Page 1

Lare DOS A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS

I hope I look like Michelle Wie.

AUGUST

2009

Est. 1994

Vol. XV, No. 8

But Michelle Wie gets paid to show up and never wins. By the way, do I look like Fred Funk? You parting your hair wider, Judge?

If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt. Dean Martin

Locally Owned

64 PAGES

We’re all supposed to be professionals here -- who invited these hacks?

All through my round, I’m going to keep it right up the middle.

The Missing Links

they thought they’d blow a few mil of your tax dollars on mo’ land for mo’ golf courses -- but the only mo’ we’ve gotten instead is the likes of Moe, Larry, and Curly dreaming greens and greenbacks on a landscape of prolonged drought See page 32


The Buck $topped Here …And So Did the Road One of the roads most used by an industry – the natural gas industry -- that keeps the county afloat should be kept in better repair. The connecting road between San Ygnacio and Aguilares, Ranch Road 3169, sees the heavy traffic of trucks hauling rigs and equipment and the traffic of service providers and those who work on rigs. That industry and those drivers deserve a safe, maintained roadway.

Let’s stop the downward spiral!

LEADERSHIP FOR webb county Louis H. Bruni for County Judge in 2010

2

| La r eDO S | A U G U S T 2009

political advertising paId for by sandra M. Bruni, treasurer, post office box 1810, LAredo, TX, 78044

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

3


M ailbox L

etters to the publisher

Letter to Editor

John Snyder’s article “What Obama is doing: Is it socialism? Not even close� is a bit misleading. Although it gives definitions and distorted half truths, it forgets to address the partnership between GE and the Obama administration, the recent government buyout or buy in of some automakers, and now the misleading health care reform, which will lead to a one payer system which the government will have commissions to lead. So, while the government may not have direct control of the

certain industries, they still have control, such as the passenger of the taxi, the passenger (US government) will pay the taxi driver (US industries). The story states about the US not owning more than 80% of the means of production again not directly, but by taxation they do. So, if a certain industry such as the coal industry isn’t playing the game, well, Obama said it during his campaign -- “he will bankrupt them,� therefore controlling who and what is produced under the guise of environmental concerns.

Under the title “Con game recon� in the June issue of LareDOS Mr. Snyder deals with an article published in a Nuevo Laredo daily that deals with “The Ten Benefits of Orgasm.� Mr. Snyder considers it low journalism, poor citizenship, and a type of two-faced reporting that may be irresponsible and misleading. If this is true then it also applies to the U.S. media, where it has appeared for years in numerous magazines and newspapers

Meg,

Although I travel too much to own a dog, I am a dog lover and your article in the July edition touched my soul. Thank you for sharing your deeply held feelings in such a positive uplifting way. Regards, Mark Lovelace

and it is still available in the Internet. According to Mr. Snyder the article is responsible or partially responsible for the population explosion in Mexico and the increase in the number of immigrants into the US and other countries. It can lead to unwanted pregnancies, to venereal diseases, HIV, socio-sexual psychoses, trauma, tensions, and legal quandaries. The article appeared in a local

-BSF%04

*GZPVESJOL  EPO´UESJWF %PO´UFWFOQVUU



A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS

I hope I look like Michelle Wie.

publisher

AUGUST

2009

Est. 1994

Vol. XV, No. 8

But Michelle Wie gets paid to show up and never wins. By the way, do I look like Fred Funk? You parting your hair wider, Judge?

Dean Martin

LOCALLY OWNED

64 PAGES

We’re all supposed to be professionals here -- who invited these hacks?

MarĂ­a Eugenia Guerra

meg@laredosnews.com All through my round, I’m going to keep it right up the middle.

Editor

Monica McGettrick

The Missing Links

mcgettrick@laredosnews.com

they thought they’d blow a few mil of your tax dollars on mo’ land for mo’ golf courses -- but the only mo’ we’ve gotten instead is the likes of Moe, Larry, and Curly dreaming greens and greenbacks on a landscape of prolonged drought 4FFQBHF

Read a

Staff Writers

John Andrew Snyder

at www.laredosnews.com

editorial@laredosnews.com

Contributors

Sales

Juan AlanĂ­s Jay Johnson-Castro Sr.

MarĂ­a Eugenia Guerra

Cordelia Barrera

ads@laredosnews.com

Circulation, Billing & Subscriptions

Jorge Medina

circulation@laredosnews.com Layout/design

JM Design

Henry Kahn

Annette Bridges

Randy Koch

MarĂ­a Eugenia CalderĂłn

Mike Krone

Denise Ferguson Frontera Nortesur Neo GutiĂŠrrez Steve Harmon

design@laredosnews.com

Toni Howell

Charlie Loving

Alex Mendoza

www.laredosnews.com

1812 Houston Street Laredo Texas 78040 Tel: (956) 791-9950 Fax: (956) 791-4737 Copyright @ 2008 by LareDOS

Write a Letter to the Editor meg@laredosnews.com | La r eDO S | A U G U S T 2009

Salo Otero

Mary Helen Specht

ShuString Productions, Inc.

4

Also, in this story it states that the spending bill is needed to end the recession. That may be partially true but spending freely on projects that make no sense, like a Frisbee park in Austin. There is no mention of tax cuts for small businesses, the business that employs people. It is not so difficult to understand why we are in the situation we are in. We spend too much and when we get the margin call we don’t have the funds to pay it. So, according to Dr. Landeck, spending money we don’t have is the answer, having China own our debt and printing more

Steve TreviĂąo

money to increase inflation is the answer. I guess under this logic, when our budgets are tight and need more money, spend what you have because you will get more and charge up all your credit cards? I believe that we forget and are apathetic of the meaning of things. One trillion dollars is a lot of money. So Mr. Snyder and Dr. Landeck, when you try and debunk the socialism charges against a socialist let’s say the truth, not try and hide information because of our own political views. Alejandro Calderon

newspaper with a circulation of a few thousand -- half of it in Mexico and half in the U. S. How could it have a negative effect in Mexico and not in the U. S.? If the article constitutes irresponsible and misleading reporting, what about the US media, printed, electronic, and outdoors advertising, which are sexually oriented? What about the hundreds of magazines where the article is being printed? I think Mr Snyder thinks that

Dear Mrs. Ferguson,

Thank you for such a great, meaningful article in the July edition of LareDOS. Far beyond the fact that one of the greatest sights for a person is to read his/her name in print, I found your writings to state what most true Americans feel and want. I have no respect for Barack H. Obama’s attempts to correct this country’s economic problems by throwing money (primarily yours, mine, and specifically, our children and grandchildren’s) at them. I was vice president in charge of national sales with two different insurance companies, and I learned from experience that a majority of the agents I recruited always wanted lots of money upfront and were elated when they got it. However, when it came time to repay the upfront money with production, reality appeared. Obama and his cohorts are giving out money right and left with the excuse that the only way to get our economy back on track is by financially rewarding every endeavor with incredible amounts of borrowed money. The key word here is borrowed, AKA loan! I have already stated this above, so you know that incredibly higher taxes will be imposed on our loved ones in the not too distant future. We will be remembered fondly as family ancestors and discussed negatively when commenting about the inflation and taxation burden we left them.

Mexicans believe every thing they read in the press and cannot tell the difference between fact and fiction. If anybody was conned, it was Mr. Snyder. Conned enough to read it over some one’s shoulder. There is nothing in the article that promotes promiscuity, and as to the correlation between orgasmic pleasure and the population explosion, I can only surmise that Mr. Snyder failed Sex Ed. 101. Paul Cavazos

Dear Meg,

I’d like to know what gave Mr. Mike Herrera the authority to write an article on the situation taking place in France and related to the Muslim women. He should read more about the culture of the Middle Eastern people in order to comprehend what the situation is all about in France and the way Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy is acting. Please make sure that before anyone writes an article in your paper that there is substance in the content to be exposed, otherwise it will make you look bad. Respectfully, Victor Nassar One does not have to be a graduate of the Wharton school of finance to understand that the obligation of a loan agreement is repayment and always at a cost of interest dependent upon the agreement accepted by the borrower. The problem with this current situation is that the borrower exercises complete control over not only the terms of the loan but commensurate approval to make the loan. Barack Hussein Obama is, in my opinion, a terrorist whose practices will live with us far longer than the impact of 9/11. This guy is bad news anyway you cut it ma’am! Sincerely, Henri D. Kahn WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Santa María Journal

On the inescapable panorama of scorched earth: nine-dollar range cubes and $85 round bales By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA “Will the trees die, too?” my granddaughter Emily asked as we drove one recent afternoon from Laredo to our family’s ranch in San Ygnacio -- the drought a pronounced visual all along the rise and fall of the land on both sides of Hwy. 83 In the thick of deadline and in the monthly endeavor to publish another issue of LareDOS – a one-armed juggling act with scant resources that even after 15 years of practice can still terrify me -- I’d pigeonholed all thoughts about the devastating lack of rainfall for another time. But here it was, the inescapable panorama of scorched earth. The closer we got to the ranch and the farther we drove from the green vega of the Río Grande, the more depleted the terrain looked and the more depressing were my thoughts on how to survive nine-dollar range cubes and $85 round bales in the time of drought. I have neither a plan or an answer, except to keep doing what I’ve done for two decades

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

-- keep the water well pump, tanks, water lines, and fences in good repair, rotate the cattle out of one pasture and into another, and pray for rain. It may be time to default to my grandmother’s mojo of copper pennies, Abraham Lincoln face up on strategically designated fence posts at every corner of the ranch, the ritual perhaps a precursor to Elmer Kelton’s ranchers in The Time It Never Rained, people who avowed, “Give us rain, and it makes no difference who is in the White House.” There was also the greater effort my grandmother María undertook with her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren in the early ‘50s to walk the perimeter of the ranch while reciting the rosary and imploring the heavens to open. My father loved this story, which he said culminated with angry black clouds, a deluge, and a soggy walk through mud before they made it back to the place they’d begun the recitation. This was in the year in which the river had ceased to flow, the year in which a Gulf hurricane traveled inland across Mexico and came out at

Langtry, Texas to dump torrential rains and cause the Río Grande not only to flow again, but to flood all towns downriver -- taking out municipal water plants, sewage treatment plants, and international bridges. These were the rains that filled the Falcon Reservoir prematurely and flooded the still-inhabited old colonial town sites on both sides of the river, among them, El Clareño, El Capitaneño, Lopeño, and Cd. Guerrero Viejo. I wouldn’t wish for a rain event of that magnitude, especially given the recent assessments (understated, of course by the International Boundary and Water Commission, the bi-national bureaucracy that undertakes detailed studies but never acts on them) of cracks in the dams at Lake Amistad and the Falcon Reservoir. But I do pray for rain -- as do many who love the old ranches and tend to them as devotedly as parents and grandparents did before. I’ve no recall of participating in the Santa María Ranch rosary vigil and so probably did not, but when I look at old photos of us on the ranch at that time, the background

is never verdant grass. It is us on dry sand. W h e n Kelton writes of Charlie Flagg, the diehard protagonist rancher in The Time It Never Rained, he writes of the odd breed of rancher that believes that the utility of family land goes beyond the tenuous proposition of raising cattle, and goes to homage to those who carved ranches from inhospitable landscapes a century ago. He writes, “For more than twenty years now it had been Charlie’s turn to use this land, to shape it in his own way and to be shaped by it. To a degree he never knew, he had been shaped by all those who had gone before him.” We are shaped, too, by the times of plenty when the land yields a landscape that is generous to the soul and dazzling to the eye. As well we are tempered by the unyielding drought that brings us to our knees in humble prayer. u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

5


News

La Mota Ranch hosts STPRA fundraiser

Courtesy Photo

H

Self-portrait in blue TAMIU art student Kristina Gutierrez is pictured with her self-portrait at an exhibit at the Laredo Public Library (LPL) on Calton Road. The exhibit, which is sponsored by Laredo Community College (LCC) and the LPL, features the work of current and former LCC students.

6

| La r eDO S | A U G U S T 2009

istoric La Mota Ranch in Hebbronville is the setting for the South Texas Property Rights Association’s (STPRA) second annual fall fundraiser. The sunset event is set for Saturday, Sept. 12 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 at the beautiful old Jim Hogg ranch. The evening begins with a guided pasture and museum tour. A feast of traditional ranch fare will be served back at the main camp where attendees can also bid on silent auction items and enjoy a little dancing. Proceeds go to STPRA’s efforts to educate South Texans about property rights, good stewardship, and preserving ranch land for future generations. La Mota Ranch is about 20 miles south of Hebbronville on Hwy 16. Directions to the ranch are posted at www.lamotaranch.com. For further information, to RSVP, or to donate to the silent auction, contact Anne Thruwalker at (210) 287-5014 or at anne@stpra.org. Ticket prices are $40 for members and $50 for non-members. (Non-member tickets include a one-year associate membership.) u

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

7


8

| La r eDO S | A U G U S T 2009

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

One City, One Book Library, Food for Thought Foundation bring Pulitzer Prize winner to Laredo By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

L

aredo Public Library acting manager María G. Soliz has announced the selection of Los Angeles writer Sonia Nazarío, author of Enrique’s Journey, a book about the immigrant experience based on her Pulitzer Prize-winning essay on the same subject, as this year’s special literary visitor in conjunction with the One City, One Book initiative. Sponsors for the event are the Food for Thought Foundation, the Laredo Public Library, the City of Laredo, TAMIU, LCC, UISD, and LISD, along with local businesses. The official announcement was made at a recent press conference at the Laredo Public Library. Numerous public figures gathered in the Main Library’s foyer to officially initiate this year’s series of food drives, book discussions, receptions, and other planned activities. Last year’s inaugural festival, featuring author Gerda Weissman Klein, a Holocaust survivor, was a huge success, and confidence is high that everything will click again this year. Mayor Raul Salinas’ opening remarks of welcome, coupled with compliments

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

for the skill and hard work of the Laredo Public Library staff, were not sparing in their praise for the South Texas Food Bank, the driving force behind this project. “This wonderful literacy initiative is recognized by the (City) Council as a tremendous value to our community,” he said, adding, “Reading helps us grow, learn, share, communicate, think, and feel -- it’s the most important activity that we can undertake.” This year’s themes are family, genealogy, and immigration, in keeping with the focus of the plot and theme of Nazarío’s book, which deals with the struggles and heartaches of a Honduran boy whose risky odyssey takes him across Guatemala and Mexico to get to the United States to be reunited with his mother. Author Nazarío’s schedule includes a series of personal appearances -- September 23 from 7 to 9 p.m. at La Posada Hotel; September 24 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the UISD Student Activity Center and at the Laredo Civic Center from 6 to 8 p.m. -- where she will speak and participate in a booksigning with books provided by B. Dalton Bookstore; and on September 25 from 9 to

11 a.m. at TAMIU and from 1 to 3 p.m. at LISD. Food for Thought founding officers Annie Treviño, Beverly Herrera, and Carmen Escamilla said that their support of the festival is rooted in five objectives -- 1) to bring a world of inspiration home, 2) to create an awareness of the strength of cultural diversity, 3) to facilitate understanding through dialogue and shared service, 4) to reveal leadership potential and the power of individual action, and 5) to acknowledge the single human community and our place in it. u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

9


From the publisher

If you can’t provide the leadership to get us where we need to be, step aside or paint a target on your chest for the political trampling that will surely come your way By MARíA EUGENIA GUERRA

A

s of last month we are printing our journal once again in Nuevo Laredo, this time at Nuevo Laredo’s new daily, El Lider. LareDOS has returned to its former 10” x 11.2” size and format, and there are eight more pages of color in the publication. We are happy to note that the quality of the color has improved. Starting with the cover, there’s some very good reading in this issue of LareDOS. John Snyder’s opinion piece on the Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course affirms that in the workings of Webb County government, in the spewing of platitudes there is far more than meets the eye. If you’ve got the decoder, you’ll understand “I’m talking golf course, but I mean race track;” “If I’m talking civil service, the joke’s on you.” And what’s with that well-heeled Band of Bobos paid with our tax dollars? Next election let’s vote based on who is acting in our best interests, who is providing leadership and direction, and who is best spending the hard earned money we set aside for taxes and their salaries. When it comes time to decide how best to vote, factor in arrogance and grandstanding – Chihuahua, the list is getting smaller – and factor in honesty and whether they serve their own best interests or ours.

