Mik [00:00:33] Hello, SWOPistas this is Mik. I'm SWOP's media and communications organizer. I just want to begin by briefly addressing what has been happening all around us. Black Lives Matter. Black people everywhere continue to face racism to this day, from passive micro aggressions to blatantly violent acts of murder by the hands of the police. We had SWOP have absolutely zero tolerance for racism or acts of violence against the black community or any of our people. SWOP works to fight racial injustice each and every day. We are working to dismantle systemic oppression from the work in our campaign areas and through the support of those on the front lines. We have also taken this moment to do what we can uplift the voices and initiatives of our Black led leadership organizations and we will continue to do so. This is a revolutionary battle of longevity. And now's the time to prepare and take action. If you would like to learn more about our organizing efforts. Please visit us at SWOP.net. And be sure to follow us on all social media platforms at SWOPista. Please hit us up and let us know how you're doing during these times. And with no further ado, I'd like to introduce our guests. Joining us today. We have longtime SWOPistas and chingonas Thomasita Espinosa and her mother, Sandra Montez. They have some exciting stories to share and a wealth of organizing knowledge under their belts. Enjoy this exciting new episode and be safe ya'll.
Tomasita [00:02:05] All right. Buenas tardes. Welcome to the 40th Anniversary SWOP Podcast My name is Tomasita Espinosa. I am born and raised native New Mexican and raised by a Chicano father and Mexican mother in the South Valley of Albuquerque. And today, after four months of being quarantined, I have the honor to participate in this podcast and also have storytelling of SWOP with my mom.
Sandra [00:02:43] No puedo imaginar que son 40 años, este aniversario.Y gracias Tomasita,estoy muy… I'm very pleased to be here sitting right next to you as being months now. My name is Sandra Montez and I'm from Pajarito Mesa, originally. I was born in Ciudad Juarez Chihuahua. I been here in Albuquerque since 67. And I love it. I love New Mexico. And I marry and had four kids. Two girls, two boys.Tomasita is one of them. The youngest one. And I was a community organizer for SWOPs Organization for 11 years. And we did a good job.
Tomasita [00:03:25] And that's one thing I forgot to mention in my Spanish podcast is I was a high school dropout, single mother of two when I started just getting engaged with SWOP and I was volunteering through SWOP through all their events and opportunities that they have going on with all the work. And I just led me into being more engaged, became an organizer and worked myself up. And until I became the chief financial officer, until my next two kids, one who's disabled. So I ended up stepping down. So I didn't want to do my half assed job on parenting as well as, you know, helping keep our organization sustained. So as we know, the there's two segments. The first segments, we're going to ask two questions. I'll go ahead and ask you your first questions. Did SWOP find you or did you find SWOP?
Sandra [00:04:21] I found SWOP, and I was in Pajarito Mesa actually, there were meeting with some landowners up at the...not up at the mesa actually but down below the mesa. they were having a meeting and I saw the sign. I invited myself to see what was going on then because I figure, you know, there were there were going to be talking about issues that were also a concern of mine being that I was living on the top of the mesa. So I went to see what was going on.
Tomasita [00:04:52] I remember that they had no clue that there are still people.. further...
Sandra [00:04:56] Yes. Remember when they asked me, are you sure there's people up on top? And they say, yes, there's over 60 some residents up there. So from then on, you know, that's how I end up with knowing SWOP.
Tomasita [00:05:12] And obviously, I would have to say SWOP found me just because my mom found SWOP before I was introduced or, you know, brought into the whole SWOP and vibe. And the time I was a single mom of two and high school drop out. And I knew I wanted to do something and serve my community. I wanted to be a nurse. And SWOP actually opened my eyes to realize that I can do preventative work and try to keep people out of the system and medical. So that's how I feel. Like SWOP. Tell me.
Sandra [00:05:47] OK. Tomasita what's the craziest story that you can tell me about SWOP.
Tomasita [00:05:55] There's so many. I mean, I have 20 plus years with SWOP and oooh we had some crazy things. But the one that sticks most with me was when we were up at the state capital. We took a group of folks out there from the South Valley and we were going to go and speak with the senators and representatives to, you know, request an ask support for certain bills that were out there. And we had sent mailers a couple months prior in regards to some of the senator representatives, specifically James Taylor, who was making some really bad decisions on behalf of the South Valley. And while we were in the lobby area, I remember him just storming at us, which was very, very crazy, cause we're always having to go storm their offices and, you know, asked to meet with them and they'd always turn us down and, you know, you know, give us the runaround. So that was my craziest story, is seeing that state elected official actually come look for us. And it was all in response to our our mailer. What about you? What is the craziest SWOP story you're willing to share?
