In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta
George J. Altgelt
A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS
Vol. XVII No. 8
Road trip: along for the ride, behaving well, and disconnecting Page 26
Eduardo Botello — a soldier’s life Marfa and Langtry: Twice-sold tales in West Texas graced The Zapata Pages 36 -37 Oilfield Waste by the footnotes Dump of history, valor, and love Zapata County’s Owner of Page 30 oilfield dump opposition resolution to dump permit renewal Page 9
property sues operator. Page 9
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Laredo Community College West End Washington Street • 5500 South Zapata Hwy. • Laredo, TX Ft. McIntosh956.721.5109
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M ailbox L E etters to the
I read your July 2011 article on the toxic materials being dumped in Zapata County and wanted to thank you for bringing this topic to the surface. I have many concerns about the environment and our water supply in Zapata. My concern first came about with the term “salt” water deposits seen to the west side of Highway 83. Of course it is not ocean saltwater but fracking chemicals being pumped into the ground and eventually reaching our drinking water. An HBO documentary Gasland put all this energy exploration into prospective. I highly recommend you watch it. The movie Erin Brockovich reminds me of how contaminated water ruins lives by affecting the health of those who drink the contaminated water. I’ve seen/heard of many people having rare forms of cancers. I believe that there is a direct connection between these toxic materials being pumped into our water table and these rare cancers that are occurring. Ironically, the other oil/gas producing counties in the area, seems like, do not have these toxic dumping sites. I was told that counties that depend on groundwater for their drinking supply were opposed to having these sites due to the hazardous effects to their drinking water supply. Go figure? Signed, Norberto Lopez Zapata, Texas
María Eugenia Guerra
María Eugenia Guerra
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Thanks for being our environmental knight! I have started my private little war with USL across Highway 16. They have ignored each request I’ve made regarding the road to the facility. There are 100 trucks per day going in and out. The dust they stir up is blown on to our property. Their website brags about the recycled drilling
I read the about Meg being illegally detained this morning in LareDOS. It seems to me that these environmental atrocities should be documented officially and they should be reported to EPA, TCEQ, and OSHA. I am sure Rep. Raymond and Congressman Cuellar would also like to know about this degradation in their respective districts. Thank you for keeping us in the know! Signed, Mark Lovelace
Wow! “What has God wrought?” Or better still, what have you wrought? The pen is mightier than the sword, as put by St Isidore of Seville and later attributed or stolen by a plagiarist by the name of Shakespeare. Yo siempre he vivido dictado por otro dicho, “Never start an argument by a man (or woman) who buys ink by the barrel!” Meg, we all appreciate your interest in this topic. Zapata will be eternally grateful for your courage and tenacity in your investigative piece. It says a lot about the preciousness of our First Amendment rights, which we often do not exercise or do so correctly. Tacitus said it best about the 2nd century Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian — both Spaniards, and, therefore, our historical heroes — that during their respective reign “all men could speak their minds without fear of retribution.” Their belief in the principle of free expression formed the basis for El Fuero Juzgo, the Book of Laws, extracted from the Visigoths in the 6th century by Romanized Spaniards and which circuitously became our contribution to our country’s Bill of Rights. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Signed, Hildegardo Flores Zapata, Texas
sludge being great road base. When you have time drive out there to see how massive it is. Trucks coming from Louisiana to dump here. Thanks again. Call if you go out to US Liquids. Signed, José O. Dodier On this glorious Sunday morning, ohso-many things need to get done; animals need to be fed, plants need to be watered, books to be read and I-love-yous to be said (Rhyming not intentional). But as I swish down the last bit of coffee in my cup, I will not read another line of LareDOS until I say how much I love your paper’s work. By far the best and important reporting for our entire region. I consider LareDOS to be my hometown version of the Texas Observer. Keep up the good work! Signed, Amede Rubio WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
Newly elected members of the board of directors of the Webb County-City of Laredo Veterans Museum are (seated) Ana Flores, vice-president; Rosa María de Llano, secretary; Richard Rosell, treasurer; and Gabriel Lopez, president. Standing left to right are Webb County Commissioner Jaime Canales as ex-officio, David Garza, Norma Hagy, Odie Arambula, and Diana Farias. Not pictured are chaplain, Pastor Mike Barrera; historian, Dr. Jerry Thompson, board member Judith Gutierrez; and City Council member Cindy Liendo Espinoza. The board is formulating fundraising strategies to bring the project to fruition.
Courtesy of Patricia Driscoll
Courtesy of Ret. MSG Adolfo Gonzalez
Veterans Museum elects officers
Appealing to the rain gods Laredoans who went to the rain dance on Saturday, August 6 at Los Dos Laredos Park were hoping to make for lack of rain from Tropical Storm Don. Event organizers asked people to bring cars with loud stereos, wear face paint and rain gear, and dance for 15 minutes or until it rained. Unfortunately their appeals to the rain gods went unanswered that day.
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UISD inaugurates Cherish Center, Instructional TV studio By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff
he United Independent School District inaugurated two new facilities on Tuesday, August 16, both located at the United High School ninth grade campus. The $3.4 million Cherish Center, which was built with $3 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds and $339,000 from the district’s general fund, serves high school students with special needs. The Cherish Center’s alternative/vocational career curriculum will offer handson training in the vocational areas of business media, commercial food service, horticulture, hotel hospitality, and retail merchandising. The center’s focus is to advance the goal of UISD’s Special Education
Ribbon cutting of the ITV Studio
Program to provide education and training to all special needs students so that they
may have the opportunity to live more independent, successful, and fulfilling lives. Special needs students from all four UISD high schools will be served by the 21,000-square-foot facility that faces McPherson Road in the eastern sector of the 9th grade campus. Lucy Gutierrez is the lead teacher for
the Cherish Center. She will work with a staff of 17, which includes eight special education teachers, a school nurse, a receptionist, two paraprofessionals in the medically fragile unit, two paraprofessionals in the minimum language center, and three paraprofessionals in the severe language center.
27th Annual Update in Medicine Conference Friday, October 14, 2011 12:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Saturday, October 15, 2011 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. UTHSCSA-Regional Campus D.D. Hachar Building 1937 E. Bustamante St.
Space is Limited Pre-Register Today Call 956-712-0037 Fax 956-712-8601
RegistRAtion Fee: PhysiCiAns $200; nURses, soCiAl woRkeRs $100; otheRs $10
NAME ___________________________________________________________________ PROFESSION: MD/DD: _______ RN/LvN: _______ STUDENT: _______ OTHER: ______ Mailing Address: ___________________________________________________________ Daytime Phone: _______ Other Phone: _______ Email: ________________________ Employer: _________________________________
Medical Update in:
u Radiation (Natural vs. Un Natural) u Diabetes in pregnancu and beyond u Thyroid/Pancreatic Cancer u Heart Disease in Women u Childhood Obesity u Hypertension u Ethics u Diabetes u Autism u Polytrauma u Vitamin D Deficiency u Influenza u Mental Illness u Cancer Screening Methods
Presented by The Area Health Education Center of the Mid Rio Grande Border Area of Texas, Inc. & The Webb-Zapata-Jim Hogg County Medical Society For More Information Area Health Education Center 1505 Calle del Norte Ste. 430 Laredo, TX 78041 Phone: 956-712-0037 Fax 956-712-8601 www.mrgbahec.org firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsored by: TheUT Health Science Center San Antonio School of Medicine and School of Nursing
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interviews that feature students, staff, and board members. UISD’s nationally recognized ITV department produces a variety of informational, educational, and promotional English and Spanish videos for training and PSAs for TV and radio, recruitment videos, and retirement videos. The department also records all UISD board meetings, graduations, concerts, and special events. ITV department director Susan Carlson has five staff members that include an ITV specialist, three photographer/editors, and a secretary. The UISD ITV department has the distinction of winning more awards from the Texas School Public Relations Association than any other instructional TV department in Texas. The structure was also designed by Kell Muñoz and built by Leyendecker Construction. u
María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS
Designed by the Kell Muñoz firm of San Antonio, the Cherish Center facility was built by Leyendecker Construction. ITV Studio UISD’s state-of-the-art Instructional Television studio was also inaugurated with a ribbon cutting on August 16. The 6,250 square-foot building came in at a cost of $969,500 and features a lobby, offices, an editing room, prop and storage rooms, a master control room, an audio room, a conference room, and a 30-foot-by-60-foot TV studio. Exterior construction features include a standing seam metal roof, a canopied entrance, and a glazed tile logo that identifies the building. The studio houses three permanent sets for ITV productions of the department’s award-winning newscast and Knowledge for College academic game show. A talk show set will be implemented to produce
Cordial visit reaffirms LCC/RGISC relationship
Laredo Community College president Dr. Juan Maldonado hosted a cordial meeting with trustees of the Río Grande International Center (RGISC) Dr. Alfonso Martinez, Fabiola Flores, María Eugenia Guerra, and Israel Reyna, and the organization’s executive director Tricia Cortez.
Ribbon cutting of the Cherish Center
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From the Editor’s Desk
The smell of the carne asada always brings me back home By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff
y favorite Laredo stereotype is the ability to go out on any given Sunday and take in the smell of your neighbors cooking up carne asada. Earlier this month, I started thinking about what the weekly tradition said about our culture, and I joyfully concluded that the carne asada is the perfect symbol for Laredo. There are variations of the weekly carne asada, but many Laredoans can agree on the basics. Family members and friends make trips to H-E-B or one of our local meat markets earlier in the day to buy supplies. The essentials are tomatoes, carne (of course), tortillas, avocado, onions, and beans. Just thinking about the combination of these foods makes me yearn for carne asada.
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Then, usually toward the late afternoon, even in the 100-plus heat, the men start cooking. I really loved watching my father cook because my mother always did the cooking, and to see a dad do the cooking was a delightful switch from the norm (I think those were early signs of my interest in gender equality). While the men cooked and socialized outside, the women are inside, preparing salsas, beans, and sometimes menudo. The women also socialize, but they are smart enough to stay inside with air conditioning. The children play hide and seek, or run after each other in crazed games of tag, building up their appetite. When I was a child, I loved observing the internal and external conversations among the adults. Externally, they revolved around typical dad talk: sports, jobs, what the kids were up to, etc. Internally was much the same, except that there was significantly more gossip. And
when the food was ready, everybody would join together at a big table, chow down on meat, and laughter would ensue. In my mind, this is pure Laredo. On the weekends we gather with our families, because our families are highly visible and influential forces in our lives. Part of this is because we were mostly raised Catholic — and most of us know how close Catholic families are! Not to say that other cultures don’t put emphasis on the family, but Laredo families have their own quirks, just as families do in South Africa or New York. If you think about it, that savory smell of cooking meat on the weekends truly represents a beautiful concept. And I hope we can continue to see all the good in Laredo while also highlighting the issues we all need to improve on. Somebody recently asked me if I loved ruffling feathers in my job. I told them that I never set out to hurt
I hope we can continue to see all the good in Laredo while also highlighting the issues we all need to improve on.
feelings or push an agenda, but that when the stories come together, sometimes it is clear there are major players or institutions that must be held accountable. Over the summer we were fortunate to have University of Texas journalism student Alexa Ura intern with us. She wrote stories about topics rarely touched on in Laredo media, like the little-explored GLBT community. Meanwhile, she also interned at the Río Grande International Study Center. And finally, she continued writing stories for UT’s online publication The Horn all throughout the summer. I’m running out of breath just thinking about all the work she did, and I’m so grateful that I got to work with a truly talented reporter and writer. Make sure to take a look at her farewell column on page 11. Happy trails, Alexa! u
Zapata County passes opposition resolution to renewal of Moss oilfield waste dumpsite By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff ZAPATA — The Zapata County Commissioners Court passed a unanimous resolution at its August 8 meeting to oppose the Texas Railroad Commission’s (RRC) landtreatment permit renewal for the J. L. Moss oilfield waste dumpsite near Bustamante. (See LareDOS, July 2011 issue at laredosnews. com) The dump, which has been in operation for most of the last two decades, has in the past received the oilfield waste from Zapata County oil and gas exploration as well as drilling waste from Mexico’s nationalized oil and gas entity, Pemex. With Zapata County drilling activity at a near standstill, the Moss facility and Zapata County now carry the environmental burden of much of the toxic waste from the Eagle Ford Shale exploration in Webb, Dimmit, and LaSalle counties. The commissioners adopted the resolution after hearing from Laredo attorney Elisamar Soto, who represents the Moss interests and owner Darren Kolbe. Soto, stressing the importance of the Moss facility to the economy of Zapata County, introduced employees of the dumpsite to the court and enumerated the children of each employee. She said the site was “heavily regulated” by the RRC and that the dump “had never had enforcement actions, was never fined, and was inspected on a regular basis.” She said the dump operated “to the standards of the Railroad Commission” and
provided jobs and a much needed and important service to the drilling industry. Zapata County Judge Joseph Rathmell told Soto that he did not want the county to be a designated dumping ground for oilfield waste. “It is traveling on our roads through our communities and ending up in our county,” Judge Rathmell said. “Every acre of Zapata County drains into Falcon Lake.” Unfettered, Soto continued. “What makes Zapata County a good place for my client to do business is that there is no possibility of contaminating quality ground water. It’s a rural area.” Soto said, conceding, “Yes, it’s not pretty. Yes, it smells.” The commissioners and the judge questioned Soto about the lifespan of the facility, Pemex drilling waste, what amendments were sought to the permit, who was on record protesting the permit renewal, where the bulk of the waste was being generated, and whether the Moss facility will continue to receive waste. Soto referred to the back-and-forth of the permit renewal as a “lengthy process,” during which the facility would continue to receive oilfield waste. She said contesting the permit would incur the expensive services of attorneys, hydrologists, and engineers on both sides of the issue. Dr. Hildegardo Flores, whose home and ranch are just south of the 82.53-acre Moss facility, spoke in protest of the operation of
the dump. Flores told the court that he and his wife were on the receiving end of the State Highway 16 disposal pits, and that they had actively protested the operation of the site and the renewal of permits. Flores countered Soto’s contention that the Moss pits and land farm had enjoyed a flawless operation.
“Since 2005, they have been cited for three violations — for not having an alarm system to alert to spills and overflows; for not
having levees 2 feet higher than toxic oily liquids and hydrocarbons on the ground; and for violating State Rule 22, which protects migratory birds from hazardous waste,” Flores said. He noted the value of migratory birds to Zapata’s rapidly growing birding and ecotourism industry. The August 8 opposition resolution invoked the County’s Master Plan for Economic Development and its focus on an economic future that turned from 20th century hydrocarbon exploration to a 21st century plan based on a clean and environmentally friendly future that included “animal husbandry, agriculture, and ecotourism, including fishing, hunting, bird watching, trail hiking, exploration of historic sites, and paragliding.” The resolution also cited a Transect Zone Plan for San Ygnacio for rural preserves. Judge Rathmell told Soto that the court had earlier opposed the permitting of an oilfield dumpsite a scant quarter-mile from historic San Ygnacio and the banks of the Río Grande. Texas Energy applied for that permit last December. The conclusion to Soto’s appearance before the court resonated propitiously. She said that in addition to jobs for Zapatans, the facility paid the site owner María de los Angeles Bustamante $69,000 a year. “That’s a lot of money to a local landowner over 11 years,” Soto said. “She’s not protesting.” Actually, she is. u
Owner of oilfield waste dumpsite property sues operator J. L. Moss and Darren Kolbe By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff ZAPATA — María de los Angeles Bustamante, the owner of the 82.53 acres that the State Highway 16 oilfield dumpsite sits on, has sued dump operator J.L. Moss Investments Inc. and its owner Darren Kolbe for theft of water from a freshwater
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pond on the property and the disposal of overflow hazardous wastes into the pond and adjacent areas. Filed by Laredo attorney Rusty Meurer of Kazen, Meurer, and Perez, the suit alleges that the dumpsite operators took water from the pond without consent and used it for profit to wash out the trailers of 18-wheelers hauling in oilfield mud and
waste. According to the suit, the leaseholders failed to implement a closure and remediation plan for the site approved by the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) in 2000 and “independently and through its agent, Agave,” failed to comply with RRC permits; accessed and used areas of land not contained within
the lease’s 82.53 acres; took water from the pond without authority; illegally disposed of oil and gas wastes in and adjacent to the pond and unpermitted sites disposed of hazardous waste; and conducted unauthorized truck and tank wash-out operations. Continued on page 16
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The Prairie Foundation: a 50-year legacy of giving to nonprofits, disenfranchised
By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff
n 1957, oil and gas entrepreneur David Fasken founded the Prairie Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization dedicated to contributing funds to charitable entities. When Fasken died in 1982, his wife, Barbara Fasken, took the reins of the foundation and continued her late husband’s work of donating to organizations in Midland/Odessa and the bay area of northern California. After Barbara Fasken — who was known for her love of Laredo — purchased La Posada Hotel in 1994, the Prairie Foundation eventually added Laredo organizations as annual recipients of the foundation’s grants.
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That decision was made by general manager of the foundation at the time, Norbert Dickman. “As the Fasken interests increased their business presence in Laredo, it seemed only appropriate to include the Laredo organizations in grants from the Prairie Foundation in an effort to give back to the community,” he said. For more than 50 years, the Prairie Foundation has donated more than $5 million to programs and organizations that benefit children, encourage education, and assist the sick and the financially disadvantaged. Every year, the Prairie Foundation donates about $50,000 to four Laredo 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that merit financial need to continue and expand their missions to make a difference in the community.
“The foundation concentrates on giving to needy groups in the community, but have also given to organizations that promote the arts or other positive activities for the youth,” said Raul Perales, general manager of La Posada Hotel and Laredo spokesman for the Faskens. Last year, Mercy Ministries of Laredo, a faith-based clinic, received $12,500 for public diagnostic exams as part of their comprehensive women’s program. The clinic’s patients are mostly uninsured and many live below poverty level. “We think the world of the Prairie Foundation,” said Roseanne Palacios, development director for the clinic. “Many organizations in Laredo have been touched by their generosity, and we plan to continue working with them.” The Prairie Foundation has also donated to organizations like Sacred Heart Children’s Home, which provide Laredo’s youth in need with meals, education, and a place to stay. Bethany House of Laredo, a food program that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week to the homeless, elderly, veterans, and disabled, also received funding from the foundation.
The foundation, a prime supporter of education, has also donated to both Texas A&M International University and Laredo Community College. Organizations interested in applying for Prairie Foundation funding must apply online, a process Perales says is fairly simple and only requires organizations to justify their need for funding, whether its for a specific project or operations costs. The Foundation’s Grants Committee in Midland then reviews applications. The upcoming deadline for the Laredo area is November 3, and awards will be distributed on December 8. The foundation is always looking for new organizations to help and is dedicated to continue their work in Laredo, according to Perales, who added that the Faskens’ legacy lives through their rich tradition of caring for the quality of life and generous charitable assistance to communities like Laredo. According to Dickman, the foundation is “delighted” at the opportunity to aid many local charitable organizations throughout the city. “Laredo is a wonderful place, and we feel fortunate to be part of the community,” he said. u
My summer internship at ‘LareDOS’ s my first year at college was winding down, I realized that I’d soon be back in the harsh (summer) heat and the uniquely cultured community of Laredo. I had lived in Austin, a place that I felt I was destined to live in, for almost a year, and I wasn’t very much looking forward to spending a summer in Laredo. What I thought would be a summer I’d spend counting down the days until I’d leave back to Austin ended up being a fantastic summer that I would have never envisioned turning out so well. This summer, I got my very first internship as a journalist. It was something that kind of fell into my lap when LareDOS publisher Meg Guerra was somehow impressed by a couple of writing samples I had sent her — writing samples from my first semester writing in a formal journalistic manner, barely coping with Associated Press rules and style formats that every editor at any publication expects you to know. The very first day that I met with Meg and editor Cristina Herrera, I was assigned several stories and asked to write up short news briefs for a deadline at the end of that week for publication. The same week, I was sent into the field to go take pictures along the riverbank while for other stories, I was writing away at the office for hours at a time. Needless to say, I was automatically pushed to jump into the world of professional journalism, and I haven’t looked back since. My time at LareDOS can be summed up by the stories I was able to produce over the summer. Learning to objectively present the Safe Fracking Coalition and its effort to hold the oil and gas industry’s work in the Eagle Ford Shale
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By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff
Alexa Ura environmentally accountable in LareDOS’ May issue while investigating the economic impact that South Texas is experiencing because of the drilling in the June issue, I was able to tell two sides of the drilling boom story. More importantly, I was establishing the foundations for my own journalistic integrity. But one of the most important things I felt that I accomplished this summer was expanding my role in advocacy journalism. Thanks to my fourth grade teacher Elva Puig, my interest in journalism began at a very young age, and it was then when I decided that I wanted to write for the under-represented and the unconsidered — that I wanted to tell the countless untold stories of our neighbors, our teachers, and the people we walk past every single day. With guidance from experienced writers at LareDOS, I was able to do just that in our last two issues, recounting the stories of an undocumented student and various gay individuals that were brave enough to speak out about inconsistencies within our community and our society. I was able to continue on my journey of finding my own journalistic voice, and be-
cause of these stories, I was able to take another step forward. I would have never learned so much this summer if it wasn’t for Cristina and Meg. Cristina, who was in my position not too long ago, was supportive of all my stories. She offered advice and looked out for me, but most importantly, she was always helpful — exactly what
a beginning journalist would hope an editor to be. Meg always trusted my instincts and stood behind my stories. For a long time, she has been looking at the bigger picture and calling out the big dogs in Laredo — an admirable undertaking that takes courage and a lot of work. Both these women pushed me out of my shell this summer. I was able to accomplish more than I could have ever imagined, and for that I will always be extremely grateful. While this summer I’ve learned that I should always carry an extra pair of heels in case I’m sent to a press conference at City Hall at the last minute and that laptop and phone chargers should be permanent artifacts in my bag, the biggest lesson I take with me is that experience is a huge part of being a journalist. It takes courage to take on new adventures, it takes time to find your voice, and, while many other circumstances are involved in both these feats, internships can be the stepping stones toward eventually reaching both of these. This summer, I was just lucky enough to intern at LareDOS and take a huge step forward. u
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ayra Maldonado used to live in New York before she packed up and moved to Laredo seven years ago. In the Big Apple, Maldonado would frequent chain and independent bookstores with her children — she now has four boys — whom she would read to and actively encouraged to read. In Laredo, however, Maldonado saw a need for a bookstore that would provide a cozy, educational, and fun place for children and their parents. “This is what I want my kids to have,” Maldonado said of her new business, The Kids Bookstore, which opened on July 30. Maldonado, who is originally from Monterrey, Mexico, said she had done her own research into bringing a bookstore in Laredo when she saw the need for one a year ago. “I saw that there was a big, big hole there for the kids. Reading is fundamental, and video games were winning above
books,” Maldonado said. “The pet stores, too. We have three huge pet stores, but we don’t have bookstores, so that’s very sad for Laredo.” Last year she contacted representatives from Barnes & Noble, who told her their statistics showed that a bookstore would not do well in Laredo. When that failed, she researched smaller bookstores in New York to see what they were doing right. After all her research and discussions with experts in New York, Maldonado decided to open up her own bookstore. One year after she devoted herself to this project, she opened The Kids Bookstore. The bookstore is nestled in one of the newest shopping centers on Del Mar Boulevard. Light wooden book shelves line the walls of the first floor, which is painted in bright child-friendly colors. Display shelves offer books on Justin Bieber and classics such as The Lion & the Mouse. There is a small children’s reading section that has squishy mini chairs in one corner of the store, perfect for the smallest readers. The stairs leading up to the second floor
Bieber fever Maldonado said she offers books on Justin Bieber, even though she does not like the singer, because they are popular among preteens.
