An interview with José Sueiro by Patrick Scallen
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Interviewer: Patrick Scallen: Okay. This is Patrick Scallen. It's around 12:30 on Saturday the 25th of November, and I'm talking with José Sueiro about the Mount Pleasant riots. So José, I would like to start out just asking a little bit of background information. How did you come to DC, and then how did you get involved in the Latino community?
Interviewee: José Sueiro: Well I came to DC because my ... I was living with my mother in Madrid, Spain. I went to high school at the American school in Madrid and my father was a diplomat. They were divorced, and my father was a diplomat for the American government. I had spent the four high school years with my mother and had seen my father very infrequently. I wanted to come back to DC. I got accepted at George Washington University, because that way I could get to see my father at least twice a year because he was assigned to Latin America and he would come back and be here at least twice. I ended up that first year seeing him about four times. The second year he asked me, "How've you made the transition? How do you like it here in the States?" I said, "I don't like it." He said, "Well come to Panama." He was in Panama, and I went to live with him in Panama. I came back, finished my second year at GW and went back to live in Peru for about ten months.
Interviewee: JS: After that he said, "You know, you should just go back and finish." But it took me a long time to finish because I was easily distracted. What happened initially was that I latched on to a theater professor, South African theater professor, and through that I wrote ... I would write articles. One in particular was in the DC Department of Recreation newspaper. They had a newspaper, and I wrote a story about integrating theater into the pedagogy. In other words, using it to teach reading and writing and to do improvisations with kids as somebody who was the director, Erasmo Lara, who later became the ambassador to the UN from the Dominican Republic years later.
Interviewee: JS: He was the director of the Latin American Youth Center. He came to me and said, "Would you put your money where your mouth is?" In other words, would you help do street theater with immigrant kids. At that time there wasn't a big Salvadoran contingent or Central America contingent. I'm talking about very early on, the early ‘70s. It was mostly Caribbean: Dominican, Puerto Rican, some Cuban, and some Central American, but not a lot. There's a landmark date that I remember, which is 1971. This was later on. This was from in the magazine that you ... the Regardies magazine, that he interviewed a gentleman by the name of Sigfredo Chavez, who is now dead.
Interviewee: JS: As Sigfredo talks about him how in 19 ... From 1971 to about ‘73, he brought somewhere around 3,500 or 5,000 Intipuqueños from Intipucá. And Charlie Lane, Charles Lane, who became editor-in-chief at Newsweek later on, did this interview. One of the things he said he went down there to see this and he would go through - what is it - Oriente? Or he would go through the part where San Miguel is and he would drive through these dirty, bumpy roads and you turn into Intipucá. It was all like a smooth highway and ceramics. The city itself, the little town was beautiful, because it had been built from the money that was sent from the Intipuqueños here in Washington DC, as a lovely little story by Charles Lane.
Interviewee: JS: I began at GW to work with neighborhood kids doing street theater. At that time they held the Hispanic festival here in Kalorama Park a couple of blocks away. They got to showcase things. We did a little skit about an immigrant that comes from Santo Domingo and has never done McDonald's and goes to McDonald's and almost chokes on the hamburger and falls down. They're going, "He's just not used to it."
Interviewee: JS: We did all kinds of little satires and stuff. We did one I remember on domestic violence, which was a big issue. We moralized a little bit in that skit about violencia de género [gender-based violence]. This guy Erasmo Lara really liked the things that I did with the kids. I had finally come back from Peru. I was set here. I met a young man that edited a newspaper and I would write a column for him on community stuff.
Interviewer: PS: What was the name of that newspaper?
Interviewee: JS: It was called El Latino. And Erasmo left and said, "Why don't you take over the Youth Center? I'm going to tell the city gov, I'm going to submit your name, so you would become director of the Latin American Youth Center. I had a wonderful time as director of the Latin Youth Center. I was the director of the Latin Youth Center somewhere around 1974 to 76 or something like that. Very, very young that I was. One of the things that I enjoyed most of all is, these young bands would come and say, "We need a place to practice. Will you let us ..." We had three or four bands. I was fascinated by it, because I understood it. They played music in Spanish, but I had lived in Spain, so the whole rhythm of the drum and the ...
Interviewee: JS: Basically drum and bongo and timbal and all of the maracas, the Guidos (?) , all of that added to a music that was a blend of Spanish harmonies and African rhythms, which is fascinating to me. I was learning all the time. I'd be writing out time sheets and stuff and they'd be across in another room playing this music that I was like, "Wow, this is great." I understand it from the language part, but it was all brand new. I was at the Youth Center until finally there was a little gentleman by the name of Garry Garber, little pint sized guy. Garry was a boxer and he worked with something called the Roving Leader Program. The Roving Leader Program, which is still around today.
Interviewee: JS: As a matter of fact, I saw the ad for it. They're trying to ... They're hiring a new director. But the Roving Leader Program was basically trying to tie kid's home life and life outside their school with their school to avoid delinquency, drugs. I quickly ... I became a roving leader with Garry Garber. Garry said, "Why don't you come work with me." What I liked more about that ... The Youth Center was okay, but what I liked more about that is that there was a bigger connection to the kid's lives. It wasn't like they came two hours and they were at the place and then they left. This was like you talk to the family. You went to their homes. You went into the school and talked to their teachers.
Interviewee: JS: It was really, really hands-on stuff. I had a really good time. I was a roving leader almost five years, I think.
Interviewer: PS: That was a full time job.
Interviewee: JS: Yeah, it was a full time job, but it was very creative. It gave me time. I went into Oyster School. You kept going younger and younger, because I went into Oyster School and worked with the kids. I coached soccer. I coached high school soccer.
Interviewer: PS: Which school?
Interviewee: JS: Wilson. I did Wilson against Bell. Bell had just started. I had ... We won one and then they won the next couple. I did it for three, maybe four years. To beat us they had to ... Well they had to cheat is what I said. They had a bunch of kids that were over age, but since you could fudge a birth certificate ... and I would tell Maria at the beginning of the season. I said, "Maria no more of that, 19 year olds playing against 17 year olds." It was a starting school and that soccer championship was like really important. They did all kinds of things that I was thought was kind of underhanded and didn't like. I had actually coached Bell's first year, so they would have a team, in other words.
Interviewee: JS: I'll never forget, we did all kinds of things. Like the metro at Dupont Circle had just opened. We were at Marie Reed, what's Marie Reed now. I'd make them run to the metro and go down the up escalators and up the down escalators. That was before school by the way. They would get there at 7:00 in the morning.
Interviewer: PS: I'm glad I didn't have you as a soccer coach.
Interviewee: JS: One time we did a whole journey down to the Washington Monument and went all the way up the Washington Monument.
Interviewer: PS: Okay, on the stairs.
Interviewee: JS: We had a fun time. That team was very good. I think we won with that team as well. It was 80% Hispanic, more Hispanic than any others. What I did at Wilson was really neat too, because that was ... Wilson is international. There's all these African kids and Jamaican kids. They're from all over the world and I know Latinos. I had some good American players. The best goalies were from Wilson. We had a good time, but I left that and then I got into newspaper work.
Interviewer: PS: How did you get into newspaper work?
Interviewee: JS: This friend of mine, this Peruvian friend of mine, Luis Sanchez Espinel came, fleeing the Velasco Alvarado dictatorship. And all he knew how to do was newspaper work. He opened a newspaper here called El Latino. He also ... He just retired from El Nuevo Herald in Miami. Luis Sanchez Espinel taught El Pregonero ... In other words, Luis Sanchez was THE newspaperman in the community at the time. He helped start a number of the newspapers, one of which - El Pregonero - is still around today.
Interviewer: PS: I didn't realize that he helped start that.
Interviewee: JS: I would always tell him why were you feeding your opposition here, Louis? He didn't see it that way. He's a pretty devout Catholic. For him that's the Catholic newspaper. I was friends with Louis. And then the dictatorship fell, and Belaunde Terry started. And there was an opening as head of sports editor at El Espresso in Lima. So El Latino had had like three years.
Interviewer: PS: This is late ‘70s?
Interviewee: JS: Well it's almost '80, right? '79, '80. He had had three, four years and he'd built up. He said, "Why don't you take it over?" And I worked with El Latino for about a decade.
Interviewer: PS: From about 1980 to 1990?
Interviewee: JS: Right. Towards the end of my tenure, towards the very end, because the uprising in Mount Pleasant was what? 1989 or something?
Interviewer: PS: '91, I think.
Interviewee: JS: Well I was still at El Latino. It was the very end of El Latino. And what happened was, I had established a relationship to this day, which is a relationship that there needs to be an oral history about this guy, which is Daniel Bueno. I saw Daniel a few weeks ago. He's still alive. He's 78, 79 years old. What happened was I established a very close relationship, because he was my best advertiser.
