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SWOP's 40th Anniversary Podcast Episode 3 Transcript


Karlos [00:00:19] Hi, everybody, I am Karlos Gauna Schmeider. I was born and raised here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My mom, Jeanne Gauna was one of the founders of the Southwest Organizing Project and my father spent a lot of time doing good stuff with the organization too. And I'm really proud to be a board member now as well as working with SWOP on a number of really fun projects that I'm really excited about and super happy to be here with you here today, my homie.

Robby [00:00:46] Hey Karlos, it's good to be here with you. My name's Robby Rodriguez. I'm originally from Pico Rivera, California, and also Tucson, Arizona. I moved to New Mexico to become part of SWOP in 1997. And I did it because I did an internship here in 1996. And I've pretty much been here ever since, 13 years at SWOP. And with the exception of a couple year stint in New York, I've New Mexico has been home.

Karlos [00:01:15] It's been so good to have you here. You’re an honorary New Mexican in my book.

Robby [00:01:18] Gracias.

Karlos [00:01:19] You're a good man. So what are we doing here today, Robby?

Robby [00:01:22] Well, we're going to tell some stories about our time at SWOP in commemoration of its 40th anniversary. And so this next section is called Story Time and Karlos, I want to know, did you find SWOP or did it find you?

Karlos [00:01:40] (laughs) Chicken or the egg? It's a great, great fun question. So I think many folks think that, like, you know, my mom as we spoke was one of the founders. And my dad, you know, worked a lot there. My family's been involved a lot. And that's true. Right. I had a great experience growing up. Meeting people from all over the world doing like amazing stuff. You know, every continent would just be like around. Right. So it was a very I was a very privileged and lucky upbringing to be able to like know all these people doing all this great stuff. But really, what got me more into SWOP and like specifically was being in trouble as a as a youth and getting charged with some really serious charges and then understanding the way that organizing has an impact on my communities. Right. My and my friends and family. So a lot of my friends were you know...growing..... here in Albuquerque. And we're just called one of the most violent cities in the country today. And the newspaper and my story is a lot of about that. Right. And in and out of it. And the connection with SWOP that was like powerful was like actually having power in some of those situations. Right. Against the criminal justice system. That was like criminalizing our young people. And so like being really in trouble and being really up against the kind of juvenile justice system here and having the power of SWOP and being able to navigate some of those things really just kind of showed me that there's a lot of power and organizing and there's a lot of power in the relationships in our communities. So I always like try to make people really kind of understand that, like, yeah, you know, I have a very close relationship to SWOP, but it comes out of real conditions that we live here in Albuquerque. What about you?

Robby [00:03:23] I found SWOP or SWOP found me? I'm not sure exactly. The story I like to tell is that good friend of mine and good friend of SWOPs Xavier Morales and I went to college together at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and he was a graduate student. I was an undergrad. He's kind of like a mentor to me. And one day I had, you know, we were hanging out as a Friday. You know, I think we're drinking couple beers in his office and he put the beers in the wintertime on the ledge. And I remember I was grabbing a beer from the ledge of the window. And he was like, hey, check out this, check out this organization. And he handed me the Voices Unidas newsletter. And he's like, maybe someday you can do maybe this summer, you know, next summer you could do an internship there. So I'm like, okay, I checked it out. And I'm like, this looks pretty cool. And then that spring, we went to the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Conference in Chicago. And Teresa Cordova who was a professor of you and I'm here at the Regional Planning Department, had organized a panel of different members of the Southwest Network for Environmental Economic Justice and Jeanne Gauna, your mom, was on the panel. So my friend Xavier, yet again, he's like, hey, remember that group that I told you about that I gave you the newsletter? He's like, they're going to be presenting here. You should go see him. So I’m like, okay, cool. So I went and I'm like, oh, man, that's what I want to do. Like I knew, right? They're like, what? They're talking about the work that they're doing. I want to do that. And I had been you know, I grew up in Pico Rivera. It was very like Mexican-American community largely. I felt protected. Right. Like I could be myself in my community. And so I never really understood racism. You know, either in an institutional way or in an individual way. Until I got to Cornell. And then. I knew one of these things is not like the other. (Karlos laughs) So, you know, that's there's some stories there for another time. But I became very active in starting to develop a consciousness around race and racism in particular at that time and wanted to do something about it. And not knowing like how that would happen. You know, like you say, you want to give back to your community, but how do you do that? Now, I understand there's lots of ways to do that, but at that time, I felt like I wanted to be directly involved. And so at that conference, so we went to the panel afterwards, we were hanging out in the lobby, just like figuring out what we were going to do next. And I saw Jeanne and Teresa and maybe a couple others also like hanging out there. And so my friend Xavier again, he's like, hey, there's there are these like, why don't you go asking if you could do an internship? So I'm like, okay. So I went over, I talked to him. I introduced myself. I told him how much I enjoyed it. You know, do the ever accept interns? They're like, yeah. And I said, so how can I go about, you know, becoming an intern? And they were like, well, you know, just come. Basically, they were like, all right. Yeah. They were like, well, we can't pay. So I’m like, Okay. But if I can figure out the money part, I can come and they're like, “Yeah, sure.” All right. So I go back to. I go back to school. I go to the financial aid office and I'm like, there's this place that'll give me a job. But they can't pay me. And she's like, well, the financial aid counselor says you have work-study. So maybe you can tell them that they only have to pay you half. So a long story longer, their story shorter. I called Teresa she, you know, was able to hire me through the planning department. She kicked in some money from her budget, SWOP kicked in some money. And then I came here, spent the summer. It was awesome and came back and. And then I was here for 13 years.

