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A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS

august

DOS

2010

Est. 1994

Vol. XVI, No. 8

Those icy fingers up and down my spine

That same old witchcraft

when your eyes meet mine.

Locally Owned

Harold Arlen

64 PAGES


Summer 2010

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Photo by Jorge Medina

Courtesy Photo

Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail

Federal funds for North Central Park City Council member Gene Belmares, Jesus Olivares, Osbaldo Guzman, Mario Peña, Judd Gilpin, and Ramon Zertuche were at recent ceremonies to receive $300,000 from U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar. The funds come from the 2010 Department of Transportation Appropriations Bill and will support the construction of 80,000 linear feet of pathway, a trailhead facility, energy-efficient lighting, restrooms, a kiosk, a covered patio, and an outdoor classroom.

Laredo was the first city to host an exhibit of photographer Christopher Talbot’s (center) photo of the Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail. Margarita Araiza of the Webb County Heritage Foundation and James Moore, president of BBVA COMPASS BANK, joined Talbot at the exhibit’s opening. The public is invited to view the exhibit, which will be available through August and September at the Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum at 810 Zaragoza St. Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, please contact the Webb County Heritage Foundation at (956) 727-0977 or heritage@webbheritage.org.

publisher

María Eugenia Guerra meg@laredosnews.com Editor

Monica McGettrick mcgettrick@laredosnews.com

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at www.laredosnews.com Mika Akikuni Cordelia Barrera Bebe Fenstermaker Sissy Fenstermaker Denise Ferguson Neo Gutierrez Henri Kahn Randy Koch Frontera Nortesur Salo Otero

Contributors

Roseanne Palacios Kent Paterson Daniela Perdomo Lem Railsback Belinda Ramon Daniel Robelo Roger Sanchez Jr. Ida Swearingen Steve Treviño Benny Verlo Sr. Rosemary Welsh

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1812 Houston Street Laredo Texas 78040 Tel: (956) 791-9950 Fax: (956) 791-4737 Copyright @ 2009 by LareDOS

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News

Former B. Dalton manager aims to open new bookstore

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By MONICA MCGETTRICK

fter more than 30 years managing B. Dalton Bookstore in Mall del Norte, Mary Benavides found herself without a store. In January 2010, Barnes & Noble shuttered the last B. Dalton in Texas, part of a nationwide closing of all branches. Determined to ensure that Laredoans continue have a local place to find books and a friendly atmosphere of arts and culture, Benavides is working towards opening her own store, Laredo Books & More, but she needs the community’s help. Benavides presented her appeal at a local Rotary meeting, and she detailed her effort to obtain funding from the Pepsi Refresh project. The company is giving away millions of dollars to projects ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. They accept 1,000 applications monthly, and Laredo Books & More has been quickly moving up the ranks. Benavides encourages everyone to vote and to vote daily. Those interested in voting can visit the website at www.refresheverything.com. The project is listed under the Arts and Culture category.

Benavides applied for $250,000 in funds to cover the location and merchandise. While the store will predominantly sell books, she also plans on adding a cultural aspect, including a place for people to gather. She hopes to include a reading and writing lab, a coffee shop, and occasionally bring in authors. An avid supporter of literacy in Laredo, Benavides is quick to remind Laredoans that we were not to blame for the closure of our only bookstore. “I’m proud of Laredoans,” she said. “We had nothing to do with the closing of B. Dalton. It was a profitable store. I don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed the store closed.” Benavides, who assists with One City, One Book and the Food for Thought Foundation, is working to establish a bookstore on the second floor of the Laredo Public Library in the meantime. She has also begun work on opening an online store from which Laredoans can order books. The library bookstore will be selling used books, as well as the books for this year’s One City, One Book event, Into the Beautiful North and Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush.

“Last year B. Dalton sold over 1,000 copies for One City, One Book. This will ensure that Laredoans have a place to buy their books for the event,” she said. While being awarded the Pepsi Refresh funds would be ideal, Benavides aims to move forward with or without the help. She’s currently drawing up a business plan and is also in the process of applying for a small business loan. She said, “The goal is to have a main store on the north side of town but have satellites in the south. We need a cultural center in this town.” She acknowledged the efforts of the Laredo Center for the Arts, which opened a bookstore several months ago, as well as Escape Again Bookstore, both of which sell used books. When asked if she foresaw a larger chain store being built in Laredo, Benavides was doubtful. She acknowledged the problems plaguing companies like Barnes & Noble, which is currently struggling to stay afloat as it faces competition from companies already focusing on e-books and e-readers. The world is becoming in-

Mary Benavides creasingly digital, but with illiteracy rates in Laredo as high as 60 percent, Benavides said that those numbers need to change. She also believes that readers in Laredo deserve a place to buy books locally. “One way or another, this is going to get off the ground,” said Benavides. u

Victor M. Garcia for

City Council, District II

Your Friend and Voice at City Hall www.victor4laredo.com Political Ad Paid for By Erica Garcia, Treasurer

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We’ve moved next door! South Laredo Diagnostic Center Same building:

3527 Loop 20, Laredo

New office:

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SOUTH LAREDO DIAGNOSTIC CENTER

www.IchooseDoctorsHospital.com Physicians are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Doctors Hospital of Laredo. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians.

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Santa María Journal

By María Eugenia guerra

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Rooted in a family obsession, elation over rain is in our genetics

’m well aware of the frequency with which I write about rain, how I wax each and every time about how wonderful it is to see the landscape transform as a result of the much-needed, much anticipated moisture. Elation over rain is in our blood, rooted in a family obsession with the condition of pastureland. Since we were children in my grandmother María’s house, the subject of drought and/or rain were second only to the greetings my rancher uncles exchanged with my grandmother. Rain, una bendición, was up there with air to breathe. In the worst year of the seven-year drought of the fifties my uncles hauled water from nearby San Ygnacio in a used six-wheeled yellow tanker truck that had seen better days in a fleet belonging to the highway department. Once on the ranch, my uncle Romeo drove with a handful of us children packed into the cab with him. On our best behavior for the most stern but loving of our uncles, we admired his mastery of the gears through impossible banks of sand on the senderos as he made our way to the water tanks that needed filling. The cattle smelled the water in advance of our arrival, and one cow alerted another, and soon we were surrounded by the bellowing herd as a gasoline pump pulled water from the truck and through an old fire hose into the tanks. Early on, we were taught the value of water, and to this day I am as careful as I can be about capturing rainwater from the roofs of our buildings and not wasting it. That saved water has been a safety net when we have had pump problems. So here we are in hip-high and waist-high grasses at the end of July. The cattle have that sleek look of being overly fed

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on high-octane chlorophyll. The moisture has elicited a new bloom of late summer wildflowers. The ground is covered with chisme (portulaca) and its larger leafed cousin, purslane. The foliage of the drago root is shiny, as though waxed. The nopales have plumped-out, some of them in stands six-feet high. And the green, the green of it all, is so exhilarating and mesmerizing that I forget for the moment that a month ago I experienced the familiar, oft repeated angst of looking into the searing maw of sun-toasted grass on sand. The rains have fostered a flurry of activity – cleaning, mowing, repairs to guttering, gathering materials to build new wooden gates for the yards and to repair the old buckboard, fence repairs, draining water troughs. August had great beginnings with a recent visit from my niece Angela Neal, a second-year student at Parsons the New School of

Design. Her energy and thoughtful perspectives were very welcome in our conversations and in the work we undertook at the ranch. It turns out she likes to lose herself (or find herself), as I do, in painting projects, and so we finished painting an old bed. We talked and talked, covering so much ground – family history, the long one and the shorter more recent one with us in it; her life as a student so far from home; my parents, her grandparents; the loss of my brother; her goals; and the value she has for the gift of an excellent education her parents have made for her. I had to remind myself that this kind, grounded young woman who leads an examined life is but 19 years old. I am so happy to have had this meaningful opportunity to share the most important parts of my life with Angela. She told me as she left that she would never forget our visit. Nor will I. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

TCRP rebukes Travis County Commissioners Court and Sheriff for anti-immigrant policies AUSTIN - The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) today sharply rebuked the Travis County Commissioners Court and Sheriff Greg Hamilton for their anti-immigrant program at the Travis County jail and for cooperating in the deportation of immigrants who live, work, and have families in central Texas, but have no histories of violent crime in the United States. TCRP Director Jim Harrington said, “The most dangerous policy of Travis County’s ill-conceived project of placing federal immigration authorities in the jail is that it discourages crime victims, espe-

cially victims of domestic violence, from reporting abuse and violence to authorities. As much as they may suffer, victims are afraid to come forth because of their fear that they or their family members may also get caught up in deportation. We have actually seen this happen before -- a dramatic drop in applications for protection under the Violence Against Women Act, when a local sheriff decided to help enforce immigration law in West Texas. “The Sheriff’s job is to enforce state criminal laws and assist victims. By enforcing immigration laws, the County

has undermined both goals. Their actions may actually result in a rise of non-reported crime. The more crime is unreported, the more it will increase,” Harrington continued, adding, “There is no need for Travis County to become complicit in breaking up families in central Texas, by deporting a family member who may be in the country without documentation and who has lived here and been a productive member of society. When the Sheriff initially began this program, we predicted this would happen. He said it wouldn’t. We regret he was wrong. The

County and the Sheriff need to abandon this program immediately.” The rebuke comes on the heels of the report of Center for Constitutional Rights and other national advocacy groups, which obtained raw data through a federal freedom of information request to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the groups, 82 percent of deportations of jail inmates through a federal fingerprint-sharing program in Travis County were of “non-criminals,” such as those with no violent histories. u

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Dr. David E. Garza named president of TMF Health Quality Institute board AUSTIN – Dr. David E. Garza, DO, FACOFP, FAAFP, was elected president of the board of trustees of TMF Health Quality Institute, a leading nonprofit health care consulting company, at the organization’s recent annual membership meeting. Dr. Garza began serving on the TMF board of trustees in 2006. A family physician in solo practice, Dr. Garza was educated at the University of North Texas Health Science Center - Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has been on active staff at both Doctors Hospital of Laredo and Laredo Medical Center since 1993, where he has held multiple positions, including chief of staff and chairman of the board of trustees at DHL, and chief of family medicine at LMC. “Dr. Garza has strong experience as a leader and will build on the guidance provided by our recent president, Dr. Maya Bledsoe,” said Tom Manley, CEO of TMF Health Quality Institute, adding, “His active involvement in local, state, and national health care will provide valuable insight to lead TMF through its next phase of growth in the era of health care reform.” WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Carla F. Ortique, MD, who has served on the board since 2006, was elected vice president and John L. Wright, Jr., DO, who has served on the board since 2007, will serve as officer-at-large. Robert Vallilee, board member since 2007, was re-elected as secretary-treasurer and Tim Von Dohlen, board member since 2007, was re-elected as non-physician representative to the Executive Committee. David Clark Fleeger, MD, president of the Central Texas Colon and Rectal Clinic, and Robert B. Morrow, MD, MBA, director of Medical Quality at the Rural and Community Health Institute at Texas A&M University Health Science Center, were elected as new physician members. Former Laredo Mayor Elizabeth Flores was re-elected to serve another term on the TMF board. TMF Health Quality Institute focuses on improving lives by improving the quality of health care through contracts with federal, state, and local governments, as well as private organizations. For nearly 40 years, TMF has helped health care providers and practitioners in a variety of settings improve care for their patients. u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2010 |

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Book Review

Murder City, Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields: the new order in Mexico; the future is the drug industry

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By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

ay it slowly to yourself. In 2008 there were 1,607 murders in Ciudad Juarez just a stone’s throw across the river from El Paso; 2,600 in 2009; about 1,700 since the beginning of 2010. One thousand, six hundred, and seven; two thousand, six hundred; one thousand seven hundred souls (about 6,000 from 2008 forward, 30,000 narco terrorist murders since the beginning of Felipe Calderon’s administration) who met violent death, and often torture and dismemberment, in a city where the rule of law hangs suspended like a cartel banner strung across an overpass. Award winning journalist Charles Bowden, the author of Murder City, Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields, wants us to fathom the enormity of these numbers so that we can understand the new order in Mexico, so that we can understand that the future of Mexico is the drug industry. It is not in the failed maquilas; it is not tourism; it is not private sector small businesses; it is not agrarian enterprise. It is not in manufacturing, shipping, or international trade. It is the $35 billion dollar a year movement of drugs, second in volume only to Mexico’s primary source of income, oil. It is bigger than the remittances sent home by paisanos working in the U.S. In the most specific of terms Bowden wants us to understand that a city of that many un-investigated, unsolved murders -- murders in which the police and the army wait nearby until the shooting is over -- is a battlefield of a city living and dying under the flag of cartel anarchy. Murder City is Bowden’s personal narrative about a city he has known well. His paintbox holds every shade of blood -- fresh crimson to dried burnt umber -- and his brush strokes form pictures we do not want to see -- murders and decapitations, children who witness from the front seat of a car the assassination of a parent, disappearances and kidnappings, a Mexican army of human rights violators that rape and pillage, killing houses and their accompanying stash of corpses under the patio. Some of the victims Bowden enumerates for us are part of the drug trade or are targeted journalists or police officers, but many are ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire of stray bullets from powerful automatic weapons. Bowden told Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, “What’s really going on in Mexico: mass poverty and social disintegration. Now it’s turned into a war by the Mexican government against the Mexican people.” Bowden said that one of the lies told to visiting diplomats and personages (Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama) is that 90 percent of the dead people are drug people or dirty. “That’s a damn lie. They’re just a bunch of nobodies from little towns. Nobody can identify them as cartel leaders.” The second lie they’ll hear “is we’re winning the war on drugs. The war on drugs is over. There isn’t a city in this country where anybody is having a panic because the drugs haven’t arrived this week. What you’re seeing is a WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

slaughterhouse, and it’s escalating. And it’s not going to end.” Bowden told Goodman, “We’re paying for it. We’re giving him (Felipe Calderon) $500 million a year for the Mexican army, which is marauding in the country.” The following passage from Murder City no doubt reads like anathema in Laredo, the largest inland port, the Gateway to Mexico as the door swings south, but also the gateway north to every kind of drug that has traveled across Mexico to enter the United States through Laredo: “The trade agreement crushed peasant agriculture in Mexico and sent millions of campesinos fleeing north into the United States in an effort to survive. The treaty failed to increase Mexican wages -- the average wage in Juarez, for example, went from $4.50 a day to $3.70. The increased shipment of goods from Mexico to the United States created a perfect cover for the movement of drugs in the endless stream of semi trucks headed north. “American factories went to Mexico (and Asia) because they could pay slave wages, ignore environmental regulations, and say fuck you to unions. What Americans got in return were cheap prices at WalMart, lower wages at home, and an explosion of illegal immigration into the United States. This result is global, but its most obvious consequence is the destruction of a nation with which we

share a long border.” Murder City is a wake-up call, not so much a call to action, but an awakening to a terrible foreboding, to the nightmare that the voracious American appetite for drugs -- coupled with every stupid, flawed, costly bureaucratic inefficiency for how it is dealt with on the border and across our nation -- is costing Mexico its very life. How will Mexico ever pull itself from the ruin we have fueled, fostered, aided, and abetted by being its best customer for drugs and its best source for weaponry? In a December 1996 Harper’s essay entitled “While You Were Sleeping,” Bowden quoted Mexican photographer Julian Cardona, who explained, “Juarez is a sandwich. The bread is the First World and the Third World. We are the baloney.” While we who inhabit the border may be in denial of the size of our deadly dilemma, there are writers like Bowden and others who tear the gauze of naïveté from our eyes. Another such writer is Sarah Hill, who in the July/ August 2010 issue of the Boston Globe re-named the War on Drugs as the War for Drugs. She writes of Cd. Juarez’s plummet from a dollar-rich investment climate of “an automotive workforce rivaling Detroit’s and hundreds of export-processing plants and businesses that employed 250,000 factory workers” in 2007 to 2010’s grim numbers of 125,000 factory jobs lost, 400,000 vanished residents, and the closing of 10,000 small businesses. She continues, “The Great Recession temporarily shuttered factories and forced layoffs in a city intimately tied to American consumers. Mexico’s economy contracted by 5.6 percent in 2009, far worse than the United States’ ‘negative growth’ of about 2 percent. But Juárez has suffered from much more than recession. Its murder rate now makes it the deadliest city in the world, including cities in countries at war with foreign enemies. On average, there are more than seven homicides each day, many in broad daylight. Some 10,000 combat-ready federal forces are now stationed in Juárez; their armored vehicles roll up and down the same arteries as semis tightly packed with HDTVs bound for the United States. Factory managers wake up in El Paso -- one of the safest U.S. cities -- and go to work in the plants of a city bathed in blood.” 
 Hill likens Mexico’s narco terrorist slaughter to “an out of control locomotive” that instead of slowing, “is gathering steam as we pass the halfway point of what may well be the bloodiest year in terms of violent deaths since the Mexican Revolution.” It is ludicrous, short-sighted, and dangerous for us, here in Laredo or in any other city along this sieve of a border, to pretend that narco terrorism obeys an international boundary. Uninformed, head-in-the sand politicians and law enforcement officers, issue the numbing, assuring placebo that there is no “spill over” to the U.S. side. For the most part, the corpses fall to Mexican soil, but we should understand that the murders have been worked out with the same cold-blooded efficiency as the trucks-and-bribes logistics of moving product through Laredo and north. u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2010 |

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News

WBCA wins four first-place TFEA Zenith awards

WBCA takes four firsts in TFEA competition

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he Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA) garnered four first-place honors in the recent Texas Festivals & Events Association (TFEA) Zenith Award competition for excellence in event marketing and management. In a competition with other events with a budget of over $750,000, the WBCA took firstplace for Best Event Video, Best Newspaper Insert, Best Media Relations Campaign, and Best Other Merchandise. The WBCA was also awarded second-place for Best Full Length TV Program, Best Cover Design, Best Event Photograph, Best Outdoor Billboard, Best Event Invitation, Best Street Banner, and Best Pin or Button; and third-place for the Zenith Award (Best Overall Category), Best Sponsor Solicitation Video, Best Radio Promotion, Best Miscellaneous Printed Multimedia, Best Newspaper Insert, and Best Ad Series. The TFEA Marketing Awards program recognizes excellence in marketing campaigns used to promote festivals and events. “This competition recognizes the creativity and professionalism of the Texas festivals and events industry,” said TFEA executive director Penny C. Reeh. “More than 395 individual entries were received in this year’s competition, which is a record number.” Anselmo “Chemo” Castro Jr., WBCA past President and ex officio, offered his congratulations. “I am elated that our 113th WBCA was the success that it was and even more excited that we have such a dynamic, creative staff that is able to produce the high quality communi-

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cation campaigns that attract sponsors and revelers alike,” he said, adding,  “Lisa Morales, our executive director, Celina Alvarado, our public relations and marketing manager, and the rest of the staff are to be commended for their well deserved recognition.” TFEA is a professional trade association for festival and event planners, volunteers, and suppliers from across Texas. It is an official affiliate of the International Festivals & Events Association, the premier professional association supporting festival and event leaders worldwide. For more information about TFEA, visit www.tfea. org or find the association on Facebook. The Washington’s Birthday Celebration, founded in 1898, is the largest celebration of its kind in the nation. The month-long festivities attract nearly half-a-million attendees each year contributing to an estimated $14 million to the local economy. Events include an eye-opening fireworks display, lively parades, majestic pageants, an elegant night of wine tasting, an action-packed air show, a carnival that offers exhilarating rides and games, a Mardi-Gras style street party, and one of the hottest events in the nation -- the world-famous Jalapeño Festival, which is highlighted by the original La Costeña Jalapeño Eating Contest. The 114th Washington’s Birthday Celebration will take place from January 20 through February 20, 2011. For additional information go to wbca@ wbcalaredo.org or contact the WBCA office at (956) 722-0589 or visit them at 1819 E. Hillside Road. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Mercy Ministries

Casa de Misericordia hosts summer camp By SISTER ROSEMARY WELSH AND ROSANNE PALACIOS

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ummer camp memories are simply the best. Whether I went out of town somewhere in the country, took art classes at the Girl Scout House, or simply attended swimming classes at Camp Zamora, I’ve held onto those memories. At Casa de Misericordia we work to create memories like this for the children of the women who have resided in the domestic violence shelter. These children have witnessed terrible acts of violence and abuse at their homes. They have seen their father hurt their mother, which is a lot for a child to handle. The Casa de Misericordia summer camp is designed to allow the children to simply be children. “In the end, these children have the same needs as any other child,” said Sister Rosemary Welsh, who serves as executive director. “They have a need to be loved and hugged and a need to simply enjoy being a

child. We try to provide a fun and learning experience in a safe and loving environment,” she added. The camp takes place at the Lamar Bruni Vergara Education Center each summer. Camp coordinators Sister Madeline Rockwell, Iris Lucio, Zeina Ramos, and a handful of volunteers make the camp special by offering a variety of activities such as bowling, self defense, and arts and crafts. Special guests include Laredo Heat players who teach the children basic soccer skills. Other collaborators include the LISD Nutrition Program, Women’s City Club, Cougar Bus Line, and Cookie Vela at Jett Bowl. In addition,

representatives from the Sheriff’s office and Fire Department prepared different activities with the participants therefore serving as role models. Sr. Rosemary explains that the children at times mistrust men in uniforms because these men are generally associated with the violence they experienced. It is important they recognize officers as people they can trust. She explained that most of the children come from impoverished homes and have never experienced the activities offered at the camp. “You want to see something beautiful? Watch a child’s face beam the first time he

jumps in to a swimming pool. Enjoy the giggles the first time the child knocks down a pin as the bowling ball rolls down the lane,” Sr. Rosemary said. “And when school starts and the teachers asks ‘What did you do this summer?’ these children now have something to write about,” she continued. (Casa de Misericordia is the only shelter for victims of domestic violence in Webb County and for a 125-mile radius. The 24-hour shelter offers safe haven, counseling, skills training and legal advocacy for the abused women and their children. For more information contact Sr. Rosemary Welsh, RSM, RN at 956 344-8587 or Rosanne Palacios at 956-721-7408.) u

News

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P-16 Council for Educational Excellence Fiesta de Excelencia Educativa conference set for Sept. 25

aredo’s P-16 Council will be hosting their first Fiesta de Excelencia Educativa conference on Saturday, September 25 at the Laredo Civic Center. The first of its kind in Laredo, the event will be conducted entirely in Spanish, and is geared towards parents who are more comfortable speaking in Spanish and who may not be altogether familiar with the American educational process. Representatives from Texas A&M International University, Laredo Community College, United Independent School District, Laredo Independent School District, Webb Consolidated Independent School District, Zapata County Independent School District, and Jim Hogg County Independent School District will be on hand to answer questions. There will also be representatives present from different industries. The Council, which works with parents whose children are in pre-kindergarten through college age, is designed to create awareness among parents and students regarding the educational process and the skills necessary to find jobs. Said program director Martha Treviño,

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“Many of these parents might never have gone to school here and are therefore unfamiliar with educational and vocational programs available for their kids.” In the past, the Council has hosted a dual language symposium at TAMIU, and over 300 educators and parents attended. They also hold financial aid workshops to guide prospective college students through the steps, including assistance with filling out forms. They hold workshops for high school students to inform them of what college is like and what they can expect. The P-16 Council was founded three years ago by Conchita Hickey, executive director of University College Developmental Studies program at TAMIU. Although it is housed at the University, it is a separate entity funded by a grant from the Higher Education Funding Board. Dr. Juan Maldonado, president of LCC, is also the current Council president. Members consist of educators, and, according to Treviño, they are currently looking for parents or anyone interested in education, as well as college and vocational training, to join the council.