Interviewer: PS: I noticed he had many advertisements in El Latino when I was looking through it.
Interviewee: JS: Yeah. And I got free rent in exchange for advertising, and that was basic advertising, because he was always ... He paid me good money when all the big bands came to town, because Daniel was THE promoter in town. There wasn't a musical group that came to Washington that either Daniel didn't bring them to Washington, or that he gave the okay for somebody else to bring them to Washington. Because nobody would come to Washington if Daniel disapproved, because they'd never come back in a sense. Because he was the one that brought the bands. But more than that, Daniel is such a bellwether. It's so important that his oral history be taken, because he was a reflection.
Interviewee: JS: He had his hand on the pulse of how this community development, who were the artists that would sell. He was really sensitive to that. He used to tell me the story about always bring a popular artist to a smaller venue, so it sells out. Even if you've got his hugely popular venue, you put them ... hugely popular artist and you put them in a big venue and half of it is empty, you're screwed, because the whole psychology of it is that the guy was ... or the band, or whoever it was, was a failure, because they couldn't fill the venue.
Interviewee: JS: So Daniel was always hip to all of those things. He could make a lot of money, but he lost a lot of money as well, because it was a gamble. It was very, very risky business. But he had all the record stores. At one point he had five record stores. He now has, I think, three in Maryland, that's it. He's retired from bringing bands and him and his wife manage these stores. These stores have been evolving, because now nobody buys CDs, or records or anything.
Interviewer: PS: Records are coming back now. We'll see how much they ...
Interviewee: JS: I was on Columbia Road in front of the Safeway. I think it was 1754, or something like that. I was on the second floor and Danny was on the first floor. What happened ... I believe it was May the 5th. It was a Sunday night I believe, is that ... Maybe it wasn't a Sunday night, I know it was May the 5th.
Interviewer: PS: No, it was a Sunday night.
Interviewee: JS: For whatever reason. I'm confusing a little bit Sunday night and Monday night. It was two nights.
Interviewer: PS: Yeah it's ... May the 5th was a Sunday night and it started on a Sunday night.
Interviewee: JS: Then Monday night. What happened on Sunday night, for whatever reason I was at the ... I lived here even at that time.
Interviewer: PS: In this building?
Interviewee: JS: Yeah. I lived at 1841 Columbia Road and that was at 1754 Columbia Road. So it was just across the street on the other side of 18th Street. So I was at the newspaper and the ...
Interviewer: PS: Oh, the newspaper was at 1754.
Interviewee: JS: Right, it was above the Zodiac record shop on the second floor. For whatever reason I was at the newspaper and I received a phone call. And I received a phone call, it must have been between 7:00 and 8:00 (PM), because it was ... The days were getting longer and it was, the sun was going down, but it was still light. Then I received a phone call. The fist phone call was something going on in Mount Pleasant. And when I'm receiving that phone call, the way I recall this, which is there was a small group of Salvadorans, I don't know how big the group was, but it really wasn't that big. It probably wasn't more than half a dozen Salvadorans. They used to group up in Mount Pleasant. They would go back down into the park and either sleep in the woods there, or some of them had homes in Mount Pleasant, they would just ...
Interviewee: JS: They were unemployed. Some of them homeless, some of them not. One of them - probably more - but one of them was really drunk. And there were two cops that were on foot. I believe they were both African American, and if I'm not mistaken, I think they were both female, too. And one of them was a rookie. So what happened is in that little park in Mount Pleasant, at the end of Mount Pleasant. I don't know what they call it, what the name is, it's still there. They started ... The cops were, like, "throw the bottles, throw the bags in which your bottles are in out and move on." And this one drunk homeless Salvadoran started to act up and get raucous.
Interviewee: JS: Somehow in there, there seems to be that there was a knife or something. But the point was that the cop, the rookie cop in particular, overreacted. Pulled a gun out. They handcuffed the guy and then I think they shot him in the shoulder. Actually bullets were fired. Then everybody in that neighborhood got really upset. Here's the sociological phenomenon. We're talking... you said, what? May of '91. The real diaspora from El Salvador, the big diaspora that made ... I think I've told you this story before, which is in 1960 the census had claimed that there was 10,000 Spanish-speaking individuals.
Interviewee: JS: The census in 2010 said that there were almost ... over 800,000 Hispanics. In a period of two generations of 50 years, it went from 10,000 to almost a million. This migration really accelerated after 1978. The Duarte government in El Sal and the guerrilla warfare ... The civil war, which is what it was, began and raged through ... Reached its peak somewhere around 1986, 1987. What started to happen here ... First of all, this massive migration of Salvadorans mostly, some other Hondureño, Guatemalteco, but Salvadoran.
Interviewee: JS: Roughly around '86 or '87 these young kids who were being recruited by the guerrilla, who were protesting on the streets of San Salvador and throwing Molotov cocktails and this and that and the other. That about reached its peak there. There were families who, either some of them were here, or mothers and fathers were there, were sending these kids. And they were kids, because from the age of about 13 to 14 either the guerrillas, or the military would come into your house, grab your kid, take him out, and say, "We just recruited him, he's going to join the army, or he's going to join the guerrilla," whatever.
Interviewee: JS: So you had an influx at the end of the '80s of a huge amount of young kids who were emigrating to this area. This is the third largest Salvadoran population in the country. Closely followed by New York, but it's LA, Houston and Washington DC. Washington DC at one point was the largest Salvadoran community in the country, but California and Houston are much bigger now. The thing that happened that evening is there was ... I mean I'm going to step out of the chronology for a moment and tell you the incident about the paddy wagon. Do you know the story about the police paddy wagon?
Interviewee: JS: This was the second night actually, it wasn't the first. I'm going to step out of the chronology, because it is indicative of what the phenomenon was. We had a place on 16th Street that I used to referee the kids and they played ball. It's called La Polvosa, because it was a dust bowl. That's what it was, full of rocks.
Interviewer: PS: South of Sacred Heart right there?
Interviewee: JS: Just south of Sacred Heart. In other words it's adjacent to Sacred Heart. They were so well organized that they had these pyramids of rocks. They would gather rocks from all over the place and they put them in pyramids. The kids - I'm saying, because they were mostly young people under 21 - would come already with their bandanas, because they had been used to tear gassing and stuff in San Salvador and in El Salvador generally. They were so well organized that that second night ... Already the first night the police didn't understand what to do, because it was like, "What is this?" They expected an isolated incident in the park in Mount Pleasant. When they got there and there were so many cops and you know how the cops do, even if it's a small incident suddenly everybody ...
Interviewee: JS: So many police was really ... The police did not have a history of dealing with these kids. This was a new phenomenon to Washington DC. They were used to Black kids in Southeast and thugs, or drug dealers, or something like that. This was an actual ... Suddenly that woman, when she handcuffs him and he was I think bleeding, or they had some ... He's lying in the gutter, I mean on the curb. Hands behind his back, some blood apparent. Those kids went wild. They suddenly circled all of these two female African American police. There was like "officer in danger." Everybody, I mean there were cop cars coming from all over the place, which didn't do any good, because it just riled these kids up more.
Interviewee: JS: So they started whistling and calling to their guys on the third floor of the building, or down the street, or blah, blah, blah. And suddenly this huge amount of young people ... That first night, they threw a lot of rocks and stuff. The police felt that they were ... I saw a police[man] that night, I thought it was so funny. He was the guard to one of the places, one of the restaurants, or the clubs that had a police officer. He actually took off his police uniform and was in his white t-shirt. I said, "Why are you doing this?" He says, "I don't want to give up ..." I think he was an off duty cop anyway.
Interviewee: JS: That first night ... The thing I recall most about that first night is the trash cans. They went methodically up and down Mount Pleasant, from 16th Street on the south end all the way to Park Road. And one by one they lit the garbage cans on fire.
Interviewer: PS: These are the small ones, not the huge dumpsters?
Interviewee: JS: No the smaller one, but at that time ... There was a change from that. These new trash cans on the street come from that era, because at that time they were all plastic and they all melted. They melted and they burned black smoke. It was horrible. It was horrible, but in the melee, in the chaos that followed, they got cover. That was the first night. The first night was fairly spontaneous. It was not really ... I mean it didn't have an organizational structure if you will. I think the first night already they ran over to the field and started with these pyramids of rocks and started putting the rocks in their pockets and running down to Mount Pleasant and throwing rocks. The second night was really organized.
Interviewer: PS: In what sense?
Interviewee: JS: First of all the thing about the paddy wagon happened the second night. The second night they took control of the street.
Interviewer: PS: Who is they?
Interviewee: JS: The kids, the mara [gang].
