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RAZA Responds to Criticism



To the Editors of the Crimson:

In the March 8 edition of The Crimson, Ruben Navarrette '89-'90 wrote an opinion piece titled "Telling Secrets at RAZA." In it, he addressed the "bizarre tragedy of former classmate Jose 'Joe' Razo." After some thought about his choice of a title, I was somewhat amused because the "secrets" he speaks of are hidden even to the very members of RAZA, Harvard's Mexican-American student organization.

Only a handful of this year's seniors remember Razo and his arrest for armed robbery in California. Of course, Navarrette points out that Razo was convicted last year, but the last year Razo spent at Harvard was 1986-87. I would venture to say that the issue is no longer hot off the press.

So, after having written about the case of Razo before, why address it now with an audience that no longer remembers him? That is something that I'm afraid remains sheltered in Navarrette's mind. What is more important to the leadership of RAZA are the insinuations made about the group.

After carefully poring over "Telling Secrets at RAZA," the author's distinct stylistic intent becomes visible. Take for example his word choice in characterizing RAZA. He uses words such as "sin," "controversy," "imprisonment," "fate" and "schizophrenia." Anyone ingesting these words would certainly be astonished--the type of astonishment one would experience while reading a Harlequin romance.

Although his description is gripping, it is unfortunately not a description of RAZA, or any other ethnic organization, for that matter.

Although Navarrette is correct that we members of RAZA may not agree with each other at times, I am convinced that RAZA members feel comfortable with each other because of the vital bond that justifies the groups very existence--we share in the Mexican-American experience, from language to idiom to culture to food.

Hispanics must give the group a chance, and the fact that this year's seniors hardly knew of the existence of Razo during the 1986-87 academic year seems to point to the possibility that Razo never did that. Navarrette has attended two of RAZA's weekly dinners. After all of his talk about intolerance, one would have to question exactly who is being intolerant of whom.

It is true, some students within RAZA have personal differences with Navarrette, but most consider him very affable, as do I. Thus, unintentionally, "Telling Secrets at RAZA" does address a frustrating problem--that when Navarrette or any member chooses to shun RAZA, there is very little the group can do to win him back.

It is a shame that now, as Hispanics make their greatest strides toward the enrichment and acceptance of Hispanic culture within the American mainstream, Navarrette inexorably gravitates to the illusory, seedy, dark myths about Hispanics that would nullify their successes.

RAZA does have some problems, of course, in retention of members and communication with potential members, but "Telling Secrets at RAZA" does not directly address any of these issues. Instead of constructive criticism, it provides only destructive fabrication.

Navarrette seems driven to continue beating a dead horse. He could very well write a book about the Razo incident; I am sure he will. But he will reach a time--perhaps by the age of 60 or 65--when everyone will be exasperated with hearing his story. We hope that by then he will have given up writing fiction. Fidel A. Ovalle '92   Member, RAZA Steering Committee

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