Moviegoing in Phoenix

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The Burton Barr Central Library is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by presenting “Latino Americans: 500 Years of History”, a free series of discussions and art exhibitions. One of the discussions is focused on “The Story of Mexican Moviegoing in Phoenix”. Dr. Desiree Garcia, assistant professor for the ASU department of English, Film and Media Studies talks about the local history of Phoenix moviegoing.


JOSE CARDENAS: Good evening. I'm Jose Cardenas. The ACLU will appeal a U.S. district court ruling on SB 1070. We'll talk with the legal director for the ACLU of Arizona. And a look at the relevance of the border and the role of Mexican immigration to the history of movie going in Phoenix. Plus in sounds of cultura SOC, the roots of urban art in Latino culture. All this coming up on "Horizonte."

VIDEO: Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you for joining us. This week, the ACLU of Arizona announced it would appeal a ruling in its challenge of SB 1070, Arizona's controversial immigration law. The appeal followed U.S. district court judge Susan Bolton's dismissal of the challenge in September. The Supreme Court struck down some parts of the bill, but allowed the show me your papers portion, where officers can demand to see immigration documents from a detained or arrested person when there is a reasonable suspicion if the person is in the country illegally. We will talk about the appeal in a moment but first, here is what happened at the news conference announcing the appeal on Monday.

ALESSANDRA SOLER: As long as SB 1070 is on the books here in Arizona, it will serve as a constant reminder that Arizona sanctions discriminatory policing.

JORGE CASTILLO: We're trying to let everyone know, including the community whom we are trying to support, seeking to represent in the lawsuit and lawmakers who at this moment, the power to create positive change in these communities that the fight against SB 1070, a very misguided law, is going to continue up to the 9th circuit and we're going to keep fighting.

JIM SHEE: This appeal is important. We cannot give a fight up against discrimination. All communities, Asian, Latino, African Americans must unite to bring down the hateful law once and for all, this appeal is another step for people across the state to show that we will not stand for intolerance and hate.

JOSE CARDENAS: Now joining me to talk about the appeal is Victoria Lopez, legal director for the ACLU of Arizona. Welcome to "Horizonte."

VICTORIA LOPEZ: Thank you.

JOSE CARDENAS: This legislation has been in litigation for five years now. Much of it is already gone. Let's talk about what is left and exact status of the appeal mentioned there in terms of what it is that you're challenging.

VICTORIA LOPEZ: Sure. The law was enacted in 2010, almost immediately we filed a lawsuit to enjoin the law from taking effect and much of the law was enjoined initially. Ultimately, in a separate case, a parallel case brought by the Department of Justice, the case reached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also made rulings that enjoined much of the law. As it stands today, majority of the provisions of SB 1070 challenged through the courts, permanently enjoined are not in effect. The -- the section show me your papers provision of the law, that is a part of the law that we're continuing to challenge in the courts as well as the overall enactment of the law, and focusing our attention on really trying to strike down the law as a whole.

JOSE CARDENAS: So, in terms of what was eliminated, the provision that made it unlawful theoretically for a young child or a teenager to drive their grandmother may not have been here legally, that was thrown out. And the provision about now successfully, at least the police being able to take somebody or cite somebody for stopping traffic to day laborers, that was a victory. In fact, part of Judge Bolton's recent opinion was a Victory in favor on that one.

VICTORIA LOPEZ: It was. Many of the provisions -- the law as the whole, intention behind it was to criminalize immigrant communities -- harboring and transportation provision. The provisions around day laborers and solicitation for work, those were sections of the law that Judge Bolton in her opinion of a month ago actually found in our favor and declared that those provisions would be permanently enjoined because they unconstitutionally target day laborers and violate the first amendment rights of people who are soliciting work. So, that was a great victory. And, frankly, it has been a path where over and over again the courts have shown, have decided that the provisions of SB 1070 are unconstitutional and should not be enforced.

JOSE CARDENAS: Now, on section 2-B, that one, the plaintiffs have consistently lost on different theories. Not necessarily on the merits, but the U.S. Supreme Court said and I guess we should clarify exactly what 2-B says. The one that says police can hold you until your immigration status has been determined.

VICTORIA LOPEZ: Correct.

JOSE CARDENAS: And the U.S. supreme court said well, that may not -- doesn't necessarily mean that they will hold you beyond the amount of time that they would normally hold you in a regular stop. They said let's see how it works out.