Said Treviño, “It’s all about helping parents help their kids. We encourage everyone to get an education, not just the kids. A better-educated community attracts more businesses, which in turn creates more jobs.” The deadline to register for a booth is September 10. There is no fee, and no vendors are allowed. The booth must have an education-related component. To register for a booth or for more information, contact Treviño at (956) 326-2908 or Martha@tamiu.

edu. Door prizes will be available. “We’re hoping the community comes in for information. This isn’t only for college kids, but for high school, middle school, and elementary students. Parents aren’t always aware of summer programs like TexPREP (the Texas Prefreshman Engineering Program) or Upward Bound, other educational programs available at LCC or TAMIU, or vocational programs available. It’s all about informing the parents,” said Treviño. u

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Election 2010

Wise says he wants to fill leadership and efficiency gaps in Municipal Court

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harles Wise, an attorney in the Public Defenders Office, wants to see a change in Municipal Court customer service efficiency and more aggressive fine collection, and to that end he has decided to run for Municipal Court Judge. Wise faces attorneys Madeline Lopez Escoto, Rosie CuellarCastillo, and Juan Caballero in the November elections. Wise, a native Laredoan, graduated from United High School in 1997 and subsequently earned two degrees from St. Mary’s University -- a BBA in 2001 and an MBA in 2002 -- and a law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2005. Wise passed the bar exam before graduating from law school. “I’m a good listener, and I have an open mind. I don’t pre-judge anyone. My colleagues and co-workers will tell you that I believe everyone who comes before the court should be treated fairly,” he said. Wise said the backlog of uncollected Municipal Court fines should be “pursued aggressively” by making collections part of everyone’s job rather than handing it off to an outside group of attorneys. “It should be part of the judge’s job, too,” he said, adding that the court could implement an amnesty initiative to waive failure to appear fines but worked toward the collection of the actual fine. “We should also look at a warrant roundup that we coordinate with local law enforcement and the media,” he said. Wise said, “We need to streamline customer service and improve it, which will enhance cooperation. We need to be about

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Charles Wise good service, not punishment.” He said he would implement a greater effort to promote car seat safety for children. “We need to better educate parents, and we need to provide them with enough car seats. I would work with law enforcement, hospitals, pediatricians, and local businesses to ensure that we were doing all possible to protect children in cars,” he said.

“The City Charter should be amended to make the position of Municipal Court judge a full time job. The position pays well enough to be considered a fulltime job,” he said. “I have real court experience,” Wise said, adding that experience should not be measured by the number of years since passing the bar. “That you have been licensed 13 years means very little if you

have not spent time in a courtroom,” he said. “At age 30 I have three degrees and excellent courtroom experience. I have misdemeanor and felony court experience, and I have gone before the Court of Appeals. I offer leadership and my best effort to make Municipal Court more responsive to those it serves. I would make certain every staff member understood there’s much to be gained by being respectful, helpful, and polite rather than inefficient and punishing. I will work from the bench and outside the courtroom to improve the work of the Municipal Court,” Wise said. “The position of Municipal Court judge is an important one, but not so important that the judge shouldn’t roll up his sleeves and work alongside everyone else in the department. Teamwork is vital to the success of any job. The Municipal Court judge is a public servant who should show up for work everyday. I have no problem with work. It’s what I do, it’s the work ethic I learned from my parents,” he continued. “It’s a gift to have a job you like and that you look forward to going to every day,” Wise said, adding that St. Mary’s School of Law professor Dr. Jeffrey Addicott, director of the University’s Center for Terrorism, “made the law real for me.” He said that his mother Concepción, coordinator for the 406th District Court, had great bearing on his success in law school. “We are running a clean, respectful campaign. We have no deep pockets to plaster signs across the city. We hope the voters consider the experience of each candidate before they cast their vote,” Wise said. u

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Election 2010

Council member Jose Valdez Jr. announces his bid for mayor

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fifth generation Laredoan, Jose A. Valdez Jr. has been serving Laredoans as a member of City Council since 2000. An athlete for most of his life, he believes sports and recreation are an outlet for Laredo’s youth. Valdez grew up in the Los Amores neighborhood and graduated from Martin High school in 1982. He graduated from Texas A&I University with a degree in Industrial Technology, and he has been married to Elizabeth Flores for 17 years. They have two daughters, aged 15 and nine. A small business owner, Valdez identifies with the struggles faced by other small business owners, and he is a firm believer that Laredo, and its businesses, comes first. Reelected in 2004, Valdez left the council in 2006 to run for mayor. When he left, he left several projects undone, including a recreational community center for the Mines Road area. “It was supposed to have been completed in 2008, but everything stopped in the year I was out. Everything came to a standstill with the council member who replaced me,” he said, referring to former City Council member Juan Chavez. When he was reelected after some controversy, Valdez saw the opportunity to finish what he’d started. “I didn’t plan to run for mayor back then, but I didn’t see any movement in my district,” he said, adding, “I wanted to do more, not only for the people in my district but for the city as a whole.” While the overpass connecting Mines Road with I-35 was supposed to have been completed in 2008, he said nothing had been done until he was reelected in 2008. Valdez began to push in earnest, and despite some setbacks, the overpass was finished six months earlier than the December 2010 projected date. “To me, it wasn’t just a District VI issue. A lot of people use the Mines Road, and we really needed to alleviate traffic,” he said. With that taken care of, Valdez moved to focus on the recreational center, which should be completed in nine to 12 months. At 47,000 square feet, it will be the largest in Laredo. The center will include an indoor basketball court, a two and a half story playscape, facilities for aerobics, and components for the elderly. There will also be a branch library, as well as an area that can be rented out for parties. It will address issues for adults, youth, and the elderly. Valdez sees a clear lack of leadership in WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Photo by Monica McGettrick

By MONICA MCGETTRICK

Council member Jose A. Valdez Jr. Laredo. To him, being mayor should mean more than just kissing babies and shaking hands. “The mayor should come up with ideas, not just rely on staff. He should work with Council to implement ideas,” he said, adding that the mayor has to have a vision and work to put those items on the agenda. “There is no room for complacency. I’m not here to save the world. I’m a very private person, and I made some errors in my last run. But I strongly believe now, as I did then, that the mayor is the figurehead of the community. The city needs a nice guy, someone strong who isn’t easily bullied. If you want someone to fight, I believe I can do that. I don’t stand down from a fight,” said Valdez. Valdez sees himself as relatable, an everyday man. “I’m a very fair person and I look at all the issues. I relate to people at all levels, socio-economically or otherwise. I’m a struggling businessman, and I know what it means to not have food for the week. My wife and I struggled when we first got married. My wife was working at HEB at the time, and I told her that she needed to get her education. She’s now a Spanish teacher at Alexander.” He is a proponent of using local talent

and keeping money in Laredo. Valdez is a big believer in the influence sports and recreation can have on the lives of everyday Laredoans. He believes that kids who are actively involved in sports, and have recreational centers and activities available to them, can ultimately stay away from drugs and gangs. His district brought in the first two splash parks in Laredo, and there are now three in Dist. VI. There are two basketball domes, the first new ones in over 30 years. Dist. VI also has the first turf baseball field, and the first inline hockey ring in West Laredo. Another issue Valdez fights for is reducing spending amongst council members. At the head of this issue is travel. He would like to see no more than four council members traveling at one time. He proposes that they take turns traveling. “Too much money is spent on travel. How many times can you go to the same place? We need to tone it down,” he said, adding, “Little things like that need to be under control.” He proposes that council hire someone to come in to teach Robert’s Rules of Order as a way to make council work more efficiently and more cooperatively. He also proposed at a recent council meeting that

they eliminate financial incentives, including a $500 stipend for a home office, $500 for travel, and $500 for gas. “City departments are sacrificing 25 percent of their budgets to save money, yet council is not,” he said. “I proposed at a recent council meeting that we do away with all these extras, and over $140,000 would go back into the general fund, but it didn’t go over well.” Valdez is pushing for a change to the charter regarding how the mayor can vote. Currently, the mayor is only allowed to vote as tiebreaker, but Valdez believes the mayor should be allowed to vote on every issue. “The public should know where the mayor stands on all issues.” Although it can sometimes make him unpopular amongst his fellow council members, Valdez has been working hard to defend the Laredo Broncos. While he acknowledges that there have been issues with the Broncos paying bills on time, he believes and has been vocal about council’s double standard. “We allowed them to do that, and now we’re using that against them.” He also alluded to the support the City has offered to the Laredo Bucks, which recently paid a half a million dollars owed to the city. “Yet, we’re punishing the Broncos for not paying $39,000 on time,” said Valdez. Independence of mind is extremely important to Valdez. He believes the public has the right to speak up on issues before council meetings, and he took issue with current Mayor Raul Salinas’ recent flipflopping regarding denying the public access to the podium at a recent council meeting. “The public has the right to speak. I’ll listen to their information, and I’ll read all the information given to me, but in the end, I’ll make my own decisions,” he said. If elected to office, Valdez hopes to work on a multi-sports tournament complex as a capital improvement project. Inspired by a recent PONY league softball/baseball tournament, which attracted teams from all over Texas as well as a recent bike race that brought over 200 people to Laredo, Valdez believes the complex could be a boon for the city. Not only could Laredoans use the facility, which would have baseball, soccer, futbol rapido, hockey, and basketball facilities, the 50 to 60 acre park could host tournaments. Participants and their families would spend their money on local hotels, shops, and restaurants. “It’s forced tourism, which sounds negative, but is actually quite beneficial for the city,” said Valdez. “It’s all about keeping money in Laredo.” u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2010 |

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News

Center for Hope -- Bethany House unveils plans for newest facility

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By MONICA MCGETTRICK

ounded in 1982, Bethany House has been following its mission of feeding the hungry and serving the homeless for over 27 years. As the number of homeless in Laredo increases every year, Bethany House, thanks in part to fundraising and a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is moving forward with their newest project, Center for Hope. According to Jerri Lynn Ortiz, executive director of Bethany House, one-third of Laredo’s population lives below the poverty level and 42 percent of those are children. “The face of homelessness has changed. Many families and children are being displaced from their homes with nowhere to turn. Bethany House provides them with a safe haven of warmth and hope, while and ensuring dignity and respect,” said Ortiz. Bethany House staff estimate that there are over 1,600 homeless people in Laredo, and that this city of over 250,000 has only Bethany’s eight transitional housing units available for families. In the past year, Bethany House served over 300,000 meals to individuals, families, and children, 1,500 unduplicated persons with shelter and supportive services, and 43 families with transitional housing. The shelter has experienced an increase of over 45 percent in requests for services. This new facility, located between the existing dining facility at 819 Hidalgo

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Bethany complex aerial view and the Shelter Complex at 815 Hidalgo, will add an additional 11,000 square feet to the Shelter Complex and expand housing and supportive services to homeless and at-risk homeless. It will also address the critical daily living needs and service gaps in order to improve living conditions and self-sufficiency. According to Ortiz, the goals are to provide an expanded job readiness and resource center, a women’s emergency shelter, nine additional transitional housing units, a health and wellness center, an educational center for

children and adults, expanded laundry facilities, increased case management and administrative offices, and a private recreation area for children. Currently, only three of the shelter’s transitional housing units can house families with up to five members. The new units will be able to house six to eight family members. Said Ortiz, “This is especially critical because the families that now come to Bethany House have grown significantly.” Ed Quiroga and Ricardo Solis of Metaform Studio Architects are charged with designing the new facility, and thanks to their efforts, the center will also be the first registered Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) project in Laredo. A product of the U.S. Green Building Council, “LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources

and sensitivity to their impacts.” The center is currently in the design development stage. The layout follows in conjunction with LEED certification. “While it’s challenging for a non-profit to be a LEED project, it should be the norm,” said Quiroga, adding, “Laredo is becoming more green aware.” Quiroga is a strong proponent of sustainable practices. Together, he and Solis have been working with Bethany House for reduced fees. Quiroga is the project administrator and director of design. Solis, who returned to Laredo in February after 15 years in Austin, is the project architect. Luis Pruneda is the project manager. Quiroga and Solis are combining the conceptual and pragmatic. The building will have more of an academic than institutional feel, which they hope will make those using the facility feel more comfortable. The plan is to demolish the building presently there, which was built in the 1970s, and to build the new structure in its place. But to Quiroga and Solis, the project is more than just putting a structure together. It’s about understanding the problem. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Besides the basic amenities and housing, the center will include a green courtyard where people can feel comfortable and secure. Quiroga said, “The first step is to get them into the courtyard, which will be a safe haven for them to get together without the worry of being run off or asked to leave.” Solis and Quiroga are designing this green space as a sort of urban park, which Quiroga feels fits in with the downtown location. They also acknowledge that many of the homeless do not automatically feel comfortable walking in for help, and the courtyard connecting the units will help bridge that divide. A marquee wall will announce events to the public and serve as a medium for providing information about the issue of homelessness to the community. It will also allow for a greater sense of transparency. The courtyard, which is a multi-use area, will be complimented by shading from natural devices and the surrounding structure. The space may also be used for outdoor services.

“The town square idea, of including a place to congregate, helps provide communication and public awareness,” said Quiroga. “As for the design, the point all along has been to create versatile spaces confined in a limited area. What it feels like is as important as what it looks like. It’s important the awareness of the needs of the homeless doesn’t go away because we always face it. It’s a human issue,” he said. He added, “There’s more of a poetic feel to the way Metaform Studio Architects approaches architecture.” They presented a video feature to the Bethany House board, and addressed about the benefits of going green. The facility will incorporate sustainable practices in one of the oldest downtowns in the United States. LEED documents what they’re doing to make the project green. “Projects in urban areas lend themselves to this physically,” said Quiroga, adding, “The point is to have it all interactive. Office staff will be working at the shelter in direct contact with the people they are helping.” u

Conceptual Rendering

Parkinson’s Support Group Meeting Monday, September 6, 2010 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, first floor, Community Center

call 723-8470 or 285-3126.

Alzheimer’s Support Group Meeting Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, Meeting Room 2

call 723-1707 WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

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Photos by Jacob Walters

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WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Profile

The man behind La Sanbe -- Jesus Quiroz esus Quiroz, a.k.a. KeyRose of La Sanbe (www.lasanbe.com), established his blog three years ago as a way to foster dialogue about Laredo. Although he works in healthcare, and although he has no formal training as a writer, besides what he learned in school, Quiroz has both the intelligence and drive necessary to contribute a fair and balanced idea of what life in Laredo is like, both culturally and politically. Like the street it was named for, La Sanbe offers variety. “When I first started, I wanted to get at what’s going on in Laredo,” said Quiroz, and while La Sanbe includes plenty of pop culture references both in the mainstream and unique to Quiroz or his contributors’ taste, the site remains true to Laredo news and peculiarities. To Quiroz, the name La Sanbe was a frontrunner from the beginning. He said, “The name personifies Laredo. I grew up close to San Bernardo Avenue and attended Martin High School, and, there’s lots of activity on that street, like Sunday night cruising. A lot of people identify with that.” From the beginning, the blog received good reviews from friends, family, and strangers who stumbled upon it. “On the first day, I posted about four items and instantly received feedback. It was mostly from friends, but word of mouth led to more feedback,” said Quiroz. Response and feedback is important to Quiroz, as is fostering an environment for open exchanges. Having built a small community of people already engaged in the discussion, he is sometimes surprised by people he encounters who read his blog. “Some of the younger politicians read it,” said Quiroz, adding that a few have even reached out to him. He recently interviewed City Council member Gene Belmares, who is running for Mayor. Although he tries to keep track of where his site’s visitors are coming from, he fully admits to not being entirely technologically savvy when it comes to obtaining and translating web statistics. He is able to discern that a considerable amount of people are led to La Sanbe by Google searches about the violence in Nuevo Laredo. Unsure of how to handle discussion of violence in Nuevo Laredo, Quiroz prefers to focus on topics like how the violence is affecting tourism and how Laredo is painted in a negative light. “I still go to Nuevo Laredo, after all,” WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

said Quiroz. Keeping an eye on City of Laredo business is important to Quiroz. He’s recently been reporting on his efforts to obtain information about El Portal, the riverfront shopping venue. He’s chronicled his foray into the world of Open Records in order to obtain copies of checks from the City Attorney’s office to check whether the Khaledis have been paying rent. He is also keeping track of the upcoming election. While he does not endorse any particular candidate, he isn’t shy about expressing appreciation for politicians who make themselves accessible, not only to him but to their constituents. “I’ve been trying to interview the politicians running for office, but I’m having trouble. For example, the problem with Henry Cuellar is that he gives me the same answers he gave me two years ago. They’re not going to give me what I want, especially on the record,” Quiroz said. In the meantime, he hopes to focus on debates between the candidates. He recently began posting videos to La Sanbe, thanks to YouTube. Although he’s limited by the space and time constraints imposed by YouTube, he sees this as an opportunity to expose more people to election debates. As far as being a catalyst for change, Quiroz remains humble. Despite accidentally picking a fight with The Laredo Morning Times after the Times began charging for online content as well as their objection to reprints of information on blogs, Quiroz has noticed a change in LMT as well as El Mañana and Univision in regards to their online content. He’s noticed that since he began using video on his blog, the Laredo Morning Times has started posting videos on their website, El Mañana has begun to include blogs, and Univision now uploads video footage. “There’s more access now,” said Quiroz. As La Sanbe stands now, Quiroz is hoping for more. To him, the site has potential, and there is much he would like to change for the better. If he had unlimited time and resources, he’d expand into an actual website, focusing more on articles than blog entries. He said, “It would be more efficient to try to really get more consistent with capturing what’s going on with City and County meetings. For example, I’d like to find out what laws they’re considering for the golf course.” Although Quiroz insists fellow bloggers Que Fregados and Bordertown Blues

are far superior in writing style, La Sanbe has been a bit more consistent in regards to research. He’s always surprised by compliments about his site because to him his work as haphazard at best. Said the author of Bordertown Blues, who prefers to remain anonymous, “Jesus Quiroz has become a prominent voice in a typically silent town. What he has done as a hobby in a few short years is show Laredoans that you can have productive outlets emphasizing creativity and culture while trying to make Laredo a better place to call home.” Que Fregado’s author, who began her blog in January 2010, said, “LaSanbe’s impact to Laredo’s early social media scene opened doors for others.  Mr. Quiroz serves as a great example of someone interested in the local community and sharing his opinion.  He provokes thought and encourages all of us to question the status quo.” She continued, “I was vaguely familiar with LaSanbe before starting the Que Fregados blog.  Mr. Quiroz was very encouraging when I did start it, he offered tips

and hints.  The general public blogging community is small and we all seem to support each other.  I hope he keeps up his questioning and keeps providing an alternative view of current issues.” According to Quiroz, despite being a three-year blogging veteran, he views the site as still in its infancy. “Blogs have been around since the early 2000s. I came a little late to the game. I’m not sure how big my little community is. In the beginning, most of my hits came from out of town, but more and more are coming from Laredo now,” said Quiroz. As far as monitoring and censoring his readers’ comments, Quiroz allows them the freedom to express themselves. Although some of his readers are disturbed by what they read and lash out, others are engaged and insightful. As such, he doesn’t feel compelled to monitor or erase negative comments. Instead, he allows readers to voice their emotions and feelings. His only request, both for his readers and for himself, is for rational, decent conversation. u

Photo by Monica McGettrick

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By MONICA MCGETTRICK

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Opinion

City Council kills the Laredo Broncos

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By MONICA MCGETTRICK

ity Council has effectively killed the Laredo Broncos, and they have dealt a serious blow to local baseball fans. While I don’t count myself as a hardcore baseball fan, or even a fair weather baseball fan, I still think our hometown team has been treated unfairly. The council recently voted to move forward with the new baseball stadium with Ventura Sports Group Inc. at the helm at a price tag of $18 million. They also voted on a no competition clause, which will prevent the Broncos from continuing to play until the new stadium is built. For the last five years, the Laredo Broncos have been keeping their heads up and playing the best game they can. As in any sport, sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose. They have their diehard fans, and they have their tepid supporters. They have made the best of their time at Veterans Field, despite the lack of any sort of amenities. And they even managed to sign former major leaguer José Canseco as part time coach and part time player. Sure, his signing has drawn mixed feelings, and he probably only did it to get attention for his reality show, but the fans are loving it and it’s brought some attention to Laredo. However, here we are. The stadium is a long way in the future, yet after this season, the Broncos will be no more. One of council’s complaints is that the Broncos never paid their bills on time. Not that they didn’t