Interviewer: PS: Same kids from ...
Interviewee: JS: Well I don't know if they're the same ... I'm sitting in my office on the second floor of Columbia Road, and I look across, there was a Foot Locker. (The second night) And the Foot Locker had hired armed, plain clothes, I guess they were detectives, or marshals or ... I don't know exactly who they were, but they were armed in these long coats like you see in the westerns. And I will never forget the image that is fixed in my mind was the 42 bus. The 42 bus would come from Southeast. I'm on Columbia Road, and I see the 42 bus go by. And nobody was coming up ... The 42 bus ends in Mount Pleasant and goes through Columbia Road. Nobody was riding the bus, except about a group of maybe ...
Interviewee: JS: In that particular bus maybe half a dozen, six or seven African American kids. And those African American kids got off the bus. That was a kind of like, let's see what we can loot, the looting. I'll never forget the guy come out of the Foot Locker and they throw rocks at Foot Locker. The guy comes out of Foot Locker and opens up his coat and shows them, I got a rifle here, I got a gun here, so don't mess with me. What struck me as so ... like, wow .. is they would show these kids ... these were African American kids mostly. They would show these kids the guns and they'd throw a rock anyway ... say, "Go ahead. Shoot me."
Interviewee: JS: I was like, "Whoa." But those people congregated their way over to Mount Pleasant. And the big mistake - one of the big mistakes - is that Jesse Jackson and my friend Arturito Griffiths...have you talked to Arturo?
Interviewer: PS: We're scheduled to speak.
Interviewee: JS: My friend Arturito Griffiths decided that they would do a march. Everybody march up Mount Pleasant. Big mistake. Big mistake.
Interviewer: PS: Why?
Interviewee: JS: Because everybody got to Mount Pleasant. They may have done the march later on, or they could've gone and done some outreach and talked to the kids, but when they did it in such an organized manner - people locked arms and walking down the street - everybody come back. And I was telling you about kids from Southeast. Already the entire city knew something was going on in Mount Pleasant. There's a famous story that Sharon Pratt asked Ike Fulwood, "Exactly where is Mount Pleasant?" I mean, I don't know if that's true or not, but that was ... I don't know if on that film of them that I got with the Smithsonian that that was ... that that came up, because it was ... Regardless if that's true or not, what is true is that they ...
Interviewee: JS: I created a command post at the corner of 16th and Irving. And a paddy wagon comes up, and he tells a group of cops walking with their shields now, because they had their swat stuff.
Interviewer: PS: Night too.
Interviewee: JS: Night too. And he says, "Take the paddy wagon up to La Polvosa, in other words up 16. They closed off 16th Street. Imagine that. 16th Street was closed. They had the cops behind the paddy wagon, and suddenly out of everywhere, one side of 16th, beam, bam, boom, bom, rocks going, flying everywhere. The cops already retreated and the paddy wagon got about almost there, but at that point the windshield was smashed. And so the cops fled, left the paddy wagon. What these guys did (This detail is just so amazing. There's a photo of this. Johnny Yataco took photos of this) is they got into the paddy wagon and they took the flares out. They unlocked the gas tank and shoved the flares into the gas tank and ran.
Interviewee: JS: And that night that paddy wagon went BOOM! It lifted off the ground and settled it there. The photo of the burned, charred-out paddy wagon was a very famous photo. I think it was on one of my front covers. I don't know if you can find that.
Interviewer: PS: I'll take a look.
Interviewee: JS: I know Johnny has it, but Johnny is very ... I don't know if he lost the photos, or he's just very, very sensitive about it. He doesn't give anybody, he doesn't show anybody those photos. But I will tell you that second night, there were a number of things that happened. One is after this march the bus comes up and it stops at the corner. And I had another photographer which is [Alvaro Ortiz ??? 00:30:19], who's lost all of those negatives, unfortunately. But he was taking pictures, and he got real up close to that bus. And the bus stopped right there. And the kids took a four by four, or a two by four, or whatever it was - a long plank of wood - and shoved it in. And I'm going to have the photo - and shoved it in the window of the driver's seat.
Interviewee: JS: And you see the board come right in front of the driver's seat. The driver is saying, "Get out, get out, everybody get out." They shoved it in there. And the police, who were on the other side, (which is north of Mount Pleasant, north of Irving) were throwing tea gas canisters. Already there was tear gas. And one of those canisters hit Alvaro's leg, and he was in the hospital. And he was treated for about a month for the broken leg that he suffered there. I had no health insurance for him; he was a free lancer for me.
Interviewee: JS: But he got injured that night in that whole event as he was taking the pictures. Johnny Yataco ... And I'm not sure this wasn't the first, or the second night. I can't keep that straight in my memory. The cops were being pelted by rocks on Mount Pleasant [Street]. They had gone up with their shields to clean things out, and they couldn't. They retreated back inside the 7-Eleven. The 7-Eleven that's on Mount Pleasant. Today it's still there. This was at night and these kids ... more and more and more ... and all of them armed with rocks and stuff.
Interviewee: JS: They pelted them and pelted them and pushed them back inside the 7-Eleven. You got the guys with the helmets and the shields and they're all in 7-Eleven. These guys are across the street and around the edges and Johnny Yataco was smack in the middle of the street with his camera, shooting. Another guy that has some of this is Rick Reinhard.
Interviewer: PS: I've talked to Rick.
Interviewee: JS: Rick has that photo, one of those photos. And Johnny's shooting, and he was shooting for me; he was shooting for our newspaper. And I'm like, "Johnny, please, we already have one photographer. Get out of the middle, get out of the way!" But his was perfect. In other words, the rocks were raining, and he was underneath the rocks and shooting at the cops. I don't know if they were scared, but they were all bunched right inside the 7-Eleven. The 7-Eleven was lit up, so you could see everything. It was like daytime, there was so much lighting. Those were the images that I remember of those two nights.
Interviewer: PS: Were you there on the street when that was happening?
Interviewee: JS: I was ... When Johnny was taking shots I was there. But since my office is right around the corner, we were busy. There were people writing, and we were calling people, and people were calling us and saying, "What the hell is going on?" So I was there for instance for the rock throwing and Johnny. I wasn't there for the paddy wagon incident. And I was there with the march, which was earlier. Because I'm trying to remember ... the march started as it was light. This is a big mistake, this thing. Jesse Jackson. And the head of [National Council on] La Raza, Raul Yzaguirre, was in that march. And Arturo; Arturo had organized it. I remember that it was light, but it was dusk. It was just getting dark.
Interviewee: JS: And when it breaks up, imagine that. It's light when it starts - very good - and cameras and TV and bla, bla, bla.
Interviewer: PS: This is a peaceful march?
Interviewee: JS: Oh, no, no, it was a peaceful march. But it ends just as darkness falls. So what was going to happen? The march drew all kinds of people from Mount Pleasant. March finishes, disburse, it's dark. And all those kids just turned around and started the second night. But then there became a ... There was a ... what do you call this? Curfew. The next night. The third night they really cracked down.
Interviewer: PS: So there was no curfew the second night?
Interviewee: JS: No, well there may have been a curfew, but it may ... I mean what sparked the revolt the second night was that march, because that march brought attention to the problem. Everybody came down. I mean it was very simple for these kids to come down and march in the march and finish up and start throwing some rocks again. It was just ... and they remade that field. They finally re-did that field afterwards, because it had been such a center of command operations.
Interviewer: PS: You said that the march drew people to Mount Pleasant. Do you think that there would've been the extent of the violence the second night? Would it have been as extensive had the march not happened?
Interviewee: JS: I can't say that, but I do think the march was a mistake. I mean one of the things I see, you got to go back to there, Patrick, that these were kids that on average had been into the United States, into Washington maybe three years, maybe four years. On average they were under 21, most of them. All of them practically under 30, under 25. There was an acculturation that hadn't yet taken place. Most of these cats were in Latino families, Salvadoran families and they ... they were the bottom of the totem pole. They were either busboys; in buildings they were the assistant to the janitor.
Interviewee: JS: Some of them were into these small mom and pop construction companies, and they were just painting, or assistant to the carpenter, or the guy in the charge of the labor on the construction. What else? It was just in general a lower working class and people who had been here for not very long. So on their end they weren't really acculturated, they weren't really American yet. They were very young. On the police's end, it was a different model. It was a different ... There were very few Hispanics in the police department. I mean a number of people have analyzed this thing and said that it was the poor reaction from the rookie cop.
