I had other plans. I was gonna write my next column about Ruben Torres’ 3rd annual Love Thy Neighbor Toy & Clothing Drive that takes place on December 15 at The Spot in Barrio Logan. The drive plans on bringing Christmas to thousands of kids throughout Tijuana, Rosarito, Tecate, and homeless families in San Diego.
Instead I have to write two columns. Do twice the work because some millionaire decided to put up a demeaning billboard in my neighborhood. In the community that I live in. The community I write about. Now I have to write about this jerk. And then write another column about something I care about in time to plug the toy drive that will bring a little joy into some kids’ lives.
On Wednesday December 3 a giant advertising billboard above Union Electric on 28th Street, viewable from Interstate 5, went up. But, instead of advertising some crap that people don’t need, a millionaire named Marc Paskin bought the space for $5000 to advertise his love interest. With a big picture of his smiling, ugly mug the billboard said, “All I Want for Christmas is a Latina Girlfriend.” And then listed an email address, ChristmasLatina@aol.com, to contact him.
The next morning, after seeing an article on the billboard posted by the U-T San Diego, I immediately tweeted through my @DesdeLaLogan account, “This billboard in #BarrioLogan #SanDiego is in such bad taste.” And I included a photo of the offending billboard.
Later that afternoon I tweeted again, “This millionaire needs to go troll for women in another neighborhood #BarrioLogan doesn’t want him. #SanDiego” And I included a link to the article in the U-T San Diego.
The next morning I woke up and checked my Twitter, like I normally do, and found a tweet from U-T San Diego columnist Matthew T. Hall that said, “Yep, you made my Latina girlfriend column.” Intrigued, I clicked the link and found a piece on the millionaire that was, unfortunately, way too kind to his wannabe amorous endeavor. But, since I was quoted, I retweeted the column on Twitter and posted on my Facebook timeline.
I then replied to Matthew T. Hall’s tweet with, “That billboard guy doesn’t realize how offensive the sign is. He should voluntarily take it down before some tagger hits it up.”
Later on Mr. Hall tweeted me again, “See my last couple tweets. Someone may have done that already. You see it today? That true?”
Intrigued again, I did my normal morning business then jumped into the family minivan and went billboard cruising to see what may have happened. When I arrived across the street at the Shell station there was a female Univision reporter and cameraman on the scene looking to interview Latinas. There was also an unknown female photographer clicking away. As well as a billboard with the bottom one third torn off where the millionaire’s email address once was.
With my beat up iPhone 3GS I jaywalked across the street to get a good shot of the now defaced billboard. I then walked back to the minivan and proceeded to tweet out the following, “Looks like someone took matters into their own hands. Don’t mess with #Latinas in #BarrioLogan #SanDiego.” I included a photo of the remaining portion of the sign.
A few hours later I received an email from Anna Daniels, my editor here at San Diego Free Press saying, “Way to go! Just saw this on Raw Story.” I clicked the link and saw that the author of The Raw Story piece, Arturo Garcia, quoted two of my tweets. I, of course, sent out a tweet with the link to the article.
I immediately followed that up with another, “I wish I could take credit for ripping up that billboard but I can’t. I’m too fat and lazy to climb up there. #BarrioLogan #SanDiego.” Perhaps in my younger days I may have done something like this. But at 42 I’ll leave it to the younglings to take that on. And they did.
Some people may be pissed off that my community took matters into it’s own hands. That someone vandalized a billboard that this guy paid for. They have every right to be upset. But we, as a community, have every right, whether legal or not, to determine what we want in our neighborhood. This billboard is offensive. It demeans Latinas by allowing others to think that they would prostitute themselves for some rich John who puts up a sign begging for a girlfriend.
Wanting to get an opinion on the billboard controversy I asked an expert on Latinas: my wife Olympia, who, by luck of her parents, just happens to be Latina. Olympia has a BA in Ethnic Studies from UCSD, monitors the hearts of patients at Scripps Memorial in La Jolla and has been a Latina all her life (though she prefers being called a Chicana). She isn’t very happy with the whole Billboard John thing. She says, “Personally, I am offended by this man’s flagrant display of narcisism and white privilege. By advertising for a Latina girlfriend, he creates a financial relationship with his message that connotes a Latina can be bought. Specifically, he targets the Latinas of my neighborhood, as if Barrio Logan -underprivileged in many ways, is a prime location for this message, as if Latinas in this neighborhood are more likely as result of their socioeconomic status to take him up on this offer. Well I’m sorry Mr. Paskin, money is not the way to a Latina’s heart, and the women of La Logan are not for sale.”
This Marc Paskin aka Billboard John may be a nice guy. He’s given away lots of his own money to worthy causes. He might be a lonely man looking for love. Apparently he likes Latinas. So do I. But I didn’t put up a billboard that demeans an entire segment of the population of San Diego. He should’ve realized that and not put the billboard up. WTF was he thinking?
UPDATE: Matthew T. Hall, the U-T San Diego columnist, updated his piece Saturday morning saying that CBS will replace the billboard. Well CBS better be prepared to continue replacing it because my community will not stand having that billboard up. Every time it is replaced someone will take matters into their own hands and deface it. Even if it has to be a fat, lazy, middle-aged man in a minivan that has to do it.