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pay them -- that they weren’t on time. They would pay a little here and there, and would top it off with a lump sum towards the end of the season. Particularly irksome is the waffling of Mayor Raul Salinas, who claims to support the Broncos but who was completely willing to “a-hem and a-haw” and then turn right around and say he wasn’t aware of the extent of their delinquency. I suppose he had to feign support. It is an election year, and he’s facing two Council members come November, one of whom has been an avid Broncos supporter. Cindy Liendo-Espinoza, Michael Landeck, and José Valdez Jr. stayed true to their earlier vote against Ventura’s proposal. The three seem to believe that something is not quite right, and Valdez has even vowed to keep fighting. When I spoke with him recently, he said something about the whole situation was fishy. He didn’t like when the folks at Ventura assumed he was on board just because he visited and liked their stadium in Grand Prairie. But how could they not, with other council members falling over themselves to fawn over Ventura? It was probably a safe assumption. But let’s return to the issue of money. Because this is what it all boils down to, isn’t it? What I would like to know is that if the City is using the failure of the Broncos to pay their rent on time as a weapon against them, why has it been permissible for the Laredo Bucks to owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city? The team recently paid half a million dollars of money owed to the city (coin-

cidentally or not, a day or two after the council vote on the stadium issue). The Bucks’ money helps keep the Laredo Energy Arena afloat. Council member Hector García randomly pointed out the Bucks’ debt problems at the recent council meeting, but there was no follow up. Valdez wants to know why. I want to know why. How long have the Bucks owed the City money? Why do they owe the City? And just how much more do they have left to pay? This isn’t an issue of Bucks versus Broncos. The Bucks have done much for Laredo, and I myself prefer hockey to baseball. But what irks me is that the Council is either clearly exhibiting a double standard or they are woefully ignorant of the true financial state of the Laredo Bucks. Either way, who is getting stiffed here? There are more questions than answers, but the Mayor and Council member Gene Belmares seem content with telling taxpayers that our money will be well spent. Why should we trust them? Why should we au-

tomatically believe they are working for our good? What happens when the Laredo Energy Arena finds itself competing with this new ballpark for concerts? Will Laredoans be left footing the bill when Ventura realizes that Laredoans, despite being used to the heat, aren’t overly fond of sitting out in it? We’re already going to be paying millions more than we thought, even if Council claims the $8 million voters thought they were voting for wasn’t a real number (they say that since it wasn’t included on the ballot, it doesn’t count). I’m placing my bet now. Council voted to approve $18 million for the ballpark. My guess is the final price will be considerably higher, like $20-24 million. After all, as spokesperson Jerry Fawcett, said, “We’re talking about everyone’s high ideals right now and, as we get into the project, we’ll get into reality.” That’s his way of saying, and Council’s way of knowing, that while they’re telling taxpayers we have to pay $18 million, we should be prepared to pay much, much more. u

News

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Imaginarium hosts Robotics Academy

eginning in September, the Imaginarium of South Texas will host a Robotics Academy on Saturdays. “I believe that we are the only location in Laredo offering robotics to the younger crowd,” said Robotics Program coordinator José Perez. “We Do” sets are a new Lego robotics product that will be used to expand the creativity of children from six to nine years old. The youngsters will meet on Saturday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to “do” science and engineering. For the 10 to 15 year-olds, the academy will use Lego NXTs to solve world problems related to climate change in a Change the World with Robotics course from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoons. Each session is four weeks long, and costs are a minimal $40 for members and $50 for non-members, thanks to a United Way grant. “This is a new venture, and we are very excited about bringing engaging problem

solving fun to younger kids!” explained Lisa Chappa, Imaginarium program director, adding, “Children will learn how to help improve their world through challenges that look for creative answers to climate change.” Chappa continued, “As school has begun, parents are deciding on out-of-school activities for their children. The Robotics Academy is a great new option for kids who have expressed an interest in building and technology through computers, Legos, or video games. Participation is limited, although a new session will begin each month through the fall semester.” The Imaginarium of South Texas is an informal science center and children’s museum dedicated to providing creative learning experiences in an environment rich with hands-on exhibits and inquirybased programming. Located adjacent to Dillard’s in Mall del Norte, the Imaginarium is open Wednesday through Sunday. Call 728-0404 for more information or visit www.imaginariumstx.org u

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News

City’s green recreation center nears completion

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onstruction is near completion on the James and Maria Luisa Haynes Health and Wellness Center on Clark Boulevard. A multi-million dollar recreational center and park with specifically designed areas for children with special needs, the 28,500 sq. ft. space will be one of the largest recreational centers in the city. The project, which is being designed by Frank Architects, is being built using sustainable practices and materials. While not a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) project, the center will be a green space. Rainwater from the roofs and condensate from the AC unit will be reclaimed into tanks. “This isn’t a new idea for Laredo,” said lead professional on the project, Viviana Frank. “Norias are well known in Laredo, and this adds a historical component. These 5,000 gallon tanks will always be filled, and there will also be enough pressure for sprinklers and toilet fixtures.” The roof will be vegetative with local grasses, wild flowers, compatible plants, and a sprinkler system. It will all be part of a closed system viewable by the public. Installed by a roofing company and covered by warranty, the tank will be run by solar panels, and the water that collects on the roof will be used to irrigate the plants. The panels are connected into the meter, and while not every part is completely solar powered, part of the roof has a membrane that has the ability to run an electrical current that can connect into a computer. The computer will then spot any problems that occur, alerting the company that repairs are needed. The vegetation will also help cool the roof 20 to 30 degrees. Said Frank, “With Laredo’s heat, the roofs are always hotter than the outside temperature, and the wind picks up the heat and spreads it, so this will help keep the air around the center cooler.” Also crucial to maintaining cooler temperatures and using less energy is that the roof will have six inches of insulation, which means it will have a higher r-value than other roofs. The r-value is the insulation value of all the components of a building. The walls will also be insulated at 6 inches. The gymnasium has skylights for natural light, which will help lower electrical use. Operable window walls can be comWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Photo by Jacob Walters

By MONICA MCGETTRICK

The James and Maria Luisa Haynes Health and Wellness Center on Clark Boulevard nears completion pletely opened up on cool days and can be used for indoor/outdoor events. The basketball courts are made from recycled material similar to that used for the Olympics. The indoor paint will consist of low or no volatile organic compounds, and the exterior lighting is completely solar powered. Windows are all double-paned and well insulated. Said Frank, “The stone used came from a river in Langtry, Texas. This is well within a 500 mile radius, and it’s quarried from around the river.” Situated between two neighborhoods, the center offers bike racks for people who want to ride their bikes there, and the center will also feature walking trails. In fact, the center is also the trailhead for the Chacon Creek. According to Frank, the idea behind building a health and wellness center was to offer activities people could enjoy, including special needs kids. The lobby will include a juice bar/health bar concession area with seating and a game area with pool tables and foosball tables. There will

be an administrative area that is wired for a PA system and music for lectures. The lobby connects to the gym, which includes a full basketball court and two half courts, as well as 12 backboards. The backboards will be mechanized in order to lower them for use by people in wheelchairs. It also has an integrated volleyball court. The lobby leads out to a futsal size soccer field that is also wired to the PA system. Futsal refers to indoor soccer, generally played on a smaller playing surface. The ground floor features a special needs area, which connects to an outdoor play area for kids with special needs, as well as the pool and breezeways. There are four tennis courts with bleachers and the swimming pool has zero depth entry with spray jets and a bucket waterfall. The upstairs includes a meeting room, computer room, and a reading/television viewing area. There is also a running track around the perimeter of the gym that connects to an outside terrace overlooking the soccer field or to the stairs that lead to the outside track loop, which is rubberized to

reduce impact. There is also a connection to the cardiovascular exercise and aerobics rooms. With an established reputation for working on green projects in Laredo, Frank saw the center as opportunity to participate in the ecology. “A health center is the logical connection between the user and the environment,” she said. “If Laredo is going to embark on a green awareness, a health and wellness center is the perfect opportunity. This center has more green features than any other project in Laredo.” Frank credits City Council member Hector García with pushing the project forward, “He’s the one who deserves credit for pushing the notion of a green center usable by special needs kids with an actual program for them.” Said García, “I’ve been working on this for the last eight years. There hasn’t been a center in that part of town, and there was no swimming pool. We wanted to do something new, and we wanted to have a center just for kids with special needs. It’s going to be a beautiful building.” u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2010 |

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Feature

Will California legalize pot? By DANIELA PERDOMO

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This story first appeared on August 5, 2010 on alternet.org. oday, at least a third of Americans say they’ve tried smoking weed.  Is it possible that after a half century of increasingly mainstreamed pot use the public is ready for marijuana to be legal? We may soon find out. California has long been on the front lines of marijuana policy. In 1996, it became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. This year, the Tax Cannabis initiative -- now officially baptized Proposition 19 -- may very well be the best chance any state has ever had at legalizing the consumption, possession, and cultivation of marijuana for anyone over 21. Drug reformers are particularly excited about Prop. 19’s prospects because the pot reform stars seem to be as aligned as ever here. Consider the current state of marijuana in California. For one, medical cannabis has normalized the idea of pot as a legitimate industry to many of the state’s residents. At least 300,000 and as many as 400,000 Californians are card-carrying medical marijuana patients, and the medical pot industry brings in around $100 million in sales tax revenue each year, according to Americans for Safe Access. Add to this the fact that at least 3.3 million Californians consume cannabis each year, a figure culled from a presumably low-ball federal estimate, meaning the actual incidence rate may be much higher. In other words, at  least  one in 10 Californians uses pot every year. Plus, 38 percent of Californians say they have tried pot at least once in their lifetimes. Next, tie the widespread use of this mild substance -- which has proven to be less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes -- to the growing slice of law enforcement resources that are dedicated to fighting non-violent crimes associated with marijuana. Since 2005, marijuana arrests have increased nearly 30 percent, totaling 78,000 in 2008, according to figures from the state’s Office of the Attorney General. Of those arrests, four out of five were for simple possession. Not surprisingly, this overzealous drug war  disproportionately affects minorities and young people. All of this in the face of the state’s massive debt --  $19 billion  for the month-old fiscal year -- which is closing schools, laying off police officers, and shutting down

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key public services while cash-strapped taxpayers foot the bill for a failed, senseless drug policy. With little money in state and local municipalities’ coffers, criminalizing marijuana seems a senseless waste of the state’s  largest cash crop. In all, marijuana prohibition is both an economic and a social issue -- and Prop. 19 hopes to convince California voters that Nov. 2 is the time to end it. The midterm elections are just over three months away, and Prop. 19 is seen by many observers as one of the ballot items most likely to galvanize voters. As the people behind Prop. 19 prepare to launch their ground campaign in earnest, it’s clear the initiative will be under a magnifying glass every step of the way. The question on everyone’s mind is: How do they win?  The reality of the matter is that Prop. 19 has the deck stacked against it simply because there is no precedent for a voting public of a state to endorse removing all civil and criminal penalties associated with adult marijuana use. All preceding efforts have met sad ends: A 1972 measure also called Prop. 19 failed in California; more recently, attempts in Alaska, Colorado, and Nevada were also rejected. In the face of decades of federal and state prohibition, it is still much easier to vote no than yes, even in the face of convincing arguments to do otherwise. “There is no template available that shows what you need to do to achieve victory,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.  Where Prop. 19 stands today For the past few months since qualifying for the ballot, Prop. 19 has focused on building up its online support, fund-raising, staffing the Oakland office, building a coalition, and setting up a network of volunteers throughout the state who will soon power the ground force. Over this time, the mainstream media’s coverage of the campaign has mostly focused on poll numbers. Polls in April and May found support at 56 percent and 51 percent, respectively. A SurveyUSA poll released this month  shows support at 50 percent, 10 points over those against it. A new Public Policy Polling poll found the divide to be even greater, with 52 percent supporting and 36 percent nixing it -- and the campaign says these results are more consistent with its internal polling. But another poll also released this month, the  Field poll, showed that  more

people oppose the initiative than support it, at 48 to 44 percent. (This contrasts with the  last Field poll, conducted over a year ago, which found support at 56 percent.) No matter which numbers you’re looking at though, 50, 52, or even 56 percent isn’t all that comforting. It’s one thing to say yes to a pollster, it’s quite another thing to get out and vote that way. “Progressive drug reform on the California ballot needs to be polling in the high 50s or low 60s,” said Stephen Gutwillig, the California director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is because they generally have nowhere to go but down because of the fear-mongering that usually occurs at the hands of the law enforcement lobby which tends to not need as much money to push their regressive fear-based messages.” Mauricio Garzon, the even-tempered campaign coordinator, admits polls could be better but is sure that something even more important is happening. “We’re seeing a legitimization of this issue, politically. There was a time when this was impossible,” he said. “You reflect on this and you see a shift in public sentiment and this is what this campaign has always been about. Making Americans understand how important this issue is. It’s a real issue and the existing framework has been devastating to our society.” Indeed, Tax Cannabis has always been framed as a public education campaign. In this sense, at least, Prop. 19 is really succeeding -- after all, a lot of people are talking about it. Prop. 19’s newly hired field director, James Rigdon, thinks marijuana legalization has a lot more going for it than other issues. “There’s something appealing about this for everyone -- helping the economy, incarceration issues, personal freedom ideas, public safety concerns. People from all walks are willing to come out and support us,” Rigdon told me. “Our supporters aren’t just Cheech and Chong. They’re everyday people who support this because it’s good for everybody.” The multi-layered appeal to ending marijuana prohibition even has some expert election observers  believing  that ballot initiatives legalizing cannabis may be the Democrats’ answer to the gay marriage bans that drive Republican voters to the polling places. That theory remains to be tested in November, but what is certain now is that the far-reaching benefits that come with legalizing the marijuana industry in California have attracted a

broad coalition of supporters of all stripes. In addition to all the major players in the drug reform community, groups ranging from the NAACP to the ACLU have also signed up as official endorsers of Prop. 19. So, too, have numerous labor unions, faith leaders, law enforcement officers, elected officials, and doctors and physicians. According to Gutwillig, a coalition of organized labor, civil rights organizations, and the drug policy reform movement “has not existed before and could be game-changing.” As the coalition of Prop. 19 supporters grows, so does the mainstream media’s coverage. Gutwillig believes Prop. 19 has done a “really good job of defining the way the media is covering it; coming up with new and interesting ways of talking about the issue. They are talking about the failures of prohibition without seeming to encourage greater consumption of marijuana. And the argument that is increasingly made is that this is not playing out as criminal justice reform, this is playing out as a social or cultural or economic issue. The framing is different.” Here Gutwillig is referring to the last statewide drug initiative -- Prop. 5 in 2008. That failed measure was framed as a criminal justice issue and sought to emphasize treatment and rehabilitation for drug offenders over harsh criminal consequences. So the Prop. 19 campaign’s hope may be to learn from the lesson of Prop. 5 and skew away from criminal justice arguments. But there could be a downside to this approach.  “Prop. 19 is talking about this as more of a jobs, revenue issue, which plays well for the mainstream media which likes to play up the fiscal side of it because it ties into larger stories, but a more sinister interpretation may be that it allows the media to talk about marijuana reform without talking about marijuana reform,” Gutwillig said.  This is tied to another worry Gutwillig observed. “The research and focus groups I’ve seen see the whole revenue thing as gravy -- it matters to people who’ve already made up their minds about supporting Prop. 19. But it’s not the reason someone is going to come off the fence. [Talking about revenue] doesn’t resonate with voters, nor should it,” he said. “But what does resonate is the other side of the fiscal coin, which is the opportunity to save and redirect scarce law enforcement resources. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


That message makes a big difference. People’s instincts tell them there is something fundamentally hypocritical about marijuana prohibition.” Prop. 19 hopes to appeal to the instincts of Californians who believe the drug war has failed. The campaign’s strategy As Prop. 19 prepares to fan out across California, it has set two very important, realistic goals. The first is that it will not try to change the minds of those who believe marijuana prohibition has been a success. This means that the campaign is out to mobilize those who already support Prop. 19, and make sure they show up to vote; it also means they will focus on convincing those who have some sense that criminalizing pot has done more harm than good that this measure is the right solution to this policy problem. The campaign expects the swing demographics to be comprised mostly of blacks, Latinos, mothers, and young people. In its second key strategic move, the campaign will especially focus on the largest areas of voters most likely to vote in midterm elections -- Los Angeles County, Orange County, the Bay Area, the Inland Empire, and the Central Valley -- rather than spread itself too thin across the entire state. As the campaign prepares to begin its on-the-ground outreach over these next few weeks, the question of financing arises. After all, big dollars are behind most successful campaigns. While  Tax Cannabis premiered with a lot of fanfare about its financial backing, the situation is somewhat different now.  Richard Lee, the pot entrepreneur and co-proponent of the initiative, injected $1.4 million of his money -- via Oaksterdam University -- to ensure its passage. While fund-raising has continued at a steady clip, the  latest public filings  show that most of the larger cash infusions still come from S.K. Seymour, LLC, Lee’s umbrella organization that runs Oaksterdam and other cannabis-related businesses. Despite this, Prop. 19 is committed to raising small amounts from many people, and the filings show many small-dollar donations have started to flow in. According to Lee, the campaign has raised $130,000 online and most of these donations were under $250. Yet Lee admitted that “everything is on track, except fund-raising.��� The campaign currently has $50,000 in cash. While the campaign has talked to the major funders of other marijuana measures throughout the country -- people like Peter Louis, George Soros, Bob Wilson, and John Sperling -- none have committed funding yet. All of these men contributed  between $1 WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

million and $2 million each to Prop. 5, the failed 2008 measure that sought to reform sentencing for drug-related offenses. A big question remains unanswered: Why are these Prop. 5 donors not funding Prop. 19? Their non-involvement may be why Garzon said the campaign “can certainly do a lot with a little.” Prop. 19 has not yet planned for a mass media campaign, which costs a lot of money. For example, a statewide TV ad buy for a political candidate in California costs about  $1 million per week. That’s a daunting figure, and so Tax Cannabis will instead be stressing one-toone public education, which will take the form of door-to-door canvassing, phone banks, and town-hall meetings.  “We don’t think we need [a mass media campaign] to win. It depends on our budget -- if we have room for it, we will,” Garzon said.  “People are interested enough that we find the person-to-person interaction to be very successful. When you answer their questions, they’re very supportive.” The Prop. 19 campaign will rely heavily on volunteers. Though the campaign hasn’t yet put out an official appeal, 2,600 people have already signed on. Many thousands more are expected to comprise the complete army of volunteers, who will have to learn how to craft talking points that appeal to different kinds of on-the-fence Californians.  Already the campaign has some idea of what those talking points will be. A town-hall meeting in Mendocino County gave Garzon an opportunity to see what resonated with voters there. The event was billed as “Life After Legalization,” and speakers framed the passing of Prop. 19 as an opportunity to become “the Napa Valley of cannabis,” Garzon said. By the end of the meeting, a union man had inspired attendees to chant, “Organize! Organize!” For Jerome Urías-Cantú, a law student at Stanford, the key issue is border safety. In a fund-raising appeal sent out to Prop. 19’s mailing list, he wrote about a cousin who lived in Ciudad Juárez, just miles from the California border, who was killed in the escalating drug war in Mexico. “Oscar had nothing to do with the drug trade, but he was shot and killed nonetheless,” UríasCantú wrote. “That’s why I support the reform of California’s cannabis laws. The measure will prevent needless deaths by reducing the profitability of the drug trade and putting the violent drug cartels out of business.” (The Office of National Drug Control Policy  estimates  that Mexican cartels receive 60 percent of their revenue from marijuana sales in the United States.) Lance Rogers, a volunteer regional director based in San Diego, believes that besides the border issues, people in his area will be interested in economic arguments for Prop.