There is about those five individuals at the County dais something terribly amiss. Give the county judge two points for knowing how to text messages on his Blackberry, but dock him -10 for doing it while he is supposed to be providing leadership. Do you not love his and Commissioner Tijerina’s vacant stares when they are hearing from a county staffer, department head, or a citizen with whom they do not agree? The courthouse’s pressed metal ceiling tiles must surely be the backdrop of their dreams, because that is often where they focus their “I can’t hear you” stares. Don’t it make your brown eyes blue to witness the leadership vacuum of the Commissioners Court, the inertia, and the lack of gumption and will to make hard decisions? And don’t forget the recent conceit of publicly discounting what County Attorney Anna Laura Cavazos Ramirez and Treasurer Delia Perales offered as a means to arrive at a balanced budget. We all saw, we all heard Judge Valdez’s reactionary disdain and Commissioner Martinez’s pyrotechnical display in response to two responsible elected officials giving the court and the people of Webb County their best shot. Let’s put the members of this court on notice that if they can’t provide the leadership to get us where we need to be (all of us, everyone of us, including colonia residents who

don’t give a flip about a golf course or a race track) – they need either to step aside or paint a target on their chests for the political trampling that will surely come their way. Never have I heard from so many that this is the worst Commissioners Court in memory, and much the same is said of the current City Council. I’ve published this paper for 15 years, and along the way LareDOS has lanced and gored politicians and scoundrels who have poorly managed public money. Perhaps we’ve effected some changes in business as usual in the realm of elected officials. For once, just once, before I close the chapter on my tenure as the publisher of this small enterprise, I’d like to see an election in which all the best men and women prevail and take their seats at the county and city dais to make sound decisions for the responsible spending of our tax dollars and what we consider the real-life factors of the quality of our lives, including water and the environment. And just once, I’d like to see a school board void of petty, transparent, self-serving members. School board members and superintendent’s positions need to be filled by educated individuals and not small-minded despots exacting vengeance. I can dream, can’t I – ever thankful that the landscape of my sueños does not include the pressed metal ceiling of the Webb County courthouse? u

News

O

rganizers of the 7th annual Pink To Do Breast Cancer Awareness Walk are preparing for the Saturday, October 3 event at Laredo Community College on the South Zapata Highway. The walk begins at 8 a.m. There is a $20 registration fee for the walk. Funds raised at the signature once-ayear fundraiser pay for mammograms and sonograms; doctors’ bills; medical tests; office visits; medications; transportation for medical appointments in Laredo, San Antonio, and Houston; medical insurance; groceries; utility bills; compression sleeves; and gloves, special lingerie, scarves, wigs, and much more. All funds raised by Pink To Do stay in Laredo and are for cancer survivors in Laredo. Pink to Do volunteers use their personal resources for administra-

10

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

tive expenses, working from the home of Ofelia Noriega and Narvaez Flower Shop, which is owned by volunteer Martha Narvaez. Pink To Do’s mission is to provide awareness of breast cancer and early detection methods, and to make a difference in the quality of life for breast cancer survivors in Laredo. Aware that breast cancer does not differentiate the socioeconomic status of women, Pink to Do helps breast cancer survivors from all walks of life whether they are insured or uninsured, employed or unemployed. “We help as they need,” Noriega said, adding, “It takes a community to fight breast cancer, and we know too well that it takes a community to help breast cancer survivors survive.” u

Courtesy Photo

7th annual Pink to Do Walk/Fundraiser set for Oct. at LCC South campus

Cabaret at the Laredo Center for the Arts Cliff Bradshaw (Armando M. Lopez) implores the free spirited Sally Bowles (Cassandra Canales) to stay by his side in LITE productions presentation of Cabaret at the Laredo Center for the Arts. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

Government stimulus funds provide local students with job skills training By MONICA MCGETTRICK

T

hanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Workforce Solutions of South Texas (WSST) provided summer employment for youth from Laredo, Zapata, and Hebbronville for a period of six weeks as part of their Summer Youth Work Experience program. The $1.9 million grant from the government stipulated that WSST place at least 276 youth in jobs within the community. According to Brissa Vela, Business Services and Public Relations Specialist for WSST, lines formed around the building from the first day they began accepting applications. Of the 1,300 applicants, WSST placed 496 young adults in various jobs, including secretarial/clerical positions, for minimum wage -- $6.55 an hour. The two biggest employers were the City of Laredo and Webb County. The program was open to youth aged 14 to 24. To qualify, each young adult had to have parental authorization, income of less than $11,589 for an individual, $32,000 for a family of four, or $57,289 for a family of eight. Students had to prove they were still in school or that they had a diploma or GED. “A lot of these kids stayed on with their employers. For example, one of the young applicants was hired on in her position as a receptionist at [Border

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Region] MHMR,” said Vela. Workers were able to earn over $2,000 in wages for six weeks of work. They were also offered incentive rewards, including gift cards of $50 for participation, $100 for performance, and an $80 gas voucher. “The gift cards were for Mall del Norte, which means they were able to put some money back into the economy,” said Vela. Because the program was so successful, WSST hopes to do it again, but Vela acknowledges that it will all depend on whether the funding is made available again. “We had a really good response from employers,” she said, adding, “And a lot of our success was due to word of mouth advertising. The whole point of this was to produce a skilled workforce.” Young people, however, were not the only ones to benefit from the program. When people began applying the first week of April, the sheer volume of applicants allowed WSST to hire 18 professionals to aid with processing the applications and managing the program. Many of these professionals were then placed in other jobs once the program ended. WSST offers many other programs for those in need of new job skills or just a little help in finishing up a degree. For high school graduates or

those with a GED, WSST offers the In School Program. Students who qualify get two years of paid tuition, and for those specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math, WSST offers the STEM program, which also includes two years of paid tuition. For students who struggle to balance childcare and school, WSST provides childcare assistance. The only stipulation is that participants must attend classes for at least 25 hours per week. While WSST pays for the childcare, they work with providers in different parts of the city. There are currently 2,085 kids enrolled in their childcare program. WSST also has funding for Dislocated Workers, which has become especially important in this economy. “We help workers who have been laid off,

sometimes after many years of working. We help them change degrees by helping pay for school. For example, there has been an increase in interest in nursing,” said Vela. Workforce also provides Job Skills Training, which includes ESL classes and communication training, which assists with interview skills and résumé writing. “The ultimate goal of all our programs is self-sufficiency,” said Vela. “The money the government is providing is to help people get back into the workforce, which ultimately helps the economy.” For more information on these and other programs, contact Workforce Solutions of South Texas at 722-3973 or visit their website at www.southtexasworkforce.org. u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

11


News

W

ith drought conditions continuing to persist and water costs rising throughout much of Texas, consumers are looking for ways to save both water and money. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) offers these water conservation tips that can save thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars each year: Use Less Water - Turning off the water faucet while you brush your teeth can save up to four gallons of water a minute. A shorter shower can save up to four gallons for every minute you cut back. Check Faucets and Toilets for Leaks - A faucet leaking at a rate of one drop per second can waste up to 1,660 gallons of water per year, and a leaky toilet can waste about 73,000 gallons per year. Fixing hotwater leaks can save up to $35 per year in utility bills. Wash Full Loads of Laundry - Washing full loads as opposed to partial loads of laundry can save an average household more than 3,400 gallons of water each year. Need a new clothes washer? Look for an ENERGY STAR qualified model, which typically uses 35 to 50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy per load. Install New Toilets, Showerheads, Faucets, and Faucet Aerators - Installing water efficient

12

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

plumbing fixtures can reduce water consumption by 25 to 60 percent and save energy, too. Installing aerators will cut in half the amount of water used by each faucet. Look for the WaterSense label to help you find high-performing, water efficient products. Use Native Plants - Plants that are native to Texas aren’t only beautiful; they typically require less water, pesticides, fertilizers, and maintenance. Water Wisely - Water your yard thoroughly, but only as needed -- usually no more than one inch, once a week. Use drip irrigation where possible and water early in the morning to minimize evaporation. Make certain to comply with your water system’s water-use restrictions. To conserve more water outdoors, try collecting rainwater. Using collected rainwater -- instead of tap water -- for outdoor watering during peak summer months can save the typical household up to 1,300 gallons of water. Lawn and garden watering make up nearly 40 percent of total household water use during these hot months. For more tips to save money and the environment, visit www.takecareoftexas.org. For information on how the TCEQ is responding to the drought, see this special drought Web page www. tceq.state.tx.us/agency/ drought.html. u

Courtesy Photo

Water, money-saving tips from TCEQ

Proud parents LITE Board member Memo Gallegos is flanked by volunteers and proud parents Rocio Marroquin and Lamar Villarreal at the LITE Productions presentation of Cabaret at the Laredo Center

News

Ruthe B. Cowl Rehabilitation Center marks 50 years of service with Dec. 10 Country Club gala

T

he Board of Directors of the Ruthe B. Cowl Rehabilitation Center has announced an upcoming celebration to commemorate the Center’s 50 years of service to the community with a gala scheduled for December 10 at the Laredo Country Club. For over half a century, the mission of the Ruthe B. Cowl Rehabilitation Center, a non-profit 501 (C)3 organization, has been to provide physician prescribed therapy treatment services to all individuals in need, regardless of their ability to pay. The center’s services include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social services, and transportation. In its five decades of operation, thousands of individuals have received treatment and services at the Center, allowing many patients to overcome disabilities to become successful individuals in their chosen field. Prior to the establishment of the Ruthe B. Cowl Center, Laredoans had no resources for physical rehab. The Center has provided services to individuals from newborns to geriatric age with physical,

developmental, and cognitive challenges due to birth defects, injury, or illness (muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, autism, spinal cord injuries, and speech disorders). In 2008, the Center provided over 74,000 therapy visits. “We are delighted to see the Ruthe B. Cowl Rehabilitation Center is celebrating 50 years. It is indeed a remarkable accomplishment. This Center is a pioneer in physical and emotional restoration services, and with the help of the community, we will be here for generations to come,” said Lillian Dickinson, president of the board. “Today, the board of directors invites the entire community to partner with the center in celebrating this important milestone.” The Dec. 10 event offers different sponsorship levels including $1,500 and $2,500 tables. Participants in the celebration will enjoy a program highlighting the Center’s accomplishments over the years, as well as dinner and entertainment. For additional information about the celebration, contact the Center at (956) 722-2431. u

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Opinion

A letter to my grandparents, who fear the Soviet States of America Dear Grandma and Grandpa, Thank you for worrying about my future. I know you are afraid that my children and I will be saddled with an inconceivable debt because our government wants to be sure that both my imaginary children and I have access to affordable healthcare, an option that is not possible at this point due to the high cost of healthcare in this country and our elected officials’ inability to act ethically in the name of the people and not in the name of healthcare lobbyists, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance industry insiders. I appreciate that you are thinking of me when you raise your voices and distort the facts in the name of fiscal and governmental responsibility and complete irrationality and, in some cases, unguarded racism. I appreciate that you think it’s completely rational to exercise your “right to bear arms” when speaking out against “saddling [your] children and grandchildren with debt” despite never having spoken out against the slaughter of thousands of other people’s children and grandchildren in Iraq and Afghanistan. I appreciate that you never spoke out to confront our government for wasting trillions of dollars on those wars, and that instead of insisting the government end both wars in order to find the funding for our health insurance that you cloud the issue by using words like “death panel” and “socialist” in order to intimidate the weak. Thank you for preying on those who sit on the fence because it is far easier to turn a blind eye. Thanks for making our country, once again, look like a nation of fools because we cannot even meet halfway to clearly and rationally iron out the issues without one side trying to sabotage the other. Thank you for showing the rest of the world that the almighty dollar rules supreme and that something so basic as an equal right to live a long and healthy life without selling one’s soul to the devil to keep a loved one alive stands behind a snake holding a giant stack of papers and one rubber stamp that reads “denied on the grounds of a pre-existing condition.” And, Grandpa, thanks for insulting Britain’s National Health Service, even after they treated me well when I fell into a hole and WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

hurt my foot while climbing in the Scottish Highlands and provided my prescriptions are absolutely no cost, even though I was only a lowly American student. Before you think I am ungrateful, I wanted to offer you a few counter perspectives, as recently presented by Lee Hammond, President-Elect of the American Association of Retired Persons, at a fairly civilized forum for Laredo’s older citizens concerned about any changes to Medicare. I realize you probably won’t read these, as they do not present conveniently distorted truths, but I would be remiss as your grandchild if I didn’t even try. You claim that “healthcare reform” will lead to us to being known as the Soviet States of America. Grandma, there’s no need to whip out the babushkas and start chugging Stoli. The key to all these proposals is choice. Our government wants to guarantee that everyone has an equal chance to obtain affordable healthcare. Private healthcare isn’t going anywhere, and introducing a public option will only reinforce capitalist values by forcing competition between the two entities to ensure that those of us on the outside get the best possible care for the best possible price. What’s wrong with getting the best value for our money? You claim that there’s going to be a rationing of healthcare. These proposals would ensure that doctors are paid fairly and that the emphasis is on quality care, not quantity. Everyone would get to choose the right care for him or her, and you aren’t going to lose your doctor, although with the amount of tests he prescribes and the constant flow of pharmaceutical reps in and out of his office, maybe you should ditch the dude. You claim that the government wants to take away your Medicare. Grandma, Grandpa, put away the nitroglycerin, grab your Advair, and take a deep breath. Healthcare reform will make life easier for you. Under reform, you will pay lower prices for your pills and there won’t be co-pays or costs. As President Obama said, “Medicare benefits are there because they contributed into a system. It works. We don’t want to change it. What we do want is to eliminate some of the waste that is being paid for out of the Medicare trust fund that could be used more effectively

to cover more people and strengthen the system.” So you say it’s going to be too expensive. You ask, “How are we supposed to pay for all this?” Well, Grandma, perhaps it is too expensive not to do it. According to healthreform. gov (which you can choose to ignore if you like, since it is the product of our commie president, Comrade Obama), health insurance premiums have risen 104 percent in Texas since 2000. That’s an enormous increase in less than 10 years, and in the next seven years, they’re very likely to double. And what if, at my fairly young age, I develop some horrible disease that requires insanely expensive treatments. With massive increases like this, I could reach my lifetime cap before I’m old enough to qualify for Medicare, if I’m lucky enough to live that long. That leads us to your coup de grace -What about these death panels? Why does

the government get to decide I’m too old for care? Unless you specify otherwise, Grandma, no one is going to “pull the plug” on you or Grandpa without your permission. But what’s wrong with doctors who advise their older patients on what their rights are when it comes to end of life care? Don’t you want a doctor on your side who will know what your thoughts and worries are in regards to terminal illness? Don’t you want your family to know what your wishes are so that we don’t have to make critical decisions about your care when we’re emotionally distraught? Grandpa, you always taught us to plan for the future, so how is this any different? In case you’ve forgotten, this is the United States. You can always change your mind. (Full disclosure for those who don’t understand sarcasm: This letter isn’t actually to my grandparents.) u

Cartoon by Charlie Loving

By MONICA MCGETTRICK

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

13


14

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

16th annual Logistics/Manufacturing Symposium set for Sept. 16-18 at TAMIU

T

he Laredo Development Foundation (LDF), in coordination with the Logistics and Manufacturing Association Port Laredo (LMA) and Texas A&M International University (TAMIU), will host the 16th Annual Logistics and Manufacturing Symposium September 16-18 on the campus of TAMIU. This year’s symposium is entitled “Competitiveness of the South Texas and Northern Mexico Region in the New Global Economy.” Topics include strategies to enter trans-border trade, cross-border technology and infrastructure, balance of trade and security, and capitalizing on options of doing business in the South Texas and Northern Mexico Region. An innovative format of sessions, banquets, and networking opportunities will highlight the event. Key industry leaders will serve as both presenters and attendees. The symposium is expected to attract professionals from the following areas -site selection managers, plant managers, logistics managers, operations managers, economic development agencies, business developers/owners, suppliers, and other industry professionals from the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Tom McSpadden, LDF president, noted, “The symposium will bring together renowned industry experts from the U.S. and Mexico and present innovative strategies to capitalize on the best options in trans-border business.” Javier Garza, LMA president, added, “This year’s distinguished list of keynote speakers will feature Honorable Esperanza “Hope” Andrade, Texas Secretary of State, who will address the LMA breakfast meeting, Michael Haverty, chair and CEO of Kansas City Southern Railroad, will address the Laredo Development Foundation Luncheon, and HonWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

orable Stockwell Day, Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Asia-Pacific Gateway, will address the Kuehne & Nagel luncheon. Ed Sherwood, symposium planning committee chair, said, “The international flavor of the symposium will be evident beginning with the welcoming reception hosted by the Mayors of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo on Wednesday evening.” The kick-off event at the historic Fort McIntosh campus of Laredo Community College will attract business and government leaders from both sides of the border and is a great networking opportunity for participants. The symposium will include panel discussions and presentations covering topics on site location criteria, update on trends on the border and in Mexico, CTPAT/BASC, border-wide facilities, manufacturing, shelter operations, as well as trucking, rail, sea, and air logistical trends. In addition, the symposium will highlight strategic updates by renowned experts on customs and trade, legal issues, status of the maquiladora industry, U.S.-Mexico-Canadian trade relations, immigration, and security issues. Agenda and registration information are available at www.ldfonline.org or by calling 1-800-820-0564 or (956) 722-0563. u

News

Laredo Art League announces photo show, art auction for September

T

he Laredo Art League will join other South Texas galleries and art associations in celebrating this year’s Fotoseptiembre, a fast-growing tradition that dedicates the month of September to photography. The League’s photo show will run from September 1 through September 30 at its gallery in the Laredo Center for the Arts, 500 San Agustin, with the official opening reception on Wednesday, September 9, from 6 to 9 pm. The event is open to the public at no charge. The show will feature both color and black and white photography, with first, second, and third place ribbons in each category, and one overall Best of Show. Juror for the exhibit will be Mark Johnson, photography instructor at Laredo Community College. The show is open to all Art League members. Entries will be received at the LAL gallery at the Center for the Arts on August 28 and 29, from 1 to 5 p.m. There is an entrance fee of $5 per piece, with a maximum of three works by each artist. Any photographer who wishes to show but is not yet a member of the League may sign up at the same time work

is submitted. Also in September, the Art League will hold its First Annual Culinary and Art Auction at the Embassy Suites Hotel. Attendees will have the chance to sample the signature dishes of a dozen of Laredo’s premier chefs, bid on art and other items in a silent auction, and try their luck in a raffle for a beautiful diamond and pearl necklace. High point of the evening will be a live auction of works by 10 LAL artists and packages by the participating chefs. Art works will include paintings, sculpture, photography, and works in precious metals. Chef’s packages will range from a dinner prepared and served by the chef in the buyer’s home to dinner for 40, with tickets to a Bucks game, at the Laredo Entertainment Center. Funds raised by the auction will go toward scholarships for art students, hands-on how-to art workshops for children and adults, and for outreach to children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to explore their artistic talents. Inquiries about purchasing tables or tickets should be directed to Wanda Reyes at 568-3838. u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

15


Opinion

Grievances call up expired foods, rotten produce, labor issues, raffles on school time, and racially

Level One, Level Two hearings call up district’s By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

R

ead forward if you’d like to get the meat and potatoes, so to speak, of former LISD nutritionist Ernesto Noe’s Whistle Blower grievances against Child Nutrition Program director Margaret Lopez and Human Resources director Ernesto Guajardo, but take a minute first to read of the substance and outcome of the Level One grievance hearings conducted by David Garza, LISD’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, and the Level Two hearing conducted by Alvaro Perez, the district’s CFO. Himself a grievee, Guajardo -- once Supt. Veronica Guerra’s henchman for retaliation and now his own mace-wielding (the weapon, not the spray; the club, not the spice) man in the post-Guerra days -could not conduct the hearings. Over the years of the destabilizing upheaval of the Veroniata-Guajardismo regime, countless educators – many of them valuable, committed, experienced teachers and principals -- have come before LISD’s mockery of a grievance tribunal to defend themselves against trumped up charges that have altered or ended sterling careers of accomplishment. What must it be like to give a school district your best shot over decades only to have the superintendent’s wrecking ball of retaliation hit you broadside? (It also happens at the United Independent School District. Make note of Supt. Roberto Santos’ recent, very transparent retaliatory “reorganization” of the UISD Communications Department. Godspeed, best-o-luck, hasta la vista to new LISD super Dr. A. Marcus Nelson who has voiced publicly that Santos is his mentor. Note to Dr. Nelson: use your own moral compass. Coach Santos has lost his.) Ernesto Noe was not a lifetime educator. He was a first-year nutritionist at the LISD Central Kitchen. His hearings, however, are taken from the LISD playbook of grievance hearings, not unlike those rigged administrative forums that seriously altered the careers of seasoned, respected educators like Mario Guzman, Sylvia Barrera,