Interviewee: JS: Yeah, okay, I understand that, but more than that the department hadn't figured this yet. They were like, "Wait a minute, there's a lot of newer young people in Washington that we don't even understand what they're saying, much less their behavior, or how to quell any outbursts." This is a pretty docile population. You're sitting there. If you have one of these radical right wingers sitting right next to me, [they would say] "You see they're violent people and blah, blah, blah and they're mara and they're gangs." That may be so, Patrick, but the great majority of these people, easily over 85, 90% of them are just working class folks that came up here and said, "I'm going to work my ass off. I'm going to participate in the American dream."
Interviewee: JS: They were just hard working people. Now granted, this group - very, very young - probably 14, 15, 16 to 21 - they had been battle tested and hardened in El Sal. And given the opportunity to ... given the excuse to react in a violent, negative manner, [they] took it right away. We're talking ... what is it? 25 years back? 26 years back?
Interviewee: JS: So if you were 21 then, you're almost 50 now. I went the other day to CoCoCabana to the Bukele rally in Langley Park, which is a big Salvadoran neighborhood. We would call it working class, lower middle class. But there, in El Salvador's terms, they're a big middle class community. And I would see a lot of people that knew me, that I knew. And I would think about this second generation. This is now people who may have started as a busboy but now own two and three restaurants. People who may have started as a janitor's helper but now own companies that clean the NIH and government offices downtown, like the Interior Department.
Interviewee: JS: In other words, they've created these big companies, big, wealthy companies. So that's the trajectory of this population. That was an aberration that was both a misunderstanding of a new sociological factor in the life of Washington and the sort of natural fear of very young people who have just come into a new country that is alien to them and that they don't understand and that they are at the bottom of the social ladder. And so they reacted terribly. In other words, they reacted the only way they knew how. They put the bandanas on. They found anything they could - like rocks, or anything.
Interviewee: JS: Curiously enough there were no guns. Here's what I mean. There weren't a lot of guns. There was a board that they smashed through a window and scared the hell out of a bus driver. He was like ... I imagine, but he wasn't injured. He didn't get injured. The cops were more used to drug gangs who had guns and who didn't ... they didn't arouse a massive public reaction. That's what they [the cops] weren't used to. You got into a gun battle with a drug dealer or his crew down in Southeast, and everybody else sort of went and hid. Or called the police and said, "What's happening in my neighborhood?" But nobody ... There wasn't a protest on the street. If people come out of the street the cops would go, "Go back into your apartment, or go back into your homes, we're going to take care of this."
Interviewee: JS: But that didn't work that night on Mount Pleasant. It just didn't, all right? They didn't understand. The rookie probably was like, "Okay I'm going to point a gun. I'm going to shoot him in the shoulder." I don't know. There's some argument about this. I don't really know. The guy is still around, by the way. The homeless guy. He became ... He found Jesus. I don't know if he found Jesus for that night, but he's an evangelist and he's linked to an evangelical church out in ... I believe it's Maryland.
Interviewee: JS: The anniversary is when they come around. A couple of times he's been on radio, I think, or Spanish TV, talking about what happened. But really what happened is it's just a poor rookie officer. The question at that time also became why did MPD send two African American females - one of them a rookie - into a heavily Hispanic neighborhood alone and without much supervision? That's really the basic fundamental reason for this. But again I think the more profound sociological reason is, like I told you, from 1960 to 2010 - which is a 50 year period - you went from 10,000 [Latino] people here to one million.
Interviewee: JS: So if you divide 900,000 by 50, that was close to 100,000 people a year in Washington DC. It was DC and then out to suburbs, but it was always DC. Not anymore, because gentrification has done a good job of that. I shouldn't say a good job, but gentrification has decimated these working class populations in the city. You still find a lot on Texas Avenue and Ward Seven. You find a lot in Langley Park. You find a lot in ... certainly a lot in Arlington and Virginia. But mostly out in Maryland. Hyattsville has large concentrations of Salvadorans. Then of course they're now spread throughout Montgomery County and Loudoun County.
Interviewee: JS: This is a population ... I went to Thanksgiving dinner with a man who is a Spaniard, married to a Salvadoran woman. And the Salvadoran woman, they live in Seat Pleasant in Maryland. And she's had three kids. It's a population that's established, that's settled itself here and established itself here. Because they are so hard working and so focused and dedicated on the economics of things. When I was at that Bukele rally at CoCoCabana, it was $6 a beer, $12 a drink. There were 600 people in that hall. At least 600 people.
Interviewee: JS: They were flipping out the cash, it's mostly cash. They had credit cards too, but mostly cash. And they were buying rounds for the table of 10 or 12 people and hundreds of dollars in alcohol, in sales ... in alcohol sales. It didn't ... How should I say this? It wasn't ... It was a working class audience, but none of them ... I mean they were all well within the sort of lower middle class life of PG County. The PG County executive was there, exhorting them to vote for him. And they have a mayor now, a Salvadoran mayor of ... I forget what that ... It's right across ... It's on Rhode Island, right across the line.
Interviewer: PS: Brentwood.
Interviewee: JS: Yeah. Salvadoran mayor of Brentwood. The county executive had a Latino Affairs Office and she was a Hispanic, a Salvadoran. It's become a tightly little organized community that has done very well for itself. Bukele is seeking financing as well as votes from the exterior, because there's a lot of people with money that are willing to invest in his campaign.
Interviewer: PS: Yeah, and he's not one of the two big parties.
Interviewee: JS: Well the FMLN … I just wrote a little story on it and put it on Facebook. Are we connected on Facebook?
Interviewer: PS: I hope so. I'll check it out to make sure.
Interviewee: JS: Yeah, I wrote a story. And it's on my site, metrodiversity.com. In writing this story I talked about [how] he has a strategy to win. He needs about a million and a half votes and he thinks he can get 200 - 300,000 votes out of Salvadorans in the exterior. The problem is, they've only been allowed to vote outside of El Salvador, I think, two elections. I think the last election, 12,000 people voted. There are two million Salvadorans eligible to vote, both in the United Stated, Australia, Europe and all over the place. But to get them organized and to get them to vote? Even the current ... He's an FMLN guy, he's from the left, but he has rebelled against the FMLN and they got rid of him. They fired him, whatever the hell, October the 10. Because it's like the Democratic Party.
Interviewee: JS: There's a lot of people on the left who are loyal to FMLN that don't like him. Their argument is he's like Trump. They compare him to Trump, but he's really not comparable to Trump. He's comparable to Bernie Sanders, because that's what he's doing. He's attacking the FMLN from the left and the FMLN very much like the Democratic Party is, "Hey, we want you in the party. You're the mayor of San Salvador, but you wait your turn." There are these guys that are in line and once they do it ... You're young, you're 36, 37 years old. You wait your turn."
Interviewee: JS: But in any case, the interesting thing about Bukele, at 37, is attracting a young post-civil war generation. And a lot of that are the people that were the young kids in the Mount Pleasant uprisings in 1991. They were maybe 16 years old, they're 20, 30 years older now. And the Salvadoran communities in the exterior are much more liberal. They're more educated, just because where they are. And it's a base for him. It's a real serious base. They adore them. That night I was just amazed at the thing that was happening.
Interviewee: JS: The shouts of "Nayib, Nayib" when he came in. And the crowd was really raucous. And they did Rushern Baker. They did a whole series of [inaudible]. By the end they were drowning people out. They said, "No, no. We don't want to hear any more, we want to hear him." They were screaming and shouting from the audience, no, no, no. When he gets up he's very good. One of the things he does ... He comes very humbly. He didn't maneuver ... He didn't rouse them or anything. He was aside as this went through. He didn't even raise his hand to stop, or keep going, nothing. He was just there. He's got a beautiful wife.
Interviewee: JS: Then when they finally introduce him ... He spoke for about an hour and 10 minutes. He spoke for about an hour and 10 minutes. And with the question, the Q&A - he does a vigorous Q&A - it was almost an hour and 40 minutes on stage. But what's really interesting, Patrick, is that Salvadorans, it's a working class crowd. So they would interrupt him all the time, and he would feed on that. He would use that and answer the heckler. The whole audience would break up and laughing and ... He would never denigrate anybody like that, but he would actually reflect the comment back to them.
Interviewee: JS: Everybody was ... He kept ... He has the crowd and I've been watching. He went back again now. He went to New York and like that. And these massive crowds. He draws huge, huge crowds in San Salvador. One of the other things, you can read it in the story, but one of the other things that surprised the hell out of me, is he jokes about getting assassinated. He's like, "Oh yeah, this is a movement. So if they kill me, somebody else is going to come along and take people to the ..." What do you call it? To the White House, or to the ...
Interviewer: PS: I was going to say the promised land?
Interviewee: JS: The promised land, that's right. If they kill him there'll be a third and on and on like that, because this is a movement. In terms of politics in El Salvador joking about getting assassinated: not a good idea. You know what I mean?