19. “San Diego -- like the state -- is in a major fiscal crisis. We have an extreme budget deficit due to pension problems,” he said. And as a criminal defense attorney, Rogers has met others like him who “see the effects of an overly punitive criminal justice system on marijuana offenses. I see people go to prison for five or seven years for sales of less than an ounce of marijuana. Granted, these are folks who have prior felonies or other things going on, but the fact is that this person is going to prison for $75,000 a year for doing what Prop. 19 would legalize.” Priscilla A. Pyrk, the regional director for the Inland Empire and the owner of a medical marijuana collective, thinks dispelling stereotypes about cannabis consumers and entrepreneurs will be important, too. “The cannabis industry needs to revamp how people perceive this industry and its users,” Pyrk said. “That’s why it’s great that we have a lot of non-traditional cannabis consumers coming on board. They’re coming out of the closet! Doctors, lawyers, businessmen are coming out and standing up for the initiative.” Women, who were key in the effort to legalize medical cannabis and have more generally helped mainstream pot use, will also be targeted. According to Richard Lee, soccer moms in particular are a big undecided group. “We have to educate them about how Prop. 19 will protect their kids better than the status quo,” he said. “The current system draws kids into selling and buying cannabis. If alcohol was illegal, it’d be the same way. There is a forbidden fruit attraction.” Stephen Gutwillig agreed: “The campaign must validate moms’ instinct that there is something whack about marijuana prohibition. The instinct that marijuana is more like tobacco and alcohol than not, and safer -- which it is -- and that there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be trying to regulate marijuana. They know we’re wasting a lot of law enforcement resources on this futile attempt to enforce these unenforceable laws.” As Prop. 19 works on the ground, it will count on the field support of three organizations. One is NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws; the second is the Courage Campaign, a progressive advocacy group with 800,000 members. Arisha Hatch, the national field director at Courage, estimates that about 500 to 1,000 of its volunteers will be highly involved with the Prop. 19 campaign’s getout-the-vote work, which she sees as “the biggest challenge [Prop. 19] will face. We need to get people to actually speak on message and in a responsible way about what taxing and regulating cannabis will be like. “Marijuana legalization is the only thing on the ballot that can replicate that turnout. I see it as an extremely important issue

for progressives, which is why Courage has made it the initiative we’re supporting this cycle,” Hatch said. The final group supporting Prop. 19 on the ground is Students for Sensible Drug Policy, which will manage the campus outreach and focus on bringing out the youth vote. Aaron Houston, the executive director of SSDP, said he is committed to proving the conventional wisdom about youth voters and midterm elections wrong: “What we’re going to change with this election is demonstrate that marijuana on the ballot motivates young people to turn out and vote. Opportunistic politicians will find out that marijuana increases youth turnout and that speaking out against drug reform is to their peril.” Scoping out the opposition Prop. 19’s most vocal opposition comes from the top. Gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown don’t see eye to eye on much, but they both seem to have decided it’s politically expedient to oppose the measure. Senator Dianne Feinstein also recently came out against it. “I was at a party with doctors who said they used to light up with Jerry Brown,” said Garzon. “But you know, the reality is that we know that politicians aren’t going to lead on this issue.” Feinstein, for her part,  refers  to a Rand study released this month to justify the idea that “if Proposition 19 passes, the only thing that would be certain is drug use would go up and the state of California would run afoul of federal law and risk losing federal funding.” But if you read the actual  study, you learn that Rand is still rather conservative in its ability to prognosticate much: “The proposed legislation in California would create a large change in policy. As a result it is uncertain how useful these studies are for making projections about marijuana legalization.” Yet even a rather staid study like Rand still sees positives such as tax revenues, which the state has projected could be as high as $1.4 billion annually. As for Feinstein’s claim, there is no reason to believe Prop. 5 would affect federal funding (which Feinstein will fight for anyway). As Richard Lee said, similar arguments were used against Prop. 215, but the medical marijuana measure has not resulted in less funding coming to California. And regarding the senator’s assertion that drug use will go up, the opposite may be true. Other studies show  that marijuana use among youth has actually  dropped  since medical marijuana was legalized in California. There was a 47 percent decline among the state’s ninth-graders from 1996 to 2006. Continued on next page

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Continued from page 23 “Sen. Feinstein opposed Prop. 215, although she has now come out in favor of medical marijuana.  It’s political math,” Lee said. “With Prop. 215, all the major politicians and statewide candidates were against it, but it passed with 56 percent of the vote. So, if you look at the polling, the voters don’t trust politicians on this.” Currently, the No on Prop. 19 movement seems relegated to a few small groups. The most well-funded one is called Public Safety First, which claims endorsements from the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Police Chiefs Association, and the California Narcotic Officers’ Association. The group is headed by John Lovell, the lobbyist for the police and narcotic officers’ unions. Public Safety First has under 250 fans on Facebook -- compared to the over 120,000 Prop. 19 has -and James Rigdon, the Prop. 19 field director, said at least 20 of them are fans of Prop. 19, too. “Some of them even work here,” he laughed. A couple volunteer opposition groups have cropped up, too.  Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana  seems to have little if any money behind it. Another such group, Nip It In The Bud, boasts little more than a Web site, which depicts a skeleton holding a scroll reading: “Fix California with pot??? NOT!” Prop. 19 seems more concerned with opposition within the movement than without it.  “From our own side there has been some fragmentation as there is in all social movements. There’s just different people with different ideas,” Garzon said. “We’re open to criticism but we’re trying to do things responsibly. We can’t please everybody, but we’ve tried to craft something that makes sense to a mother in Los Angeles, too. This isn’t ultimately about the right to smoke, it’s about taxes in our communities, a failed system, a public health issue.” I told Garzon that a few marijuana activists had written me to say they were upset about the local control aspect of Prop. 19 -- counties can decide whether to legalize the sale of cannabis. One had called the regulatory framework confusing and a bureaucratic disaster waiting to happen. “We’re not instituting a state government aspect, true. But it’ll come down to who do you want to give your tax dollars to? Local control is what we need on so many issues but in particular this issue,” he said. Local governments can decide “ideologically,

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culturally, operationally what is right for them. What it does is allows the best of the models to bubble up to the top.Local governments can decide not to pass it this year -- but those who don’t pass on the opportunity will take advantage of that extra revenue.” Priscilla A. Pyrk, the Prop. 19 organizer in the Inland Empire, also hopes to assuage some opposition from within the medical cannabis community: “Prop. 19 does not have anything to do with the medical side of cannabis. Prop. 215 stays intact. This can help medical cannabis patients by alleviating any of the judgment that is currently focused on them.” Not much time left How do they win? No one can say for sure, but the fund-raising strategy will be of paramount importance so the get-out-the-vote game can succeed. This midterm election cycle, the Prop. 19 campaign has to convince voters that marijuana prohibition hits on many important issues vital to their lives. Going forward, the campaign will be heavily publicizing a  recently released report from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office which finds that Prop. 19 would put police priorities where they belong, generate hundreds of millions in revenue, and protect the public. The campaign needs to hammer in several points to stand a chance. Its messaging has to emphasize how marijuana prohibition has been a costly, senseless disaster. The drug war has strengthened and enriched violent cartels while law enforcement resources have been wasted on arresting nonviolent marijuana users, ruining lives and siphoning from key public services that are sorely needed by all Californians. Prop. 19 must also make clear that taxing and regulating pot will make it harder for minors to access pot -- and that medical marijuana has proven that increased regulation decreases use by kids. Finally, the campaign ought to appeal to voters by reminding them that this initiative is their opportunity to take a stand where politicians have been reluctant to act. In other words, the time is now. If the campaign is successful, Californians will wake up on Nov. 3 to find that marijuana prohibition is finally over. If it isn’t, at least we will be a step closer to that possibility. (Daniela Perdomo is a staff writer and editor at AlterNet. Follow Daniela on Twitter. Write her at danielaalternet@gmail.com. View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/147568/.) u

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Photo by Monica McGettrick

Pushing to exhume remains for DNA identification Archivist and historian Lily Perez and archaeologist Jim Warren are pictured just after filming a segment for KGNS on the push to discover the true identity of the remains of two of the bodies buried near the steps of the old St. Augustine School. The burial sites are near what had once been the altar of the old church. At issue is whether the remains are those of Don Tomรกs Sanchez, the founder of Laredo, and his son Santiago Sanchez. Perez, Warren, and a host of other Laredoans have asked for, but have not received a nod from Bishop James Tamayo or the Diocese of Laredo to exhume the remains for the purpose of DNA comparisons.

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Photo by María Eugenia Guerra

We stand corrected In our story last month about Lala’s (Puffy Taco Mecca) in Mirando City we misidentified some of the good folks there. Pictured and identified correctly from left to right are María Teresa Johnson and Noemi Jackson standing behind Mariana Rodriguez, the daughter of Lala’s founder, Eduarda Rodriguez.

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Photo by Monica McGettrick

On the research trail Writer John Phillip Santos was in Laredo recently researching a story for Texas Monthly. He stopped in at the Republic of the RĂ­o Grande Museum and is pictured with Rick Villarreal. Santos is the author of The Farthest Home is in an Empire of Fire and Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation.

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News

Ten months after completion, Zapata Museum still empty; when its doors do open, it will offer a true historical narrative that spans centuries

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By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

hough there have been structural flaws to deal with since the completion last November of the Zapata County Museum, and though the stark straight lines of the $2 million building seem better suited to the offices of an upscale title company, the Museum Board that initiated the concept of the 4,000 square foot Zapata County Museum has expectations to inaugurate the facility this fall. Besides the need to have its construction flaws addressed -- heavy glass entry doors that leak through a wide gap between and under them, floor cracks, horrible acoustics that will necessitate covering the newly finished and beautiful burnished black concrete floors with carpet -- the museum needs a curator, a receptionist, a custodian, and a groundskeeper. According to Dr. Hildegardo Flores, who spearheaded the Museum Board appointed by the Zapata County Commissioners Court in 2008, he anticipates that those personnel issues will be dealt with in the 2010-2011 county budget. Flores worked alongside his wife Olga, Dr. Anita Medina, Valentín Medina, Patricia Ramirez, Dahlia Lopez, Avon Hatfield, Jaime Gonzalez, and Dr. Cruz Torres to formulate the concept for the museum’s exhibits and how they would tell the story of Zapata County. “We were guided by the words of Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno who wrote, ‘Para tomar ese histórico salto de fé, teneís que saber ¿De dónde venís?, ¿Dónde estáis? y ¿Hacia dónde váis?’” Flores said. “Unamuno’s

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thought was the anchor that the Museum Board used to develop the Museum’s storyline -- that in order to take that historic ‘leap of faith’ in daily life -- be that getting an education or simply being in the workplace -- you must first know where you came from, where you are, and where you are going,” he continued. Though very little about the Museum’s sharp-edged exterior design suggests that it houses the rich history of Zapata County, the board’s meticulously planned and professionally designed exhibits will take visitors through geological time to modern day Zapata County. The exhibits come at a cost of $500,000. “The story line of the 10 exhibit areas provides a comprehensive instructional tool, especially for Zapata school children who will benefit from visits to the museum,” said Flores, whose grasp of world and regional history is itself far-reaching. “Most museums in Texas follow a traditional story line that moves from east to west and includes Anglo settlement and the glories of battles for ind e p e n d e n c e,” Flores said. “While we respect that story and those who tell it -- T.R. Feh-

renbach and J. Frank Dobie -we know that it, like the classroom curriculum for Texas history, is dismissive of our role in history. Our story, the story of this region, comes from Mexico to the south and from Spain,” he said, adding, “And with it came the Fuero Juzgo, the codex of Spanish law translated from Latin to Spanish vernacular Castillian by King Fernando III in 1241 as more and more lands were recovered from Arab rulers and Spanish law was being restored. It has its origins in the sixth century, authored by Roman citizens of the Iberian Peninsula who demanded individual rights from the ruling Visigoths. Over centuries, that rule of law ensured that every colonial settlement, including Escandon’s Nuevo Santander, by order of the King of Spain, had a charter and a chronicler of events,” Flores said, adding, “The Magna Carta remained in Latin for several centuries and thus its domain was of the nobility and the educated. El Fuero Juzgo had been a reality for the common citizens since its enactment in the sixth century and formed an integral part of the daily life of the people of the Iberian Peninsula and all of Spain’s colonies which were considered provinces of the mother country itself.” He continued. “The Zapata Museum will offer students and scholars an opportunity to learn about the Fuero Juzgo and how it gave order and liberty to our lives,” Flores said, adding, “We want those who experience the history of Zapata to come away with the knowledge that the way the colo-

D. Hildegardo and Olga Flores nial settlers carved their lives from this arid land had bearing on how other immigrant ranchers and farmers would establish their settlements. Their tools and tack, the taming of wild cattle, dry land farming, irrigation practices, water tribunals -- all those things evolved to ranching and farming practices still relevant today,” Flores said. The Museum’s exhibits will include a wealth of information on natural history, natural resources, and the riparian ecosysWWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


1. Introduction 2.1 Below and Above the Sea: the Geologic Formation of South Texas 2.2 Shaping Our Land (natural resources) 2.3 The Río Grande (river and tributaries) 2.4 The Natural Setting on the Eve of Human Occupation 3.1 The First People (Native Americans)--prehistoric 3.2 The First People— Coahuitecan and Borrado occupation 3.3 Living off the Land (how the native people lived) 4.1 Contact: Spanish Exploration and Settlement 4.2 The Great Migration— Escandon’s Nuevo Santander 4.3 José Vazquez Borrego, Ferry Across the Río Grande 4.4 Daily life in the colonial age 5. The Mexican Period 5.1 The Wars for Independence 5.2 The Texas Revolution and aftermath 5.3 Col. Antonio Zapata, Republic of the Rio Grande 6.1 The War with Mexico and its Impact on the Area 6.2 Creation of Zapata County 6.3 Cortina’s War &the Impact of the Civil War 6.4 A Changing Way of Life (Post Civil War) 7.1 Sheep, Goats, Cotton, and Oil 7.2 Mexican Revolution 7.3 Impact of World War I 7.4 Prohibition and the Great Depression 7. 1910 -1950

tem of the Río Grande. An exhibit titled “The Natural Setting on the Eve of Human Occupation” includes fossils, artifacts, text, imagery, and a hands-on/physical interactive object rail. That exhibit gives way to the story of the first occupants of the region and the hunter-gatherer lives of the Coahuiltecans and other Native Americans. The Spanish Exploration period features the establishment of the settlements of Nuevo Santander by José Vasquez Borrego -- Carrizo, Revilla, Dolores, and San Ygnacio; the use of a chalán (ferry) to move people, livestock, feed, and other goods from one side of the river to the other; and daily life in the colonial period. Additional exhibits and dioramas cover the Mexican Period, the Wars for Independence, the Texas Revolution, Col. Antonio Zapata and the Republic of the Río Grande, the War with Mexico and its impact on the area, the creation of Zapata County, Juan Cortina’s War, and the impact of the Civil War. Exhibits also depict post-Civil War ZapaWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

7.5 World War II Brings More Change 8: Oil & Natural Gas Exploration 8.1 Discovery of oil, 1919 8.2 Gas fields 8.3 The process of extraction 8.4 The impact of oil and gas on Zapata County Area 9: The Dam Conflict:

ta -- its ranching and agriculture and the impact of the Mexican Revolution, World War I, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. An exhibit area that spans the years 1910 to 1950 covers the discovery of oil in Zapata County in 1919, oil and gas exploration, and post-World War II changes in Zapata. An exhibit area dedicated to the single

Relocation of Zapata (1944-1955) 9.1 The Floodwater Treaty of 1944 9.2 Father Edward Bastien, the People’s Champion 9.3 Moving Towns—In a Hurry 9.4 The Fortunata Santos Story Area 10: The Modern Era (1955-Present) 10.1 Braceros and Immigration

most important historical event in Zapata County -- the relocation of Zapata town site and the construction of the Falcon Reservoir -- includes information on the 1944 U.S.-Mexico Water Treaty; Father Edward Bastien, the Catholic priest who championed the rights of the people of Zapata against the International Boundary and Water Commission; the moving of the

after World War II 10.2 The New Face of Zapata County— impact of Falcon Lake on the region 10.3 Buffel Grass and a changing agriculture 10.4 Impact of federal programs 11. The Past is Present, a Look Into Our Future

towns and villages of Ramireño, Uribeño, San Bartolo, La Libertad, Lopeño, El Clareño, El Capitaneño, El Sabinito, El Santo Niño, Lopeño, and Falcón; and the stories of some of the residents forced from their homes by rising reservoir waters. Continued on page 42

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Here my steps along this street resound In another street on which I hear my steps passing along this street in which only the mist is real. Octavio Paz

413 Davis

Architectural treasures abound where El 4 meets the St. Peter’s Historical District

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By MARíA EUGENIA GUERRA

’ve made it a point to experience early morning and on foot the part of town in which our office is located. Though I’ve walked a bit north to the railroad tracks after Washington Street, I’ve pretty much enjoyed exploring an area bound to the west by the old depot, south toward the river as far as Zaragoza, and east to Santa María. The waking world is at peace at 6:30 a.m. St. Peter’s Plaza is empty. There is little traffic, and the few stray dogs I encounter are not interested in my passing. I come across the old buildings of El Cuatro, many of them of the same vintage as the buildings of El Azteca, many of them in neglect and abandon, but quite a few lived-in and cared for. Some of them seem hardly habitable, and some have been subdivided into shabby apartments. The houses closer to the St. Peter’s Historical District are in far better repair and in the stewardship of some who value having an office or a home in century-old buildings. One of the most remarkable structures in an enclave bound by Iturbide to the south, Lincoln to the north, Main to the west, and Davis to the east is a two-story brick building at 1620 Iturbide (Iturbide and Main). Though its stucco has fallen from brick in large pieces, its wood is going in haste to dry rot, and the loss of its west facing porch, the building with its carriage house, stone-hooded windows, and an ojo del burro window on a rear add-on, cuts a grand profile – its parapets a crown that persists in defiance of its neglect. I would have guessed the building had been a school, but it turns out it was once an apartment house. Continued on page 36

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1620 Hidalgo

1620 Iturbide and Main

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1713 Lincoln

602 Main

Lulac # 12 1613 Hidalgo

1520 Hidalgo at Davis

Iturbide and Davis

La estacion 2019 Farragut WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

1608 Iturbide

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Continued from page 34 When 1620 Iturbide was documented with photographs in 1981, the building still featured a trees and greenery surrounded by a beautiful wrought iron fence befitting of a structure built in 1915. It has since fallen into serious disrepair. The owner of record is C.Y. Benavides. That out of sight sector of the city falls seemingly from the taxpayer funded purview for city services that tend to broken sidewalks, stormwater drains clogged with trash, and the pick-up of tires, junk, and refuse that foster Dengue fever and rat harborage. One of the most sadly neglected edifices of historical value, once the First United Methodist Church, is the 1613 Hidalgo home of LULAC #12. Shabby is a kind word for so sorry the care of so stately a building. Weathered gray plywood is nailed to the inside of the upstairs windows. The bottom windows have been cemented-in and an industrial steel door is now the sole entrance to the imposing red brick building from Hidalgo St. One of the building’s two grand Doric columns is missing, and there’s a giant hole in the rotten soffet. It’s a bar, what the hey, right? Why take pride in the fine lines of the building or respect that it is part of Laredo’s architectural history? In contrast with the infelicities and disregard, there are also many positives visible to anyone who enjoys vernacular architecture – well-painted homes built early in the last century (1805 Matamoros, 1720 Matamoros, 1608 Iturbide). There is, too, an admirable effort to save a small sandstone block structure at 1600 Iturbide (at Davis), to incorporate the building into two surrounding structures. The chimneys, the rooflines and eaves, transoms, the details of those old buildings that had been homes, storefronts, apartments, and tienditas all attest to who we were a century ago. They tell us what had value, function, and aesthetics. u

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1720 Matamoros

1805 Matamoros

1710 Lincoln

1615 Lincoln

518 Sta. Cleotilde

2000 Block Hidalgo WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


405 Davis

Zaragoza at Main

City of Laredo: Enforce your own ordinances! Taxpayers get a raw deal along the forgotten streets of El Cuatro – tires and trash, broken curbs, rat harborage.

Hidalgo at Davis

Broken curb, Lincoln at Sta. Rita

Rat harborage, 517 Vidaurri WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

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Cartoon by Charlie Loving

Opinion

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Opinion

John Peter Montalvo’s LISD

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Opinion

LISD’s July 27 board meeting: Montalvo’s bruja-ha-ha; snarky charged friction, petty exchanges are roadblocks to moving forward with the educational agenda

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Feature

Billions wasted in Mexico pushing failed U.S. drug war tactics By DANIEL ROBELO

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This story first appeared on August 5, 2010 on alternet.org. new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) makes painfully clear that the U.S. is wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on the drug war in Mexico, with little oversight, instead of investing in proven strategies to reduce drug demand and weaken Mexico’s powerful drug cartels. The GAO report states that, after two full years, the U.S. has no clear measures in place to determine if its $1.6 billion aid package to Mexico -- known as the Merida Initiative -- is having any impact whatsoever on the strength of the cartels. The report is the latest indication of failure in the war on drugs, of which there is crystal clear evidence. Nearly 25,000 people have been killed in Mexico because of prohibition-related violence since President Felipe Calderon unleashed the Mexican army against the cartels, who appear stronger than ever, three years ago. Yet drugs remain as widely used and easily available in the U.S. as ever. For this failure, Mexico pays a huge price. The past month has been one of the bloodiest on record: hundreds of homicides each week, 18 partygoers gunned down in the city of Torreon, a brazen car bomb attack in Ciudad Juárez -- now the world’s deadliest city, an attack on a drug treatment center -- which seems to be a growing trend -- in the city of Chihuahua

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that killed 19 people; and several high-profile political killings, including the assassination of Rodolfo Torre Cantú, a popular frontrunner in a gubernatorial campaign in the border state of Tamaulipas. News of Torre’s assassination shook the country, with experts saying it’s the most notable political murder in two decades. But like other Mexican politicians and law enforcement officials who have been slain, or who have been found guilty of corruption and collusion with the cartels, the assassination is proof that the failure of this drug war is claiming more than individual lives. It is destroying Mexico’s democratic institutions. There’s an even darker side to the Merida Initiative program. Not only do these funds lack basic standards of accountability, they are not linked to other important criteria -- namely, a respect for human rights. Human rights organizations have documented numerous abuses since the Mexican army was sent into the streets. Only 15 percent of Merida Initiative monies, however, are contingent upon upholding human rights standards. No matter how many tanks, helicopters, and bombs the U.S. provides, the Mexican military will not be able to outgun the cartels, whose profits increase daily because of the U.S. demand for drugs, which, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described on her first visit to Mexico, is “insatiable.” At least she and other members of the Obama administration have paid some lip service to reducing drug demand in the

U.S. through education, prevention, and treatment. But the recently released 2010 National Drug Control Strategy is more of the same: 64 percent of the federal drug control budget focuses on largely futile supply-side policies like eradication, interdiction, and enforcement (of which the Merida Initiative is a huge chunk), while only 36 percent is devoted to the demandside of the equation. In truth, the governments of the U.S. and Mexico are failing in every way: not spending money where it counts, and not evaluating how they do spend our money -- perhaps out of a knowledge that it’s all going down the drain anyways. Both governments continue to claim that the rising bloodshed is a sign of “weakness” on the part of cartels, but the reality in large parts of Mexico could not be bleaker. The easiest way for the U.S. to help Mexico is to reinvest this money into education, prevention, and treatment -- with real, numerical measurements for success. But more fundamentally, the U.S. needs to acknowledge that the violence in Mexico is related to the prohibition of

drugs, not drugs themselves -- just like the violent gangsters of Alcohol Prohibition. The only way forward, then, is to pursue alternatives to prohibition -- an exit strategy to the drug war. Activists and intellectuals across the hemisphere, including former presidents of Mexico and other Latin American countries, are calling for a new paradigm in U.S. drug policy, beginning with marijuana. In fact, Calderon’s predecessor, Vicente Fox, has openly called for legalizing marijuana, an idea that is gaining traction as a first step to more effectively combating the cartels. According to U.S. government officials, more than half of cartel profits may come from the marijuana trade. Legalizing marijuana, as Californians will have the opportunity to do in November, will go a long way towards weakening the cartels, greatly increasing the likelihood that future military operations against them will have measurable success. (Daniel Robelo is a research associate at the Drug Policy Alliance legal office. View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/ story/147645/.) u

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Photo by Richard Geissler

Legendary virtuoso accordionist dies Richard Geissler took this photo of accordion virtuoso Esteban “Steve” Jordan at a San Antonio performance in which Jordan opened for Los Lobos. Jordan died August 13. A native of Elsa and born to migrant worker parents, Jordan was blinded at birth by a midwife. The prolific conjunto accordionist whose work had great bearing on groups like Los Lobos was known as “El Parche” and was often referred to as “the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion.”