VICTORIA LOPEZ: Sure. The section 2-B was challenged on various different legal theories. Ultimately what the Supreme Court decided in June of 2012 that they wanted to sort of see how the Arizona courts, how Arizona law enforcement agencies interpreted or applied that particular provision of SB 1070. Saying that, you know, certainly would violate fourth amendment rights and it would violate constitutional rights of individuals if the police were to prolong a stop or arrest somebody based solely on their immigration status or prolong a stop just for the purposes of inquiring about that person's immigration status.

JOSE CARDENAS: This is what Judge Bolton was talking about when she said that facially the statute is neutral and therefore not subject to challenge on that basis. On an as applied basis, you can challenge but she you said you didn't apply any evidence that applied it's discriminatory.

VICTORIA LOPEZ: That is one of the challenges. The opinion that we received was on motions of summary judgment. We respectfully disagree with her analysis of the issues that we presented in front of her. We're hopeful at the 9th circuit, the legal standard and the questions will be clarified and hopefully will be back in front of Judge Bolton to present those types of evidences and documentations to show the full impact of section 2-B and the entire law.

JOSE CARDENAS: Have there been instances where the police, in your opinion, I realize this wasn't presented at the hearing, have there been incidents, reports that as applied the statute is unconstitutional that would support that argument?

VICTOIRA LOPEZ: We have litigated a couple of cases over the course of the last three years since section 2-B was allowed to go in effect. A recent case involved a woman, an applicant who was stopped by the Pinal county sheriff's office for a cracked windshield and was subsequently -- her immigration status was investigated and despite the fact that she was known to immigration authorities through her U Visa applications, she was transported to a border patrol holding station in Casa Grande and subsequently detained by immigration and customs enforcement until they recognized that she was not detained for any reason other than her immigration status. We sued the Pinal county sheriff's office in that case and settled the case for damages. We also litigated against the city of south Tucson again based on the stop of a young man riding his bicycle and was stopped by officers and questioned about his immigration status. In that case, we worked with the city of south Tucson to revise some of their immigration orders and their training and policies that govern their police activities. There have been cases and over the course of the last three years, since section 2-B has been in effect, we have received a number of phone calls, a number of incidents reported from people in communities all across the state about interactions with police that involved questioning about their immigration status.

JOSE CARDENAS: One last thing, in the clip that we ran, a reference to the power that the legislature might have to resolve all of this. I assume the reference to the possibility of settlement. Is there such a possibility?

VICTORIA LOPEZ: There is a possibility, there has been a possibility not only for the state, for the governor's office, individual city councils and police departments to take bold action to make sure that SB 1070 doesn't have these types of consequences for people living in our communities. There are ways to mitigate the damage that this law has already done. There are ways to settle this case so that section 2-B is no longer on the books.

JOSE CARDENAS: And what you are talking about would be some legislative changes?

VICTORIA LOPEZ: Legislative changes, but also certainly at the local level within city councils and within local police departments to make changes to ensure that people -- that police departments are not engaging in discriminatory policing and ensuring that people's rights are not violated.

JOSE CARDENAS: I assume short of some kind of settlement, as you just described, we will see more years of litigation of SB 1070 and we will probably have you back to talk about it.

VICORIA LOPEZ: I hope so. Look forward to it.

JOSE CARDENAS: Hope that you're back or we settle?

VICORIA LOPEZ: I hope we have a chance to continue the conversation about this. Important case, appeal is driven by the fact that the communities we represent feel strongly about making sure that they have their day in court and they can right this wrong.

JOSE CARDENAS: Victoria Lopez, thank you for joining us.

VICORIA LOPEZ: Thanks so much.

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JOSE CARDENAS: The Burton BARR library in Phoenix is celebrating Hispanic heritage month by presenting "Latino Americans: 500 years of history," a free series of discussions and art exhibitions. One of the discussions coming up is about "the story of Mexican movie going in Phoenix." joining me to talk about this is Dr. Desiree Garcia, assistant professor for the department of English, film, and media at ASU. Dr. Garcia, thank you for joining us this evening.

DESIREE GARCIA: Of course.

JOSE CARDENAS: This brings back memories of when I was growing up, what we called the Mexican movies and the one theater in the area that showed them. We have a few pictures that we want to use on the screen. First one illustrates the contrast between what Anglo going movie theaters might have seen and what the Mexican movie theater goers were seeing. This one, yes, this was the first -- the second Mexican movie theater in --

DESIREE GARCIA: The Azteca was actually the third devoted exclusively to Mexican movies. Came along in 1944. RAMONA preceded it, 1920, and the REX was added in 1936 we well.