16

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

and Ricardo Alaniz. From Garza’s account of the Ernesto Noe grievance hearings, an account in which Garza is “sure” and “certain” Noe’s concerns have been addressed by the district: …Numerous allegations were made against Ms. Margaret Lopez. Those allegations ranged from being guilty of using racial slurs against her employees to making fun of employees that speak with a heavy accent...most of the alleged instances do not have any documentation that would allow me to determine the timeliness of this complaint...I do feel it is noteworthy to state that a large number of letters in support of Ms. Margaret Lopez were turned in entirely in Spanish.

for timeliness. …There are many instances where Mr. Guajardo is accused of being sneaky, underhanded, and unprofessional. All of these are a matter of interpretation and opinion. Garza’s lip service continues ad nauseum with hollow, utopian platitudes about the district’s high ideals in answer to Noe’s request for no retaliation, a good working environment in the food services department, respect for him and other employees, and no discrimination because of race: Laredo Independent School District has not or will never retaliate against an employee who brings forth a grievance or complaints. Laredo Independent School District strives to always keep a productive and harmonious

Kan•ga•roo court [ kàng ge róo kawrt ] A self-appointed tribunal that violates established legal procedure; also, a dishonest or incompetent court of law. This expression is thought to liken the jumping ability of kangaroos to a court that jumps to conclusions on an invalid basis. [Mid-1800s]

…Additionally, misappropriation of funds through fundraising activities and through the sale of metal cans and wooden palettes was also alleged…These allegations are taken very seriously by the district and proper measures have been taken to investigate these allegations. …In regards to Mr. Guajardo, allegations that included the release of social security numbers of not only Mr. Noe but other (all) employees of the district and being derelict in his duties in reporting violations against the wage and hour laws. These allegations are very serious and I am sure that they were promptly addressed by the district. I am certain that there is documentation of how both of these issues were addressed by the district and the conclusions that were made and recommendations to avoid future issues in these areas. For the record I must say that these allegations should defiantly (sic) be excluded from this grievance

working environment. Laredo Independent School District expects all employees to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity at all times. Laredo Independent School District will not tolerate discrimination in any form or fashion. CFO Alvaro Perez’s recent second tier hearing of Noe’s grievance is no better. The findings are in fact a jumble of conclusions that assert that Noe’s suspension, non-renewal, and subsequent “resignation” were not retaliatory responses for whistle-blowing or for making note of alleged shortfalls and abuses in Margaret Lopez’s performance as a manager; rather they were a response to Noe’s alleged incompetence. Oh, the sham and shame of it all -- not just in Ernesto Noe’s grievance hearings at the hands of company men towing the company line -- but on the whole for

what LISD has become in the hands of the narrow-brained trustees of the last decade and their modus operandi of musical chair superintendency, micromanagement, and pitiful displays of needy egos satisfying personal agendas. Noe’s May 2009 grievances allege that the workplace managed by his former supervisor Margaret Lopez, director of the LISD Child Nutrition Program (CNP), is a racially tense environment rife with discrimination, labor violations, gambling, and raffles on school district time, and a policy of providing LISD school children with old, sometimes tainted food. Lopez, a five-year employee of the district, reportedly does not speak Spanish. According to Noe, many of the employees at the central kitchen communicate primarily in Spanish. Noe alleges that Lopez used racial slurs to speak to employees and about them, often telling them, “Talk to me in English!” According to one employee whose statement is included in Noe’s grievance, he overheard Lopez use the epithet “Dirty Mexican greasers” when speaking of employees at the district’s central kitchen. As to labor law violations, Noe’s grievance alleges that Lopez set work schedules and a 2:30 p.m. clock-out time, but expected employees to continue working after clocking out until their work was done. Noe alleges that this practice was intended to avoid overtime costs in Lopez’s department. HR assistant Edna Garza is named in Noe’s grievance for failing to act on employee complaints of Lopez’s work-afterclocking-out policy. A December 2, 2008 email from Garza to the CNP’s unit managers reads: “I received a complaint that some managers are clocking out at their designated time and staying at their workstations in order to finish up their work. I know that you are committed to finish your tasks and that your assignments and responsibilities have increased through the years. But just as important is that the district compensate you either through time or money for any time that you have worked.” WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Opinion

tainted chicken, tense LISD central kitchen;

kangaroo courts And though Garza’s email acknowledges the situation and asks for verification of the complaint at the end of 2008, the matter was yet unresolved as of March 23, 2009, according to an email from then-Supt. Veronica Guerra to CNP employee Raul Cisneros. Guerra’s email reads: “I have received numerous complaints about the managers working after dismissal at 2:30 p.m. Please go to the campuses randomly to go speak to the managers. Go to central kitchen and get Mr. Noe to go with you. I rather that Ms. Lopez not attend so they do not feel intimidated when they speak with you. I understand that Margaret (Lopez) told Noe that if he did not like it to leave the district. This is not the way we do business. Go and investigate the reports and let me know.” The statement of a middle school cafeteria staffer, a 30-year veteran of LISD, is attached to Noe’s grievance and addresses not only the unpaid overtime, but others issues as well: “Mrs. Margaret Lopez sends spoiled produce and fruits to my school. I return them. This happens very often. This never happened until Mrs. Lopez became the food service director. I would never feed this to our children. I clock out, but I and other personnel stay to finish our job. We are understaffed and overworked. We do not get paid overtime. Mrs. Lopez is aware of this problem. This is currently happening and has occurred in past for several years. Mrs. Lopez refuses to listen to us and to address us in Spanish. She tells us to speak to her in English. If we speak to her in Spanish, she ignores us and calls us ‘Mexican.’ This is offensive to me. This is a racial slur and degrading.” According to Noe’s grievance and attached statements from cafeteria workers, Lopez allegedly provided LISD school children with food beyond its shelf life expiration dates -- juice bottles with mold on the interior cap; green, rancid chicken; and rotten fruit and produce. A cafeteria worker at another LISD school alleged in writing that Lopez told him he was doing his work incorrectly and threw paperwork in his face. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Another employee who did not wish to be named alleged that he has worked as a cook for the last five years but has not been paid a cook’s wage. He said that when he took up the issue with the CNP’s HR officer Beatriz Duarte, she told him that a college degree was required for the position of cook. According to the LISD job description for Cook I, a position that pays a minimum of $9,800 a year to a maximum of $14,091, the educational criteria is “a high school diploma, GED, or eighth grade education and four years of related experience.” The cook further alleges that the district’s central kitchen often sent rotten fruit to the campuses, which he refused to serve the children. Another LISD cafeteria employee alleged that Lopez sent out “chicken that is spoiled and green in color” to his campus and also to the private school his daughter attends. He called the principal at the private school to give her a heads-up about the tainted chicken. He alleges that he was threatened with losing his job. Noe made note of another email from then-Supt. Guerra, also dated March 23, 2009. It is addressed to director Lopez and cc-d to Roberto Cuellar, Genoveva Ramirez, Beatrice Duarte, Ernesto Noe, and Patricia Keck. The memo reads: “I want all nutritionists and dieticians to promote nutrition, education, and assist in the special diets when the doctor requests for high risk students. I would like for all of you to work in unity to deliver the most appropriate services to our students.” Noe said that despite the superintendent’s order to meet the special dietary needs of some students, central kitchen preparations for meals for students with egg allergies included ranch dressing, mayonaise, and turkey corn dogs, all of which, according to their labels, contain eggs. He said the food for students with peptic ulcers included high fat foods like pork tamales, mariachis, and chorizo and eggs. He alleges that Lopez showed favoritism to employees who were allowed to

M E N U FOR the childre

n

1.- T’aint Beef, T’aint Po rk It’s tainted chicken! 2.- Old New Potatoes 3.-Pineapple Teed-Beets Past Prime Fruit Compost 4. Expired Juice

sell the Central Kitchen’s gallon cans to florists. Noe alleges that fundraising raffles for scholarships took up an inordinate amount of on-the-clock time of CNP employees and were the substance of agendas and numerous memos. The fundraising effort, Noe said, was under auspices of the Texas Association of School Nutritionists, a 501(c)3 non-profit, but much of the time dedicated to it was on school district time. Noe’s grievance against Lopez alleges, in addition to racial discrimination, that Lopez fostered a hostile workplace of intimidation, favoritism, and unprofessional, dictatorial management. He also alleges that Lopez went through his desk, changed evaluations of staff that he had completed, and continued to write on the records of employee conferences after the employee had signed the record. Noe alleges retaliation by Lopez after he brought the overtime and spoiled food issues to Lopez. Guajardo terminated him just a year after Guajardo had hired him. Noe has also filed a grievance against Guajardo for the release of the Social Security numbers of 3,200 LISD employees in March.

Noe’s grievance against Guajardo alleges that Guajardo denied him due process, intimidated him into signing a resignation letter, and terminated him, advising him by letter on May 20, 2009 that he was being placed on administrative leave. A subsequent letter from temporary Supt. Ronald K. McLeod, also dated May 20, 2009, advised Noe that his contract would not be renewed for the 2009-2010 school year. Margaret Lopez did not respond to a July 22, 2009 email query from LareDOS about the allegations in Noe’s grievances. The district declined comment as well, but did indicate that the Central Kitchen’s gallon cans and palettes are recycled and not sold by employees as Noe alleges in his grievance. Noe’s Level Three hearing will be heard before the LISD board of trustees. Noe said he has filed a report with the LISD police, alleging that Lopez conducted gambling and raffles in the district’s central kitchen. The Webb County District Attorney’s office, through spokesperson Monica Perales, said that the DA’s office “anticipates receiving their (LISD PD’s) report within the next couple of days.” u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

17


Opinion

Arbitrator finds allegations of intoxication baseless; LPD’s Abraham H. Diaz Jr. exonerated By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

18

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

Photo By Monica McGettrick

A

braham H. Diaz Jr. -- the Laredo Police Department officer known as El Protector over the 12 years he worked at life-saving efforts for the safety of infants, teens, and Laredo drivers of all ages -- has been exonerated of department allegations of intoxication, consorting with persons of ill repute, and wearing his holstered firearm outside of his clothing in violation of LPD orders. The August 11, 2009 decision of an independent third-party arbitrator, Michael D. McReynolds of the American Arbitration Association, cleared Diaz of those allegations and reduced an already served February 2009 10-day suspension to a written reprimand. The decision upholds the City’s determination that Diaz failed to call in his October 2, 2008 absence from work and that he incorrectly completed his Work Attendance Record. McReynold’s opinion and award answers the question, “Did the City have sufficient grounds to suspend Diaz for 10 days and if not, what shall be the remedy?” Diaz and the City of Laredo were notified of McReynold’s decision 15 days after a July 27, 2009 arbitration hearing at City Hall with Assistant City Attorney Valeria Acevedo, Diaz, and his attorneys Zone Nguyen and George Altgelt. Among those who gave statements at that hearing were Officer Homar Solis Jr., Sgt. Resendez, the convenience store employees who found Diaz, Diaz’s direct supervisor Sgt. Alberto Salinas, Inv. G. Magaña, and Chief Carlos Maldonado. The allegations of Civil Service and departmental violations from the force Diaz has served for 20 years stem from the events of the early hours of October 2, 2008 when he was found asleep behind the wheel of his car -- engine running -in the parking lot of a convenience store at 401 E. Calton Rd. Off duty and not in uniform, Diaz was accused of wearing his department issue weapon, radio, magazine pouch, and handcuffs in plain sight. The risk manager of the convenience store chain who attempted to speak to Diaz said he found him “incoherent,” but did not describe Diaz as “intoxicated.” LPD Officer Solis who was flagged down by a convenience store employee as he drove past the store said he woke Diaz and was able to have a “normal conversa-

LPD Officer Abraham “El Protector” Diaz cleared Family, police officers, and members of the Laredo Police Officers Association joined Officer Abraham Diaz, better known as El Protector, at a recent press conference. Diaz was exonerated of department allegations of intoxication, consorting with persons of ill repute, and wearing his holstered firearm outside of his clothing in violation of LPD orders. tion” with him. The PD officer called his supervisor, Sgt. José A. Resendez, who once ascertaining that Diaz was not in uniform or in a police unit, agreed with Solis that Diaz should be taken home. Diaz was relieved without protest of his weapon and driven home in his own car by a convenience store employee with a Laredo PD officer escort. Solis’ report mirrored his statement at the July 2009 arbitration that he’d had no basis to arrest Diaz, who was not operating a vehicle and who did not pose a danger to himself or anyone else. He said he detected the faint odor of alcohol, but he also testified that there were no clues to prompt him to conduct a field sobriety test on the cooperative Diaz who exhibited no slurred speech and had no empties in the vehicle. Diaz’s history of a 2008 heart attack, a regimen of medication that reacts with alcohol, and a lack of sleep could have easily explained the incident had not the call of an anonymous female to the Laredo PD Office of Public Integrity (OPI) reported that Diaz was “intoxicated and behind the wheel of a parked car” at the convenience store parking lot.

The substance of the anonymous call gained momentum as a zealous OPI investigator, G. Magaña Jr., prepared an initial complaint that went to his supervisor, Lt. Guillermo Perez, who told Magaña to pursue an investigation. Magaña interviewed the convenience store witnesses and Officer Solis, none of whom stated in written reports that Diaz was intoxicated. Magaña turned in an un-signed, un-dated report that concluded that Diaz was “intoxicated” -- despite the lack of a corroborating field sobriety test and despite any witness testimony that Diaz was intoxicated. According to arbitrator McReynolds, Magaña’s report was of great significance because it was the sole basis of the subsequent actions of the DRB, the LPD Disciplinary Review Board that consisted of Officer Jeanette Sanchez, Investigator David Balderas, Sgt. John Payle, Lt. Gabriel Rodman, Capt. Steven Perez, and Asst. Chief Ivan Perez. By signing off on the statement of findings based on the OPI investigation, the review board “voted to sustain the charges” that Diaz had been intoxicated while he was off duty and had been “untruthful” about his work attendance on October 2, 2008.

On December 12, 2008, the DRB recommended a five-day suspension and that Diaz be sent for “alcohol treatment.” McReynold’s narrative states that LPD Chief Carlos Maldonado, after reviewing the OPI and DRB report and statements, decided on a 15-day suspension for Diaz. City Manager Carlos Villarreal conferred with Maldonado, determining that the Chief’s 15-day suspension exceeded the DRB’s recommendation of five days. A February 20, 2009 memo from Maldonado informed Diaz that he was ordered to seek continued care through the Employee Assistance program. A subsequent February 25 memo from Maldonado informed Diaz of a 10-day suspension without pay or benefits. On March 9, 2009, Diaz received a memo from Maldonado ordering him to cease duties as El Protector, the highly successful national traffic safety program aimed at Hispanics. According to McReynolds, the un-dated, un-signed OPI report initiated by the anonymous call had significant bearing on the matter because it was the “fundamental source,” the basis of the findings and recommendations of the DRB. “Moreover,” McReynolds WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


said, “the record reflects that the DRB did not prepare its own findings and recommendations as part of the process.” Rather, as the OPI investigator testified, he prepared both the OPI report and the board’s statement of findings. “It is significant that the language of the board’s findings was drafted by OPI, not the DRB,” McReynolds said. Hearing the testimony of the LPD officer on the scene and the convenience store employees who tried to rouse Diaz on the morning of October 2 and who gave statements that Diaz was not intoxicated, McReynolds discounted the conclusion in the OPI’s report that Diaz was intoxicated, further stating that the term “intoxicated” in the OPI report was the OPI investigator’s “personal definition” of the word. McReynolds also shot down the allegation that Diaz had been consorting with persons of ill repute and that Diaz had attracted attention to himself by wearing his department issue weapon outside his clothing in violation of LPD Order 10.41. Magaña’s OPI report, which Diaz’s attorneys called “a rush to judgment,” does not quibble about nailing Diaz as “intoxicated” on the morning of October 2, 2008. Magaña’s report said that Officer Solis said Diaz was “intoxicated” and that Solis’ supervisor Sgt. Resendez “confirmed officer Abraham was found intoxicated and asleep behind the wheel.” While Diaz was vindicated of the most serious charges, McReynolds acknowledged that Diaz did not in fact follow department protocol regarding calling in absences. Evidence showed that he did not call in and that he had submitted a Work Attendance record that stated he had worked the day of October 2. It is unfortunate that an anonymous call, coupled with the slipshod, prejudicial investigative efforts of the Laredo P.D.’s Office of Public Integrity and the rubberstamp of the Disciplinary Review Board could have such impact on the career of a 20-year veteran of the Laredo Police Department. The flawed investigation and

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

the DRB’s resolute reliance on it fly in the face of integrity and due process. Attorney Zone Nguyen, reflecting on his client’s case, recalled that Chief Maldonado had said that Diaz had shamed the entire department. “It’s a shame that we have a police department that didn’t investigate and follow procedure. It’s a shame the chief and the review board disregarded the statements of eyewitnesses and jumped to conclusions.” Flanked by his wife and children, other family members, police officers, and members of the Laredo Police Officers Association at an August 12, 2009 press conference, Diaz acknowledged his vindication. “The one thing I needed was to clear my name – for me, for my family, for my community. I am proud of this uniform,” he said, adding that he is back on patrol duty. Diaz said that when the first accusations surfaced, his wife said, “Show me the evidence.” He added, “It’s the same question my attorneys asked. I was confident the evidence would tell the true story.” Diaz lamented the shutting down of the El Protector program. Attorney Altgelt, said “Much was lost. It isn’t just the spokesperson for seat belts, car seats, and the safety of children in cars. It’s also confidence in the Laredo Police Department that has been lost. The department’s integrity has been called to question. If a man’s career is at stake, the least you can do is due diligence.” According to Altgelt, “The chief in his own words said that he looked at all the evidence and who Mr. Diaz was, and that’s why he suspended him. He rubberstamped the findings of the Disciplinary Review Board which rubber-stamped the unfounded ‘findings’ of Officer Magaña’s rush to judgement. We ask all our officers to talk to witnesses and to look at all the facts when they build a case. We can only hope this outcome makes the Laredo Police Department a better force.” Luis Dovalina, president of the LPOA, said, “We have always believed in Abraham Diaz. We knew justice would prevail.” u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

