Big business development interests are trying to buy up public lands considered sacred to many in Tucson, the very birthplace of this ancient city, lying in the shadow of Sentinal (A) mountain. Today the local Occupy Tucson group joined forces in solidarity with the grassroots Protect Chuk-Shon to raise awareness in the community.
I followed the sounds of powerful drums up the banks of the Santa Cruz River by foot, not sure how to find the small city park nestled in the old Barrio with my vehicle. Below you’ll find photos and more information about this organized effort to save the indigenous spirit of a place, once again under threat from one percenters, interested not in the authentic community, but the profit margins a new fabricated tourist attraction or shopping center could bring.
This was the perfect confluence of a local Occupy group with another local group struggling to bring attention to an important issue. This kind of collaboration will enhance the longevity and effectiveness of both efforts. This could be a good model to consider elsewhere for the OWS movement.
Some background on “Protect Chuck-Shon”
When Josefina Cardenas describes the desert between the Santa Cruz River and the base of Sentinel Peak ("A" Mountain), she links her hands together and rocks them as if she's cradling a baby.
From the east side of the riverbed, at Verdugo Park, Cardenas looks at the land and describes it as a cuna, because it's shaped like a cradle.
This is Tucson's birthplace—Chuk Shon, a swath of desert that connects the history of the Hohokam and the Tohono O'odham, Father Kino's arrival with the Spanish, and then the Mexicanos. It's now home to many Chicano families that have lived in the surrounding neighborhoods for more than five generations.
Cardenas was raised in what was once called Barrio Santa Cruz and is now part of Barrio Kroeger Lane. She says many of her neighbors are tied to the land and its history—some still raise horses, goats, cows and chickens on small ranches that have been in their families for multiple generations.
On Oct. 18, the state-appointed Rio Nuevo board voted to file a lawsuit against the city of Tucson for $47 million—plus the Chuk Shon property, which includes an area across the Santa Cruz River from Verdugo Park, and the Mission Garden.
Scenes from the gathering.
Making fry bread and chili
Native food plants and herbs
Occupy Tucson represents!
Kids painting shirts, suitably orange :)
The Problem: The Rio Nuevo Board
The Rio Nuevo Board wants to sue the City of Tucson for $47 million and ownership of the site where the original Chuk Shon is located. Chuk Shon is the land and communities at and around the base of Sentinel Peak (A Mountain) and the Santa Cruz River. They want to take this land out of the public’s hands to develop it for private profit without being hampered by the needs and concerns of the surrounding communities. The Rio Nuevo Board was not elected and is seriously out of step with local values and the site’s indigenous, Mexicano, Chicano and working class history.
The Rio Nuevo Board was appointed by Governor Brewer, Sen. Russell Pearce and the State Legislature. It’s chair is Jodi Bain, who is a lawyer for Munger Chadwick and Associates. Munger Chadwick represents transnational corporate interests in Mexico and Arizona. They are NAFTA lawyers who defend an accord that has lead to mass displacement that resulted in a 60% rise in immigration to the United States–a forced migration rooted in poverty and the destruction of rural Mexican communities. Yet Munger Chadwick lawyers have acted in favor of SB1070, adding insult and injury to the victims of displacement that their practice has helped create! John Munger has also been an outspoken opponent of Ethnic Studies, a position that is clearly not reflective of the local community attitudes around Chuk Shon.
Other members of the board include former legislator, SB1070 supporter and payday loan lobbyist Jonathan Paton and Rosemont Copper lobbyist and Republican candidate for mayor, Rick Grinnell.
This is a great example of a community coming together to take a stand to protect the people’s place, their home, their center, from rapacious development so typically seen all over the West. I call it Californiacation.
And I close with a plea from the Protect Chuk Shon group itself
Thousands have taken to the streets all over in the Occupy Movement and the world watches with many people answering the calls to take a stand. We in the occupied city of Tucson live under an increased atmosphere of colonized oppression through private prisons, border militarization, deaths in our desert, police brutality, and hate laws like SB1070 and HB2281. These measures that attack our communities, destroy our schools, and ruin our health have been financed by large corporations and banks who have also contributed to the collapse of housing markets and unemployment in Arizona. We in Arizona are motivated to act in support of the Occupy movement, but seek to do this through addressing the need for systemic change in our local community. Fighting against the AZ State appointed and unelected RIO NUEVO Board while making an alternative solution for this ancestral land that respects historical, cultural, and indigenous values is our way to make this local struggle in solidarity with the global fight against capitalist oppression and economic inequality all over the world. JOIN US!!