Sandra [00:07:11] For me, there are so many, but the most crazy ones that I think I. You know, I was involved with it must have been the one. But there was an accident on I-40 from some coyotes brought in you know, people from different parts of Mexico. They were in an accident. The police were after them in their vehicle, flipped over. So there was one individual that really, you know, was bad hurt. So they transported him to the hospital. But also they had, um, they had already made up their mind that as soon as the doctors got him stable, they were gonna send him back to Mexico so he could finish up their injuries. So I remember that we didn't want him to be deported. So we started planning on how we could save him from getting deported. And we actually stole him, you know, from the hospital room, the officer of ICE was standing right in front of his room guarding you. He wasn't allowed to have visitors or anything. So we stay, you know, out by the on the floor, just watching the officer going back to him for, you know. And one of those times he must have gone to a bathroom. So we run in. We got him this person in the wheelchair. We took him outside. Then we drove a few miles. Then we switch cars. And then now we got him to another vehicle and then they took him and hid him to his injuries would heal and he was able to stay.
Tomasita [00:08:47] (laughs) Wow. Geez.
Sandra [00:08:48] It was crazy. I think that was the first time that I was even a little bit afraid. But then I knew that SWOP wasn't gonna let that happen to him. So I was glad that I was involved in that.
Tomasita [00:09:01] Yeah, I love SWOP. They fear nothing and no one. And they're always standing to do the right thing. Sometimes. No matter what cost. So that's I don't I wouldn't say you stole him. I would say you guys saved him. We know what goes down when there's things like that.
Sandra [00:09:17] And you know that we actually took him up from ICE's hands. I mean, we just saw the opportunity in the bathroom. So here we go. Good thing for the bladder.
Kevin [00:09:33] Sabía que el año pasado organizó la reunión de miembros de la Alianza para la Justicia Climática en Alburquerque México, dando la bienvenida a organizaciones de primera línea de todos Estados Unidos a la riqueza de la tierra del encanto. Nos sentimos muy honrados de reunirnos en casa entronizando la organización cultural, la corrupción transformadora, la construcción de relaciones profundas y honrando el liderazgo de las comunidades de color. Sus organizaciones como es SWOP, que celebran y elevan las que hacen trabajo alegre y arduo de construir una transición justa a través de la justicia social y económica. Obtenga más información en climatejustice.org
Tomasita [00:10:33] All right, so the second segment is called All Fast, and we'll be asking each other three questions and we have five seconds or less to answer it. OK,.
Sandra [00:10:45] Get a let's see. Can you name a favorite place that SWOP has taken you?
Tomasita [00:10:51] So I've been blessed and honored to actually represent SWOP in my community and different travels at the time. I have never even left Albuquerque. I've been able to travel to Brazil and Miami, but my favorite place isn't really a place. I'd say it's the travel to the place. It was the People's Freedom Caravan, which took place starting here in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with two busses loaded with 100 participants from our Indigenous brothers and sisters are African-American brother and sisters from New Mexico, Carlsbad and Chicano representation. Immigrants representation not only individuals, but organizations. And along our travel, we were able to visit with multiple organizations along the southwest of the United States. And just learning from every state and every community in all their battles, we realized, you know, we we all have similar battles. Like they say it's the same game, different player. So I feel like that's my favorite. And your turn name, someone from SWOP, you'll never forget.
Sandra [00:12:09] Well, there's many of them. But the one that I always remember her and I'm thankful for her will be Jeanne Gauna, who was the founder and director of the organization of SWOP when they came in. And she's always been in my heart because she was one of those guerreras that she never gave up. And she believed in me to be one of the best. Well, one of the community organizers, for me to be able to unite the organize our communty of Pajarito Mesa. And she did a lot for us, too. I'm very thankful for her. And she's the one that I feel that I would never forget.
Tomasita [00:12:56] Yeah, she is definitely a very strong leader and being a young Chicana And she was short. So I was always cool to see how feisty she was. And men always feared her was cool. (laughs)
Sandra [00:13:11] She was mean when you wanted to. Yeah. She all right. But mostly both. Can you tell me a song that reminds you of SWOP?
Tomasita [00:13:21] Obviously we've learned so many songs, especially in the People's Freedom Caravan. But the most cherished song that I always remember of SWOP is every time I'm eating chile, which is a lot the Jovenes Unidos which was made of SWOP staff and volunteers and members. They wrote a song that represents New Mexico, chile, and the lyrics was me gusta chile that she left si si si. me gusta chile (SPANISH) and then the English is: I like chile. Yes, I do. I like chile. What about you? And now I. I actually sing it to my kids now that the little ones are starting a chile. So that's one song I always, always remind me of SWOP. So question number two for you is what would you say is SWOP's super power?
Sandra [00:14:12] I would have to say that they're well-respected, even feared. And then also the representatives say, you know, fearful of SWOP because we don't give up. We want answers and we want them accountable for it. So I think that's their respect. And still has been the organization is known to be, you know, not not locally, but also statewide and nationally. So that's something that it's very powerful.
Tomasita [00:14:43] True. When you said that, it reminded me of the chant just changed up the words. What do you want? Answers. When do you want them? Yesterday. (laughs)
Sandra [00:14:50] I'd love to. Ok, so can you tell me. Has SWOP change you in a way you know, for the better.
Tomasita [00:14:59] How has SWOP changed me?
