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As a cannabis activist, I think it’s helpful to have some understanding about how prohibition began. For me, I began to form my opinion after reading from Jack Herer’s book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. I know the term “marijuana” was created by William Randolph Hearst’s yellow journalism. I also know his newspapers had a huge influence on the start of prohibition with the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Until I started researching this article for awesome Mexicans who smoke weed, I didn’t know the rest of the story. Let me break it down for you, because it includes an awesome Mexican and a little more prohibition history.
William Randolph Hearst had a ton of newspapers that covered the United States, at least, in its scope. You remember newspapers, right? They were the internet before the internet and TV; they were supposed to be trusted to report the truth, consequently, many believed their lies. His papers are credited for being influential in creating the Spanish-American War and planted the seeds of bigotry and racism that became cannabis prohibition.
During the Spanish American War, Pancho Villa’s troops seized 800,000 acres of prime timberland from newspaperman Hearst.
Hearst soon began a smear campaign against Villa and marijuana, claiming its dark-skinned users turned murderous. The campaign was useful in racist attempts to deny Mexican laborers work in the U.S. Hearst’s newspapers fanned the flames of fear until, finally, he and the DuPonts and that banker dude, Mellon, put the Marijuana Tax Act into place and made the term “marijuana” a word that incited fear and painted a picture that misrepresented a benign plant. The campaign also encouraged the hatred and prejudice still prevalent surrounding cannabis and its consumers today.
So, there you have it; now on to some of my favorite Mexicans who use or are rumored to have used cannabis. I list them in somewhat chronological order. They represent generations of awesomeness that reiterate why “marijuana” is not really a pejorative. William Randolph Hearst and his buddies were bullies and douchebags. Mexicans and marijuana are, in fact, both awesome.
Pancho Villa is first on this list. He was a leader in the Mexican Revolution and the Spanish-American War. He is still revered as a hero who pushed foreign “proprietors” out of Mexico and fought for the common man. He was a fierce general who also helped those in need and rescued orphans. Villa’s troops were said to smoke marijuana, but there are equal reports that Villa was a strict disciplinarian who allowed no drinking, smoking and certainly no “mota” among his troops. “Juana” is what they called female soldiers in Pancho Villa’s army, and is possibly where the term “marijuana” started. He and his small band of soldiers pissed off William Randolph Hearst when they took his land, and the rest is history.
Artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo are two more awesome Mexicans whose works are known all over the world.
“Considered the greatest Mexican painter of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera is credited with the reintroduction of fresco painting into modern art and architecture. He painted major murals at the San Francisco Stock Exchange, California School of Fine Arts, Detroit Institute of Art, providing the first inspiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s WPA program.
The Book of Grass contains an account by the actor Errol Flynn telling how Rivera asked him whether he had ever heard music come from a painting. Then the artist proffered Flynn a marijuana cigarette, explaining, “After smoking this you will see a painting and you will hear it as well.” Flynn tried it and had a fascinating experience, in which he heard the paintings ‘singing.'”
Frida Kahlo suffered horribly from Polio which forced the amputation of a leg and confined her completely to bed. She was married to the muralist Diego Rivera, who shared her enthusiasm for communist politics. They played host to Trotsky during his Mexican sojourn. She had lovers, male and female, and was fond of wearing elaborate costumes and headdresses. She was a supporter of Zapata and occasionally wore a pistol strapped to the leg braces under her skirt. She was known to be infatuated with her own image and stared almost incessantly at herself in the mirror. This infatuation propelled the many self-portraits she produced as well as gritty portrayals of her constant pain.
Let’s jump ahead to Mexicans who are still with us today, starting with with the most famous Mexican in pop culture, Cheech Marin. Half of the stoner comedy duo, Cheech and Chong, Marin institutionalized the stereotypical stoner for us all. After the duo split in 1985, Marin went on to become a movie and TV actor. He spent four years with Don Johnson on the cop series, Nash Bridges and has lent his voice to several Disney movies including Oliver & Company and the Lion King.
Recently reunited with Tommy Chong, he has come full circle. The comedy team has updated their material to keep up with the times. Now, they tour as advocates for legalization infusing education with their unique comedic perspective. There are activists today who claim Chech and Chong’s representation of cannabis consumers have hurt the movement. I say, lighten up, smoke a bowl and watch Up in Smoke. You will still laugh, and that was the point.
Carlos Santana has had a stellar music career that blends Latin beats and screaming guitars into a sound that is so unique fans recognize it on the first note. He has won ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards so far. His music transcends generations, nations and cultures.
