....Martha and the Latino caucus responded with a press conference to offer a moderate plan to stem immigration. But it ended in chaos when Cruz Bustamante, a farm-country Fresno Democrat, said, "We could not conduct business without the immigrant."
Dumbfounded reporters asked if he supported illegal immigration. "My district requires it," he answered.
Bustamante restricted future press conferences to the Spanish language media.
See: MotherJones ND93: Can we all get along?
Cruz Bustamante is the Lt. Governor of California)
Cruz Bustamante (Center)
California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante: The Making of a Latino Leader
By FERNANDO QUINTERO
© 1999 LatinoLink
[Emphasis, Links Added by AmericanPatrol.com - Updated 6/22/03]
SACRAMENTO, Calif., October 29, 1999
The highest-ranking Latino elected official in the country is hoping to be the last of his kind.
California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who last November became the first Hispanic statewide
official in more than 120 years, was raised in the serfdom that is California's San Joaquin Valley. A barber's son who grew up working mostly in the fields of the country's largest agricultural region, where the class division between farm workers and farm owners is as clear as night and day, he shared the feelings of self-doubt and lowered expectations that so many children of his social stature experienced.
We get E-mail....
Those calling themselves "Mechistas" like Cruz Bustamante and Antonio Villaraigosa, need spend a few hours on the Internet clearing their heads and getting familiar with the facts surrounding "Atzlan".....
"I didn't think I deserved to be here," said Bustamante, sitting squarely behind his oversized desk in his grand state capitol office. "I see this type of thinking in Latinos of my generation. But we're seeing a brand new group of people -- in politics, in entertainment, education, and other fields. They're ready to compete. And there is not a moment lost on whether they should be where they are or not."
Bustamante made political history by becoming the first Latino Speaker of the State Assembly in 1996, winning nearly 90 percent of the state's Latino vote. Colleagues describe him as a confident and effective leader. And after Bustamante broke with Gov. Gray Davis over an appeal of Proposition 187 - the controversial state ballot measure that curtailed social services for undocumented immigrants - he was called "the most courageous politician" in California.
"He is a tremendous symbol for Latinos in California and across the nation," said California Speaker of the Assembly Antonio Villaraigosa. "But more than that, he is a moderate leader that appeals to all voters in California and has demonstrated the ability to work effectively with a broad constituency. " As a youth, Bustamante spent much of his time doing the usual mischevious deeds boys with lots of open space around them and too much time on their hands do. "I used to do things like throw rocks at passing trains, but when you live in a small town, it was like everybody was a part of your family. You'd do something wrong and a neighbor would say, 'I'm going to tell your father,'" he recalled.
Former California Assembly Speaker (now an L.A. City Councilman) and former MEChA Leader Antonio Villaraigosa demading amnesty for millions of Mexicans who have illegally flocked to the United States.
The oldest of six, Bustamante grew up with both sets of grandparents, who hailed from Chihuahua and Zacatecas, Mexico. He spoke only Spanish until he entered kindergarten, and then his parents quickly put him through "their own version of English immersion classes," Bustamante said.
Home life quickly became a fusion of both Mexican and American cultures. "We listened to Mariachi Vargas and Herb Albert," Bustamante said. He regrets losing his Spanish fluency, and plans to make more frequent trips to Mexico to catch up on his lost language.
Early on, Bustamante's civic-leading skills were learned by example. His father successfully ran for city councilman of the rural west Fresno County hamlet where his family moved to when he was six. The older Bustamante later ran for county supervisor, but lost.
"My father was a bright man. He could cut hair and anticipate the next move on a chess board all at the same time," Bustamante said. "My father, and my family, encouraged me to succeed. They always said, 'You could do it.'"
