South Gate Rising – my N.Y. Times column

I came to South Gate for the first time in 1997 and 1998 to write about Chalino Sanchez, the slain narcocorrido singer whose career began at El Parral, a narco-music club in the town.

In 2000, I returned as South Gate was pioneering the outrageous and crummy PRI-style politics that stained the newly Latino cities southeast of L.A. for the following decade. I left the town a few weeks later gravely concerned that the implications of the emergence of a Latino majority would mean the same kind of insane, mutant politics would spread to all of Southern California.

So I’m very happy to be able to write the column that appears in today’s New York Times about South Gate and the changes that I perceive in the southeast cities – some more than others, but all connected to a general acceptance by Mexican immigrants of their future and place in this country.

The Saga of South Gate, btw, became a chapter in my second book, Antonio’s Gun and Delfino’s Dream. The political culture that emerged there over four municipal election cycles was based, as I say in my NYT column, on preposterous, looney campaign fliers that were nonetheless believed by many voters in that town.

I’ve included below a slideshow of some of those fliers for the historical record and to give an idea of how wacky things got. These are mostly from the 2001 municipal election in which Albert Robles and his cronies won a council majority. For the full story, check out the chapter in my book.



Filed under California, Los Angeles, Mexico, Migrants, Southern California

3 Responses to South Gate Rising – my N.Y. Times column

  1. María Chacón, an immigrant from Chihuahua who ran Bell Gardens (pop. 42,000) like a Mexican cacique, or political boss, was convicted of conflict of interest for engineering her appointment as city manager.

    I think you mean “caudillo”; cacique means chief but more in a tribal sense; also the title will surprise Mexicans — few think that Mexico could be anything but América … Interesting piece though.

    Buenos Aires

    • samquinones

      Actually, in Mexico “cacique” means political boss, usually someone who has combined politics with economic power. Quite a common thing in most parts of Mexico.

  2. Great little article, one that gives me some hope, thinking that another generation further on may trickle back down into Mexico with the idea of civic involvement and a reluctance to just let things slide, to react positively rather than just resent, to embrace “Girl Scouts” and education and accountability. This being said from my own town of Guanajuato, where much remains to be done.

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