19


Profile

The Saga of Jim Proffitt Part III: Somebody had to win the Cold War for us and get us to Mars; up stepped Laredo’s James Vernon Proffitt Jr. He also foresaw the Gus Grissom tragedy, but his warning went unheeded by NASA By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

T

here is a giant walking among us in Laredo. His name is James Vernon Proffitt. He stands six feet tall and casts a shadow that reaches all the way back to yesteryear and Truk Atoll in the Caroline islands in World War II’s Pacific Theater and stretches all the way up to the red planet Mars in today’s and tomorrow’s Space Age. In the early 1950s the man himself in a jet fighter, not his shadow, eclipsed his share of Russianmade MiGs in the skies over Korea. Unkluckily for the conquest-bent Axis powers of the early-1940s and for the overly aggressive Communists of the ‘50s -- so petulant and so pesky -- James Vernon Proffitt’s America was always able to trump any wild card they may have had up their sleeve. And, unluckily for the Reds of the ‘60s and ’70s and ‘80s, James Vernon Proffitt stood tall for the red, white, and blue and helped keep the bellicose gulagers at bay. We have recorded incidents from Proffitt’s combat service in previous issues of LareDOS: how he served with the 98th Squadron of the 11th Bombardment Group in World War II, flying missions over Truk and other Pacific islands where the Japanese were entrenched; and how he flew America’s first combat jet, the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, on missions of aerial interdiction and close ground support during the Korean War. This latter assignment saw Captain Proffitt releasing 1,000-pounders and 500-pounders, as well as rockets, on supply dumps and other important targets, that is, when he wasn’t involved in air-to-air “dogfights” with MiGs. After the Korean War, Proffitt, who has an aeronautical engineering degree from Texas A&M University, worked for General Dynamics Astronautics in San Diego, California from 1955 to 1961. Here he worked as a test engineer on the Atlas Missile Program. The complexity of his assignment was matched by the secret nature of the experimentation in which he participated. “My work was so top-secret that I couldn’t even tell my family what I was doing; there’s a lot of it that they still don’t know,” he said. Proffitt didn’t merely work on the Atlas Missile Program. He was in charge of testing all parts of the missile, and he directed all design experiments under the title of Qualification Test Engineer. “I had to sign off on everything,” Proffitt said. “I was responsible for conducting early research and development (Atlas A, B, C, and D), and for Atlas E, which was our first operational rocket,” he said adding, “I had to personally certify that every item could withstand the environment in which it had to function -- I stuck my neck out about a mile at every step.” “As a systems engineer, I had to make sure that all the interfaces of the rocket fit together, Proffitt said. “It was a big deal; I had 50 engineers working for me when we did a Systems Interpretive Review; we

20

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

James V. Proffitt had to make quite a few design changes,” he added. As with almost everything where so many people are involved, nerves once in a while got rubbed a little raw. “I had a running fight with the Flight Safety Officer, who didn’t want to test the command deterrent before the missile was actually test fired,” Proffitt said, adding, “It was an organizational battle -- he didn’t want to subject it to testing or to my review -- he ended up getting fired.” “General Dynamics was on contract to the Air Force. The Atlas Program (intercontinental ballistic missile) was the national priority at this time when the Russians were constantly threatening us. We were the prime contractor for the government,” Proffitt said. He further explained the complex team effort: “Of course there were other contractors for other phases of the project-- North American Aviation made the engines, somebody else made the guidance systems, General Electric made the warhead -- our chief concerns at General Dynamics were the liquid oxygen fuel tanks, the pods, and the new engineering techniques for testing the materials and doing the engineering design for the construction jigs that would ultimately produce them, in some cases out of experimental metal alloys). “Liquid oxygen was the primary propellant. The missile had three basic engines. First were the two main thrusters with 150,000 to 175,000 pounds of thrust each; then came the middle or sustainment engine with 65,000 pounds of thrust; and then came the two outer engines, known as jettison or service engines.” Proffitt said that the entire project involved paying

close attention to an infinity of details and meticulous execution of engineering tasks involving the working out of high-level mathematics and physics problems -- all of this took place before they had to tackle the task of getting the missiles ready to be placed on the transporter that took them to the test facility at Point Loma. He added that the transportation of the missiles to the test facility was itself an excruciating procedure fraught with danger and potential for disaster. There have been over a dozen versions of the Atlas Missile -- the Atlas V is still in use and will be through 2011. It was inevitable that J.V. Proffitt’s contribution to rocketry and the whole scenario of silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles would be invaluable to the Strategic Air Command in the development of the silo-based Minuteman Missile, which Proffitt calls “the backbone of our defense.” He said that he worked hard on upgrading the Minuteman, which was first test-fired in 1961. Proffitt’s expertise was also indispensable in the development of the two-stage Titan I missile, whose liquid fueling systems were later retained and adapted by NASA for space launch vehicles. Significantly, Proffitt had a great deal to do with the design and development of the Centaur rocket stage, “still the workhorse of NASA,” according to Proffitt. It is used today on rockets with satellite payloads, including those used for reconnaissance, ocean surveillance, weather monitoring, and planetary exploration. An attempt on my part to explain Proffitt’s work in technical language would be an exercise in futility and an excursion into presumptuousness. It behooves us to leave the rocket science to the rocket scientist -- James Vernon Proffitt. It is recorded that a fire caused by the explosion of a liquid oxygen fuel tank in a Titan Missile silo in Damascus, Arkansas in 1980 killed 53 people. On at least two occasions, similar silo holocausts at facilities in the Western States were prevented by the timely and inspired calling-in of James Vernon Proffitt to prescribe and apply emergency containment measures and safety procedures. Proffitt, who well knew the dangers involved in the use of 100 percent pure oxygen, wrote several letters to NASA warning of the dangers that eventually resulted in the disastrous and traumatic fire that took the lives of Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee during a pre-launch test at Cape Kennedy on January 17, 1967. This was one time that perhaps NASA should have listened to Proffitt but didn’t. Proffitt volunteered for combat flying service during World War II and the Korean War. Before returning to civilian life in the mid-1950s, he plotted his own course again to coincide with the area of greatest national need -- defense of the homeland. “I’ve always been a ‘Where’s the fire?’ kind of person” he said, adding, “My family has always been very patriotic -- we have actively served our nation since the Revolutionary War; my grandfather was severely wounded in World War I. In my case, I saw the Russian challenge and did what I had to do.” u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Feature

Austin’s Habitat Hotel Suites: a green affirmation that enterprise can commit itself to environmental preservation and conservation toilet paper is “coreless,” reducing waste and eliminating the cardboard normally used by manufacturers. Kitchens have sanitized glasses, silverware, dishes, and cloth napkins instead of disposable ones. All suites have tinted windows that open for natural ventilation. The attics have radiant barriers, and there is proper insulation, and weather stripping throughout the property. All suites have high efficiency air conditioning units and energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs. Water heater temperatures are lowered to their greatest level of efficiency. Water saving showerheads, low flow aerator faucets, and low-flow toilets are also part of the Habitat water conservation effort. The hotel is equipped with non-ozone depleting fire extinguishers. The hotel saves 350,000 gallons of water a year by using a commercial washer that has a 20-gallon tank to capture the final rinse cycle for use as the first wash cycle of the next load. Habitat guests have the option to reuse towels and sheets to save on laundry water. These and other efforts save the hotel (and Austin) 6,410 gallons of water per day, almost 2,400,000 gallons per year. A waterless urinal in the guesthouse saves an estimated 50,000 gallons of water annually. Composting of food waste and organic material from the xeriscaped grounds and its use in landscaping reduces landfill space, saves the hotel an additional 35,000 gallons of water a year, and provides an excellent source of plant nutrients. The diverse plantings of the grounds are maintained with the use of natural, non-toxic fertilizers and pesticides and are watered with water saving sprinkler heads. Below and aboveground cisterns for rainwater catchment feed the 2.5 acres of densely vegetated gardens.

By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

T

he hybrid cars driven by other guests, the rainwater collection system, the meticulously tended organically grown herb and food gardens of the grounds, and the photovoltaic solar panels signaled that we had arrived at Austin’s Habitat Hotel Suites, the award winning, standard-setting green hotel established in 1985 by former Laredense Eduardo Longoria and John McCready. Just off Airport Blvd. and accessible from Highland Mall Drive, the red brick buildings of the hotel are tucked into an island of shade giving pecan trees and plantings of native foliage, including mountain laurel and cenizo. I’ve enjoyed many a restful stay in this place that offers hospitality, a quiet place to work, and the significant green affirmation that an enterprise of this size can commit itself with infrastructure and common sense daily practices to the conservation of water and energy, practices that enhance rather than compromise comfort. For starters, Habitat ensures air quality in each of its 96 suites with air ozonators/ionizers. Each of the one and two-bedroom suites offers a full kitchen, a wireless Internet workspace, and a comfortable sitting area. The hotel’s wholesale effort to be a responsible steward of the environment may not be immediately visible to first-time visitors, however, Habitat’s website provides a wealth of information about the environ-

Continued on next page

44

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

21

mental practices that have netted award after award for just that. Each suite has a blue recycling bin, and in an “out of the box” solution to the 225-gallon containers in which non-toxic, phosphate free soaps and cleaners were being delivered to the hotel, a local vendor now brings in five-gallon containers of product and takes the empties for refilling, supporting a local economy and eliminating recycling plastic. Paper products are of biodegradable, 100 percent recycled unbleached paper. The WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M


Photo by Monica McGettrick

Continued from page 21

Fixing Health Care panel at the Laredo Public Library The Laredo Public Library, in conjunction with the STDC Area Agency on Aging, recently held a panel presentation for older Laredoans to help sort through some of the myths and rumors surrounding proposed health care. Lee Hammond, President-elect of AARP, led the presentation and question and answer session.

I was pleasantly surprised on my most recent visit to see stands of amaranth and cantaloupe, peas, and other vegetable plants in the rich, dark soil of some of the flower beds. Especially pleasing to me was the herb garden in front of our suite, which featured basil, bay leaf, spearmint, rosemary, lamb’s ears, and aloe. About 20% of Habitat’s energy needs are met by the on-site photovoltaic solar cells on six of its highest rooftops. The PV system is the largest on-site solar generation demonstration of its kind in the country at a hotel, and one of the largest solar applications in Texas. The solar-powered hot water system installed in 2007 has reduced the hotel’s dependence on natural gas by 75%. The savings jump to 85% in this summer’s record heat. Environmental practices that began with simple, healthy ideas for air quality like a smoke-free environment and live plants in each suite have expanded to become part of every facet of the hotel’s best business practices. The hotel’s recycling program buys recycled-content products. All promotional and sales materials are printed in soy ink on recycled paper Habitat Hotel’s land use, energy efficiency, waste reduction and management, recycling, resource conservation, and efforts for improved human health and education have made Habitat a model of environmental consciousness, a model adopted by other green hotels across the country. In 1999 Habitat Hotel Suites was recognized by the TNRCC (now the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) with the governor’s Texas Environmental Excellence Award for Small Business. Habitat has also received the City of Austin’s ICI Water Conservation Award, the Austin Corporate Recycling Coalition’s Environmental Vision Award for Landscaping and Composting, and the coalition’s recognition with

its Environmental Vision Award for Comprehensive Program of the Year. In 2005 the hotel was the recipient of the Keep Austin Beautiful “Industry Leadership Award,” the Recycling Alliance of Texas Outstanding Sustainability Award, and the Co-op America National Green Business Leadership Award. The hotel received the first-ever Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce environmental award and the Greenbelt Award in 2006, followed by another Greenbelt Award in 2007. In 2007 Forbes Traveler named Habitat Suites one of the 10 best green hotels in America, and in May 2009 Entrepreneur Magazine called the hotel an innovative leader in the green economic revolution. The hotel observes quiet hours from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. and provides guests with breakfast in a clubhouse that overlooks a landscaped pool and fountain area. There are breakfast choices to suit every palate, ensuring that vegan and omnivore alike start the day with fresh foods. Managing partner Longoria is modest about his award winning enterprise that is a model now used by other green hotel operators across the country. “I am proud to be able to take care of our guests in ways that they never expected by giving them a toxic free sleep, righteous food, and a staff that wants this as much as I,” he said, adding, “I don’t know where my love for service to our planet came from, but I know that my lasting pleasure is derived from being a steward rather than an owner.” He credits an environmentally committed staff, including general manager Natalie Marquis, who is the executive director of the Texas Solar Energy Society, veteran front desk manager Donald Walls, and groundskeeper Jesus Galaviz for the sustainability of an acclaimed eco-enterprise committed to stewardship and leaving the smallest carbon footprint possible. For further information or to make reservations, visit www.habitatsuites. com. u

MHMR art class MHMR student Maria Molina worked on her sculpture during art classes at the Border Region MHMR.

22

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

Remains of long missing Ciudad Juárez women identified This story was compiled by Frontera Nortesur.

Y

ears after they were reported missing in Ciudad Juárez, two young women were declared dead. And as is the case with other instances of missing young women, more questions than answers remain on the table. Ciudad Juárez’s El Diario newspaper recently reported that the remains of Edith Aranda Longoria were identified earlier this year by the Argentine Anthropological Forensic Team, a group of experts brought in by the Mexican government under pressure from relatives of femicide victims and women’s activists to identify unknown murder victims in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City. The team has been successful in identifying many female murder victims from both cities. According to El Diario, Aranda’s remains were discovered in Loma Blanca, a rural town in the Juárez Valley south of the border city, on January 6, 2008. A 22-year-old teacher and mother of a young child, Aranda went missing on the afternoon of May 3, 2005. El Diario reported that a death certificate listed Aranda as dying in April 2007 of undetermined causes. If the identification of Aranda is correct, it means that almost two years passed between the time of the teacher’s disappearance and her death. Aranda’s possible whereabouts during this period of time are not publicly known at the moment. Aranda’s remains were buried in her family’s hometown of Chihuahua City last April, according to El Diario. In a 2005 interview with Frontera

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

NorteSur, Aranda’s brother, Pedro Aranda, said his sister was last situated seeking employment at a Discorama music store in downtown Ciudad Juárez, a zone where dozens of young women have vanished since the 1990s. Aranda said contradictory reports surrounded the subsequent whereabouts of Edith, and confirmed his sister possessed a US travel visa that he could not locate. Edith Aranda’s disappearance stoked public anger, leading to a one-day work stoppage by fellow teachers who marched in the streets by the thousands. Both the place where Aranda’s reported remains were discovered and the timing of the recovery could be of some importance. A haunt of drug traffickers and immigrant smugglers, the Juárez Valley has served as the dumping ground for other femicide victims. Celebrated as Three Kings Day, January 6 fell in a month last year when a bloody war between rival drug cartels erupted in Ciudad Juárez. In a second victim identification accomplished by means of DNA testing, authorities established that the body of a murdered young woman who was set on fire and discovered in an arroyo on March 21, 1999, belonged to 17-year-old Rosario Palacios Moran. The teenager was earlier reported missing after leaving Ciudad Juárez on December 7, 1998, or more than three months before she was killed. Delivered to her family, Palacio’s remains were finally buried in her native state of Guerrero late last month. According to a report from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), Palacios was headed to a shopping center at approximately 4 p.m. on December 7 when

she vanished. In its report, the CNDH concluded that Chihuahua state law enforcement officials violated Palacio’s human rights by not adequately investigating her disappearance. The Palacios murder was one of several slayings attributed to a group of bus drivers known as “Los Choferes” by the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office (PGJE) and Suly Ponce, the controversial former special prosecutor for women’s homicides. Attempts by El Diario reporters to get a comment on the Aranda and Palacios cases from the current special prosecutor for women’s homicides, Flor Munguia, were unsuccessful as of last weekend. Vladimir Tuexi, spokesman for the Ciudad Juárez office of the PGJE, said the identifications of Aranda and Palacios were not made public in order to protect “the investigations.” Curiously, in Palacio’s case, investigations were supposedly concluded more

than 10 years ago. Family members of another Ciudad Juárez femicide victim, Sagrario Gonzalez, were very critical of the PGJE’s withholding of important news on the fates of missing young women whose disappearances moved many in the Paso del Norte borderlands and across the globe. “(Authorities) try to hide the truth,” charged Guillermina Gonzalez, older sister of Sagrario Gonzalez. “There is no transparency in the investigations, and it has always been this way. They want to make believe that everything is under their control when in reality it is the opposite.” Additional sources: El Diario de Juárez, July 3 and 4, 2009. Articles by Gabriela Minjares and Luz del Carmen Sosa. Cndh.org.mx. (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.) u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

23


Rotary Club Notes

Rotary Club Notes

2009 Alexander grad Rona Nushi back home in Kosovo; Rotary exchange student’s touching letter to Laredo

E

arly on during the 2008-2009 school year LareDOS ran a feature story about 16-year-old Rotary Exchange Student Rona Nushi, a blond, blue-eyed high schooler from Kosovo, Europe’s newest nation, situated in the war-torn Balkans. We noted that she was bright, patriotic, energetic, family-oriented, and very glad for the opportunity to study in the United States. Rona was set to begin her senior year at J.B. Alexander High School, to which she looked forward with great anticipation. Her Laredo Rotary Club hosts were Ed and Kristy Medina and family, and her LRC counselors were Dr. Juan Lira and Mrs. Juanita Lira. The year flew by, and Rona filled her American experience studying hard, enjoying life with her host family, making tons of friends, and making wonderful memories. Rona, now a proud graduate of J.B. Alexander High School, is back home in Kosovo with her birth family, preparing for college entrance exams and feeling somewhat homesick for Laredo. Responding to a congratulatory e-mail sent to her by LareDOS writer John Andrew Snyder, Rona sent back the following reflections on her stay in Laredo. Dear Laredo and Laredo Rotary Club, First of all, thank you for e-mailing me and for the great words that you wrote. I really appreciate that the great people of Laredo are still thinking of me, even now that I left. I was glad that I had the chance to be a student at the J.B. Alexander High School, and I enjoyed my school year there. My goal in school was to give my best and achieve great success in studying. I had to take some classes that I didn’t have in my country, like U.S History or U.S. Government, so for the off block that I had I took Marching Band, AP Chemistry, and AP Biology. I took the AP classes because I will need them for school here (in Kosovo) and also in order to get more credit. But, since I went to Laredo in the senior year, I just started taking AP classes, so they couldn’t count me as a DAP (Distinguished Achievement Plan) student or anything else, so I just graduated as an ordinary student. But I was glad to be in the top 11 percent of the senior class. Marching Band was totally the fun part. The morning practices, the football games, the marching band contests, and other events made every day exciting. But I only got to be in the marching band the first semester, because I took the AP classes the second semester, and I didn’t have any off block for the band. I have a lot of memories of the band, and I also have two gratitudes, one from the UIL contest and the other one from the band as being part of it and contributing to it. Counting from the day I arrived in Laredo to the day I left, I gained 22 pounds, and that’s definitely because of the good food. My host mom (Kristy Medina) was a great cook -- I liked what she cooked and I really got to love Mexican food, too. I used to go to Palenque Grill or Taco Palenque and I liked everything they served, especially the fajitas with the meat apart, so that I was able to make my own taco (with a lot of avocado on it!)

