About Unete 956

"Unete, Unete! A la lucha, unete!"

Unete 956 is the result of independent writers and activists in the lower Rio Grande Valley who, fighting injustice and oppression locally, found few spaces to criticize power without censorship. It's the product of a line of independent writing from 2015 to 2018, originally as an answer to censorship and repression at the University of Texas Pan American as it transitioned to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Former student activists, Jonathan Salinas and David Cavazos collaborated to start independent media and created different outlets with unique perspectives. David started an outlet that was known as "The Boot," a play on the controversial "Vaquero" mascot imposed on the community by founding and acting President, as of February 2022, Dr. Guy Bailey. 

I started an outlet called "University Drive," a play on the streets where both legacy institutions reside in Brownsville and Edinburg, in January 2016. There, with other students involved in all aspects of life on campus, we wrote about an array of subjects from art criticism to book reviews. Eventually, the issues University Drive had originally sought to tackle turned out to have deeper roots in broader systems of oppression, spanning to all facets of government. University Drive evolved to "RGV Independent," which also wrote about cultural issues, but possessed more of an explicit political character. We famously covered a free speech feud surrounding local comedian Caroline Walker and the fights she won against censorious "social justice warriors" who criticized her trademark crass humor about sensitive topics, about which she herself was personally affected. Caroline came out on top, in a victory for free expression in the RGV and organized a free speech march in downtown McAllen.

My good friend and former classmate and comrade in arms, Allyson Duarte, reported on Caroline's fights very well, applying her background in philosophy and experience in class combat to at once report on events as well as provide radical philosophical context in which to understand them. I was hired in intervening periods as a journalist for RGVision Magazine, The Brownsville Herald, Neta, and have freelanced for the Rio Grande Guardian, the Progressive as well as collaborated with several nonprofit organizations like the Sierra Club and the American Civil Liberties Union. As my former mentor and editor at Neta, Debbie Nathan, once said to me, "journalism is my activism." We all made journalism a form of our activism. We used journalism in our activism and our activism. This dialectic coincided with intensifying political events occurring in the Rio Grande Valley, such as the election of Donald Trump and moves to build a border wall and other environmentally damaging infrastructure.

We evolved from aspiring independent journalists with a sense of outrage to active political combatants with an agenda. Having met in a philosophy course on Karl Marx, we grew firmer in the belief that all society was class-divided, including the RGV, and thus all struggles are ultimately resolved within that framework over the years. By 2018, we had been involved in local protests of all sorts. Our hope was to unite the movements of the Rio Grande Valley to fight for a common working-class politics. 

Other activists joined us to help launch Unete, including artist Erica Briones who designed our logo, Leen Starr, Bianca Castro, Fay, Sara Cera, Clarissa Rios, William Carter, Ava and Isidro Leal and Aspen Basaldua.

Since then, we have featured pieces by some of these writers documenting protests, pressuring political officials, and other developments in the class struggle. Not forgetting its original focus of higher education, Unete has broken several stories on higher education in the Rio Grande Valley, giving voice to professors, staff and students wronged, censored or all of the above by administrators at South Texas College as well as UTRGV.

Unete exists as a platform for alternative journalism and writing intended to encourage working people to depend on our own abilities to fight together for our common class interests.

Unete 956 is not a nonprofit organization of any kind, nor a business. Although Unete 956 received gift donations at its founding from those who believed in its mission at a launch event in McAllen in 2018 and received a few donations from subscribers through 2019, we no longer solicit nor receive any funding contributions. Our work is entirely independent and motivated by our convictions.

-- Jonathan Salinas, co-founder, editor, November 2021. Salinas graduated with a degree in psychology and philosophy in 2015 from the last UTPA class in history. He's worked as a staff writer and independent journalist since graduation.

* Edited February 13, 2022.