Continued from page 33 Exhibits of the Modern Era (1955-Present) covers farm workers and immigration after World War II; the impact of Falcon Lake on the region; how the introduction of Buffel Grass changed agriculture and ranching; and the impact of federal programs. The historic buildings of San Ygnacio will also be featured in exhibits. About 3,000 square feet of the museum are dedicated to exhibits, 500 to a gift shop, and another 500 to offices. The continuity and forward moving efforts of the Museum Board members to open the museum seem to contrast sharply with the inertia of those responsible for the museum’s repairs -- the county’s project director Mario Gonzalez Davis, architect Manuel Hinojosa of ERO Architects in McAllen, and construction firm pm2i who, if they responded at all to the Museum Board’s concerns for construction flaws of the finished facility, have been slow to respond. Completed in November 2009, the facility has remained empty for the last 10 months, the installation of its exhibits sidelined by the failure of all of the above to deal with repairs and final details. The Museum Board’s input for ar-

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chitectural detail, for what the structure should look like, was largely ignored by Gonzalez Davis and the architect, Dr. Flores said. “Our ideas were of very little consequence,” he added. Among the most glaring of the Museum campus’ infelicities (besides the lack of landscaping, poor drainage, erosion, the waterfall effect caused by the perforated steel plates covering the cantilever overhang, wooden expansion joints that have popped up from the sidewalks to invite a lawsuit) is the view west from the high windows that offer the vista of the greenery of a park. To either side of the windows, like ugly bookmarks that testify to failure to perform the task of demolition stipulated by the contractor, are two ugly square storage buildings that were never torn down. Dr. Flores said the buildings could be used for storage if their façade was stuccoed to integrate with the museum, or better yet that their brick be covered with native sandstone. It is difficult, all things considered, not to conclude that at the very least some in Zapata County government are remiss in letting a $2 million investment -- a tourist attraction that could also serve school children -- sit vacant since November 2009. u

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Feature

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Cosmetics boycott launched

aying sorry is not enough. That’s the message Mexican human rights and women’s activists are sending to the US-based cosmetics company MAC. At a recent Mexico City press conference, activists announced a boycott of MAC to protest the trendy company’s unveiling last month of a new product line that stirred memories of the Ciudad Juárez women’s murders. In flashy form, the lipsticks and nail polishes were dubbed “Ghost Town,” Quinceañera,” “Factory,” and “Juárez,” among others. It should be remembered that many of the femicide victims were teenagers and/or employees of maquiladora plants that assemble goods for export to the US and other foreign nations. MAC’s border-theme fashion roll-out whipped up a storm of controversy and prompted the company to issue an apology. “We are deeply sorry and apologize to everyone we offended, especially the victims, the women and girls of Juárez, and their families,” said MAC President John Demsey in a statement posted on the company’s Facebook page. “We have heard the response of concerned global citizens loud and clear and are doing our very best to right our wrong.” After a meeting with the federal government’s National Commission for the Eradication of Violence against Women (CONAVIM) and other Mexican officials late last month, MAC representatives pledged to donate money to help the cause against gender violence. “We know that we caused damage, we offended, and we recognize it,” said Miguel Franco, MAC director for Mexico. Franco said it wasn’t his firm’s goal to exploit the Ciudad Juárez violence. To the contrary, he said, MAC sought to raise social and environmental consciousness. MAC’s retractions and promises did not satisfy the Mexico-based Citizens Council for Gender Equity in Communications Media. Lourdes Barbosa, council president, dismissed MAC’s actions as a marketing ploy to expand sales. “The use of violence against women to sell cosmet-

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ics is not only offensive, but a risk to all,” Barbosa said. According to Barbosa’s organization, the MAC boycott has been endorsed by scores of groups in the Americas and Spain. Prior to the boycott announcement, at least one prominent Ciudad Juárez women’s activist expressed a different view of MAC’s intentions. Marisela Ortiz of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa, a long-established group which works with relatives of murdered and disappeared women, said she did not think MAC was trying to profit from the femicides. Ortiz contended that the company’s new products could actually raise awareness about the gender violence. But MAC’s agreement with CONAVIM touched another sore spot in Mexico. CONAVIM is the successor agency to the old Ciudad Juárez commission headed by Guadalupe Morfín. Founded by the Fox administration in 2003, the Juárez commission was charged with coordinating a united government response to the femicides and gender violence in the Mexican border city. Initially, however, Morfín’s commission did not even possess its own budget. Women’s advocates have questioned both the Morfin commission and CONAVIM for their effectiveness and expenditure of resources. According to the women’s news agency Cimacnoticias, more than 10,000 women were murdered in Mexico from 2000 to 2008. Cimacnoticias General Director Lucia Lagunes Huerta added her voice to the criticism of MAC, and questioned the agreement with CONAVIM at a time when the Mexican government has yet to comply with a 2009 sentence handed down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights over the murders of three young women found slain in a Ciudad Juárez cotton field almost nine years ago. “When the levels of violence that we experience in Mexico are so high, when violence against women continues growing in the face of such impunity, a campaign that alludes to the death of women is

not needed, not in name or in cosmetics,” Lagunes wrote. The journalist noted that a similar marketing campaign was launched in 2007 by the MD shoe company in Guatemala and El Salvador, countries which also have suffered numerous femicides in recent years. Despite the creation of new commissions and special prosecution units, women’s murders have soared in Ciudad Juárez. Almost like clockwork, new posters of disappeared young women shroud the downtown streets. Many of the killings during the last three years have been linked to the so-called narco war, which has torn apart the city. Since July 26, at least 10 women have been among scores of murder victims. On Tuesday, August 3, seven women were reported murdered. The victims included 20-year-old Claudia Ivonne Guardado, who was eight months pregnant when she was killed along with other family members in the presence of two small children. In a separate incident, 15-year-old Ana Karen Santana was found sexually abused and shot to death. On the afternoon of August 5, a young woman walking with a small child was gunned down in a government-built housing subdivision. “Women don’t need apologies, and it is necessary to yank the publicity that foments stereotypes and normalizes the violence against us,” Lagunes wrote. “What really is needed is a genuine policy that prevents and sanctions violence against women, a State that governs for its citizens, and leaves behind words for actions.” Additional sources: ArrobaJuárez.com. August 6, 2010. El Diario de Juárez, August 4, 5 and 6, 2010. El Sur/Agencia Reforma, August 5, 2010. Article by Pedro Briones. La Jornada, August 3 and 4, 2010. Articles by Bertha Teresa Ramirez and AFP. Cimacnoticias.com, July 29 and August 3, 2010. Articles by Gladis Torres Ruiz, Lucia Lagunes Huerta and editorial staff. Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2010. Article by Danny Hernandez. El Paso Times, July 27, 2010. Article by Diana Washington Valdez. u

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Feature The FSE light show

Glitter Gulch

The glitter and sound of the Fremont Street Experience

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By LEM LONDOS RAILSBACK

onventioneers, professional seminar attendees, and just plain tourists -- national and international -make their annual pilgrimages to “the Strip” of Las Vegas. Effectively located in the unincorporated areas of Paradise and Winchester, Nevada, the Strip’s modern hotel-casinos with their dramatic architecture and over 67,000 rooms provide a mecca for the devotees. Early successes of hotel-casinos built in the area during the 1930s and 1940s caught the eye of William Richard Wilkerson with his many projects -- Hollywood Reporter (1930), Vendome Wine and Spirits (1933), Café Trocadero (1934), Ciro’s (1940), The Flamingo Hotel (1945), La Rue (1950), and other efforts. Since that time, Big Business has come to town and transformed the area into the now-world-famous “Strip.” However, many of those conventioneers, attendees, and tourists miss the wonderful Fremont Street Experience (FSE) situated downtown in the old Las Vegas. The historic Fremont Street neighborhood held the vintage, rustic, and “real” casinos, hotels, and restaurants of the old Las Vegas glamour. As the Strip grew in hotels and trade, the old neighborhood lost leadership for a while. Then, in order to draw more visitors to the “ailing old town,” a cooperative venture by 10 hotel-casinos conceived and funded the Fremont Street Experience (FSE). Because the FSE is considered a city park by the City of Las Vegas, the City has also contributed. In 2007, a streetscape effort of $ 5.5 million by the City and the FSE combo contributed pedestrian-friendly streets, wider sidewalks, lighted gateways, special landscaping, four enormously tall neon signs, and other improvements to help revive the glamour of old downtown. The FSE combo includes Bin-

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Dancing to the light show ion’s Gambling Hall and Hotel, Boyd Gaming Corporation, Fitzgerald’s Casino Hotel, Four Queens Hotel and Casino, Golden Gate Hotel and Casino, Golden Nugget Las Vegas, Las Vegas Club Hotel and Casino, Lady Luck Hotel Casino, Fremont East, and Vegas Vic. I was happily and supremely surprised as I waited to cross the street from the FSE going south and discovered a voice from out of nowhere announce to the blind man with his seeing-eye dog standing next to me that it was now safe to cross the street. A large pedestrian mall, five blocks of Freemont Street to the west, Glitter Gulch (named for all the neon lights), and parts of several adjoining streets form the FSE. Situated high over the mall is a huge barrel vault canopy, 90 feet high and about 1,500 feet long (four city blocks or five football fields). Nightly shows, beginning at dusk, are displayed via computers onto the canopy while the lights of the nearby hotelcasinos are turned down. Mary Kozlowski, architect and native of Las Vegas, conceived the gigantic light show under the canopy. The show’s projection area is the largest screen in the world with nearly 13

million synchronized LED lamps. Each night’s batch of visual spectaculars is accompanied, of course, by rocking music. The entrees may include the “American Pie,” the “Las Vegas Stratosphere Insanity Ride,” the “Las Vegas Viva Video Big Screen,” the “Bellagio fountain show,” “My heart will go on,” or any of several other stirring themed-performances while the audiences stand below and look up in amazement and appreciation. And some of them even dance during the show. I encountered a little girl dancing with her grandfather and obviously having a wonderful time. The grandfather, I learned in talking with him between light shows, used to live in Las Vegas but now lives in another state and comes to visit his son and his family several times each year. As another light show began, a pretty character appeared and I blurted out, “Isn’t that Carol Doda?” I was amazed that I had to explain to the grandfather who Carol Doda was. After all, he looked as old as or, even, older than me. After the show, the lights come back on, and the viewers resumed their shopping and other activities at the kiosks located below the

canopy in the mall and in the many surrounding casinos, stores, and steakhouses. Nearby is the Neon Museum, which houses many of the old signs previously used by the historic Las Vegas downtown casinos and restaurants. Almost every night, live bands perform on the two permanent concert stages inside the mall. Special attractions hosted by the FSE include the NASCAR weekend’s Race Jam, the Miss Hawaiian Tropic Pageant, the Downtown Hoedown, the Las Vegas Bike Fest, several parades and car shows, and the city’s annual New Year’s Party. And, of course, as you remember from my earlier article on “Pardon me, Senorita, but I just don’t get your jargon,” the initial safety inspection of the vehicles participating in General Tire and SNORE’s (Southern Nevada Off-road Racing Enthusiasts) revitalized Mint 400 is held at the FSE site. Also, the Miss Mint 400 is crowned in the same area. “Wonder Woman” Linda Carter and Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White are former winners. Throughout the day and through the canopy show at night, the whole FSE provides shopping opportunities galore, free entertainment, and awesome canopy shows. It provides a safe, convenient, and exciting place to shop during the day and night. The nearby parking plaza at the eastern end of Fremont Street provides 1,430 spaces. In 2009, 18.7 million visitors experienced the FSE. Amazing to me and lucky for you, you can actually view -- virtually, of course -- several of the various canopy shows if you simply open the following link: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Im4R3uC8_4Y. If you view these shows, you will, I believe, be truly astounded and pleased at your access to a great series of shows. Even better, on your next trip to Las Vegas, take the Duce or any other city bus down to the Fremont Street Experience and enjoy the shows in a live and lively fashion. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Feature

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hile the recent ruling by federal Judge Susan Bolton that suspended four central provisions of Arizona SB 1070 might bring some modicum of relief to people confronted with the possibility of being stopped by local police and asked for their citizenship papers, it left intact other sections of the law that immigrant advocates want tossed out, including criminalizing the transportation of undocumented persons and making it a crime to block traffic while soliciting work. “We really need SB 1070 to be done away with. We still see it as huge problem in Arizona,” said Opal Tometi, spokesperson for the Arizona-based immigrant rights group Puente Movement. In a phone interview with Frontera NorteSur, Tometi said the roots of the problem extend to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program that allows local officers to assume the functions of immigration law enforcers. “We have to get rid of SB 1070 and 287(g), Tometi insisted. The Arizona activist said Puente Movement has formed community defense committees to educate residents about their legal rights and organize neighborhood cop watches. National opponents of undocumented immigration, who viewed SB 1070 as a model to emulate, are reconsidering the type of legislation that could be introduced in other state legislatures. In states including Ohio, Idaho, and Minnesota, “SB 1070 Lite” bills could emerge, modified to conform with the clauses that were not initially rejected by Judge Bolton. “I think we need to make sure that we comply with what the federal courts order,” said Courtney Combs, a Republican lawmaker from Ohio who planned to introduce a SB-1070 like measure in the Midwestern state. Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies said SB 1070 supporters would adopt a waitand-see approach while Arizona does the “heavy work” in the courts. In addition to the Obama administration’s case against SB 1070 for usurping federal authority, several other lawsuits against SB 1070 have been filed. As of August 3, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s official website claimed 31,494 people have donated $1,455.672.60 to defend Arizona’s immigration laws. Despite the refusal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to fast-track Arizona’s WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

SB1070 lite? appeal of Judge Bolton’s ruling in the United States vs. the State of Arizona case, Brewer’s office is keeping the immigration issue boiling on the front burner. Brewer blasted a leaked document from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that outlined how the Obama administration could issue more green cards to undocumented residents as a way of getting the immigrant legalization process moving forward in the continued absence of congressional action. In a statement, Brewer’s office explicitly linked the issue of undocumented immigration with drug smuggling and terrorism. “The amnesty memo obtained by US Senator Grassley is very disturbing,” Brewer said. “I hope the Obama administration would first be exploring and implementing plans to secure our nation’s borders and put an end to the daily operations of narco-terrorist groups in the United States…” In the lead up to SB 1070’s July 29 kickin date, a climate of insecurity and panic was indeed reportedly gripping some quarters in Arizona. Scattered reports of undocumented migrants fleeing Arizona, especially to the neighboring states of California and New Mexico, sprinkled the press. Hector Ocampo Abarca, honorary counsel for the Mexican city of Acapulco said 10,000 people originally from the state of Guerrero had relocated to Los Angeles from Arizona. “Family members, friends, and places that could help like missions are giving them shelter,” Ocampo said. “Thousands more are expected.” Paulino Rodriguez Reyes, migrant area coordinator for the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center in Guerrero’s indigenous La Montaña region, said his organization was carefully observing the Arizona situation. Rodriguez urged local radio stations to monitor developments and inform listeners. Migrants from La Montaña tend to pass through Arizona on their way to California, Alabama, North Carolina, and New York. Interviewed in the Sonora border town of Nogales across from Arizona, a pair of migrants said the looming implementation of SB 1070 forced them to return to Mexico. “I was afraid of getting deported and then punished,” said Nicolas Mendez, who added he had two US citizen sons living in Arizona. “It is better to return, so I

could emigrate later.” On the other hand, many people are determined to stick it out and resist in Arizona, said Monica Ruiz, national organizer for the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition. Ruiz participated in last-minute community organizing and Phoenix demonstrations against SB 1070. Some Anglos slammed doors or tossed leaflets back in organizers’ faces, but many Latinos were supportive and welcomed the activists, Ruiz said. Immersed in a deep economic crisis, Arizona-especially the Phoenix areais “polarized,” Ruiz said. Half a dozen counter-demonstrators showed up at an anti-SB 1070 protest with guns, Ruiz said. “It’s a scene I’ve never seen anywhere else,” she added. “It’s like a war zone.” At a New Mexico forum, Ruiz said Judge Bolton’s decision gives immigrants and their supporters some breathing room to organize against racism and economic demonizing. “We’re all demanding to build a broad multinational movement against these attacks against immigrants,” Ruiz said, “because at the end of the day, nobody wants to live in a police state.” Others of Latino heritage are now wary of traveling through Arizona. Early on the morning of Thursday, July 29, the day the Arizona law was due to take effect, Orlando Pardo was driving his 16-year-old sister Jazmin from Los Angeles to visit a brother in Albuquerque. Concerned about her children traveling in Arizona, Pardo’s mother had provided a notarized statement giving permission for the minor Jazmin to travel with her older brother. “That’s how worried my mom was about the Arizona thing,” Pardo told Frontera NorteSur. While cruising on Interstate 40 west

of Flagstaff, Arizona, Pardo said he was pulled over by an Arizona state trooper for driving four miles over the speed limit. The officer eventually handed Pardo a written warning, but not before asking personal questions about the destination of the driver and his sister, and hinting about work authorizations. “He didn’t use those words, but that was apparent to me,” Pardo said. “I was thinking about wearing my ‘Legalize Arizona’ t-shirt, but I’m kind of glad I didn’t,” Pardo joked. Anticipating the drive home to Los Angeles, Pardo added: “I will try to stay well below the speed limit.” Meanwhile, Arizona activists have organized a legal defense committee for scores of people arrested in Maricopa County anti-SB 1070 protests, including Puente Movement leader Salvador Reza, who was detained by deputies across the street from a civil disobedience action at Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail, even though Reza was not directly involved in the blockade, according to activists. B Loewe, volunteer for the Puente Movement and the National Day Laborer Organizing Committee, said court proceedings are scheduled to begin soon for defendants accused of obstructing public thoroughfares. All the demonstrators who participated in civil disobedience have been released, he added. Additional sources: La Jornada/Notimex, July 29 and August 2, 2010. El Sur, July 30, 2010. Articles by Xavier Rosado and Jesus Rodriguez Montes. Colorlines.com (Frontera NorteSur (FNS) is an on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico. For a free electronic subscription email fnsnews@ nmsu.edu.) u

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Seguro Que Sí

Contact Henri D. Kahn with your insurance questions at (956) 725-3936, or by fax at (956) 791-0627, or by email at hkahn@ kahnins.com

One letter words?

N

I was looking for a job in Houston and responded to a help wanted ad for a salesman to represent a national company. I didn’t get the job because of the “K” and “J” word, which led the interviewer to assume I was of the Jewish religion. He knew a Jewish family with the name Kahn and the company sold pork products. Next I had an interview with a pharmaceutical company that, among other drugs, sold a birth control drug. The “C” word disqualified me because the interviewer was not permitted to hire Catholics. I remember how the “B” word for Belgians, in the eyes of a small town in Illinois where one of my aunts lived represented white trash and no one wanted them in their neighborhood. The “B” word was significant for my in laws in San Antonio when they were looking for their first house. They were not permitted to buy property in a certain desirable neighborhood, because the Belgians didn’t want any trashy Mesquins in their neighborhood. Now, the M,J,K,C,B words are not relevant to discrimination. The interpretation of the “N” word is demeaning to AfricanAmericans, because to them it signifies discrimination and disdain for people. I have empathy for the Blacks in our country and say to them, “This too shall pass.” u

Happy Anniversary Catalina and Reynaldo Reyna recently celebrated 10 years of marriage with a western style reception and dance at the Laredo Civic Center. Guests from as far as Dallas and Monterrey arrived to help them celebrate.

Photo by Jorge Medina

o doubt that currently the “N” word is a no-no. How about the impact of other one-letter words? Being a devoted word person, I browsed Webster’s New World Dictionary in search of one-letter words, but alas, there wasn’t a single one-letter word in any one of the 1,670 pages. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks! How about one-letter words that have had an impact me? The “m” word was my first experience with one-letter words. I was 13 years old when Tía Maria, Tío Cristobal, my mother, and my sisters set out to spend a week at desolate South Padre Island. Yes, it was desolate in 1948. Anyway, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Harlingen. Just before we went into the place, my mother told Tía Maria to speak English, only English, because of the discrimination towards, Mexicans. Tía Maria, who was a real maverick, announced to all of us that not only was Spanish to be spoken, but she expected us to speak only Spanish during our meal. The manager of the restaurant told us he would serve us but asked us to please refrain from speaking Spanish because his customers were Anglos, and he didn’t want any trouble. Tía Maria, in flawless English, stood up and declared to the patrons “Shame on all of you,” and we left the place. The manager lost 10 hungry customers.

Courtesy Photo

By Henri Kahn

UHS Fish Camp Tour guide Rebecca Guerrero (far right) led incoming United High School freshmen Alfonzo Galvan, Ruben Villarreal, Elizabeth Barberena, and Jasmine Speer on a tour of their new school as part of the ninth grade Fish Camp. The event allowed for students to meet administrators, counselors, and staff.