Sandra [00:15:01] Yeah.
Tomasita [00:15:01] Well. Start off by you know, just being. When I first met SWOP, I was in my teens still young mother of two women of color. So I was very shy. No. Raised with different traditions. It always. You know, sometimes they always tell the woman to be quiet and stuff. So I never really spoke out my mind and SWOP just transform me to be loud and rowdy and and speak out my mind. Not everybody will like me, but those that agree with me will be there, and that's the important people that I. I need. But the most way I feel they transformed me was just empowering me. Showing me that, you know, they believed in me. They always encouraged me, empowered me and pushed me, challenged me daily.
Sandra [00:15:52] I remember that.
[00:15:53] Oh, my gosh. It was it was intense. But I knew from the start they were just building someone strong. Jeanne Gauna and like you say, was very strong, hard headed, and we need women like that. So I feel like that's the biggest benefit. They've changed me, has given me that believe in myself and nothing can stop me and I'm happy with that.
Sandra [00:16:14] That's good.
Tomasita [00:16:15] All right. Your last question. What would you say is your first memory of SWOP?
[00:16:22] I think that's when we gather. Well, we are organized Pajarito Mesa the community and that was that first march to the county commissioner's office, demanding for them to recognize the community and start providing that basic services that we need it. And one of those major services was potable water, since we didn't have, you know, water to do our, you know, even to drink.
Tomasita [00:16:53] Water is life.
Sandra [00:16:54] Water is life. There's now that anybody can be without water. So that was one of the main services that we were asking for or for the county commissioners to address. And we did the march. There was quite a bit of people and also us SWOP out. Like I said before, I mean, that was SWOP was one of the major points in our community to where they were opening doors for us as the community members because before nobody was paying attention to us. But they when we joined SWOP, then doors stay open and we were able to obtain, you know, almost half a million dollars to provide us with a water station, which we did. We had it then and we were very happy with it.
Tomasita [00:17:41] I remember they used call you the Mexican reservation.
Sandra [00:17:44] Yeah, that was us. But I mean, it was just similar to the Indigenous, you know, the way they live.
Tomasita [00:17:50] I remember that protest. It was the first protest I had ever actually participated in. And not only was I there, but I was there with my two little ones. I remember my second oldest was two weeks old and the Albuquerque Journal article on this. I actually have the article still.
Sandra [00:18:09] I remember Jeanne carry him on the stroller. Yes, she was the one. So we could be, you know, are hands will be free too.
Tomasita [00:18:17] Yeah, I remember. That's one thing I was really blessed with SWOP. It was a large family. My kids, even though I was a single mom, my kids had multiple mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters across New Mexico. So I was very blessed.
Sandra [00:18:32] It was fun, though. We really enjoyed it. Ok Tomasita. That's gonna wrap it up for this episode. SWOP's 40th Anniversary Podcast is produced by Monica Braine and Marisol Archuletta.
Tomasita [00:18:44] Thank you to Antonio Maestas for the original music Mikyle Gray for the logo design. Our editors, Amanda Gallegos, Perla Garcia, and Kevin Campa and to the sponsors for the episode, the Climate Justice Alliance. And the biggest shout out goes out to the SWOPistas us who are out there fighting for justice.Hasta la Victoria Siempre
Sandra [00:19:08] Siempre! help us celebrate our fortieth anniversary with us by becoming monthly sustainer of SWOP your support will be directed to what are communities want and need. We don't do top down. I know what's best for your type nonsense. Your money goes to great things and we can take our directions from the community. Your donation is not going to pay for an upgrade on rental cars, but it will pay for a school bus filled with youth headed to Santa Fe to hold politicians accountable to their faces. Bottom line, your donation feeds the grassroots. Visit our website swop.net and click on the donate button.
Tomasita [00:19:51] All right. Mi gente. Until next time. Ciao!
DAVID: [00:20:04] Este episodio del podcast del 40 aniversario de SWOP es presentado por la Alianca para la Justicia Climática. Felicitaciones al proyecto organizador del Sudoeste en su cuenenta aniversario este año. Alianza para la Justicia Climática es un orgulloso seguidor del profundo trabajo de SWOP en las comunidades de Albuquerque, Nuevo México.
[00:19:47] Estamos encantados de compartir que el SWOP es un miembro destacado en las instantáneas de la historia de Alianza para la Justicia Climática. Vivienda, proyecto de transición justa donde el cineasta John Acosta y Mateo Carrasco, del proyecto SWOP’s Feed the Hood se unen para resaltar el programa del jardín intergeneracional y la transformación del jardín comunitaria en su centro. Conozca de cerca cómo el trabajo del SWOP apoya el intercambio intergeneracional de habilidades y la construcción de solidaridad. Helaba al conocimiento tradicional indígena. Defiende la soberanía alimentaria sostenible y respeta generalmente la madre tierra. Cuando se publican instantáneas de la historia en climatejusticealliance.org. Nosotros de la Aliancia para la Justicia Climatica nos amamos a todos con el fantástico trabajo.