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are currently chained off, but Maldonado said the second floor will eventually house a large stage for puppet shows, book readings, and other reading-based events. Maldonado hopes to cater to families, both local school districts, and private schools. Maldonado has also been talking to publishers in New York, who were interested in her story about a town that has struggled to bring a bookstore back. “They want to meet me and to help me bring authors here, to have conferences for all the teachers, etc. But it will take a while to reach my goals,” she said. Eventually Maldonado envisions a bustling store that will be a part of the local community. It will offer local books, book signings from local authors, and books from around the state. The store will also offer many titles in Spanish, because Maldonado believes it is important to encourage the use of both English and Spanish. She said offering the Spanish version of popular titles is especially helpful in Laredo because many times parents want to know what their children are reading but they cannot read English. Even buying books online is not an option sometimes. “This one woman did not like to give her credit card information to Amazon or other online stores, so that is one example of the need,” Maldonado said. Maldonado currently runs the business herself, with some help from her husband, who is a family doctor, and her children. Maldonado added that while she has been working on the bookstore, she also assists her husband with his private practice. She
By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff
Family-friendly bookstore opens in north Laredo
Mayra Maldonado has also hired two employees as of press time, but is looking for more. In a climate that isn’t exactly welcoming for bookstores, Maldonado has this to say about whether or not she can pull it all off: “Yes, of course! This is the product of a year, and look at me, I’m here. A few days ago, I hadn’t been believing in this project, but now that you’re asking me this, yes, of course we can do it. We will do it.” For more information about The Kids Bookstore, contact (956) 722-1170 or e-mail email@example.com. The bookstore also has a Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/ The-kids-BoOkstore/168318923217427. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
Dancing the tacuachito: San Benito festival will pay tribute to women of conjunto music
lans are underway in San Benito for the 20th Annual Conjunto Festival, a three-day event that celebrates Texas Mexican conjunto
music. Sponsored by the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, this year’s festival is a tribute to the women of conjunto music. The event is set for October 21, 22, and 23 at 225 E. Stenger St. in San Benito. The Women of Conjunto tribute features seven conjuntos in which women play an integral role, including Mickey Mendoza of Mickey y Los Carnales from Houston; renowned accordionist Eva Ybarra of San Antonio; Linda Escobar, daughter of pioneering musician Eligio Escobar and the lead singer of Linda Escobar y Su Conjunto from Alice; Conjunto Clemencia from Austin, featuring Clemencia Zapata on drums and Susan Torres on accordion; Ruby Franco of Chano Cadena y Su Conjunto from
Schedule to date Friday, October 21 Mujeres Acordionistas 6:45-7:40 p.m. Los Doneños 7:40-8:35 p.m. Pending Confirmation 8:35-9:45 p.m. Mickey y Sus Carnales 9:45-11 p.m. Saturday, October 22, 2011 San Benito High Conjunto Estrella 4-4:45 p.m. Chicken Club: Mujeres Acordionistas 5–6 p.m. Heritage Taller: Mujeres Accordionistas 4:45-5:45 p.m. Conjunto Clemencia 5:45-6:45 p.m. Alice; and Anita Paiz with Eddie “Lalo” Torres from San Antonio. The event includes a student recital of female accordionists from the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center under the mentorship of center instructor Juan Lugo. The festival is dedicated to conjunto pioneers, including Cha Cha Jimenez, Benny
Conjunto Chano Cadena w/ Ruby Franco 6:45-8 p.m. Conjunto Aztlan 8-9:30 p.m. Gilberto Pérez y Sus Compadres 9:30-11 p.m. Sunday, October 23 The Chicken Club: Mujeres Acordeonistas 4-5 p.m. Lázaro Pérez y Su Conjunto 5-6 p.m. Eddie “Lalo” Torres y Anita Pais 6-7:15 p.m. Linda Escobar y Su Conjunto 7:15-8:30 p.m. Eva Ybarra y Su Conjunto 8:30-9:45 p.m. Layton, Joe Ramos, Ramiro “Snowball” de la Cruz, and Javier Villanueva, a founding member of Tejano Roots Hall of Fame and Museum in Alice. Pioneering musicians of the Río Grande valley such as Ramiro Cavazos of Los Doneños, Gilberto Perez y Sus Compadres, and Lazaro Perez y Su Conjunto will also
highlight the festival. Dancing, food, beverages, and authentic South Texas hospitality are also part of the festivities. General admission is $3 each day. Narciso Martinez is considered by ethnomusicologists to be “the father of Texas Mexican conjunto.” He played the accordion for 64 years until his death in 1992. In 1982, Narciso was inducted into the Conjunto Hall of Fame in San Antonio, and in 1983 he received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment of the Humanities in Washington, D. C. The Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center preserves, promotes and develops the rich cultural heritage of the “Mexicano” community through programs in the visual arts, music, theater, dance and literature. For further information on the 20th Annual Conjunto Festival, contact Rogelio T. Nuñez at (956) 367-0335 or Yolanda Lopez at (956) 571-3325. u
he fourth annual One City, One Book pick has been unveiled. Santiago’s Children: What I Learned about Life at an Orphanage in Chile by Steve Reifenberg has been chosen as this year’s book, library director Maria Soliz announced at a press conference on Monday, August 15. Santiago’s Children is a memoir about two years of Reifenberg’s life among orphaned children at the Hogar Domingo Salvo, an orphanage in Santiago, Chile. “Reifenberg skillfully interweaves the story of the orphanage with the broader national and international forces that dramatically impact the lives of the kids,” according to his website. “Reifenberg has told an engrossing story not only of his own coming-of-age, but also of the courage and resilience of the poorest and most vulnerable residents of Latin America”
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The book is also Texas A&M International University’s “Common Read,” a program by which every freshman and their instructors read one book and then discuss and analyze it across the freshman curriculum. One City, One Book started as an idea put forth in 2008 by the Food for Thought Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on illiteracy and hunger. The foundation sponsored it for three years, along with a host of other sponsors. Sponsors brought Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein to speak at local venues like the Civic Center in 2008 for her memoir All But My Life; Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Times journalist Sonia Nazario in 2009 for Enrique’s Journey; and Luís Alberto Urrea and illustrator Christopher Cardenale for Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush last September. — LareDOS Staff
One City, One Book 2011 book pick named
One City, One Book From left to right, Laredo Public Library reference librarian Pam Burell; TAMIU professor Hayley Kazen; library manager Maria G. Soliz; and University College executive director Conchita Hickey stand behind the book pick for this year’s One City, One Book, Santiago’s Children.
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Coalition urgers City Council to stay vigilant about environmental downsides of fracking Council member blames coalition, not local business community, for losing business to San Antonio By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff
embers of the Safe Fracking Coalition and concerned citizens pleaded for City Council members to keep in mind the environmental costs while weighing the financial benefits of the Eagle Ford Shale play at the council meeting on Monday, August 15. Tricia Cortez, coalition member and executive director of the Río Grande International Study Center (RGISC), start-
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ed off the public commentary portion by making it clear that RGISC recognizes the financial and job benefits of the play, but hopes that the city is fully aware of the downsides. “It is one thing for us to tout ourselves as a business-friendly city, but quite another to shut our eyes and ears to these other issues taking place right now within our city and county,” Cortez said. Cortez read a long list to council members of fracking’s environmental consequences, including waste spills on the streets of Laredo, water theft from the co-
lonias, and unlined pits next to well sites for dumping waste. The Texas Water Development Board told attendees at the first Safe Fracking Coalition Town Hall that no state entity is monitoring the rates of water extraction for the fracking activity. The Río Grande is one of the 10 most endangered rivers in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Cortez brought up this data during her speech. “If Laredo wishes to keep growing in the decades to come, we will not be able to do so with the river as our only source of drinking water,” she said. “Our city very likely will have to continue pursuing groundwater options from the Carrizo-Wilcox [aquifer] but with enormous quantities of water being consumed with the new drilling boom, will there still be enough water to tap from that aquifer to meet our city’s future needs, and at what cost?” Cortez went over her time limit, but was yielded one more minute by another member of the Safe Fracking Coalition, Cordelia Casso Flores, who invited council members to the meeting during her commentary. Concerned citizen Armando Cisneros also pleaded to the city to come to the second town hall meeting put on by the Safe Fracking Coalition on Wednesday, August 17. “Once the corporations move on, people have to continue to live here and that must not be forgotten,” Cisneros told City Council. “Therefore, it is of extreme importance that any task force the city puts together gives concerned citizens plenty of input.” RGISC member Virginia Palacios said Laredo is particularly at risk for environmental repercussions because the city lacks people who are trained to “conduct research and communicate this complex
issue.” When public commentary on the matter was over, City Council then decided to move up discussion and possible action to establish the city’s Eagle Ford Shale task force. Mayor Raul Salinas said he was willing to work with a diversified group representing oil and gas interests and environmental concerns. “We’ll structure it to make sure that it’s well-balanced, diversified, and focused, and I think when [the task force members] were talking [about], public officials,” Salinas said, addressing the coalition members. “People from your organization — very diversified.” During council discussion, Councilman Juan Narvaez echoed the opinion of Mayor Salinas, who said that one of his main priorities was to keep Laredo “competitive,” and that “San Antonio is stealing our lunch.” Narvaez said he had met with the Laredo Development Foundation, who had told him that in Carrizo Springs, since there are no dry cleaners, a company out of San Antonio had started hauling clothes to be dry cleaned from Carrizo Springs to San Antonio. “So what I’m trying to say is we’re talking about competition and here we are trying to fight these people here, [the Safe Fracking Coaliton is] sending the business to San Antonio that’s we’re talking about, we’re trying to be competitive but at the same time, we got to be safe,” Narvaez said. Mayor Salinas then responded, “Well said. That’s why we need to get on the ball.” Council members approved the task force shortly afterward, but no date has been set for appointing members. u
By CHOLULAH BANKHEAD Editor’s note: Cholulah Bankhead has returned to LareDOS, and she’s writing a new column called “Fair Game,” which examines the actions of local public officials and entities. No city, one book City officials have said they highly support literacy at times, but no one from city government was to be found at the fourth One City, One Book announcement on Monday, August 25. When we asked city spokeswoman Xochitl Mora Garcia, she sent us this: “From what I understand, mayor Salinas is out of town and so protocol is to go to the mayor pro tempore. He was unavailable so CM Alex Perez was contacted. Unfortunately, he forgot and took his daughter to get her tooth pulled. Cm. San Miguel was at mass today.” That says it all. However, Mora Garcia concluded that “Mayor, council and management are all highly supportive of all library projects.” Oh, and as of press time, no mention of One City, One Book on the city website or the library’s website. Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum! Who’s eating our lunch? It doesn’t look like anyone is eating the mayor’s lunch except the mayor, but he is oft wont to say McAllen is eating Laredo’s lunch for international trade, and now, he has said San Antonio is eating our Eagle Ford Shale lonche. CM Narvaez dittoed the notion and said the Alamo City is also eating our dry cleaning business. My dear fellow, McAllen is eating your postre by now because in McAllen forwardthinking leaders have seen to it that international bridges have good approaches that keep traffic moving in both directions. They also have leadership that doesn’t think in sound bytes and has seized upon and capitalized on the billion-dollar-a-year birding and ecotourism industry, the same leadership that gives downtown businesses and property owners incentives and tax credits to develop enterprise, so that, you know, revitalization can really happen without halfmillion dollar consultants that deliver giant unrealistic comic books as their best work. Mayor and Council, the Safe Fracking Coalition members are not eating your lunch. They want to be sure you get your lunch without contaminants. They speak WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M
Fair Game for many of us who value clean air and clean water. When you discount so condescendingly what they have to say, you condescend to us and quite clearly you tell us that you value the green of dollars and not the green of a healthy environment. We elected you to take leadership to ensure that we have enough water and clean water. So far we are SOL. Espinoza seems to care Is it…? Yes, we think we sense signs of life over at City Council in Cindy Liendo
“District 8 News” (district8news.blogspot. com). A councilmember with her own blog? If only she’d start updating it again! But Espinoza explains that “blogging is not easy” and the “other reason I don’t post that often is that I am pretty conservative and over analyze what I want to say, then usually decide against posting what I’ve written.” We empathize with you, Cindy. The softspoken Espinoza at least shows the voters some sincerity, which is sincerely missing from most of City Council.
Mayor and Council, the Safe Fracking Coalition members are not eating your lunch. They want to be sure you get your lunch without contaminants. They speak for many of us who value clean air and clean water.
Espinoza, who seems to show actual interest in what her voters care about. Not only that, but she reads Laredo blogs and actually responds to questions. A councilmember who shows interest in using technology? Madness! Back in late June, “CM Cindy” responded to a blog post at La Sanbe.com, which discussed a letter to the editor complaining about residents not being informed about a homeless shelter being built in downtown Laredo. CM Cindy posted this: “Hi Keyrose and La Sanbe readers, There have not been any community meetings or public notices about this because it is not a public building and the Diocese can choose to do with it what it pleases as long as they comply with zoning restrictions. I have looked into this and it appears the location is not zoned for a homeless shelter. This means they will have to apply for a zone change and this is when the public will have an opportunity to come before the planning and zoning commission and city council to voice their opposition. I was told another location was also being considered and I am glad Ms. Ramirez voiced her concerns. I don’t want to stop the project because the need for this type of shelter is great, however, there might be another location for it where it isn’t in a residential area.” CM Cindy has been a member of blogger. com since 2009 and has her own blog called
Road to somewhere Kudos to the City of Laredo and TxDOT for an excellent transportation project that will ease the commute for thousands of Laredoans and will bring more business to the area. While we were searching for news about One City, One Book, we noticed that banner at the bottom of the city’s front page proclaiming that the road is now open. Clicking on the “View Video” part of the banner leads to a very welldone video tour of the road, with TxDOT public information officer Raul Leal as our tour guide. Kudos to the public information office at TxDOT for incorporating technology and giving detailed information to the
public about this helpful road. Bad education On Monday, August 8, we were the lone member of the press at an education roundtable hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free market-based research think-tank from Austin. Though we were prone to writing it off as conservative propaganda, what we found were leaders who were truly frustrated and had good ideas for state policymakers — if they’d listen. The event brought in all of Laredo’s local education leaders — both college presidents, representatives from both school districts, homeschool teachers, and so on. This was a golden opportunity for the city to listen and learn. Mayor Raul Salinas was scheduled to attend the event, but did not show. When we e-mailed the mayor, he called us and explained that he had been busy working out the budget and “I was only scheduled to give remarks, not discuss.” It’d be nice to see the mayor discussing, though. For the think-tank, it seemed obvious that this was a research expedition on the Hispanic community; other roundtables were held in the Valley and in other heavily Hispanic areas of Texas. The think-tank really aligns itself more with the politics of Gov. Rick Perry, with statements like Texas “created more jobs than all other states combined,” which PolitiFact.com rated as “Half True” on their Truth-O-Meter. Check out politifact.com/ personalities/texas-public-policy-foundation for more statements and stories about this think-tank. u
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Educational institute provides history teachers with new resources
hirty-six Laredo teachers joined outstanding teachers from across the state in early July at “The Making of Modern America” institute. The institute was sponsored by Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) and Humanities Texas. The Laredo institute was part of a series of six summer institutes held throughout June at major Texas universities, including the University of Texas at El Paso, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas Christian University, the University of Houston, and the University of Texas at Austin. “There is no other professional development program with this intellectual level,” said Leticia Henry, a U.S. and world history teacher at Cigarroa High School. She has attended two other Humanities Texas teacher institutes in the past. The institute, attended by more than 40 teachers at the TAMIU campus, consisted of four days of lectures and small-group workshops, and was led by a faculty comprised of distinguished scholars both from Texas and the rest of the nation. History professor Michael Les BeneContinued from page 9 The suit alleges negligence per se and gross negligence in wrongful, “unreasonable” acts of dumping oil residue and oil and gas wastes into retention ponds, and into the open and closed cells or pits and land treatment units that permitted oil and gas waste to be discharged onto the unpermitted parts of the site. The acts and omissions of the operators of the dumpsite, according to the suit, by their mismanagement caused the discharge and potentially contaminated rainfall runoff into the freshwater pond and other areas of the site in violation of Chapter 91 of TCEQ code — annotated §91.01 and §26.121 and §26.131 n— Texas Water Code, and the rules of the RRC set forth at 16 of Texas Administrative Code §§3.8. The suit alleges trespass in the migration of waste from the designated pits
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dict, of Ohio State University, delivered the keynote address on constitutional history since the Reconstruction era. Texas Christian University history professor Gregg Cantrell discussed American political history. TAMIU scholars Dr. Jerry Thompson, Stephen Duffy, Deborah Blackwell, and Penny Vlagopoulus were also part of the faculty at Laredo’s “The Making of Modern America” institute. National Archives and Records Administration educational specialists supplied teachers with resources that may improve the teaching of U.S. history and government. Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art also provided teachers with information that supports educational history instruction. “Humanities Texas was pleased to cosponsor ‘The Making of Modern America,’” said executive director Michael L. Gillette. “Giving talented teachers like these the opportunity to interact with their peers and leading scholars will enable them to engage students with exciting new perspectives on our nation’s history.” — Alexa Ura on the site as “physical, intentional, and voluntary.” The “repetitive wrongful acts” of the defendants, the suit reads, “were verifiable and yet inherently undiscoverable within prescribed limitations periods” because the landowners were denied access to the site. The plaintiffs ask for the defendants to pay for an independent environmental assessment of the site, remediation and restoration of the land per the RRC’s closure plan, and compensation for the value of the profits the facility generated using the site’s fresh pond water. The suit on behalf of plaintiff Bustamante stipulates that if the cost to restore the land is not economically feasible, then she shall seek fair market value for the property as well as lost profits in the past and future, and actual, consequential, and incidental damages. u
A day at the Capitol redux: the Judith Zaffirini I saw
By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff
or most Laredoans, the Zaffirini name conjures up images of big money, big influence, and big power. The family name is nearly untouchable around these parts, with state Sen. Judith Zaffirini’s name plastered all over libraries and elementary schools. Zaffirini is the second-highest ranking senator in the Texas senate, and the highest-ranking female and Hispanic in the senate. I was reading her senate biography when my eyes caught the number 650. That’s how many awards Zaffirini has received — and counting. Where does she keep them all? She’s a daunting figure, no doubt about that. That thought stuck with me as my journalism professor suggested I shadow Zaffirini for a day at the Capitol as part of my first profile assignment. I was in my first intermediate reporting class, the one where we dove into the world of reporting without floaties for the first time. To my surprise, Sen. Zaffirini’s office agreed to my request and told me to come to the Capitol early because Zaffirini would be there early, too. At 6 a.m., I parked my car in a garage near the Capitol. It was still dark out, but when I finally found Zaffirini’s office, a lone staffer waited to greet me. The rest of the staff wasn’t in yet. The senator also boasts a perfect attendance record since she was first elected to the senate in 1987. She told me later that this was how she always started out her day. I will never forget my first impression of Sen. Zaffirini. She was sitting quietly in her stately office, looking thoughtfully over chunky black notebooks. I could see
her having this internal conversation, planning out the day ahead. Confronted with my first legislative powerholder as a student journalist, and with no word from Zaffirini as I entered the office, I was at a loss for what to do next. Should I interrupt her? She looked fully dedicated to what she was reading. So, a bit scared of out my wits, I sat quietly and meekly
I would have to get used to rushing from one engagement to the next. Once her staff came into work and the Capitol started buzzing, Zaffirini went straight to work. A hearing here, a speaking engagement there, and a very quick break for lunch at the Capitol’s Members Lounge. I tried to squeeze in a few questions before she spoke at a higher education conference,
Zaffirini is a good politician, not always in the best sense of the word. She knows how to play the game, she knows how to schmooze, and she knows how to bring in the cash. She also serves as an inspiration for girls who “want to play with the big boys” in a state senate that has an abysmally low number of female senators.
said hello. When I started thanking her for the opportunity, she raised a finger and looked at me sternly. “I really need to read over these papers before I start my day. It’s very important.” And that was it. No hellos, thank-youfor-being-heres, or anything akin to cordial. I figured this was how she wanted me to see her, busy at her desk and not wasting a moment on any other matters besides senate matters. Or maybe she really was that busy, and I was just an unwanted distraction. It’s funny, the things that go through the mind of an extremely self-conscious student journalist. I still don’t know if she would treat an experienced, worn journalist in the same impersonal manner, but that first impression was indicative of how the rest of the day would pan out. From then on, she would be directing the questioning, not me.
but she gave me curt one-word answers as she applied make-up and smoothed out her signature understated turtlenecks accompanied by a button-up shirt jacket. She looked like a nice abuelita, a woman who
would take you into her home and feed you even if you weren’t hungry. But that image gives way to the real Judith Zaffirini: a strong, independent leader who doesn’t seem to be concerned about hurting feelings and getting what she wants. I felt bad for her staffers as Zaffirini barked orders at them without any emotion all day. I was told later that she is notorious for using up staffers until they have no energy left and spitting them out. Not the prettiest picture of Zaffirini, but damn did I have more respect for her at the end of the day. I couldn’t push myself to say that I liked Zaffirini the person, but I definitely have respect for her work ethic and the unwavering pursuit of her agenda. She handles obstacles as if they didn’t exist, and is quite good at maintaining a superb public image. It’s no surprise that Zaffirini Communications, her public relations firm, has reaped in heaps of cash. She’s one of South Texas’ greatest communicators, and she’s managed voter loyalty for almost 25 years. Continued on page 20
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El Azteca matters: Urban development needs more community input f provided with a map of Laredo, could you point to the location of El Barrio Azteca? Younger Laredoans may know very little about this neighborhood and may be unable to locate it. While many older generation Laredoans may come from El Azteca or can trace their roots there, they may have placed El Azteca at the back of their minds. Because the neighborhood has been physically isolated from the rest of Laredo due to urban development, it is out of sight and out of mind for many of us. However, El Azteca should not be a neighborhood that we quickly forget. It was home to many Laredoans before new neighborhoods were constructed northward. The neighborhood is of cultural and historical importance to our city. In fact, El Azteca is located in the heart of Laredo, along the Río Grande, and is one of the first neighborhoods settled in Laredo. Settlement in El Azteca started in the mid-1800s, when it emerged as an outlying ranch area on the city’s eastern outskirts. Zacate Creek served as a water source for the ranchers, who primarily tended goats on their land. At night, residents of El Azteca would return to San Agustín for the protection that being within the city limits provided. Residents would even attend mass in San Agustín Church, making El Azteca an extension of the city. By the turn of the century, El Azteca was lively and populated. The neighborhood was originally known as “El Ranchero” for a molino, a mill, of that name located in the district. Other businesses such as bakeries, grocery stores, cantinas, and meat shops could also be found throughout. Even physicians and veterinarians had offices in the district. The first streetcar found west of the Mississippi connected both the Azteca neighborhood and the city of Laredo to the newly developing commercial and residential sections of the city through Zacate Creek via the Iturbide Street Bridge. The neighborhood took its present name from Azteca Theater, which opened in 1922. The theater first hosted Mexican artists, small operetta productions, theatrical troupes, and a variety of other shows.
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Urban development is great and needed in our city. However, urban development done carelessly and without community input isn’t development but a setback. When we are so quick to build something new, we aren’t stopping to ask what we are changing.
By ARACELI MENDEZ LareDOS Contributor
Araceli Mendez at the Zacate Creek bridge El Azteca is one of the oldest and most intact residential neighborhoods in Laredo, with earliest buildings dating from the 1870s and representing nearly every major architectural type and style that has appeared on the border since that time. Because of this distinctive setting, layout, and landscape, El Azteca was designated as a National Register Historic District in 1990. So why is such a vibrant neighborhood so out of sight? Much of the historic fabric of El Azteca can still be found, but the neighborhood is a prime example of the threats of urban development. The construction of Interstate 35, which razed over 18 city blocks, initiated the seclusion of El Azteca from the rest of the city by disconnecting it from downtown Laredo. Potential expansion of the neighboring U.S. Port of Entry and Customs facilities as well as heavy traffic on Highway 83 today threatens El Azteca’s historic integrity. One of the oldest houses in Laredo, which was located on 220 Matamoros Street and San Enrique, and featured in
LareDOS’ Landmark Loteria in February 2009, is now gone, and we may slowly be losing the rest of the neighborhood. This isn’t to say that urban development is a bad thing. Urban development is great and needed in our city. However, urban development done carelessly and without community input isn’t development but a setback. When we are so quick to build something new, we aren’t stopping to ask what we are changing. After purchasing her house on Hidalgo Street, Renée La Perriere de Gutiérrez found a series of photos and household items in a storage shed behind her house that the previous owners had left. Those photos ignited a research project on the Del Barrio family, which the photos portrayed. La Perriere Gutierrez’s research allowed her to discover the history of the family, their role in the Azteca community and the history behind their home, which was now her house. She discovered that the history behind her new home did not start the moment she moved in, but that there was a rich history already present that she would soon be adding
to. Thanks to a bit of luck and La Perriere Gutierrez’s research, one home in El Azteca had regained a forgotten value. Individual residents from El Azteca and organizations such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation are currently uncovering and showcasing some of the forgotten value behind the historically designated community. Threats such as development on I-35 have not only physically damaged but also psychologically diminished the value of the neighborhood, setting back the efforts made by residents such as La Perriere Gutierrez. A new threat comes in the form of a proposed bus-processing center, which will make the neighborhood more isolated and enable land-use changes. The new facility will process inbound Mexican bus and bus passengers at the Juárez-Lincoln International Bridge. The projected size of the facility will be between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet, and it will have much-needed tools that will facilitate the processing. The building will be located between Farragut Street and Lincoln Street before the I-35 entrance. The proposed facility will close a section of Hidalgo Street, closing a vital access for drivers coming from South Laredo to downtown. It will bring diesel fumes into the neighborhood and eliminate one of the only green areas near the neighborhood. This project will be bringing more unconventional changes to El Azteca and the rest of Laredo than beneficial ones. Continued on page 22
Awakening the Dreamer program reaches out through symposiums
By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff
aredo is a city where individuals are ready to think about the environment, according to Sister Mary Ellen Brody. Brody, a Sister of Mercy, and Pilar Monroy, planning manager for Laredo Candle Co., are at the head of the local section of Awakening the Dreamer, a global initiative that supports a socially just and more sustainable way of life that is spiritually fulfilling. Over the last couple of months, Brody and Monroy have reached out to the citizens of Laredo in order to engage them in the program’s mission. Awakening the Dreamer has facilitated two “Changing the Dream” symposiums in Laredo. The symposium is the program’s main tool to provide an educational experience in order to inform and empower participants in Laredo to respond to humanity’s current environmental situation with action and optimism. The Changing the Dream program is a worldwide initiative with partnerships across the county as well as associate organizations in the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Australia developed to bring the sym-
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posium to communities around the world. According to Brody, the program encourages its participants to explore four major questions — Where are we? How did we get here? What’s possible for the future? Where do we go from here? — through lectures, multimedia presentations, and dynamic group interactions. Participants are to use such resources to examine the state of environmental, social, and personal well-being and trace the root causes that lead to the current imbalance of such states. “If the participants of the symposium see that there are issues that need to be attended to, we facilitate a forum in which they can address it,” Brody said. The Changing the Dream symposium is also designed to help its participants discover new ways of relating with each other in order to elicit a united movement of action for change through a committed cohort encouraged by a focus on personal and collective impact on the world, according the program’s website. The symposiums are half-day seminar retreats usually attended by about 40 people. The symposium, co-facilitated by Brody and Monroy, is usually held at the Lamar Bruni Vergara Education Center
and can also be given in a bilingual setting. “The damage to the planet is unconscious. We are trying to get the word out,” Brody said. “We are hoping that more individuals in the community will get involved.” Awakening the Dreamer is also partnering with local environmental organizations, including the Rio Grande International Study Center (RGISC) and Keep Laredo Beautiful. The program hopes to expand its presence in the city in order to help its citizens find balance between modern day consumption and competition trends and spirituality and social justice, according to Brody. Awakening the Dreamer is also working on adjusting seminars that would appeal to college students and will be partnering up with professors at Laredo Community College for presentations during class sessions,
Brody said. She also added that future symposiums will also be formatted to target younger students in elementary classrooms as well as a symposium directed at businesses and another one focused on calling politicians to action. The Changing the Dream program also encourages its participants to use the Daily Practices, an initiative that prompts individuals to change their smaller everyday activities like using cloth shopping bags rather than plastic. “We all want to go back to a different way of life when we focused on a more sensitive and spiritual approach to life rather than a commercialized, unsustainable one,” Brody said. “We are inviting the citizens of Laredo to a new space where they can say ‘Yeah, I can do something about it.’” u
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Continued from page 17
SY pole re-installed; line sag not an AEP issue A call from Olga Maldonado of AEP Texas informed us that the leaning AEP pole on State Highway 83 in San Ygnacio has been replaced, and that the sagging line pictured in the July issue of LareDOS was not an AEP line but rather was a Time Warner cable line. Time Warner, follow AEP’s lead on quick response.