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Movie Review

Inception: we are such stuff as dreams are made on

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By CORDELIA BARRERA

riter and director Christopher Nolan’s latest sci-fi thriller, Inception is designed like a dream. Like dreams, the film is symbolic, labyrinthine, and complex. It’s not impenetrable, but because it’s based on a kind of dream logic where past, present, and future worlds collide and intertwine, a viewer is quickly forced to relinquish all customary ties to narrative, setting, and even character. At any given time during the film, viewers are embedded within two to four layers of reality, each with its own structure, narrative arc, and time continuum. In the world of Inception, the lower the dream level, the more time protracts; so, a minute in the “real” world might equal 10 minutes in the dream, an hour in the dream within the dream, and years in the lower levels where sleeping dreamers may themselves dream, or exist within multiple dreams. Dream levels and dream state rules complicate Inception’s plot. Corporate raider Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) specializes in “extraction,” diving into the mind of a sleeping person to extract his or her secrets. The process involves dream sharing and is achieved as extractors and their “targets” sleep in close proximity to one another while connected by a device that administers a sedative and a shared dream world built on a dreamer’s mental projections. Extractors like Cobb are fluent in alternately perceiving and conceiving dream landscapes, as Cobb explains to the newest member of his team, architecture student Ariadne (Ellen Page). Ariadne is crucial for at least three reasons: to build kinetic dreamscapes, to help ground Cobb to reality, and finally, to help explain difficult concepts to the audience. Cobb’s new client, Saito (Ken Watanabe) is interested in inception, the planting of an idea in a business rival’s head, rather than extraction. The goal of inception is to influence a target’s thinking. Here, the target is Saito’s business competitor’s son, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). The goal is to have Cobb’s team infiltrate Fischer’s subconscious via his dreams in order that Fischer eventually change the course of his waking actions. But things get sticky during inception, as our minds

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react defensively to foreign ideas, just as our immune systems react to pathogens. What’s more, high-level and vulnerable targets like Saito and Fischer have, themselves, been trained to imagine scenarios that combat such invasions, and these take the shape of subconscious mercenaries, impenetrable fortresses, and extreme weather conditions; these counter-moves drive the awesome CGIenhanced visual makeup of the film. As the story develops, we meet Cobb’s late wife, Mallorie (Mal). Mal and Cobb spent many (dream) years in limbo forging a world. Although Mal is dead, she contin-

ues to haunt Cobb’s dreams, often sabotaging his missions -- this is part of the reason Ariadne is recruited; Cobb’s subconscious is not to be trusted. Mal is a projection, and Cobb’s memories of Mal bring to the fore substantive metaphysical and psychological ideas about reality vs. illusion. Inception is a tough film to understand, but like convoluted and incoherent dreams, it makes for an intoxicating ride. The script, 10 years in the making, is mind-bending, the visual architecture of the film is ingenious, and the electronic score by Hans Zimmer is mesmerizing. Nolan, who also wrote and directed The Dark Knight (2008), and Memento (2000), challenges but also instinctively intuits our deepest collective fears, wishes, and anxieties. At the core of Inception are colossal psychological puzzles -- the kind that Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and William Shakespeare wrote about -- that mirror the fantastic architectural mazes constructed by the film’s dreamers. The world of Inception unfolds like none you’ve seen before, given the perspective-shifting pulse of the film and the eerie metaphors and associations that arise from the various dreamers’ subconscious projections. Inception’s uncanny undertones brought to my mind the works of two incomparable 19th-century poets: Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson, who composed poetic landscapes built on the staggering power of dreams and their connection to our waking lives. These artists explored the complexity of the human mind to elevate our subconscious demons beyond any bogeyman we might encounter in the physical world, and that’s what Nolan has so skillfully and cerebrally done in Inception. How do we distinguish reality from the terrors of our own subconscious mind? How and why do some ideas germinate and replicate almost virally in our minds? To what extent is our waking life entwined in our dreams? How do our memories shape our physical realities? These are just some of the huge questions that stoke the mind and heart of Inception, an exceptional film full of signs and wonders, and not to be missed. (Former Laredoan Cordelia Barrera is an Assistant Professor of US Multiethnic Literatures in the English Department at Texas Tech University.) u

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Feature By BELINDA RAMON

Denise Ferguson is newly arrived in Laredo. A Rhode Islander by birth, she and her husband retired to Laredo to be near their family. She can be reached by email at denise291.1@juno.com.

Finding my people: el Teatro Chicano

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ere I was thinking I was the only Chicana in Laredo. Then last summer I found my people. My dear friend and thespian mentor Jeannie Lopez -known by our small clique of community theater actors as “la J Lo,” called and sweetly and without a single greeting, demanded that I not turn down a request she was about to make of me. I giggled quietly and waited for the full explanation of her appeal. I was pleasantly surprised by her call to action to join her and several others who had completed an independent summer writing workshop at Laredo Community College that involved writing 10-minute dramas. She was hoping I could play a role in at least one of the nine dramas scheduled to be showcased in the fall. Since I had not been involved in the dramatic arts for several years due

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to my schooling in a doctoral program and because of personal tribulations, I agreed to join them for a breath of fresh air and a change of personal scenery. Immediately I learned that I had been drawn into a unique group of writers who proudly identified themselves as Chicanos. Until then, I was the only person I knew who openly admitted to being one. After several decades of schooling and political associations, I remained unaware of others from Laredo who identified themselves as Chicano and embraced our cultural and political heritage. I was more amazed at those who were involved in this project -- well-known poet and painter Raquel Valle-Senties; journalist Tricia Cortez; attorney Armando X. Lopez; and writer and college professor Carlos Nicolas Flores, who spearheaded the project. The group completed its first eight-week playwriting workshop

of its kind and was in the process of setting up auditions for the October production. I was cast as the grandmother in Armando X. Lopez’s comedy Julio’s Night in the Dark, which dealt with the mature theme of a mother’s choice for breast enhancement. I also played a middle-aged woman returning from a visit to Nuevo Laredo, who was held in traffic with a friend on International Bridge I in the play by Raquel Valle-Senties titled Nothing to Declare. Both plays were part of the workshop’s nine original dramas that brought to life modern and familiar issues of our culture rarely addressed on stage and by characters that look and talk like us. Laredo audiences were astounded with the acting and the writing of the festival’s participants. The plays, three a night, were presented at the Laredo

Little Theater in October. We played to sold out shows and audiences that were impressed with our production, and we were invited to perform for the faculty and staff members of Laredo Community College during their convocation ceremony in January 2010. One month later, we found ourselves filmed by the Los Angeles-based Chicano filmmaker Jesus Treviño, who included two of our original plays in the documentary Visions of Aztlan. I came to know many of the writers and artists residing in my hometown and unexpectedly discovered audiences who are enthusiastically prepared and willing to share the contemporary cultural experiences that they identify as Chicano. Fellow theater lovers, mark your calendars for the Second Annual Festival del Teatro Chicano in October. Va ser tremendo. Details to follow. Hay te watcho! u

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The Mystery Customer BY THE mystery Customer

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How do you say Mason Jars in Spanish, and why do I need to? HEB downtown restrooms: unattended disease factories

ow do you say Mason Jars in Spanish, and why do I need to? Don’t mis-read me here. I’m not, and how could I be on this border, a person who believes that to live and work here you must speak English. But after once again running into a WalMart employee who couldn’t understand what I was asking for and who asked me, “Don’t you speak Spanish?” I went into journalist mode and asked her how she’d gotten the job if she didn’t speak English. I asked her how she’d made it past a face-to-face job interview. She said there had been no job interview, that the application had been made by computer. I didn’t inquire at WalMart to verify how they hire, but I did wonder about how she had fared at new employee orientation, how she understood employee policies, what she got out of staff meetings, and if she even knew what she was stocking on shelves. I wondered, too, about the folks in personnel or management who had to have known that she and other employees of the company have very limited abilities to understand and speak English. The WalMart employee said, “Aquí está Abel. El entiende inglés.” Abel asked, “Qué se te ofrece?” By then I was able to come up with a description of a Mason Jar in Spanish. “Ahí donde están los sartenes,” he directed me. He knew exactly what a Mason Jar was. Let me add that the no-hablo-inglés answer to a query in English is a common occurrence at a couple of the HEB stores in Laredo. The MC was recently pleasantly surprised by the actions of the manager at Luby’s on Calton. When the MC recently dined at his location, she left an item on her table. As she and her friend were pulling out of the parking lot, he came running out, item in hand. It wasn’t an expensive or even sentimental item, but he and his staff noticed it and were determined to return it. The MC offers her thanks. While the MC was more than willing to give the folks at the Laredo Animal Protective Society the benefit of the doubt, especially considering how hard it must be to work with so many animals that are either abused, abandoned, or malnourished, she was surprised at just how unfriendly some of the staff members have been during the adoption process. The MC recently WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

adopted a sponsored kitten (meaning some generous donor had contributed the funds for her adoption), and she’s had to return to the shelter twice for her kitten’s follow up vaccines. Both times the staff has been less than cordial. The MC witnessed a couple concerned about the well-being of seven kittens they could not afford to take care of be rebuffed by shelter staff. They asked where they could take their kittens to ensure they would get a good home and not be killed or put in harm’s way, and all the woman behind the desk could say was, “We charge $15 each. Or you can call animal control and they’ll take them away.” Likewise, when the MC asked about the new microchip for the cat, she was told to just go to the vet, despite reports that the animal shelter was “cooperating” with the City of Laredo in providing the microchips. The MC wishes that Laredo could get on the ball with a new no-kill shelter. Perhaps if the shelter were better funded, the staff wouldn’t be so unpleasant. Beware buying aquarium fish from WalMart on Loop 20. The MC recently witnessed an employee removing fish from filthy water and algae-lined walls. Although the customer buying the fish didn’t seem to mind, the employee was embarrassed. The MC was surprised any fish were left alive. The Subway store downtown between HEB and the cop shop offers some great people watching moments from its span of windows, but the folks who run it are pretty disorganized. Why offer hot dogs if you have no intention of cooking them and serving them to the kids who want them? There are no restrooms in the restaurant, forcing clients to walk into the filthiest restrooms in the universe at the HEB next door. Corporate HEB should be ashamed of these unattended public disease factories. The MC found a dream nursery in Spicewood, Texas. Just off Hwy. 71 (17 miles west of Bee Cave near Austin) and built around an old white farmhouse, Spicewood Spines succulent and cacti nursery offered up a neat variety of unusual specimen plants – lots of Haworthia, Gastera, Euphorbia, and uncommon Aloe. The owners, Mark and Kathryn Rehfield, are well versed in the art of raising low maintenance plants that need little water. With their rescued Greyhound Mikey, the Rehfields also offer some beautiful original art of Texas native plants and landscapes in

the gallery inside the farmhouse which features tall windows, wooden floors, machimbre walls, and great displays of jewelry and pottery. What a neat place to stumble upon. See them at www.spicewoodspines.com Slamming the “door” on your customers probably isn’t the best way to attract repeat customers, but it certainly isn’t the way to treat long-time and faithful customers. The MC has been filling her prescriptions at the HEB Northcreek pharmacy for as long as she can remember, so she was offended when one of the staff recently pulled the “closed” sign down on her as she drove up to the drive-through at exactly 8:45 p.m. After waiting in line behind one other car, and with another car behind, the MC drove up, hoping to fill a prescription she needed. No such luck. Manager Peter apologized the following day when the MC brought it to his attention, and he promised that was not how they treat customers. The MC hopes he wasn’t just paying her lip service. Walgreens has drive-through service, after all. Have you ever seen any workers more sour than those at Fuddruckers? Unhappy faces, total disinterest, and repeated orders and names seem par for the course at the burger joint. The MC knows everyone can’t be happy all the time, but when your burger comes with a side of dissatisfied disdain, you begin to worry all might not be right. Cheer up, folks! Next time the MC smiles

at you, it won’t kill you to smile back. She promises. Unless there is something funky in your meat. The MC received word from City Council member Hector García that the light on Clark Boulevard and Newport Street might finally begin functioning. The MC, who lives in Eastwoods and passes the darkened light daily, has heard complaints from numerous people in the area who have been wondering why numerous other lights have sprung up around town and have been turned on before this one. According to Garcia, the light happens to fall under the purview of the Texas Department of Transportation. While the City used its own funds to construct the light, they’ve been battling the State’s red tape. He said the light should be functional by the time the recreational center located smack dab on the other side of Newport opens. In October. What the MC wants to know is why they built it in the first place if they knew they’d have to wait? That thing has been a tease for close to a year. The City of Laredo crew installing a fire hydrant at 15 Royale Circle has promised to repair a sprinkler head they destroyed a few weeks ago. The homeowner is still waiting. The MC reports excellent auto and truck service at J.R. Martinez on the Zapata Hwy. Stacy went over and beyond what was asked of her. Those are good folks. u

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Texas A&M International University

TAMIU music education professor provides teachers ESL music activities

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By MIKA AKIKUNI

Courtesy Photo

eachers from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana attended a lecture by Texas A&M International University professor of music education and guitar, Dr. Gilberto D. Soto, at the DLM Summer Institute held in Austin in July. “I presented several hands-on music games, songs and movement activities for ESL / ELL pre-kinder and kindergarten students, as well as early elementary students,” explained Soto. The DLM Summer Institute provides early childhood and elementary bilingual teachers the latest educational trends. “Many of these teachers use my bilingual music books, so they were a bit familiar with my publications and music activities,” added Soto.   Soto wrote primary and intermediate versions of Fiesta de Canciones, bilingual music books currently in use by 63 percent of the public schools in Texas and more than 50 percent of schools nationwide. Soto also

participated in the opening and closing general session as one of the presenters. He has upcoming in-service training sessions in El Paso and San Antonio. This fall, MacMillan/McGraw-Hill will release Soto’s arrangements of the bilingual music songs used for their national K-8 math series. Soto is the author of Music of Our World, México, and co-author of Multilevel Strategies for English Language Learners, the national music series, “Spotlight on Music,” and the national bilingual reading series, Tesoros. He has also written several articles for Music Express, reviewed elementary music education textbooks, and co-authored the national reading and mathematics series for Macmillan/McGraw-Hill. Soto holds a B.A. in education from Universidad Autónoma del Noreste, a B.A. in music from Abilene Christian University, and M.M. and Ph.D. in music education from University of Southern Mississippi. Soto teaches early childhood music classes, supervises the guitar and bass studies, and directs the TAMIU Guitar Ensemble.            

Kayaking the Río Grande This flotilla of kayakers enjoyed a day on the river, putting in at Fr. McNaboe Park and taking out at the Río Grande Plaza. Carlos Mariano Guerra and his cousin Yiyo Ramirez Navarrete are pictured in the kayak at far left, adjacent to Victor Hugo and Armengol Guerra IV. Ricardo Guerra and Hugo García man the third kayak. The group was outfitted by Big River Outfitters.

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Dr. Minita Ramirez

Ramírez named TAMIU’s vice president for student success Dr. Minita Ramírez, previously dean of student success at TAMIU, has been named vice president for student success. Hre appointment was approved by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents at their July board meeting. Her position becomes effective Sept. 1. In her new position, Ramírez will oversee operation of the newly opened, $25 million University Success Center and units including admissions, financial aid, recreational sports, recruitment and school relations, student affairs, student counseling services, student health services, athletic compliance, and the university registrar. In addition, she will work in tandem with academic support services and residential life to plan and manage a strong freshman-year program and a safe living environment for all students. TAMIU President Dr. Ray Keck said Ramírez’s appointment is crucial as the University continues to experience unprecedented growth with its enrollment having surpassed 6,000 students and an incoming freshmen class of more than 1,000 students. “Since she joined the administrative staff as executive director for enrollment management in 2001, Dr. Ramírez has truly transformed the way TAMIU understands outreach, recruitment, retention, and student success,” Dr. Keck said, “Our continuing strong outcomes in the first two parts of Closing the Gaps, Participation and Success, are a direct result of her leadership, skillful planning and unerring knowledge of the community we serve.” Ramírez said she feels honored by the appointment. “It is an honor and a privilege

for me to serve the TAMIU community,” Ramírez said, “Equally satisfying is the awesome opportunity to work alongside people who are dedicated to making this university a life-altering experience for the students of TAMIU and to be a part of the greatest change agent of Laredo’s history.” Ramírez joined TAMIU in 2001. A Laredo native, Ramírez holds her doctoral degree in educational administration from Capella University. Her master’s in education administration was earned at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She received her bachelor’s degree in secondary education (political science and history) from TAMIU. Earlier this year, Ramírez was selected to join an elite network of more than 2,500 women as a member of the Leadership Texas Class of 2010. She was the only Laredoan selected for this year’s class by the Foundation for Women’s Resources.   Active in community service, Ramírez served as member of the U.S. Department of Education Negotiated Rulemaking Committee–Higher Education Reauthorization Act Team V in 2009. She also served as Washington Birthday Celebration Association President in 2008 and was an association member from 1997 to 2009. She has been a Society of Martha Washington member since 2007. Other organizations she has served include the International Good Neighbor Council, Laredo Boys and Girls Club, Laredo Commission for Women, Laredo Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, and Border Olympics. For more information, please contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at 326.2180. University office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MondayFriday. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Laredo Community College

LCC unveils “new face” on the World Wide Web gree and certificate programs are encouraged to contact the LCC Distance Learning Department by telephone at 721-5211 or via email at distance@laredo.edu.

By STEVE TREVIÑO JR. AND ROGER SANCHEZ JR.

LCC introduces new online degrees, certificates this fall What began as a budding effort by LCC to be the first local higher education institution to teach from a distance has blossomed dramatically in a short time span. In 1998, Distance Learning at LCC began with an annual enrollment of 83 students. Since then, the innovative learning format has taken off like wildfire at LCC, as noted by the fiscal year 2009 enrollment of 8,928, which represents the total number of seats taken in a distance learning setting for the combined regular/summer sessions. And now, the LCC Distance Learning Department has reached another significant milestone. Beginning this fall the sky is truly the limit for local and area collegians, as LCC makes it possible for graduates to earn the majority, or a significant portion, of course credits online for several associate degree and certificate programs. With 125 different online course subjects available to choose from, LCC has been granted reaffirmation and approval from the Southern Association of Colleges WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

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aredo Community College has a brand new look on the world wide web with a new public website that was recently launched. Deirdre Reyna, director of the Marketing and Public Relations Office, said that the redesigned website is the result of a major collaborative effort led by the entire campus body. “After several years, hundreds of hours of work, and assistance from across the college community, Laredo Community College is pleased to announce the launch of its new and improved website,” Reyna said. “The redesign is based on input from LCC employees, from our students, and from our community members, along with best practices found on award-winning college and university websites.” She added that the new site has a completely new look and feel, with new navigation and many new features. All public college offices, departments, and instructional areas are now represented through a unified look, which will help visitors easily navigate the site. To check out LCC’s new website, log on to www.laredo.edu.  

LCC’s Radiologic Technology Program LCC’s Radiologic Technology Program received its first ever, eight-year accreditation from the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. The program was recognized for having an “excellent review rating” by the committee. It is one of the top 10 programs in the U.S. Pictured, Oscar Gomez, LCC RadTec Program director, points to an x-ray of a human hand as sophomore students Vanessa Quintanilla, left, and Elizabeth Anne Rojas look on. and Schools to offer eight associate degrees and four certificate programs in which students can complete 50 percent or more of their course credits via online courses. Longtime college administrator Jerry Sifuentes has been involved with LCC’s distance learning initiatives since day one. As the media/technology director, Sifuentes was an integral team member during the inception of LCC’s distance learning endeavor, which initially began with a video conferencing mode of instruction in 1998. In 2000, he became the LCC Distance Learning Department’s second director. “We had the foresight that distance learning enrollments were going to ‘bust at the seams,’ as Gloria Benacci, the first distance learning chair, would say,” Sifuentes said. “However, with LCC’s endeavor in online instruction, the possibilities are endless, and there is more to come.” Sifuentes believes that the online courses are popular with students because of their flexibility. While online instruction can offer great-

er flexibility than traditional “face-to-face” classroom instruction, it might not meet every student’s needs or expectations. “Many students might get the impression that distance learning courses are easy,” Sifuentes said. “However, online course instruction requires that students be self-disciplined, possess certain computer technical skills, and above all, be excellent managers of their time.” He encourages all prospective online students to take a Smart Measure Assessment to help them better determine if online courses are suitable for them. The assessment tool is available under the Distance Learning Department web page at www.laredo.edu. Furthermore, students must attend a face-to-face on-campus orientation to help them better understand the features and communicating functions of an online course. A Student Help Desk also is available during regular, evening and weekend hours. Students who desire to learn more about online coursework and the new online de-

RadTec program receives high education marks For the first time in 35 years, LCC’s Radiologic Technology Program has earned an eight-year accreditation -- a rarity in higher education medical programs. The unprecedented accreditation was awarded by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). JRCERT is the only agency recognized by the United States Department of Education for the accreditation of radiology programs. The last accreditation for the RadTec Program occurred in 2005 for a five-year accreditation, but earlier this year, JRCERT awarded the program an extension of three more years until 2013. “The maximum award is eight years,” Oscar Gomez, LCC’s RadTec Program director and instructor said. “And because of our excellent review rating by the committee, our five-year accreditation was extended an additional three years for the first time in our program’s history. It’s great news for not only LCC, but the Laredo area as well.” According to Gomez, the committee conducted several external peer reviews that granted public recognition to the RadTec Program that met qualifications and educational standards. Gomez, who has overseen the program since coming on board in 1999, “has helped propel the radiology program as a top-rated program in the nation,” Dianna Miller, Interim Vice-President for Instruction, said. The LCC RadTec Program also was recognized last spring by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists for having a 100 percent passage rate when students tested for a national exam. This makes the program one of the top 10 programs in the U.S. As part of the two-year program, students participate in clinical trials at area hospitals, including Laredo Medical Center, Providence, and Doctors hospitals. For more information on the LCC RadTec Program, contact Oscar Gomez at 721-5261 or email at ogomez@laredo.edu. Continued on page 53

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Feature

Front row of a drug war

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By KENT PATERSON

hey could have been videos from the Middle East or Central Asia. But the images flashed to the crowd at Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes’ annual border security conference at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) showed graphic scenes from the so-called narco war in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. After giving a content advisory, the presenter, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official Alonzo Peña, started the show. In rapid succession, viewers variously saw a pre-decapitation interrogation of one presumed cartel member by rivals, a convoy of 50 vehicles with CDG (Gulf Cartel) insignias calmly passing through a highway toll booth, a squad of gunmen armed with a grenade-launcher and a rocket-launcher carrying out an attack in the town of Camargo, and the body of assassinated 2010 gubernatorial candidate Rodolfo Torre Cantú laying on the ground next to his likewise unfortunate companions. “It’s barbaric and it’s extreme,” summed up Peña, who serves as ICE’s deputy assistant secretary for operations. Perhaps the most curious picture, however, was the image of a narco-banner displayed in public that contained a detail rarely if ever reported in the Mexican press. Apparently authored by the CDG, the message urged citizens to report sightings of rival Zetas by texting or calling a special hotline. “But don’t send us jokes,” the banner warned. Peña’s slide show depicted events in Tamaulipas across from South Texas, but it could have represented Ciudad Juárez, practically a stone’s throw down the desert bluff and across the neutered Río Grande from the UTEP conference where hundreds gathered to discuss border security and related issues late last week. According to the Mexico body count compiled by New Mexico State researcher Molly Molloy, 47 people were murdered in Ciudad Juárez from Friday, August 13 to Sunday, August 15. As of mid-afternoon Monday, August 16, the Ciudad Juárez news websites Lapolaka and El Diario had reported at least eight more victims murdered. “Everything indicates that by the end of 2010, the city will beat its own macabre record of 2,630 slain in 2009,” Lapolaka predicted. Held at a critical moment in the history of Ciudad Juárez and Mexico, the UTEP con-

