By Ulrike Salazar
Anti-gentrification artists recently honored the memory of murdered undocumented migrants in front of the Los Angeles Immigration Detention Center in downtown on Sunday.
Broadcast on Defend Boyle Heights’s livestream, the artist group BASURA symbolically showed the audience that revolutionaries and progressives are not abandoning the struggle of the undocumented immigrant masses, especially those from Central America.
As part of the performance, Pelón Suelto, the main artist, was stripped almost fully naked by masked militants as he spoke on the inhumane conditions of the detention facilities at the border, especially those known as “ice boxes” for their incredibly cold temperatures.
As buckets of ice were dumped on his head, he read the names of 40 migrants who died at the hands of ICE or Border Patrol, many of whom were children like 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin. Roxana Hernandez, a 33-year-old Honduran transwoman, was also remembered, and her name was read as part of a growing list of state-murdered migrants.
In addition to livestreaming, masked militant supporters of Defend Boyle Heights also participated in BASURA’s performance. “Eterno Amor,” or eternal love, a famous song by the late Mexican singer Juan Gabriel, was played in the background of the performance. While the song is traditionally known as a tribute to undying romantic love, it was interpreted in the performance as something more profound, more universal: the love and longing of the persecuted and heroic masses.
“Tú eres la tristeza de mis ojos/Que lloran en silencio por tu amor,” the lyrics go, “Me miro en el espejo y veo en mi rostro/El tiempo que he sufrido por tu adiós/Obligo a que te olvide el pensamiento/Pues, siempre estoy pensando en el ayer/Prefiero estar dormida que despierto/De tanto que me duele que no estés.”
It is always correct to remember the fallen and to honor our loved ones. Even when a member of the masses falls who is unknown to the rest of us in some far off corner of the world, they are still a part of an always-connected sea of masses, the masses that Communists are training and arming.
The Spanish-speaking immigrants from the oppressed nations of Latin America have an important role within the context of the revolutionary movement in the U.S. Within the minds of the immigrant masses, there are memories of anti-imperialist struggle and revolutions from their home countries. Communists can learn a great deal from the immigrant masses.
Communists today, like in the past, must use art as an organizing tool to deliver a revolutionary message. The gentrification of Los Angeles is fueled and sometimes hidden by neighborhood development using the public and private arts, or what is commonly referred to as “art-washing.” Sadly, the artistic community of Los Angeles is often complicit in this, according to the revolutionary and progressive artists of BASURA.
In a brief statement sent to Incendiary, BASURA writes:
“Their complicity in the gentrification of our neighborhoods is no longer tolerated. That’s why gentrification, which is directly responsible for evictions, over-policing, and immigration raids, is now synonymous with street art. For their apathy, for their submission to the artistic world.”
Communists understand that imperialism will continue to decay until it is defeated, it will not go quietly. The great sadness and rage the masses feel about the continued murder and torture of crossing migrants must be turned into a fountain of constant inspiration and revolutionary sentiment. Don’t let sadness and rage remain invisible feelings. Turn them into material objects. Turn them into weapons, into discipline, into revolutionary subordination to the coming Communist Party, the People’s Army and the United Front!
At the end of the performance, Pelón remained standing: a thin, nearly naked man standing in a small mount of ice, doing his best not to shiver with cold, with a white-painted hand on his face – in many native cultures like the Plains Indians, the hand symbolizes life and struggle, and the white symbolizes mourning. But for Pelón more than anything it symbolizes the ever-present danger of complacency.
He left the audience with three important questions:
“The time for action is now. Because if not today, then when? If not here, then where? And if not you, then who?”