On the Trail of Border Tomatoes, Ballet Folklorico and Sgt. Cheddar’s

It’s the time of year tomato lovers dread the most. As the local harvests in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and far west Texas wind down, the prospect of hard, industrialized tomatoes on the plate frightens the taste buds. But alas, relief is in store in a few places like the Downtown Artist and Farmers Market (DAFM) in El Paso, Texas.

On a recent Saturday market day, the folks from La Semilla Food Center’s farm in nearby Anthony, New Mexico, had fresh red Romas and cute yellow pear tomatoes for the eye to behold.
A bulging Brandywine tomato that resembled a small pumpkin held down table items on a breezy day.  Looking not unlike a grape, the yellow pear tomato is a prolific one, being an “interminable” plant “that keeps giving” while other varieties die off, according to Cristina Dominguez Eshelman, La Semilla’s farm director.

“They are like nature’s treat. They are so sweet,” Dominguez Eshelman exalted.

A man stopping at La Semilla’s stand was soon in agreement with the farm manager after tasting the small, oddly shaped tomato. “It’s good,” he declared in Spanish to the reporter. In sharp contrast to last year, 2014 was a good one for tomatoes at La Semilla, Dominguez Eshelman said.

Melissa Calderon, co-owner of Luna Farm in Chaparral, New Mexico, is another stalwart tomato supplier at the DAFM. She also sells home-grown “mini-greens,” okra, spinach, green onions, fresh herbs, and beans.

“Next week I’ll have sweet tomatoes. We’ll have it for Food Day,” Calderon vowed.

Farming on a quarter-acre of land with a 300 square-foot greenhouse, Calderon’s family has seed-growing around the calendar to keep the customers satisfied at the year-round DAFM.  According to the southern New Mexico grower, her farm does not use pesticides, makes its own compost for fertilizer and harvests rain water for farming purposes.

“We don’t do hydroponics. We believe God gave us dirt to filter all that,” Calderon added.

Along with the other vendors at the DAFM, Luna Farm and La Semilla are gearing up for the market’s annual Food Day, which this year falls on Saturday, October 25. Valerie Venecia, DAFM coordinator, outlined an event where invincible tomatoes will share the spotlight with food trucks, music, yoga sessions, bicyclists, and folkloric ballet performances. Keeping in sync with a family-friendly atmosphere, a Halloween costume contest and a scavenger hunt will keep the children busy, Venecia told FNS. Healthy eating and active living are the principal messages of Food Day, Venecia said.

“Last year we had over 2,000 people and we anticipate that many if not more,” she said.

Food Day likewise provides an opportunity to savor the culinary fusion between local farmers and chefs. For instance, Sgt. Cheddar’s Food Truck will use tomatoes from La Semilla and basil from the Healthy Harvest Farm of El Paso’s Lower Valley as ingredients in its gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, according to Venecia.

Apart from food and fun, visitors to the October 25 event will encounter local arts and crafts.  Photographer Charles Bloomfield, who moved to El Paso from Los Angeles nine years ago, is a market regular. Working in both color and black-and-white, Bloomfield has pictures ranging from postcard to poster size.

Bloomfield’s images embrace pecan orchards, the Concordia Cemetery where notable Pasenos are interred, the San Elizario chapel, and a shot of neighboring Ciudad Juarez that looks like it was taken close-up but which was actually done with a zoom-lens from this side of the border.

Perhaps the most imposing samples from Bloomfield’s portfolio are his photos of the falling stacks of the old American Smelting and Refining Company’s smelter, which were demolished amid great public controversy on April 13, 2013.

“It was one of those things that was controversial for two years, and people would want these, Bloomfield said. “It was a good move. It didn’t serve a purpose for what it was, and it contaminated a lot of people’s lives,” he opined of the demolition.

The border photographer did not make it to the next day’s demolition of El Paso City Hall, but he does have previously taken, original photos for the historical record that show how the seat of city government once stood where the Chihuahuas minor league baseball team now plays in Southwest University Park.

Firmly implanted on Anthony Street in El Paso’s Union Plaza district, the DAFM is part of a new business landscape that is slowly taking shape in a historic area of the Texas border city.  Off to the side of the DAFM’s Anthony Street main drag, restaurants and watering holes such as Tabla inject new life into a 100-year-structure.

