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The Army Digs a Trench in Spanish Harlem PDF Print E-mail
TRIANA BELVIS NAZARIO   
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Image
The new Army Career Center,
located at 126 East 103rd Street in El Barrio. A Rally and protest is set for Friday, March 17th,
from 12noon to 2PM and then 6PM to 8PM. Photo: NYLJ

Imageesidents of East Harlem are outraged over an Army recruiting station that will soon open in their neighborhood. They say that the U.S. Army is stepping up efforts to over-target neighborhoods with high concentrations of Blacks and Latinos.

“The Army already muscles its way into high schools,” said Gloria Quiñones, who has two sons ages 20 and 24. “Now, they’re entrenching themselves into our community to get kids to fight in a war that’s based on a lie about weapons of mass destruction.”

Located at 126 East 103rd Street, the recruitment center is slated to open within days. Workers are busily adding the final touches to the storefront operation, which includes a black awning bearing the Army's logo and the words  "Army Career Center."

The opening of the recruitment center is the latest move in local Army outreach. For summer festivals, the Army hired a promotional team that included a DJ and women with camouflage midriffs and short-shorts. Recruiters also frequent high schools, a tactic to which New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg said he is not opposed.

As of November 11, more than 2,062 U.S. soldiers, including 97 from New York, have been killed in Iraq. More than half of the casualties from New York were African-Americans and Latinos, many of them in their late teens or early 20’s. Among them was Corporal Ramona Valdéz.

In June, Valdéz, a Dominican resident of the Bronx, was killed just three days from her 21st birthday, when a suicide bomber struck her convoy near Fallujah, Iraq. Valdez was 17-years-old when the U.S. Marines recruited her. Because she was a minor then, her mother had to co-sign for her to enlist.

It’s Valdez’s young age and the overwhelming emphasis on minority neighborhoods that has people like Quiñones concerned. “Our kids are not cannon fodder,” she said. “I don’t see a recruitment station opening on 86th Street.”

A report highlighted by Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez shows that local concerns are not unwarranted. Data presented by the National Priorities Project indicate that youth from low-income areas are far more likely to end up in the military.

“Recruiters meet students during their lunch break, and target the ones who can’t afford college,” said Jose Cantino, an employee at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, which houses a high school just three blocks away from the recruitment center. Cantino said he has college tuition money ready for his 16-year-old daughter.

Aixa Aponte has a nephew, 19-years-old, who joined the Army without telling his parents or anyone. “Seems like the recruiters ate his mind. He was convinced that the nation was more important than his parents,” said Mrs. Aponte. “I see him ‘standing at ease’ as a new habit. It’s so strange.”

Recruiting Latinos has become one of the Army's top priorities, according to an article by Lizzette Alvarez in the February 9, 2006 edition of the New York Times.

“Military experts say that bringing in more Latinos is overdue. Hispanics have long been underrepresented in the Army and in the military as a whole,” according to the article.

The article, as well as the Army, fails to discuss the underrepresentation of Latinos in government, mass media, corporate boardrooms and the education system. It also fails to mention how Puerto Ricans from the island face a particular shortfall in our democracy: they are not allowed to vote for the President or the Congress but they are “allowed” to serve in the military.

East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito held a press conference Monday, November 14, at 11 a.m., in front of the Ortiz Funeral Home, located right across the street from the recruitment center.



[According to a Washington Post article, the United States Department of Defense has been buying personal information on high school students between the ages of sixteen and eighteen without parental permission. The information has been compiled by BeNow, Inc., under a $343 million contract with a Massachusetts company, Mullen Advertising, according to a Boston Business Journal report. Since subcontracting with Mullen, BeNow, Inc. has been acquired by Equifax, one of the "big three" credit reporting agencies that compile a wide range of personal and financial data.

You can opt-out of this database by following the instructions on this Web site: www.LeaveMyChildAlone.org.]




TRIANA BELVIS NAZARIO




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