JOSE CARDENAS: And they focused on Spanish language movies. You had a very nice theater in Phoenix at the time also. The Fox, I think. We have a picture of that, as well as a picture of the Orpheum, which were the two theaters. Here is the Orpheum, and that became the site of Mexican movies after the --

DESIREE GARCIA: In the late '60s. The Orpheum is a movie palace, grand movie palaces of the 1920s, that switches over to Mexican films largely in the late 1960s. A Mexican immigrant by the name of Felix Corona leases the theater, and decides to show Mexican movies, as well feature live acts from Mexico. You had a mixed program of both film and live performance in that theater.

JOSE CARDENAS: And the last picture up on the screen a moment ago, was the Fox Theater. And also an example of the discrimination that existed at the time. Tell us about that.

DESIREE GARCIA: Absolutely. The fox theater was, again, a grand movie palace. There was much fanfare surrounding its opening in 1931. A number of Phoenix residents, both Mexican and Anglo were interested in seeing the interior, and I have an account of one young Mexican American woman who lined up with the rest of the city to see this theater and was told when she bought the ticket to sit in the balcony and when she inquired why, they told her because she was Mexican. Discrimination and segregation in the theaters of Phoenix was not something that was part of any kind of official process. Something that was much more situational, a case-by-case basis, very inconsistent. There are accounts of groups of friends going to these theaters. Some directed to the balcony and others would be allowed to sit on the main floor. It is part of the history of Mexican movie going in Phoenix and it's something that the theaters that catered to Mexicans specifically were able to ward against, safe spaces where the Mexican residents wouldn't have to be subjected to such treatment.

JOSE CARDENAS: In addition to the movie palaces, pictures of which we have seen, there was a drive-in Phoenix that specialized in Mexican movies. We have a picture of that one too. This is the Peso Theatre drive-in.

DESIREE GARCIA: That's right. It started out as the twin drive-in, which was one of the gimmicks in film exhibition in this country was to not only have a drive-in theater, but to have a twin or duel screen, screens back-to-back to one another. In Phoenix, added interesting dimension of having one side being dedicated to Hollywood film and the other side being dedicated to Mexican cinema.

JOSE CARDENAS: As illustrated by this ad itself.

DESIREE GARCIA: Right. And sometimes on the Mexican side, you would get both a Mexican film and something out of Hollywood like vertigo, the Alfred Hitchcock film.

JOSE CARDENAS: Why is it important? The library is focusing on 500 years of Latino history. What is the significance of having Mexican films available in theaters in Phoenix?

DESIREE GARCIA: Well, I think as I mentioned, they were important to minister to both the immigrant generation who established a beachhead in the 1920s largely fleeing the Mexican revolution, and to subsequent generations of Mexican Americans. These were theaters that kept them in touch with images from their homeland. I think of the theaters as virtual homeland from across the border. They would be able to see images of Mexico, hear the songs, enjoy the dances in certain films, like Alla En El Rancho Grande, for example, a very important musical comedy that came out of Mexico. They would be able to poke fun at Mexican bureaucrats in films, for example, and these were also spaces that convened the community and enabled Mexican immigrants to pass down through the generation certain cultural customs, as well as many of them told me that it was important to their grandmother, their grandfather, that they would go to these theaters in order to keep their Spanish alive.

JOSE CARDENAS: Do you think it is any less important today? As I understand it, only one theater now that shows Mexican movies on the west side of town. Is it less important because we have all of these other means of communication in Spanish?

DESIREE GARCIA: I think so. You know, of course television plays a very important role, Spanish language television, sort of that function of allowing for a certain level of cultural retention. And I think that, you know, so many, unfortunately, Mexican cinema is not at quite the level of production and of quality that it was in that moment --

JOSE CARDENAS: In the '50s, golden age of Mexican cinema, one of the world's best.

DESIREE GARCIA: Mexican cinema dominated the world's Spanish language screens in that moment. We have a resurgence of Mexican cinema now, too, but it is not the same kind of dynamic as it was mid-century.

JOSE CARDENAS: Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it. Look forward to your lecture.

DESIREE GARCIA: Thank you.

JOSE CARDENAS: In Sounds of Cultura SOC, a look at the history and roots of urban art in the Latino culture. Here to talk about this is ROGELIO Gutierrez, assistant professor at the ASU school of art. Professor Gutierrez welcome to "Horizonte." Interesting enough, the segment we just had with Dr. Garcia was with respect to the Phoenix library's presentation that they're doing and you have an exhibition there as well and you're curating one.

