This story is from UCLA Today, a discontinued print and web publication.

Boycott Arizona? Not likely

mb photoManuel C. Baldenegro, Jr. is director of advocacy programs for UCLA Government and Community Relations
“The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting,
The oranges piled in their creosote dumps,
They’re flying ‘em back to the Mexican border
To pay all their money to wade back again...

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees”....”
Woody Guthrie, Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee)

In light of the recent 24/7 news coverage around Arizona and talk of boycotts and shouts of racism, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to touch this subject. My first reaction to the Arizona legislation was, well, that is bad public policy. But, then the uproar from both sides reached heights that then had me saying, “Come on, everyone, let’s just chill!”

After the TV cameras disappear and the talking heads from Fox and MSNBC shift their Arizona gaze, this will fade. And, when the loud outrage becomes a quiet whisper, this will disappear. It always does.

But the issue of immigration and the demand for cheap labor will go on. It has for many, many generations. And, somehow we all survived. Racism and discrimination are nothing new — a part of the American fabric.

But boycott Arizona?

My great-great grandfather Leandro met and married Victoria and moved from Sonora, Mexico, to Yuma, Arizona, around 1880, prior to statehood so it was known as the Territory of Arizona. They had four sons — Francisco, Manuel, Pedro and Leandro. My great-grandfather is Francisco. He married Gertrude, whom everyone called Tula, and they had nine children, one of which was my grandfather Bartolo. My grandfather met and married Ysaura Garcia, and they had eight children, one of which was my father Manuel. This one small branch of the tree that began with my great-great grandparents eventually grew to over 100 family members. This does not include the eight siblings of my grandfather. Or the two brothers of my great-grandfather Francisco.

Imagine my surprise at our last family reunion in Arizona staring at an RSVP list of 360! My dad Manuel and mom Pauline, along with help from my sister Monica, put together a wonderful family tree on poster board with photos of Leandro and Victoria, Francisco and Tula, and Bartolo and Ysaura.

As family showed up to check in, we would capture the branch they came from. We had a separate poster board for each of the sons of Leandro and Victoria — Francisco, Manuel and Pedro. Needless to say, this was an all-day affair, and by the end, we had listed well over 500 family members.

It was a surreal feeling to be at a park watching family on the softball field and on the volleyball court — all at the same time! Or, walking from picnic table to table and realizing that this is all familia. Good food — 350 pounds of steer donated by family. Good drink — beer, sodas and water from a family store.

Past generations have worked in the fields picking cotton, fruit, wheat, following the seasonal crops. They worked in the silver and copper mines of Arizona. One grand uncle used his teams of horses to haul dirt to help build the Hoover Dam. My dad helped build the California Aqueduct as a surveyor. And we have had a family member or two in every war the United States has been in.

The current generation of family includes cowboys, amateur boxers, police officers, business folks, martial artists, college students, writers, high school football players, ranchers, Harley riders, vice principals, truckers, performers, and the list goes on and on.

To think that it all began with Leandro and Victoria, a Baldenegro seedling that bloomed in the hot Arizona sun and under the saguaro cactus.

And with another Baldenegro “blackbucket” reunion in the planning stages — boycott Arizona?

Come on, everyone, let’s just chill!

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