The following is a series of public statements, artworks, and publications by SPARC produced to defend the public artwork entitled Danzas Indigenas, a metro station designed by Judy Baca, SPARC’S, artistic Director, more than twelve years ago and attacked by Save Our State and the Minuteman last year. The monument was successfully preserved despite two marchers by the Anti-immigrant groups and repeated demands for it’s removal.
View Our Public Statements & Publications:
Despite having various radio talk show pipelines for the past week to continuously publicize their opposition to “Danzas Indigenas,” a 13 year old, city sanctioned and approved Metro station monument created by Judith F. Baca for the City of Baldwin Park, CA. Save Our State (SOS) anti-illegal immigration group garnered only a handful supporters (approximately 12- 20 people) in their protest against the Monument in Baldwin Park, CA. on Saturday My 14th, 2005.
“Save our State”, with ties to the vigilante Minutemen Border Patrol, erroneously believed that quotes on the “Danzas Indigenas” monument were racially charged, seditious and anti-American in nature. The residents of Baldwin Park believed otherwise, along with numerous high schools, universities and peace organizations, and quickly mobilized into a group of nearly 1,000 people in a counter protest on Saturday. The Save Our State demonstrators wearing inflammatory minuteman and border patrol garb were highly outnumbered by monument supporters.
The large crowd of local men, women and children of all ages faced the small yet vocal crowd of protestors from as far away as Ventura county, Upland and Orange County, who declared the MTA and city-commissioned artwork, Artist, and counter protestors all to be un-American. Counter to the claims of Save Our State who has called the work “reconquista” (reconquest advocates) no supporters of the monument advocated for the return of California to Mexico but instead proclaimed the protesters “neo-Klan racists who were launching an attack on their community as a whole. As tax paying citizens the supporters of the monument declared their right to artistic representation within public space. The supporters carried signs such as “art confuses racists” and “racists go home”.
Saturday’s demonstration was estimated to have cost the small city Baldwin Park $250,000 dollars in police overtime and helicopters to insure the protection of the Save Our State group’s right to protest. The City of Baldwin Park protected the freedom of expression of the SOS at a great cost to their community’s limited budget. Local councilman Mr. Bill Van Cleave greeted Save Our State’s self-proclaimed “grass roots activists” by stating that “there is no race problem in Baldwin Park,” but that the Ventura-County based organization “was bringing one”. As the only white person on the City Council he said “they threatened my life and told me they were going to bury me in brown soil”. All members of the council have received death threats and are investigating prosecution of the hate calls and mail. Threats against the monument have been made claiming that after the SOS July 1st deadline, given the city officials and artist to remove the offending statements, the group would take further steps.
One of the most alarming aspects of this unexpected turn of events for us at the Public Art center is that as artists who work in the field of public art there is a new level of risk associated with creating public artwork being evidenced here. An artist can be commissioned by MTA and a local city to create a public monument. Through a thoroughly democratic process, such as the one commissioned by the MTA and Baldwin Park the work can be designed and approved by all public entities. Twelve years later the same artist can be personally attacked and threatened, when a fringe group decides to view part of the artwork out of context and make unfounded accusations. All public art is in jeopardy and all artists who have participated in the creation of MTA stations or other public works can be subjected to and essentially be required to defend themselves for the privilege of working in the public interest. Public art has suffered a tremendous set back in the last few days as has our hopes for the creation of civil public spaces .
Four members of the City Council of Baldwin Park and the Mayor as well as the Artist Judy Baca issued statements at the protest saying that the monument would not be altered and they intended the monument to stand for years to come.
An older minuteman t-shirted woman was hit in the head by a plastic water bottle and taken to the hospital. She was released after observation overnight. No other injuries or arrests were reported.
Los Angeles Times: Protest Over Art Forces Police to Draw the Line (Updated May 16, 2005)
La Weekly: A Considerable Town in Occupied Territory
Art-For-A-Change:California Public Art Under Attack
Read an Except from SaveOurState web site:
The Battle for Los Angeles
Seditious monument language on public property
(Baldwin Park, CA) – SaveOurState.org demands that the city of Baldwin Park immediately remove seditious anti-American language (pictures below) from the “Danzas Indigenas” monument located at the Baldwin Park Commuter Rail Station. Taxpayer funded and situated on public land, the monument promotes the radical and militant belief in the “reconquista of Aztlan.” One passage on the monument laments the presence of whites in America by stating, “It was better before they came.” The most offensive passage is a quote from Gloria Anzaldua, which reads: “This land was Mexican once, was Indian always and is, And will be again.”
Californians are tired of radical revisionist history and militant separatist rhetoric calling for the return of the Southwestern United States to Mexico as proclaimed by radical organizations like Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA). SaveOurState.org proudly stands in opposition to this propaganda. Californians are tired of watching their communities turn into Third World cesspools as a result of a massive invasion of illegal aliens.
