Blow Hards

The Minutemen toot their own horn.

Pancho Villa if you don't like this country

You're gonna stop here

We don't need your beans

We don't need your beer...

While three Colorado lawmakers tour the Arizona border with the Minutemen, shooting off their mouths -- but not their guns, not yet -- about introducing legislation next session to end illegal immigration in this state, other patriots keep beating the drum.

"The Minutemen don't just watch the borders, they like to play the music," says Luca Zanna, a poet, songwriter (see "Pancho Villa Stops Here"), recent immigrant from Rome and now proud American citizen. And what kind of music? "Yankee Doodles," he replies, without a touch of irony breaking through his Italian accent. "A hard-rock version."

There are many ways to serve your country, adopted or not; Zanna is pushing Minuteman Project Bands. "We are looking for patriotic musicians and singers to tour America & defend our borders," reads his announcement. "Just to be clear, we are not just seeking musicians who are looking for gigs, but we are seeking American Patriots who love America and wish to support the Minuteman Project and its cause!" And in the process, buy a few copies of Zanna's own CD, Wake Up America.

From his home base in Apple Valley, California, Zanna has issued the call for performers interested in becoming official state Minuteman Project Bands; all they need to do is send Zanna a cassette or music video of three songs from Wake Up America, which "is not suggested for the ears of liberals, communists, American politicians on the payroll of Mexico or other foreign countries, United Nations crooks, antigun freaks, backstabber Frenchies, prochoice Baby Killers, antimilitary hippies, Hollywood left chicken wings and illegal alien invaders." If chosen, acts can expect fame and a modicum of fortune -- or at least American-beer money -- while helping raise funds "to fight the illegal invasion of America."

If you come to desecrate

If you come to separate

With your pathetic "reconquista"

All we're gonna say to you is..."Hasta la vista"

But even with such lyrical inspiration, few local bands have taken advantage of Zanna's offer. "For Colorado, we're in the middle of several musicians individually -- no bands yet," he says. "We're getting very good, different feedback from different parts of the country. We're selecting different people from around the country. We'd like bands from different parts of the country ready to go."

Ready to go on stage in their states, to play patriotic sets that include at least twelve songs from Wake Up America ("I Am Living in America," "Thank You America," etc., etc.), "plus the following revised with your own style: Yankee Doodle, God Bless America, Star-Spangled Banner and, of course, some of your own original songs in theme with our message. Our music style can be defined: Patriotic Folk/Rock!" Most gigs will be set up within a hundred miles of the band's home town, "and there's space for everyone," Zanna says. "It's not like Bon Jovi or Kiss. We can have a thousand bands."

Since he introduced the project in August, Zanna has kept his campaign relatively low-, if off-, key. But over the next few weeks, as the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps conducts its "Secure Our Borders" campaign along the northern and southern -- mostly southern -- borders of the United States, the musical Minuteman plans to do more recruiting of his own. "We're going to try to spread the message in the more conventional media," he says. "The beautiful thing, when we look for musicians, we try to create a patriotic concert, some from my CD, some in their own style. The beautiful thing is that they don't need to change their own style, their identity. They're the Minuteman Project Band for their state or that city. What a beautiful thing."

America, the beautiful thing.

So far, the Minutemen haven't had much chance to experience this beauty firsthand. A band played at a party for former Marine, California accountant and Minuteman founder Jim Gilcrest a few nights ago, Zanna says, "and we have a sort of connection with military bases, we want to support our troops." But there have been few official gigs.

"There are different events, always under the same type of umbrella," Zanna explains. "If Mr. Tancredo talks, or another politician talks, we always try to have the opportunity to have some entertainment there -- music, it can be another way to communicate for the younger people." Although he hasn't yet provided Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo with musical backup, at an immigration summit in Las Vegas in April, Zanna did have "the pleasure and honor of meeting him." And of giving him a copy of Wake Up America.

Does Tancredo, who'll be Yankee-doodling his way through Denver's Columbus Day parade on Saturday, have a favorite patriotic song? Apparently not from Zanna's CD -- and not even a whole song, at that. "But I do have a favorite line from one," Tancredo offers. "It's 'We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.' Toby Keith, I think. I hum it a lot."

Or, as Zanna might sing it:

No lawyers, no politicians, no more BS...

This time, dear Pancho Villa, we're gonna kick your ass.


United They Stand

Pam and Ricardo Martinez met on a United Farm Workers picket line in California.

Now, more than thirty years later, they share a life, a family, a burning passion for social justice, a commitment to Padres Unidos, the organization they co-founded in 1991 -- and $100,000 that will soon come their way along with a Ford Foundation 2005 Leadership for a Changing World Award. "When you have all of this in common, it's a very powerful thing," says Pam Martinez.

The Martinezes -- just one of close to 1,000 suggestions the foundation received for "individuals and teams tackling some of the country's most entrenched social, economic and environmental challenges" -- found out they'd been nominated because Ford sent a research team to check their work. "They called us after they'd done extensive interviewing," Pam explains. "They wanted to meet with all kinds of people we'd worked with over the years -- parents and students, friends and allies."

And the Martinezes have definitely worked with all kinds. "You don't just stand by and watch injustice happen," Pam says. "I think we can do better, and that's what this is all about."

While living in Texas in 1978, she and Ricardo helped organize an effort that successfully overturned a state law barring undocumented immigrant children from public schools. In 1981, when the Texas economy went bust, the oil company where Pam worked as a legal secretary transferred her to Denver -- only to have this branch go bust a year or two later. But by then, the Martinezes were hooked on making Denver a better place to live.

Their work with parents concerned about ethnic inequities at Valverde Elementary School led to the formation of Padres Unidos in 1991. The name came from a celebratory potluck after the Valverde fight, when one father said, "This is a great victory, and we can't stop. We are united parents."

For the first seven years, the group operated on a shoestring -- "no staff, no office," Pam remembers. After that, a two-year grant from La Raza helped Padres Unidos staff up, which in turn allowed it to develop a dual-language Montessori school that opened in 2001. Today the organization's student arm, Jovenes Unidos, is active in five schools, and the office gets calls every day from more schools.

The award, which they'll receive at a ceremony in New York City later this month, should help them answer those calls. "It's a reflection of everyone," Pam says. "It's honoring everyone who every day is striving for equality and justice for all. It's honoring everyone who's holding the line on democracy and pushing back. Immigrant, non-immigrant, white, Latino, African-Americans, etc. It honors all. To me, at a time when these things are not so valued and are so severely under attack, it's an affirmation of everyone's efforts to create a just world."

And those efforts are just beginning. Padres Unidos has been contacted by parents in Brighton and Aurora to start chapters in those towns. There are concerns that Colorado legislators like the ones now down on the border, or citizens, or both, will try to put a measure on the November 2006 state ballot that would cut off public services to illegals, as Arizona did last fall. "It's shameful," Pam says. "It's something we're going to have to deal with."

All of us.

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