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ference was an assessment of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s anti-organized crime campaign, and generally a ringing endorsement of the anti-drug and security policies jointly pursued by Washington and Mexico City. Alejandro Hope, director of international affairs for CISEN (Mexico’s CIA), ran down some of the achievements of the offensive unleashed by President Calderon in December 2006. Hope credited the campaign for helping splinter four large drug cartels into smaller ones, adding that the joint militarypolice operations were successful in Tijuana and Baja California and partially so in eight other states. Nationwide, the authorities have seized 84,049 weapons, 6,000 grenades, and $411 million in bulk cash, he informed a crowd. To counter the public safety crisis, Mexico’s federal security budget has been roughly doubled from about $5 billion to $10 billion since the end of 2006, the national security official said. Of more than 28,000 drug-related murders since December 2006, one-third of the crimes have occurred in four cities --Tijuana, Culiácan, Chihuahua City, and Ciudad Juárez, according to Hope. “I think we’re at a crucial point in the struggle against organized crime in Mexico,” Hope declared. “We need to change the tires with the car moving forward.” Differences over the potential economic power of organized crime in Mexico emerged between Hope and other speakers. In prepared remarks, US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual cited ICE and DEA estimates of $19 to $29 billion in money-laundered profits in Mexico and the US every year. Dr. Fernando Rodriguez, director of UTEP’s criminal justice program, estimated the annual cross-border drug industry worth $30 to $40 billion, with $10 billion of that amount flowing from north to south. Dr. Raul Benitez-Manuat of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s North American Research Center put the value of cocaine exported to the US from $20 to $30 billion, or about 10 percent of the total worth of US-Mexico trade. Hope insisted that calculations of the Mexico-based drug trade running in the tens of billions were “plain wrong.” He pegged the amount in the $3 to 9 billion range, or approximately 8 percent of the yearly value of US-Mexico trade. In addition, “less than $800 million” was

generated from street sales of illegal drugs inside Mexico, Hope told Frontera Norte Sur. Pressed about how much money the cartels earn from other rackets, Hope responded that CISEN does not have such an estimate. “It’s impossible,” he contended. Truth be told, estimates of the size of the narco-economy are just those -- estimates. After all, adding up with precision the income flow of an illegal business is not the same as compiling a market report on corn flakes or hot dogs derived from consumer purchases at the supermarket checkout stand. In any event, the dough made from dope is enough to outfit private armies, bribe officials, influence elections, invest in other businesses, pay big-name entertainers for private serenades, and support lavish lifestyles. Despite predictions of greater violence over the spoils of the trade, the general view in El Paso was that US-Mexico security strategy was on the right path. “It can be done, we can take out these (narco) organizations,” ICE’s Alonzo Peña insisted, pointing to the example of US-Colombian cooperation. “This is a monumental year in Mexican history…it would be great if it could mark 2010 as the beginning of the liberation from the cartels.” The specters of 1810 and 1910, years when Mexico was rocked by violent uprisings against first the Spanish Crown and later the national oligarchy, hang heavy in the air of a country celebrating two historic anniversaries. Certain regions of the country, Ciudad Juárez included, have the smell of civil war. Benitez-Manuat dismissed the possibility that Mexico is on the verge of civil war. Although a “narco-oligarchy” procreated from the golden semen of the cocaine trade has emerged in recent years, Benitez-Manuat argued, criminal elements still prefer to work behind the scenes and manipulate politicians, policemen, and public officialssomewhat like strong-armed corporate lobbyists, if you will. “They are not idealists, they are not revolutionaries, and they aren’t directly attacking the state,” the scholar said in an interview with Frontera NorteSur. “They don’t want the state to collapse.” Eric Olson, senior associate of the Washington, D.C.-based Wood Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Mexico Institute, concurred with Benitez-Manuat. Still, Olson said, the violence is deeply troubling in its own right.

Olson, who served as Amnesty International’s advocacy director for the Americas from 2002-2006, traveled to Ciudad Juárez as part of a US delegation earlier this year. The group arrived only four days after the Villas de Salvarcar massacre of 15 young people, and even witnessed two of the victims laid up in coffins ready for burial. Last week, Olson returned to the Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood and spoke with the devastated father of a 17-year-old victim who was a straight-A student on his way to college. The longtime human rights advocate also conferred with US Consulate staff. Olson’s latest visit gave him a sense that ingrained violence will be very difficult to eradicate in the short run. “You think, gosh, how bad could it get?” Olson mulled. “The scary part is, and I don’t want to be an alarmist by any stretch, is that there are people who believe it’s not gotten to its low point…I hope that’s not true. I think it’s really important that we try to prevent that from happening.” In a departure from the dominant conference discourse that stressed the cooperation between the Obama and Calderon administrations on the security and trade fronts, Dr. Kathy Staudt of UTEP challenged US corporate and government economic, human rights and drug prohibition policies. The political science professor was especially perturbed by the big picture presentation of State Department US-Mexico Border Affairs Coordinator Stewart Tuttle that did not consider the deaths of 4,600 migrants attempting to cross the border between 1993 and 2008. During the last two years, hundreds more have died making the dangerous crossing. In response to a written question from Staudt, Tuttle responded that Washington would welcome ideas to “address at every level.” Staudt, who also has worked as an expert on three asylum cases involving Mexican nationals, questioned US political asylum policy. US officials approve fewer than two percent of Mexican claims -- less than many other countries wracked by violence, she said. In an interview with Frontera NorteSur, Staudt referred to the case of a young woman from Ciudad Juárez who was initially denied asylum, even though her father was murdered by a police commander, her uncle similarly slain, her mother gang-raped, and the surviving family members threatened. Continued on page 57

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Serving Sentences

Randy Koch earned his MFA at the University of Wyoming and teaches writing at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

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A knot of English, a knot of Spanish

ne evening in late June on my way to Virginia, I turned off I-81 outside Williamsport, Maryland, and drove five or six miles of narrow two-lane pavement that eventually deteriorated into a onelane dirt road, which petered out between a half dozen ramshackle buildings. I realized I was less than a mile from the Potomac River and at the entrance to the campground I’d been searching for. I stopped, got out of the Jeep, and walked past a hand-painted sign that said “Blondie” in front of a mobile home. I stood at the bottom of the steps, reached up, and knocked on the aluminum door. A short, white-haired woman swung it open, a spaniel pup barking between her ankles. She maneuvered down the steps. “I need a place to camp,” I said. I looked across the slopes of mowed grass dotted with fire rings and bordered by a tangle of trees. The place was empty except for a pickup parked next to a large dome tent in a shaded dirt cul-de-sac on the south end. “Just fer the knot?” she asked. I deciphered her southern vowels, then nodded. “You want a shar, too?” she said. I looked at her, frowned, squinted as if that would make her words clearer. “What?” I asked. “You wanna shar?” she said louder. The whine of a jet-ski on the river drifted over the trees and hung in the humid air. She looked up at me; the dog sniffed my shoe. I searched her face and smiled stupidly. “What?” I said again and directed an ear at her. Then, she raised both arms, pushed her fingertips against her scalp, and looked at me like I was dense. “A shar,” she said. “You gonna want one?” “Oh,” I said and laughed. “Yeah, that’d be good.” I was only three hours from Bloomsburg, PA, and already I had to depend on sign language to maintain my personal hygiene. About three weeks later I was in Laredo to spend nine days with my daughter Mary and catch up with friends. On a Thursday evening I drove to LCC, walked to the Arena Theater in the Adkins Building, and sat with about a dozen local writers of the Chicano Theater Workshop, now in its second year. For the past two weeks playwright Florinda Flores led the group, and tonight she handed out a four-page excerpt of Sarah Ruhl’s play Eurydice. I’d never heard of it, but as we read it aloud, I was reminded of Blondie in Virginia. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

In the play Eurydice arrives in the underworld on an elevator, inside of which rain is falling. Wearing a 1930s suit, she steps out and tries to talk to the audience. However, when she “opens her mouth, . . . . [t]here is a great humming noise.” She tries again with the same result. Then, the chorus of three stones explains, “Eurydice wants to speak to you. But she can’t speak your language anymore.” When we finished reading the excerpt, Florinda encouraged us to consider the scene’s theatricality and the image of rain in the elevator, but I couldn’t help seeing it as equal parts surreal Greek mythology and a Yankee’s journey south. Midway through the class, we took a short break, which gave me a chance to greet several of the writers -- Raquel, Anita, Joe, Tricia, Juan, Meg, Mary Sue, José -- many of whom I hadn’t seen in a year or more. And while my two years in Wyoming and a year in Pennsylvania again made restrained greetings a habit for me, it seemed natural now to shake hands, kiss cheeks, and even embrace. However, in Bloomsburg I rarely hear Spanish, so when one writer shook my hand and said, “¿Cómo estás?,” I hesitated, felt the linguistic gears shifting in my head. And even though I failed to respond, “Bien, gracias,” which, though I’m far from fluent in Spanish, I’m perfectly capable of doing, I felt the pleasure of being welcomed like everyone else in the room. To my ears, that simple question, with its unfamiliar music, suggested the possibilities and revelations a different language offers writers, the implications of another history and culture, and that I was both home and far from home. I’m back in Bloomsburg now, and on a recent Saturday I sat at a window table in a restaurant on Main Street. Outside, a crew-cut man wearing tan shorts and a white T-shirt bulging over his belt stood in front of a red full-size Ford pickup and pushed coins in a parking meter. On the truck’s door, a magnetic sign read, “Why the hell should I have to press ‘1’ for English?” I want to believe that his attitude and hostility are the exception here, not the rule, but based on occasional letters to the editor in the local paper and comments by students at the university, I fear I’m wrong. I considered hooking my thumbs in my belt loops, sauntering across the street, swaggering up to him, and -- even though he looked frash as a shonny new panny -- asking, “You take a shar last knot?” But I suspect he’s never been south of the Mason-Dixon Line and that my sarcasm and English would have been wasted on him. u

Photo by Jorge Medina

By randy koch

Basketball camp NBA star George Hill, a player for the San Antonio Spurs, recently stopped to sign autographs after his basketball clinic at Martin High School. He presented a $1,000 check to the Boys and Girls Club of Laredo on behalf of his foundation, The GH3 Enterprise. Over 200 kids aged seven to 16 attended the camp.

Continued from page 51 LCC on board with new truck driver training this fall Adults in search of a rewarding career can get on board the Professional Truck Driver Training Program at the Laredo Community College South Campus. Scheduled to start this fall, the four-week training program will be offered by the LCC Continuing Education Department. Students will meet Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Based on the starting salaries truck drivers can earn, this occupational training program can be a wise career investment to pursue, Continuing Education Projectors Coordinator Sandra Cortez said. “Starting salaries for licensed professional truck drivers range from $32,000 to $39,000,” Cortez said. “Living in a community with a booming trucking industry, this is an occupation that is in great demand.” The goal of the 160-hour course is to provide the knowledge and skills needed to pass the Texas Commercial Driver’s License exam to qualify for immediate employment in the trucking industry. While the cost of the training program is $3,750, financial assistance is available for eligible persons from various sponsoring sources, including the Workforce Investment Act of Texas Workforce Solutions, Texas De-

partment of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, and Motivation Education and Training. LCC’s truck driver program will consist of classroom lecture, parking and driving skills training in a driving range, and day and night street driving. “Classes will be small so that instructors can provide more individualized instruction. Our goal is to provide training necessary to produce highly qualified professional truck drivers,” Cortez said. Job placement also is a key component offered by the college. Nationally accredited transportation companies recruit on campus. Also, transportation and logistic companies are encouraged to learn more about the college’s customized training for driver’s log books, hazardous materials safety, office audit of log books and driver safety, among other topics. To join the program, the prospective student must be at least 18 years old (to drive within Texas only) or 21 years old (to drive outside of Texas) and have an acceptable driving record. The individuals also must pass the Department of Transportation physical and drug screening and must meet federal motor carrier safety regulations, sec.391. For more details about the Professional Truck Driver program offered by LCC, contact Cortez at 794-4520. u

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Maverick Ranch Notes

By bebe & sissy fenstermaker

Water-unwise in the Texas Hill Country

Nine people authorized a 30-foot drawdown of the Trinity Aquifer by 2030 in the Texas Hill Country at a July 26 meeting in Boerne. Interesting? You bet -- if you live here or if you are thinking about living here. What drove this? The Legislature and Texas Water Development Board’s requirement that groundwater districts statewide decide groundwater levels over the next 30-40 years. Present over-allocation of Trinity water by several groundwater districts making up Groundwater Management Area 9 (GMA9), plus the never-ending drive to cram people cheek by jowl into the Hill Country, drove the decision. But in three earlier public hearings, the GMA9 board heard the great majority of its citizens say, “Go slow, pick a small drawdown figure or pick no increase in drawdown.” GMA9 represents the groundwater districts in nine counties of the Hill Country. North Bexar County gets its water from the Trinity, so our groundwater district was one of the culprits. Our local representative, authorized to vote for a drawdown anywhere from zero to 30 feet, misrepresented his board’s direction and said his guidance was for a 30-foot drawdown. He also ignored our area’s critically threatened water resources in his opening words of glee over rapid development in the district. Of the nine decision makers, eight of them (seven men and one woman) are near

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or over 50 years of age. They swept through the decision without a bobble and without listening to their constituents, choosing to ensure water for massive future development. It was painful to watch the lone 30-something-year-old member agonize over his vote. He wanted a 20-foot drawdown or less, and his constituents had begged him to vote for this. He said that of the members, he’d be the only one alive in 2030 to see the results of the decision. He labored head in hands even though his vote was futile because it was already seven to one in favor of 30 feet. In the end he said he wouldn’t buck the majority. His decision was to go along instead of registering a sense of foresight. No doubt he will revisit his decision in the future. The 30-foot draw down will end the Hill Country’s spring flows, killing the springs for which the region is famous. According to some reports, the drawdown will result in tripling the number of residential wells in the next 30 to 50 years. And it is very likely to slow commercial growth due to lack of water and to result in water rationing on all individuals, exactly the opposite of what the representatives said they were achieving. The public spoke loud and clear, but groundwater districts failed to hear their voice over the mantra of “develop, develop, at any cost!” There is opportunity to revisit the decision in five years, but responsible thinking

should have started us out with a small increase in drawdown, checking feasibility each year, instead of taking the huge 30-foot jump. It is a lot easier to increase gradually than to reverse that kind of number. And the public knows this. Since the vote, everyone I’ve talked to is facing facts and is very serious about rainwater catchment systems. By the time the water table is below spring level and below roots of the large oaks and other trees which give the Texas Hill Country its characteristic look, most of those elderly representatives on the GMA9 board will be long gone. They won’t see the impacts they okayed -- vast development of open range; lost viewsheds; dead trees and thorn brush encroachment; rivers and creeks that run only after cloudbursts; and the desolation of dry crevices and holes -- former Texas Hill Country springs that once nourished Native Americans, settlers and wildlife, oases of beauty for those of us who love our land. Bebe Fenstermaker The guinea keates are over 2 years olds now and act as if they know everything. Ha, even with the old guinea running with them and trying her best to keep them in line, they get lost behind a bush or bunch of cactus and set up a squall. They set up a cackling whine that goes on forever until

they notice the rest of the flock is just inches away on the other side. They certainly have gotten the guinea vocalizations down pat. We have had a couple of lameness issues, and one while one guinea is still recuperating, the other is doing fine. They are a crazy flock of youngsters, and I give full credit to the eldest one. In addition to the increase in guinea numbers there was suddenly an increase in cat numbers. The new cat was relegated to a crate until being checked out by a veterinarian. That visit was an eye opener for me. She was called a blue cream, and she would rule the roost even though she was the new lady in the house. Well, that did not go down well with either of the older cat residents. Lucky for all concerned, there was a lovely household just minutes from the veterinarian’s clinic that Ms. Bread Puddin fit into perfectly. I get updates on her quite often. Naturally, another stray moved in. I had seen him at a distance several times. So, with regular meals I was eventually able to pet him. I believe he is here to stay. Mr. L.T. is a yellow tabby with a white bib and feet. He is a teenager and can whine with the best of them. I have hung the No Vacancy sign where it can be seen and read from all directions. The Fromme Farm has no more room for drop-ins. Sissy Fenstermaker

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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.

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South Texas Food Bank helps battle Laredo’s childhood hunger

exas has been ranked No. 1 in many notorious areas. A recent top ranking is one that Texas, and especially Laredo, would rather not tout -- it has the highest rate of childhood hunger. Yes, the great state of Texas is number one in the nation for childhood hunger. According to a recent survey released by Feeding America and the Texas Food Bank Network, 22.1 percent of Texas children aged 18 and under either go to bed hungry or in danger of some form of food insecurity. In Laredo it’s much worse. “Laredo’s childhood hunger stats are even more shocking,” said Alfredo Castillo, executive director of the South Texas Food Bank. He noted that more than 40 percent of Laredo school children are in the childhood hunger category. He added, “The Summer Family Nutrition Program (SFNP) will get our students started on a good nutritional note for the upcoming school year. Nutrition and good grades go hand in hand.” Former schoolteacher and now administrator Celita Pappas Borchers witnessed childhood hunger firsthand. She said, “The room was completely quiet. We were having a test. And one of the kid’s stomach growled of hunger pains. He was so embarrassed.” Borchers recently spoke at a press conference at the Laredo Energy Arena announcing the LEA-South Texas Food Bank Empty Bowls IV fundraiser set for Aug. 25. The event featured a concert by Three Dog Night and honored Sen. Zaffirini. To combat the childhood hunger problem, the food bank received a grant from the Texas Food Bank Network. Under the Summer Family Nutrition Program, the food bank distributed 24,000 bags of food to almost 12,000 families. Families signed up on the distribution site and the largest distributions were at the Laredo Civic Center. The STFB received 1.2 million pounds of food to distribute. “The response was tremendous,” said Elia Solis, the food bank agency coordinator. There were a lot of happy and smiling faces as vehicles lined up during one distribution at the Civic Center parking lot. The cars spilled over onto San Bernardo Avenue as clients drove into the parking

lot to pick up a 50-pound bag of groceries. The STFB distribution area includes Zapata, Jim Hogg (Hebbronville), Starr (Rio Grande City-Roma), Maverick (Eagle Pass), Val Verde (Del Rio), Kinney (Brackettville) and Dimmitt (Carrizo Springs area) Counties. STFB opened its doors 21 years ago in cooperation with H-E-B. H-E-B came through this month with a $6,000 donation from its customers’ Help End Hunger tear pad campaign and another $3,200 from a 13-team employee volleyball tournament at Mary Help of Christians School’s gym. The STFB distributes supplemental food to more than 21,000 families, 6,200 elderly, and 6,000-plus children per month. It is a non-profit 501 c-3 organization that accepts tax-deductible donations at PO Box 2007, Laredo, Tex., 78044. You can reach them by phone at (956) 726-3120 or online at www. southtexasfoodbank,org. The food bank is also on Facebook and Twitter at www.twitter.com/SoTxFoodBank. More than 10 million pounds of food will be distributed to the needy in 2010, surpassing last year’s record 9.2 million pounds. “Hunger exists in our own back yard,” noted Castillo, who is in his 11th year as food bank executive director. “It is not acceptable for people to go hungry.” The food bank counts on several programs to lend a hand in food distribution via more than 80 agencies and pantries. One of the newest pantries is the one at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church downtown. The Rev. Father Toby Guerrero, pastor of St. Peter, is the organizer. He distributes food on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon on the parish grounds. Food bank programs include: Adopt-a-Family -- almost 700 families are being served monthly, but there is a waiting list of almost 400 families. An annual donation of $120 helps a family with a bag full of groceries per month. Cindy Liendo-Espinoza is the program coordinator. Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) for the elderly (60 and over) is funded by USDA. A total of 6,500 individuals are served monthly. There is a waiting list of 1,145. Claudia Ramirez is the new coordinator. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Outreach, formerly known

as food stamps, averages more than 300 applications, representing more than 500 adults and 500 children per month. Alma Blanco is the coordinator. SNAP Outreach creates an economic impact in Laredo, which returns more than $40 million of SNAP money annually back to the federal government because people do not apply. “This is money that Laredoans are entitled to,” Castillo noted, adding, “We’re being more than a food bank. We’re helping people who don’t have the means to fill out the applications.” Kids Café -- There are 12 sites around Laredo serving an afternoon meal to more than 500 children Monday through Friday. In June, 10,875 meals were served and 56,015 have been served over the first six months of 2010. Two of the biggest Kids Cafés are at the Benavides Boys and Girls Club and the Lamar Bruni Vergara Boys and Girls Club. Gloria Jackson is the Kids

Café coordinator. The food bank operates on a $1.3 million annual budget. About 60 percent of the budget comes from the government. The rest of the money must be raised via local fundraisers and grants. The food bank’s major community fundraisers are a radio drive sponsored by Border Media in the spring or summer and Empty Bowls sponsored by the Laredo Energy Arena. The annual grants are received from United Way, the City of Laredo, Webb County, and third party funds. Other grant monies have come from the Beaumont Foundation and Laredo’s Lamar Bruni Vergara Trust, Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation, South Texas Outreach Foundation, Arturo N. Benavides Sr. Enterprises, Fernando Salinas Trust, Women’s City Club, J.C. “Pepe“ Trevino Jr. Family, and the United States Department of Agriculture. u

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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 neodance@aol.com.