Tabla owner Norbert Portillo said he is still assessing the spill-over effect of the DAFM on his own business.  But Portillo suggested that the market might be better suited for the surrounding alley-like streets so as to keep Anthony Street open. “It’s working fine but I think we can revisit the logistics of it,” Portillo said.

A handful of non-DAFM vendors like Myra Regalado are already setting up  stands on the street sides.  Specializing in toys and Mexican curios, Regalado said she is also assessing the benefits of positioning her goods near the bigger Saturday morning market.

“We’ll see how it goes, probably in a few weeks,” Regaldo told FNS.

For her part, Melissa Calderon said she remained firmly committed to bringing the bounty of the land to the DAFM throughout the year.

And in the near future, when tomato fanatics are craving the plump and juicy treats of the harvest season, Calderon expects to have a batch of “Czechoslovakian” tomatoes she is growing from seed obtained via the Internet.

“Tomatoes are always lined up in pots in light,” she reported. “We like to emphasize buy locally-support your local farmers, community-based.”

For tomato lovers in the borderland, then, not all is bleak.

To see a map of El Paso’s Downtown Artist and Farmers Market: http://www.elpasotexas.gov/mcad/downtown_market.asp

-Kent Paterson

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

For a free electronic subscription
email: fnsnews@nmsu.edu


The Imperative of Revolt



Posted on Oct 19, 2014

By Chris Hedges

Protesters chant as they are arrested at the intersection of Wall Street and Broad Street in New York on Sept. 22. The protesters, many of whom were affiliated with Occupy Wall Street, were pointing to the connection between capitalism and environmental destruction. AP/Seth Wenig

TORONTO—I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin, who wrote the books “Politics and Vision” and “Democracy Incorporated,” and Saul, who wrote “Voltaire’s Bastards” and “The Unconscious Civilization,” see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers. Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.

“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”

“The collapse started in 1973,” Saul continued. “There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy or Red Toryism. It was an understanding that we can’t have boom-and-bust cycles. We can’t have poverty-stricken people. We can’t have starvation. The reason today’s collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?”

This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book “Democracy Incorporated.”

Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous. The old systems of governance—electoral politics, an independent judiciary, a free press and the Constitution—appear to be venerated. But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.

The corporate state, Wolin told me at his Oregon home, is “legitimated by elections it controls.” It exploits laws that once protected democracy to extinguish democracy; one example is allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions in the name of our First Amendment right to free speech and our right to petition the government as citizens. “It perpetuates politics all the time,” Wolin said, “but a politics that is not political.” The endless election cycles, he said, are an example of politics without politics, driven not by substantive issues but manufactured political personalities and opinion polls. There is no national institution in the United States “that can be described as democratic,” he said.

The mechanisms that once allowed the citizen to be a participant in power—from participating in elections to enjoying the rights of dissent and privacy—have been nullified. Money has replaced the vote, Wolin said, and corporations have garnered total power without using the cruder forms of traditional totalitarian control: concentration camps, enforced ideological conformity and the physical suppression of dissent. They will avoid such measures “as long as that dissent remains ineffectual,” he said. “The government does not need to stamp out dissent. The uniformity of imposed public opinion through the corporate media does a very effective job.”

The state has obliterated privacy through mass surveillance, a fundamental precondition for totalitarian rule, and in ways that are patently unconstitutional has stripped citizens of the rights to a living wage, benefits and job security. And it has destroyed institutions, such as labor unions, that once protected workers from corporate abuse.

Inverted totalitarianism, Wolin has written, is “only in part a state-centered phenomenon.” It also represents “the political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry.”

Corporate power works in secret. It is unseen by the public and largely anonymous. Politicians and citizens alike often seem blissfully unaware of the consequences of inverted totalitarianism, Wolin said in the interview. And because it is a new form of totalitarianism we do not recognize the radical change that has gradually taken place. Our failure to grasp the new configuration of power has permitted the corporate state to rob us through judicial fiat, a process that culminates in a disempowered population and omnipotent corporate rulers. Inverted totalitarianism, Wolin said, “projects power upwards.” It is “the antithesis of constitutional power.”

“Democracy has been turned upside down,” Wolin said. “It is supposed to be a government for the people, by the people. But it has become an organized form of government dominated by groups that are only vaguely, if at all, responsible or responsive to popular needs and popular demands. At the same time, it retains a patina of democracy. We still have elections. They are relatively free. We have a relatively free media. But what is missing is a crucial, continuous opposition that has a coherent position, that is not just saying no, no, no, that has an alternative and ongoing critique of what is wrong and what needs to be remedied.”