Karlos [00:07:26] I think you're describing a lot of ways people got on staff at SWOP. Just like pestering until they could until he couldn't get rid of them. Oh man.

Kevin [00:07:36] (music) The grassroots Global Justice Alliance congratulates SWOP on their 40th anniversary. GGJ is a multi-racial, multi-sectoral alliance of over 16 member organizations working at the grassroots to build a popular movement for peace, democracy and a sustainable world. Our work is intergenerational, mixed gendered and visualizes, as is the leadership of women gender nonconforming people, LGBTQ folks and historically marginalized people in the US, including black and Indigenous and people of color. Learn more about us at G G J alliance dot org. (music fades out)

Karlos [00:08:20] All right, now let's get back to that story time, Robby. What's the craziest story you're willing to share about SWOP?

Robby [00:08:27] There's a couple say, you know, the one that actually you're involved in this story, too, so jump in. But remember that time that we took the SNEEJ so the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice had to have a youth campaign. And we were part of that campaign being involved with SWOP and other youth members of the different organizations. And we decide as part of like the work for that year to take a group of youth to tour the state of Chihuahua, visit some of our partners. (Karlos: oh ya, laughs) You know, members of SNEEJ that we're working in that area. And then what happened?

Karlos [00:09:11] I don't know. Is there a statute of limitations? It's a lot of time crossing the border without too much ID. I mean, the border was really different then. Right. And we're with 20 young people doing all this, just touring farms and cooperatives and all this amazing stuff in cultures that we're very interested in.

Robby [00:09:32] Yeah. I remember also like, you know, meeting with groups working on the issue of the femicide in Ciudad Juarez and the work in the maquilas. And we also went to Copper Canyon and just saw the beauty of the state. It so in a lot of ways, it was a wonderful trip and there were some things that we hadn't planned for. So, for example, you know, it's sometimes like we maybe we didn't know all the details of some of the places that we were staying. And that was a little bit uncomfortable, like having a lot of young people and then coming back, you know.

Karlos [00:10:07] We also lost all the money, all cash that we had. And you got through that to call Joaquin and ask him for more and more. They had to wire us money and I didn't lose that money. And you didn't lose that money, but someone did. And Che Lopez knows [2.2s] he knows who. That's right. But it wasn't him either. But he wrote it down. And we're not going to name the person because it's just too too mean.

Robby [00:10:36] He was keeping a journal, Che, of all the activities that we were doing throughout the trip. And...

Karlos [00:10:44] [00:10:44]Cuauhtémoc. [0.0s]

Robby [00:10:44] Yeah. We visited the apple co-op on this day. So and so lost the period.

Karlos [00:10:55] But we made it and we made it back very, very. You know, we got to police. We ended up with a police escort to the border to get out of town. They were like, you guys need to leave because we went up a wrong one way and it's just too much. Yeah. The wrong way. And then, of course, when we get to the border with the police escort, the police escort, we get put to the side through the through the customs process. And not everybody has their I.D.. Right. So it was a very you know, we all made it across. We all made it across because of partly because I think of the relationships and the organizing that then happened on the border right through SNEEJ and then ultimately later GGJ and others around this kind of global justice stuff that people are talking about these days, you know, climate justice, all these things that partly got in our minds around like directly working on that border. Right. And in fact, we even later and through all those things, we close the border down like five years in a row, all the way from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, as a protest against the products being able to go across, but not people. Right. And organizing in that way. It was. And to me, it's I wanted to kind of bring up this crazy story to talk a little bit about SWOPs, impact some of that global work.

Robby [00:12:21] A lot of the work around climate justice that's happening now is, you know, for sure, rooted in the environmental justice movement of the 80s. And SWOP was a big part of that with, you know, writing the letter to the Group of 10 or helping to be a founding member of the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, a founding member of Grassroots Global Justice. So all of those things, you know, help laid the groundwork. And and the tour that we did with with the young people, I mean, that was about promoting an idea of trans nationalism and thinking about organizing work. You know, I think today we would definitely make sure people had passports and not just their student I.D. or not even that. Right. You know, that was one of the weird things about coming back. You know, just to take it back to the story and the craziness of it was they were asking these young people questions. Right. About. It was kind of they were asking questions about their community to try and verify their identity. So they're like, how do you get to school? And they would just look at them like, what are you talking about? I take the bus. My mom drops me off. I walk like, what kind of question is that? You know? And so. So they weren't answering it the right way, which delayed us, you know, getting back. And then, you know, there were apples rolling around and we had said we didn't have fruit in the car, but we really wanted these apples back from [00:13:50] Cuauhtémoc. [0.0s] And so we were like, we just don't say anything about the apples. Right. Yeah, we did make it across very late at night. And. Yeah. Karlos it's it. That story really is about the work on the border. And it's so interesting to just, you know, to see how where that work is now.

