Hello everyone and welcome to today’s installment of Best And Worst Latinos At The Moment. These accolades are not given annually, bi-annually, monthly, twice a fortnight, or daily. I simply award them whenever I feel like it, beginning today.
Let’s get started!
Saving the best for last, the Worst Latino At The Moment is hands down Paul Rodriguez. You may remember him as AKA Pablo, or else the guy who gave the condescending portrayal of a Puerto Rican hot dog vendor in that lame 1980’s bike messenger movie Quicksilver.
Anyways Rodriguez, who for the past decade or so has been host of El Show De Paul Rodriguez that gave my late abuelita so many laughs, has recently seen fit to appear alongside that neo-conservative, immigrant-bashing proto-fascist television personality Sean Hannity.
Rodriguez plays Sancho Panza to Hannity’s Don Quijote in spinning a depressingly simplistic right-wing message: that California’s Central Valley water problems are due to radical environmentalists in the Obama administration. It’s “fish versus people” to hear Rodriguez and Hannity tell it, as the government sends water to replenish the habitat of the Delta Smelt, an tiny endangered fish that lives in the Sacramento River delta, while letting farmers’ fields go fallow.
Here’s the show, truncated:
And you can watch Jon Stewart’s response here.
The water debate is very complicated, and of course much more complex than a nitwit like Sean Hannity cares to address, but my point here is that Rodriguez is using his media clout to thump the drums for Big Agriculture and help the Republicans win over California Latinos. He claims to simply want to help out Latino farmers and workers in the Valley but if he really meant it he would do his homework and acknowledge that California’s water problems did not begin with recent legislation, they are the product of decades of industrialized agriculture that will eventually turn our “bread basket” into a salinated desert if there isn’t a dramatic reversal of our entire way of allocating water and valuing food production. Lending voice to facile slogans like “fish versus people” and blaming environmentalists, as Rodriguez is doing, is not only failing to understand a whit of what is happening in the Central Valley but even worse is exacerbating the problem by refusing to deal head-on with the truth and by extension with any real solutions. This is an example of shallow celebrity politics at its most disgusting and destructive.
If anyone is reading this who lives in Hollywood, kindly dump a drink on Paul Rodriguez’s head if you run into him at a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce party or something. Then again, no one who reads this blog would ever be invited to such a party anyways.
And if anyone out there wants to read a brilliant book about the politics and history of food production, industrialized agriculture, and the wars over water in California, they should read Richard Walker’s excellent The Conquest Of Bread.
In contrast to Rodriguez, The Best Latino At The Moment is undoubtedly Daisy, an animated Raza cat from the political cartoon program The Pinky Show. Here’s Daisy on immigration:
However, while I think Daisy is Right On in his views expressed above, I have to share some criticism with the vato. I appreciate his analysis that no inhabitant of North America aside from Native Americans has any ground to stand on when declaring anyone else “illegal”, but I think that the immigration debate is more than a moral question. It is more of a straight economic question, because the fact is that the U.S. economy as it stands today depends very heavily upon underpaid, undocumented labor. The benefits to employers go way beyond the lower wages: undocumented workers do not organize themselves for fear of reprisals, they do not demand benefits, they can be fired without fear of bringing a legal grievance against the employers….the list goes on. It is not simply a case of less pay – the workers are required to have less of a sense of entitlement as well. Ask yourself: would an white unemployed miner from Montana, with a history of unionism and an expectation of fair wages and job security, be willing to pick tomatoes in Selma, California, his hands soaking in pesticides and his boss able to fire him at the drop of a hat? I doubt it.
In other words, the economy of the Unites States need undocumented immigrants, and it absolutely serves the ends of the profit-makers for said workers to enjoy as little rights as possible. That is why I strongly believe that the nativists, xenophobes, and border militias will never succeed in stopping people from risking death and injury to cross into the U.S. to work for whatever people will pay them, as it will be more than they can earn at home. And the masters of power in the U.S.: the heads of industry and agriculture, the restauranteers and construction magnates, all of them would be flat out of business without all the people who make the dangerous crossing over land or sea to be exploited here in the U.S.
In any case, bravo to Daisy and Pinky and everyone who makes The Pinky Show, keep up the good work y’all, and can someone please find out if these folks are really based out of Baker, California? The “Gateway To Death Valley”?