Zaffirini is a good politician, not always in the best sense of the word. She knows how to play the game, she knows how to schmooze, and she knows how to bring in the cash. She also serves as an inspiration for girls who “want to play with the big boys” in a state senate that has an abysmally low number of female senators. I saw how Zaffirini chummed it up with Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), one of the few other women in the senate. Zaffirini told me that the female senators had to stick together because there were so few of them. It made me extremely hopeful to see Shapiro, a Republican, laughing with Zaffirini, a Democrat. Maybe they didn’t agree politically, but that didn’t mean they had to bite each other’s heads off. In a grand gesture near the end of the day, Zaffirini had me “recognized” on the senate floor, and she also introduced me to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. I may have been pretty naïve at the time, but I saw these gestures for what they were: shut-up-andwrite-a-nice-story gestures. I was red with embarrassment the whole time. Journalists are supposed to be on the sidelines, not in the spotlight. But again, she wanted me to write a nice little story and remember my time fondly. I’m glad now that I did not let that influence my writing. When I got home — tired and sore from running around the Texas Capitol in uncomfortable shoes — and started putting
my profile of Zaffirini together, I realized I had very few quotes from the senator herself because she did not allow me to ask her much. Or rather, she was so busy hurrying to or getting ready for her next engagement that I never got the chance. I was left wondering how I would piece together a profile of Judith Zaffirini when I only had three good quotes from her, one of them from her speech at the higher education conference. Now that I am a bit more of a seasoned journalist, I look back on my j-school self and chuckle — I always remind myself that whatever the status of the person, he or she is still just a person. I submitted the profile I wrote back in school to the Laredo Morning Times, which ran the piece a few weeks after I had given up on it ever being published. In retrospect, I wasn’t too proud of that article (You can Google it yourself if you feel inclined; it’s in an early May 2009 issue). It was stale and uninteresting, and didn’t fully capture my experience. For that story, I would’ve preferred the firstperson account, which was much more telling. Zaffirini got a harmless — even complimentary — story out of the whole thing and I got a glimpse of the near-maddening Capitol life. I still kick myself a little when I think of that story, but every time I get past my embarrassment and read over the Zaffirini profile again, I am reminded of that whirlwind day, and left wondering how Zaffirini is still doing it. u
Alzheimer’s Support Group Meeting Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, Meeting Room 2
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Public pools stay afloat despite budget cuts s the summer winds down, residents in major Texas cities like Houston, Dallas, and Austin are enjoying the last days of some public pools in their communities. Such cities have announced proposals to close several public pools in order to alleviate the stretch of upcoming budget cuts. Laredo, on the other hand, will open the doors to its six existing public pools come summer 2012. In fact, the city’s tally of public pools will increase by one after the October opening of the Haynes Recreation Center, which also includes a pool. In the works is another public pool at Slaughter Park in south Laredo. “We are definitely not even considering closing any public pools. Our budget remains the same for them,” said Osbaldo Guzman, director of the city Parks and Leisure Services Department. Guzman also said that there would be a slight increase in the Parks and Recreation portion of the city’s budget to account for the Haynes Recreation Center. Public pools are not known for their revenue intake and most charge 75 cents and $1.25 for children and adults, respectively, for a day of cooling off — a distinct offset when maintenance, insurance, operation costs, and other expenses to keep up public pools are considered. Usage and traffic in public pools also differ among Laredo’s six pools. For example, the Lamar Bruni Vergara Inner City Pool, which is closed during the week for membership water aerobics and lap swimming sessions, is only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, but is the only pool open year-round. Most other pools are also closed summer weekday mornings for swim classes but are open to the public in the afternoons. An increase in funding for Parks and Leisure Services could also be due to the fact that the Civic Center Pool will serve as a year-round pool after the current renovation is completed. No major budget cuts on “quality of life” City budget manager Martín Alemán said that balancing the 2011-2012 proposed budget was a difficult task but that the city was “blessed to not have had to make major cuts.” The city’s proposed 2011-2012 budget plan, which totals the city’s consolidated WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M
By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff
After renovations, the Civic Center Pool will be open year round. budget are more than $143 million, allots the Parks and Leisure Services Department with a $13.2 million year budget — almost $2 million more than last year’s budget. The department is in charge of administration, maintenance, and operation of public pools, recreation centers, the cemetery, and the public library. “The Parks and Leisure Services Department received additional funding in order to uphold its standards pertaining to community development in Laredo,” Alemán said. “The mayor and council members want to move forward with efforts to improve quality of life in Laredo and decide together what to do with bond money set aside for projects.” Councilman Juan Narvaez, District 4, believes that pools within the city do serve the individuals living near them and “enhance life.” The improvement of Laredo’s quality of life is an idea that seems to resonate strongly within City Council. “We get criticized about spending [on public works projects], but Laredo is also trying to compete with bigger cities like San Antonio and needs to improve its communities,” said Narvaez, who added that he would push for further development of recreational meeting points within his district if the opportunity comes up.
Renovation and development The Civic Center Pool, known for its water slide and expansive size, is also being remodeled. Still undergoing $250,000 in renovations that began earlier this year, the pool was originally scheduled to open by Memorial Day weekend, but opening day was delayed. The pool had to be completely remodeled due to vandalism and a maintenance system issue that was causing the pool to lose up to 6 inches of water a day. Upgraded with a heated pool system, the Civic Center Pool will now be open year round. Many City Council members have also expressed interest in creating more “spray parks” within their district to give Laredoans another place to escape the scorching summer heat. Currently, there are six spray sparks located throughout the city. The development of public pools and spray projects in certain areas is mostly due to federal Community Development block grants that the city receives every year. The grants are awarded to establish equalization among the socioeconomic level imbalances in different communities throughout Laredo. According to Councilman Mike Garza, District 1, the city has been receiving such funds for over 30 years.
The $500,000 public pool that will be built in Slaughter Park was funded in that manner as a somewhat joint project between Garza and council members Esteban Rangel, District 2, and Alejandro Perez, District 3. Each council district receives $225,000 a year, but Garza, Rangel, and Perez joined their allotted money so that each year one of their three districts can benefit from the money through a larger project. While plans for the Slaughter Park pool are not yet complete, the project will take off starting the next fiscal year, which begins October 1, according to a Parks and Leisure Services Department spokesman. Maintenance and other budgetary concerns are most likely to be addressed in the 2012-2013 proposed budget. Escaping the heat “The bottom line is that Laredo is hot,” said Councilman Garza. “Pools offer children a good opportunity to have recreational activity over the summer.” As the first day of school appears closer on the horizon for students across the city, Laredoans are running out of time to enjoy an afternoon at the pool and escape recordhigh temperatures. Luckily, all of the city’s seven pools will be open come summer 2012. u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2011 |
From the Publisher Continued from page 18 As you’re reading this, you shouldn’t view El Azteca as falling victim to urban development once again. What you should do is view this as a potential success story. When the residents of El Azteca united to get their neighborhood designated by the National Register, they did something that many people can’t. They didn’t allow the destiny of their neighborhood to be dictated by urban development, and they continued to see the potential in their community. Lately, there has been a resurgence of people in this neighborhood and all across Laredo fighting to do what is beneficial for their neighborhood and the community at large.
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Among the current residents of El Azteca are historians, artists, city employees, business owners, and homeowners who are socially and virtually connected through social media in the fight for their neighborhood. I urge you to be part of this success story. El Azteca will not be a victim unless we allow it to be. It isn’t too late to take action. Help us proclaim that El Azteca Matters and help us in continuing to make this neighborhood a success story. (Araceli Méndez is a rising senior and ethnic studies major at Brown University. She is currently interning for the South Texas Community Outreach Program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation based in Laredo.) u
Commentary, action follow story about Zapata oilfield dumpsite By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff
he story on the cover of last month’s issue of LareDOS — the story about the Zapata County oilfield waste dump permitted by and operated under the lax rules of the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) — fomented a good deal of commentary and actions that I could not have anticipated. To be clear, I am not a detractor of the oil and gas exploration industry, and I support its injection of revenues and jobs into the economies of our city and the surrounding rural communities. I am, however, a critic of the taxpayer-funded agencies that by their negligence fail to regulate the toxic waste generated by the industry. Neither the RRC nor the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are monitoring well enough disastrous dumpsites like the J.L. Moss/Embark Environmental/ Camino Agave site on State Highway 16 near Bustamante. The two state agencies are not enforcing their own rules and laws, and by doing so they are proving true the longstanding allegation that they answer not to taxpayer citizens tu y yo, but to the corporate industries they are charged with regulating. The coyote staffs the henhouse and is making the rules. I was surprised, and happily so, that the Zapata County Commissioners Court passed a unanimous opposition resolution, declining to support the RRC’s renewal of the Moss/Embark/Camino Agave permit on Highway 16 near Zapata. That resolution, which invokes Zapata County’s Master Plan for rural development, also opposes the establishment of a new dumpsite on Highway 3169, near the historic town of San Ygnacio and less than a quarter mile from the Río Grande. That good news about the resolution had just settled in when I learned that the owner of the 82.53 acres of land that the Highway 16 dumpsite sits on, María de los Angeles Bustamante, has filed a suit in the 49th District Court alleging that J.L.
Moss Investments Inc., Camino Agave Inc. and its owner Darren Kolbe, and Embark Environmental, have, among many other things, stolen water from a freshwater pond on the property and disposed of overflow hazardous wastes in all areas of the property including the freshwater pond and adjacent areas. In reading through the suit it is clear Mrs. Bustamante believes the dump operator has exceeded the terms of her lease to them and has caused great environmental impact to that tract and to her surrounding ranch property. I believe our efforts in print, the Zapata Commissioners Court resolution, and the Bustamante lawsuit have dovetailed to raise awareness in Zapata County and elsewhere of toxic dumpsites and the ineffective monitoring of those sites by state agencies. What I hope for in Zapata County is that we work together to write a local ordinance that establishes stringent rules for drilling in the county and how oilfield waste is handled. This is not a new idea. There are templates for such an ordinance in Ft. Worth, Arlington, Flower Mound, League City, Midland, and Grapevine, as well as in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. A dump in San Ygnacio in such proximity to the Río Grande would be a travesty. I personally will do all possible to derail it. In closing this column, I want to thank all of you who wrote and called about standing up for the environment. Your feedback is invaluable. It doesn’t just warm our hardhearted journalistic sensibilities. It tells us, too, that what we write about has relevance. I want to take this opportunity, too, to thank UT-Austin journalism student Alexa Ura for the time she spent here. Her stories spoke to her sophistication as a citizen of the world and her concerns for life as we know it. She wrote at a level far beyond the experiences of a college sophomore, testimony to the encouragement and support of her parents and the teachers who helped her form the point of view of a writer/advocate. Mark my words, Alexa will do very well as a journalist. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
Twelve things we should all know about Texas By José Antonio López LareDOS Contributor
ver since the extremist super majority took over the Texas Legislature, they have embarked on a lock-step campaign to push for legislation that can only be described as limiting the freedom of Hispanic citizens in Texas. Their political agenda shows an underlying contempt, suspicion, and distrust for any Texas attribute that is Spanish-Mexican in nature. For example, a bewildered state Sen. Chris Harris (RArlington) was upset by a man who testified in Spanish back in June against SB 9, a bill that would crack down on “sanctuary cities.” Tea Party activist Rebecca Forest, who co-founded the Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas, said, “If you want to know why we can’t pass legislation in Texas, it’s because we have 37, no, 36 Hispanics in the Legislature. So, that’s part of our problem, and we need to change those numbers.” The question is what can explain their rancor against Texas Hispanics? In my view, they choose to ignore the common thread of Hispanic presence in Texas since its very foundation. Additionally, they confuse two different problems: illegal immigration and the rapid browning of the Texas population. They unwisely believe the first problem causes the second. That is a false cause and effect picture. To begin, illegal immigration is wrong, however, it will be solved only when all the affected parties unite to develop a common solution. Now, let’s look at the second issue: the browning of the Texas population. Very clearly, the core of Hispanics in Texas is Spanish-Mexican. So, let us call it what it is. This group is half white (Spanish = European) and half brown (Mexican = Native American). They are the direct descendants of the first citizens of Texas. They are not immigrants. This critical point is what separates our group from our other sister Hispanic groups, such as Cuban Americans and other groups from
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Central and South America and the Caribbean. Spanish Mexicans were once the majority in Texas and are now poised to once more regain that distinction. In short, the recent hateful legislation is ill advised and is due to blatant ignorance of Texas history. To that end, and with all due respect to our many supportive Anglo friends who know the full story, the details below are provided. 1. There was a Texas before 1836. Anglo-Saxon immigrants from the U.S did not create Texas. Nor is Texas the English name for Tejas. Both are Spanish
have been very unkind to the Southwest Hispano-Mexican culture. Media continues to portray Spanish Mexicans only in minor and passive or negative roles. 3. The Presidio San Juan Bautista del Río Grande was the “gateway to Texas.” Around 1703, this presidio was established along the Río Grande in a river pass near present-day Guerrero, Coahuila and Eagle Pass, Texas. The presidio was the only port of entry into Texas for the many families from central and northern Mexico. Its ruins serve as a reminder today of the close relationship between Texas and (Coahuila)
The Texas Independence movement did not begin in 1835-36. Sam Houston took over a work in progress. When he and many of the other Anglos immigrating from the U.S. arrived in Mexico, the country was embroiled in a battle between the centralists and the federalists (Tejanos).
names derived from a Native-American Caddo tribe word meaning “friend.” The “x” sound in Texas is also pronounced as in México, Béxar, and Mexia. Texas was born in 1691. There were over 30 Spanishsurnamed Texas governors between 1691 and 1821. 2. Beginning in the early 1700s, Spanish Mexican pioneers built thriving communities deep in the heart of Texas along El Camino Real (San Antonio, Nacogdoches, Goliad, and the Villas del Norte in the Lower Río Grande). With skills they brought from central and northern Mexico, Spanish-Mexican pioneers established the original ranchos. These first citizens of Texas also perfected the cowboy way of life in the state. This is why basic cowboy terminology is of Spanish language origin. After 1836, many of these Spanish words were anglicized, such as ranch, cowboy, rodeo, corral, lasso, riata, cinch, ten-gallon hat, remuda, mustang, etc. Unfortunately, movies and heavily anglicized western novels
Mexico. Descendants of many of the early 1700s pioneer families throughout Texas have genealogical ties to San Juan Bautista. 4. Compañías Volante were the first Texas Rangers. As Spanish-Mexican pioneers moved into Texas from elsewhere in Mexico, Spanish authorities were incapable of providing any more than the minimum number of soldiers to provide security. As such, colonist leaders organized groups of
citizen soldiers based in large ranchos and towns. Each team was then responsible for an assigned territory. Carrying only the most basic essentials, the team could fly off to any rancho being attacked by bandits. The lean and mean company became known as the Compañía Volante. The men’s legendary riding skills clearly characterize them as the Cossacks of Texas. When the Texas Rangers were established after 1836, the key role of the Compañía Volante was largely forgotten in the telling of Texas history. 5. The emerald green flag is the first flag of Texas Independence. The color was apparently chosen to honor Irish American Lieutenant Augustus McGee, Lt. Colonel Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara’s protégée and chief military assistant during the initial part of the first Texas Revolution. Don Bernardo adopted the plain emerald green flag as the banner for the Army of the North (First Texas Army). Is the flag a legitimate flag of Texas independence? The answer is yes. The facts are as follow: Don Bernardo became the first president of Texas on April 6, 1813; He wrote, signed, and issued the first Texas Declaration of Independence; and he wrote and issued the first Texas Constitution, modeled after the U.S. Constitution, on April 17, 1813. Oddly, even though it is the mother of all Texas independence flags, the emerald green flag is not one of the six generally accepted flags of Texas. Continued on next page
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Continued from page 23 6. The Battle of Medina fought on Aug. 18, 1813, is the largest battle ever fought on Texas soil, according to the Texas State Historical Commission. Lt. Colonel Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara’s hope of complete victory over the Spanish forces vanished quickly when some members of his immediate military staff betrayed him. Don Bernardo was relieved of command and forced into exile in Louisiana. Under a different commander at the Battle of Medina, the Tejano Army was outmaneuvered by General José Joaquín de Arredondo, a more experienced Spanish general. On a very hot August afternoon, the Tejanos were encircled and defeated about 20 miles south of San Antonio, bringing an end to Texas independence. 7. Tejanos did the heavy lifting, sacrificing, and dying for Texas Independence. In the name of self-rule, the suffering of the Spanish-Mexican citizens of Texas continued for many years. The year 1810 can be referred to as the birth of Texas independence. It was then that a young Don Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, born and raised on the banks of the lower Río Grande, decided to light the spark for freedom and liberty in Texas. Coincidentally, there was another largely forgotten act
of sacrifice in the name of Texas liberty. Juan Bautista de las Casas, a retired captain and native of Nuevo Santander, set up a revolutionary government in San Antonio in 1811. He was betrayed by accomplices and was executed by the Spanish military commander. 8. The Texas Independence movement did not begin in 1835-36. Sam Houston took over a work in progress. When he and many of the other Anglos immigrating from the U.S. arrived in Mexico, the country was embroiled in a battle between the centralists and the federalists (Tejanos). Initially, the Anglos supported the federalists. However, Mexico had abolished slavery in 1829. That fact displeased the Anglos, who wished to retain slaves they had brought from the U.S. As a result, they opted for a clean break from Mexico. In doing so, the Anglos betrayed the Tejanos, who thought (until too late) that they were fighting for a federalist system. How did the Anglos reward Tejanos? They spread lies and propaganda about their loyalty. Facing death threats, Colonel Juan Seguin was hounded out of San Antonio and forced to move in with family in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. He died there, across the river from his beloved Texas. It took officials of Seguin, Texas, over 120 years to realize that indeed Colonel Seguin was a Texas hero. In 1968, Seguin’s body was exhumed and his bones were brought back home.
9. The 1836 battles of the Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto are part of a chronological chapter of Mexico’s history, not the U.S. As mentioned earlier, Texas did not join the U.S. until 1845. The U.S. Mexico War (1846-48) was fought because the U.S. admitted Texas, a state that Mexico considered part of its republic. Losing the war and fighting for its land, Mexico lost Texas and over half of its sovereign territory, which encompassed the Southwest. 10. The Río Grande is a permanent Mason-Dixon Line. The Río Grande has not always been the political boundary that it is today. The area from Texas to California is called the Borderlands for good reasons. The people living on both sides look identical because they share common bloodlines and history. They are descendants of the same families that were split apart in 1848, when the U.S. conquered over half of Mexico’s sovereign territory. Significantly, the Southwest territory (including Texas) is the only part of the U.S. that was forcibly taken by military force from a sovereign nation, the Republic of Mexico. It should be noted that in the U.S., New Spain is over twice as large as New England. 11. The Alamo is a San Antonio mission. The building and its grounds are equal in historical stature to the other missions (San José, Concepción, Espada, and San
Juan), the Spanish Governor’s Palace, Presidio La Bahía, and similar structures. These splendid buildings must be honored for their strength, beauty, and the creativity of their Spanish-Mexican builders. They must no longer be marketed only because armed Anglo expatriates from the U.S. died there. 12. Irony of ironies: Lt. Colonel Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara’s Texas revolution freed slaves in Texas in 1813. Also, Mexico freed all slaves in 1829, which included Texas. In fact, runaway slaves from the U.S. had already found refuge in Texas as free men and women. However, in 1845 Texas Anglos traded their 1836 independence to join the U.S. as a slave state. For blacks, the Anglos’ decision to join the U.S. was devastating! Free blacks living in Texas were treated as runaway slaves. When caught, they were returned to their previous masters, or sold as slaves yet again. Finally, the more that non-Hispanics learn of early Texas history, the more they will see that the Spanish-Mexican roots of Texas run deep. Continuing to celebrate our rich centuries-old unique heritage is a natural process, because Texas is in New Spain, not New England. Once and for all, antiHispanic politicians must be reminded that “looking Mexican” and speaking Spanish in Texas and the Southwest are not sins of U.S. citizenship. u
Texans Always Answer the Call And here in South Texas, we’re building a better future for our communities—thanks to the discovery of decades’ worth of natural gas and oil resources in a geological formation called the Eagle Ford Shale. Natural gas found in the Eagle Ford Shale is bringing thousands of good, sustainable jobs and long-term economic investment to our area. Local community leaders share our commitment to safe and responsible development of this Texas resource. A cleaner fuel source for transportation and power generation, natural gas is significantly reducing emissions of carbon—providing a cleaner and brighter future for our children and grandchildren.
Texas natural gas. It’s powering our future. Visit www.anga.us/Texas to learn more.
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Mommy blogger proves Laredo has plenty of family activities By PATRICIA DRISCOLL LareDOS Contributor Editor’s note: Laredo blogger Patricia Driscoll writes about the blog she started earlier this year, called Critters and Crayons. The blog aims to share Driscoll’s perspective of parenting and to show families that there are actually plenty of fun family activities to do in Laredo. here are several blogs in Laredo and they all cater to different audiences. Mine at crittersandcrayons.com is for moms, dads, families and kids. It’s about finding the good things to do as a family around here. It’s about a few other things, too — humor in parenting, trying to live a greener life, trying to raise good kids by trying to be good parents, cooking and baking, crafting (despite a total lack of
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ability on my part), and attempts to be happier yet simpler. Perhaps the feature that most attracts folks to the new blog is the “What’s Happening This Month” page. On this page, you’ll find a day-by-day roll-up of kid and family events, workshops, and activities. The homework is done for you. Why would I do this? Because I’ve done it since I got here. The blog is just a way to share the research with everyone else. Many parents loved the Summer Camp 2011 roll-up. We found at least 65 different camps and put them all in one place. Again, it’s something that had to be done. Who can make sense of all those flyers and information when they can’t be matched against each other? I couldn’t. For instance, at this writing, tomorrow looks like this to me and the Critters and Crayons blog subscribers and Facebook
fans at the following link: crittersandcrayons.wordpress.com/whats-happening-thismonth-2/
August 6th Home Depot Kids Workshop: Make a Pencil Case 9-12 Flash Mob Rain Dance Under Bridge 1 at noon Open Art Studio: 10-3 PM The Imaginarium Puppet Palooza at 3 PM The Imaginarium Chain Reaction at 4 PM Laredo Center for the Arts & LITE “Rent” at 8 PM Believe it or not, there have been days with 10 or more family-specific events occurring on the same day. It’s hard to complain that there is nothing to do when you can show that it’s untrue. In the blog, I don’t pretend to have all the answers about parenting. That’s why I write stories like “Trying Not to Screw This Up: Raising A Girl.” There are fun-
I had a pretty sour outlook. But every day is an adventure, and every week we do something new. It’s easy to see the bad in and around Laredo, but there is goodness here if we just look for it.
ny stories about how life is different and hard, fun and challenging at the same time. Moms got a laugh out of “Life before Kids. Life after Kids” and “When It’s Okay to Slap the Dog Out of Your Husband.” No, I’m not advocating domestic violence. You’ve got to read it to understand the context. The focus is on finding ways to bond with our kids outdoors and inside when we need to escape the heat through crafts, literature, cooking, and other creative outlets. It’s a resource, too. If you search the site for an activity in Laredo, you’re liable to find a review. Continued on page 62
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Road trip: along for the ride, behaving well and disconnecting
By MARíA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff
live alone and I’m impuesta to have my own space and to move at a pace that works for me at the ranch and at the newspaper. Yeah, I’m a prima donna of the printed word, a monte diva. Why stop there? Recalcitrant, stubborn to a fault, known to pout if the wind isn’t blowing the way I so deigned. I’m often not good company, but hell, I like to be with me. When my son asked if I would like to travel — Airstream in tow — with him, my granddaughter Emily, and our good friend Chano Alderete on a trip out west, I said yes, but not without a little contemplation. Time with either of my granddaughters is precious and hard to pass up. Letting dudes be in charge of a travel agenda and setting up living quarters in the tiny efficiency of a chrome chamber that is a third the size of our tack room at the ranch — not so easy to agree to. And then there was the question of whether I could behave for several days if I wasn’t in charge. Of everything. Off we went on a trip I’ve made many times before over decades, alone, with friends, and with my son. The landscape after Del Río was dazzling, the big blue waters of the Amistad reservoir a welcome sight to drought-parched hearts.
