Feathered Bastard

Los Lobos in Tucson: Derechos Humanos Refuses To Cross Sound Strike "Picket Line"

Los Lobos was never officially part of the Sound Strike, the musicians' boycott of Arizona over Senate Bill 1070, Sand Land's notorious breathing-while-brown law. But when the old-school Chicano rock band announced the cancellation of a gig at Scottsdale's Talking Stick Resort in June of 2010, they earned plaudits from many in the anti-SB 1070 camp for the action.

This is what the act posted to its Web site at the time:

"We support the boycott of Arizona. The new law will inevitably lead to unfair racial profiling and possible abuse of people who just happen to look Latino. As a result, in good conscience, we could not see ourselves performing in Arizona. We regret the inconvenience this may have caused the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community, Casino Arizona, Talking Stick Resort and our fans, but we feel strongly that it is the right thing to do."

What a difference a year makes.Though the Sound Strike continues despite the complaints of some Arizona promoters and music critics, Los Lobos is performing at Tucson's Rialto Theatre this evening, and just played Talking Stick on Cinco de Mayo.

The pro-immigrant human rights organization Coalicion de Derechos Humanos has issued a statement in response, explaining why it will not take up an offer to have a table in the lobby at the Friday night event.

It reads, in part:

"Derechos Humanos was recently invited to join other groups to table in the lobby at the Los Lobos show at the Rialto Theater on May 6th in Tucson.  Our commitment to support the economic strategies being used to demand an end to hate laws like SB1070, HB2281, and recent proposed legislation that attack our communities made this participation impossible. We considered it to be the crossing of the picket line that the boycott represents. Shows like these create an alternative niche for performing acts to court favor with our local grassroots organizations but at the same time diffuse the effect that boycotts and event cancellations have on pushing the issue to end the right-wing attack. It is clear that the boycott continues to have power. The omnibus SB1611 bill was clearly defeated due to the influence of 60 CEOs who were motivated by the economic damage the hate legislation has done to the state. Those same laws are still being re-introduced and we still are in an ongoing vigorous struggle against hate in our communities.

"The recent events at the Tucson Unified School District School Board meeting on Tuesday, May 3, 2011, where school board officials collaborated with the Tucson Police Department to attempt to silence Ethnic Studies supporters, make it clear to the Tucson community that there must be no wavering in our commitment to social justice, and that efforts to support and expand the Arizona boycott must be escalated. It is important that we stand united in an economic strategy toward change in Arizona, since our politicians have closed their eyes and ears to our communities on these issues."

The open letter to the social justice community also mentions the money Sound Strike has donated to various activist groups:

"The Sound Strike has provided much needed support to grassroots organizations such as  Phoenix-based Puente, and Tucson-based Coalición de Derechos Humanos, Save Ethnic Studies, and U.N.I.D.O.S."

The Florence Project, which provides legal services to aliens in federal detention, also has received a sizable donation from Sound Strike.

Sound Strike's Javier Gonzalez told me that there had been discussions with Los Lobos regarding their Arizona appearances, but nothing came of it.

Derechos' Kat Rodriguez explained that Los Lobos and the Rialto were willing to let her group set up a table in the Rialto lobby and sell their own T-shirts, as well as raffle tickets for a guitar to be autographed by the band.

Four groups -- Humane Borders, the Samaritans, No More Deaths, and Border Action Network -- took up the offer, according to Rialto general manager Curtis McCrary. Derechos declined for the reasons stated above.

"Most of the groups participating are our allies," Rodriguez explained. "But we felt a responsibility because we're the group telling people to boycott [Arizona]. So we can't turn around and [have a] table at [a concert for a band] that's not part of the Sound Strike and is not donating any money to local groups other than this raffle."

McCrary sounded stung by Derechos Humanos' statement. He claimed a willingness to work with the Sound Strike, although he remains opposed in general to the boycott itself.

"I don't know what they would have us do," McCrary said after reading Derechos' statement. "Would they have us honor the boycott and not have any shows?"

In this case, it's not up to McCrary to honor the boycott. It's Los Lobos' call, think of it what you will.