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The X Files
Xavier Hermosillo is the President of, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 23 years ago. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He has co-founded two publicly-traded companies where he served as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. He has also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds degrees in Administration of Justice and Business and Communications. He can be reached at

Our country is suffering from a lack of institutional memory, a
decreasing awareness of history, and an over-infatuation with
'celebrity' types of all shapes and sizes, highly skilled and useless
wannabees, and probably worst of all, people who have become famous
simply by trying to become somebody famous. Add to this the folks in
the political and media arenas who get heavy play on TV and radio just
because they can always be counted on to take a contrarian position on
ANY issue, and you have a pretty good idea why so many Americans feel
our country is in a decline from 'the good old days.'

The first story that brings all this analysis to mind is the disturbing
story last week about the ubiquitous Teflon that we find in our
kitchens, in food wrappers, in paints, and in our political language
about the inability of something to stick to a surface.

Last month, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to the inventor of
Teflon, DuPont, concerning the controversial use of a chemical called
perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA in chemical shorthand, that is used to
make Teflon non-stick coatings. That subpoena came shortly after the
company announced a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) for failing to disclose safety information about PFOA for two
decades. Now, a new report issued by an EPA scientific advisory board
may explain the reason for this new grand jury investigation.

In it, a majority of the EPA board that reviewed the agency's most
recent report on PFOA believes the substance poses an even greater
cancer risk and is likely carcinogenic to humans. The report also urges
the EPA to conduct cancer risk assessments based on the variety of
tumors found in mice and rats during studies, and to conduct additional
risk assessments for liver, breast and pancreatic cancer, as well as
the human immune system.

The EPA could also increase its fine against DuPont for suppressing
birth defect and safety studies to a maximum $314 million versus a
current proposed fine in the $13 million range.

The amazing part of this story for me, and now for you, is that back in
the last century, during a decade of the 60's where free love,
psychedelic drugs, and anti-war protests reigned, DuPont Chemical (as
it was called then), Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and several others, were
the enemy. Anti-war activists blamed them for all the ills of the
world and warned that some day, these chemical firms would be
responsible for killing off America after they had finished destroying
small, undeveloped and under-developed nations. Dow created the
infamous defoliant Agent Orange. DuPont gave us Teflon. Are we now
paying the price.

Hmmm''.did our institutional memories fail us on this one' Were the
hippies of the 60's right'

Next, we come to a more controversial issue involving both a decreasing
awareness of history AND a change in the way we view the world around
us. Add a dose of self-proclaimed political leaders/
critics/activists, and you have the latest rub between this nation's
African Americans and the culture of our Mexican friends south of the

The Mexican government has issued postage stamps depicting an
exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin. The series
of five stamps depicts a hapless boy drawn with exaggerated features,
thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and mannerisms
are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book, which
started in the 1940s and is still published in Mexico. Activists have
criticized the stamps as offensive, though government officials denied

Just weeks after remarks by President Vicente Fox riled black Americans
by saying Mexican migrants take jobs in the United States that 'not
even blacks' want, the stamp issue has opened new wounds. Even though
Fox later expressed regret for any offense his remarks may have caused,
and he insisted his comments had been misinterpreted, the stamp
brouhaha has brought Fox some ardent defenders, along with new critics.

Carlos Caballero, assistant marketing director for the Mexican Postal
Service, said the new stamps are not offensive, nor were they intended
to be. 'This is a traditional character that reflects part of Mexico's
culture,' he said. 'His mischievous nature is part of that character.'

But Sergio Penalosa, an activist in Mexico's small black community on
the southern Pacific coast, sees it completely different. 'One would
hope the Mexican government would be a little more careful and avoid
continually opening wounds,' he said. 'But we've learned to expect
anything from this government, just anything,' Penalosa added. He said
many Mexicans still assume all blacks are foreigners, despite the fact
that at one point early in the Spanish colonial era, Africans
outnumbered Spanish in Mexico.

And that, my friends, is where I come in with my 'lack of institutional
memory and a decreasing awareness of history' mantra.