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Meg, Emily, George We told Emily about the time we celebrated her father’s birthday on an island at Lake Amistad when he was 10, how we’d loaded three boats with cake, firewood, tents, and all, for the overnight excursion. After the big turn west toward the mountains and Marathon, the road and the atmosphere ahead clouded up, and we believed we were driving into rainfall. It was,
however, dust, a great deal of it for many miles, and then a blessed pelting rain that brought some excitement to our drive on that desolate stretch of drought and wildfire ravaged country. The downpour cooled off our evening in Alpine. Chano prepared a gourmet campside supper, and in the morning we packed up and began our drop into Big Bend. In
Terlingua, we were drawn like magnets to a roadside stop called India’s, a bakery and sandwich shop in a modest shopping center that included a hardware store, a post office, and a quilt shop. Stepping from the truck with all its road-generated noise, I was taken aback by the utter silence of the landscape on which we stood. No passing cars, no whining machinery, no blaring radios. While India Wilson and her husband, William, an ex-Navy cook, prepared the best rye bread patty melts (ever), I walked over to Quilts, Etc., where I met Marguerite Chanslor, the owner of the store. What a beautiful, genteel woman and what a beautiful store — everything in it the labor of someone’s hands and hearts. Her inventory was an overwhelming array, so many combinations of colors and patterns to contemplate — piles of quilts, walls covered with quilts, quilts in the making, quilted place mats, quilted pot holders. The corner of a particularly outstanding quilt in a dense pile hollered at me, and I uncovered it, falling in love with everything about it except the price tag. Over lunch at India’s, I asked my son muy disimuladamente, using a ploy he’d perfected over childhood, if he’d ever finished mulling over what to give me for my birthday. He said, “I thought I gave you an iPod.” I snapped back, “Mother’s Day,” and then leveraged the quilt. It wasn’t a pretty tactic, deployed at just the right moment in his post-patty melt euphoria, but it got the job done. Continued on page 28
Manga and comics creator Rod Espinosa
Festival-goers browse the books on sale
Saturday, August 13 at the Laredo Public Library
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Author and musician Rickey Pittman
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Continued from page 26 Back on the road, the landscape much more dry and rocky, the igneous-faced mountains much closer, we drove into Terlingua proper, a sprawl of many abandoned and some occupied rock buildings that once housed the workers of the Chisos Mining Company, which mined cinnabar ore for mercury from the early 1900s to the 1930s. We stopped in at the Terlingua Trading Company, once the company store for the miners and their families, and we wandered through various rooms of souvenirs, art, jewelry, stuffed animals, T-shirts, and old rusted pieces of mining equipment. For me, the crown jewel in the merchandising was the book section, a really nice surprise amid so much stuff made in China. I picked up a new copy of Mark Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, The American West and Its Disappearing Water. In my hands, the book opened to a page where I read, “In the West, it is said water flows uphill toward money.” That statement is perhaps more true today than when Reisner wrote in 1986 about vanishing groundwater and the silting of dams with choking plateaus of mud. From the long porch of the trading company whose vista offered a view of the ghost town, I watched in awe as an old un-shirted gent with skin the color of good leather boots rode past me on a four-wheeler, Viking horns sprouting from his helmet. He was the water meter reader, Dani Bottenfield told me when we visited with her and Sam, Zapata expats who have relocated to Terlingua. Dani paints in the studio at her gallery, the Painted Feather, and Sam has a veterinary practice adjacent to the studio. We had a great visit with these good people who clued us in on how to wave at the locals in order to be spared being designated as “tourons.” I’m pretty sure the aerodynamic silver bullet behind us did nothing to dispel our touron mien. We drove on to the place we would spend the next few days, the upscale Maverick RV park that is part of the Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa complex — thousands of acres of wild land, hotel accommodations, restaurants, a golf course, and an equestrian center. We found no one to check us in at the park, but they left the lights on for us, WiFi in the well-appointed community center, and a really clean swimming pool on a backdrop of hills and mountains in every variation of ochre, red, and brown. Early one morning the Lajitas Eques-
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trian Center outfitted us with a guide and four sure-footed horses to ride along Comanche Creek and onto Comanche Mesa, a wonderful way to experience the dramatic landscape of zBig Bend. There were a few exciting ascents and descents on the narrow trails also used by hikers and mountain bikers. The land was so dry that the prickly pear looked in retreat and ocotillo appeared dead where it had grown. There many scrub plant species also common to South Texas, like agarita and tasajillo, but on the whole I saw so many cacti I’d never seen. Back at the stables as saddles came off and blankets were hung to dry, the sky opened up and we stood there like turkeys, faces heavenward, taking in the rain. A drive to Panther Junction in Big Bend National Park placed us inside another excellent venue for books. I marveled that in the 160 desolate and unpopulated miles we had traveled from Alpine to Panther Junction, the area offered four bookstores — two Front Street stores (Alpine and Marathon), the Terlingua Trading Company bookstore, and the one in the park. The park employee was a living encyclopedia of the natural world, having selected and read for herself many of the books on the shelves. It was my impression that at this national park, government worked at a square deal, giving taxpayer bucks their maximum bang. The roadways were clean, and well-informed employees shared good information, not just about the lay of the land and amenities, but also about the ecosystem of Big Bend. There were many aspects of this trip that were good for me — including disconnecting from what I do every day. I did behave despite not being in control, noticing that on the fourth morning I did not wake with a single complaint. In the backseat, Emily held my hand across West Texas, even while I snoozed on the ride. All along the way we had exchanges with storekeepers and others about the border and immigration, what it was like there, how we dealt with things here, and everywhere the conversations ended on another theme — what was happening in government, the economy, the erosion of the Fourth and other amendments. And there were the rich conversations among us on the road and at the dinner table — some of it deep and spiritual, a lot of it about the environment, all of it about us, the travelers. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
Clowning around Payasita Raspita offered free face-painting and balloon-twisting for the 200 children who attended the Kids CafĂŠ sit-down lunch at Mariscos El Pescador on Tuesday, July 26. Members of the Laredo Heat also signed autographs and took pictures with the children.
Master Gardener Danny Gunn, nurseryman Gil Diaz, Chris Contreras from CafĂŠ Dolce, nopal aficionada Ninfa Carrizales, and herbalist Tony Ramirez were part of the Sustainable Agriculture Workshops hosted by Laredo Mainstreet and the Laredo Farmers Market. The well attended seminars offered Laredoans a wealth of information about agriculture, horticulture, folk remedies and herbs, and preparing delicious, wholesome food.
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Gruber, Okla., 1943 With Lester Trauth; Camp
England; May 19, 1944
LunĂŠville, France; Oct. 12, 1944
Crossing the Rhine; March 23, 1945
Courtesy of Eduardo Botello
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Eduardo Botello — a solider’s life graced by the footnotes of histor y, valor, and love
By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff
s I listened to Eduardo Botello recount the events of his service overseas as an infantryman in World War II, I had the recurrin g feeling that I was turning the pages on an espe cially good book about a life graced with the foot notes of history, valor, and love.
“We were all scared. There was no backing away. There was no retreat. Cowardice was a sentence meted out by a firing squad.” His young life’s experiences now being honed with the very real possibility of mortalit y, Botello said he and his compatriots “were in the han ds of God.” He recalled, “I was thinking that if it was my time to go, ‘Dear Lord, please don’t make it painful. Don ’t leave me in agony. If I’m shot, make it a headshot.’ I belie ve my mother’s prayers
“I had never spent one night away from my home,” Botello, now 86, said as he recalled leav ing Laredo after being drafted in May 1943. “My father Ana stacio had died in January. I was a junior at Martin High School and the oldest of five brothers and sisters. It was new to me to be alone.” Botello was inducted into the U.S. Army at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio and then went to Camp Gruber, Okla. for basic training in the 42nd Rainbow Division. “We traveled by military train,” he recalled of the contingent of young inductees, which included 15 young men from Laredo. After taking an exam at Fort Sam Houston, Botello came home for two weeks in August “to settle my accounts before active duty.” He reported for duty on Sept. 9, 1943 as a member of the 79th Infantry Division, the Cross of Lorraine Division that was preparing for battle in the Euro pean theater. At Camp Phillips, Kan. he became a mem ber of the 313th Infantry Regimen Company C First Battalion . Botello and his fellow infantrymen were furloughed once again, given a week to spend at home and a week for trav el home and a return to Boston, the point of embarkation for overseas service. The group of 15 Laredo infantrymen had become 10 in number — five had deserted. Part of an 8,000-man movement of soldiers, Botello sailed in March 1944 on the HMS Strathmore, a 32,000-ton English luxury liner that traveled between London and India before the war. The Strathmore joined a convoy of 20 military ships and destroyers in New York Harbor, follo wing a route through the North Atlantic to Scotland. Dise mbarking in Edinburg, Botello’s company traveled by train to Manchester in the Eduardo Bo tello; 2011 midlands of England. “We bivouack ed in tents,” he said, remembering the rainy, cold cond itions that hospitalized him for pneumonia before he ship kept me safe, though I would be wou ped out to land at Utah nded in the course of Beach in Normandy six days afte the war.” r D-Day, the historic, bloody incursion that had pushed The American line moved through the France and Belgium, and Botello was injured in battle on German army inland about 4 mile Oct. 13, 1944 in the Pars. After landing at Utah, the 80,000 members of the 4th th th roy Forest near Lunéville on France’s , 9 , 79 and 90th infaneastern border. Botello try divisions prepared to move to rem embered fighting “from tree to tree Cherbourg to liberate the ” in the thick forest. German-held port so that U.S. supp A mortar shell landed a scant 15 feet ly ships could come in from him, leaving him with munitions and supplies. with wounds to the neck and left thig h. Medics gave him a shot of antibiotics, and despite the “My baptism by fire was on the 19th shrapnel to the bone in of June at the front line. Before we moved in, the divi his leg, he walked to a field hospital. sion commander told us the enemy was 200 yards away and Botello was flown from Charmes, that we were there for France, to the 225th one reason only — to annihilate Station Hospital in Naples, Italy, whe the enemy,” Botello rere he convalesced after called of the officer’s address to the surgery. A physician asked Botello men before meeting the where he was from and enemy. when he answered “Laredo, Texa s,” the doctor told him that when he was well enough to “’Kill him before he kills you,’ he walk again, he should go told us, giving us license to defend ourselves.” Botello, the 50th General Hospital across the street to talk to a doctor an expert shooter with a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) who was from Laredo. at 200 yards, knew the weapon well, but nothing had prep “There he was, our family doctor, ared him for what it Isaac Murray Malawould really be like in combat. “It koff, with his feet on the desk smo was horrible,” he said. king a big cigar. He asked, ‘What the hell are you doin g here?’ It was great to
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see him,” Botello said. Botello received the Purple Heart in Naples on Nov. 2, 1944, congratulated by the colonel conferring the medal and Tech/Sgt. Tom Botello, his late father’s youngest brother. “It was a bittersweet memory as Tío Tom and I remembered my father who had died not even a year earlier.” Botello left Naples on Dec. 20, 1944 for Marseilles, France, and then traveled onto Strasbourg near the German/Austrian border, where he re-united with his outfit on Christmas Eve. He returned to service for the second half of the Battle of the Bulge, the biggest land battle in history — 1,100,000 soldiers on both sides of a battle first waged in the Ardennes Forest in Belgium on Dec. 16, 1944. The second phase of the Battle of the Bulge began with a German attack on Jan. 1, 1945 in Alsace Lorraine near the capital between France and German y. In Hagnue, Botello was wounded once again on Jan. 14, 1945, his life spared by the mess kit and pack on his back. He was awarded an Oak Leaf Clus ter to his Purple Heart and spent 10 days in a field hospital, treated for small fragments of shrapnel in his back. He returned to service in Feb. 1945 , now transferred to the 9th U.S. Army in Holland for train ing to cross the daunting currents of the Rhine River. In a fleet of landing craft, he crossed the Rhine in an Allied Forc es offensive on March 23, 1945, landing at Wesel in northern Germany. As the 79th Infantry pushed south, Botello faced injury once more in Duisburg in an Apr il 2, 1945 shell blast from a German tank that left him with a severe concussion and bleeding from the ears, nose, and mouth. The mortar wound, which diminished hearing in one ear, prompted a classification from combat duty to the Office of the Military Government of the United Stat es for Germany, first in Versailles and then in Berlin, a city divided after the end of the war on May 8, 1945 into America n, Russian, British, and French sectors. “I was in Verviers, Belgium on VE-Day (Victory in Europe Day) when I met and fell in love with a young woman named Josette Beckers. It was pure love. I spent my 20th birt hday in her home. Her parents used their sugar rations for a month to mak e a cake for me,” Botello said softly, his voice still tend er over the memory 66 years after the fact. “We wan ted to marry, but I was not ready to provide for a family. We talked by phone, and she begged me not to go back home without her. Her mot her had owned a ready-to-we ar store and her father was a librarian. They had lived wel l before the war and I did not want to bring her to live in the poverty I’d grown up with in Laredo. It was one of the saddest decisions I would ever make.” Years later as a student at St. Edw ard’s University in Austin, Botello wrote to his first love. “Her little sister answered me, telling me that Jose tte’s childhood sweetheart had returned as a prisone r of war of the Nazis. They had married and Josette had named her first son after me. He’s not my son, but I have a deep tenderness for the boy, now a man, named Edouard. She and her husband honored me.”
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recalled. Patriarch Anastacio Botello Sr. had worked as an estimator at Herring Price Lumber Company up to the time of his death. He had been more than an employee to the Herring family. Eduardo Botello recalled the kindness of Mrs. Ilsa Herring, who ran the lumber company. “She was with us when my father died, and from the time I left for the war until I got back, she helped my mother keep our family afloat. I tried to pay her back with the money I’d accrued in the Army, but she would not accept it. She sent me to a school to become a lumber grader to work in the mill.” While he worked at Herring Price, Botello borrowed money to build a home for his mother, brothers, and sisters at
If the memory of falling in love had been a grace note to Botello’s service to his country, there were, too, memories of war atrocities that needed to be dealt with, reckoned with, and purged. He recalled the ruthlessness of the Russian army as it moved through Germany, raping women and murdering civilians. He recalled, too, a moment in Sept. 1944 that defined for him forever what is right and just. From a distance in a small French village named Moncel-lès-Lunéville he witnessed a Nazi soldier pulling a woman down a street by her hair, her small child trailing behind weeping and screaming. In one deft motion without so much as a falter in his effort to keep moving the woman, the soldier drew his pistol and shot the child in the head. With the same alacrity Botello aimed and shot the German soldier with 12 rounds. Botello’s commanding officer asked why he had shot the man so many times. Botello responded, “I wanted him gone. I would have disappeared him if I could. I wanted him not to exist.” With the war over, PFC Botello sailed from Le Havre to New York on Dec. 15, 1945. He received an honorable discharge on Dec. 23, 1945 and made it home in time for ChristMemorial Day with mas at 313 Garfield St. with his Cavazos mother Abelina and siblings Anastacio Jr., Hilario Rosa, Olga, Alicia, and Benjamin. The decorated infantryman came home 1804 Gustavus St. with a chestful of medals, including the Under the G.I. Bill, Botello Combat Infantry Badge, the Bronze Star enrolled in business adminisMedal with V, Purple Heart with Oak Leaf tration studies at St. Edwards Cluster, ETO Campaign Medal with 4 Ma- University. After his third jor Campaigns (Normandy, Rhineland, Ar- year there, he opted to take dennes-Alsace, and Central Europe), World a job with U.S. Customs inWar II Victory Medal, German Occupation stead of finishing the last 30 Ribbon with One Bar, Presidential Unit Ci- hours of his degree plan. He tation, Expert Shooting Badge, and Sharp met Carlota Perez on a blind Shooter Badge. Botello would later receive a date, fell in love with her, and married her letter from President Harry Truman thank- in 1950. ing him and acknowledging his service to Botello had scored well on the Civil Serthe United States. vice exam that was key to getting a govern“My mother was skin and bones when ment job— 10 points were added for military I came home,” he said. “She had lost her service and disability. He was hired in 1951 husband the same year I had left, and she by St. Elmo Trauth, the second in command was afraid for me while I was gone,” Botello with U.S. Customs in Laredo. recalled. Botello and Carlota spent a year in Falcon Once home, Botello set about resuming Heights, where he worked as a U.S. inspechis life as it had been before the war. With tor at the international bridge that was being fellow veteran Rodolfo Luis Treviño, Botello used to cross materials for the construction approached LISD Superintendent J.W. Nix- of the Falcon Dam. “From where I stood at on about being able to re-enroll at Martin the port of entry every day, I saw the dam High to finish high school. “There were 76 being built.” other veterans that went back to finish,” he He was transferred to the international
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bridge in Laredo. “My specialty was making narcotics seizures. I have the highest record for narcotic apprehensions and seizures. Marijuana made me sneeze, so I was the dog before they had dogs.” And what became of the five deserters who left the Laredo contingent of 15 young soldiers in 1943? “One of them came through U.S. Customs in 1985 in the uniform of a captain of the Mexican army. He tried to shake my hand. I had him arrested. I didn’t like him any more. He was a deserter and a traitor. He was escorted back to Mexico,” Botello said. After 40 years with U.S. Customs, Botello retired on Feb. 3, 1989. He came out of retirement in 1992 for a six-year stint with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a deputy U.S. Marshall at the federal courthouse, assigned as a guard for Federal District Judge George P. Kazen. The hearing loss that began with the mortar blast from
World War II Monument; Washington, D.C., 2004 a German tank in 1945 became more acute and led to Botello’s retirement from the DOJ in 1997. Botello reflected on the nearly 50 years he spent in service to the American government. “I am greatly satisfied with the luck that I had. Military service made me. I am not a war hero. I was a soldier that did his job. I may have the medals that heroes get, but many of the real heroes are six feet under. I was always scared to die — we all were — but I always knew my obligations.” Over the last 66 years, Botello has kept
in touch with a veteran from New Orleans named Lester J. Trauth. “He was with me in France and in Alsace Lorraine and became a bodyguard for Army commander Gen. Alexander Patch. Lester and I were born the same year, the same month, and we did not smoke or drink or fool around. He has come to see me three times. I am due for a visit to New Orleans,” he said. After the war, Botello was classified at 70 percent disability, but in 1955 his pension was cut, seemingly arbitrarily, to 30 percent and then to 10 percent. “When I retired from customs, a lawyer revisited my pension. We went to federal court, and I won the case. They had to give me my 70 percent. They had taken more than $100,000 from me all those years. They offered a settlement of $80,000, and my pension thereafter was what it should have been. I regret that my wife was not here to share it with me because it was money that could have made our lives much easier.” Despite that infelicity, Botello said, “The government was good to me in every way. I did my job well.” In 2008, in recognition of exemplary service for 40 years as a U.S. Customs inspector, he was the first inductee into the Homeland Security Hall of Honor. In 2002, Botello and a handful of World War II veterans were honored in San Antonio by the French government for service in France and specifically for the liberation of Nazi-occupied France. Botello, still fit 60 years after the war, wore his uniform jacket and cap to the place he was first issued that uniform, Fort Sam Houston. Botello’s beloved wife Carlota died eight years ago, leaving him on his own. “I miss her very much. She was such a great part of my life.” He is proud that his five children — Eduardo Jr., Ruben Gerardo, Carlos David, Nydia, and Marissa — are all college-educated professionals. He has six grandchildren. Of being blessed with a long life of service, he said, “Until a few months ago I was walking around like a soldier. Now I am limping around.” Perhaps PFC Botello’s gait has slowed, but his mind has complete recall of exact dates and vivid memories of events so far from home that shaped his own life and that of nations and world history. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
Excellence in marketing, public relations From left, Laredo Community College President Dr. Juan L. Maldonado is pictured with the collegeâ€™s marketing team that helped capture two medallion awards from District 4 of the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations, including LCC TV producer Joaquin G. Costilla, publications designer/editor Ricardo Limon and marketing and public relations director Deirdre E. Reyna.
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Courtesy of Vicky Ho
Growth and decay Left, the Torres general store stands nearly intact Oct. 11, 2009. Right, the same building on June 26, 2011, is poised to crumble. According to Langtry resident Jack Skiles, the area unexpectedly received 15 inches of rain in four days marked by strong winds from Hurricane Alex. The extreme weather caused the front wall to disintegrate from moisture and the roof to cave in from the weight of the rain.
