rational motivation.

The Tucson I knew growing up was a perfect interracial place where African Americans, Latinos and white people got along. For the record, the Tucson City Council is suing the state saying the immigration law is unconstitutional and the city’s police chief has also come out against it.

Everyone I know in Tucson, and not just my Mexican-American friends and family, is against the immigration law and the ban on ethnic studies.

Maybe I can justify my trip by thinking about this amazing story out of Arizona. One of my good friends and her husband were worried that Prop. 100, a ballot measure that would raise sales tax by 1 percent and bring millions of dollars to schools, would not pass. So they decided that when you’re handed lemons you put up a website, facebook page, and twitter account and then make lemonade. They organized 100 Stands for Education with the goal of raising awareness about the measure by getting families to put up 100 lemonade stands in one day. They fell just a few short, but the ballot measure passed.

My friend is Mexican-American and her husband is Indian-American. They did an incredible thing for kids and no one asked them for their papers. This is the Arizona that I know and one I want to share with my kids.