FIRST PERSON - As I parked the car near the Gudiel family house on Proctor Avenue, in an unincorporated part of the San Gabriel Valley, I suddenly remembered that I forgot to tell my wife that there was a possibility that I could be arrested on this day. She’s gotten used to my activism as of late, but I suppose the wise thing to do would’ve been to ask her to keep her phone close by.
It was my first sit-in of any kind, and the first thing I noticed upon entering the side entrance was a crude set of tents propped up in the front yard that friends, neighbors and union activists had put up for a round-the-clock vigil. Spot, the family dog, greeted me at the gate with a fast wagging tail.
Due to my negligence of laundry for the past week, I was a bit overdressed, and received suspicious looks from the 8 to10 people clustered at the front door. Rose Gudiel was the first to greet me, a charming yet tired looking woman, who had only managed a couple of catnaps during the week. I introduced myself as I didn’t want to be mistaken for a banker, not in this day and age.
Rose’s trouble began a few years ago with OneWest Bank and Fannie Mae. After a death in the family, Rose had one less income coming into the family and instead of modifying the loans for her, One West Bank refused a payment that was just two weeks late, and ultimately foreclosed on her.
The eviction notice came a little over a week ago.
When I entered the home, a housing rights attorney named Elena Popp was tutoring Jose Gudiel, Rose’s brother, on non-violent resistance in case the sheriff arrived to enforce the eviction. Jose wanted to know if he had any rights to protect his mother and sister if the police started putting hands on them. Elena insisted that they had to get arrested peaceably, without violence.
It was about this time that we all heard a siren in the distance. We froze and let out a deep breath when it passed. I took my thumb off my wife’s number in my cellphone, which I dropped back in my pocket.
After about an hour, Elena suggested that we watch the movie Gandhi during the evening. She mentioned that it was a great film that showed non-violent protest in action. I volunteered to drive into La Puente with Rose’s younger sister Jessica, to look for a video store, but we didn’t find one. They don’t seem to exist anymore. However, Jessica found a green military cap in 7-11. “Look at me, I’m getting ready for the revolution,” she said only half-jokingly.
We ate a late lunch back at the Gudiel home. The cameraman from Telemundo came inside and joined us. He’d been watching the action from a news van across the street for a few days, hoping to catch something. The Gudiels seemed to have grown close to him.
As we ate around a packed dinner table, I couldn’t help but notice that the kitchen looked to be half-packed or half-unpacked, depending on how you looked at it, like the family really wasn’t sure if they’d be staying or leaving. I also noticed a picture of The Last Supper above us on the wall while I devoured my rice and beans.
What is different about the Gudiel situation from other foreclosures is that not only are they refusing to leave their home, but they have also staged protests in front of OneWest Bank and Fannie Mae in Pasadena, with the help of the Service Employees International Union and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. [link] Rose Gudiel has also made it publicly known to Sheriff Lee Baca that she and her family aren’t going anywhere. It is a sit-in that is now transformed into an act-out. They’re fighting back.
As my time at the Gudiel home wound down, I wished everybody good luck. When I opened the gate to leave, Spot barked at me like I was a complete stranger, which was strange since I had scratched her belly for almost half the day. Jessica told me, not to be offended: “Spot has departure anxiety.”
After getting arrested with her disabled mother, Rosa, and nine others at the Fannie Mae regional headquarters on Wednesday, Rose received a call from OneWest Bank. They are going to discuss a modification loan proposal and the eviction notice has been cancelled. It’s a great victory for the bank accountability movement and an even greater one for Rose Gudiel and her family. Well done.
(Jim Lair Beard has worked as a server at the Hyatt Andaz for two years. He is also a writer and actor living in West Hollywood with his wife Christine. This article was posted first at fryingpannews.org) -cw
Tags: One West Band, Fannie Mae, Rose Gudiel, San Gabriel valley, sit in, Elena Popp
Vol 9 Issue 82
Pub: Oct 14, 2011