Marfa and Langtry: Twice-sold tales in West Texas By Vicky Ho 7STOPSmag.com Editor’s note: University of Texas English graduate Vicky Ho wrote about her travels and findings in West Texas for 7STOPS, a monthly online magazine founded in August 2011. Every month, the editors of 7STOPS will focus on a different theme, this month being “Growth and Decay.” here’s nowhere quite so Texan as West Texas. Cowboy boots are utilitarian, not kitschy. Tourists stick out like rental cars at the neighborhood FINA gas station, but locals are rarely less than welcoming. Life moves at a slow, easy pace, as though the Earth were ambling in rotation along its wayward axis just in this pocket of the world where everything is three parts sky, one part civilization. Words ring foreign without a drawl, it seems, and I can only guess at what non-Texans, those distinct others, see when they contemplate this sparsely
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populated region of the Lone Star State. Perhaps they envision border cities like El Paso mirrored by Mexican counterparts that hover scarcely across an invisible divide. Maybe the allure rests in the picturesque isolation of once-booming oil towns constructed in hasty, gleaming expansion, only to experience a prolonged, nearly painful contraction over the span of decades. And some cultural elites might distill this section of the state into the iconic city of Marfa, on whose flaxen prairie its patron saint, minimalist artist Donald Judd, left an indelible impression. You can trace his influence back to 1971, the year of Judd’s first visit. Enchanted, he fell in love with the spare, remote town and settled in by purchasing various properties with help from the Dia Art Foundation. He opened his own nonprofit Chinati Foundation in 1986 at the site of the former Fort D. A. Russell, whose abandoned buildings would house permanent installations and exhibitions by Dan Flavin, John Cham-
berlain, David Rabinowitch, Claes Oldenburg, and others. Before Judd’s arrival, Marfa was best known for the mysterious lights that occasionally flicker just outside the city limits at nighttime; through his influence, it transforms into a mecca for his disciples and a haven away from New York City. After Judd passed away in 1994 a provision in his will established the Judd Foundation, which operates in both Marfa and New York and competes with Chinati on more or less friendly terms. The legacy the sculptor left behind, not the least of which is his kilometer-long installation of concrete boxes (his literal mark on the earth) on a prickly stretch of Chinati’s main property, attracts artists, gallery owners, and chic entrepreneurs to a city whose residents in 1990 numbered 2,424 — less than one-one thousandth of Brooklyn’s population today. Businesses thrive as tourism pumps life into the economy, and Marfa, a magnet for weekend Texans and the art-
world cognoscenti, is rescued from almost certain obsolescence. But this hagiographic narrative omits much of what makes Marfa tick. For example, you’ll rarely hear about how two of its biggest property and stakeholders, the Chinati and Judd foundations, are exempt from paying taxes on multiple lots because of their 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. According to Presidio County tax records, Chinati paid $1,189 in taxes in February on four properties valued at a total of $85,490. Another 14 Chinati properties, and all the Judd Foundation’s 19 properties in the county, are exempt from taxes. Hardly contentious numbers, perhaps, but consider the size of each vaunted nonprofit’s coffers. An independent auditors’ report shows that Chinati’s net assets at the end of 2009 amounted to about $11.6 million, with revenue totaling $3.3 million. Estimates from 2008 place the value of the Judd Foundation’s assets at a whopping $240 million with $3.6 million in income. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
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convenience. An October 2005 entry on Artforum International Magazine’s website says Rember “told [the post’s author] that Marfa is now a town where you can find Goethe at the local bookshop, drop $50,000 on some art, and spend $300 on supper but where it’s difficult to get a haircut or batteries.” Or even flag down a police officer: In 2009, a vote by the City Council and county commissioners effectively shut down the police department, leaving law enforcement in the hands of the two sheriff’s deputies in the area. Mayor Dan Dunlap, who originally backed the department’s closure, had underscored a need to pare down the city’s budget. By most standards, Marfa is an aberration of the typical West Texas town. One would imagine an influx of restaurateurs, artists, artisans, and business owners to be a hallmark of growth. (In previous years, writers have dubbed Judd’s secluded re-
away in Fort Stockton but chose to stay in Marfa, despite the rising cost of living, because his friends and family live there. Meanwhile, everyone scalped cigarettes from one another, and there was a general consensus on the ridiculous nature of beer and wine prices. Marfa, the bare-bones city Donald Judd loved for its quiet seclusion and generous terrain, may have become too expensive for the people who call it home. Marfa’s shifting landscape Soaring property values have forced many traditional retailers, now competing with artisans vying for tourist dollars, to relocate away from downtown Marfa because they can no longer afford to renew their leases at inflated rates or increase their prices. In February 2005 Mary Arrieta, whose store Ave Maria previously was located on Highland Avenue, had to find another space for her business as the new
Courtesy of Vicky Ho
Not too shabby for an organization whose endowment of $27.8 million was funded by a Christie’s New York auction of 36 of the artist’s sculptures in 2006. These mammoth (at least, mammoth for Marfa) institutions shoulder barely a fraction of the tax burden while the average individual faces not only climbing property taxes but also skyrocketing property values. Demand for houses in the area has risen sharply under the high-profile glare of headlines: “The Great Marfa Land Boom.” “Donald Judd Found Perfect Canvas in Texas Town.” “Marfa as Masterpiece Theater.” “Couture in the Country.” “A Contemporary Retreat With a 100-Year-Old Soul.” Guided by market forces, many homes are now priced as vacation pads or investments for those with deep, greenback-lined pockets, some properties selling for four to 10 times their 1990 value. The prospect of home ownership dims for residents of a town where an American Community Survey report from 2005-09 places the median value of owner-occupied homes at $93,200 up from $49,000 in 2000 — an increase of 90.2 percent compared to the neighboring city of Alpine’s 37.4 percent over the same time period. While a boost in property values benefits homeowners looking to sell, there exists an added risk of pricing citizens out of the neighborhood. And because many of these pieds-à-terre remain vacant most of the year, fewer dollars are funneled regularly into area businesses or collected in tax revenue, which according to City Administrator James R. Mustard makes up roughly a quarter of the city’s income. The absence of permanent residents thus softens the impact of what might otherwise contribute to a boon for the city’s economy and minimizes the funds available for city and county improvements. Marfa’s want of enhanced infrastructure and certain basic amenities is only exaggerated by its bewildering and tenuous juxtaposition with the establishment of haute culture. The style of Texas architecture that defines central Highland Avenue — resolute, weathered lines of buildings hugging the ground as if to keep from drifting into celestial blues — also masks what otherwise might belong in the SoHo district or a spread in Bon Appétit, though ruined adobe casitas shackled by overgrown weeds still dot residential areas. Visitors can rove from point to point and hit all the high spots featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, or New York magazine, but beware the lack of immediate medical care or the occasional unpaved road and discontinuous sidewalk. Even Judd Foundation Collections Manager Craig Rember took note of the clash between big-time cachet and small-time
Luxury in the desert “Prada Marfa,” an art project conceived by artists Elmgreen & Dragset, is located about 35 miles west of Marfa. An emblem of luxury in a patch of untamed desert, the sculpture has been vandalized repeatedly since its inauguration on Oct. 1, 2005. treat “the next Santa Fe,” Aspen, Missoula, and so on.) But census records show just the opposite: In 2000, the population decreased to 2,121, the number currently listed on city limits markers, then to 1,981 in 2010, continuing its decades-long trajectory of decline despite glowing media coverage and publicity. One night at a low-key gathering of assorted 20-somethings in Marfa, several residents hinted at one of the reasons for this development. A friend of mine who recently moved to the area commented on how expensive groceries were, even in comparison with average costs in major metropolitan areas across the state. A teacher interjected to ask which store he frequented, the unremarkable Pueblo Market or specialty-goods vendor The Get Go. Someone else told me he worked 90 miles
building owner reappropriated the location for upmarket lofts. “For 29 years, I could afford to rent on [Highland]. Now I can’t,” Arrieta said in the August 2005 Salon article “Showdown in Marfa.” “It is sad the way the art crowd is working it out so that they don’t have to lift a finger to put us out.” Cleat Stephens, a Marfa native and coowner of the Alamito Real Estate company, views the changes in a more positive light. Judd’s death generated substantial interest in the tucked-away artists’ colony, Stephens says, and out-of-towners and investors alike — perhaps recognizing echoes of his vision in the landscape or eyeing the potential for new development — started buying up properties similar to those Judd held during his lifetime. Stephens handled early sales for some
of the Judd Foundation’s 15 to 20 central properties and witnessed firsthand the Doppler shifts in what he refers to as the “complexion of the town”: Once-derelict buildings were restored to polished glory, the city traded its ranching influences for added artistic flair, and the standard of living improved dramatically as the per capita income increased from $14,636 in 1999 to $23,756 to 2009. When I asked him about the figures pointing toward a diminishing population, however, I could almost hear a carefully reasoned furrow of the brow in his voice. “My initial impression is that there have been fewer opportunities [in the area] for people who grew up in Marfa, you’d call them native Marfans, as far as professional careers and things like that go,” Stephens speculated. He went on to say the data may not be an entirely accurate reflection of the number of permanent residents since Marfa has a fluid, fluctuating population of artists-in-residence (the average Chinati residency lasts between two and three months), service workers, and vacation homeowners. A Chamber of Commerce employee who wished to remain unnamed elaborated on this phenomenon by citing herself as an example. If she needed extra money, she reasoned, she could just move to Austin or Dallas for a couple months’ work and then return to Marfa; she wouldn’t even need to tell anyone she was leaving. “But the community is so tight-knit that even when as few as 20 people leave, everyone notices,” she added. Her casual tone implies this back-andforth between Marfa and major cities happens fairly often, and as for myself I’ve heard countless stories about individuals who try their hand at Marfa living but return to their city of origin after a few discouraging months. The physical and social environments of West Texas may unnerve those unaccustomed to the rolling landscape; the dry, thin air; or the rural concept of nightlife. Born-and-bred Marfans exude the brand of friendly warmth specific to small communities, but there’s an edge to the way some transplants carry themselves around fresh faces, almost as if to proclaim, “I live here now. I’m holding my own and I’ve toughed it out. You don’t know how difficult this will be. I doubt you’ll last.” And indeed, many of them don’t. Enter Tex Toler, the director of Marfa’s newly minted Department of Tourism, which is funded by the city’s hotel/motel bed tax revenue. A scant 90 days into the job, the former Austinite readily acknowledges how heavily the local economy relies on vacationers. Continued on next page
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Continued from page 37 “It’s essential that we make a concerted effort, a coordinated effort, a strategic effort to reach out to visitors for our survival,” Toler affirmed, noting how the town’s upper-crust eateries aren’t exactly tailor-made for the ranching crowd. Pragmatically, he understands the vital role tourists play in sustaining the outcrop of vogue businesses, but he’s also quick to point out what Marfa needs to support a more permanent population. “We don’t have enough really affordable housing for interns, students, or people struggling to support their families. We could do more with that.” When asked for his impression of the two Judd-related foundations, Toler praises their community outreach programs and current Chinati Director Thomas Kellein for opening a dialogue between the institutions and area residents. “Years ago, [the foundations] would get a bad rap,” Toler said, rattling off a list of denigrating monikers such as “ChiNazi” or “Chisnotty.” “But they’ve really turned it around. They do so many things for the kids and the youth in the community as far as art classes and projects go. They have become more welcoming to the community.”
While the tourism director commends the nonprofits that loom like beneficent Goliaths over Presidio County and attract thousands of visitors to the county seat each year, he also speaks with candor when he mentions the “distorted expectations” of some visiting art aficionados who, spellbound by a mythical Marfa and fantastical Judd, trek to the town and get less than what they bargained for. “You open up the paper and read about the ‘thriving art scene.’ These galleries, they’re about as thriving as a funeral home or library,” Toler joked lightly. “People talking in hushed tones, people saying, ‘Hm, you know, je ne sais quoi.’ It’s not a nightclub kind of thriving. People get there and they’re like, OK, where is all of this ‘thriving’ I read about? It’s a slow pace here, and it takes some getting used to.” Judd’s vision of an intimate artists’ refuge devoid of slick city influences has been so distorted that finding traces of the sculptor himself in what Marfa has evolved into is nearly impossible. He is everywhere — among the “I ♥ Judd” bumper stickers giving a sly nod to his installation of concrete blocks, the volumes for sale at Marfa Book Co. that track his life and work, and the foundation building downtown with “JUDD”
boldly emblazoned on a glass door and the building itself — but he is nowhere. The myth has outgrown the man, and I’m left wondering whether his assembly of painters, sculptors, and friends would recognize his vision or could even afford to live there today. Whether this is still “Donald Judd’s Marfa, Texas,” as a documentary by filmmaker Chris Felver asserted in 1996. If we credit anyone with saving Marfa from becoming another nameless, longdistance pit stop, we’d have to salute the two institutions dedicated to preserving Judd’s legacy. But, these are the very forces that might destroy it in the long run. The law west of the Pecos Some 170 miles from Marfa’s boutique haunts sits Langtry, a ghost town in Val Verde County that has succumbed to the fate Marfa, for better or worse, may have escaped. As of 2009 its estimated population was 30, although if you discount the ranch employees living on its outskirts, the count comes down to a meager 18. The area is unincorporated, and its status on the Texas Almanac website simply reads, “Our records indicate that Langtry currently exists.” Standard phrasing, but in this case the words seem not without a wink of irony.
Located about a mile off U.S. Highway 90 in the eastern afterglow of Sanderson Canyon, Langtry was named for railroad foreman and engineer George Langtry, who supervised a crew constructing a stretch of the nearby Southern Pacific line. The saloon operator who would become the town’s most notorious resident, Judge Roy Bean, moved there in 1882 and was appointed justice of the peace later that year. He claimed his title as the “Law West of the Pecos” River and held court in his storied saloon, and his reputation as a maverick soon would immortalize him in local folklore. One story describes his release of an arrested man who reportedly murdered a Chinese rail worker. Responding to criticism, Bean explained his actions by pointing out that the law did not state specifically that it was illegal to kill a “Chinaman.” Another account details how, upon finding $40 and a gun on a dead man’s body, Bean fined the corpse for carrying a concealed weapon. Conveniently, the fine amounted to $40. The judge’s mantra, according to local myth? “Hang ’em first, try ’em later.” The incident that propelled him into infamy occurred in 1896 when Bean orchestrated a profitable plan to hold a worldchampionship boxing showdown nearby.
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As boxing matches were illegal in the both the state and Mexico, he arranged for the fight to take place on the southern side of the Rio Grande fully aware of the site’s near-inaccessibility to Mexican authorities. Reports of the fight’s extraordinary circumstances spread across the country, and the Bean came away with a renegade’s celebrity and slightly augmented wealth. He had a romantic side, too, as he was so infatuated with English actress and singer Lillie Langtry — no relation to the settlement’s namesake, though perhaps Bean took this coincidence as a sign of divine providence — that he named his saloon the “Jersey Lilly” in her honor. Hoping to lure her to Texas for a visit, he christened his home “Roy Bean’s Opera House, Town Hall, and Seat of Justice,” never mind its paltry square footage of 800 designed for an audience of one. She eventually visited the town, but not before Bean’s death in 1903; because of this cruel timing, they never met. “Judge Roy Bean lived a life in which fiction became so intermingled with fact that he became a legend within his lifetime,” reads a historical marker celebrating the rogue lawman. So intermingled, it seems, that his compelling narrative now dwarfs, and even extinguishes, mention of events outside his lifetime. If everything is bigger in Texas, Roy Bean is bigger than Texas: Two-thirds of the State Historical Association’s profile of Langtry covers roughly 20 years of Bean’s time there. The rest of the article is devoted to the 20th century. Like Marfa, this town is top-heavy with tourists, albeit on a comparatively tiny scale. The visitors’ center dominates the scene with just three buildings and five employees, compared to the Chinati Foundation’s 340 acres and $719,000 in 2009 employee salaries. On the strength of Bean’s reputation alone, Langtry draws 60,000 visitors annually, a startling figure for a place whose dwindling population prompted the only school to shutter its doors in 1970. “We probably wouldn’t even have a post office if it weren’t for the reason that tourists buy stamps,” said Jack Skiles, who grew up in the area during the Great Depression and still lives there today. (Soon, Langtry may not even have that: On July 26, the United States Postal Service announced that declining revenues would force the possible closure of 222 of its Texas branches, including the Langtry office.) In the ’60s, Skiles had set out to learn more about the “Law West of the Pecos” from anyone with a fable to tell, and the interviews he gathered with a secondhand tape recorder eventually would form the WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M
book “Judge Roy Bean Country” and land him the title of resident Langtry expert. The tourism industry is what thumps Langtry’s pulse into life — of its few residents, one family runs the gas station, another the gift shop, one individual serves as postmaster, and another works at the visitors’ center — but things weren’t always this way, Skiles recalls. Railways and ranching once lay at the core of its economic base, but after the completion of the railroad and its relocation, many laborers fled to other cities in search of work. During most of the town’s spotty history the number of residents never exceeded 200, but the shrinking number of ranchers is a more recent trend. “[Ranching has] declined immensely due to the fact that in this hard, dry country, we’ve had less-than-normal rainfall for a few years,” Skiles commented. “But the biggest factor is people from big cities, El Paso, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, these people are willing to pay more for
economic opportunity particularly since the new property holders aren’t willing to sell, even to others who would reinvigorate the local ranching industry. Another circumstance contributing to Langtry’s waning prospects is the deadlocked ownership of its vacant lots. Legal issues complicate the sale of some plots of land through disputed ownership while non-resident families own others. For instance, the Dodd family, descendants of Bean’s contemporary William H. Dodd, owns most of the property in town. Preferring to sell the land in one chunk rather than piece by piece, the Dodds put their holdings on the market in 1970 and waited for an acceptable offer of $1.5 million to $2 million. None would ever be made, and a glance at the neglected buildings, left to decay naturally as the Dodds either couldn’t afford or didn’t care to maintain them, offers visual proof of what Skiles confided to me: “Langtry has almost certainly died.”
Wild west judge Judge Roy Bean’s saloon, the Jersey Lilly, doubled as the town’s courthouse during his tenure as justice of the peace. Its restoration in 1939 attracted new residents to Langtry, though three decades later the population fell down to about 40. the land here than it can produce. People sold out.” Deadlocked and ‘landlocked’ Lured in by the region’s striking canyons, brush, and views of the Rio Grande, city dwellers in previous decades started buying ranch properties around Langtry, though they do very little ranching themselves. What affects the area most, Skiles explains, is that these individuals come only for weekend or holiday visits and don’t put any money into the community. The land remains stagnant in squandered
Still, there’s a certain magic in Torres Avenue’s string of abandoned homes and stores, relics from a bygone era when there was more to Langtry than loneliness. The decades of indifference have created an eerie conflation of interior and exterior, the bones of a structure exposed to elements lacking surgical precision. You can easily identify the buildings from archived photos to the present day, although the years have not been kind to the ghost town’s oldest residents. Floorboards where they still exist sag
and creak with age, but there’s no bureaucratic agency to condemn these structures or oversee their destruction. Nature reclaims the foundations and two-by-fours navigable only if you’ve had a recent round of tetanus shots. The windows were shattered long ago, and in phases roofs crystallize in ever-worsening states of implosion. To picture someone living in these houses requires a stretch of the imagination, yet at the same time the hodgepodge of needled cacti and invasive flora lends a peculiar comfort to the crumbling adobe walls reminiscent of Marfa’s aged casitas. However, what passes for blight in Marfa is the status quo in Langtry. The adobe building that housed the general store owned and operated by Jesus Pablo Torres, Bean’s rival and the town’s first permanent resident, sits on a Dodd lot and was nearly intact two years ago. Today it’s just a sneeze away from sinking into rubble, though the adjacent marker immortalizing Torres as a member of the town’s founding family remains curiously erect. But this marker, a metallic tribute to a man’s accomplishments and deeds, will have nothing to commemorate after the shack shudders a final death rattle into destruction. Weighing Torres’ ramshackle store against Bean’s impeccably preserved saloon and quarters, it’s plain to see whose architectural and historical markers will endure the longest. But since the livelihood of its residents is bound so tightly to tourism and the legacy of one man, I have to ask, how long can this community survive on a foundation of tunnelvisioned ties to the past? What exactly is the half-life of wistful bronze — or for that matter, 15 untitled works in concrete, 1980-84? Can Marfa, three hours from Langtry by car but exceedingly close in spirit, sustain its simultaneous growth and decline? In 2009, the proprietor of Langtry’s gift-shop-cum-post-office expressed to me her desire to sell the property and use the money to relocate. On a recent visit, a “Closed for business” sign dangled from the shop’s door, and excitedly I assumed she had found a buyer and moved on to bigger, perhaps better, things. But a conversation with a staff member at the visitors’ center revealed the same woman, the bulk of whose wealth is riveted to the land, still manages the store’s affairs; the shop had closed only for the day. I suppose for all their similarities, one colossal distinction separates Donald Judd’s artists’ enclave from Judge Roy Bean’s former stomping grounds: Marfans are pushed out despite their best efforts to stay. Residents of Langtry couldn’t get out if they tried. u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2011 |
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Serving Sentences By randy koch Randy Koch earned his MFA at the University of Wyoming and teaches writing at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Dogged days of summer
cannot sleep on my stomach or trouble with rutabagas. Two weeks ago I filled a crock pot with chuck roast, quartered potatoes, and thick slices of onions and let it stew until the house sighed every time I stepped in the kitchen. Yesterday when I walked along the Millville Road where it curves past three run-down doubles with stout Century 21 signs posted out front, the tentative electric chords of “Smoke on the Water” vibrated from the upstairs windows. On a late June morning a skunk turned drunken circles in the southbound lane but survived the straddling of a revvedup pickup’s oversized mudders. Now he’s a flat patch of white and black hair on the shoulder, a shadow of its scent curling in the wake of a passing Lexus. I cannot ignore a penny abandoned in a gutter. I cannot forgive a mattress hoisted in a ditch. On the windowsill in my kitchen are a dead cicada, a cactus from Texas, and bits of broken seashells from Corpus and Cape Cod. And some dust. The dust is local. Between First Street and Fishing Creek a steep round hill bristling with gray weathered headstones reminds me of Elmer Anderson’s hairy stomach bulging above the water as he back-floated on Bloody Lake one gnatty summer afternoon in Minnesota. I cannot crack my knuckles or turn a cartwheel. Once I could somersault in the grass and knew how to solve derivatives in calculus. No more. I can, however, stand on my head. On the north end of Summit Avenue in front of a white garage with red trim, a vinyl lawn sign says, “Creasy Signs. Paint or vinyl.” On the south end of Summit lives a stocky, bearded man who, according to the ad on the door of his pickup, does cement lettering. Headstones, cornerstones, footstones, monuments, the like. His blond, squat wife walks their adopted greyhound, an ex-racer, through the dappled shade of walnut and ash trees on the far side of the street. It takes a village, etc. Yesterday I saw a tall nettle bent to the ground under the weight of a grape vine, its feelers curling blindly into the empty air beyond the end of the sagging weed. Green walnuts, swollen and firm as baseballs, hang from adolescent trees. I cannot part my hair on the left or read WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M
with music playing. I cannot read music. The catbirds and robins that filled June mornings with melodies are quiet now, and the shaggy Rastafarian heads of goldenrod sway on the rocky hillside rising almost vertically out of my backyard. Crickets are relentless, steady as elevator music or background radiation. Two grasshoppers clatter their wings above the patio. Clouds of steam rise from the cooling towers of the nuclear power plant upriver. This morning as I spread butter on a waffle from the toaster, the small spider that patrolled the ceiling for the past week descended on an invisible thread directly in front of me and toward the waffle. I slid the plate away, watched him alight delicately on the counter, and with the heel of my left hand flattened him. There are limits to my hospitality. I cannot live without books. The cemetery on the hill — like most cemeteries — is orderly and quiet as a library and reassuring as a banister. There’s much to be said for quiet company. Every morning this week a thick-chested young man wearing shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt trotted down the street, his feet slapping the pavement. A big yellow dog loped beside him on the end of a leash. Occasionally a thin pretty girl with a bouncing brown ponytail runs with them. I once mistook the cawing of a distant mob of crows on a grassy field for cheerleaders testing their voices. A blue jay sometimes yells, “Jeer! Jeer! Jeer!” Other times it cries like a young red-tailed hawk or creaks like a dry barn door hinge. I don’t know what the creaking of a barn door hinge resembles. I cannot not write. I get short after days of talk or TV or touring the aisles of Walmart or The Candy Barrel. I’m disgusted by starlings and crabgrass. I feel a coarse withdrawal seep in, a vacant anger the consistency of sour milk. I’m dogged by deerflies and envy the chubby neighbor girl who, with pink and yellow chalk, scrawls “I ♥ mom” on the pavement. I admire spray-painted graffiti on rocking boxcars and underpasses. In the cemetery I caress the names and dates cut in granite. With eyes closed, I read epitaphs like Braille with the tips of my fingers. From a patch of grass I pick up the stub of a yellow pencil, ripe with summer, and drop it in my pocket. u
PIPELINE SAFETY America has over 220,000 miles of pipelines carrying natural gas and products across the United States. These pipelines have a safety record second to none in the transportation industry… and we want you to help us keep it that way. When you see signs, they tell you that there’s a pipeline nearby. If it’s underground, you can’t see it, of course. But it’s there, working quietly to provide energy for you and other consumers throughout this nation. Some of these signs list the commodity transported in the pipeline, the name of the operator, and a telephone number where the operator’s representative can be reached at all times. Although pipelines have an exceptionally good safety record, once in a while a leak can occur. Indications of a leak might include: 1) A strange or unusual odor in the vicinity of a pipeline. 2) A hissing or roaring sound (caused by natural gas or product escaping from a pipeline). 3) Flames originating from an opening in the ground. 4) If you become aware of a pipeline leak… LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY Avoid driving near escaping gas Avoid direct contact with the escaping gas or liquids. Avoid creating sparks or sources of heat which could cause the natural gas to ignite and burn, if you find yourself in a suspected gaseous area, do not light a match, start an engine, or even switch on an electric light. Notify the pipeline operator as soon as you reach a safe area. Call collect. Give your name, a description of the leak and its location. If you do not know who the pipeline operator is, call your local fire, or sheriff’s department, or the state police. Advise them of the nature and location of the emergency. If you see someone digging near a pipeline or doing other construction work…or if you plan to do such work near a pipeline yourself…please call the telephone number shown on the sign and let the pipeline company know so damage can be avoided. It’s in your interest…and the nation’s. America cuenta con mas de 220,000 millas de tubería con gas natural y productos por todo Estados Unidos. Esta tubería tiene un récord de seguridad Como ninguno en la industria de la transportación…y queremos ayudar a mantenerlo de esa manera. Estamos trabajando continuamente para proveer energia para usted y otros consumindores en la nación. En la tuberia, usted encontrará el nombre del operador, y el número de teléfono donde encuentra al representante del operador a cualquier hora. Aunque la tubería tiene un récord excepcional de buena seguridad, de vez en cuando puede ocurrir una fuga. Las indicaciones de la fuga puede incluir: 1) Un olor extraño o inusual en el lugar donde hay tubería 2) Un sonido como silbido o rugido (causado por el gas natural o producto escapando de la tubería) 3) Llamas originadas por una abertura en el suelo. 4) Si se da cuenta de la fuga en una tubería: ALEJESE DEL AREA INMEDIATAMENTE Evite manejar cerca del gas que esta escapando Evite un contacto directo con el gas o liquidos que escapan Evite el crear chispas o algun tipo de calor que pudiera causar que el gas natural se incendiara, si se encuentra en un area sospechosa de gas, no encienda un cerillo, un motor, o un switch de electridad. Notifique al operador de la tubería tan pronto que se encuentre en un area segura. Llame por cobrar. De su nombre, una descripcion de la fuga y la locación. Si no sabe quien es el operador de la tuberia, llame al departamento de bomberos de su localidad, la policia, o el departamento del sheriffe, o la policia estatal. Avise la naturaleza y locación de la emergencia. Si observa a alguien escarbando cerca de una tubería o haciendo trabajo de construccion… o si tiene planes de hacer dicho trabajo cecra de una tuberia…por favor llame al de telefono que aparece en el anuncio y deje que compania de tuberia concocida para evitar daños. Es su interés…y del país. This notice provided by Blue Stone Natural Resources 24 Hour Emergency Number 1(877) 616-6300
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Book giveaway Rep. Henry Cuellar donated children’s books from the Library of Congress to families at the Imaginarium of South Texas in Mall del Norte on Friday, August 5. The event was “meant to encourage reading in and outside of the classroom year-round,” according to Cuellar’s office.
