Mictla: The 9th Level of Death
Interview answers questions on need for Chicano publisher
Originally published in The Prospector, May 14, 1971.
by Tony Parra (1)
The following interview was obtained from Ricardo Sánchez, who is the managing editor of Mictla. Currently he is employed with the University in El Paso as a consultant to the Triple “T” Project and the Teacher Corps. He is also the Chicano Editor of Quetzal a literary magazine from Pembroke University in North Carolina...He was a Frederick Douglas Fellow in Journalism for the Afro-American Newspaper in Richmond, Virginia. In the summer of 1970, he was co-director of a health program operated by the Colorado Migrant Council in Denver.
In El Paso, he serves on the Board of Director of Father Rahm Clinic (2) in South El Paso. In his spare time he free-lances as a writer. Some of his works will be coming out in three anthologies being done by New York publishers.
Question (Q): Why do we need Mictla in El Paso?
Sánchez: One main reason is that we are border community and we have a large Chicano population. Presently, there are no available Chicano materials in the El Paso schools. If we don't get relevant school materials as soon as possible, we will continue to lose our cultural values and the schools here will continue to produce lost individuals who have no identity.
Mictla will also generate new business in this area that needs desperate economic edification.
Parra: Why do you criticize Stan Steiner, author of “La Raza” a widely read book on Chicanos?
Sánchez: Because he stole material from Abelardo Delgado and me for his popular book. During Abelardo's fast in 1968 in El Paso, when he was protesting the housing conditions of South El Paso, this man visited Lalo. When Steiner found out Lalo was a poet and writer, he asked to see his material. Lalo lent him some material to read. They never agreed on anything and this man went ahead and used the material in “La Raza.”
Parra: What is the marginal level of existence that you talk about in your article?
Sánchez: It means that our people shouldn't have to live in condition that barely assure existence. This the plight of the migrants and is happening at all levels in the Rio Grande Valley.
Parra: In what way do you feel we have been exploited?
Sánchez: I speak about the historical reality. If we read history carefully we'll find out we have conditional rights coming directly out of government treaties. We are in a special position because of these treaties, namely the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Chicanos together with the Indians have been stripped of our lands and rights and these rights are guaranteed by the treaty. These we should not have to depend on other to decide for us.
Even in El Paso, with an overwhelming majority, we don't have the power to create our vocational training. The stupidity of American education is exemplified by having agricultural classes at Bowie High School, while there are no agricultural lands around.....
The potential is not furthered instead school destroy the ability of student to speak Spanish, and English being the language of the oppressors become a still tongue.
Parra: Why do you say that talk in the Chicano home is one of indictment of this country or those in Power?
Sánchez: Chicanos drop out at a higher rate or fail is not because it is an ordained or predetermined thing, but rather because we have been systematically excluded. We see that many of our carnales get token jobs where they have no real power to decide anything, but are merely buffers between the power elite and the people.
We also are realizing that it is the system that must be indicted not individuals. The system is stronger than persons and it is the one that is predicated on self-preservation not on building a human society.
Parra: How has past written history on the Chicano been racist?
Sánchez: It is evident in the cowboy mythology that still exists, Chicanos taught the Gringo (foreigner) how to survive as a ranger, vaquero, etc. Chicanos did this after we welcomed him with open arms.
Even the boots he wears are the product of our people's technology. However, every cowboy movie, TV show or some commercials still portray us as lazy, frito bandidos, sleeping under sombrero.
We have been taught to hat ourselves by accepting a white god or goddess that we have made no contribution to history. Yes, it is well-known by us that our forefathers helped build and make the mining, railroading, ranching and farming industries thrive.
This is racism. As a result Chicanos are changing their names and dyeing their hair and bleaching their skins. The snow white fantasy of American history is a farce.
Parra: You mention polarization of races; one candidate for SA (Student Association)(3) office used his same issue to campaign against the Ideal Ticket. What do you have to say to Chicanos and to Gavachos about this?
Sánchez: Why an Ethnic ticket? The Gringo ticket in the past have never done anything to help and develop the Chicano coming out of East and South El Paso. Therefore Chicanos must have and give themselves their own laws and future (to a large extend), because we are still enslaved by the Gringo with the power.
Parra: Aren't the schools providing the need training to develop writers and qualified Chicanos?
Sánchez: The schools here have geared Chicanos toward opportunity to develop his own community and people.
The only ones polarizing the races are the Agnews, the Nixons, and the Moshers. They do it for political and self-aggrandizement purposes. In the Chicano Movement we walk of love and the universal man-a-man who encompasses and incorporated multi-hue pigmentation, bloods and diverse cultures we are not racists. We are the 5th sun, the 5th race, which is a composite race-- all bloods. So have can Chicanos be racist?
Parra: Aren’t you being a little bit idealistic about the Chicano Movement and Mictla? By this I mean; aren't your ideas too big to achieve realistically within a short period of time?
Sánchez: Chicanos have been taught to look for small things and to be content with barely being able to survive.
If our forefathers in Mejico could build awesome pyramids, while the Europeans lives in a cave or swung from a tree; If our forefathers could create an empire called España and become the genesis for the greatest adventures man has thus far seen; then we can build a meaningful, big, and complete publishing industry to meet the needs that New York publishers will not meet. Chicanos must learn to think big and unafraid of big and new ideas.
1. Tony Parra, or Antonio Parra was an El Paso activist, product of the Chicano Movement. A writer in his own right, here he was a student at UT El Paso, which he was for much of the 1970s. His image at the Chicano Moratorium with sunglasses and beret is one of the most iconic photos of the march.
2. Now the Centro Familiar Clinic La Fe.
3. The Student Association at UT El Paso was in the midst of a Chicano takeover.