Interviewer: PS: Wow. Could I ask you a couple of questions about the response of the DC government? Just because you had a bird's eye view of the response the DC government to the riots. What was your interpretation of how the DC government responded both short-term and then long-term responses?
Interviewee: JS: The first thing - I already told you - is that they didn't understand how to deal with this. It was a new phenomenon to the city and they were caught completely by surprise. The paddy wagon - the photo of that burned out paddy wagon, charred paddy wagon, which I think was on my front pages - shook the hell out of the city, certainly the police. What happened almost immediately with the police is they started recruiting out of ... Well they started recruiting out of Puerto Rico, which is kind of weird, because it wasn't Puerto Ricans, it was Salvadorans. But they began ... At that point they began a large recruitment of Latino police, because they had no Latino police. They had very few Latino police.
Interviewee: JS: With the city it ... I don't know if I can say it's the city, but what came out of this is something called the Latino Civil Rights Task Force.
Interviewer: PS: Right. Headed by Pedro Avilés.
Interviewee: JS: Right. I was a newspaper man at the time, and I'm going to tell you my opinion. And forgive me Pedro. I'm not a big Pedro fan, but he really blew that one.
Interviewer: PS: How so?
Interviewee: JS: Well, because it got the attention of the National Civil Rights ... A woman who was very famous at the time. It got everybody's attention. It got the local government's attention. It got the national civil rights ... What was it called? It was ...
Interviewer: PS: It was the US Commission on Civil Rights.
Interviewee: JS: That's right, that's it. The woman that was head of it ... He had everything laid before him. It was like a silver platter. It was like pick and choose what you want. And the DC Latino Civil Rights Task Force ended in virtually nothing.
Interviewer: PS: What do you mean it ended in nothing?
Interviewee: JS: There wasn't really any sort of strong legislation. There wasn't any ... There were a number of sort of press conferences. And he got quoted all the time in the Post. Then suddenly he became the spokesperson. You know who knows this really well, who set up that task force, is Sonia Gutierrez's husband, José Gutierrez. Got the money for it. He was ... Let's see. He wasn't working then, but Marion ... When did Marion come again? That was '91.
Interviewer: PS: '92, I want to say.
Interviewee: JS: I want to say '92 too, but it can't be. She must have just started, and it was '94 that Marion came and '98 that Anthony Williams ... the end of '98. And Williams really started in '99. The key issue is that ... José Gutierrez, I don't know why - because he was related to Marion. He was with Marion. José Gutierrez was able ... I mean Sonia through her husband José was able to locate money to put together this DC Latino Civil Rights Task Force. Pedro was the first sort of head of it but left it very soon after. Two, three years and he was gone.
Interviewer: PS: Then it continued on after that?
Interviewee: JS: Then is just descended from there. The one who's really disappointed about this is José Gutierrez. José Gutierrez is a New Yorker. He was part of the Young Lords and the Puerto Ricans in New York. He set that up with the hope, with the vision, the idea that the Task Force would shake things up. When you talk to him now, he's always disappointed with that. You talk to Sonia and she loves Pedro Avilés and thinks that Pedro did ... everything Pedro does is ... and she'll ... but if you ask her, "Did the Latino Civil Rights Task Force end up doing what it was supposed to?" she'll admit that it didn't. But she'll tell you that after he left it was in very poor hands and that they weren't able to take advantage of it.
Interviewee: JS: She won't blame it on Pedro. But for me, you know, Patrick, had I been given the opportunity to run a civil rights task force for Latinos, God there's so many things ... and I would've stuck with it and kept it going and fought like hell with anybody that wanted to destroy it. Fought like hell to control it. Pedro was upset because they had picked the wrong people for the board. They had picked weak people as staffers, one of which ended up stealing the Task Force blind. A guy names [Flee 00:55:58] Sancho. He had a lot to do with the end and didn't do a very good job. So that was the disappointment from that. Now, you asked about the long term effects?
Interviewer: PS: Yeah I'm looking at long term effects. So the DC Latino Task Force set out a number of proposals and you read the ... They came out with several different publications and said this is what needs to happen, in terms of the Latino community in general. What is your opinion of how the DC government responded. I mean this was a direct result of the riots. How did the DC government respond to that?
Interviewee: JS: DC government had to have at least under one percent. Out of 34,000, maybe 300-400 people that you could describe as Latinos at that time. It's now become maybe 10%. I don't know if it's reached 10% of the total government population. But that's the key outcome. Suddenly everybody decided, wait a minute. We need to have somebody that speaks Spanish. We need to have ... and it became the Hispanic Employees of DC Government started after that, etc, etc, etc.
Interviewer: PS: And that was it? That's all they did?
Interviewee: JS: Well, I mean, I think there are other result of that. But the thing about employment was the key one. Because the government had just neglected or ignored the population until then. Well, when Marion came back, José got a really important position, a leadership position. There were various commanders suddenly. There was a couple of inspectors that were Hispanic. So it was an increase in visibility and employment and leadership, Hispanic leadership. We did a series of things with Franklin Garcia. That's when Franklin came to town.
Interviewer: PS: Who is Franklin Garcia?
Interviewee: JS: He is the shadow representative, the shadow ... He came to town and we did something ... Well it's called a Latino Caucus now, DC Latino Caucus. At that point was it called the Caucus? But we did a series of things over right here, around the corner, on Calvert. For a period of years we created ... Enrique Rivera wrote something called the Latino Agenda. It's a huge document. He spent a lot of time writing, it was very thorough. I remember doing Dan Tangherlini. Do you remember Dan Tangherlini?
Interviewee: JS: Adrian won in '06, he won in 2006. When he won we invited the new city administrator, who was Dan Tangherlini. We invited him to a series ... Well to one lecture, not lecture, one meeting with the Latino leadership, in which we made our demands clear.
Interviewee: JS: There was also a lot of energy around affordability, affordable housing. LEDC became very important in the struggle. We had something called housing counseling services. It went under. About three or four years later LEDC took up the mantle, and there was a lot of advocacy around affordable housing. And Brianne Nadeau - who is the council woman now - when she was running, before she was running, about a year before she ran ... She won this in ... When did she win this? In '12? No, '14, because she's up in '18, that's right. This was 2013. She came to one of the things we did with the Latino agenda, with the Caucus and Franklin and took pictures. Put it up on our website.
Interviewee: JS: When she was running, [former DC City Councilmember] Jim [Graham] called me furious. He said, "What is your picture doing on my competitor's website?" So I had to call Brianne and said, "Brianne, please take that photo down, because I'm getting a lot of heat from Jim." I had to be loyal to Jim, because Jim in terms ... You're asking what happened to ... Jim started in ... It was 16 years. He started, he was elected in '98. The '99 election was Jim's first election. That made a big difference. Jim's coalition was ... I call it the Euro Trash. Bryan Weaver, the white folks. Gays, obviously, and Latinos. He made a big effort. I have a ton of stories of Jim. I don't think we can go into that here, but suffice to say that Jim was very instrumental, not only for me, but for lots of Latinos in this ward.
Interviewer: PS: Yeah I agree. I mean just from the people I've talked to...
Interviewee: JS: When they did the neighborhood ... He changed my life. When they did the neighborhood services ... When Anthony Williams says, "We're going to turn this city around. We're going to have a planner and an activist, if you will, in each ward. We're going to plan things and we're going to carry them out and see that they're done" and stuff like that. I went to interview for the city planner. I was not a planner. I didn't have that experience. So I left and then I went back to, I think, my newspaper. And then Jim called me and said, "You have to apply for this job." I said, "I already did." He said, "No, no this is not the planning job. This is what they call a neighborhood services coordinator."
Interviewee: JS: It was like $76, $78,000 - which wasn't bad. I ended up in six figures in that job. It was an amazing job. The only reason that job worked is Anthony Williams was just unbelievable. He said, "No you have to go and apply for this. It's the alter ego, it's the other job in that cluster." I went to see Neil Albert, who at that point was the director of DC Rec. I will never forget ... Every time I see Neil I remind him of this. I will never forget that interview, because it was a key interview. It was the keynote, keystone component of the mayor's plan to revitalize the city. It was a top level job.
Interviewee: JS: And Neil and I talked about Latin music in New York, because he's from ... I want to say Guyana, but he's from the islands. Yeah. He grew up in a college in New York. We spent about 45 minutes to an hour talking about Latin music in New York City. Which was so funny to be, because the next call I get was from Patrick [Canovan 01:03:08] who was my supervisor for the six, seven years that I was there. And I go into see the city administrator - at that time was Norman Don. Who ... Norman Don then left right away. But they said, "You got the job." And I was like, "How the fuck did I get the job? All I did with him is talk about Latin music." I'm talking about 2001. And I spent five years with the mayor until he finished. It was just an amazing experience. It was very easy for Williams to delegate. He's this very shy, very timid man.
