This past week saw the end of something incredible in the Guti-verse.
Late last year, a fan said they were willing to donate 2,500 tacos so I could commission original stories for my website.
They were inspired by my annual FUNdrive to gather tacos, where I commission original stories for my website and get freelancers PAID.
This past week, as you’ll read below, the charitable saint — who declined to be identified other than I name their effort the Aztlán Journalism Fund — paid out their final tacos #respect
Amazing. One individual was moved enough to donate all those tacos on their own and trust me in commissioning interesting stories.
Joe Bautista checked in on a working class organic restaurant that could’ve gone Sysco…but didnt.
Anthony Pignataro penned a moving essay about discovering the true ethnic background of his grandmother
And Sean Vukan wrote about a beloved office café in Orange with a story far deeper than just great breakfast burritos.
There’s so many other great stories out there by people that publications reject.
First time reading this newsletter? Subscribe here for more merriment! Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc Feedback, thoughts, commentary, rants? Send them to email@example.com
Imma just going to cut and paste what I wrote last year, save for some tweaks:
Three years ago, I asked ustedes to give me $1,000 within a week to fund a dream.
At the time, I had no job and was freelancing like crazy. I had just launched my personal website, named after this newsletter, named after my dream at the time:
My own publication.
Ustedes gave me $1,000 within 36 hours.
Y’all liked the idea of me commissioning four original pieces (at $250 apiece) and one of my own. And I followed through. So I did it again last year.
That time, I asked for $2,000.
Ustedes got to that point within 72 hours.
That allowed me to commission 3 original pieces of about 600-1,000 words at 300 tacos apiece for the author.
A long, narrative story — from 2,500 to 3,500 words — at 1,000 tacos. And an extra 100 tacos for an editorial cartoon.
This time around? Let’s do 2,500 tacos.
I’ll commission the same amount of stories, except offer 400 tacos for the shorter stories and 1,300 tacos for the longer one.
I’m doing this because American journalism is at an even more precarious spot than it was three years ago.
Far too many reporters have lost their jobs this pandemic year. Even my colleagues and I at the Los Angeles Times were furloughed once a week for most of 2020.
I’m lucky: I still have a job, and one where my jefes treat me well.
But I want to help.
Freelancers don’t want freebies; they want to WERK.
Once I get the funds, I’ll commission stories off any pitches I get (freelancers: I’m looking for reported stories, not essays. I like local stories, but am open to ANYTHING as long as it’s great. Pitch me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Once I edit the pieces into shape, I’ll publish them all in one week to showcase writers I like, and hope bigger publications tale notice.
I’ll even join in the fun with one of my Mexican-music listicles!
So help me help others. Contribute tacos on Venmo and Paypal. Send check tacos made out to me (with extra salsa roja) to P.O. Box 1433, Anaheim, CA 92815.
Por favor include an email so I can send you a personal gracias (for those of ustedes who contributed last time and didn’t get a gracias from me — trust me, I think about my ingratitude all the time and am still trying to figure out how to acknowledge ustedes. This is a start, I hope.)
I know times are hard for everyone. If ustedes can’t give, no worries whatsoever. But I care deeply about journalism — and so, I commission with your help.
And in case you’re wondering: my rates are about the industry average. It’s excusable when it’s one guy, downright disgraceful when it’s national media companies paying that.
Let’s do better. Let’s start with Gustavo Arellano’s Weekly. Let’s do it in 72 hours.
And if this proves successful?
May someone get inspired ala the Aztlán Journalism Fund and taco up an entire week on their own.
GRÍTALE A GUTI
This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…
I hate to be long winded, but your story about Señor Z breaks my heart. I’ve been a teacher (English then Special Ed.) for over 20 years. Mas de veinte años! and hands down, my Hispanic (mostly Mexican) students are some of my favorite groups of students. I believe the difference lies in the fact that most of these kids (it’s a rural school) were raised in close-knit families in a tight knit community. They are multitudes more polite and respectful than the lugareños. I found, also, that I have to earn their trust to develop any kind of closer relationship. As a special ed teacher I must work closely with teachers, students, and parents, and at first I was met with distrust.
Four years ago when a certain guy wanted to build a wall and started deporting many of these students and their parents, I rebelled by learning Spanish (or at least I try). I remember one young man crying and hugging me after they deported his father and several others in his family. Heartbreaking.
I told the sister of one student who had graduated, and who I knew was illegal (she wasn’t) that he could hide at my house. He is a good kid. The kind I’d be proud to have as a son in law. He was carried here as a baby and attended K-12 in US schools and graduated. He wanted to be a translator for the police as his English and Spanish skills were strong. How frigging “American is that?” He waa deported.