24

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

Rona Nushi with her parents Sami and Nasire I’m already back home and, looking from outside it feels like nothing has changed. A year has passed really fast and I’m back again to the old life. But, in fact, when I look at it deeper, and I pass through my mind all my year’s experience, I think that I got from it so much and I learned so much, that now I think differently about things. I’m still the same person, but more advanced and prepared for life. It wasn’t an easy thing to live for one year away from your family, friends, place, and every other thing that you were used to having near. I was lucky to be in a host family with a lot of children, full of fun and craziness. Keeping myself busy with different stuff worked a lot to stop me thinking about back home. But still, at that little free time that I had, maybe at night before going to sleep, my mind would fly back home and think of my family. So, when the time to meet them came, I was super excited. And, believe me, it was the best feeling staying in between two moms and two dads and knowing how wonderful these moments were. It was a great pleasure for my real parents to meet my host parents. Now that I am back home, everyone is saying that the emptiness of the house is filled, and it looks way livelier. Kosova is the place where I was born and have lived most of my life. I’ve experienced so many things here, from the happy ones to the saddest ones, and that’s what has given me the strength to leave everything behind and live my

dream in the USA. Now that I’m back home, I’m enjoying the beautiful mountains a lot, going rock climbing and hiking, but not as much as before, since now is the time for exams for the university where I am going, and I need to take my time and study. My friends are very excited that I’m back and it looks like they really missed me. They’re helping me to catch up with the lessons that I missed so I can have a better chance to get accepted at the university (for medicine). Laredo has a special place in my heart. I got so used to living in Laredo that when the last days came, I couldn’t believe that the year had passed so fast. When I was flying out of Laredo, watching the city lights from the airplane, I was thinking: “The best year of my 17-year life has come to an end, and am I ready to say goodbye to everything I built up here? But now that my dream of coming to the USA got realized, I think that everything is possible, and coming back to the USA is possible, too. These days I’m working very hard for the exam to get accepted in Medicine. I’m going to the University of Prishtina, and I plan to go to the USA for specialization, hopefully. My other hard goal that I have set for myself is to be a doctor, and I’ll study for it with pleasure because that’s the profession that I have always wanted. During my year in the USA I also enjoyed horseback riding. My host family gave me the opportunity to take private classes and to participate in play days. I’m really thankful to them because I got the chance to play a sport that I really enjoyed and got first and second places on play days. Horseback riding became my best hobby in the USA, and I still think to continue riding even now that I’m back home. But, ballet dancing was another special thing that my host family allowed me to study. I always like ballet, so I practiced every week with pleasure, until the day of recital, when we all had the chance to show our dance in front of a great public, which included my real and host parents. Since before coming to the USA, I tried to play guitar, so when I arrived there, I took private classes for guitar also. I really enjoy playing guitar because it’s an instrument that you can play for your friends and sing along too. At the end of the year I had a recital, my first guitar recital, so it was special for me. I had a great year in the USA and for that, someone needs to really be thanked. First I want to thank my real parents that gave me their support to come here and also supported me throughout all the year, Rotary Club that made my dream real, my host family that did so much for me, and my friends for supporting me and being with me when I needed them the most. I also want to thank all the exchange students that shared their stories and made our year easier, assuring us that we were not the only ones passing through these up and own emotions, and everyone else that became a part of my best year ever! Yours truly, Rona Nushi WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

25


Feature

Even as I grouse about the crowded train car and the snail speed of The Bertram Flyer, I’d book another rail excursion diesel 442 locomotive, the steam engine in repairs by ASTA members. Before being purxcept for the present day hideous back- chased by ASTA, the vintage 442 had seen up of traffic caused by the Kansas City decades of service with the Atchison, Topeka, Southern rail line, I’ve always loved and Santa Fe Railway, the Squaw Creek Coal trains. Company of Indiana, and the Indiana Hi-Rail My son took his first steps in an Amtrak Company. According to the ASTA website, car from Austin to Laredo when we often ASTA staff and volunteers rebuilt the 442 for rode by rail instead of drove to visit my regular service and painted the engine in a parents. The late afternoon and evening modified Southern Pacific “Black Widow” ride included supper in the dining car on paint scheme. The 2,400-horsepower diesel tables covered with crisp white linen, ser- locomotive is the last known operating exvice you did not have to ask for, big rolling ample of its class, a beauty of an engine. landscapes of ranches and farms outside Meanwhile back at the Buckeye Lake car, the windows, a beautiful back-door view it was packed to capacity, as were all the other of the small towns we stopped in along the cars -- lots of families and grandparents and grandkids out for a last bit of fun before school starts. The Bertram Flyer is staffed by really nice, knowledgeable volunteers, some of them former railway employees who are members of the non-profit ASTA. Early in the excursion to the old restored train stop at Bertram, children and adults alike were excited at our departure, but by the time we got to Bertram, Emily Altgelt waited patiently to board The the atmosphere in the Bertram Flyer in Cedar Park. car was a din of restless children and adults way, and winter sunsets of mauve, orange, weary of traveling at turtle speed -- it’s a very gold, and amber hues that etched quietly slow ride -- and the reality that we’d be makonto my senses. ing the same 1.5 hour trip again through the Free of having to drive and with the Pull- same drought parched ranches and dry gulman nearly to ourselves, I loved the contem- lies in reverse. plative time on the train, reading if I felt like I’d have paid good money for a rent car in it, dozing with my child if we were sleepy. Bertram. Alas, Bertram, a pretty little town Unfortunately, the recent train ride upon northwest of Austin and home of the annual which I embarked with my granddaughter Oatmeal Festival, had no rental venues. Emily was little like those times. It was, noneThe route offered no glorious sunsets to theless, a train ride as I had promised. catch on the heart either. The view out the We drove to Cedar Park north of Austin windows from Cedar Park to Bertram and to board the Austin Steam Train Association’s back was lots of mobile home squalor and (ASTA) Bertram Flyer for a three-hour excur- junk autos punctuated by subdivisions and sion. I booked late, and so instead of riding occasional ranches. Now and again horses in a roomy restored Pullman like the City of and a rustic ranch house raised the bar for Chicago or the Santa Fe, we got coach seats on what would be nice to see. the Milwaukee Buckeye Lake, a car built for The withered landscape is certainly not the New York, Chicago, and St. Louis (Nickel the responsibility of the railway company, Plate) Railroad and now renamed for one of but if you’ve traveled from a withered landthe Hill Country’s Highland Lakes. scape, it’s not terribly meaningful to see Our train of beautiful restored cars was more out the window. pulled not by a steam engine but by an Alco Even as I grouse about the crowds and the By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

E

26

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

landscape, I’m planning a trip on the company’s sister excursion, The Hill Country Flyer, which departs Cedar Park and goes through the Hill Country to Burnet where you can stop for a good The excursion car was packed with families while before the trip back on one last outing before school begins. to Cedar Park. And beyond that, Emily and I will plan For further information on The Bertram to travel by Amtrak out west a bit, perhaps Flyer, The Hill Country Flyer, Thomas the to Alpine which is just a stone’s throw from Train excursions, and the Polar Express, one of our favorite places, Ft. Davis. go to www.austinsteamtrain.org. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


BACK to School 2009-2010

Mary Help of Christians School

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

27


Opinion 2. This school board is very united, despite what you hear. We vote 7-0 on everything that doesn’t concern academics. 3. People say we go around firing superintendents all the time. That’s not true -- we’ve only fired two of them. The rest have retired due to illness or personal reasons.

Courtesy Photo

1. Why we approved the LISD pay raise? I don’t know.

Orale: A sad moment for English and Spanish This Benavides raspa truck driver does his part to deter the cause of speaking proper English or Spanish. Ni que code switching ni que tus narices.

Trustee Joe Valdez ‘splains LISD Board actions at a recent civic club meeting.

28

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Highest Forage Test Results at the 2007 Oak Creek Farms Bull Sale Bull

Forage Test Gain Off Wt

Ultrasound

Gain

Avg Gain

REA

IMF

DNA Profile Information

PHN Breed

DOB

BW

On Wt

Tenderness

Fat Thick

Yield Grade

Ribeye Area

Carcass Wit

Percent Choice

Marb Score

201S RB

4/3/06

80

758

1319

632

3.5

15.45

3.7

6

5

5

5

6

6

6

650S RA

3/1/06

74

794

1290

496

2.8

15.40

4.2

7

6

6

6

6

7

5

Sire: M&M Crusader 548/0 Dam: M&M Flashy Lady 376

RED FLASH 376P

Grand Champion American Red Brangus Bull 2006 San Antonio and Houston Livestock Shows

Angel R. Laurel

Registred & Commercial 101 Mayfair Dr. • Laredo, Texas 78045 Office: (956) 724-7027 • Mobile: (956) 763-1116 Roberto J. Laurel (956) 763-7832

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

No. 2 overall DNA (only to 650S) in Oak Creek Farm’s 2007 Sale No. 1 weight gainer in class for Oak Creek Farm’s 2007 Sale

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

29


Courtesy Photo

At BMP’s back to school uniform drive La Ley on-air personalities Raul “Raulito” Perez and La Fresa take the stage with Los KonKistadores, who later were named winners of the Battle of the Bands at the recent Border Media school uniform drive.

30

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Arturo L. Benavides Elementary School San Ygnacio, Texas Zapata County Independent School District

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

31


Opin

Triple bogey Webb County you’ve got th By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

T

here seems to be a profitability crisis at Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course (CBMGC), to the tune of about $180,000 in the red since last November, when the Webb County Commissioners’ Court took the course away from Balt Ramos and handed it over like a Thanksgiving turkey to Southern Golf Properties, a small golf course management firm based in Bandera. Our attempts to get to the bottom and bottom line of the situation led us directly to the Webb County Court House, where we found the culprits, er...where we came across some interesting bits of information in the course of the Aug. 10 meeting. Everyone came to court that day equipped for a solemn occasion -- dark apparel, funereal expressions, highly polished black shoes, high heels, or boots, hair blacker-or-browner than usual. If looks could kill, the county medical examiner wouldn’t have had enough body bags or stacks of aromatic wood for ceremonial funeral pyres. Laredo’s getting to be like the Rome that Bob Dylan said he liked to visit because “new ruins are going up every day.” Look at the historic Lamar Bruni Vergara home. Oh, that’s right, you can’t look at it because somebody reduced it to a pile of rubble while city “authorities” twiddled their thumbs. Instead, turn around and look at the venerable Casa Blanca Golf Course -- this may be your last chance. The only visible improvement that current County Judge Danny Valdez and his co-Kevorkians have made to the course is to add the word ‘Municipal’ to its name, but they have used it as a political tire iron to bludgeon public opinion into silence and jack the patrons around time and time again. Case in point -- the recent Commissioners’ Court meeting, during which Valdez and Commissioners Wawi Tijerina and Gerry Garza took their best shot at political hide-and-seek but shanked the golf course issue into the

32

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

hazard. There’s a penalty for that. Not everything that’s ludicrous is funny. I’m sure that a lot of people, especially local golfers and subscribers to courtroom protocol, were anything but amused by the antics and crass political tactics displayed by DV and the Doom Patrol as they ostensibly listened to the abortive golf course update delivered by John R. Junker, CEO of Southern Golf Properties. Certainly, more questions were raised than were answered by the display of mock procedure that was served up. What those of us who witnessed it saw was a travesty of procedure, a vulgarization of due process as a mere formality, and a sham government manipulating public perception for its own unarticulated but undeniably political aims. Meanwhile, the Junker report never teed off or even got off the ground (off the floor), but the wee bit of information that he was barely allowed to divulge was perhaps sounding none too good for the political aspirations of the members of the panel. In jackknifes Commissioner Tijerina created a diversionary splash so big that the perplexed Junker didn’t have time to look thankful, even though she was letting him off the hook big time. And speaking of off the hook -- when Junker first stepped up to the microphone he looked like one who had girded his loins for a grilling, but now Commissioner Tijerina had thrown a huge red herring, a despiste, out on the barbie, and Junker probably couldn’t believe what he was hearing. No pointed questions, no questions at all that suggested that the commissioners knew anything at all about golf, no suggestions for stopping the CBMGC hemorrhage, no raised eyebrows, no time for sergeants, no, no Nanette, no business like show business. One minute Junker was sheepishly delivering a tale of two failures -- the Court’s ghostly Golf Committee’s failure to provide any direction for the golf course management company and the WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


nion

is par for the course has the money if e tam o’shanter -- Not! management’s failure to improve the course one iota vis-à-vis the bottom line -- and the next minute Commissioner Tijerina was saying that she was impressed with the “uplift of conditions” despite the fact that Junker had his “hands tied” due to lack of funding and direction from the court. In the two minutes or so that he was allowed to speak, Junker was “up front” with the salient details -- they racked up a $180,000 fund deficit, the antiquated sprinkler system was worked on and improved, a few tree branches were cut, the whole course was “aerified” (rolled with a heavy spool with spikes to soften the soil and allow the grass roots room to branch out), and a bald area in front of No. 12 green was filled-in with soil and grass is making a comeback there. Junker added that dealing with the prolonged drought had “been a struggle,” that the entire course needed re-sodding, and added that more renovations were planned, but then a funny thing happened on the way to the specifics -- Commissioner Tijerina jumped in, all gushing over with compliments and congratulations to the guy who had just admitted abject failure. Effectively, the result of the interruption of the business-information talk by the course’s managing consultant (Junker) was that he was not allowed to consult, or even finish laying the factual groundwork for consultation, so that the Court, initially in the person of the jackknife-ing Commissioner Tijerina, could fly into raptures about what they were hearing -- basically, all bad news. It became obvious that Junker had been asked to report at all because the Commissioners had been doing some offthe-radar skullduggery vis-à-vis locating other sites of possible second (or third) golf courses, discussing a lease of Casa Blanca’s 130 acres to a racetrack outfit out of Houston, which between Commissioner Tijerina, Judge Valdez, and Commissioner Garza was hinted at no fewer than three times. Commissioner Tijerina even WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

went so far -- during one of her jackknife interruptions -- to point at Junker and say, “And that’s why we would like you to come along on our inspections of these properties.” Did they not only let him off the hook, but were also throwing him a bone? If so, why? And if he didn’t have the expertise to save Casa Blanca, why would they consult with him on one or two new golf course projects worth millions located down here in the same sun-baked,

way. Holding onto some kind of a fact sheet that seemed to contain some info about the loss figures at CBMGC since Southern Golf Properties took over, he addressed himself more to Commissioner Tijerina and the Judge, and wore a somewhat concerned expression (not angry or urgent) wondering out loud if it might not have been recommendable to have kept closer tabs on the workings of Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course so that the “bad”

Is Casa Blanca Golf Course dead? Has it been read its “Last Wrongs?” Because they recently held an inglorious burial ceremony at Commissioners’ Court.

drought-stricken hamada region? At this point, the gob-smacked Junker looked flabbergasted, totally at a loss to link his Casa Blanca almost-report to the pie-the-sky raptures of a commissioner that was supposed to be putting him through his paces but instead seemed to be recommending him for knighthood or Greenskeeper of the Year on the basis of his report that she never let him get off the ground. Besides, the gist of the speech was negative -- things were going disastrously (drought, crumbling, withering facility, fewer patrons, financial debacle, investment needed, tournaments almost nonexistent.) No indeed, the Commissioner Tijerina ploy looked like a planned head-him-offat-the-pass strategy -- swamp him with laudatories and “poor guy” well wishes, and don’t let him come up for air. He might tell the truth, and the truth in this case wouldn’t be setting anyone free. So in jumps Commissioner Garza with a half gainer with half forward twist -- a very awkward dive that came off that

bottom line could have been different. “If we had looked into this, we might have been able to catch some of this, we might not have had the negative fund balance we’re looking at now; what if we hiked green fees, had more tournaments, yadda, yadda, yadda.” Good thinking, but almost a year slow on the draw. Judge Valdez, his demeanor that of one sitting in a soundproof room at GITMO, because his apparent remote, out-ofbody expression face and head (his hair combed outward from the centerline in the usual bi-directional way -- a mirror of his dismal fence-straddling tenure so unbecoming of one elected to lead a taxing entity), rimless eyeglasses (where were the blue contacts?), is still there above the dais above his nameplate. Finally moved to weigh in on the confusion, the judge is faced with a whole gaggle of people from the floor -- County Auditor Leo Flores, Junker, Junker’s partner Brian Gathraite, and CBMGC manager Rudy Rodriguez -- all start talking at the same time that Commissioner Tijerina and Commission-

er Garza are interrupting in cacophony. The Judge waits till the precise point that Rodriguez tragically breaks the bad news about the terrible tournament turnout that there’s been, which he attempted to watercolor with some tears and hopeful yarns about a future turnaround that was bouncing around on some website in some computer that would someday cure global warming, make believers of all naysayers, and make that cash start rolling into CBMGC coffers. The Judge, apparently hearing something the young man didn’t say, smiled as if he was pleased at what he had heard. (I myself couldn’t pick one positive tidbit out of what he said), and said something to the effect of, “Let’s keep those women and those youngsters coming out to the golf course; I commend you.” According to a story in the August 14 edition of the Laredo Morning Times, two letters of interest for future golf course sites were “officially received” the next day (August 11) and a third arrived a day after that (August 12), pending review by the office of Webb County Purchasing Agent Eloy Ramirez. The first property, which belongs to several members of the Rodriguez family, consists of a rectangular east-to-northeast stretch of land of approximately 3,000 acres divided into four portions accessible at its main entrance behind Loop 20 where Academy Sports is located. The second site is Hachar-owned land on I-35 and the Mines Road. A comment by County Attorney Anna Laura Cavazos Ramirez in that LMT story suggests that the Hachar and Rodriguez sites, do not have access to water rights and that it would necessitate “expensive” water lines for these courses to be viable. Oscar Rodríguez, who owns the second-easternmost portion of the Rodriguez land, told LareDOS that the Rodriguez land in question is situated in a location that has easy access to potable water, and is also sitting atop a reservoir of potable water. Continued on next page