Interviewee: JS: I had my newspaper and I wrote an editorial in English and in Spanish. And the people from Crestwood up Pennsylvania Avenue, which is the area, at that point I think Williams was living in -
Interviewer: PS: Up 16th?
Interviewee: JS: No, up Pennsylvania. In Northeast. Not Crestwood. It's the neighborhood around ... Very active people. Very old time black. It's past Minnesota Avenue going ... It's not Crestwood, but the name is very similar. In any case they were very active. It was old time, very moneyed, black. They came to my office and said, "Could you give us copies of that?" I said, "Sure, get the copies." And they took the editorial in English and showed it to Williams. They tell me that's how he was convinced to run. He read that. He said, "Okay I'll do it." I used to tease Anthony about that all the time. The fact of the matter is, that the ... In 2001 I'm talking about ... The turn-around of the city, it was such that they gave us free ... Dorothy Brazil asked him in a press conference, "Why are you paying these people so much?" And he had a wonderful answer. He says, "Look I need these people to change the culture. They can't do that by being in with the middle level workers. They have to do that with the chief of police or at least with the commander of the districts and the heads of the department."
Interviewee: JS: He said, "If I send somebody down there ..." Which is what happens now, they make 48, 56 [thousand dollars] something like that. Nobody is going to pay attention to these guys. These are like ... They're workers. He said, "The other thing is, that if they're paid that highly out of my office, then whoever speaks to them knows that it's from" ... It was very much from my lips to the mayor's ears. It was a fascinating experience. He was always ... I see him now ... There's a real special affection for those of us that work for him, because he was so easy.
Interviewee: JS: He was so easy to delegate. It was so easy to get along. You made your argument. You said, "Why do we have to do this, and why we do have to do it this way," and you made the argument. And if Patrick stood behind you, you'd go to him and he's say, "Okay and then let's implement it this way." I established a wonderful relationship with Cathy Lanier. Cathy Lanier was doing her masters at Johns Hopkins. And a guy named Luis Cardona. Have you interviewed Luis Cardona?
Interviewer: PS: No, but his name has come up several times.
Interviewee: JS: Yeah he's a gang guy. He's now in Montgomery County, and he's their gang specialist. Louie and I ... She said to me, "I need to get a grip on some of this stuff." I don't understand it. Even then in 2002 or '03, she was the commander of the fourth district, which came all the way down to Park Road at that time. Now they've changed those boundaries. I said, "Well you need to talk to Louie." So I brought Louie to her. And we had these wonderful conversations. She was like ... We finished the first [conversation]. She said, "You need to come back." She was going to Johns Hopkins and she told us after the second or third meeting, she said, "You know, I need to use this for my masters, because this is really good."
Interviewee: JS: Louie did this thing - we both did this thing - but did this thing about you guys have it kind of all wrong. Because something happens on a corner and you flood the corner. That corner is flooded with cops for three days, six days, two weeks. But nobody who's going to mug somebody, or steal, or rob, or assault, or anything like that is going to go back to the same place, because it don't make any sense. They know what's happening there. She did a proposal in her masters thesis, that Ramsey, Chief Ramsey ... I spent all day yesterday trying to remember his name.
Interviewee: JS: That Chief Ramsey took and implemented throughout the city and ... What she said was: You take crime stats from let's say three months. Just as an example. You take it from ???? time and you mark it in your district, or wherever you're ... Then you do a mobile police unit. You take down the times and the places and you do a mobile police unit that moves. It doesn't sit still. It's not at the police headquarters. It's not in a 7-Eleven or in a lobby somewhere. They're moving. And they move through these different areas that are impacted areas that always have ... Euclid and 17th Street for instance. It worked really well. And she had ... Her stats were much better than all the others and when Ramsey got about it.
Interviewee: JS: I did a meeting with Ramsey and her and Louie and I and a Post reporter named Sylvia Moreno. One of the finest articles. I've never seen somebody who could take all that information, because it was a large meeting and Ramsey was listening. And we were telling him and Cathy Lanier, and blah, blah, blah. It was a great meeting. She actually took that meeting and put it in the Post; did a full page with photos, a story and there wasn't ... I called her. I saw her; we hung out more then. I said, "That was amazing to me. There was not one mistake in it. You didn't have one flaw in it. That's amazing reporting."
Interviewee: JS: She was already a veteran and then she took the buyout maybe a year or two years later. And she's no longer at the Post. That's one of the great, great articles on community policing that I've ever read in the Washington Post.
Interviewer: PS: I'll take a look. In terms of the community, how did the Mount Pleasant riots and the aftermath - from your perspective having been a part of whatever we would call the DC Latino community for some time - what was the response of other Latinos in the DC Latino community to the riots?
Interviewee: JS: Well, let's see if I can get this sentence right. The uprising in Mount Pleasant was the most prominent even in the history of the Latino community. It is the only time that DC's Latino community was national news. The aftermath of the uprising for years was when people would meet people who were Hispanic from Washington DC, the first thing they'd ask you about is, what ever happened in that riot? That ended up being overshadowed when Marion Barry smoked some crack at a hotel. And whenever somebody nationwide, or internationally came, the first thing they talked about was Marion. But for a long time we made history. I'm not trying to be ... It's not positive, or I don't want to put a positive, or a negative on it. But we made history. So in that sense, Patrick, there was a great deal of confidence that built up after that. A great deal of self confidence.
Interviewer: PS: Among whom?
Interviewee: JS: In the community. In terms of the way we approached city government, there was a great many more demands and expectations. And I think - I don't know how you would study this, you'd have to go back and look - but there was a greater amount of resources - of financial resources - that were focused on Hispanics in this city.
Interviewer: PS: In terms of personal reactions, did you get a feel for how people were reacting after the event? Weeks after, months after?
Interviewee: JS: Like I said, there was much more confidence. There was much more awareness. Because these kids that we're talking about - kids again - were hidden. They were a hidden community. Nobody knew they were around; the police didn't know they were around. And suddenly they came to light after that in a big, big way. In a big way.
Interviewee: JS: In many ways I would suggest that ... Sharon Pratt's sort of not getting it, sort of this cluelessness about "who are these people?" helped her lose the election against Marion. Marion was very close to the Latino community. I work today with associations. The association of builders - of construction. I work with something called Metro DC Hispanic Contractors Association. These are all builders. They're all construction or commercial contracting, having to do with construction.
Interviewee: JS: And Marion ... The chair of my association that I report to, that I work with, is Carlos Perdomo. His father, Eduardo Perdomo, who was the president of the Hispanic festival many times and was the first real big builder here after Angel Rubin and Rubin and [Jernado 01:13:49] in Fort Myers, Jose Rodriguez. Marion and Angel Rubin were really, really close up until his death. Up until ... Not Rubin, Rubin is alive. We just did a thing in October where we recognized him. Him and José Gutierrez - I mean José Rodriguez. Marion may have been personally ... He had loose morals, a certain immorality if you will, but professionally he was never corrupt. The FBI tried to get him and they could never, because he was never corrupt. Marion gave more opportunities. All that gold coast where you were talking about Crestwood and all that. You can thank Marion. People don't understand why Marion is almost a patron saint here in Washington DC. But he literally, single handedly created the black middle class and the Latino middle class. In contracting opportunities, the way Marion used to work is, there were 15 or 20 companies at the beginning, let's say, that were bidding. And he'd go through them all. And if he could get them a contract - a city contract - he would.
Interviewer: PS: These are minority companies?
Interviewee: JS: These are minority - they're all minorities. Mostly black. But a very important sector of Hispanics got their start with him. He would go through until everybody was sort of more or less satisfied. And then, "Okay let's start a new list." And he opened up opportunities wildly. I mean, we had a fundraiser for Marion when he ran for Ward Eight. We raised $25,000 in one lunch at La Taberna del Alabardero. At a private room in this very fancy Spanish restaurant. And everybody there was a heavy hitter in the Latino community. And everybody there - I'm talking about the construction sector now - could trace their origins back to the beginnings of Marion Barry.
Interviewer: PS: From the ‘80s?
Interviewee: JS: Yeah.
Interviewer: PS: Where are these Latinos from? Do you know?
Interviewee: JS: Eduardo was a Colombian. His good buddy José Rodriguez was Puerto Rican. Arlene Gillespie was Puerto Rican, but he had Salvadorans ... just about everybody, Patrick. He was equal opportunity, baby. Equal opportunity.
Interviewer: PS: Did he get a lot of flack? Because I remember for being ... He had a lot of accusations for being corrupt and for enriching the pockets of his friends and ...