Anyway, my question to you is how can I better serve my (mostly Mexican) students in a sometime hostile environment? We are deep in MAGA territory. Ideas? Besides my school obligstions, I now have students now coming to ask me how to get relatives here legally. How to get their family members back legally.
God bless you for your good work — you are doing enough as it is, yet it’s never enough. You didn’t specify where you’re located, so I can’t offer specifics but I guarantee you there’s multiple nonprofits in your region devoted to helping undocumented immigrants on various levels — as students, as workers, as the elderly. Connect with them, and ask what can you do to help.
But, above all, continue doing what you’re doing. As Pánfilo once said, we must tend to our own milpas…okay, it was actually Pangloss about gardens, but who’s paying attention to Voltaire anymore?
Got a question for Guti? Email me here.
Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:
IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Sunflower from my garden. They’re all blooming, which means summer is almost over — sigh…
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.”
LISTENING:“Necesito Una Compañera,” Los Bukis. The legendary románticas group is playing SoFi Stadium this weekend, in a concert that sold out in minutes, if not seconds. MASTERS of chintzy ’80s love classics like this one, with simple, profound lyrics out of a Shakespeare sonnet. BTW, you know that TikTok meme of kids giving tickets to their tearful dads? That wouldn’t have been my dad — he was more of a Los Saylors type of guy haha.
READING: “How social media became a deadly trap for a minority group in Pakistan”: As if you needed another reason to hate Facebook, behold the plight of the Ahmadis in a story that can get bogged down in tech a bit but is no less heartbreaking.
SHOUTOUT TO: Penny, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a month of MailChango! “Plug Los Lobos new album. Oldsters still out there werkin.” Not only that, shoutout to my compa Louie Perez!
Gustavo in the News
“Letters to the Editor: Gavin Newsom needs to give Latinos reasons to save him in the recall election”: L.A. Times readers let me have it for a columna I did.
“Latinx Files: What the U.S. census tells us about what’s ahead for Latinx community”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a columna of mine.
“Jesus on a Tortilla”: I appear on a Slate podcast talking about the title of said episode.
“Newsom Campaign Fires Back Against Critics Who Claim He’s Ignoring Latinos”: Newsweek mentions a columna of mine that got Dems all mad and shit.
“Celebrate National Bacon Lovers Day in an LA Restaurant”: Some SoCal website mentions a review I did from a couple of years back — although not about bacon.
“Newsom needs Latinos. Can he mobilize them to the polls?”: The Washington Post mentions a columna of mine.
Latest roster of episodes for “The Times: Daily news from the L.A. Times,” the podcast that I host. Listen to them, and SUBSCRIBE. Don’t let me become the Poochie of podcasts!
“Promise, peril in push for electric cars”: The batteries for your Telsa are killing an octopus named Casper — true story!
“Back to school in the COVID-19 Delta era”: A chat with L.A. Times science and education reporters about what parents can expect this year.
“Hannah Waddingham talks ‘Ted Lasso’ and ‘shame, shame’”: The nun from Game of Thrones don’t mess around.
“The fire of the decade — every year”: The monthly Masters of Disasters dispatch has us talking Dixie Fire and climate change — OY VEY…
“What’s up with L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva?”: The top lawman on a tumultuous three years.
“Grítale a Guti, Ep. 64”: Latest episode of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all.
“Drunken Half-Assed Garden Show”: Oakley Boren comes to our Puppy Strong Farms to talk micheladas and plants.
“OC’s Capistrano Beach used to be a vibrant coastline for recreation. How to revive and preserve it?”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the cutest little beach in OC — now threatened by the rising ocean.
“The Issue Is: Gavin Newsom, Dan Schnur, Gustavo Arellano, Susan Shelley”: I appear on the KTTV-TV Fox 11 politics show to talk California recall.
“Sorry, Democrats — Latino anger toward Republicans isn’t enough to save Newsom’s political hide”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna talks about why a once-impossible California recall is far closer to reality than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. KEY QUOTE: “Now, angry Latino voters once again stand as judge, jury and executioner of California’s political future — but in a way few could’ve ever imagined. We just might be the ethnic group that costs Gov. Gavin Newsom his job.”
“He’s kept a radio vigil for Vicente Fernández for two decades”: My next latest LA Times columna profiles Rubén Miranda, host of “El Rancho de Vicente” on La Ranchera 96.7. KEY QUOTE: “The show is so important to the station that Fernández is part of their logo, a Mount Rushmore of ranchera that also includes matinee idol Pedro Infante and singer-songwriter José Alfredo Jiménez.”
You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres! And, if you feel generous: Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc