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Fall 2005

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There Will Be No Fiesta Today
(A Poem for Ruben Salazar)
Jerry Garcia

The Chicano Moratorium held on August 29, 1970 was to date the largest antiwar demonstration ever organized by people of Mexican descent. Demonstrators showed up at Laguna Park in East Los Angeles by the thousands - the cause was serious but the atmosphere was festive. But the peaceful protest turned violent when helmeted officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department fired tear-gas and proceeded to roust the demonstrators. The violence spilled onto the streets of East Los Angeles and the planned fiesta turned into mayhem. In the aftermath, Ruben Salazar, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, sat nursing a beer in the Silver Dollar Bar on Whittier Boulevard when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister. Before his death, Salazar's progressive writings in the Los Angeles Times were read avidly by many in the community. He spoke out fearlessly against racism, prejudice, and segregation.

Tank treads flatten papier-mâché
caramel sticks crepe to asphalt.

There will be no fiesta today.

On a tear-gas-emptied street
shards and casings litter the curb.
Missiles break through
the Silver Dollar window.

With feigned expressions of grief
we turn our heads from a haze
that suffocates the coherent voice.

In large-screen living rooms
new carpet and designer wares
co-opt rubber bullets and batons.

A Del Taco wrapper floats
over suburban lawns
litter collects in the gutter
but no one sees the real mess we've made.

We pull the shades closed
and thank God for our safety.

Shamelessly, we exchange masa for flour.