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War heroes The David B. Barkley Plaza memorial honors 41 Hispanic Medal of Honor recipients, including Barkley, who was the only Laredo recipient. The memorial, built in 2002, contains a bronze statue of Barkley in his honor.
After move from Kansas to Laredo, writer learns more about herself
By BARBARA BAKER LareDOS Contributor
t’s been a year since I took the journey from Emporia, Kansas, to Laredo. Coming to Laredo has been like entering a metropolis compared to what I had known in Emporia. Rural, predominantly white Emporia, where Wal-Mart was the main shopping hub in town and downtown looked like a scene out of Gunsmoke. Laredo has many shopping venues and restaurants, and coming here was my fresh start after living in Emporia for three years. My move to Laredo was also the next step in the journey of healing after losing my mother to leukemia in a town about two hours west of Emporia. Honestly, if my mother were still alive, she would be scared out of her mind that I came to a Mexican border town where drug cartels conduct their business, people she would call “a Mexican Mafia.” She never understood how I could make transitions and go to different worlds, where there was no family or roots. I’ve made moves before like this one. While she was alive, I had put a few grey hairs on her head and tears in her eyes by moving from Kansas to New England to start my doctoral career. I was told by one of my friends when I left Kansas that I was coming to one of the most racist places in the United States. I’m not sure of his rationale — perhaps phobia about conservative Texas or the fact that he was from New Mexico and according to his perspective, New Mexico had done battle with Texas and Texas did New Mexico wrong. Considering where I came from, I have not found Laredo to be that way. I have grown up and almost always lived in predominantly white rural communities where there were no other people of color or languages but English. Now those communities were racist. Anyone different in skin color or language was considered deviant from the norm. I have spent a lifetime trying to reclaim who I am as an African-American woman who often faced many hostile reactions to my skin color and culture. As a female of color, I particularly love seeing females of color leading banks, businesses, politics, and landlordWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M
ship, and social services positions such as doctors, nurses, social workers, and lawyers. That’s something I did not grow up experiencing, and it had a negative impact on my psyche about what I thought I could do with my life as a young female of color growing up. One thing I can say about Laredo: I am with other people of color. Yes, they are Latino or Latina but they are still people of color, and I am not so much the oddity anymore. I can be proud to be a person of color. No one stares at me when I walk in a store or restaurant because of my skin
Many times in Laredo I’ve had men and women apologize for speaking Spanish to me, and I apologize back because it is I who should be speaking Spanish since I am in a community where Spanish is the predominant language. I think there is a responsibility to see ourselves as more then monolingual in a community and society in which diversity thrives and should be empowered. As a teacher, I can often see the confused look on my students’ faces when they hear I relocated to Laredo. I know they are wondering why an African-American person
For me, because of all the painful things I encountered being African American, I see all of us as people of color, in this life together, trying to make it and overcome the barriers and stigmas put upon us not just as one racial group, but as people of color in a community, whether we be Hispanic, African American, Native American, or Asian.
color or physical looks. As a matter of fact, I am often spoken to in Spanish though I do not know the Spanish language. There have been times in my life when other people of color have not known my race or ethnic background and considered me to be an identity other then African American. Maybe it means I know how to relate, blend in, and connect even though I might not know the language of the group in the majority. When we move to any place that is different from what we know as familiar, we always learn something about ourselves, and we learn ways that we need to grow to be a better person. As someone who has dedicated her life to social justice activism, I always thought of myself as open and flexible with taking risks. But putting myself out there to learn Spanish has been a challenge. I’ve been around Hispanic men and women who had to learn English, and I heard the challenges and frustrations. I thought I was empathic but I was never in their place until now. I find myself afraid of messing up someone else’s language, making myself look like a fool, and feeling like I just can’t learn it. Now I truly do empathize and know someone else’s experience who has to learn English.
would choose to come to a predominantly Hispanic area. But for me, because of all the painful things I encountered being African American, I see all of us as people of color, in this life together, trying to make it and overcome the barriers and stigmas put upon us not just as one racial group, but as people of color in a community, whether we be Hispanic, African American, Native American, or Asian. Now I have met some Laredoans whom I can tell do not like African Americans, and that confuses and frustrates me because I see them as a minority as much as I am. Yes, I know many times Hispanics are labeled white, but I do not understand that label, especially since Hispanic women and men have faced discrimination and stigma just as African Americans and other minority groups have.
Being a language minority has definitely inspired intense racism against Hispanic people in the United States. There are just as many prison walls lined with Hispanic men as well as African American men. There is also a long history of Hispanic and Latino civil rights as there is for African Americans. As documented in John Valadez’s film The Longoria Affair, World War II veteran Felix Longoria was denied burial in Three Rivers because he was Hispanic. This is comparable to African Americans who were not allowed to be buried with white people in cemeteries. So why dislike or hate with whom you share obstacles and a common history in life? As with most communities in the United States, Laredo has its struggles with identity. A former student of mine said that Laredoans, “do not know how to be Laredo community ambassadors.” This is not a problem that only Laredo needs to overcome. We live in world where there is apathy about being spokespersons for their community, standing up for an unpopular political stance, or being an activist for change to positively develop their community. As Muskgoee Native American poet Joy Harjo says, “I know I walk in and out of several worlds each day.” Those worlds define the path I want to carve out to be a part of the solutions and not the problems. We have to make conscious efforts to be positive solutions. It is my first-year Laredo anniversary, and I am still learning about myself, my new home, and how I want to be a part of the community as a productive resident and contributing leader. (Barbara Baker was born in Iowa and raised in Kansas. She is a First Year Seminar faculty member at Texas A&M International University.) u
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They were soldiers, they were boys By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff
n pages 30 and 31, you may have read a story I wrote after I interviewed World War II veteran Eduardo Botello. Mr. Botello’s compelling narrative of his life as a young infantryman in German-occupied France and Germany rekindled my interest in the history of the second world war, a war that ended three years before I was born. While double checking the spelling of names of French and German towns and cities Mr. Botello cited, I read over a good deal of war history. Mr. Botello’s story was not unlike the stories my father recounted about his own service as an Eighth Air Force Army Air Corpsman who flew 35 bombing missions from Tibenham, England, and dropped bombs over German cities, refineries, ship yards, munitions plants, and rail yards. In the thick of my reading up on the war, I flipped through my choices for Netflix instant streaming and came across a PBS documentary called The Bombing of Germany, which I watched with much interest. The film documented the efforts of the Eighth Air Force to destroy the German war effort in daylight bombing incursions with B-17s and B-24s. I watched it again, this time with my father’s notes in hand about the missions he flew. With Mr. Botello’s story fresh on my mind I understood so well that these two boys from Laredo, both under 20 — one on the soil of Germany and the other in a “flying fortress” in the air above it — had offered themselves up selflessly to nation and God in order to turn the tide of Nazi dominance in Europe. Some of the medals and decorations each young man received from their respective branches of the service cite campaigns in the same parts of Europe — Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, the Battle of the Bulge. Reader, I’d like to share two of my father’s stories. Of a 1944 mission to Kassel, Germany, the home of the Henschel tank factory and a major rail hub, he wrote, “We were hit by flack over the target and lost an engine. The flack tore a hole in one of our rubber gas tanks on the wing and sprayed gasoline and fumes through our whole plane. We could see
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José Guerra, center, bottom row
José Guerra, center
the stream of gasoline coming out and we could also see the flame exhaust from one of our engines a few feet from the stream of gasoline. “Our heated suits were turned off, intercom was turned off, radio was turned off, precautions to try to prevent a spark that could blow us up. It took over five minutes for the ruptured tank to empty and another five minutes before the fumes and gas evaporated. “With one engine out, we got out of formation due to the lack of power. German fighter planes loved to wait for bomber stragglers. They would line up and take turns. To get away and to try to make it back to England, the first thing we did was find an open field and drop all our bombs. We went down to a height of 50 feet to get away from the German fighters. “Another engine went out, and we started throwing out our ammunition, flack suits, parachutes, and anything that was
not bolted down. When we got to the English Channel, we were flying so low that we were leaving wake like a motor boat. We started dismounting our ten 50-caliber machine guns and throwing them overboard. “We were able to gain another 25 feet in altitude as we tried to make landfall. By radio we got directions to the nearest English air base. We landed and stayed for dinner and to sleep. “We were very cold all night. The English apologized for the lack of coal. They said most of the coal in England went to American bases.” Another of my father’s stories was about Axis Sally, the name the American and British soldiers gave to a female German radio broadcaster. Axis Sally’s job was to demoralize soldiers thousands of miles from home. She played the latest American hits, and in between the music she propagandized the German credo of racial hate. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
My father wrote, “She pinpointed the movement of the Eighth Air Force Daily, telling us of personnel who had parachuted safely after being shot down and of the bombers and fighters that had been shot down over Germany. “She also told us that while we were overseas fighting that the Jews and the Zoot Suiters were taking over our girls
and our wives, and that Rosenfelt (he was never called President Roosevelt) was a Jew and he was surrounded by and ordered about by the Jews. She called this a Jewish war and said we should get back to America. “They played all the records of ‘Herr Bingle,’ which they said were sung by a Jew. They never called him Bing Crosby.” u
A flying fortress
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The late Tony Bruni, a champion of cultural preservation, social justice, and Hispanic pride, photographed the world around him and left us these beautifully captured photographs of the ruins of the early settlement of Dolores. These meaningful, historical images are weighted all the more by the loss of him.
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Texas A&M International University
Laredo Title initiates Fall semester ushers “Closing for A Cause” in apps, more options for TAMIU students
By Steve Harmon LareDOS Contributor
all semester 2011 at Texas A&M International University will begin Thursday, August 25. Registration is underway at uonline. tamiu.edu. Tuition and fees for fall 2011 are due Tuesday, August 23. A late fee will be assessed to students registering and/or paying after this date. New students have been participating in various two-day New Student Orientation: Dusty Camps all summer to help prepare them for University life. Freshman Convocation is scheduled for Friday, September 2. Of note, the Office of Admissions, Office of the University Registrar, Office of Financial Aid, Campus Card Services, Bursar’s Office, Office of Recruitment and School Relations, Student Success, Bookstore, Testing Center, University College, Advising and Mentoring Center, and Student Counseling Services are located in the University Success Center. The Office of Graduate Studies is located in Student Center 124. Complete schedules, catalog and additional registration information is available at tamiu.edu. Additional registration information is available on uonline.tamiu.edu, as well as Facebook and Twitter. TAMIU: Soon there’ll be an app for that TAMIU will soon be at your fingertips. The University is readying its launch of a new smartphone application for this fall. The new app will be available for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and iPad users — and it’ll all be free. It’s the latest in the university’s strategic embrace of new and emerging technology to help it reach today’s fully linked consumer, according to TAMIU’s Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services office. The project aims to provide another link between students and the university, WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M
and will also have relevance for the community at large. The new app also encompasses some of the University’s other existing outreach and social media initiatives. “We wanted this app to be rich with relevance for a variety of users across the broad spectrum of popular smartphone devices. TAMIU App users will find an RSS news feed; a real-time calendar; Facebook, Twitter and YouTube embeds; a dynamic image gallery; directory; link to Student Activities; campus maps; shopping, and more. The app is also open to new features that TAMIU adds on later. The new app has been in development for most of the summer and after initial testing will be fully launched this fall. Bills provide TAMIU tuition, fee exemptions for peace officers, firefighters The recent close of the 81st Legislature brings a new higher education opportunity at TAMIU for peace officers and firefighters. HB 2013 and HB 2342 amended Section 54.208 of the Texas Education Code (TEC) to make firefighters and peace officers holding specific credentials eligible for certain tuitions and fee exemptions. TAMIU registrar Oscar Reyna explained the new opportunity. “Briefly, these bills allow TAMIU to make available courses in identified programs for qualified firefighters and peace officers that are eligible for tuition and fee exemption. This provides a clear and financially advantageous opportunity for their professional advancement and career growth,” Reyna explained. The new exemptions are in place for fall 2011 at TAMIU. Detailed criteria must be met to qualify for the exemptions. Not all tuition and fees may be covered by the exemption, and students will be responsible for uncovered tuition and fees. For additional information visit the College for all Texans website at: collegeforalltexans.com/apps/financialaid/tofa2. cfm?ID=589. u
aredo Title & Abstract launched its first annual “Closing for A Cause” campaign on August 1. In support of the fight against breast cancer, Laredo Title has pledged to donate a portion of the escrow fee on every new contract submitted from August 1 through October 31 to the American Cancer Society. The Closing for A Cause campaign endeavors to unite the Laredo real estate community in the fight against breast cancer. By choosing to close at Laredo Title, real estate professionals and their clients will help in the fight against breast cancer. The Laredo Title team, including its escrow officers Leticia Martinez, Maricela Ramirez, and Loralie Gonzalez, expect to contribute over $5,000 to the American
Cancer Society during the campaign. The goal is to raise awareness of cancer and to provide support for breast cancer research. The campaign benefits the American Cancer Society’s efforts to find a cure and provide essential programs and support to local breast cancer patients and their families. Laredo Title is asking the community to help make a difference by coming together today to find tomorrow’s cure. “The cause is particularly close to my heart, as my mom is a breast cancer survivor and was fortunate enough to detect it early. However, she lost her sister, my aunt Kathy, to the disease after a courageous and hard-fought battle. Continued on next page
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Social Security Leslie L. Young
Is a Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Laredo.)
Back to school and baby names
igh school seniors can still receive benefits If your son or daughter is a high school student turning 18, you’ve probably spent some time shopping for school supplies and the latest fashions, working out the schedule for the academic year, and maybe even looking into colleges. If your young senior is collecting monthly Social Security benefits, here’s one more thing to add to your “Back-to-School” checklist. To make sure that Social Security benefits continue beyond age 18, eligible students must obtain certification from school officials that they are still in high school and provide it to Social Security. Otherwise, monthly Social Security benefits automatically stop when a student turns 18. For more information about Social Security student benefits, visit socialsecurity.gov/
schoolofficials. The website outlines how the process works with instructions on what the student and school official must do to ensure that benefits continue past the student’s 18th birthday. With the appropriate certification, Social Security generally does not stop benefits until the month before the month the student turns 19, or the first month in which he or she is not a full-time high school student, whichever is earlier. Some students receive Social Security survivors benefits because a parent is deceased. Others may get dependent benefits because their parent receives Social Security retirement or disability benefits. Benefits for minor children generally continue until age 18 — or 19 if they’re still in high school. The only exception to this rule is if a student is disabled and eligible for childhood disability benefits. In that case, a separate application for benefits is required. Social Security’s website also includes:
a downloadable version of the required Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance (Form SSA-1372) that must be completed by the student, certified by the school, and returned to Social Security; answers to frequently asked questions for school officials and students; and a field office locator to find the address of your local Social Security office. So as you’re buying school supplies, trying out back-to-school fashions, and figuring out when the holiday break begins, don’t forget the important step of visiting socialsecurity.gov/schoolofficials. King, queen of the crib In case you missed it: Social Security has announced the top 10 baby names for boys and girls in 2010. And the winners are … Jacob and Isabella! Jacob and Isabella are once again king and queen of the crib. This is the 12th year in a row on our list for Jacob and the second for Isabella. We have a new number two for girls: Welcome Sophia. The only new name to crawl into the top 10 on either list this year is Aiden, which replaces Joshua on the boys’ side. Here is the entire top 10 for boys and girls: This year, the two biggest jumps in popularity in the Top 500 are related: Maci and Bentley. Maci Bookout and her infant son, Bentley, were prominently featured on the show Teen Mom and its predecessor, 16 and Pregnant. The Twilight novels and movies continue to inspire baby names. The second fastest riser on the boys’ list is Kellan, the name of acContinued from page 47
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Their courage and relentless faith was the inspiration behind this campaign,” said marketing director Juan Salinas. “We hope that our efforts to raise the level of awareness will result in earlier detection locally, and that our contribution to the American Cancer Society will help expedite efforts to find a cure for the disease.” Salinas said that participants in the campaign who also have a personal tie to the fight against cancer can fill out a Pink Promise Card in honor of or in memory of a loved one. The Promise
Boys 1. Jacob 2. Ethan 3. Michael 4. Jayden 5. William 6. Alexander 7. Noah 8. Daniel 9. Aiden 10. Anthony
Girls 1. Isabella 2. Sophia 3. Emma 4. Olivia 5. Ava 6. Emily 7. Abigail 8. Madison 9. Chloe 10. Mia
tor Kellan Lutz, best known for playing Emmett Cullen in the Twilight series. Coming in third is Knox, one of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s toddler twins. On the girls’ side, Tiana, the name of the main character in the Disney movie, The Princess and the Frog and Disney’s first African-American princess, is one of the biggest chart hoppers. A final bit of name trivia: Elvis has left the building, sliding off the top 1,000 boys names altogether. This bit of news left Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue “all shook up.” Learn more at socialsecurity.gov/babynames. While you’re on the website, check out the relevant information for parents-to-be on Social Security numbers and benefits for children, and what every parent should know about Social Security. And for any parents who named their kids Jacob or Isabella this year, congratulations: Your kids are already the most popular kids in America! u Cards will hang on the Wall of Hope in the company’s lobby and will be given to all participants at closing. Laredo Title & Abstract is an independent title insurance company that is part of the Blackstone Dilworth Group. Leticia Martinez leads her team in providing local and statewide Texas closings for residential and commercial refinance, purchase, and sale transactions. Representatives of the company can be reached at (956) 726-9665 or at 9901 McPherson Road, Suite 203. They are online at laredotitle.com. — LareDOS Staff
Super Congress: Supreme high council threatens representative democracy By GUILLERMO ALEJANDRO JIMENEZ LareDOS Contributor
ver the past few months, the American public was treated to one of the finest pieces of political theater Washington has ever produced. All the major players were in action, and watching powerful politicos play out their roles made for the greatest reality show on television. Snooki, eat your heart out. The brilliance of their performance had us all convinced the sky was literally falling on our nation’s economy. It was the type of fear mongering that went far beyond the ordinary levels of which we’re accustomed. We heard the same buzzwords repeated over and over by politicians, and then echoed by the media. The full faith and credit of the United States was hanging in the balance. CNN ran a 24-hour piece called Get it Done!, further pushing the drama until the final hour. Unless something was done by August 2, our economy would suffer a crash the likes of which has never been seen. As the arbitrary “hard deadline” approached, it seemed as if a deal would never be reached. Politicians and news anchors appeared on television panicked and ready to point fingers, claiming there was not enough compromise on either political side for an agreement. All hope is lost, and our economy is now doomed. Then suddenly, at the last possible and brilliantly climactic moment, a deal is passed through Congress. As if by miracle, it quickly moves through the Senate, is signed into law by President Obama and disaster is averted. Wow, that was a close one. As I watched this all unfold, I couldn’t help but ask, why all the drama? It seems rather curious. Hasn’t the debt ceiling been reached and raised numerous times in recent history? In fact, not only has the debt limit been raised repeatedly without much fuss, but the country has actually defaulted on its debt in the past more than once — most recently in 1934, during the Roosevelt administration (or 1974, if you count coming off the gold standard completely as a default). So, again, why all the fuss? Why the fear? When we begin to examine the legislaWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M
tion that was finally passed amidst all the fear and confusion, it starts to make sense. After the smoke cleared, tempers calmed, and fears soothed, the plan was rolled out and introduced to the public. The debt ceiling had been raised — as most observers knew it would, but with it came something very unexpected. House speaker John Boehner’s last minute plan, which was hustled through without much debate, sneakily created something highly controversial and highly unconstitutional to deal with the issue of debt. Is it a council? Is it a committee? No, it’s the Super Congress! On paper it’s known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. While joint house committees are nothing new, the Super Congress, as it has been more appropriately dubbed, is a first in our country’s history. It consists of 12 Super
not be permitted. The aim is to “fast-track” legislation, getting it passed quickly and efficiently, without all that messy democracy getting in the way. According to the language of the Budget Control Act of 2011, or the “Super Congress Act,” the stated goal of the committee is to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Should either house of Congress vote down the recommendations made by the Super Congress, the automatic “triggers” will then go into place. In other words, if Congress votes no, then its Super counterpart will do what it wants anyway. Congress, in essence, has given up “the power of the purse,” one of its constitutionally mandated responsibilities, to a council of 12. At this point, the question might become, “So… what’s the big deal?” To some
By creating a Super Congress, it not only diminishes the role of Congress as a whole, but it also diminishes the voice of the people. After all, Congress is the branch of government through which the people are directly represented.
