'I don't want to live in a community of rich white people. It's boring'

  • Shelley Weiss and Abelardo Rea, president of Conexion Amigo

    Maria Sticca

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

Filmmaker Shelley Weiss moved from Los Angeles to Oakley, Utah, nine years ago. An avid swimmer, she quickly became a regular at the Park City Racquet Club. Over the past few years, she has heard racist comments there about the growing number of Mexican workers in town.

Shelley Weiss: "The people at the racquet club would get complaints from the tennis players that the Mexican guys were staring at the women in their tennis skirts - stuff like that. Or there's a horror story: A little girl couldn't speak English, so her teacher lost it with her. She said, 'If you can't speak English maybe you should quit school and get a job.'

"So I got together with the police department, the Catholic Church, people from the racquet club, citizens trying to address the situation. At the same time, Abelardo Rea was meeting with some of the Mexican people, laborers, figuring out how to improve their image in town. Because there is a criminal element - drug dealers - in the Mexican community. It wasn't a big number, but the perception was that the whole community was gangs and drug dealers.

"So we merged our groups. It's called Conexion Amigo. We meet daily. It goes all the way from working closely with the police department, to trying to get the Mexican community to patrol itself for drug dealers, to having fiestas, so the Anglos can start to get to know them. So they can put a face on each other. We did a Cinco de Mayo party; some of it sounds trivial, but it's not.

"I spoke to one of our police detectives the other night. A Spanish guy had come up to her and asked, 'What are you doing here?' They didn't know what she was doing; she was in an unmarked car. She said, 'This is cool, they're starting to police themselves.'

"One of the reasons I do this is I don't want to live in a community of rich white people. It's boring."

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