Wolin and Saul, echoing Karl Marx, view unfettered and unregulated capitalism as a revolutionary force that has within it the seeds of its own self-annihilation. It is and always has been deeply antagonistic to participatory democracy, they said. Democratic states must heavily regulate and control capitalism, for once capitalism is freed from outside restraint it seeks to snuff out democratic institutions and abolish democratic rights that are seen—often correctly—as an impediment to maximizing profit. The more ruthless and pronounced global corporate capitalism becomes, the greater the loss of democratic space.

“Capitalism is destructive because it has to eliminate customs, mores, political values, even institutions that present any kind of credible threat to the autonomy of the economy,” Wolin said. “That is where the battle lies. Capitalism wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political order subservient to the needs of the economy. The [capitalist’s] notion of an economy, while broadly based in the sense of a relatively free entrance and property that is relatively widely dispersed, is as elitist as any aristocratic system.”

Wolin and Saul said they expect the state, especially in an age of terminal economic decline, to employ more violent and draconian forms of control to keep restive populations in check. This coercion, they said, will fuel discontent and unrest, which will further increase state repression.

“People with power use the tools they have,” Saul said. “As the West has gradually lost its economic tool it has turned to what remains, which are military tools and violence. The West still has the most weaponry. Even if they are doing very badly economically in a global sense, they can use the weaponry to replace the economics or replace competition.”

“They decided that capitalism and the market was about the right to have the cheapest possible goods,” Saul said. “That is what competition meant. This is a lie. No capitalist philosopher ever said that. As you bring the prices down below the capacity to produce them in a middle-class country you commit suicide. As you commit suicide you have to ask, ‘How do we run this place?’ And you have to run it using these other methods—bread and circuses, armies, police and prisons.”

The liberal class—which has shriveled under the corporate onslaught and a Cold War ideology that held up national security as the highest good—once found a home in the Democratic Party, the press, labor unions and universities. It made reform possible. Now, because it is merely decorative, it compounds the political and economic crisis. There is no effective organized opposition to the rise of a neofeudalism dominated a tiny corporate oligarchy that exploits workers and the poor.

“The reform class, those who believe that reform is possible, those who believe in humanism, justice and inclusion, has become incredibly lazy over the last 30 or 40 years,” Saul said. “The last hurrah was really in the 1970s. Since then they think that getting a tenured position at Harvard and waiting to get a job in Washington is actually an action, as opposed to passivity.”

“One of the things we have seen over the last 30 or 40 years is a gradual silencing of people who are doctors or scientists,” Saul said. “They are silenced by the managerial methodology of contracts. You sign an employment contract that says everything you know belongs to the people who hired you. You are not allowed to speak out. Take that [right] away and you have a gigantic educated group who has a great deal to say and do, but they are tied up. They don’t know how to untie themselves. They come out with their Ph.D. They are deeply in debt. The only way they can get a job is to give up their intellectual freedom. They are prisoners.”

Resistance, Wolin and Saul agreed, will begin locally, with communities organizing to form autonomous groups that practice direct democracy outside the formal power structures, including the two main political parties. These groups will have to address issues such as food security, education, local governance, economic cooperation and consumption. And they will have to sever themselves, as much as possible, from the corporate economy.

Richard Rorty talked about how you take power,” Saul said. “You go out and win the school board elections. You hold the school board. You reform the schools. Then you win the towns. And you stay there. And you hold it for 30 to 40 years. And gradually you bring in reforms that improve things. It isn’t about three years in Washington on a contract. There has to be a critical mass of leaders willing to ruin their lives as part of a large group that figures out how to get power and hold power at all of these levels, gradually putting reforms in place.”

I asked them if a professional revolutionary class, revolutionists dedicated solely to overthrowing the corporate state, was a prerequisite. Would we have to model any credible opposition after Vladimir Lenin’s disciplined and rigidly controlled Bolsheviks or Machiavelli’s republican conspirators? Wolin and Saul, while deeply critical of Lenin’s ideology of state capitalism and state terror, agreed that creating a class devoted full time to radical change was essential to fomenting change. There must be people, they said, willing to dedicate their lives to confronting the corporate state outside traditional institutions and parties. Revolt, for a few, must become a vocation. The alliance between mass movements and a professional revolutionary class, they said, offers the best chance for an overthrow of corporate power.