Members, 6 from the House and 6 from the Senate — each house contributing 3 Democrats and 3 Republicans. The leadership of each house of Congress has made its selections and appointed members they have deemed worthy. Representing Democrats from the House and Senate are James Clyburn (S.C.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Xavier Becerra (Calif.), John Kerry (Mass.), Max Baucus (Mont.), and Patty Murray (Wash.). Representing Republicans are Dave Camp (Minn.), Fred Upton (Miss.), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Rob Portman (Ohio), and Pat Toomey (Pa.). These select few have been granted powers never before seen in a joint committee. Legislation that originates from the Super Congress will be presented to the House and Senate for an up or down, yes or no, vote. And that’s it. The normal procedural rules of order will not pertain to these pieces of legislation. The House cannot debate the bill, add any amendments, or recommend it to any subcommittee. Similarly, in the Senate the ordinary rules of order do not apply and filibusters will
the idea of 12 people making decisions as opposed to 535 may sound appealing. They might actually get some things done, rather than arguing all the time, right? Congress is so inept and so inefficient, that a council of 12 and its power to swiftly create new law is exactly the type of expediency important legislation needs — some have begun to rationalize. As tempting as that may be to accept, the fact is, placing such a concentration of power in the hands of “12 elders” contradicts very basic principles of representative government. By creating a Super Congress, it not only diminishes the role of Congress as a whole, but it also diminishes the voice of the people. After all, Congress is the branch of government through which the people are directly represented. To put it simply, if my representative is appointed to the Super Congress (he wasn’t) and yours is not, you now have a disproportionate voice in government. As some members of Congress are deemed “super” enough to serve on the lofty committee, a select few interests will have stronger representation than others — and
the will of the people is no longer being exercised in manner in which it was intended, and constitutionally protected. Sadly, the idea of Congress ceding more of its authority to the executive branch or other committees is an ongoing trend. It has been established through procedural maneuvering and acquiescence that Congress no longer has the authority to declare or end wars, and now, it does not have the authority to manage the country’s finances. The danger of a Super Congress intensifies, when you consider the words of Senate majority leader Harry Reid regarding its authority. ”The joint committee — there are no constraints,” he said on the floor of the Senate. “They can look at any program we have in government, any program. ... It has the ability to look at everything.” Once the Super Congress is done cutting programs, it could in theory look to pass any sort of legislation that has been sitting on the shelf. Any sort of bill that has had trouble in the past because of its unpopularity in certain circles — be it gun control, health care, or a renewed Patriot Act (Patriot Act III: The Empire Strikes Back) — could be pushed through Congress without debate, without amendment, and without any true democratic process. The significance of this incredible and highly unconstitutional authority truly extends far beyond the realm of deficits and economics. With Harry Reid’s words in mind, it is crucial that we not only know who the individuals on the Council of 12 are, but also where they stand when it comes to their responsibility in representing the will of the people. Excluding Republican Sens. Pat Toomey and Rob Portman, who were newly elected in 2010, all but two members of the Super Congress, Xavier Becerra and Jeb Hensarling, voted to give away billions of taxpayer dollars to mega corporations and banking interests in the bailouts of 2008. We should all remember TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) and the ensuing controversy, when select few financial interests (namely banking institutions who were deemed “too big to fail”) were given huge sums of our money to stay afloat and avoid bankruptcy. Continued on page 53
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Local ghost hunters may be on small screen someday By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff
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Courtesy of the Paranormal Scene
aybe that cold brush of air on the back of your neck you felt while watching TV was something more. Or maybe you saw a pale white figure out of the corner of your eye while browsing through the newspaper, and you’re dying to explain it. If you believe ghosts are haunting your home or business, a new crew of Laredo ghost hunters is offering to help. Aaron Elekes, DeLorean Reese-Aceves, and Stefani Alvarez make up the cast of Paranormal Scene, a reality television project based in Laredo that mirrors popular shows such as Syfy’s Ghost Hunters. The show is still in the production phase, but Elekes, who has worked in the film industry making high-end commercials and short films, said he is talking to executives in Los Angeles about picking up the show. “Do we have experience? No,” said Elekes, who is the biggest skeptic of the crew. “There are no ghost-hunting universities that you go to. I’m sure there’s something online for somebody scamming you out of money, but not much else.” Reese-Aceves and Alvarez, both in their early 20s, joined the project near the beginning of this year. Reese-Aceves considers herself more spiritual, and is the one true believer in the group. Alvarez, who specifically likes to study UFOs, is also a skeptic but is “waiting” to confirm her suspicions about the paranormal. “I don’t believe and I don’t disbelieve. I just haven’t proven it to myself yet,” Alvarez said. Though Elekes works in the film industry, he said creating his own show has been difficult. Hours and hours of research, production, and editing have gone into the project so far, he said. The crew just started filming this summer. The show format goes like this: The crew receives contact from home and office owners who suspect that their location is haunted. The crew sets up a night to spend at the location, which can usually last up to eight hours. The owners must then leave the premises — so that they do not interfere with the investigation — while the crew brings their ghost-hunting equipment and painstakingly investigates each room. “You have to have a lot of patience,” Alvarez said. “The first place we went to was small, and it was a lot of walking back and forth, a lot of sitting, and asking questions over and over again to see if you got some-
From left to right, the Paranormal Scene crew is Stefani Alvarez, Aaron Elekes, and DeLorean Reese-Aceves thing in different rooms.” Elekes said nothing is told to the crew about the history of the location or whether there’s been a history of hauntings. He said this is done to better ensure an objective observation. Only the producer, Aaron’s wife Raquel, knows the history behind the location. Laredoan Virginia García serves as a local historian for the crew. Once the night is done, the crew submits their findings to the owners, who can provide some background information and confirm or deny facts so that the crew can better piece together who or what is haunting the location. “On other shows, they are going in with the knowledge that ghosts are there,” Elekes said. “So they’re already speculating, and if they get something, they’ll quickly say, ‘Well this sounds like so-and-so.’” When the crew first started, they had to figure out what equipment they’d be using to contact “the other side.” “There’s a lot of hokey equipment out there, so we had to figure out what is more scientific than what isn’t,” Elekes said. Elekes gave the example of a KII meter, a portable instrument that measures EMFs, or electromagnetic fields. According to the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomaly Phenomena’s website, “there is a widespread idea among paranormal researchers that ghosts emit an electromagnetic field and that their presence can, thus, be detected by EMF
meters. However, there seem to be no formal studies to support this idea.” The Paranormal Scene crew said it has picked up readings of high EMFs, but their story is just another to add to the list of anecdotal claims, which have never been traced back to their original sources, the association website goes on to say. “But you can actually take this [meter] in front of a microwave and see that it works. We’re trying to incorporate more of the science and technology into it,” Elekes said. The crew has consulted many paranormal investigators, some who have appeared on the popular ghost-hunting reality shows. In early July, the crew sent off an EVP, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, to EVP specialists Mark and Debby Constantino, a husbandand-wife team who has appeared on SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventurers, and others. EVPs are recorded sounds that sound like speech, but cannot be substantiated. Elekes said the crew heard the word “devil” in the EVP, and the Constantinos came up with the same conclusion. Of course, Elekes said, the Constantinos were not there with the crew, meaning the evidence is still shaky. That continuing search for more solid proof keeps the Paranormal Scene going. Each crewmember has his or her own goal for the project. For Elekes, it’s finding tangible evidence and solving his own spiritual
dilemmas — what forces could cause the appearance of ghosts, if they indeed exist? “And if there’s something to debunk, we’re going to find it, too,” he said. For Alvarez, who is toeing the line between belief and skepticism, she hopes to also get confirmation — or lack thereof — from her own investigation. And for Reese-Aceves, who believes the crew is really communicating with ghosts, she loves exploring the buildings themselves. “I like going to places that most of the time you’d overlook, or places that you’ve seen and not been able to see the inside,” she said. “You’re terrified, but my producer made a good point to me the other day: Once you take a deep breath and realize you are more scared of the living than the dead, then you realize there’s really nothing to be scared of.” In the spirit of Ghostbusters, Elekes invites Laredoans to give the Paranormal Scene a call. “If they’ve had an experience, give us a call. We’re willing to lock ourselves down for eight hours,” he said. “We have dedicated people who really want to help.” To get in contact with the Paranormal Scene crew, call Raquel Elekes at (956) 489-9903. If you are interested in the crew coming out to check your home or office, there is a form online at paranormalscene. tv/?page_id=85 or call (956) 489-9991. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
Notes from LaLa Land By dr. neo gutierrez
Dr. Neo Gutierrez is a Ph.D. in Dance and Fine Arts, Meritorious Award in Laredo Fine Arts recipient 2009 from Webb Co. Heritage Foundation, Laredo Sr. Int’l 2008, Laredo MHS Tiger Legend 2002, and Sr. Int’l de Beverly Hills, 1997. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Poetry is a gift from the truly gifted
ood poetry is written by the tru- concession stand, selling candy, popcorn, ly gifted among us, and there and hot dogs. I also modeled a bit for Beall’s aren’t many who know how to when it was downtown. I taught school in do it well. Today we focus on Turkey, Alabama, and Dallas for about 40 such a writer from Laredo, Vicenta Cloos, years. I have a master’s degree in bilingual whose work has been shared with Laredo education from Southern Methodist Uniin the past few weeks in the Laredo Morn- versity in Dallas. I attended Bruni, Central, ing Times’ Antesala section, which features Heights, Lamar, Martin High, as well as such art. TWU and SMU.” An example of Vicenta’s art, “Pedacito de And actress Julia Vera, Laredo’s gift to Cielo/Un pedacito de cielo, me dejaste com- Hollywood, has been working in El Campo partir/Pero nunca me dijiste, Que solo sa- near Houston on a film, Homebound. Julia bias fingir/Ahora que llegan las nubes, No had two films showing at the Latino Interme puedo consolar/Porque desde que par- national Film Festival in July, but she wasn’t tiste, No he dejado de llorar/Me has causa- able to attend due to the Texas shoot. Festido gran dolor. Se derrumbaron mis sueños, val audiences saw Julia in a supporting role cuando me dejaste ir./La tormenta que de- in Benavides Born, renamed All She Can. Also jaste, Cuando al fín me abandaonaste, No shown was Phillips’ Sandwiches, in which la puedo resistir/El amor que me ofreciste, Julia plays a leading role. El Campo is 45 Ya se lo ha llevado minutes from Housel viento, Y el sol no ton, where two of her I love Laredo’s heart ha vuelto a salir/Un brothers live, so she pedacito de cielo me was able to visit with and soul, and I feel connected dejaste compartir.” them on her two days to my roots, my two languages, Vicenta tells us, off from the shoot. and my culture that is so rich in “I am presently in Laredo-born Pontradition and history. Laredo. I love Larecho Sanchez, specialdo’s heart and soul, ist in jazz, swing, and Vicenta Cloos, local writer and I feel connected salsa music, was the to my roots, my two July featured act in languages, and my culture that is so rich in downtown Hollywood at the Catalina Bar tradition and history. I have always loved and Grill on Sunset Boulveard. Those lucky writing poetry. It has been a hobby of mine to be there got the best in Latin jazz, swing, for many years. I write poetry on all kinds bebop, salsa and other contagious rhythms of themes — whatever comes to my mind as that percussionist Poncho presented. I’m experiencing life. My poems can be seriAt June’s end a Laredoan’s daughter apous or humorous — rhyming words comes peared as guest co-host on CBS-TV’s “The naturally to me because I love words. My fa- Talk.” She’s Karen Borta of the CBS affiliate vorite book on word play is Lewis Carroll’s in Dallas and the daughter of Imelda LauThrough the Looking Glass. I derive my ideas rel. She’s the niece of Yolanda Laurel Ornes. from everywhere and anywhere, and I From Karen’s website we learn, in her own firmly believe that anyone can write poetry. words: Perhaps one important occurrence There is no mystery about the process. I love in my life is that I’m the firstborn in a family words and art and believe both are power- of four children. I was given a lot of extra atful tools for humanity to communicate and tention before my siblings came along. My to provoke change as well as record our ex- mother read to me a lot and, as a result, it periences as we perceive them.” helped foster my life-long love of reading. I Vicenta, the second oldest in a fam- strongly believe that my love of reading led ily of eight — five girls and three boys — me toward the path I’m on today. grew up in Laredo. She writes, “We moved A graduate of University of Texas at Araround quite a bit with eight kids, so we lington, she is a member of the National Aslived in several different neighborhoods — sociation of Hispanic Journalists. She has the Heights, San Jorge, Clark, and Colonia three children. Richter Courts by Mother Cabrini Church. And on that note, we come to the end of I worked at the Plaza Theater and also the another visit with you. It’s time for, as NorTivoli after school for about six years at the ma Adamo says, TAN TAN! u WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M
LareDOS | AU GU S T 2011 |
South Texas Food Bank By salo otero
Salo Otero is the director of development for the South Texas Food Bank. He can be reached at sotero@ southexasfoodbank. org or by calling 956-726-3120.
Seeing food bank mission of ‘feeding the hungry’ firsthand
he mission of the South Texas Food Bank is simple: Feed the hungry. When the need is seen firsthand, it’s an eye-opener. Such was the case recently for an Alexander High School graduate and so it continues daily for a food bank employee. The survey statistics bring out the need establishing the South Texas Food Bank as one of the most viable and important nonprofits in Laredo. After all, in the hierarchy of needs, food and water are always number one. A total of 30 percent of Laredo-Webb County residents live below the federal poverty guidelines. That means almost 90,000 people in our area are candidates for food bank assistance. The South Texas Food Bank numbers are staggering. From a humble corner at 1907 Freight at Riverside in west Laredo, the food bank serves supplemental food to 24,000 families per month in an eight-county area that stretches from Del Río to Río Grande City. Included are 7,000 elderly, 6,000-plus children, and 300 veterans and their widows. A majority
of those served are Laredoans. A young Laredoan saw the need for herself. Patsy Tobias is a 2011 Alexander High School graduate sent by municipal court Judge Rosie Cuellar Castillo to perform 20 hours of community service at the South Texas Food Bank. Tobias wrote of her experiences in an essay to Joe Espinoza, gang prevention coordinator for United Independent School District. The South Texas Food Bank received Tobias’ permission to further share her thoughts. She wrote on July 22, “I was sent to court for speeding. In court I was told I would have to pay a fine of 20 community hours. As soon as I got home I right away looked through the paper and called South Texas Food Bank. That Saturday I was to report at 8 in the morning. I would be working four free hours; the sound of that did not really excite me. “The morning I got there I was lost. There were too many people there. From far away in my car I could see a very long line of people just standing. I was not even able to find parking close by the Food Bank. When I finally did,
I immediately followed everyone. And there dedicated and doing it with so much love. I met with a man who asked me, ‘How many I could really see the love he had for these hours do you have to do? And what school are strangers.” you from?’ As soon as I answered I was comThe aforementioned food bank employee, manded to put my purse away and right away who did not want to be named, talks about her was put to work. experience on the front line of the STFB opera“All I could see were people walking in tion. The food bank offers emergency boxes of while we were packing bags of food. I was food for families who need immediately help. then assigned to a job where I had to get a The employee noted, “I didn’t realize the ticket from those in the long line and depend- huge need in Laredo and how many people ing on how many are affected. People tickets they had was come in desperate, The satisfaction of the number of bags sometimes as a last being able to help they would get. Evresort.” ery time I would get a “You know that a someone without expectticket from someone I mother will do anying anything in return would say thank you, thing for her children is a feeling that you will but I would always and to help feed her never be able to experibe responded to with family. We get plenty “NO. Thank you.” I of those situations,” ence anywhere else. finally learned what she said. “But when a Patsy Tobias, these people were doman comes in to ask ing here. They would 2011 J.B. Alexander for help, that signifies be getting bags and level of need.” High School graduate another boxes of food for the STFB was averagmonth. ing 35 emergency box “This experience turned into more than recipients per month. That number has injust community hours; it had become a les- creased dramatically to 150. After being given son learned to me that day. The way these an emergency box, the families are helped via people woke up so early to be here helped food bank programs like Adopt-a-Family and me realize how many people need our help the SNAP (food stamp) outreach. to live. The food bank employee noted, “People “The satisfaction of being able to help some- come in and tell us, ‘We’re hungry and don’t one without expecting anything in return is a have enough food.’ The circumstances vary feeling that you will never be able to experi- from family to family. Some have been laid ence anywhere else. The faces and smiles I off. Some are not working enough hours. And saw were priceless and so was the excitement others have run out of food stamps. Most are of some men so happy to be able to take food families with between five and eight per famback to their families. I learned that there are ily, and we also get a lot of elderly.” plenty of people who need our help. The South Texas Food Bank is now serv“Doing volunteer work at the food bank ing a record 933 families per month in Adoptnot only helped me pay my ticket but it a-Family, but there are 445 on the waiting showed me an experience I will never forget. list. The elderly CSFP program serves almost It gave me satisfaction in myself, like I had 7,000, but has a waiting list of 525. The SNAP done something good. outreach signs up more than 400 per month “During this experience I met a man who to help them qualify for food stamps. The inspired me the most. He probably will nev- total represents more than 500 children and er know how much his hard work can teach 500 adults. someone like me a lesson. He was there earThirteen Kids Cafés in Laredo served lier than me, getting everything together 14,007 meals in May to almost 700 children. — the food, the time, everything. He was so The yearly total is 66,747 meals. u
Tax-deductible donations to STFB can be mailed to P.O. Box 2007, Laredo, TX, 78044. And no donation is too small. The food bank has the 7-9-16 plan, converting every dollar donated into 7 meals, 9 pounds of food, or $16 worth of groceries.
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Continued from page 49 These same banks and giant companies, who were supposedly on the brink of going under, then used the money to line their pockets — handing out obscene bonuses to their employees, all on the public’s dime. After companies like AIG, Citigroup, and General Motors got caught, reforms to TARP were enacted, and the government assured us it would all be paid back. But it wasn’t. In the case of General Motors, for example, they received almost $50 billion in our money, but only a small fraction, roughly $361 million, was actually returned. On the issue of civil liberties, every one of these representatives voted to strip Americans of basic individual, constitutionally protected rights with the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001. Then in 2006, all but three — Clyburn, Becerra and Murray — voted to extend those violations with the act’s reauthorization. The two who were not present at the time of these significant votes, Toomey and Portman, both have historically poor records on civil rights issues as well — receiving 13 percent and 7 percent rankings by the
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ACLU, respectively. It is imperative that a close eye be kept on this new supreme legislative body. Their reign will begin in the next few weeks and will last until January 31, 2012 — when the committee is scheduled to terminate. A lot of damage can be done in six months, and there is nothing stopping a renewal of its charter, should it be deemed necessary by the high council of elders, so to speak. Media giants, as always, are downplaying the importance of this committee, but when even news actors on FOX News and MSNBC begin to question whether something is unconstitutional, rest assured it definitely is. The Super Congress sets a very dangerous precedent, and if used to its full potential, it could end up being the final coup de grace of the republic — dying not with a bang, but with a whimper. (Guillermo A. Jimenez was born and raised in Laredo, but “grew up” psychologically, socially, and politically in Austin. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, and currently teaches U.S. history in Laredo. He is the writer and publisher of tracesofreality.com, an Internet blog, where you’ll find him “making sense of news, media, politics and social issues.”) u
LareDOS | AU GU S T 2011 |
Maverick Ranch Notes
By bebe & sissy fenstermaker
fter last February’s awful freeze I swore never to complain even once about this summer’s heat. So, I’ll just be commenting on this summer’s drought and suggesting something to do about it. Touching briefly on the biggest, nastiest drought I have ever experienced in the last 30 years at the Maverick Ranch, why does it coincide with the worst fiscal madness the government has ever reached? No rain, no water, no grass, no brains, and day after day of 100-plus temperatures must help them forget anyone else exists in this country. An irritating new idea from the local NPR station: a change from predicting “101 degrees today” to the cutest thing, “Today will reach one-oh-one.” Bet that’s calculated so not to frighten away the 1001th person moving here each month. Oh, don’t soften the blow for unfortunates stumbling out of an air-conditioned store and getting into their parked, air-conditioned AND running vehicles complaining, “I can’t believe how hot it is here!” in non-Texas accents. Advice to those considering descending on this water-starved state: Don’t. We count every drop we use these days and it is really frightening if you live on a well. P.S.: Only social boors have a green lawn. Ideas to keep from being cranky and heat stricken without air conditioning:
Reading the heat away and dealing with pests It’s all in how you handle things and how you tame your mind. Reading matter has a lot to do with getting through a stressful scorcher. I’ve always been interested in what people in this family read when the chips were down. In the early days it was a long journey out here, so having enough good reading matter was critical. The writers and artists wrote, painted, and sculpted but they also read a lot. The bookcases in the Big Room tell much about individual preferences since book owners wrote their names on the flyleaves. These are pretty old, arriving little by little over the years beginning in 1907. Our grandfather Robert B. Green’s collection of law books came early, just after his death in 1907. His brother Otho must have sent them out from their law office. I can’t say they get a lot of reading but they are pretty. Tons of books came when we moved our grandmother’s, aunt’s, and uncle’s collections out in the late 1980s. Grandma’s well-worn collections of Dickens were always in use; she read them over and over all her life. She had one set out here and another in the city. There are old Louisa M. Alcott books that belonged to our mother and aunts. Uncle probably read them, too, along with Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood, which I used to get out just to admire Pyle’s illustrations. Our first glimpse of Audubon’s ani-
mals came from these shelves, as did the standard-bred racehorses of Currier & Ives. There are books of poetry, of early modern art, and many history periods that fascinated different members of the family. There were atlases to ponder through but they always seem to disappear just when I need to check an old boundary. And, there is our great grandfather’s huge 1912 dictionary with outdated words on its rolling stand. My breezy summer reading is P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves, Bertie, Lord Emsworth, the Mulliners, and Drones crowd. Their twists and turns and Wodehouse’s wonderful construction cool off baking afternoons. Our father, aunt, and uncle were the original Wodehouse fans. I got hooked while teaching at Sul Ross and needing winter diversion. The library there had a tremendous collection of Wodehouse, Thackeray, and Trollope, and instructors could check out lots of books at one time. With cutthroat canasta games on Saturday nights and Wodehouse Sundays, time flew. Returning to the ranch, I stocked up on these writers just in case anyone got isolated and needy. The other day I discovered there are over 30 Wodehouses in the collection. I put them in stacks ready to read, and the dog and all cats got fair warning to go around, and not over them. Bebe Fenstermaker The first time I saw the midget it was confronting the peahen in a very threatening way. Actually the scene made me chuckle. It reminded me of a little banty rooster trying to throw its weight around. This particular critter’s body was the size and shape of a fluffed-up tennis ball with a little head, four legs with tiny toes, and a tail that stuck straight up. Its color was black with the distinctive white stripe running from the tip of the tail to the top
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of its head. It was charging the hen and then quickly backing up. When the bit of fluff heard me, it immediately turned and rocketed in my direction, but lucky for me it was stopped by the coop fence. That little wretch of a skunk was so small it could get into the peacock coop. Realizing it was outnumbered, the kid skedaddled, sailing through the fence and into a hole in the rock wall. I saw the critter a couple times later and threw it some carrot pieces. The bird feeders are mobbed these days from first light to last light. The white-winged doves would have us think they are the hungriest and thus the neediest. I beg to differ, though, and when I finally get fed up, I chase them away. They come right back but at least for a second, and the smaller birds get a chance to grab a bite. If anyone around here hunts and eats white wings, they should be excellent eating this year. We seem to be having a population explosion of cardinals this summer. I don’t remember seeing so many fledglings in the past. They are pretty feisty, too, sparring with each other for the best eating positions on and beneath the feeders. Roadrunners are coming in closer for water. I try to keep the water vessels full for everyone, be they four-legged or twolegged. People I know who put out birdseed regularly are just running through bags of it. The coyotes finally wiped me out of the guinea business. Bebe replaced the loss with a Dorking rooster that came with her spring chick order. She had named him Beatle, which seems appropriate for an Englishman, which he is. He’s certainly no fighting cock that I’ve been used to. So far I can go in and out of the coop without him coming after me. I just hope it continues. Sissy Fenstermaker
The Mystery Customer BY THE mystery Customer
Feldmans’ disappoints while Laredoans can’t get enough of Pino Burger
IBC Downtown 1002 Matamoros St. What a change! A courteous bank guard on the job and one who even opens doors for customers and thanks them. And kudos to new teller Kendra, a quick learner and very thorough with all the details of a transaction. Feldmans Market Center 5506 B San Bernardo Ave. From the Valley came Feldmans, a ritzy specialty shop that brought some rare food and beverage items to Laredoans. Feldmans is basically a big ol’ liquor store, but after hearing rave reviews about the store’s food offerings, this MC just couldn’t keep himself away anymore. I went with my mother to lunch at Feldmans because I was tired of eating the same variety of Mexican, Italian, and Asian food that Laredo offers. The first impression is key, but we ended up getting a server who told us she was still in training (I die a little inside when I hear that from servers…). She was quite nervous, and ended up charging us for a bowl of soup when I only wanted a cup. She charged us one price for an ice tea, and when my mom decided she wanted her own tea, another server told my mom a higher price for the tea. We ordered a tomato bisque, pesto pizza with chicken, a gyro, and two big ice teas — the tea being the only standouts of the meal. The tomato bisque never retained flavor despite my attempts to salt it; the pesto pizza was decent except for the funky tasting chicken pieces; the gyro meat was poor quality and the accompa-
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nying tzatziki sauce was basically yogurt with some seasoning in it. Oh yeah, and there was a fruit cup that accompanied it that tasted like something from my school cafeteria. In my idiocy I realized that what everybody had been raving about were the deli sandwiches. So yeah, stick to the sandwiches — or the alcohol surrounding you. Taquitos Ravi 2919 San Bernardo Ave. Consistently good food and consistently good service is what you’ll find at this eatery. Some of the wait staff has been there many years and they offer a level of professionalism that is welcome in the dearth of poor service so prevalent in Laredo. H-E-B Downtown 1002 Farragut St. The MC has seen better strawberries and romaine lettuce in a compost heap. Are you kidding me? The largest food chain in Texas selling food so past its prime speaks volumes about the marketing plan for a store that serves low-income residents in the area. The MC, who usually shops in northern latitudes, went there on the fly for a quick fix in the kitchen, but what about folks unable to shop at another locale? Tornado Texx Carwash 1220 San Bernardo Ave. If you work downtown, Tony’s the man for a revamp to your dust-encrusted auto, inside and out. The service is thorough and there is much attention to detail. You’ll be pleased.
El Oasis Tequila Grill 2115 E. Saunders St. If you’ve been a longtime patron of El Oasis, you’ve witnessed a restaurant that has flourished because of a loyal customer base, an wildly popular happy hour, and the fact that this is one of the few places in Laredo that is open pretty much 24/7, reeling in the hungry bar crowd after 2 a.m. El Oasis, once a café, is a full-blown tequila grill nowadays.
El Oasis has pretty standard Mexican fare, the menu selection is huge, and the drinks are icy cold, but if you’re a stickler for service, it might not always be reliable here.
But sometimes there are tradeoffs for popularity, like attentive service. We went around 7 p.m., when the happy hour crowds were still there, finishing their huge frozen margaritas. Our server, who was fairly attentive and asked if she should speak “ingles o españo” at the beginning, was good until we lost her. Near the end of our meal, when the waiters were bringing out the chairs and tables outside, we could not find her. She disappeared while we wanted to get our check and get out of there. Eventually she came back when we had to flag down other waiters for our check.
On the weekends, the restaurant hosts local bands in the outside patio, a plus for those looking for something to do on Friday night. El Oasis has pretty standard Mexican fare, the menu selection is huge, and the drinks are icy cold, but if you’re a stickler for service, it might not always be reliable here. Pino Burger East Del Mar Boulevard (in Tokyo Garden parking lot) The MC had a hard time finding a parking space at the new Pino Burger on Del Mar Blvd. We noticed the place was always full so had to find out what the commotion was about. As soon as we walked in I wasn’t sure if we had made the right choice: a line to be seated, a line to pay, and a line to order takeout. No tables were available and customers were even willing to sit outside in Laredo weather. Now that had to mean the food was good. We asked how long our order would take and at first they told us “20 minutes.” Another voice said “10 minutes” so we stayed. The food came out in 10 minutes, if not before, and a man standing by the cash register turned out to be the owner who had come up front to make sure the promise had been kept. He told me he wanted to make sure his customers were served and happy so he had to see for himself that we were treated right. The food was well worth the parking issue and the MC has since been back several times. Good food and good service are sometimes hard to find in Laredo, but I found both at Pino Burger. u
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Laredo Community College
Follow us on Facebook: LCC joins social networking site By ROGER SANCHEZ JR. & STEVE TREVIÑO JR. LareDOS Contributors
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aredo Community College is now on Facebook! With more than 550 “likes” in a span of about two weeks and growing, LCC’s official page is generating a buzz as students, parents, employees, alumni and members from the community now have another way of communicating with LCC. “We are very pleased to have this new communications tool,” said Dr. Vincent Solis, LCC’s vice-president for student services. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to disseminate information to the community whether it be registration or payment information, events, or other activities going on at either the Fort McIntosh or South campuses. The more people know about things happening on our campuses, the better informed the community will be on the services we provide. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.” Several LCC students agree. “I’ve already had some questions in mind about a deadline, but luckily I saw other posts on the LCC page that gave me the information I needed,” said LCC freshman Jocelyn Garza. “In a way, having this (service) gives us a chance to be interactive and pose questions… We sort of help each other.” As a social media networking instructor with LCC’s Continuing Education Department, Luis Cuellar knows firsthand the need for groups like LCC to be up to date with modern technological tools. “Facebook gives people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” Cuellar said. “Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet. I’m glad and excited LCC now has this page to keep people more informed.” LCC’s Facebook page is currently handled by a handful of “admins” who constantly update the page.