44

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

33


Continued from page 33

Meanwhile, according to the same LMT story, a third request for consideration for a golf course site was made by Joe Medina of Verde Estates north of La Bota Ranch on the Mines Road. The article said that Medina was told by County purchasing agent Ramirez that “the county could not accept the letter because it came in late.” Cavazos-Ramirez, who apparently liked the offer, is quoted, “There’s no two ways about it, we need to extend the deadline.” Developer Chendo Carranco, speaking on behalf of Verde Estates before the CityCounty Government Issues Committee at an August 13 meeting, said, “You can start the golf course now, right now,” (on Verde Estates.) According to the article, the City of Laredo has already selected a golf course site at Las Islitas, a little farther out the Mines Road than Verde Estates, and the question of City-County cooperation has now come into play. Both government entities seem to be regarding it as a foregone conclusion that historic Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course is marked for obsolescence. As for the incongruous memorial service held at the County Courthouse at the August 10 Kangaroo Commissioners’ Court meeting, featuring some ill-suiting chin music by Danny and the Juniors, Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course, a genuine Webb County tradition, and its illustrious patrons and “regular Joe” players of the past and present were disrespected to the point of not even being alluded to, and were apparently not worth considering, while DV and the Doom Patrol threw dirt on the casket under the false pretenses that they were acting in the best interests of the golfing sportsmen of this area. What really comes out of all of this sham concern for the golfing public is exactly the opposite of what the County

34

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

Kevorkians want you to think and see. They want you to think that this old course (CBMGC) is too old, too alkaline, and that Webb County golfers too deserving of a newer facility. Fiddlesticks! Let me ask you, have you ever seen some of the hallowed British Open “moonscapes” that Jack, Arnie, Gary, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Tiger, Angel, Padraig, Fuzzy, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, and the rest of the world’s elite play on year after year for the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year?” Remember, golf was invented over there. The Old Course at St. Andrew’s has been open since 1552

66 that day. Hard, struggling-grass fairways, blustery winds, drought, rain -- these are all considered ideal playing conditions because they are the norm in the British Isles, the birthplace of golf. Substitute the word “heat” for the word “rain” and you’re talking about Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course. The playing conditions have changed little in the whole history of CBMGC. Aside from the re-routing of a few fairways back in the 1960s (the same was once done at St. Andrews), the venerable CBMGC has always played just as it was conceived and faith-

Are Judge DV and his Kangaroo Court in the hazard? Do they still have some balls up their pouch, or are they “out of bounds?” How much longer will Danny and the Juniors be “at the Hop?”

-- the only time it was ever closed (temporarily) was as a precautionary measure due to an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in the 17th century. The immortal Bobby Jones and Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa won the British Open and the Women’s British Open there. Jack and Tiger have both won there. Fuzzy Zoeller, Ben Crenshaw, and Tom Kite have also played at Casa Blanca at the Border Olympics. One of the BO’s and CBMGC’s golden moments occurred when Crenshaw snaked in a 50-footer from the fringe on the 72nd hole for a 65 and a one-stroke overall victory over his Texas teammate Kite in 1968, who fired a

fully maintained by Webb County Judge after Webb County Judge -- until now. Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course has always been an accessible amenity, a necessary amenity. It has a lot of history, and a lot of colorful Laredo personalities have done friendly battle and enjoyed each other’s company over its greens and fairways in pursuit of competitive sport and civilized recreation -- people like Paul Young Sr. and Paul Young Jr., Fred Bruni Sr. and Fred Bruni Jr; Joanne Bruni Maddox; Pete Arguindegui Sr. and Pete Arguindegui Jr.; Roger García Sr. and Roger García Jr.; Dick Meisner; Rex Lattimore; Alfred Murphy; Bip Jureka; Hal Winston; Dr. Enrique Longoria and Dr. George Longoria; Don Tomás, Fruta, Vidal, Rey, and Rito Palacios; Ricky Ortiz; and countless more of us mere mortals for whom this wonderful, reliable old golf venue has been a godsend down through the years. Yet all of a sudden we’ve got a county judge and court who, along with their non-golfing cronies don’t give a kangaroo rat’s behind about any of this and want to allow a significant part of Laredo and Webb County history to atrophy and wither away to a slow death without so much as allowing for a simple open forum for public input on the matter. Yes, it needs improvements, real improvements.

Let the questions be asked. Why do DV and the Doom Patrol really want to shut down CBMGC? To make a profit off the lease of the land to a Houston racetrack outfit? According to Webb County Auditor Leo Flores, “The Sam Houston Race Park people want to lock up the land (where CBMGC is located) and set up pari-mutuel betting machines until and if the laws change and betting is legalized in Texas.” Flores added that, since Former CBMGC manager Balt Ramos took the golf carts and the liquor license with him as per his contract, potential revenues were necessarily reduced quite seriously when Southern Golf Properties took over management duties. One question -- and the Court is concerned about profits? This is a big enough deal, involves enough people, and threatens enough of a lifestyle change in this area that it will likely reach platform plank status in the upcoming political races. The trash-thegolfcourse-buy-land-and-build-a-newone-and-meanwhile-set-up-a-gamblingfacility was not an idea that originated with the Webb County Commissioners’ Court. They no more have ideas than they know how to play golf, or care about the role golf has played in this community. Nor do they understand the spirit of the CBMGC concept that has been passed like a torch from Webb County Judge to Webb County Judge -- the golf course was never intended to be a cash cow to be milked by political opportunists to make political hay. It’s an easy-to-get-to place -provided by the County -- to go out and have healthy family recreation. The idea of going cash cow with our golfing heritage didn’t pop up until the racetrack people came up with an offer. Upon receipt of the offer DV and the Wallaby Wannabes suddenly got themselves fitted for plus-fours and tam o’shanters and thought they’d just lock up the next election by blowing a few mil of your tax dollars on mo’ land for mo’ golf courses -- but the only mo’ we’ve gotten instead is the likes of Moe, Larry, and Curly dreaming greens and greenbacks on a landscape of prolonged drought. Show me the money – on the heels of budget shortfalls, a grim economic climate, and scant water resources – and show me the wisdom of finding a new black hole for taxpayer dollars, taking with us golf course consultants who will make sure it’s the best black hole. Judging by the way golf course projects have been started and abandoned in the past, there may be some new life in the old gal yet -- Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course, that is -- despite all the morbid imagery in the courthouse. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Farewell Herr Shultz Herr Shultz (Ricardo Villarreal) bids Sally Bowles (Cassandra Canales) a farewell as the Nazi influence beings to take its toll on Berlin in the L.I.T.E. production of Cabaret.

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Cabaret volunteers LITE volunteers Sandra Gallegos and Patty Pe単a performed door duty at the Laredo Center For The Arts during Cabaret. Gallegos directed and Pena assistant-directed LITE Productions presentation of Mulan Jr. earlier in the summer.

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

35


Photos by Monica McGettrick

Landmark lotería

Abandoned and immediately approaching derelict For many years 1719 Matamoros Street housed Texas Rural Legal Aid (later Texas RíoGrande Legal Aid), but since TRLA’s move to Convent Street in 2007, the building has quickly plummeted towards derelict status. Trash litters the lawn; a young sapling has fallen over near the walkway; the back door and windows have been smashed in, the window screens cut and yanked back; a small staircase in the back is crumbling; concrete is scattered across the lawn; and the small room housing the water heater is missing its door, and it appears that the heater is lacking some copper piping. The owner registered with the county is Barry Sanditen, care of Linda Deutsch. This unique house was built circa 1905, and it is a two-storied, stucco house with a porch on the north and east sides, a second floor porch area, chimney, and large lot. The front porch has Greek cross openings that distinguish it from neighboring buildings. Subtle and lovely The owners of record for this two-story Victorian house are Yolanda and Mario Tello, and it has recently been undergoing a facelift. The house has a two-story gallery on the south and east sides. Although the front door was modernized in the early ‘80s and burglar bars were installed, the light green walls and white paint on the bars and second-story porch railing give the house a soft, clean look. A small, unobtrusive, wrought iron gate runs around the property, and the bits of plaster littering the lawn are the only sign that the house is currently receiving a touch-up. The house first appeared in the City Directory around 1923, and initially belonged to R.E. Saddler, who worked as a railroad conductor and who received the lot in July 1913 from the heirs of E.A. Atlee. Atlee purchased the land in 1882. Saddler later sold the property to Luz Maria P. de Galicia in 1929.

36

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

37


38

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

39


Features

“How’d you turn a billion steers into buildings made of mirrors?” Putting Texas literature in its place. By MARY HELEN SPECHT This story first appeared in The Texas Observer on July 10, 2009. was on a farmer’s schedule: down with the dark, up with the dawn. Each morning the sunrise bored through the kitchen window by the cupboards as I boiled water for tea and old-fashioned oatmeal. Sometimes there would be a few deer on the outskirts of the yard munching the corn I’d left by the three small gates that opened onto wildflower fields and a forest of oak and cedar. Paisano deer were shy and skittish, not like the deer that frequented the new housing developments farther down Highway 290, the deer that would come to the back door and eat out of your hand. After breakfast I took my morning walk, sometimes up the hill toward the Mockford property where enormous clusters of prickly pear bloomed yellow and then surrendered their fruit to foxes and raccoons as the season changed. Sometimes I scrabbled along the limestone bluffs or made my way out to the old log cabin, ducking the dew-covered spider webs that spanned the path. By the end of summer, drought had caused Barton Creek, which usually rushes through the ranch, to shrivel until it was bone-dry. Then I walked the creek bed. Later I settled in at the long table built by the venerable Texas newspaperman and author A.C. Greene (the second Dobie Paisano Fellow), writing and watching the birds. Cardinals and finches skirmished over the feeders and drank at the blue ceramic birdbath, dipping forward with little Japanese bows. There were hummingbirds and robins, tufted titmice, a pair of painted buntings and even one rose-breasted grosbeak, which according to the books on the shelf should not have been in Texas that time of year. At dusk, the whippoorwills raised their voices, calling back and forth across the yard. Any frustrations over how to move forward with the book I was writing seemed to dissipate in the face of Paisano’s wonder, its reminders that life goes on, how the small picture is really the big picture, too. Before going to bed I stepped onto the porch, out to where the moon illuminated the stone edge where the overhang didn’t reach. The light was a milky picture frame encasing the house and me. I never wanted to leave. I was the 79th Dobie Paisano Fellow to enjoy custodianship of what was once J. Frank Dobie’s 250-acre ranch. I lived and worked there during the spring and summer of 2008,

I

40

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

finishing a collection of short stories set in Texas and working on a book about my experiences in Nigeria. At a time when many people worry that regional distinctions in the U.S. are dwindling in the face of media conglomeration and rootless mobility, the Dobie Paisano seems like a quaint throwback. Only Texans can apply (though writers aren’t required to write about Texas); only one writer lives there at a time; it’s on a ranch, for Christ’s sake. I was lucky in that the week before my tenure began, the fellowship -- sponsored by the Texas Institute of Letters and administered by the University of Texas -- held its first-ever reunion, complete with food and bands and returning fellows from as far back as 1967. As the greenhorn, I was regaled with warnings, mostly having to do with snakes and scorpions, but also with what seemed at the time like melodramatic gushing and heehawing over the place. Vince Lozano told me about being flooded in more than a dozen times when Barton Creek swelled over the low-water crossing. Gary Cartwright pointed out the corner of the kitchen where Dennis Hopper lay passed

out for two days after a party. And there were darker stories too, like how one Very Famous Writer, teaching in San Marcos at the time, was asked to stop by the ranch and check on a fellow who hadn’t been responding to phone calls. The Very Famous Writer supposedly found the poor fellow stark raving mad, bunkered down with a loaded shotgun and claiming his in-laws were on the property to kill him. The best advice I received that weekend was the following: On your first day at the ranch, buy a nice steak and a decent bottle of wine. Grill up the steak, pour yourself a glass, and then sit down and read The Reports, a special binder full of pages written by past fellows, beginning organically with random notes left behind in the ’70s and eventually morphing into officially requested entries. The reports tell of changes in the land, the creeks, the surrounding development, of longhorns running wild and foxes chasing fireflies, of children. They also betray the inner lives of the fellows themselves, the good writing and the no writing and the awe and the loneliness. Reading these missives from the past, I felt welcomed into the house.

These words of men and women into whose footsteps I was literally stepping made me feel connected, not just to Paisano, but also to a kind of tradition. Yet I wondered if this wasn’t more illusion than anything else. Unlike the Deep South, with its gothic Faulknerian glamour, Texas’ literary history has always been marred by a lack of respect from the outside and an inferiority complex expressed from within. Texas’ own sons and daughters have often been its literature’s harshest critics, from Katherine Anne Porter’s declaration that she was “the first and only serious writer that Texas has produced” to Larry McMurtry’s famous salvo in “Ever a Bridegroom: Reflections on the Failure of Texas Literature,” in which he famously claims that the state’s writers “paid too much attention to nature, not enough to human nature.” (Both statements first appeared in the pages of the Observer.) As recently as 2004, Benjamin Moser wrote in The New York Review of Books that “For a place of its size and importance, Texas has a remarkably thin literary resumé.” Continued on next page

44

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Continued from page 40 Texas the myth, all cowboys and wildcatters, may not have a public relations problem, but Texas literature sure does. In a state that requires its students to take at least a year of Texas history, it’s shocking how little we Texans know about our own literary traditions. Recently, I met a friend, a very funny published writer and recent transplant from Houston, at Barton Springs to swim and do the crossword and, as it turned out, be attacked by angry swans. Having arrived early, I seated myself on top of the statue called Philosophers’ Rock and, when he arrived, asked if he’d like to join me and my three bronzed companions: J. Frank Dobie, Roy Bedichek, and Walter Prescott Webb. My Texas writer friend had never heard of any of these men. There’s an ongoing dispute over whether this increasingly common disconnect is properly attributed to the fact that Texas has failed to properly promote the state’s literary heritage, or to McMurtry’s being right when he predicted that Dobie’s generation of writers wouldn’t age particularly well. I happen to be an exception, a youngish writer very much aware of Dobie, Bedichek, and company, but this is more an accident of birth than anything else. I grew up in Abilene, a conservative West Texas city that’s