“It is extremely important that people are willing to go into the streets,” Saul said. “Democracy has always been about the willingness of people to go into the streets. When the Occupy movement started I was pessimistic. I felt it could only go a certain distance. But the fact that a critical mass of people was willing to go into the streets and stay there, without being organized by a political party or a union, was a real statement. If you look at that, at what is happening in Canada, at the movements in Europe, the hundreds of thousands of people in Spain in the streets, you are seeing for the first time since the 19th century or early 20th century people coming into the streets in large numbers without a real political structure. These movements aren’t going to take power. But they are a sign that power and the respect for power is falling apart. What happens next? It could be dribbled away. But I think there is the possibility of a new generation coming in and saying we won’t accept this. That is how you get change. A new generation comes along and says no, no, no. They build their lives on the basis of that no.”

But none of these mass mobilizations, Saul and Wolin emphasized, will work unless there is a core of professional organizers.

“Anarchy is a beautiful idea, but someone has to run the stuff,” Saul said. “It has to be run over a long period of time. Look at the rise and fall of the Chinese empires. For thousands of years it has been about the rise and fall of the water systems. Somebody has to run the water system. Somebody [in modern times] has to keep the electricity going. Somebody has to make the hospitals work.”

“You need a professional or elite class devoted to profound change,” Saul said. “If you want to get power you have to be able to hold it. And you have to be able to hold it long enough to change the direction. The neoconservatives understood this. They have always been Bolsheviks. They are the Bolsheviks of the right. Their methodology is the methodology of the Bolsheviks. They took over political parties by internal coups d’état. They worked out, scientifically, what things they needed to do and in what order to change the structures of power. They have done it stage by stage. And we are living the result of that. The liberals sat around writing incomprehensible laws and boring policy papers. They were unwilling to engage in the real fight that was won by a minute group of extremists.”

“You have to understand power to reform things,” Saul said. “If you don’t understand power you get blown away by the guy who does. We are missing people who believe in justice and at the same time understand how tough power and politics are, how to make real choices. And these choices are often quite ugly.”

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Publisher, Zuade Kaufman   Editor, Robert Scheer
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.



PVA meeting recap available

Below is a link to the recap of the September meeting:


Mark your calendars, our next meeting will be:
Thursday, October 23, 7:00pm
Note: The October meeting place may have to be changed. Tentatively, we will meet at Munson Center, 975 S. Mesquite Street, Las Crucesd



NM solar businesses endorse expansion of green power



ALBUQUERQUE, NM – 41 New Mexico solar businesses issued a letter to the White House Oct. 16, endorsing limits on carbon pollution from power plants and advocating that solar energy become a focal point of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan.


“As solar power installers, manufacturers, designers, aggregators, product suppliers, and consultants, we welcome the EPA’s unveiling of the Clean Power Plan,” reads the letter, organized by the advocacy group Environment New Mexico. “This plan is a critical step toward transforming our energy system to one that protects our health and environment, and is affordable and reliable.”


To address the growing threat of climate change, in June the U.S. EPA proposed its Clean Power Plan, which would require power plants in New Mexico to cut carbon emissions 34 percent by 2030. The plan is open for public comment until Dec. 1 and could be finalized by next year.


States will have the flexibility to meet the limits introduced by the Clean Power Plan as they choose. Businesses signing the letter said the proposal could dramatically accelerate the development of clean energy across New Mexico.


“Existing generation plants are antiquated. Their operations and fuel sources contaminate air and water. The EPA is finally putting an end to this pollution and bringing these plants into compliance will be cost prohibitive. Thousands of solar systems have been installed by utilities, homes, schools and businesses across New Mexico to control long term energy costs and reduce pollution. New Mexico has the technology, industry and political will to switch to renewable energy now,” said Regina Wheeler, CEO of Positive Energy Solar a New Mexico company with offices in Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Santa Fe.


Solar power is on the rise across the United States and the costs for installation are dropping rapidly. In New Mexico, PV installation prices fell 18% from 2013 rates for residential and commercial units. And according to the latest solar jobs census from the Solar Foundation, the solar industry now employs more than 1,900 people in New Mexico alone. As demand for solar energy continues to increase, so will solar jobs, boosting our local economy and providing a sustainable energy source for our state.