I think both U.S. Blacks and modern-day Mexicans have forgotten an
important piece of history. Many Blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles,
fighting over who should be in control of the crime-ridden and
impoverished neighborhoods, need to remember what history tells us
about our past relationships as poor, dispossessed and suffering people.

When I was a little boy, Spanish was my first language. Until I
entered elementary school, I spoke no English. I was raised in the
federal housing projects bordering the Port of Los Angeles and
co-existing with Negroes (that's how they self-identified back then)
was a way of life.

I didn't call my dark-skinned neighbors and friends Negroes because
that is an English word I did not know. I was taught to call these
people 'VeraCruzanos.' This literally means people from Vera Cruz in
Spanish. Later, when I heard these people called Negroes (or worse) in
English, I asked why my Mexican friends and family referred to them as
being from the Gulf of Mexico region and the state of Vera Cruz.

I learned, and never forgot, a lesson we would all be well advised to
remember today when we discuss Black/Latino relations in L.A. and the
rest of the country. I was taught that when the African slave ships
came to this hemisphere, some landed in what is now the U.S. South '
Mississippi, Alabama, the Carolinas, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, etc. '
and some landed further south along the western Gulf Coast in Mexico.

Unlike the U.S. landing ports, where Africans continued to be enslaved
in plantations and other ugly settings in huge numbers, the Mexicans
freed most of their newly arrived travelers. There were the Spaniard
elite, Portuguese, and others who chose to continue the slave culture,
but historical figures show that the number of African slaves in Mexico
dropped from a high of 35,089 in 1646 to around 15, 980 by 1742.

Mexicans weren't perfect, but they were more willing, sooner than
later, to absorb Africans into the country and not prolong the slavery
we saw flourish in the U.S. through the mid-1800's.

You may be justifiably wondering where I am going with all this. It's
simple. In looking at the Mexican stamp controversy, let's not give
any credence to those who say it exemplifies why Latinos and Blacks
can't get along in the inner cities. I'm not sure I'd argue with the
likes of Elisa Velazquez, an anthropologist studying Mexico's black
communities at the National Institute of Anthropology and History, when
she says, 'At this point in time, it was probably pretty insensitive'
to issue the stamps.

It is true that this character is a classic, but it's from another era.
Velazquez says, 'It's a stereotype, and you don't want to encourage
ignorance or prejudices.' She is absolutely right. But at the same
time, you don't want to ignore the hundreds of years of history about
Mexican/African relationships.

Finally, the topic of how we over-play the roles and lives of
celebrities. I'll keep this topic short for fear of being found guilty
of what I am to complain.

I have generally liked Tom Cruise movies and one of my all time
favorite flicks was the 1986 classic, Top Gun and both his role and
that of the absolute hottie, Kelly McGillis. I stop in my tracks when
it pops up on cable or on regular TV.

But I am over Tom Cruise these days. Period! No mas! His sophomoric
carrying on about his new love, Katie Holmes, is WAY over the top.
Jumping on Ophra's couch and yelling like a dog in heat, and then
getting legitimate news coverage for it is nothing short of disgusting.

I am tired of the phony prop lines from all these celebrities. Paris
Hilton IS hot, but then that is the 18-year-old in me speaking,
ignoring all of life's experiences that have shown me that sex ISN'T
everything. Of course it's ahead of whatever is in second place, BUT,
it is NOT everything.

I believed Paris when she initially said she was victimized by her
boyfriend, Richard Salomon, an independent movie producer and online
gambling entrepreneur who shot the amateur porn video of them having
sex. It wasn't until a friend sent me a clip of the tape showing Paris
teasing her beau during the sex act and playing to the camera that I
realized I has been conned.

My fault, I guess, for allowing my male libido to once again take
temporary control of my brain. I promised my beautiful wife of 24
years I would try ONCE AGAIN to grow up and stop using journalistic
research as an excuse for looking at a snippet of Paris and Rick trying
to figure out how to do it and make money at it without getting
arrested for prostitution.

In exchange, she promised not to watch any more Tom Cruise movies in my
presence, she'll whack me if I ever turn one on myself, and she will
not go gaga over that conceited, immature, overblown, rich celebrity
who offers nothing important to our society other than his own,
self-inflated ego.