When major cities across the US shut down all but essential businesses at the start of the new depression, workers in some of the most vulnerable industries suffered the effects of unemployment. Although the shutdowns were allegedly put in place to curb the effects of COVID-19, greater threats to the health of the working class arose as a consequence: potential homelessness and starvation.
UNDM right away saw the harmful effects of the shutdown on Mariachis in the community. Forced into unemployment due to restrictions that essentially prevent them from public performance, mariachis usually can’t claim unemployment benefits either. They have played an important role in the culture of Boyle Heights and the city as a whole. Their performances even led to a prominent square in the neighborhood being named Mariachi Plaza. Now, under the crushing weight of the pandemic restrictions, they are left to starve.
UNDM organized to raise awareness about the mariachis and started a GoFundMe page to help support them and their families. When the mariachis decided to do a fundraising concert, we helped host it live on social media. Through GoFundMe, Venmo, and in-person donations people have contributed thousands of dollars and that we helped distribute stipends to mariachis that have helped them stay afloat in a time of dire need.
Making events like the concert happen at all require strong ties with the community. These strong ties have helped protect the community, such as Naty, a mariachi, and his family. Despite the horrible conditions of the apartment and LA’s moratorium on illegal evictions, slumlord Sam Patidar tried to force the family out of their home. We got people out to the property on June 15 and forced the property manager to sign a paper waiving Naty of responsibility for all past due rent. We followed up the action by hosting another live instagram concert featuring Naty!
We have worked with Los Angeles Tenants Union to stop other illegal evictions in the area. These include a home eviction on May 29 in San Fernando Valley, where the woman was evicted for filing a restraining order against her abusive partner (the son of property management!) and had her personal items thrown outside. Activists and members of the community tore down the boards over the windows / doors, brought her possessions back inside, and stood their ground against police officers trying to enforce the eviction. We also managed to retake a home in South Central later that day by breaking in through the back door – after we secured the property, we celebrated with pizza! Any time landlords threaten to evict or hurt tenants, we’ll help the tenant fight back!
For us, these victories are not the end goal. Still, we will struggle tirelessly to defend working class and Latino / Chicano neighborhoods in LA, to bring communities together to take on parasitic slumlords, and to keep fighting for our homes and for our needs!