“We have customers from all persuasions.  It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re on, everybody loves solar,” said Gayle Simmons owner of Wentz Electric. “75% of our gross receipts came from solar projects last year.  There is a huge demand for clean energy here in New Mexico.”

Environment New Mexico’s counterparts around the country recruited more than 500 solar businesses nationwide to the sign the letter, which was delivered today to the White House.


“The climate crisis demands that we fulfill our vast potential for solar energy,” said Breanna Ryan, campaign organizer with Environment New Mexico, “and the businesses here in New Mexico and across the nation are ready to rise to the challenge.”



Environment New Mexico is a statewide, citizen based advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.


    Got a headline? Email us.

    Subscribe to Grassroots Press by Email

    Visit our blog page!


    The Imperative of Revolt

      http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_imperative_of_revolt_20141019/ Posted on Oct 19, 2014 By Chris Hedges Protesters chant as they are arrested at the intersection... Read more »

    October 20, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    Sally-Alice Thompson, 90, walks from Albuquerque to Santa Fe to get money out of politics

    Sally-Alice Thompson, Peace Activist and Walking Granny will celebrate her 91st birthday during a 13-day walk from Albuquerque to Santa Fe, which started Monday,... Read more »

    October 13, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    PVA meeting recap available

    Below is a link to the recap of the September meeting: http://pva-nm.org/category/meeting-recap/ Mark your calendars, our next meeting will be: Thursday, October... Read more »

    October 6, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    Sen. Martin Heinrich to Call for National Minimum Wage Increase at Mountainview Market in Las Cruces

    LAS CRUCES, N.M. – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) will visit the Mountainview Market in Las Cruces on Thursday, Oct. 16, at 11:30 a.m. to talk about the... Read more »

    October 13, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    Thanks for passing interest cap resolution

    Want to thank you all once again for passing the interest cap resolution in Las Cruces.  You helped get the ball rolling in many other communities. Interest rate... Read more »

    October 17, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    Sustainable Living

    NM Recycling Coalition Gets Federal Grant to Expand Services

    Funding from USDA RD Allows Non-Profit to Extend Recycling Efforts ALBUQUERQUE, NM, September 22, 2014 – USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner will... Read more »

    September 23, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    NM solar businesses endorse expansion of green power

        ALBUQUERQUE, NM – 41 New Mexico solar businesses issued a letter to the White House Oct. 16, endorsing limits on carbon pollution from power plants and... Read more »

    October 18, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    NMSU celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month with renowned author

      More than 53 million people in the United States identify as Hispanic, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau. From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, New Mexico State University... Read more »

    October 6, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    On the Trail of Border Tomatoes, Ballet Folklorico and Sgt. Cheddar’s

    It’s the time of year tomato lovers dread the most. As the local harvests in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico and far west Texas wind down, the prospect of... Read more »

    October 23, 2014 | Leave a Comment


    November 2014 Roundtable Schedule

    The Roundtable Discussion Group meets every Sunday from 10:30AM to 11:30 in the library of the Unitarian Church located at 2000 South Solamo. Nov 02 Jan Thompson... Read more »

    October 15, 2014 | Leave a Comment

    Events Calendar

    Rumble by the Río Tuesday

    Join entrepreneur and democratic activist Alan Webber, and conservative columnist and Rio Grande Foundation Director Paul Gessing on Tuesday, Oct. 21 from 6pm-7:30pm... Read more »

    October 16, 2014 | Leave a Comment


  • The Light of New Mexico
  • Green Fire Times
  • Transition Times--Colorado
  • Heath Haussamen: NM Politics
  • Thomas Wark
  • Carolyn Baker: “Speaking truth to power”
  • James Howard Kunstler: The Clusterfuck Nation Chronicle
  • Dada's Dally: defies description
  • Desert Journal: NM online newspaper
  • Bruce Gagnon: Organizing Notes
  • Sally Erickson: The end of empire
  • Steve Klinger’s music and blogs: Songs for change; music blog
  • Progressive Democratic activist site
  • Gordon Solberg
  • Brenda Norrell: Censored and under-reported news
  • Rio Grande Digital: Las Cruce/El Paso/Juarez news and culture
  • JourneySantaFe—Water: Who Controls It?

  • Social Widgets powered by AB-WebLog.com.