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

a long way from most people’s idea of a literary hotbed, although it does happen to be just 44 miles from Cross Plains, where Robert E. Howard of Conan the Barbarian fame lived his entire life. As McMurtry wrote in Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, “People on their way to Abilene might as well be on their way to hell...” (A side note: An Abilenian friend of mine and I have long planned to write our response to that fine book, with the working title Dave Hickey at the Taco Bueno.) In fact A.C Greene was from Abilene, and a number of other writers spent time in and around the area, including Webb, Elmer Kelton, and Stephen Harrigan. Both my parents are university librarians with a love for Texas and the Southwest-- my father even wanted to name me Scooter Bill, the nickname of “Texas Troubadour” Ernest Tubb’s daughter. And my maternal grandfather, who grew up on a ranch outside Pecos, had been a Dobie fan. When I was awarded the fellowship, my mother gave me my grandfather’s copy of The Longhorns, signed by Dobie with his brand. Some mornings at Paisano, the wind blew such that I could hear the creek from the gallery porch, and I would sit out there reading The Longhorns, absorbing its quirky history and folklore. Even then I realized that the book connected me more to my grandfather -- the one who taught me as a child to tap-tap-

tap stones with a stick to warn rattlesnakes -than to any flowering of Texas letters. Not to say I’m especially country. Even though I grew up around people to whom Texas was very important, it wasn’t until graduate school in Boston that I came to join them in their appreciation. As McMurtry in Walter Benjamin remembers having done, I read myself out of that culture growing up, only to read myself back in years later. I chose high school English projects on the Beats and Aldous Huxley, but didn’t read Porter or McMurtry until I was 25. Other than the few weeks I spent each summer growing up at a horse camp outside of Fort Davis, I’d never lived on a ranch before Paisano, though I wrote about one in grad school. That short story, “House of Guns,” is set on a ranch outside Fayetteville, to which an architecture student returns from the Northeast at Christmas only to find his family in chaos. It’s certainly not a western, but there are horses and feed stores, even an old cemetery. I remember the writing of “House of Guns” feeling something like a literary homecoming for me. “House of Guns” is exactly the sort of writing that sticks in the craw of folks like McMurtry (ironically enough, if you think about it), who 27 years ago was already railing against worldly Texas writers resorting to the ranch. “Why are there still cows to be milked and chickens to be fed in every Texas book that comes along?” he wrote. (This was not the first time I’d ended up on the other end of an implied critique from McMurtry. When I was an undergrad at Rice University a decade ago, the English department invited him to speak, but I don’t remember the writer-collector mentioning one book, preferring instead to subject us to a stinging, long-winded tirade about how young people today have no manners.) But McMurtry was not wrong about Texas; it has changed. And what are writers for if not to document and reflect upon change? Or as Dallas native David Berman, frontman for the band Silver Jews, sings: “How’d you turn a billion steers into buildings made of mirrors?” Many Texas writers -- including Harrigan, Pat LittleDog, Laura Furman, Sarah Bird, Donald Barthelme, Oscar Casares, and Bret Anthony Johnston -- have directly and indirectly explored this very issue over the years, as demonstrated in part by the biased and idiosyncratic but wonderful anthology Lone Star Literature, edited by Don Graham, who now teaches the class Dobie started at the University of Texas at Austin. That book provides a sampling of the breadth and diversity of character and setting in Texas literature. And Graham was probably right when he recently pointed to South Texas as the best place to find contemporary stories demonstrating that “[n]ot everyone in Texas

is out in the barn yukking it up with crude humor books or dusty shoot-’em-ups. Not then, not now.” But the fact that writers are indeed writing about post-western Texas, with its increasingly urban and suburban lifestyles, doesn’t erase the tension I still see in the field. As time passes, what will distinguish these increasingly homogenous urban and suburban stories as particularly Texan? Ten years ago, Tom Pilkington was already lamenting in State of Mind: Texas Literature and Culture that “One can walk for blocks at a stretch down almost any busy street in Dallas or Houston or Austin and never hear a Texas accent (except one’s own).” Graham also had a hard time imagining Texas letters without the myth. Asked in an interview (with the Observer) what the next Texas anthology might look like, he responded, “Will younger writers keep the frontier alive? Only in a genre sense...” As if the next anthology of Texas writers would necessarily have to concern itself with the frontier to be considered legitimately Texan. Even McMurtry, in the collection’s foreword, mentions only three authors he’s “particularly glad” to see included: Bedichek, Webb, and the historian J. Evetts Haley. Not exactly a shout-out for the post-rural writers he’d initially slapped Texas for failing to produce. Ultimately, I think there is something to be said for keeping alive elements of Texas tradition in Texas literature, and not in any xenophobic, more-Texan-than-you sort of way. As Pilkington argued: “[Myth is] the handmaiden of culture. Myth ordinarily is the means by which a group’s customary beliefs, social forms and material traits are continuously reinforced and, just as important, are inculcated in newcomers, whether they are outsiders requesting admittance or children and young people seeking full membership in the group.” In contemporary Texas that may mean mechanical bulls, taco trucks in the parking lot, or that enormous Texas-shaped table at Kay’s Lounge in Houston. But how do young Texas writers, many with little connection to Dobie, Bedichek, and Webb, keep alive some semblance of the literary “T” in Texas without resorting to stereotype and the milking of cows? I can’t answer that question in its entirety or pretend to speak for a whole generation of writers, but being out at Paisano I did begin to discover a personal approach. Because while Texas writing may have become more urbane and less stereotypically regional, the Dobie fellowship pulled me back into an earlier tradition, one I suspect even McMurtry is starting to appreciate, in hindsight, in a way his younger self, desperate to escape the tradition’s shadow, couldn’t. Continued on next page

44

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

41


Courtesy Photo

Continued from page 41

MHMR offers art classes MHMR student Jose Vasquez posed with his art teacher Jose Luis Gonzalez in front of student artwork on display at Border Region MHMR.

42

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

When I’d meet folks in town for dinner or a show, my friends would offer to let me crash at their places in Austin, but I liked driving back to Paisano at night, catching rabbits in my headlights as they darted across the gravel road, unlocking the iron gate beneath the stars as the lions issued mournful cries from the nearby zoo. It pained me to be away from the ranch for long. Looking back, I can see my experience at Paisano was only partly about the land and the solitude and the writing. After years of living outside Texas, Paisano was also about a return to community. Old Texas buddies came to stay with me during weekends. My college friend Richard book-ended my term -- one visit at the start and one at the end -- and we sat on the low-water crossing dangling our feet into the creek and drinking strong margaritas, he reading to me from an old book, found in the house, that claimed armadillos taste like sea turtles. And there were new friends, writers I lured out to the ranch for grilled fish or tacos: Bird, Amanda Eyre Ward, Clay Reynolds. They in turn were generous enough to introduce me around the writing community, to make me feel welcome despite my novice status. I found that connections between writers, regional or otherwise, are not entirely organic. They are also a choice, a decision to read and to attach yourself to people who write or have written in the place you’ve decided to call home. At Paisano, it wasn’t just the people with whom I drank and traded stories who became my chosen circle. It was also the books stacked around the house, books written by previous fellows like Furman and Scott Blackwood, the beautiful report left by Sandra Cisneros, the kitchen shelves built by Dagoberto Gilb, the newspaper article in which Billy Porterfield wrote, “After Genesis, Paisano Ranch was at the bottom of a shallow, steaming sea, slimy with slugs and algae.... Mil-

lions of years later, as sun worshippers dreamily count, its progeny crept up a pipe in a toilet in a house on Barton Creek and bit a man named Dobie, who swore like a heathen and squashed the bejesus out of it.” It was strange, in a way, to be writing a book about Nigeria while living at this Texas ranch, but by connecting or reconnecting with these traditions and these writers, I saw that my experience of Texas shined through the subject matter. The place and culture I came from ended up having so much to do with the writer I am and was, even in Africa. Not all Texas writers will feel this way. Not all Texas writers write about Texas in any sense of the word. And not all Texas writers can abide this particular topic without rolling their eyes. That’s OK, too. Oral storytelling in the traditional sense may be dead, and most young people may not know J. Frank Dobie from a Diamondback rattler, but I’ve learned that it’s at least ­possible to thread the new Texas I see in front of my eyes, like the ­housing developments springing up over the bluff, with the old Texas I know only by the paw tracks it leaves in the road after a ­soaking rain. Once I caught actual sight of an animal I’d only heard before, howling at night like a ghost with its brethren. On a morning walk during my last week at the ranch there was a sudden rustle in the trees to my left. It was not unusual to startle a deer and, sure enough, a doe came bounding out of the brush, crossing my path at high speed with something hanging from her mouth. Following on her heels was a coyote, grimacing and big. When he saw me he stopped, six feet away, and our eyes met. Then he rushed on. Mary Helen Specht lives in Austin. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications. Her web site is www.maryhelenspecht.com. u

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Concert Review

Guatemalan singer-songwriter Ricardo Arjona performs at the Laredo Entertainment Center By MONICA MCGETTRICK

I

f Ricardo Arjona is anything, it is a storyteller. With his strange, gravelly voice, somewhat primeval facial features, and wiry body, Arjona is not your typical singer songwriter. Mixing theatrics with old-fashioned storytelling wrapped up in music, Arjona is first and foremost a writer. Underappreciated for so many years, and only experiencing major success close to his 40s, he has fought long and hard for his place in the sun, and it seems his success is warranted. His voice is stronger, more emotional en vivo than can be captured on a recording. Every song is stronger and more powerful -more entertaining. At his concert at the LEC, a few short months after his concert in Nuevo Laredo, the stage was set for a show, not so much a concert. Set up with the façade of an apartment building facing the audience, the bottom floor of the building featured a “lounge” and “café,” the second floor held the drummer, and the top floor held Arjona’s piano (hidden in a flashy red car front) and a video screen. A virtual elevator appeared onscreen, “lifting” Arjona to the top floor, where he emerged singing “El de Espejo.” His understated black pants and blue jacket, paired with the ubiquitous Converse sneakers that seem popular with Latin singers (Juanes wears them, too) make him seem younger than he is, until he opens his mouth. Arjona is not a run of the mill pop singer. Yes, he sings of every part of love, from the moments of joy that accompany the first pangs of love to the carnage left in the wake of love’s death. But he also sings of social issues, and before beginning “Mojado” he confessed to the audience that his mother once crossed the border in search of a better life. What made this presentation of “Mojado” so great, though, was the gift Arjona presented the audience. After the first verse of song, the audience went wild with joy when Ricky Muñoz of Intocable walked on stage, accordion in hand. Hopefully, Arjona understood why the audience cheered so long and so hard for WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

the humble musician from Zapata, especially when Muñoz quickly left the stage after the song’s end, as though unwilling to steal any of another performer’s thunder.

accompanied by violins, guitar, cello, and piano as the story and song reached its crescendo. As the child on screen is discovered kissing the male object of his affection, Arjona’s voice dipped with emo-

Although the concert was part of his 5to Piso tour, named for his latest album, the set list was mixed with songs old and new, including “La Historia del Taxi,” “Acompáñame a Estar Solo,” Sin Ti, Sin Mi,” and “Te Conozco,” among others. He also performed the moving “Que Nadie Vea,” a song that definitively lends itself to theatrics. A heartrending tale of a sexually confused boy, like “Mojado” it emphasizes the damage that’s done when mankind loses its empathy and basic humanity. As the main screen on stage introduced the audience to the song’s fairhaired protagonist, a single light illuminated Arjona as he sang from the second floor of the stage, his voice dramatically

tion and a stunned silence fell over the crowd. Audience participation was a huge part of Arjona’s concert, and at one point he asked his audience to choose how they wanted the night to go -- three Caribbean versions of his songs or three short sto-

ries of romance. The audience chose the second, and thus began “El Demonio en Casa,” “Buenas Noches Don David,” and “Casa de Locos.” There was also the enjoyable banter between Paquita del Barrio, who appeared on the giant screen to join Arjona for “Ni Tu Ni Yo.” Amidst whistles from the men in the audience, Arjona told the women in the audience that while men may lie, they could never get women without doing so. Paquita shushed him with “Me estas oyendo, inútil?” Perhaps the most enjoyable of all was the playful interaction between the artist and his musicians -- the drummer, saxophonists, violinist, cellist, pianist, and I fear there may be others I missed. When Arjona brought a woman on stage to serenade her with “Señora de las Cuatro Decádas” the saxophonist got in on the action while the visibly shaken woman fought to control her nervous joy. The night was a virtual smorgasbord of sights and sounds, and at times the music drowned Arjona out and other times, like when Arjona invited the audience to sing “Te Conozco” and we failed miserably, the musicians and technicians, who put the lyrics on the screen, swooped in to save the moment. My only issue with the entire night had nothing whatsoever to do with Arjona. It had to do with the LEC and its association with Ticketmaster. I realize that it would be difficult for the LEC to break its ties with a behemoth like Ticketmaster, but the price gouging is ludicrous. A concertgoer should not be penalized to the tune of $20 dollars or more simply because the LEC’s box office has inconvenient hours and there is no other way to purchase tickets. u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

43


Feature

Go fishing! Fishing and sloughing off everyday stress By ANNETTE BRIDGES

F

ishing may be one of those universal sports and hobbies. In fact, fishing resonates with so many people that fishing metaphors abound in all aspects of our lives. You may say that you are trying to land a job -- and you’re casting your line into the big job market. Or your best friend assures you there are plenty of other fish in the sea when your marriage ends. You may tell a brother to drop you a line. Or you say you hit a snag in trying to get approved for a credit card. You exclaim you got a bite when a business responds to your resume and application. Or that you’re trying to lure and reel in possible buyers for the car you have for sale. And perhaps your mom says your new boyfriend is a good catch. I guess we’re people who like to talk fish! What is it about fishing that is so very appealing to so many? My husband and I recently returned from a trout fishing trip in Colorado. And I must say that few things are more relaxing than sitting beneath an evergreen tree on the bank of a crystal clear mountain lake.

44

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

The stress of everyday life dissipates to the inconsequential detail it really is. Indeed, there’s something about fishing from a quiet shore and breathing serene, fresh air that clears the mind and soothes the soul. I’m intrigued by the intensity of focus that trout fishing required of me. It captured my entire attention as I baited my hook and cast my line into the lake. I was spellbound as I gazed into the sunny water waiting for my bobber to move and anticipating the bump of a fish taking my bait. This was no idle time as my daughter thinks -- she’s never been mountain lake fishing. There was purpose, vision, determination, and expectation. At the day’s end, after our catch limit was reached and fish were cleaned and cooked, I was ready to rest up for the next day to do it all again. Before leaving home for our fishing excursion, I had some trepidation about being in a remote area with little to no phone service, nor Internet service. I worried that I would feel disconnected from all that I love. But once I began fishing, I thought of little else. This mental state of mind is a far cry

from my day-to-day experience when home. My normal day involves lots of multi-tasking and many times where I feel like my attention is scattered or overextended. It’s not easy for anything to get my complete focus. And this is sometimes frustrating when I really want to give my total attention to a task at hand. So now that I’m back home, I’m wondering what it was about fishing that was so allconsuming. And I’m wondering how I can give that kind of focus to other endeavors and interests at home. While it is true that on my mountaintop, there were no interruptions -- so there were no other choices than my single task of catching fish. At home there are many decisions and choices to be made. And they do sometimes seem to be in competition with each other for my attention. But the truth is that regardless of the number of items on our to-do list each day, we can only give one thing -- or person -- our full attention in any given moment. What a revelation this is for me! I can only imagine how the quality of my projects or time shared with loved ones can improve by understanding that each re-

quires and deserves my full attention in each moment. And it is possible to give my full attention as I take one moment at a time and give my all to that moment. I also can’t help but think about Peter’s pronouncement, “I go a-fishing,” during those days following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. (John 21:3) I’m sure there was a lot to absorb mentally as Peter tried to understand spiritually the significance of what he had just witnessed. Maybe he needed to get away for a little while. There is something about fishing that allows us to take a time out from thinking about our troubles and big decisions -- even when we don’t get a bite. Inevitably, a fresh perspective comes into view when I return home after such a break. So, my friends, focus on one moment of your life at a time -- give your whole attention to it. And when you feel the need for a break, go fishing and see what new point of view you have when you return. (Annette Bridges is a freelance writer who lives on a north Texas ranch with her husband. Visit her website at www.annettebridges.com or send her an email at annettebridges@gmail.com.) u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Otro Punto de Vista

The right real estate broker works for the buyer and the seller By MARÍA EUGENIA CALDERON

T

he tour of many homes over the last few weeks has been as a part of the process of purchasing a home. The experience was specific to a young couple, of first-time homebuyers, and to me, a mature empty nester. For the young couple, cracks, leaks, and unfinished fences flew in the face of a balanced budget and hidden repair costs magnified by HGTV that warns on a daily basis that going into debt for 30 years is a long time and they should go over every potential problem very carefully. To the empty nester all spaces were possible threats to diminished homecomings from visiting children who might feel crowded. However, the ugly or less than desirable conditions of the interior spaces such as rolling foundations, ugly faux wall finishes, poor workmanship, etc. were definitely premises for a lower sale price. The next hurdle was learning all the different personalities of the listing agents who represented the sellers. You might like the house and even pay full price if you are provided with a rationale, but if the listing agent for the seller doesn’t know why it is worthy of that selling price, you won’t get any answers worth remembering.

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

We met the professional agents who market and represented their clients with integrity and the honorable intent to sell their listings and negotiate with nervous buyers. Laredo is full of good realtors, all trying to move their inventory in a less than favorable market with the best intentions so that the seller is released of the real estate at a fair price and the potential buyer is happy with a new home. We also met arrogant brokers that would boycott inquiries from first time homebuyers who asked too many questions and requested closing cost concessions. Rather than discuss the great attributes of their client’s real estate -- instead of showing where the measurable value was at the house for sale, instead of scheduling a walk-through that showed off the listed property’s straight walls, non buckling door frames, flat floors that didn’t roll and all the reasons why a house is worthy of the listed value -- one seller’s rep poisoned the first time buyers by not answering their questions. They could have sold some of the homes at full price had they chosen to be patient and understand that a first time buyer needs to feel secure that their investment is worthy of additional explanations by the seller’s rep, and if convinced, will pay full price. It was interesting to see how profes-

sional brokers and reps could shoot themselves in the foot and drag their firms with them in a fragile market glutted with real estate inventory while others were patient and made the sale. At the end of the adventure, the young homebuyers found their dream home and spent much more than they intended with a listing agent who explained in detail the great real value of the home that was not in the décor or finishes, not in the appliances that were not included, but in the quality and craftsmanship of what would last much longer than a 30-year note. The empty nester found a postage stamp sized little house with open spaces for offspring visits and no need for repairs. Negotiations for a price reduction were not necessary. Every square inch of the tiny space was perfect. It merited the asking price. The greatest gift was working with a young dynamic realtor who represented us by searching high and low for the perfect space that met our needs. Her patience, knowledge, good will, and professionalism have earned her the highest place of recommendation to our peers, colleagues, and friends. Our banks have recognized her outstanding service and are now recommending her services to

all their clients. You know who you are and rest assured that your name comes up during every conversation that has to do with real estate. Each one of us that you helped works in an environment that includes at least 1,000 others like ourselves. The subject comes up at every lunch hour and coffee break, and your name is honored with the highest recommendations. To those with a house on the market, be wary of the listing agent you choose. If they are like some we encountered, your property will sit on the market a very long time and you will have to reduce its sales price over and over again in order to sell. As for our realtor, she saw that with patience and good judgment her clients ended up spending much more on their properties then they originally proposed and bought a sound investment. They paid the asking price because the listing agent was more than happy to discuss the value of the real estate they were interested in buying. Potential sellers, be careful who you contract. The company you select might be burning you at the stake with a non-negotiable attitude you are not aware of. The broker only loses a sale; you, the seller, lose another year of property taxes on an empty house. u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

45


Profile

Robert Ochoa: LCC Dean of Student Affairs One man, two campuses, 36 years of commitment to higher education By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