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he 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards will be broadcast live on Aug. 29, and Laredo-born Pembrooke “PJ” Andrews has received the fifth nomination of his career, two of which were wins for sound editing for the series 24. PJ was born in Laredo to Andres and Julia Vera Andrews. He has one son, Jesse. As you can imagine, he is a very hard-working artist, and he also does sound editing for Lie to Me. If you go to imdb.com, the site for professionals in show business, you will see over 60 listings of projects for which he’s worked in the sound department, as well as cinematographer, producer, dialogue editor, cameraman, electrician, and post-production supervisor. Critics have called Lie to Me one of the season’s best shows. The series has been broadcast in Australia, Canada,

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Laredo-born PJ Andrews up for third Emmy Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Hungary, Belgium, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Latin America. PJ’s mom, Julia Vera, tells us about her son as a teen-ager: “PJ worked in fast food and also as a busboy at a very snooty French restaurant in L.A. One of the cooks was a friend of mine, and I asked him if he could see if they needed someone at the restaurant because my son needed a job. PJ was cleaning a table when a customer called him over asking for coffee. The customer, in broken English (assuming PJ could not understand or speak English), asked PJ for a refill. PJ went and got the coffee refilled and then in a British accent asked: ‘Will that be all, Madam?’ I wish I could have been there to see their faces!” As to where PJ got his training for his tech television program jobs, Julia explained, “Like most jobs in Hollywood

it’s all ‘on the job training.’ PJ had studied computer graphics and design in St. Louis. When he came back to Los Angeles, he found a job in that field, but he was so bored he decided to go back to school and study cinema. Studio professionals teach all film classes. When it came to sound, he really took an interest in it and started as an intern. There is no pay for interns, but the learning opportunity is priceless when it presents itself. “He started cleaning floors and emptying trash cans and doing errands, as well as delivering and picking up the films to be edited. Pretty soon he was loading into a hard drive and assisting. His knowledge of computers catapulted him into the job within a couple of years. His resume is impressive. “So, how to describe his job...the last business on a film production is sound. And it was due yesterday. The pressure is a killer. PJ has gone without sleep sometimes for 24 hours. He does not see sunlight until the job is finished. The calls to the studio from the producers to find out if the sound is finished never cease. PJ has to be rude at times and tells them that if they continue to call, the job is only going to take even longer. “The first order of business is to download all the film and to clean up all the bad sounds and mark it. Actors nowadays are whispering. They hardly move their lips. So PJ has to have the script to find out what they are saying. If the sound is not clear enough, the actor has to come into the studio and dub the lines. Actors by that time are usually gone or they are filming something else. It’s not easy making them come back. “The title of his job is sound editor, sometimes supervisor and director of dubbing. The economy has caused a lot of lay-offs, so PJ has no assistant. He has to do it all. “Imagine, he’s been doing this type of job for 16 years! Ev-

ery weekend I cook and call my kids to come over, and PJ and his son Jesse make it most weekends. But when he is over, PJ is so tired that he falls asleep sitting up. He is naturally dark-complexioned, yet he looks pale. No sun. Right now he is on hiatus for the next three weeks and then it all starts again. He’s going back to Lie to Me and some other shows the studio is negotiating. As you know, 24 is over. But, of course, the good news is that sound editing is up for an Emmy. If he gets this one, it’ll be PJ’s third Emmy!” To close, a heartfelt abrazote to all affected negatively by the recent terrible flood. Pictures of the flooding in Laredo brought this note from Ernesto Uribe, who lives up north on the east coast: “The pictures remind me of the flood in the summer of 1954. Back then I was a junior at Martin HS. After the flood receded, I got a job, along with other high schools kids, with a contractor to clean up the Customs House at the bridge in Laredo. We were given the task of digging out the roll-on truck scales that were at ground level and had filled up with slushy mud, garbage, dead snakes, and you name it. This was a bucket by filthy bucket task, but it paid $1.25 an hour! “After that I got a job on the maintenance crew for the temporary commercial pontoon bridge built by the City of Laredo. The job was after school from 6 p.m. till 1 a.m. My job was to haul a portable gasoline-powered water pump from leaky marine-plywood pontoon to leaky pontoon pumping water. And what was really dangerous was having to change broken lumber beams under the bridge while the night truck traffic rolled over us. I’m lucky I still have all my fingers.” And on that note, it’s time for -- as Norma Adamo says -- TAN TAN! u

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Review

Jazzy Side Man, a two-horned tale

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ho are you talking to, Clifford?” This question is repeated by Clifford’s emotionally ailing and alcoholic mother “Crazy” Terry throughout L.I.T.E Productions’ presentation of the 1999 Tony Award Winning Side Man that played at the in late July and early August at the Laredo Center For The Arts. Clifford, played by earnest Armando M. Lopez is the young storyteller who pulls us into the world of New York jazz musicians, his trumpet-playing father Gene Glimmer (Michael Carrillo) and his mother Terry (Marla Perez). Clifford’s odyssey seeks an answer to a soul-wrenching question. “Why Was I Born?” The tale begins as Clifford goes to see his father at the Melody Lounge, the birthplace of his memories. It has been five years since he has seen his father and he has failed in getting his bitter but curious mother to accompany him. Clifford is greeted by Patsy (Carmella Diaz-Lolar), the oft-married waitress, who for decades has been servicing the jazz listening patrons of this once hot spot in New York. The lounge starts out as the initial portal to Clifford’s trip down both the pre- and post- birth life of the Glimmer family and the antics of the fun loving brass section made up of Gene’s jazz blowing pals, Jonesy (José Flores III), Ziggy (Mark Gonzalez), and Al (Richard Resendez). The award winning play, artfully presented by L.I.T.E director Danny Villarreal is both the tale of a dysfunctional family and of the brilliantly absorbed trumpet player who is outright neglectful and disconnected as a father and husband. Terry, already wronged by a first husband who leaves her Continued from page 52 “Something is drastically wrong and outdated with US asylum policy that doesn’t take into account the inability of Mexican law enforcement agencies and institutions to protect its citizens and make sure they are secure.” As Staudt and others grappled with the issues of the day in El Paso, a news report broke that 100 people had fled a town in Durango because of narco-violence. Staudt, who’s authored numerous books on border violence and economics, noted a similar exodus in the Juárez Valley several months

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Courtesy Photo

By BENNY VERLO

The cast and crew of Side Man for her best friend, is the mother and wife, holding on to her sanity by using young Clifford as sounding board, bartender, witness, therapist and nurse. In the background is the compelling story of the side men who played with all the jazz greats in the New York area in the mid 20th century. The play shows the loyal and artful code that defined a musical age and its abrupt end with the dawn of Elvis Presley and rock and roll. Carrillo and Perez giving daunting performances as the flawed but sympathetic souls who drag Clifford through the muck and mire of their lives. Gonzalez, Flores, Resendez, and Diaz-

Lolar provide the comic and tragic relief. The slurry speech challenged Gonzalez nails the lines that get the biggest laughs while Flores mesmerizes with his depiction of the most gripping and violent moments in the play. Like the pieces of performed art that adorn the Tony Award winning landscape, the poignant moments of the band listening to a bootlegged recording, and a young overwhelmed Clifford in a stairwell evoke emotions as powerful as the semi- autobiographical words of author Warren Leight. Villarreal and Carrillo teamed to light the show in screen noir shadows with

ago when people fled under threat -- many of them to little Fort Hancock across the border in Texas. If current policies and trends continue, Staudt contended, the Mexican refugee situation could become an issue for the United Nations. “Usually, the US acts as if it’s one of the leaders in human rights and human security, but I think the case of asylum we can see that the US is pursuing policies that are not respectful of human rights and of the tragic insecurity many people are coming in from Mexico,” she added. Meanwhile, an almost surreal peace prevails in neighboring El Paso, rated by Con-

gressional Quarterly as the second safest city in the US. On the US side, much of the excitement consists of events such as foam parties in the hip nightclub district only blocks from the border or the “Thirsty Thursday” cutrate booze specials that draw throngs of youth to establishments across the city. City residents can sometimes see events unfolding in their sister city, just as in the days of the 1910 Revolution when El Pasoans gathered in rooftop parties to watch pitched battles in Ciudad Juárez. For instance, on Saturday, August 14, commotion on Ciudad Juárez’s Anapra

the execution of the lighting cues coming from the deft hands of Vanessa Villarreal. Soundman David García filled the venue with sultry jazz and sharp sound effects. As dour as the story sounds, there are uplifting and raucous moments that evoke the best of tragedy and comedy. The powerful closing monologue is a poetic tribute to a jazz era gone by. Clifford may have been born to tell us this wonderful and cautionary tale and to find meaning in a life lived with colorful, talented, and damaged parents. Who is he talking to? By the play’s end, it is to every single one of us. u Road running alongside the Río Grande was visible from El Paso’s Paisano Drive. Two Federal Police trucks with lights flashing maneuvered past abnormally idled vehicles and sped off in the direction of the Bella Vista and downtown neighborhoods, districts where army and police patrols are thick and heavy and frequent shootings are now the norm. (Kent Paterson is the editor of Frontera NorteSur (FNS), an on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico. For a free electronic subscription email fnsnews@nmsu.edu.) u

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Laredo Theater Guild International in cooperation with Texas A&M International University Presents

July and August 2010

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Reflections of a New Texan By DENISE FERGUSON

Denise Ferguson is newly arrived in Laredo. A Rhode Islander by birth, she and her husband retired to Laredo to be near their family. She can be reached by email at denise291.1@juno.com.

Big Ben

Houses of Parliament

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London hospitality

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hen I have occasion to visit a new city, I often experience as much entertainment in observing the temperament of its citizens as I do checking out its attractions. On a recent special trip to London initiated by family, it did not take me too long to pick up on some eccentricities. After we disembarked from our airplane (during which flight we actually got good free food and exemplary service from American Airlines), we wound our way through Heathrow Airport to locate our train, or, as they call it, the “tube.” As we did so, we were bombarded by large numbers of people who leaped, sped, and barreled past the elderly and the disabled who were negotiating the automatic airport walkways and escalators, which had nearly vertical inclines. They issued inappropriate words to anyone obstructing them. I must say, none of the characters in the mystery stories written by Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, or Lynda La Plante ever exhibited this behavior. When we found the underground train to our destination, my husband and I started towards a couple of empty seats, whereupon a young man pointed out to us that we needed to leave our bags in a space by the door so as not to

obstruct passengers. While we were listening to this man’s instructions, several more people entered the car and took our intended seats. As we progressed on this hour-long trip, I asked my husband if it would be possible to outrun any new passengers at the next stop for potential empty seats. He replied, “We need to stay by the bags.” Which, of course is what we do in the United States as advised by our travel safety guidelines. Plus, we now knew how fast these Brits can run if they happened to be thieves. But, as I meditated during the trip, I had the sensation that something was wrong with this picture. It so happens that other cities have set a precedent for public transportation etiquette in my mind. I recalled a trip a few years ago in Calgary, Canada when we were on an underground train. We stepped into the train and, immediately, several young people got up to give us their seats. While I do not particularly expect such civility (since it is more flattering if people do not notice one is old), it would have been welcome after having just gotten off an airplane after nine hours and trundling through the long Heathrow airport. I also recalled riding a crowded bus in Vancouver last year when a young man pushed his way through the standing passengers and led me back to his seat next to his wife. The man resumed a Spanish

conversation with his wife in which I soon joined when I heard them talking about Mexico. They laughed when they realized that I understood them and asked where I was from. It turned out that not only were they familiar with Laredo, they had family connections here. So, my first evaluation of the people of London was, “These guys cannot think outside the box.” Maybe that’s why we have oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Nevertheless, I should acknowledge that when a London “mate” is directly requested for any form of assistance, he or she will endeavor to the best of his or her abilities to provide helpful and accurate information. And in their various occupations, the Brits seem to apply themselves with total diligence. My sightseeing objectives in London included strolling along the Thames; riding an “Open Tour” bus with the grandchild; viewing Buckingham Palace and its surroundings; touring Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum, the Royal Air Force Museum in Colindale; and having English Tea with scones and clotted cream. All of our objectives, except one, were carried out quite splendidly, and I highly recommend the experience of absorbing the history and ambience of any secure foreign city should the opportunity arise. The one experience I missed was attributable to another “outside the box” lapse.

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The British Museum I had noticed during our tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral that they offered “English Tea” in the crypt area. Since the Cathedral was reasonably accessible by foot from our hotel, I asked my husband to return with me one afternoon to see if we could arrange for tea. Upon our arrival, the host and hostess advised us that tea would be served at 3 p.m. and to return at that time. So, after whittling away our time for about an hour, we returned at the appointed time. But this time there was another host. He announced that tea was by reservation only (albeit the restaurant was nearly empty). Nearby, we saw the host with whom we had spoken earlier and noted to both gentlemen that we had stopped by earlier and no one had mentioned the necessity of reservations (for an empty restaurant). The initial host, now embarrassed, said that they would try to fit us in. The new host told us to step outside in the waiting area while they investigated. My husband and I shortly decided that the restaurant must be waiting for the Queen, and we ended up going across the street and having a highly satisfactory lunch at the Café Rouge (thereby consorting with the enemy) to which we returned the next morning to enjoy the best French toast I have ever had. There was another facet to this first ever overseas trip -- I had long promised myself that if ever a trip to Europe was to take place in my lifetime, I would endeavor to include the Eurostar train as part of it. My husband and I took off for one day on the high-speed train from London to Paris (and other venues if desired), which dropped us at the Gare du Nord on a day that was as hot as Laredo in a city not necessarily as bilingual. Thankfully, there were no leaping and bounding Parisians in the train station. Instead, Gare du Nord was infested with lovely, teary young ladies, all of whom had notes written in English WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

London Bridge

Westminster Abbey describing the holder as a foreign national medical student short of funds and due to be exported. I expect those young ladies will have no need to become physicians if most of the train passengers drop a Euro or

two per day, as Gare du Nord is said to be the third largest train station in the world, serving 180 million passengers per year. Outside the station, we could not find the tour bus stop. Our instructions were

to locate the stop in front of the train station. Easier said than done when the station is about four blocks long. The tour bus stop ended up being diagonally across the street and down half a block from the station after we flagged one of the tour buses and the driver motioned for us to follow him. In contrast to some of our London hosts who might have been guilty of benign inattention, the behavior of some French bus drivers might have been described as outright disdainful. When I asked a city bus driver where we could find the tour bus stop, he drove off. A tour bus driver stormed off his bus and irritably jabbed at the green square code in the front window (like “duh”) when a tourist asked, “How can we tell which bus line is which?” Time did not allow for us to have lunch by the beautiful River Seine due to the typical glut and frenzy of Paris traffic, but we did get to walk around the awesome Eiffel Tower and stroll along the Seine. A few days later, upon our return to the airport in Dallas, we ran to the monorail for Terminal B. The monorail took off before my husband caught hold of the post. A middle-aged woman standing nearby grabbed my husband’s flailing arm and attached it to the post. She smiled at us and went on to exchange pleasantries. Now, that’s what I’m talking about! Nor am I the only non-native to be impressed. A group of homebound London tourists on our outgoing plane strongly applauded the hospitality they received during their visits to San Antonio and Corpus Christi. So, while I feel blessed and thankful in having been encouraged to go “outside the box” of my own country, it is great to be back in Texas. And God Bless America for its free public toilets, unlimited cups of coffee, and the ubiquitous availability of AC! u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2010 |

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Review

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By MONICA MCGETTRICK

aredo Energy Arena recently hosted pop and R&B star Rihanna’s “Last Girl on Earth Tour.” The concert, which was only one of two held in Texas, began almost directly at 8 p.m., which left quite a few people completely astonished. I don’t think I’ve been to a concert in Laredo that began on time. Opening the night was the mildly controversial singer/songwriter/party girl Ke$ha. While I am admittedly not a fan of her music (“Tik Tok,” once heard, is hard to erase from your head), I was surprisingly impressed by her performance and wished she had stayed on for more than six songs. Her songs may be about partying, sex, drinking, and drugs; her stage set might have consisted of horned skulls and other goth-like paraphernalia; and she may dress like a hooker, but the girl has an incredible stage presence and complete self-confidence. I can appreciate her energy, and despite the synthesizers, it’s clear she has a semi-decent voice. Unlike other concert openers I’ve seen, Ke$ha successfully riled the crowd up in anticipation of the main event. I heard

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someone describe the atmosphere as being “club-like,” and I must say, he wasn’t too far off the mark. Most people were on their feet dancing from the very beginning, only sitting down during the pause between sets or during a slow song. While I wouldn’t necessarily see these two artists paired up artistically, it’s clear why the powers to be thought they might work well together. Both are young, attractive, and energetic performers. Right off the bat, I’d like to give credit to Rihanna for being able to dance for over an hour and a half in both high heels and what looked like duct tape. She changed shoes and outfits so many times that I can understand why she wore such skimpy outfits. Who wants to mess with buttons and zippers? But what’s truly astonishing is that even though her wardrobe appeared to be courtesy of Ace Hardware, the beautiful star actually came across as classy. That’s talent. If you’ve ever heard any of Rihanna’s songs, you’ll know that she’s not exactly Alanis Morissette. The lyrics are sometimes ridiculous, the beats nothing new, and her sexuality is always at the front (again, back to the skimpy outfits). How-

Photos by Jacob Walters

Rihanna puts Laredo under her umbrella

ever, I challenge you to listen to one of her songs, like “Umbrella” for example, and not find yourself singing, “Now that it’s raining more than ever, know that we’ll still have each other, you can stand under my umbrella…ella…ella…) The set design was fairly spectacular as well. A sort of apocalyptic/girly war

theme, Rihanna first appeared on singing one of her newest songs “Russian Roulette,” from her newest album, Rated R. Dancers dressed as soldiers wearing what looked like pickelhaubes accompanied her. The song is far better and definitely more dramatic when sung live. While I’m not sure where it came from, as it seemed to appear out of nowehere, a giant pink tank emerged. During “Shut Up and Drive,” a beat up car appeared at the end of the catwalk, and the dance crew was pretty fabulous. A recording of Jay Z even popped up on screen for their song “Run this Town,” one of my favorite Rihanna songs. Dancers dangled from wires attached to large guns, and bizarre bird-like creatures emerged to perform what I can only call circus tricks. Although she’s had to fight to make a name for herself amongst other pop and R&B stars, including the always-amazing Beyonce, releasing countless albums in only a few years, Rihanna fits the profile of a star. She’s gorgeous and has a good voice, both of which make her highly bankable. The only problem with stars like Rihanna, and perhaps this is just because of the type of music they sing, is that their performances always seem so impersonal. There wasn’t much interaction with the crowd, besides her repeatedly shouting “Laredo!” as though she was reminding herself where she was. It’s just a show, even if a good one. I’m not saying she needs to bare her soul, but part of the fun of seeing live concerts is knowing that for the briefest of moments, you get to see the person behind the celebrity. However, when it comes down to it, her music may not be iconic, it might not be original, but it’s certainly fun. And sometimes all you need is a little fun. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the concert, as Rihanna’s people had cancelled several concerts across the country due to poor ticket sales, I’m glad she came. The arena might not have been completely full, but there were more people than I’ve seen since Lil’ Wayne came in December, and if Laredo is going to attract more big name artists, we really need to start supporting them. As a final note, the only damper on the night was the temperature in the arena. Ordinarily frigid, the place was sticky and humid as though every door in the place had been left open. I realize that keeping a place that large cool all the time, especially when packed full of people, takes quite a bit of effort, so I won’t give them too hard a time. But it is hard to enjoy yourself when you’re sweating in your seat. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

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Letter from the village By IDA SWEARINGEN

uly was a busy month here in the village. Every organization worthy of a name held a barbeque, fete, festival, parade, or safari. The St. Genny’s Silver Band held concerts and sausage sizzles down at the beach each week. The Crackington Institute held its annual barbecue and raffle, and the very next day there was a huge cream tea to raise funds for the Cornwall Air Ambulance. The Toddlers Play Group also held a barbecue, raffle, and tombola down at the beach. I suspect a few definitions might be useful here. Barbecue over here is not the traditional Southern specialty that makes my mouth water whenever I think of it. No, over here a barbecue is simply grilling some meat, usually hamburgers and sausages. English sausages are smaller and not as tasty as brats, but over the years I’ve developed a fondness for them. As for English hamburgers, all I can say is that they are edible.

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Raffles are a subject within themselves. I truly believe that every time five people gather in Devon and Cornwall, they will hold a raffle. Every time you go to a public event someone greets you at the door with a handful of tickets -- 50p or £1 a strip. At some point during the event everything stops and someone pulls out a tin of stubs and they pick the winners. Prizes are donated items, some of which are left over from previous raffles. Last week I was chosen to call out the winning numbers because I am without a doubt the loudest person in the village. I found myself surrounded by a crowd of children pushing their tickets in my face urging me to make sure they won. Eventually one of their numbers did win, with a little help from me. He chose a grand prize -- a plate of Ellen’s homemade chocolate chip cookies -- and paraded them around for all to see. He promised to share with his siblings. They would, he told me, be a midnight supper. Tombolas are a variant on raffles. They feature a kind of squirrel cage that holds

the winning numbers. You buy your ticket, get a spin, and see what, if anything, you won. There is an annual tombola at the St. Genny’s Church fete in August which features especially good prizes. I make an annual contribution of a liter of single malt Scotch, which, I am told, often sparks off purchasing wars between various male residents of the village. In other news, we visited Llangollen Wales last month and spent a few days walking enjoying the scenery. I am enclosing a photo of the little house where we stayed. It is on the side of the Llangollen Canal, which connects to the Shropshire Grand Union Canal, so we were treated to a constant stream of long boats gliding by our front door. We first visited Llangollen 30 years ago on a lovely June day. That evening after dinner Ellen wanted to climb a up to a castle, Bran Dinas, on a hill overlooking the town, but was afraid it was getting dark and said we’d do it another time. So another time finally came, and we climbed to the castle, which gave us

a fabulous view of the Llangollen Valley, Offa’s Dike, and the town itself.  Because the valleys are so steep, the canal builders used viaducts to cross some of the valleys. The viaducts were high enough to spark Ellen’s fear of heights, so I had to walk it alone. This month we’re off to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to gorge ourselves on theatre, music, comedy, and good food. I’ll be taking lots of photos and hope to be able to send you a glimpse of some of the street performances. One more thing. The Home Office finally saw fit to send our passports, stamped with Indefinite Leave to Remain. I was so happy I almost slept with mine under my pillow. Next project is citizenship. We will be eligible to apply next year and can hold dual citizenship. Anyway, now we can travel to Europe again. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful summer. We hope you are having the kind of weather you want and getting to do all the things you love. u

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Laredos Newspaper August 2010