Interviewee: JS: Well, you know, Ivanhoe [Donaldson] went to jail. His number one guy went to jail. But I can't tell you about that. What I can tell you about is how generous he was with our community. He was really remarkable. Sonia tells a story of ... In two incidents she tells the story of Marion, which is really beautiful. She says as soon as he won in '79, '80, that she was in the audience at a community event sitting on an aisle seat. And Marion walked up - it was a black audience. In front of everybody he kneeled before Sonia and whispered in her ear and had a conversation before he got up. She said, "That was pretty significant, because he was telling the black community this lady who represents the Hispanics, she's my lady."
Interviewee: JS: Then she tells a story that ten years after that, she walked up - he walked up through an audience, and he wouldn't even say hello to her. He walked right by her. It's a funny thing with politicians, you know that? When they begin, they try and show as much humility as they can. But once they've won once or twice and they've got all the trappings of office, they get very arrogant. Well, I would say something else, but I can't say it on the record, but in any case.
Interviewer: PS: It's okay, we'll save that for after. In kind of the big picture, if you look back at the Latino community since the riots, have things improved for the Latino community?
Interviewee: JS: Sure, of course they have.
Interviewer: PS: How so?
Interviewee: JS: Well, the first generation was low working class. Like I said before, they were cleaning buildings. They were acting as busboys and sous chefs and laborers on construction sites. I'm talking about the three main industries. There were a lot more, but it was basically cleaning - commercial cleaning. And I'm reflecting what's in my association now. So it's commercial cleaning, restaurants. Even today, restaurants. I work with Jair Lynch who bought a building at 1111 Massachusetts. I would laugh and I would say, "Jair, how the hell did you buy this building?" I had left government, but Johanna from the office of tenant advocate ... And Jair went and said, "I have a building." He had five buildings, but this one in particular was out of control.
Interviewee: JS: She said, "Well you have to talk to Jose." And I went. I worked for him for almost two years. Very, very cool guy. His shop is part of our association. His comptroller is our treasurer. I'll never forget that, because that was 1111 Massachusetts. And when I went in, it was a bloody mess. People would come home. A large part of the population in that building were waiters and busboys and chefs on the restaurants, then opening up on 14th Street. That whole 14th Street. I used to tease Jair . I said, "You know, If the people at 1111 Massachusetts went on strike, half the restaurants on 14th Street couldn't open."
Interviewee: JS: But when I got there he said, "You need to help me." Because he got them with tax credits. He got them with money from the California Teacher's Pension Fund. And Jair was tickled. He had 22 buildings and over 500 units. And they were all Hispanic, all of them. Mexican. 1111 was Mexican, not even Salvadoran. The others were Salvadoran. He had one on 14th Street. He had two on George Avenue. One, they called Takoma, was almost all at the end. Todo Latino. It was amazing how ...
Interviewer: PS: When was this?
Interviewee: JS: Well, he bought them ... McFarland was here at the end of Williams. So he bought them between Williams ... This is 2006, somewhere around there. I went into that place and I was like, "You got to be fucking kidding me. Jair, I would like to be a fly on the wall and watch you sign these papers." Because these buildings, they were a disaster. He went in and invested a lot of money in them. A lot. So they looked okay. They didn't have a lot of violations. But you had people shitting and peeing in the hallways. You had this system where all these guys finished at 1:00, 2:00 in the morning and would be drinking and they'd come back...
Interviewee: JS: And they'd knock on the door and you gave them $20 and they'd give you a six pack. Or you knocked on the door and they'd give you a little bag, a $40 bag of cocaine, or ... I mean you could get anything in that building. It was like a smorgasbord. He had to have information, because it was affordability building. You got your tax credit, because it was affordable. And when I went there he had 33%. In other words, almost 70% didn't sign anything, didn't ... And they wouldn't throw them out, because it was like, "What do I do?" When I left it was less than five percent. I was very proud of that. It became less than three percent after I left.
Interviewee: JS: But you know, he paid me very, very well. I was very happy working for him. It was like 10 hours a week. I could live on the 20 hours a week. But was hard work, because I knocked on every god damn door ... I knocked on every door and more than once. I ended up ... at the end of that there was ... I'll tell you exactly how many there were. There were 167 units. At the end of that job - after two years - I knew every single ... I mean I knew ... If I didn't know the person, I knew the story behind every single unit. And it was just elbow. You had to knock on the door, write it down. "Okay, I came such a day, they didn't show up." Try and show up at a different hour. I would show up on weekends. I would show up at night.
Interviewee: JS: Then we did other things. They had a ... First of all he had a management group here. I said, "Jair , these management people, they don't even have one person that speaks Spanish." Not only that, they're ... They were African American mostly. But their modus operandi was to scream like shit in front of these other people's face. After a while nobody wanted to deal with them, so he changed the management company. Then I told him, I said, "Jair," the guards were getting into trouble, were pointing guns at people in the halls and stuff. Or banging on doors - boom, boom, boom, boom! Scaring the living hell out of most of them.
Interviewee: JS: That building had to be easily 70% undocumented. Easily. So that was the second problem. He actually ... Jair spent a ton of money. Sold them and sold them very, very well; made a lot of money off the sale. But at that point he was losing money left and right, because ... so he got a consultant that was a retired cop that I knew. And we talked about community policing: what we had done in other buildings. And he was hip to it. So Jair said, "You okay with this?" This guy says, "Yeah, yeah we work fine." Then they brought a different group of police in.
Interviewee: JS: And whenever something flared up, this guy - who was probably being paid like me, very well - he would come in and he would face-to-face it and say, "What happened here? Why is this a problem?" And it ended up ... and then the third thing that was so unique is I got a tenant president. I was lucky. I got a tenant president who was a Mexican bartender: Bruno. Bruno was his name. And Bruno and I got along famously. Famously. And he told me, he said, "We're all pretty good in this." He said, "The problems are isolated, four, maybe five, maybe eight." And quietly him and I would talk about it. I would say, "Yeah I knocked on that door. It seemed they from behind went 'Quien es?' and then they wouldn't open." I said, "There's something going on."
Interviewee: JS: And then he came up with so many brilliant suggestions that another owner - not Jair - would've told him to go fuck himself. They wanted people out. People was over crowding. These were very small units. They went from 237 square feet to about ... the largest ones were like this, about 700 square feet. But there were like five of these. They were all really tiny. They were either studios, efficiencies and some one bedrooms. Maybe I think that was one tier - six apartments - that were two bedrooms. So I said, "Bruno he's got to move people out. Because if DCRA, or DACD has to report back to the Feds, because it's federal money. If there's over crowding and they come and the inspector sees that there's over crowding, the tax credit, they're going to revoke the tax credit."
Interviewee: JS: So Bruno had a very good idea. He said, "You know he's got all over and really key places - buildings. Couldn't we ..." We rented buses on Saturdays and we took people up to the different places. People are like, "This is nice." Because 1111 had nothing for kids, because it was right downtown. It had a great school that was a hassle, harassment, because the school was yada, yada, "power to the people." They had been organizing news conferences against Jair. Jair was flipping out. I go, "What the fuck is going on?" But we were able to relocate and ... It was just a great experience. This whole aside that I'm telling you is a little bit about how people progressed. I mean I know a lot of those families would go to these garden apartments. Fort Totten, it's called, I think.
Interviewee: JS: It's not Fort Totten. It's up 14th Street, past Missouri Avenue. I don't know if they call that Fort Dupont, I don't know what it is. It's not Fort Dupont, it's not Fort Totten, but it's up there above 16th Street. These were - and in Takoma- these were garden apartments that had lots of land. So kids could play. The one in Takoma was great. You had your kitchen, you could look out, and there was an enclosed grassy area. Big grassy area. So mothers could tell kids you can go out and play there, but I have to be able to see you. And they had plenty of places to run and frolic and whatever. So all of it worked out really well. But you take that family who was putting their child into that school right across the street there on Mass and 11th ... but that kid had no place to play, and he was enclosed in that apartment afterwards and there was jammed in five kids and two parents in a studio. When there was pushback, because people were like, "No I'm fine here." I would say, "Look there are apartments where stepdad is sleeping with mom and in the bed behind them is stepdaughter who is now 13 and guess where stepdad ends up that evening. You see what I mean?" That family then moves to an affordable place in Takoma and ... Not that family, but I mean a family - spreads out and the upbringing - the whole thing - is healthier. And those families ...
Interviewee: JS: Now those families even ... I'm talking about 10 years. Those families now have another ... If we're talking about a population that increased exponentially over two generations, then this is the third generation. In other words, these are born here and these are kids that ... Their parents didn't do gaming. The kids do gaming. Their parents don't do computers. The kids do computers. Another thing that we did at 1111 and I'm so proud of. We worked with CARECEN. And we brought CARECEN in the building and we sat them in the lobby. We said, "If you have to register for your unit and you don't have a social security, you can use a TIN, a Tax Identification Number. You don't have to go anywhere.