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: Exactly. Yes


JOSE CARDENAS: Let's talk first about yours. Part of your background as an artist you do sign making.

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: Yeah, I have a history of being a sign maker, graphic design artist and fabricator, right. So, this installation that I'm working on, reconstruction, you know, it's really kind of analyzing the demographics of this country, right, and the growing number of Latinos in the country. Especially the southwest and the west, right. So, through a series of signs that, for example, that kind of mimic parking signs, right, law enforcement signs.

JOSE CARDENAS: We have images on the screen. These aren't real signs. I mean, signs put up by a municipality, but they do express the sentiment of the times and places that you are trying to reflect.

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: Exactly. For example, some of the signs, say learn Spanish, right, there is a one-way arrow that says Spanish, one that says English. It is commenting on as a Latino, being bilingual, being forced into thinking about where you can and you can't speak a certain language. And I speak from experience more specifically with my father and my mother who immigrated here, who my mother works in the hotel industry to this day. And my father has been a short-order cook for nearly 40 years, right. So, hearing stories from them where, for example, my father's name, he had to be Roger, right, he had to take on Roger because maybe his name was too difficult to pronounce. At the same time, coworkers were Spanish speakers. I find it interesting that you have the higher-ups, general managers, what have you, telling these employees that, hey, you need to learn English, right. It is funny when maybe their boss or coworkers all speak Spanish in a bilingual environment, right. So, it's -- to me I kind of find it interesting to have this kind of back and forth and thinking about demographics. Well, you know, if I have to speak Spanish, then maybe it is time that you learn English. Having this conversation.

JOSE CARDENAS: Who are you trying to communicate with? Do you have a target audience in mind?

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: I feel like -- I think it is easy to say I want to reach everybody, right? But I also know that is like an idealized thought, right? I feel like I am obviously trying to reach the Latino community. But I think the presentation of the work is kind of fun and friendly, right? It's kind of inviting to maybe the other side, not just the Latinos, right, maybe the people who are putting pressure, right, so that they can really analyze this is a back and forth conversation.

JOSE CARDENAS: I assume this installation was in the works even before speaking Spanish in a campaign setting became an issue in the republican primaries here. Or was it? I mean, do you think it takes on added significance what you're trying to do and what has been argued about with Donald Trump admonishing Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish to Cubans in Florida?

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: Most definitely. I have been mulling this over for a few years now and this work has taken on several different -- I think of, you know, what Donald Trump said -- you know, personally that's very offensive, right, both of my parents are from Mexico, right. They've worked super hard at a job that potentially a lot of people in the United States don't want to do, right? So, that -- this whole political climate at the moment I really feel like it really fueling the artwork even more, enhancing the dialogue. And I can't help but feel somewhat angry with those comments. Again, my parents work extremely hard. They put me through college. Supported me, you know, maybe not so much financially, right, because of their situation, but just emotionally, right. And to hear --

JOSE CARDENAS: This installation has a personal, very personal meaning for you. Let me ask you before we run out of time. Installation that you're curating, we have a couple of pictures. Tell us about this one.

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: This is an installation or an exhibition that I'm curating called Chicano Art. I have invited a group, collaboration group from Oakland, California. Jesus Barassa, also Janet, who is from California and Rosalie -- an internationally well-known activist group from Oakland who really is inspired by the political climate.

JOSE CARDENAS: If we can -- we had a picture on the screen. Second picture. If we can get it back on. One exhibit in particular, the stack of boxes. Tell us about that. That is pretty significant.

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: That is Janet's Diaz's work, youngest out of the exhibiters. And it is really kind of believe it or not, I know it is fairly graphic, but it is paying homage to people who have unfortunately their lives have been taken away. These are decapitated heads, innocent people caught up in the drug wars on the border.

JOSE CARDENAS: A very powerful exhibition.

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: Without a doubt.

JOSE CARDENAS: The whole thing is a good illustration of the Burton Barr library dedication to the subject, Latino heritage, 500 years of Latinos in Arizona, this part of the hemisphere. Glad to have you on our show to talk about it.

ROGELIO GUTIERREZ: Thank you.

JOSE CARDENAS: And that's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and your Arizona PBS station, thank you for watching. I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

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Dr. Desiree Garcia: Assistant Professor for the ASU department of English, Film and Media Studies

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