‘Liking’ LCC Laredo Community College freshman Jocelyn Garza is one of more than 550 fans who have “liked” LCC’s official Facebook page since it first launched on Friday, July 29. “Like” the official Facebook page for Laredo Community College at facebook. com/lccpalominos. Fall registration continues One of the most popular topics on LCC’s Facebook page is the ongoing registration campaign for the fall 2011 semester. Adults looking to enhance their job skills or learn a new career are invited to enroll now for the new term, which begins on Monday, August 29. Advising at both campuses and registration via the college’s online PASPort system are available to new and returning students interested in enrolling for fall classes. New students Students new to LCC should visit the Student Success Center at the Fort McIntosh Campus or at the South Campus. Both locations are open Monday to Thursday, August 15-18, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thereafter, advising and regular registration are available Tuesday to Thursday, August 23-25, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Maravillo Gym at the Fort McIntosh Cam-
pus and at the South Campus Student Success Center. Returning students Students with a declared major who do not meet the criteria for self-advisement have two options to get advised. They can call to set up an appointment with the instructional office that corresponds to their major now through Friday, August 26. They can also get advised at the Student Success Center during the same dates and locations as mentioned above. Self-advised students Returning students who are self-advised can register online instantly through PASPort from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. To be considered self-advised, students must have a declared major, have completed all required remediation classes, have earned at least 30 college-level hours, and have a cumulative grade point average of 2.0 or higher. Thursday, August 25 is the fall payment deadline for students who registered between August 11-25. Payment is due by 7 p.m. at the Bursar’s Office or by 11 p.m. via
PASPort. Payment in full is required unless the student has signed an installment contract at the Bursar’s Office. Late advising and registration will be held Monday-Tuesday, August 29-30. Students can get advised at the Kazen College Center at the Fort McIntosh Campus or the South Campus Student Success Center from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; advising also will be available in the instructional offices at both campuses from 1 to 6 p.m. Late registration will be available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kazen College Center at the Fort McIntosh Campus and at the South Campus Enrollment and Registration Services Center in the Billy Hall Student Center. The PASPort registration system will not be available. During late registration, payment of tuition and fees is due before the end of the day (7 p.m.) or via PASPort by 11 p.m. A late registration fee of $10 will be applied. For further assistance, call the LCC Student Success Center at the Fort McIntosh Campus at (956) 721-5135 or at the South Campus at (956) 794-4135. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
The Food for Thought Foundation
By BEVERLY HERRERA
have only one book to recommend this month. This book came out in May 2008 and is based on the author’s experience in the early 1980s. If you think you are too busy to read as summer ends and school activities fill your calendar, think again. Steve Reifenberg’s book, Santiago’s Children, deserves your time and attention. This year’s Common Read for TAMIU’s freshmen and the title for the fourth One City, One Book chronicles the author’s time spent in Chile, working at an orphanage. While Reifenberg worked with children who had lost everything in a country that was going through political turmoil, he discovered how important it is to live out your dreams. Steve Reifenberg also shows how crucial it is to “find something you’re passionate about and stick with it.” There are copies of the book at various school libraries for students and teach-
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Get addicted to reading with upcoming book events ers. TAMIU has the book on campus. The As Reifenberg shares his uncertainty about Laredo Public Library has copies waiting his plans to become a lawyer, he shows the to be checked out. If you want your own extremes people will go to in order to find copy in order to get it autographed when what they truly love to do. The story affects Reifenberg has an author lecture on Octo- anyone who has faced decisions about the ber 7 at the Laredo future. He explains Civic Center, then that you can’t do Books-a-Million in everything, but that Reading can be addictive, Mall del Norte has you can do something but it is probably the best them available. Alto help solve a probaddiction around. though it is not curlem. rently available as The Laredo Puban e-book, you can lic Library has arorder the book on Amazon or other Inter- ranged book discussions at the main net markets. branch on Calton Road. There is a docuOnce you start reading it, you will dis- mentary and book discussion Sunday, cover a modest man who waited 25 years to September 18, and Saturday, October tell the story of how he discovered his pas- 1, from 2 to 5 p.m. in the multipurpose sion. He writes of a sad time in Chile, yet room. Other book discussions take place will give the reader moments of laughter Thursday, September 22 and 29, from 6 and insight into the value of self-reflection. to 7:30 p.m. If you attend a documentary
and a book discussion, you will receive a ticket to the author reception held before the lecture on October 7. The lecture is open to the public, with approximately 1800 seats available. Another great event Saturday, August 13, at the public library was a book festival with more than 20 authors available to sign books during the day. Upstairs in the library author panels took turns discussing various aspects of writing, illustrating and publishing. Author readings were held throughout the day. My biggest complaint was that I was unable to make it to every event, so I will have to attend next year to catch the ones I missed this time around. Authors had time to talk to each person, encouraging them to read, write, draw, and to be persistent. Continued on next page
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Name the team Megan Cantu, 13, submitted the Laredo Lemurs moniker to the “Name the Team” contest and will receive season tickets for life after her idea was selected. The mascot and team colors were unveiled at City Council Chambers on Wednesday, August 3. Inspiration for the name came from one of her favorite movies Madagascar.
The event opened a window between readers and authors. Everyone who attended had a smile and a bag of signed books as they left the library. Another author who will be at the LPL on Thursday, September 15, is poet Martín Espada. This awardwinning poet, essayist, and translator currently teaches in the English department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. His book, The Republic of Poetry, won the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize. Even if poetry is not your favorite form of writing, Espada is worth meeting. He recognizes that many Latinos are ignored, and said his mission is, “to speak on behalf of those without an opportunity to be heard.” His career has been dedicated to the pursuit of social justice, including fighting for Latino rights. His writing celebrates and laments the immigrant and working class experience. I have to commend the students of J. B. Alexander High School. The
National Honor Society held a book drive last spring in order to give books to every child at KennedyZapata Elementary School. I thought this would be a challenge since there are about 800 students, but I was wrong. The high school students and faculty brought in more than 3,000 books, enough for at least two books per student, and some left over for the Retired Teachers Organization to distribute to other students. As the books accumulated in my classroom, Alexander students found their favorites to read. Reading can be addictive, but it is probably the best addiction around. Lack of money is no obstacle because books can be checked out through schools or public libraries. Studies show that reading calms you, improves your thinking skills, makes you smarter, and improves standardized test scores. It also creates fun, which is what I see every time I attend a book discussion or author visit. There is a book out there for everyone. If you don’t like reading, you just haven’t found that perfect book yet. Keep looking. u
Began his legal career in 1977 as a State prosecutor in Starr County, Texas and Federal prosecutor in Laredo, Texas. In 1985 he started his solo practice, handing both State and Federal criminal cases. In the last 25 years he has aggressively defended clients in every major Texas city and in State and Federal courts in 12 other states. He passionately defends the Bill of Rights and is renowned throughout South Texas for his ardent cross examination in hundreds of jury trials. He has been invited to speak to fellow lawyers at C.L.E. functions about cross examination. He lists Gerry Spence, Clarence Darrow, and William Kunstler as his role models.
Almaraz Bldg., 1802 Houston Laredo, Tx. 78040 P.O. Box 6875 Email: email@example.com Tel. (956) 727-3828 Fax (956) 725-3639
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Traditionally Modern Cooking By Jason Herrera
Herrera is an English major at Oklahoma City University. He’s had a passion for cooking since he was 8 years old, when he started teaching himself recipes and eventually, creating his own scrumptious meals. Herrera also enjoys gardening and horror movies.
Editor’s note: Have a nagging question about cooking, or do you want to share one of your own recipes with readers? Or if you just want to shoot the breeze about cooking, e-mail Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org. You might be in the next edition of Traditionally Modern Cooking! ugust isn’t my favorite month. Unlike the months of spring and early summer, the last month of summer lacks freshness. Plants are tired and stressed by the hot summer months. The same happens with people. I find cool pies are a great way to perk August, and people enduring August, up. Not only do cool summer pies taste great, but they don’t take long and are easy to make. My favorite “summer” pie is fresh strawberry pie. It’s pretty, refreshing, and requires little effort: the perfect remedy for the late summer burnout. Strawberries are the king of summer berries. They brighten up almost any dessert and are hard to botch. Large and tart California berries work best in uncooked pies because their flavor isn’t too sweet and their texture is holds up under glazes. A perfect strawberry pie requires four parts:
Fresh pies for summer strawberries, crust, glaze, and whipped cream. I beg you not to use anything but whipped cream on homemade pie. Pouring whipped topping or aerosol cream on fresh pie is similar to painting a new luxury car bright purple or orange. Sure it’ll get you somewhere, but it’s lost the refinement and dignity you’ve worked for. Whipping cream is sold in stores alongside milk. It has somewhere between 30-35 percent milk fat whereas whole milk has 3 percent. Recently while shopping, my grandmother experienced something interesting: The cashier asked my grandmother what was in the carton marked “whipping cream.” After explaining what it was, the cashier said she had never had whipped cream before. This came as a shock to both Grandma, who used to run a dairy, and me. Please try whipped cream. It’s wonderful in moderation. Whipped cream: • 1 pint whipped cream • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar In a bowl, whip cream on high with an electric beater while slowly adding the sugar to taste. Whip cream until thick and
Lemon meringue pie
• 1 baked pie crust 1 1/2 cups water 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 teaspoon lemon zest 3 eggs, separated 1/2 cup sugar plus 4 tablespoons for meringue 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter (optional) Mix water, cornstarch, 1/2 cup of the sugar and lemon juice/zest
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together in a saucepan. Cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Add half of the mixture a little at a time into the egg yolks while mixing constantly. Add egg mixture back into the sauce pan and cook on medium heat until it comes to a boil. Set aside to cool While the lemon mixture is cooling, beat the egg yolks until foamy. Add cream of tarter and a tablespoon of the sugar. Beat until the sugar is combined then add the rest of the sugar one tablespoon at a time. Beat until the egg whites hold stiff peaks. Add the lemon mixture to the cooked pie crust. Top with the egg whites. Make sure the egg whites cover the top completely. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the whites brown slightly (about 10 minutes). Chill in refrigerator for at least three hours.
Classic strawberry pie
• • • • • •
1 quart (two boxes) strawberries 1 baked pie crust 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1/3 sugar 1 tablespoon lemon juice Whipped cream
soft peaks form. Whip cream with a whisk if preferred. A pie is nothing if its crust is bad. Pie crust should be tender, flaky and have a good taste. I will never understand why so many people use store bought or readymade pie crust. It taste like and has the texture of cardboard. Pie crust takes minutes to make. I mean minutes. The first time I made pie crust, I had it in the oven within eight minutes. Now, I can whip up a crust in under five. I get why people buy readymade items that are normally tedious and time consuming, but pie crust should never be one of them. There are many tricks to making the perfect pie crust but the best is this: Do not over mix. Over mixing causes a pie crust to be tough. When you make a pie crust, it will not be completely combined until after you roll it out. Don’t worry about loose flour or shortening; it will work itself into the crust with simple rolling. Here is a recipe for pie crust that’s been in my family for generations. I hope you can see why. • 2 cups of all purpose flour • 2/3 cups of shortening • 1 teaspoon of salt • 5-7 tablespoons of cold water Mix flour and shortening together with a fork until the mixture holds together when squeezed and crumbles easily. Add salt and water 1 tablespoon at a time until crust forms a ball. Do not over mix. Divide mixture into two equal parts. Roll one crust out
In a saucepan, mash two cups of hulled strawberries. Cook on medium heat for five minutes. Strain the berries in a mesh strainer. Collect 1 cup of the juice (if you don’t get a cup, add enough water until you do). Set the pulp aside. Combine cornstarch and sugar in a saucepan. Stir in the juice. Cook on medium heat until thick and glossy. Meanwhile, hull and cut the remaining strawberries in half. Arrange, or just toss, into the baked pie crust. Pour the glaze over the berries making sure to coat every berry. Chill for at least three hours and enjoy with whipped cream. onto a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until it is big enough to cover the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Roll crust onto your rolling pin and carefully place it into pie plate. If making a two-crust pie, add the pie filling and roll the next piece to the same size as the first. Roll the crust on the rolling pin and carefully top the pie. Crimp the edges with a fork. The great thing about strawberry pie is it only requires one crust. Roll the crust out and place it into the pie plate. With a fork, make holes around the entire crust and crimp the edges for decoration. Bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until the crust is light golden brown. After you make this crust, wrap the second part of dough in cling wrap and freeze it. The next time you need a pie crust, just thaw the frozen dough. Strawberry is one of the prettier pies. Part of its appeal is the color. The red fruit draws your eye to it. Strawberry pie is also glossy and people, including me, love shiny things. The glaze is the thickened juice from cooked berries. Sugar has been added to shine and sweeten things up and lemon juice is squeezed in to add depth. Once all parts of a strawberry pie are together and let to chill, you’ve got a great dessert for loads of occasions. Strawberries are packed with Vitamin C and if you cut the whipped cream and use less sugar, you’ve got a dessert that is a little healthier than others. u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2011 |
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Mexican-Japanese fusion makes Laredo’s sushi unique
ushi restaurants are popping up everywhere around Laredo, and for sushi lovers this trend makes us happier and often healthier. For diabetics and people with slow thyroids, fresh seafood provides much-needed energy and generally makes a person feel more vital. As of press time, the latest issue of First for Women suggested seafood as an energy booster, and list after list of fatigue fighters online include fish. Of course, as we’ve found on our sushi tour of Laredo, the fish rolls don’t always have to be made of fish: Breaded chicken and avocado slices have taken the place of fish in some dishes offered by local sushi chefs. These concoctions are the product of a beautiful Mexican and Japanese fusion. As Anthony Bourdain said in a 2006 episode of his Travel Channel show No Reservations when he visited Tokyo Garden, “Laredo: a Japanese restaurant run by a Chinese woman staffed with Mexican cooks. That’s who we are, and that’s American food, and this is the best of America.” In this sushi tour of the city, we look at one popular sushi alternative and five of
the best sushi restaurants in Laredo. When reading these reviews, keep in mind that the tastiness of sushi all depends on the quality of the ingredients, the freshness of the ingredients, and the chef behind the counter. And taste, as always, is subjective. H-E-B Laredo’s variety of sushi restaurants continues to expand, but those with limited options or a light wallet can turn to H-E-B’s Sushiya, which is packaged daily by the store’s own chefs. These sushi sections are usually found further north, but with the increasing demand, they are being found at more at more H-E-Bs. As a last resort, H-E-B offers decent sushi on a budget. Sure, sushi snobs will say H-E-B sushi is untrustworthy and not pleasing to the taste buds, but it’s hard to really judge when each H-E-B has different chefs who prepare the sushi. If you don’t mind a cheaper sushi, you’ll find favorites like the California and Philadelphia rolls (so called for the cream cheese inside). The sushi chefs also create localized favorites, like the Texas roll, which contains jalapeños. And for the very health conscious, some of the offerings are made with brown rice.
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Fish O Roll Tokyo Garden As previously mentioned, Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations based an entire episode around the U.S.-Mexican border in 2006. In that episode, Bourdain goes to Tokyo Garden as part of his goal to find some of the weirdest and most fascinating eats around the world. “He wanted to show that there are good restaurants on the Border,” owner Liling Huang told The Laredo Morning Times in February 2006. Tokyo Garden offers a pleasing atmosphere and good seafood, but their sushi can be pretty much standard at times. The California Roll we tried was almost comparable to H-E-B’s sushi, if that gives you a better idea. And Tokyo Garden’s tempurabattered rolls are a bit odd, the batter too salty at times. We love the rest of Tokyo Garden’s dishes, though. La Laguna Mariscos & Sushi La Laguna Mariscos & Sushi on Shiloh Drive, a fairly new seafood and sushi joint, offers decent food that will satisfy anybody’s seafood craving. The atmosphere is a bit bland — there are benign lake landscapes and generic lake-themed
“vintage” signs — but the service is very friendly and eager to help. All servers had smiles on their faces and made us feel welcome in a new place. This restaurant is another import from Mexico, and its menu claims it has the best seafood in “2 Laredos.” La Laguna may not necessarily have the best seafood in both Laredos, but it’s pretty darn good. If you’re in the area and you want sushi, La Laguna will certainly satisfy your cravings, with nice thick rolls that truly exemplify the influences from Mexico and Japan. Though the sushi here is not the standout (try the fish tacos!), you won’t be disappointed. Fish o Roll Inside the small restaurant’s blue wooden building on McPherson, the décor is similar to any average seafood restaurant: lifesavers and rope line the walls, accompanied by pictures of sailboats and beach landscapes. We have yet to see this humble sushi restaurant crowded, and we have our suspicions as to why the restaurant seems not to fill. Continued on next page
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Baby Katherine Alyssa baptized Katherine Ayssa Jackson, the daughter of Cordy and Alan Jackson Jr., was baptized recently by Rev. Jacinto Olguín at St. Patrick Church. She is pictured with her parents and godparents Eduardo and Fabiola Flores of San Antonio. A luncheon at Embassy Suites followed the baptism. Among the attendees were friends and family from Miami, Mexico City, Queretaro, Austin, San Antonio, Piedras Negras, Eagle Pass, and Nuevo Laredo. Baby Katherine’s grandparents are Alan and Cristina Jackson and Ricardo and Cordelia Flores.
Continued from page 25 Search the blog for “Laredo Theater Guild,” “Blooming,” “Laredo Zoo,” “Environmental Science Center,” “Community Garden,” “Story Time at the Library,” or “Lake Casa Blanca.” Do another random search on kids’ activities or workshops and you should find something, whether it’s a review, photos, or contact information. If you don’t, let me know. That means there’s more to explore and write about. The best part of the blog is that it’s interactive. I don’t have to work so hard anymore. Between Facebook, Twitter, and the blog comments, I get some of the best ideas from
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the parents who read it. My goal is to help folks who are new to Laredo find a good time in Laredo with their families. It is something I didn’t think I’d find when we moved here. I had a pretty sour outlook. But every day is an adventure, and every week we do something new. It’s easy to see the bad in and around Laredo, but there is goodness here if we just look for it. If you like the blog, then I encourage you to “like” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get the updates. Or you can always click the “subscribe” button at crittersandcrayons.com! At a minimum, go to the “What’s Happening” page and find out what’s going on tomorrow!
Fish o Roll offers a menu similar to the popular Sushi Madre, including the typical sushi dishes such as California and Philly rolls, and chicken-wrapped favorites with avocado and cream cheese. However, that’s exactly the problem. Since Fish o Roll is similar to Sushi Madre on Saunders Street, it’s hard to really see how Fish o Roll stands out. Perhaps the place is generating little traffic because of its location, too — difficult to see from the road. Inside, the décor is sterile, while Sushi Madre offers a cool and relaxing Japanese-based décor and local artwork on the walls. We left Fish o Roll satisfied, but not impressed. This is why it’s hard to find parking at Sushi Madre during the daily lunch hour, while sometimes you’re stretching to see if Fish o Roll is even open. Posh Posh offers the most refined and hip atmosphere of all the local sushi restaurants, while the sushi also caters to a more sophisticated taste. This means prices will be steeper, but you will be paying more for an experience — and some unique dishes that deserve their own attention. This restaurant has been wildly successful in Laredo, with another location recently opened further east on Del Mar Boulevard. For most of the duration of the tour, Posh was at the top of our list. The Shiloh Roll is divine, with fried rice, avocado, cream cheese, chicken all fried in tempura. Raw fish haters cannot complain when they are taken to these restaurants; there are plenty of rolls that don’t involve any fishiness. For the fishier crowd, the seafood rolls are good, but it’s hard to say much more. While Posh also offers unique high-dollar fare such as Cabernet-filled steak and salmon ceviche, the sushi is great but only
Unagi Nigiri from Sushi Madre second best to our favorite. Read on… Sushi Madre When we pass by this small sushi restaurant on lunch hour, the parking lot is never big enough for the rush that Sushi Madre experiences every day. And there’s a reason for that: Sushi Madre has the best sushi in Laredo. Are you a fan of unagi? Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eels, and we never thought we’d love eating eel this much. Nobody ever wants bad unagi — it’s easy to cross over into a slimy mess that reminds you that you’re eating eel. Not so at Sushi Madre, where the unagi is fresh and tasty on its own. In fact, most of the sushi dishes are delicious to try without soy sauce. And you can count on that same quality for the rest of the rolls; the sushi chefs at Sushi Madre are good at what they do. We decided to try the aptly named Laredo Roll, which came with a creamy chili concoction called Laredo dressing. This is one example of something Sushi Madre has that other local sushi places don’t have: true originality. The restaurant has also gotten involved with the community, hosting art exhibitions and other special events at the restaurant. This has allowed for the restaurant’s name to be spread by word of mouth, which is often more powerful than a large billboard on the highway. Give Sushi Madre a try and see if you agree that it’s the best sushi place in Laredo. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM
Rise of the Planet of the Apes falls from the monkey bars By CORDELIA BARRERA LareDOS Contributor
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Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
irector Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a testament to what appears to be a contemporary formula of so many Hollywood blockbusters. The film indulges in a plot that contains a little bit of everything — a little science, a little action, a little violence, and a little entertainment culminating in a big action climax. This recipe obliges as many consumers as possible, but it’s not especially satisfying… like a banana smoothie with too much Splenda. The story begins in a high-powered lab with scientist Will Rodman (James Franco), who been working to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s by testing a genetically engineered retrovirus called ALZ 112 on chimpanzees. The virus vastly increases the intelligence of the chimpanzees, but when a female chimpanzee on ALZ 112 who has secretly given birth to a young male goes on a rampage, she, along with the other primate subjects, are killed. Will, however, absconds with her baby chimp (whom he names Caesar) and secretly raises him in his home. He also makes off with several samples of the drug to test on his Alzheimer’s-stricken father (John Lithgow). What culminates from these two acts is the likely destruction of humankind as we know it — and a film that embraces a kind of misguided empathy while skirting some really tough issues. As a young chimp, Caesar, who has inherited his mother’s high cognitive abilities, roams freely about Will’s house. But why can’t Will, and his veterinarian girlfriend, Caroline (Freido Pinto), see the trouble that a grown chimpanzee will undoubtedly bring to suburbia? Don’t these doctors know that chimps should be socialized with other primates of their kind? Can’t they see that treating a chimp as a surrogate child is a terrific, irreversible act of hubris that can only end in catastrophe? This, then, becomes a central question of the film. There are existential dilemmas that, in time, both Caesar (superbly played by a motion-captured, CGI-enhanced Andy Serkis) and Will face. As they each begin to make discoveries about themselves and a world governed by a corporate mentality
driven by high profits, the audience is drawn into some hot-button issues such as the humane treatment of animals, the ethics of DNA manipulation, personal and scientific accountability, and our human obsession with cheating death. The film has its moments. Most of these occur midway, in a primate facility where Caesar is forced to confront his primate nature among baboons and apes. These heartfelt scenes — which provide clues into the complexity of animal emotion and behavior — smack of Jack London’s extraordinary novella, The Call of the Wild (1903), in which the domesticated dog, Buck, must come to terms with his primordial instincts. Like Buck, Caesar is catapulted into an animal world of instinct and ingenuity only after deep immersion in the “civilized” human world. At stake is not reversion, but the price of adaptation to unnatural circumstances spurred by human arrogance and greed. The cost will be paid by all — human and animal. The humans in Rise are foolish and egotistic, their actions stereotypical clichés. By contrast, the movements, gestures, and emotional residue the audience feels for the many primates is spectacular and inspired. When the fantastically rendered motion-capture apes begin their march against humanity, we pull for these fully developed
beings who have been systematically misunderstood and mistreated by a
community of humankind ultimately obsessed with near-sighted needs and desires. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is so much like the American way of consumption — overly inflated and made to be discarded after just a few months. As a whole, Rise falls from the jungle gym. Most disillusioning about this obvious franchise that will soon spawn a whole armada of ape and chimp-like figurines and assorted plastic kitsch from the doors of your neighborhood McDonald’s is that it’s reckless with its ideas. You’d think with so much going on in the plot that personal responsibility would factor in somewhere. At 105 minutes long, Rise is plotted much too quickly. This is a problem, as huge ideas about scientific advancement as an instrument of ethical and moral good and the use of chimpanzees as experimental subjects are glossed over. The film is highly forgettable and easily disposable, mostly because it assumes an audience of zombies who will indulge in pretty eye candy at the expense of a fully developed, imaginative plot. u
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