Interviewee: JS: CARECEN will come and fill out the form and send the TIN in for you. And it's automatic. You're not going to get a visit from somebody. You're not going to be rejected. It's tied to this address. So the tax credit people were like, "That's fine." That's how we resolved that. Because the prior management had said, "No, no, no. If you're undocumented you can't be here." We went in and said, "Wait a minute. Wait a minute." All of that I attribute to Jair. By the way, Jair has gotten out of all the affordability shit immediately. He's now doing high-end stuff. He just built a building for 25 million dollars and sold it for 125 million in less than six months.
Interviewer: PS: Where was this building?
Interviewee: JS: It's on 8th Street. It's on 6th and 8th, Northeast, the Northeast H Street corridor.
Interviewee: JS: But the curious thing is he had the deal locked up before he started to build. And he built this beautiful damn building with retail on the bottom. He had CVS in the building before he finished the building, and he had ... I think it was a post office, or a government ... In other words, he had the whole thing set up before he started to build. Jair was a ... He's of a Colombian mother, that's why the name Jair (Jairo). African American father. From the age of eight they trained him for the Olympics and he won a silver medal in ... I don't think it was combined gymnastics. I think it was either the rings, or I think it may have been the double bars, but he won a medal.
Interviewee: JS: When I used to introduce him, when I was working for him - I loved him - I'd say, "This is Jair , he's the silver standard." I wouldn't say the gold standard, because he won the silver medal. So I would say, "This is the silver standard."
Interviewer: PS: He was in the Olympics?
Interviewee: JS: He was in the Olympics, the '96 Olympics. He went to Stanford. He's another one that went to Stanford. And you got to ... I mean we gave him an award a year ago, April 27 of '16. And another one of our board members, ??? Alfonso, got an award that day too. And he took the stage and he said, "Okay I want to be the first one right here from stage to nominate Jair for mayor." Then Jair got up and teased the other guy and said, "No, I'm not doing no mayor, or anything like that." But he really is a remarkable cat. The only thing is that he grew and prospered under Williams. When Adrian came in, he was like, "I don't know." He threw this guy the California guy that was putting up all the money, threw him out. He wanted to build a stadium, he wanted to own the soccer club. He said, "We're not going to deal with you and stuff." But Jair was already settled enough. He just got one of his latest contracts - was Half Street, over there by the stadium, the soccer - I mean the baseball stadium. He's building a luxury condo over there. He's been very, very successful. I don't know how that answers your question.
Interviewer: PS: No, I mean that goes a little bit towards ... I mean personal stories go a long way towards answering the collective story, whether the Latino community is improving or not.
Interviewee: JS: Yeah I don't think anybody will ... I don't think there's anybody that will argue that this community is less prosperous, less advanced socially, or less integrated in the larger community now than it was then. I think all of those metrics have improved.
Interviewer: PS: Now, my question is does any of that have to do with what we've been talking about the riots? For example, if I were someone who is not involved in city government at the time. If I were a ... Let's say I was a Salvadoran who came a few years ago and settled in an apartment building, say on 14th Street, in 1991. To what extent is my life actually being affected at all by either the riots, or anything that changes, because of that?
Interviewee: JS: Well, I think the way to answer that is, if you look at population increase in the District of Columbia of ... Let's just take Salvadorans - I would say Latinos in general - but let's just take Salvadorans. You'll see that even though there was some sort of increase, the percentage-wise is still the same. They will tell you six to eight percent. I would suggest it's more like 10 to 12, but that's because I think two or three points, are not ... a lot of them are not counted. A lot of them are still undocumented. The point being that, what that did in '91 is blow the population out. I was surprised about the numbers. I was surprised because I thought they were low in PG County.
Interviewee: JS: But when I went to CoCoCabana the other night, that Rushern Baker, who was running, would come, is an indication that the Salvadoran community in PG is much more important. In other words, what that indicates to you is there's been a diaspora from the city to the suburbs.
Interviewer: PS: That's because of the riots you think?
Interviewee: JS: Because of the gentrification of the city. Yeah. But the riots play a part in it.
Interviewer: PS: How so?
Interviewee: JS: Well, I mean once that was over and the city started to change from say '91 to 2001 ... those 10 years the city was changing. A lot of Salvadorans ... LEDC had a great many clients. That was the LEDC housing, counseling. There were three or four other organizations that just dealt with the Hispanic population. A lot of those populations became very sophisticated. And they would live in a place that a developer wanted to develop that was a slum house and they'd exact ... Arnold and Porter was big on this. What's this guy's name? I never liked him much, but what's his name? He's retired now and he still does this. He was one of their big, big lawyers that took on a lot of these cases. Everybody made a lot of money on those cases and tenants too.
Interviewer: PS: What cases? What types of cases were those?
Interviewee: JS: It was selling buildings. There were slumlords. They would start getting squeezed, and there was more activism after '91. The Latino Civil Rights Task Force took on some of this, too. And so they would get organized, and they would demand. And the owner would be like, "I've had enough. Let me sell." Then kicked in the new law, which was the tenant's right of first refusal. And those Latino buildings got very sophisticated. They would sell them and get out, but they would get out with a down payment on a house. They would get out, some as much as 40, $50,000 each.
Interviewer: PS: Interesting.
Interviewee: JS: And what would they do? They wouldn't relocate in the city, they would go out to places like Seat Pleasant, Hyattsville. Mostly PG and to a certain extent Montgomery County. Those populations grew immensely. There is in Northern Virginia, but Maryland ... it's more a more friendly and a more comfortable relationship with Salvadorans.
Interviewee: JS: So after '91 the communities became ... The Salvadoran community became much more sophisticated. But this led to a diaspora regionally from city out. That's why I'm saying: the Hispanic population hasn't really grown that much in the city. And whatever it's growth, it still remains a six, to eight, to ten percent portion. And it's a very different population now. Because they're a more professional, more middle class population. It used to be that Ward 4 had more Hispanics than anybody, followed by Ward 1. Now it's maybe Ward 3, followed by Ward 4 and Ward 1. So you see what the nature of that is in town. Now, I may not be very accurate in that. But I certainly do know that there's a lot.
Interviewee: JS: When I've gone to Franklin stuff and rallies, there's a lot of middle class people from the Hill and a different kind of population. Not that the ... like me and others in my building have been here a long time. But the newer migrations are young people seeking a political job, or the new entrepreneurial class. A lot of people ... You know my organization, we sort of took the organization over in '13. From 2010-13, they had an average of eight members. Eight! You know we now have 76 paid, bona fide members? And they're all ... virtually all of them are business owners.
Interviewee: JS: We just got four new cleaning companies that have joined in the last month, and business is booming. Construction is booming. And the Latino sector in construction, forget about it!
Interviewee: JS: Yeah, I always say this - and I don't mean it as racist or anything - but you put a white guy who has a little company to do a subcontracting job. It's his company. You put a black guy, an African American, who has his own construction company. And a Latino guy before a developer, or an architect, or a general contractor? A majority of the time, they'll pick the ... We have now, we're doing these safety seminars. Why? Because you get on a job. There's a problem with something in a chute, or a scaffold, or a tower. You go, "Look we're behind schedule. That has to be fixed." You get a Latino guy, he'll climb up the tower and fix it with no protection!
Interviewee: JS: The way our guys say it is 64% of accidents on construction sites are to Hispanics.
Interviewer: PS: I'm not surprised.
Interviewee: JS: That's the ... That's where it's going, but if you ask ... The riots in '91 gave a bump, if you want to look at it that way. It was very negative. In many ways it was violent. It was destructive. But in terms of development of this community that was already largely here at that point, that had grown incredibly, it was a bump that generated greater opportunity. It generated greater awareness of this community. As I said, historically it's the most famous incident that ever happened to the Latino community in Washington. It was the only time the Latino community in Washington, DC made national news. Good or bad. And it created a much more sophisticated community, much more lively community. A community that wasn't so inhibited about expressing ... about demonstrating its power and being more up front, or more in-your-face kind of thing. To a Salvadoran community which is not used to that. It's really not. That's why this whole Bukele ... I encourage you to check out this Bukele phenomenon. He's got 15 months yet and he's been here three or four times already. So he'll be back.
Interviewer: PS: Smart man.
Interviewee: JS: Well I don't know if it's smart. I write in the story, I said, "There have been other candidates that said I can do this with the people in the ..." But organizing the people outside of El Sal? And you know, the Salvadoran government puts as much road blocks in their voting as they possibly can, like it feels like here. I got to go the bathroom, I'll be right back.