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  • Final Remarks
  • Patricia Ybarra (bio)

The road to this plenary in Arizona has been a long one and a complicated one for me, as it was for many of us, in the Latino/a Focus Group and elsewhere, who were horrified at the passage of Arizona’s laws SB 1070 and HB 2281.1 Perhaps this road was so personally painful because while I have never lived here, my father was born here. Arizona is where his parents came after they crossed the border from Mexico, sin papeles of course, in the 1920s. For this reason and many others that may be less personally personal, many of us who are here today initially considered boycotting the conference when Arizona was first announced as a conference site. I felt that I should stand beside many of the activist groups that were boycotting Arizona at the time. I think that as president-elect of this organization, I owe it to you to tell you I was one of them.

Some years later, when it looked like SB 1062 (the infamous anti-gay law that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to people based on their religious beliefs) might pass, ATHE was more forcefully placed in the position of thinking about a boycott and I was torn. Torn because I was appalled by the law, but also because I knew what was planned for this plenary and other parts of the program: a series of events to deal substantively and performatively with these discriminatory laws. I knew conference-goers would carefully consider the role of performance in doing something about it. The planners of these events were all well-aware that although this conflict was localized in Arizona, the cultural conflicts, economic and social violence, and ideological fissures were occurring all over the United States, even in many of the so-called blue states. No one can turn on the news without seeing how undocumented migrants, many fleeing the violence of narcotrafficking, as well as economic destitution, are being brutalized again from coast to coast in our country, in both liberal and conservative states alike. Or how, in almost every state in the nation, queer folks and activists have had to fight for the right to care for a child or take care of each other within and outside of the bonds of marriage or partnership. The very widespread nature of these laws asks important questions about how we use a boycott, how and when we need to stand with activists working in states that enact laws that may harm our own membership, and how to plan for the future. As many of you know, we are working actively on that issue with a subcommittee led by Chase Bringardner.

Ultimately, I made the choice to come to Arizona, as did ATHE, and I stand behind that position even though I understand why some people have chosen to stay away. Today, I choose to stand with the activists, artists, and scholars who have come here or live here, and to honor the many people who have decided to end or suspend their boycott to have conversations, take public space, and argue this week. I think as president-elect of this association it is important that I say that.

Back in February, when SB 1062 did not pass I was very glad. I will say this with full irony as an agnostic: I thought Thank God. The reason the bill was not passed, however, dismayed me, and it is here that I want to focus for the rest of my time as we begin to dream. Governor Jan Brewer’s letter to the Arizona senate and her press-conference statement couched her concern that the bill was too broad and could divide people unnecessarily within her own gubernatorial plan to renew the business climate of Arizona. And it is here that it became clear that her concern with losing money motivated her rather the bill’s wobbly political stand. It is telling that the some of the first signs that greeted her after she announced her veto said “Thank you, Governor Brewer” and “Arizona is open [End Page 13] for business to everyone!” And...


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