Karlos [00:14:07] That's like 20 years later.

Robby [00:14:08] Yeah.

Karlos [00:14:10] Twenty years after the Battle of Seattle. And so much has changed since then. Right. And I think that change that's coming now is even faster. Mm hmm. You know, it's just to me, an interesting place and time to be alive.

Robby [00:14:22] Yeah. And the networks are a lot stronger. The global networks are stronger here.

Karlos [00:14:27] No one's shutting down the border, though. Folks are talking about just transition. We have a new movement of young folks kind of coming on to this idea of climate justice and a green new deal coming out of it. Just like, you know, I think the trajectory of the last 20 years of social movements kind of gets lost in what's happening today. And it's always good to bring it back to that. And really remember that it took people to people, you know, so I think before for sure, like around Battle of Seattle and around this time. And when we were when we were shutting down the border and stuff, the that there was that unions had kind of offices in the global south and so did like the big Greenpeace and stuff like that. But the social movements that were on the ground didn't have that infrastructure as a connection. And we just started to build it right then. Right. And I think that that's still here today. And we should we should be proud of that work that we did and we should take credit for where it exists now today as well.

Robby [00:15:25] Nice. All right. This next section is called All Fast, All Fast.

Karlos [00:15:32] We're going to code switch for everybody. All right. All fast. We're going to ask each other a quick question with five seconds to answer. I'm going to go first. What's your memory of SWOP, Robby? First memory.

Robby [00:15:44] First memory. Is that Voces Unidas Newsletter. Yeah. Mm hmm. All right, Karlos, what about you?

Karlos [00:15:51] My first memory is spiking the volleyball on all the old heads at that Chile Days that we did. Right before the Chile Festival, that were in my in my backyard where everybody would gather and roast their chile together. It's my first memory.

Robby [00:16:10] Describe SWOP style.

Karlos [00:16:12] Describe SWOP style. I'm always a little. I feel real guilty about the plethora and abundance of different logos and different feels, some of that stuff. But, you know, I've come to feel that that it also is a brand or identity. Right. Just being very community driven and stuff. But. Yeah. Yeah. What about what do you think about SWOP's style?

Robby [00:16:38] I think SWOP is the 80s. I'm going to go decade this decade as SWOP has a style. It's the 80s. Well, I mean, it was born in 1980. So that's number one. And then, you know, the sentiment, right, of SWOP. It's you know, what's sort of baked into it is coming out of these power identity movements of the 60s and 70s, the Venceremos Brigades, you know, going to to Cuba and bringing this internationalist perspective. But yet very New Mexico based in land based here. So the intermingling of that with the politics of the time. Yeah, I think that's a lot of what informed how SWOP is.

Karlos [00:17:26] And also with a lot of fonts, 80s style. (both laugh) What is your favorite place SWOP has taken you over all these years?

Robby [00:17:38] I mean, I gotta say New Mexico just because if I wouldn't be here without SWOP. What about you?

Karlos [00:17:47] You know, I went to Venezuela during the World Social Forum as Hugo Chavez and the whole kind of thing was going on on the ground. And that was really cool. Just like forget about like how it's framed all these things today, just like actually talking to people in Venezuela about their countries, like socialism was just something different from me and understand seeing something super cool like that. Yeah.

Karlos [00:18:13] (music) Well, that's going to wrap it up for our next episode SWOPs 40th anniversary podcast is produced by Monica Braine and Marisol Archuleta.

Robby [00:18:20] Thanks to Antonio Maestas us for the original music with Mikyle Gray for the logo design. Our editors Amanda Gallegos, Perla Garcia and Kevin Campa. And to the sponsors for this episode. Grassroots Global Justice and the biggest shout out goes to all the SWOPistas that's out there fighting for justice. [00:18:39]Hasta la victoria siempre. [0.6s]

Karlos [00:18:41] Celebrate our 40th birthday with us by becoming a monthly sustainer to SWOP. Ten dollars a month means one hundred and twenty dollars a year, and that can pay from gas money for state members to attend meetings, stipends for young people to get paid to edit this podcast, or for the organic roasted green chile from our farmer members to our stew contestants for annual chili harvest fiesta. Bottom line, your donations allow us to do a lot. Visit our web site at SWOP dot net. That's s w o p dot net and click on the donate button today.

Robby [00:19:15] We'll see you next time.

Charlie Rose [00:19:17] SWOP is a founding member of G G J, which became a formal alliance in 2005. SWOP also helped launch the U. S Chapter of the World March of Women in 2014. SWOP's work at intersection of grassroots feminism and climate justice is essential to revolutionary movement work.

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