Review of Roll Down Your Window: Stories From a Forgotten America, by Juan Gonzalez (Verso, 1996)

DESTINATION: “Forgotten America.” The barrios, disempowerment zones, projects and factory floors where real people work, sweat and try to make better lives. Brought to you by free raid agreements, disinvestment and U.S. capital flight toward Latin American maquiladoras, where labor and environmental standards are weak and average pay is eighty-eight cents an hour.
LOCAL COLOR: The borderless lives of the impoverished, targeted by ruthless corporate mugging and then ignored by the business-as-usual pages of daily papers. “The real heroes of our time,” not the welfare cheats and pathological felons reported at every turn.
YOUR GUIDE: Juan Gonzalez. Raised in El Barrio; educated with brick in hand in the riots and protests of the sixties and seventies; mobilized as a founding member of the Puerto Rican Young Lords Party; and led by the needs of the powerless. A unique voice in the New York Daily News — Latino, pro-labor, bilingual and not affaid to break it down: “Government refuses basic maintenance precisely because the cities are now so black and brown that the wealthy downtown enclaves and well-to-do suburban areas simply will not allow it.”
SIGHTS/SOUNDS: Muzak salsa flavors visions of rent strikes; union busting; multi-racial riots in L.A.; systematic racist police brutality; financial scams bred by a legal system biased against the poor; toxic working conditions created by executive greed and indifference; layoffs coupled with executive pay raises; anti-immigrant hysteria; dictator states funded with U.S. dollars; indigenous revolution in Chiapas; the anti-Castro embargo; crumbling urban infrastructure; and gated suburban communities.
CRUISE CONTROL: Drive past police checkpoints, mega-prisons under construction, high-tech surveilance facilities and cities on fire, roll up your window and turn on the-air conditioning. “Rage gathers in the shadows … Quadruple the jail cells and you will not lock it up. Break all the unions and you will not chase it away.”
—by Benjamin Ortiz
NewCity 15 February 1996

« »