At the same time, Bustamante was reared with strict discipline. "Once I got spanked at school. My mom went to the school principal and told him, 'Don't you ever hit a Bustamante kid again.' That sent me a message strong message saying who was in charge." At Tranquillity High, a school with a student population that was often outnumbered by the surrounding livestock, class distinction and social status took on a pronounced tone. "You noticed the differences between everyone there, and you had to take sides. You were either a good Mexican kid or a coconut ["brown on the outside, white on the inside"]. I remember feeling the pressure between the two groups. I didn't like the tug of war."
Which perhaps explains Bustamante's centrist leanings. "I've gotten it from both sides. The left has accused me of not being liberal enough, and the right says I'm not conservative. I felt it was always best for me to go right down the middle."
After high school, Bustamante attended Fresno City College to learn butchery when he got his first Big Break. His father had learned of an internship opportunity in Washington, D.C., working for Congressman B.F. Sisk, who at the time was chairman of the Rules and Means Committee. So the young Bustamante bought a sportcoat, a new pair of shoes and a used car to spend a summer in the nation's capital.
"I was like a kid in a candy store," recalled Bustamante. "Everything was an opportunity to try something and learn something new. I had never seen monuments before. I'd never been to a black tie reception. I had never eaten shrimp."
- MEChA is an acronym for Moviemiento Estudiantil Chicano de AZTLAN (Chicano Student Movement).
- AZTLAN refers to the U.S. southwestern states which MEChA claims were stolen from Mexico (disclaiming the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, $15 million paid, etc.), must be reconquered ("Reconquista") and reclaimed for Mexico.
- MEChA was founded for the sole purpose of infiltrating our educational system and, by lies and propaganda, literally "brainwashing" students with anti-American sentiment, hate and violence with the ultimate goal of revolution and the overthrow of the U.S. government.
- The first MEChA chapter was established in 1969 on the U.C. Santa Barbara campus as "El Plan de Aztlan".
- MEChA is a growing and increasingly militant Chicano presence on university, high school and junior high school campuses. According to MIGUEL CARILLO, a Chula Vista HS teacher, there are MEChA chapters at over 90% of the high schools in San Diego and Los Angeles.
More importantly, Bustamante continued, he learned he could help people. "I found that I could call an agency and make things happen. That was very exciting for me."
All the while, Bustamante's ingrained sense of doubt challenged him. "I remember thinking, 'Guys like me aren't supposed to be here.'"
Those were defining moments for Bustamante. And it began the chain reaction that has led him to where he is today.
After Washington, Bustamante attended Fresno State University, where he served in the student senate and began dabbling in community politics, learning about partisan politics first-hand. "I wasn't the most radical Mechista [M.E.Ch.A, which stands for Movimiento Estudiantil de Aztlan, is a Chicano student organization known for its ethnocentric views]. At the same time, there were a lot Vietnam veteranos attending school. They were like big brothers, and they taught me a lot."
Bustamante soon learned that he had a penchant for raising money, and was offered a part-time job working as a fundraiser for local Assemblyman Rick Lehman. He turned down the job and instead ran a youth employment training program. Five years later, Lehman became a U.S. Representative, and was able to offer Bustamante a full-time position. He took it, and soon found himself being sought after by other local politicians, including then Assemblyman Bruce Bronzan.
In 1993, Bustamante won the special election for Bronzan's open seat. He was elected speaker of the assembly by his colleagues in 1996, and served as Speaker until February 1998.
Today, he spends his time between his work in Sacramento and his home in Fresno. He is the proud father of three daughters, a grandson and a granddaughter. He is confident about leaving a legacy for his children the next generation of Latino politicos to come.
"I never thought I'd have a shot at a partisan politics," Bustamante asseses. "Twenty years ago, they said we were the sleeping giant - we were never asleep. Our growth, our political sophistication and our business success has happened because we kept at it."
Asked whether the current Latino Explosion in popular culture will transfer into social and political power, Bustamante is cautiously optimistic.
The challenge, he says, is for Latinos to learn as he did to overcome our own insecurities. "We are own worst enemy. We don't believe in ourselves to overcome challenges. If the next generation doesn't learn from our mistakes, then it won't happen for us in our next lifetime."