From Our Land to Our Land: a Look at the New Book by Luis Rodriguez

Luis J. Rodriguez

What stories, thinking, and
organizational forms are needed for the chaotic political times we are in?
There are thousands of ideas flaunted everywhere, especially on the internet,
with or without any basis in truth or facts, ideas from the most reactionary to
the most visionary. Which of these will take hold among the most exploited and
oppressed of this country—and the world—as they move to break the chains on
labor, creativity, minds, and hearts?

We are in “pregnant” times—something vital,
encompassing, and whole is trying to be born, even as the old capitalist
relations and structures are poised to strangle the “baby” before its birth. We are at the
end of capitalist development, expressed as crisis upon crisis, and
simultaneously in the beginning of what will arise to complete the
revolutionary aims of the mass response.

Last year, 2019, was one of the most
heated with protests and uprisings, mostly due to the economic squeeze from
global finance and transnational corporations. Mass demonstrations in Lebanon,
Iraq, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and Puerto Rico decried growing fascism
and corruption. The reaction, with an array of violence and false narratives,
hit hard against anything that got in their way.

Capitalism is being stretched to its
limits, the limits of imposed scarcity. There are visions of abundance based on
four key pillars: end of poverty, a clean & green planet, peace at home and
abroad, and justice for all—with full participatory and incorruptible
governance undergirding everything.

This is true of the United States, with
the world’s most powerful military,
although weak among developed countries when it comes to poverty, health,
climate, and violence. Yes, capitalism has created the most wealth of any
system in over 500 years or so, but also the widest gap between the wealthiest
and the rest of us. The 1 percent versus the 99 percent.

I decided to contribute to the intense
conversations (or rants, as the case may be) on which way to go from here?
Quite a monumental challenge. But choosing not to was not an option.

For years, I’ve written essays and opinion pieces for publications as
varied as the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, US News & World Report, Grand
Street
, The Nation, Philadelphia
Inquirer Magazine
, The Progressive, Christian Science
Monitor
, and the Huffington Post, among others. But, despite having
15 books in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature, I’ve not put
together a collection of essays—until now.

Seven Stories Press released From Our Land to Our Land: Essays, Journeys & Imaginings of a Native Xicanx Writer at the end of January 2020. Although I’ve drawn from past writings in this book, each essay has been rewritten, updated, and follows my thoughts and interests to the present.

Here I explore the system’s drive to uproot people from
traditional terrains, tongues, and customs. Temporariness pervades everything.
We’ve lost our grounding on a micro
and macro scale. Capitalism re-makes people from all corners into exploitable
workers—whether in sweat shops or as minions in other industries—or as war
fodder.

Presently, thousands from El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, and parts of Mexico are stranded on the US-Mexico border.
They came as asylum seekers—which is legal under international and US law. Yet
the Trump Administration has treated them as “illegals,” inhumanely crowding them into cages
and camps, even though the government’s actions
and policies are what’s breaking
the law. Poverty, violence, and corruptions in their own countries have pushed
them north, from their homes and families. Many are children—around 6,000 have
been removed from their families, lost in the labyrinth of detention, courts,
and deportations, subject to human trafficking and intensifying cruelty.

Not to be overlooked, these refugees are
mostly indigenous to these lands. They include Mayans from Guatemala and
southern Mexico; Pibil and Lenca from El Salvador and Honduras; Mixteco,
Zapoteco, Nahua, and more from other parts of Mexico. And, of course, the
indigenous who have no tribes, who have been “Hispanicized” from 500 years of conquest,
colonialism, and invasion.

These people, who have ties to these
lands as long as anyone’s, are now
the “foreigners,” “strangers,” and “aliens.”

Capitalism has turned everything on its
head.

Informed by 40 years of study of
revolutionary dialectical and historical materialism and political economy,
this book also drew on ancestral knowledge from native cosmologies that have
managed, against all odds, to exist among Native Americans as well as Native
Mexicans and Central Americans. Not as archaic and quaint concepts but as
mythic imaginations to guide us into a future free of want, despair, loss.

The essays also address my forty years
working in US prisons, jails, and juvenile lockups—in 17 states—but also in
Mexico, Central America, South America, and Europe. How I’ve taught creative writing, read poetry, held lectures or
healing circles behind bars and what I’ve
learned. In particular, why I’m an
abolitionist—ending mass incarceration altogether, replaced with enriched and
proven transformative justice practices.

There is also an essay about the “other” Los Angeles—from where I
lived and worked in Watts to East Los Angeles to the Harbor to the Northeast
San Fernando Valley, the largest manufacturing center in the country. And, like
most industrial US cities, this area suffered major loss of industry from the
1980s till today. I have an essay on the ongoing “race wars,” how all these are made-up
conflicts used to divide the common interests of the American working class.
There’s a piece on my role as Los
Angeles Poet Laureate from 2014 to 2016, drawing on the natural poetry among
the people and taking poetry across the 600 square miles of the city. I also
summarize my unsuccessful but impactful run for California governor. And I’ve included personal pieces on the
influence of Chicanos and lowrider culture on Japanese youth; what it means to
be a “man” at
the end of patriarchy; and my connection to the most conscious elements of Hip
Hop.

The thread running through this book is
a vision for a new world, one within our collective grasp. How we need the
adequate teachings, strategies, and organizing to move imaginations, then
people, to realize the possibilities latent in our technology, creativity,
work, and unity.

Now more than ever.