Operation P.A.T.S.Y. Asks, 50 Years After JFK: Who is Eric Martinez?
On January 4, 2013, nearly half a century after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, I met my friend Eric Martinez at PJ’s Coffee on Magazine in New Orleans. I found Eric in the back of the café, his ancient MacBook perched atop a tiny table with at least 12 tabs open in his browser. He had probably beaten me to PJ’s by an hour, and he’d been busy. “Okay,” he said, excitedly gesticulating with fingerless gloves toward pages of scrawled notes in his journal. “I think I’ve got our afternoon planned.” Armed with a list of addresses and a camera, we set out to make visible the invisible—to give ourselves the JFK tour of New Orleans.
Though the central drama of the JFK assassination played out in Dallas, New Orleans was a secondary nexus of activity. Lee Harvey Oswald, the man commonly associated with the murder, grew up in New Orleans and lived there again as an adult. There are countless theories delineating the actors and motives converging in that assassination. Most involve the CIA; many involve Cuba or the Soviet Union. But New Orleans holds the unique honor of being the only precinct to have actually tried anyone with the crime of assassination.
Eric and I came to the fetid melting pot of JFK conspiracy enthusiasm from different places. Eric was a frequent viewer of Oliver Stone’s 2001 film JFK and had read Jim Marrs’ Crossfire. My sources are more miscellaneous—an issue of the quasi-academic zine The CIA Makes Science Fiction Uninteresting and a collection of fringe podcasts. Our conspiracy and hidden history interests converged and commenced with the peculiar life and times of Oswald.
When we realized this year was the 50 year anniversary, our sense of purpose sharpened. Usually at the 50 year mark, a trove of classified documents become released to the public. My excitement deflated when I learned that the National Archives in College Park, Maryland is refraining from releasing anything new until 2017 (for reasons that are, of course, unknowable). All the anniversary marks, in this case, is half a century of fruitless research. My personal interest in conspiracy theories stems from an anarcha-feminist analysis of power, and specifically with viewing the last century of US history and foreign policy through the lens of imperial intergovernmental struggles between intelligence bureaus.
But that’s the stuff of my academic work. A person needs some space to dream.
My journey took me through many New Orleans neighborhoods, backyards, graveyards, and one unassuming uptown coffee-shop. Sure, I sought to discover firsthand the topography of Oswald’s childhood. But I also investigated what draws people to conspiracy theories. I wondered, are my friends as complex and fascinating as murky characters from history books, despite our powerlessness and insignificance? The answer was right in front of me, under taped-together glasses and a Washington Nationals’ hat.