Joseph Turner, Executive Director of SaveOurState.org responds:
“This divisive monument is funded by our tax dollars and we will not tolerate its anti-American message. This is not art. This is not freedom of expression. This is government-sanctioned sedition. This is our land. This is our fight.” We call upon the city of Baldwin Park to voluntarily remove these offensive passages by Friday, July 1st, in advance of the American Independence weekend. This will clearly demonstrate their commitment to America and their disapproval of treasonous sentiments. If this situation is not remedied, SaveOurState.org will take additional steps to ensure that the passages are removed.”
A protest is planned against the work on Saturday at noon at the Metrolink Station
3875 Downing Ave
Baldwin Park, CA 91706
The SOS/Minuteman Project is part of a long history Of violent, terrorist vigilantism, the Southwest’s equivalent to the KKK.
As artists performing an event of resistance to this Current project, we seek to confront this latest Incarnation of terrorism with art that disarms its Violence. We seek to enact and perform an effective Response to this violence through an art based on Love, humor, dignity, compassion, understanding, Inclusivity, and resistance by constructing a living Document through interweaved disciplinary strands,
We therefore propose that, whereas, The SOS/MMP mentality is based on dualistic, binary Thinking; We instead seek to provide thirdspace for a plurality of voices, realities, and worlds that can exist Together at once, in peace, understanding, and Acceptance; The SOS/MMP mentality arises from a brain-damaged Inability to apprehend metaphor and poetry; We instead seek to provide a space for music, poetry, Spoken word, conversation, laughter, jokes, humor, Flirtation, satire, and dance.
The SOS/MMP mentality would like to destroy a Spiritual site of public memory; We instead propose to celebrate a victory, through Ceremony, ritual, music, dance, food, and offerings, Since this monument still stands and will continue to Stand and to speak back;
The SOS/MMP mentality would like to see our history Silenced and erased; We instead propose to document our presence and Memory Through an honoring of our recently passed ancestors, Voyagers and bridges Gloria Anzaldúa, Corky Gonzales, and Lalo Guerrero;
The SOS/MMP mentality seeks to make everything the same through violent division; We instead propose a unity celebration of diversity and the true connection of humanity, nature, and life that binds us all to one another;
The SOS/MMP mentality seeks to incite violence through hate and fear; We instead propose to construct a space of peace, Openness, love, resistance, humor, and harmony, through a fully participatory, inclusive Multi-layered Interweaving of all forms of art media.
–The Arts Committee to Defend “Danza Indiginas”
“If a drop of blood is shed on this site, we have Failed.”
-Judith F. Baca (June 12, 2005)
We are men, women, children, teachers, activists, employees, and residents from the city of Baldwin Park who support human and artistic rights, and oppose racism and xenophobia. We are neighbors to a work of art, DANZAS INDIGENAS, that reflects indigenous history, evolving sensibility about a multicultural world, and the power of human creation. We are simple people of diverse backgrounds who fear neither the fierce rhetoric of those who would insult us, nor the thoughtless actions of those so few who believe us to be a threat. If we are a threat, we are merely a threat to the idea that humans can be judged by race or region, and that the freedom to express is merely the obligation to agree. We are part of a larger movement of many people who, like us, face the growth of racist hysteria and must confront it.
We are opposed by groups like SOS, who come from far away to spread a message of fear toward those who are different, and suspicion against all who support them. They come to our city attacking symbols of honest history and giving ultimatums to threaten them. They call us ,the sons and daughters of Mexicans and other Indigenous people, “vermin” and “savages”. They harass leaders who advocate for migrant workers. They threaten with violence anyone who does not agree with the politics of scapegoating Mexicanos, migrant or not . They claim the freedom of speech and interpretation that they would deny to our people and our community. In sum, they come to tell us how we must perceive the past, so they can shape the present ,and control our future.
Under these circumstances we have a duty to say NO! We reject their campaign of intimidation against communities whose only offense is to be too Mexican for the world they picture . We oppose their attempts to disguise racism under the labels of “legal” or “illegal immigration”. We condemn their attacks against all who fight for the rights of migrant workers. We denounce their recruitment of blatantly prejudiced groups to our city and their hope for violence and confrontation. They are not “foreigners” in our city – they are agitators who hope that we will stoop to their level and become violent. We demand that they give up their mission to re-write the words of our people and re-interpret how we understand the meaning of our own creations. It for these reasons alone that they are not welcome in our city, and we are compelled to resist them.
The resistance we envision does not look to violence as the response to the ignorance of their empty rhetoric, but looks instead to creativity. We believe that the groups who oppose us welcome confrontation so that they can broadcast their message of fear to others through the media. We will not succumb to these tactics, but will mount dignified and serious resistance to their ideas. We will protest, but we will challenge ideas and not people. They will offer cynicism and we will offer ceremony. They will raise criticism and we will offer culture. They will condemn art and we will simply make more of it. They will paint a picture of weakness and we will celebrate our strength, for in our eyes, the law protects us, our creativity dignifies us, and we have already won. Ours is a defiance of spirit; our weapon is sound, color, word, and song.
So it is in that light that we hope to host THE “RECONQUEST” of JUSTICE, LIBERTY,PEACE, and LOVE, or LA RECONQUISTA de JUSTICIA, LIBERTAD, PAZ, y AMOR. We hope to organize with FRENTE-Latinamericano who has already done much work to facilitate this action, as well as many other groups.. We call all people of conscience and confidence to BALDWIN PARK on JUNE 25th, 2005 between 12:00 and 2:00pm near the corner of Downing St. and Ramona Blvd.. Let all who fight for justice and believe in truth answer the call.