His Milagro Foundation, started in 1998, benefits underserved and vulnerable children worldwide. By providing grants to community-based organizations, the Milagro Foundation works in the areas of education, health and the arts. This is most awesome!
Carlos Santana shoes are hot, hot, hot! They are sexy and stylish and run the gamut from sandals to boots. He designs handbags, too. Part of all shoe sales benefit the Milagro Foundation. Here is a recent quote from Santana at www.marijuanamajority.com:
“I really want us to invest with grace and wisdom into the education of young people… [L]egalize marijuana, and take all that money and invest it in teachers and education, and you will see a transformation in America… I’m not afraid to say what I think — that it’s really way overdue. And, like the prohibition with alcohol… I really believe that as soon as we legalize it and decriminalize marijuana, we can actually afford a really good governor who won’t keep taking money away from education and from teachers.”
How awesome is that?!
Cameron Diaz was raised in Long Beach, California, making her an honorary Mexican, even though she is of Cuban descent. In 2007, Diaz and BFF Drew Barrymore were photographed smoking a joint on a beach in Hawaii. In 2011, she played a pot-smoking junior high school teacher in the movie, Bad Teacher. That same year, Diaz told George Lopez on Lopez Tonight, “I’m pretty sure I bought weed from him,” when asked what it was like growing up in Long Beach and going to the same high school as Snoop Dogg.
Gael Garcia Bernal came to my attention when I saw him as a young Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries. If I squint, he looks
like a boyfriend from long ago. He is muy caliente, and received acclaim for his role in the movie Babel in 2007. In the 2011 documentary, Breaking the Taboo, about the history of the War on Drugs, the Mexican actor narrates in Spanish alongside Morgan Freeman about the need for legalization. At a conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil last year, Gael García Bernal announced his support of legalizing marijuana, while stating he enjoys smoking an occasional joint.
I loved the band Ozomatli immediately when I first heard them. And, I know they aren’t ALL Mexicans, but they sure do represent! In a 2007 NPR interview, band members Jiro Yamaguchi and Ulises Bella describe Ozomatli:
“You drive down Sunset Boulevard and turn off your stereo and roll down your windows and all the music that comes out of each and every different car, whether it’s salsa, cumbia, merengue, or Hip Hop, funk or whatever, it’s that crazy blend that’s going on between that cacophony of sound is Ozomatli, y’know?”
Being a Mexican girl who is originally from San Bernardino, California, myself, their music resonates to my soul. I was thrilled to learn about their charity work through OzoKids, family oriented performances that advocate for music in achools.
From their website:
“They were invited by the U.S. State Department to serve as official Cultural Ambassadors on a series of government-sponsored international tours to Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, tours that linked Ozomatli to a tradition of cultural diplomacy that also includes the esteemed likes of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong.
In places like Tunisia, Egypt, India, Jordan and Nepal, Ozo didn’t just play rousing free public concerts, but offered musical workshops and master classes and visited arts centers, summer camps, youth rehabilitation centers, and even a Palestinian refugee camp.”
Dudes, they played Denver, Colorado at the first ever legal 4/20 celebration this April. Does it get any more awesome?!
My last, but certainly not least, most awesome Mexican is my friend, hermana de mi corazon and fellow cannabis activist, Madeline Martinez. In the twelve years since we met, I have had the distinct pleasure of sharing the dreams and successes of a woman who is on the cutting edge of the cannabis movement.
Always pushing the envelope, she is the first Latina to sit on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). As co-founders of Oregon NORML, we grew the largest membership in NORML history, with over two thousand members at our peak. She received NORML’s Pauline Sabin Award in 2007 for her work to end cannabis prohibition; that was such a proud moment for me, too. We created the Oregon Medical Cannabis Awards in 2002 and just celebrated our eleventh in December 2012.
In 2009, with the board of Oregon NORML, she opened the World Famous Cannabis Cafe. The cafe is a safe access point for Oregon medical marijuana patients that has become a resource center for the community. She manages the cafe’s day-to-day operations and continues to work towards legalization in Oregon. She is part of the group who are working with the Oregon legislature to pass HB 3371, which would legalize cannabis for adults. Lazy Mexicans, indeed!
So, go ahead and call it “marijuana!” It’s Mexican, and clearly, Mexicans are awesome! Honestly, you can call it whatever you want, because the fact is that prohibition is over. And the only thing we won’t be calling it anymore is “illegal!” iOrale’!