Agreements for action:
The rejection violence as an appropriate response to ignorance and fear.
The support of ceremony, creativity and culture as points of resistance.
The confrontation of political ideas and not people.
The “reconquest” of spaces for dialogue and responsible action.
The cooperation with appropriate authorities.
We are living in a time of expanded restrictions on freedoms of speech and press, increased censorship of public artists, diminished public funding for the arts, and an empowered right-wing media. In this climate, the attack on “Danzas Indigenas” has prompted us to consider SPARC’s role, and the larger responsibility of artists and arts organizations to record collective memory in works of public arts, and to preserve and practice peoples’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. In these times, whose stories will be allowed to be told? What memories will we preserve for our children to remember?
SPARC’s priority is and has always been to foster works of art that reflect the lives and concerns of America’s ethnically and economically diverse populations. In the course of our work, we have defended and preserved public artworks, including in the case of “America Tropical,” a mural by Mexican master David Siqueros that was whitewashed on Olvera Street in the 1930s, to promote restoration of censored artwork to public memory.
As we maneuver through this difficult time, we have found profound and widespread support for our work. My dream has always been that community participants would take ownership for our public art projects. The citizens of Baldwin Park have come together to defend “Danzas Indigenas”–the public monument created in a collaborative process by local residents–that is in the midst of an attack by the fanatic anti-immigrant group SOS. “Danzas Indigenas” is an artwork for our time. Its relevance as a site of public memory is increasingly apparent as public and social artworks increasingly become targets of extremism. Below, please find a statement from the people of Baldwin Park, who understand the meaning of the work, own it and will defend it. I am moved by this true demonstration of the success of an artwork designed to represent and honor a community’s history and experience.
Equally meaningful is the response of a group of artists who understand that social and public artwork is essential to preserve for our children the public memory of the times we are living in, and its protection under the 1st amendment rights to free speech. The ARTS MANIFESTO: “Documenting Our Presence: History, Cultura, y Arte” represents individual artists and many community arts groups.
Art defends art in a celebration called La Reconquista de Justicia, Paz, Libertad y Amor: On June 25th from 11a.m. to 2:00 p.m. artists and art-supporters will come together in Baldwin Park to celebrate public art, justice, peace, liberty and love. The City of Baldwin Park will be presenting me with a proclamation for my work as an artist. Many thanks to the citizens of Baldwin Park, and to all my friends and colleagues for your trust and support.
-Judy F. Baca
Dear friends and supporters,
The celebration of art in Baldwin Park on Saturday was a great success—thanks to the many artists and friends of the arts who came to demonstrate their support for public art. Between the amazing performances and artwork, the festive atmosphere, and the hundreds of supporters, we were also able to make a clear statement to SOS: The monument is staying. The issue is closed. You are no longer welcome in Baldwin Park.
SPARC’s mural in three movements, “You are my other me,” is truly a case of art begetting art. Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped conceive, construct, and perform the mural, which premiered on Saturday at the “Reconquest of Justice, Peace, Liberty and Love.”
– The first of three movements, “Speaking Back,” ridicules the anti-humanitarian ideas of SOS with quotes submitted from supporters to our website.
– In the second movement, “Turn Our Back,” we illustrate America turning its’ back on hate-groups and hate-speech, with the decisive show of disrespect coming from silhouettes labeled according to the models’ ancestry: Native-American, Mexican-Irish-American, Cuban-American, etc.
– Finally, in the third movement, “Reconciliation,” we offer Spanish and English translations of a Mayan concept-word, “in lak ech” that means “you are my other me,” and “tu éres mi otro yo,” to signify that whether we like it or not, we all share a common humanity, and that even the most vitriolic hatred doesn’t change our connection to others who think differently.
In addition to the artists and supporters who came out on Saturday, the City of Baldwin Park declared the matter closed when they presented me with a proclamation that promises to keep the “Danzas Indígenas” monument intact. I want to acknowledge the City for taking a strong stand for public art, and for the voices of their community who conceived and created the monument to represent the City’s history.
As we move forward, this experience has prompted many discussions on the meaning of public art to artists and the communities within which they work. Public art often tells specific stories, but because artworks are created from many specific stories, they also tell a common story, a story of the things that connect people to each other. In this way, public art is an antidote for the hatred and disconnectedness in society. It is a creative, participatory, critical and analytical process. We must tell our stories, and encourage others of all ages to tell their stories in any language they speak, especially non-verbal languages that reach past intellectual obstacles, such as the visual arts, music, and dance that was performed on Saturday. We must teach ourselves and others to listen and to hear our stories because it is in the very specificity of the human experience that we learn compassion. When we hear a story that touches a place in us that connects with the experience, we are no longer able to hate, to judge and to persecute.
In this respect the use of arts and the celebration of art as a response to SOS was ultimately definitive, encouraging, and successful. In the coming weeks, please look back to this website for further discussions on the issues raised.
-Judy F. Baca