L

aredo Community College has had six presidents in its 62-year history -- Adkins, Laird, Arechiga, Worsley, Dovalina, and Maldonado. Robert “Bobby” Ochoa, LCC’s current Dean of Student Affairs, is only 59 and has served under five of the six. Ochoa oversees all student services at both the Fort MacIntosh Campus and the South Laredo Branch. His outlook for the 2009-2010 academic year is optimistic from several angles of approach -- rising student enrollment, the school’s excellent track record, dual-campus cooperation, cohesiveness among and between administrators, faculty, and staff, and careful planning at all levels. Ochoa has definitely been there, and he is still doing that with the same enthusiasm with which he has approached his job year in and year out since 1972, the year he received his bachelor of science degree from Texas A&I University at Laredo (now TAMIU and formerly located on the grounds of the LCC campus). He followed up his BS with an MS in 1976. For his first year and a half after graduation, Ochoa worked as assistant director of Upward Bound. Then, from 1974 to 2003, he served in various supervisory capacities, including Learning Center and Special Services Director, Associate Dean of Student Services, and Dean of Student Development. Responsibilities increased the higher up the ladder he went. Some of the areas he supervised as Dean of Student Development were enrollment management, counseling and assessment, financial aid, special populations, and student recruitment. A fine-tuning of departmental duties that was carried out in 2003 essentially created

46

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

a bipartite structure out of the monolithic structure that had existed before, and it divided areas of supervision between the Dean of Student Affairs, Robert Ochoa, and Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Development J. Felix Gamez, both under Chief Student Development Officer Francisco Martinez, Jr. Although each particular unit under Ochoa’s general supervision has a unit supervisor, Ochoa is the ultimate head of the Student Affairs branch, which includes athletics, health services, Learning Center, corral, Upward Bound, Library, Media Center, Special Services Center, student activities, and Phi Theta Kappa. Ochoa also serves as the facilitator for the Campus Assembly, on which he obtains input from the college community on campus matters that need to be discussed or reviewed. “My office handles student discipline -- we have over 9,000 students and the growth figures are increasing year by year,” Ochoa said, adding, “Actually, however, we only have to deal with a relative handful of issues, mostly related to campus policies and student dis- Robert Ochoa agreements.” Ochoa said that despite generational nuances that can always be facing college institutions of higher learning detected, students do not change that dras- today is finding sources of financing, which tically over the years. “I see the constant -- in Texas is exacerbated by the state govstudents come here for assistance in finding ernment’s curtailment of fiscal input and a path to education that will open up the investment in higher learning. “The state future for them.” isn’t paying out -- it’s shifting the burden of Not surprisingly, Ochoa is quite proud educational funding to communities, local at the way Laredo Community College has institutions, and the students themselves,” endured and grown through decade after Ochoa said. decade of educational challenges, societal He added that whereas in 1999 the state transformation, and technological innova- bore approximately 52 percent of the finantion. He said that one of the chief challenges cial burden at LCC, it only finances about 30 percent of operational costs in 2009. Local taxes, on the other hand, bore a 28 percent burden in 1999, and a 46.4 percent burden in 2009. “Tuition fees have remained relatively constant, and tuition monies comprise 17.2 percent of the financial pie in 2009, as opposed to 14.5 percent in 1999, and the total amount of money that goes out for salaries has been holding steady at just under 70 percent, which show how LCC is keeping enrollment costs from being prohibitive to the students and holding the line on spending with an eye to being cost-conscious and frugal when it comes to fiscal outlay,” he said. Ochoa credited Eleazar Gonzalez, LCC Chief Financial and Administrative Officer for closely tracking and graphing

the numbers comparing fiscal years 1999 and 2009. “Texas schools are underfunded, but a bill supported by President Obama was recently passed by Congress that provides for $12 billion to be made available for colleges, with an eye on improving education and providing America with a more competent workforce,” Ochoa said. “Whether we will receive any of those monies locally still remains to be seen. We will have to make our case and present it to the government in hopes that we can get some of that money in the future,” he added. LCC’s physical growth and enrollment increase have coincided, which probably says something about the foresight and intuition of the board of trustees and administration over the past few years, as does the bottomline integrity that the institution has maintained. Ochoa said that relations are good between the Fort MacIntosh campus and the South campus. “Students can take the same core courses at both campuses, and they have a choice of availing themselves of our coordinated program options -- nursing, allied health, and fine arts at Fort Mac campus and police academy and child development at the South campus,” Ochoa said. He added, “One of our most significant changes has been the expansion of our distance education services, which allow students to take courses online; this is very convenient for working students who can’t afford to be locked into a schedule. Since more and more students are having to work and study, this is a great option for them. They can maximize the use of their dollars, stay out of traffic, and still get a quality education.” On the subject of quality education, Ochoa said, “We have a great faculty, -they’re very dedicated, conscientious, and hard-working -- we support their efforts.” Just as he fondly recalls his first 38 years with the LCC administration, Ochoa looks forward to the 2009-2010 academic year and those that follow. “I am confident that we will continue with what I call the 3 C’s -- communication, cooperation, and collaboration, and that we will continue to improve the educational experience for all students,” he said. Ochoa and his wife Annie C. Ochoa have two children, Robert Lawrence and Christine. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Literary Classics

The Octopus, A California Story by Frank Norris “The West…primitive, brutal, honest” Presley is the poet-narrator By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

W

hen American novelist Frank Norris (1870-1902) died prematurely at the age of 32 of peritonitis from a ruptured appendix, American literature lost a giant of the writing craft, and the international school of Naturalism lost one of its best practitioners since Emile Zola. Chicago-born and San Francisco-raised, Norris attended Harvard and UC Berkeley, and briefly worked as a war correspondent in Cuba during the Spanish-American War for McClure’s Magazine. In a short writing career Norris wrote a book of short stories, A Deal in Wheat and Other Stories, and his Epic of Wheat trilogy, comprised of three respectable novels, The Pit, A Story of Chicago, McTeague, A Story of San Francisco, and The Octopus, A Story of California. Author Jack London, a fellow Californian and a friend and admirer of Norris, called The Octopus the “Epic of the West” that many writers had tried unsuccessfully to produce. London makes a good point, for although The Octopus is ostensibly a tale about the overweening power of the railroad companies in California at the end of the 19th century, the story actually seeks to embrace the broader Experience of the West -- its vastness, its beauty, its variety of landscapes, its morning sky -- “pale blue, delicate, luminous, scintillating,” its night sky “silvergray with starlight,” its deserts, its fertile soil “offering itself to the caress of the plough,” its challenges to development and civilization where “risk is better than sure failure,” and the “sense of vast oppression” that it sometimes inspired. Norris succeeded, for the most part, in conveying the essence of life Out West in Book I’s six chapters, “coarse, vital, real, and sane…where the tumultuous life ran like fire from dawn to dark.” In the complementary Book II, the story’s focus pivots and becomes a set of nine chapters that deal with the un-

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Frank Norris making by the profit-minded railroad magnates of the ranchos and the ranchers and the wheat farmers who built the West by the sweat of their brow. In beautiful prose and very descriptive and emotive language, Norris shows us how the railroad, the “leviathan with tentacles of steel” becomes “the galloping terror” that gobbles up land holdings, families, individuals, and dreams in a snowballing juggernaut of intrigue, broken promises, lies, bribes, threats, intimidation, crooked business deals, land-grabbing and schemes, building to a crescendo of foreclosures, bankruptcies, murders, and ruinations of calamitous proportions. Norris is showing how even the best-intentioned and hard-working individuals are powerless to combat the evil

designs of “the men who own the railroad… bad-hearted men who don’t care how much poor people suffer, so long as the road makes its eighteen million a year.” It is impossible to prevail “against the devious manoeuvering, the evil communications, the rotten expediency of a corrupted institution.” The action in the story is seen through the sensitive eyes of Presley, a poet who is side-tracked from writing poetry by the drama of the struggle between the California wheat ranchers and the ever-more-powerful railroad that unscrupulously (and successfully) seeks to control everything from them politicians to freight rates to the foreign and domestic market prices for California wheat, to the very land itself, which it comes to own outright through foreclosure on wheat growers that the railroad itself has driven to penury. Presley is able to see the monumental tug of war between the ranchers and the railroad in poetic language: “The whole map was gridironed by a vast, complicated network of red lines…to every quarter of the state…from Reno on one side to San Francisco on the other, ran the plexus of red, a veritable system of blood circulation, complicated, dividing, and reuniting, branching, splitting, extending, throwing out feelers, offshoots tap roots, feeders -- diminutive little blood suckers that shot out from the main jugular…in…a hundred tentacles.” The language and place names are extremely evocative, if not outright symbolic -- Los Muertos Ranch, Quien Sabe Ranch, the Seed Ranch on Mission San Juan -- “Chaos of perfume vermilion, azure, flaming yellow,” all chosen to vivify a great, primordial struggle in a world where “Wrong seemed indissolubly knitted to the texture of Right.” You cannot help but sympathize with the struggling, vulnerable ranchers beset by the powerful railroad, “a gigantic parasite fattening upon the life-blood of an entire commonwealth in “the world-old war between Freedom and Tyranny.” u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

47


Feature

Alopecia: hair today and gone tomorrow By TONI HOWELL

F

Courtesy Photo

or years now, I’ve wondered why my hair was so thin. I knew that other women in my family, notably those on my father’s side, had exceedingly thin hair, and surely I realized that my own thin hair was getting thinner. But it was only about three months ago that I walked away from a dermatologist’s office with a real label -- hereditary, degenerative, progressive alopecia. With a diagnosis like that, it’s not hard to feel the weight of each of those big words: “hereditary,” “degenerative,” “progressive.” It’s even harder not to feel you’ve been handed a death sentence. Although I was disappointed to find that I have too little “donor” hair to be a good candidate for hair transplants, a last-ditch effort to have a little more hair on my head, it felt good to know that the condition I had could be labeled and defined. “Alopecia” doesn’t take long to define. At its simplest, it means “hair loss.” And if, like my alopecia, yours is degen-

erative and progressive, the hair loss will increase with the passage of time. When I Googled “hair loss” and “alopecia,” I found that about 40% of America’s female population is affected. And here’s the rub -- a woman’s hair loss is still likely to be called “male pattern baldness.” Talk about bad hair days! So, although I could have experimented with a couple of over-the-counter supplements and one prescription drug in hopes these might stimulate new hair growth and increase my chances of becoming a successful hair transplant candidate, I decided to go about my business and continue to bald, gracefully, or more gracefully, at least. “Bummer,” as those of my generation might say. On a bad day, I picture myself just as bald as a billiard ball and having reached retirement age (and I’m still thinking traditional retirement age, 65). I see myself popping out to grocery shop at HEB at the intersection of Del Mar and McPherson. In my reverie, I encounter customers who glance my way as I enter the pea-

VITA volunteers prepare for new tax season Rogelio Treviño, executive director for Workforce Solutions for South Texas and chairman for the Laredo Family Economic Success Coalition (LFESC) addressed the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Volunteers for the 2010 income tax season. The VITA program assists local low-income families and individuals with tax preparation sites in every sector of Laredo. “The VITA volunteers are the essential part of this Coalition. Through your volunteerism and commitment we are able to ensure that these families receive the much needed assistance. This in turn allows us to return all that money to our local area and have a positive impact on our economy,” said Treviño.

48

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

nut butter aisle. I spot curious children pointing at me in the check-out line as I stoop to retrieve 20 pound bags of dry cat food and put them onto the automated belt that takes purchases to the cashier, and I even envision a few concerned folks who take time to leave me their business cards as I exit the store. Inevitably, they are distributors of herbal products that may help me. On a good day, I feel secure enough to meet the world just as I am, but I still carry a baseball cap in my shoulder bag just in case I need to disappear into the crowd. The year I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio, I was offered my first job as a checker at Handy Andy on the corner of San Pedro and Hildebrand. That grocery is long gone, and so is the wavy black hair I wore in a “bubble.” Think Hairspray and you’ve got a mental image of the good old days of teased hair, tiny bows to coordinate with dress color, and plenty of hairspray. In those days, hairspray was at the top of every high school girl’s shopping list, and we needed plenty of it to keep our heaped-up hair in perfect, impermeable condition. In the movie Steel Magnolias, Sally Field plays the mother figure who wears her hair in “bubble” fashion. Only at the end of the movie does she acknowledge that her hair-do does indeed look like a helmet. The helmet comparison is a good one, but what amazes me most is not that we wore our hair that way but the fact that I had enough hair to follow suit. Sadly, those days are gone forever. By the time I was 50, my son Tim had become a comedian, and I had become increasingly, noticeably bald. As a college student himself at that time, one of his favorite jokes was something about his grades falling faster than the hair on his dad’s head. Although that usually got a good laugh from the balding men in the audience, I never found it so funny. I have often thought that because baldness is more common in men than in women, men feel the all clear to talk more openly about their condition. Not only can they talk more openly, but also the condition itself is more acceptable in men. Concerned sales clerks have never approached my husband with questions about his sparse hair. Chemotherapy? Vitamin deficiency? For balding women, the level of curiosity remains high.

That’s not to say that men don’t enjoy having full heads of hair. Hark back if you will to the Bryl Cream ads from days of yore. “Bryl Cream, a little dab’ll do ya; / Bryl Cream, you’ll look so debonair; / Bryl Cream, a little dab’ll do ya; / They love to run their fingers through your hair!” Then viewers got the close-up of a smiling sports figure. Joe DiMaggio was one of the athletes in these ads, and a shamelessly attractive blonde “babe” rumpling up the poor guy’s gorgeous hair. But here’s the rub-- in our society, bald guys can be sexy, too. Remember Mr. Clean? Mr. T.? Telly Savallas? Now, I know that Demi Moore, absolutely bald, starred in G. I. Jane, but I’d rather be Rapunzel than G. I. Jane any day. “Not to worry,” said optimistic male physicians who administered countless blood tests through the years to check my thyroid and hormone levels. “Not to worry! Hair is just cosmetic.” And one especially pleasant physician with a flair for figurative language told me that hair was really nothing more than plumage. I left his office remembering how I preferred the peacock to the bald eagle. Both of those physicians, as I recall, had beautiful heads of hair. And here I am, still lingering on Memory Lane; right back at a grocery store buying hair spray for the prom, hairspray for the Victory Dance, hairspray for that important interview on the day I wanted every hair in place. Then I fast-forward, finally, into the present and consider a whole array of possibilities for those who are “follicly challenged,” another of my least favorite phrases. And guess what? Since I’m not a candidate for hair transplants and not willing to experiment with a daily regimen of preparations that may stimulate hair growth, I can contemplate other options like hairweaving (though it’s likely I don’t have enough hair to form a secure anchor for other strands of hair) and wigs. I’ve heard that today’s wigs are more comfortable, more affordable, and more beautiful than ever. And what the heck, as my sister said, “If everyone knows you have thin hair,” (and as she utters the words, “thin hair,” I think, “bald”) “why not be a redhead one day and a brunette the next?” And at this age and station, I’m thinking, “Yeah, why not?”. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Inside the Checkpoints By jay j. johnsoncastro, sr. Jay J. Johnson-Castro, Sr. is a human rights activist and founder of www.FreedomAmbassadors.com.

C

Something on the US-Mexico border is SICK

ombine an American Flag with a Holy Cross and a Blackhawk helicopter and what do you have? A multi- billion dollar a week Iraq and Afghanistan money laundering vehicle for the military-industrial-Congressional complex. Wall Street, the box banks, and the auto industry have been so dominant in the media lately. They have siphoned so much from our financial worth as a country. Quietly and without challenge, billions of dollars are going to the same war mongering parasites as they ramp up militarization of the US-Mexico border. And they do so on the pretext of security and immigration. Such action has become solidly entrenched with little attention or challenge from the media, the public, or elected officials. All across the country, the very same flag waving, cross-bearing, racist supremacists are rising up in opposition to healthcare reform that would insure that every American citizen and resident have adequate health coverage. This healthcare issue has taken over the media, even eclipsing the war in the Middle East, the multibillion financial bailouts, and stimulus packages. Their biggest arguments against a universal health care system are cost, government control, and -- wouldn’t you know it -- immigrants. Again, these are the very same people that consent, without the slightest blink, to the obscene spending of billions of dollars to militarize the USMexico border and purge the United States of hard working refugees. The US-Mexico border is under siege. It is increasingly clear that our borderlands are the new Middle East for the militaryindustrial-complex. The federal government and most members of Congress are in cahoots with the military and defense contractors but will not openly say that the border is a “military zone.” They have simply militarized it using such fear-tactic terms as “security,” “human smuggling,” “cartel violence,” and “illegal immigration.” With regards to the border, the obvious military partnership between the defense contractors, their lobbyists, and members of Congress can rightly be defined as the security-immigration-industrial-congressional-complex. It is a corporate run coaliWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

tion to exploit our borders on the pretext of national security, securing our borders, and protecting our borders. It causes of human and environmental suffering. It is a complex that is equipped to kill. The very existence of such militarization is a cause of thousands of deaths all along the border, directly or indirectly. Whether they die from drowning, heat, cold, dehydration, in custody or in internments camps, an appropriate acronym for this border security-immigration-industrial-congressional-complex complex that kills is SICK. This SICK partnership is validated by the billions of dollars of funding and contracts that come from the Department of Homeland Security and its Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement outsource the development, construction and operations to their corporate partners. Billions of dollars are spent on military technology, border walls, personnel, equipment, raids, and immigrant internment camps. Yet, most of our taxpayers’ dollars go to the menagerie of private contractors such as Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, and DynCorp, even Blackwater, the same profiteers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The SICK coalition could not have been anymore in-your-face than at the recent Border Security Conference held at the University of Texas in El Paso. It was nothing more than a trade show to further exploit the border for SICK profits. Like the tones of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, this SICK group warned of prolonged war and more militarization along the USMexico border. At this trade show, there were only a handful of champions who dared speak truth about what was going on. UTEP professor Howard Campbell called it a whitewash. UTEP professor Kathleen Staudt illuminated a few other realities about the SICK arrangement (which she calls Security-Immigration Complex, or SIC). She pointed out that there is “no human or humane security at the border. There are no NGOs or human rights here in trade show corridor.” She pleaded introspection by asking, “What kind of country have we become?”

Border security, military style The University of Texas at El Paso hosted the sixth annual Border Security Conference. This year’s theme was “Fostering a 21st Century Relationship of Cooperation and Shared Responsibility.” Conference sponsors included SAIC, General Dynamis, Boeing, Raytheon, ManTech, CSC, Redco, and Lockheed Martin. The only elected official who dared validate the expressions of the two UTEP professors and who challenged border militarization was California Congressman Bob Filner. Most of these military corporate administrators and lobbyists are ex-military, law enforcement, and intelligence personnel who go on to make more money in the corporate world after being trained with our taxpayers’ dollars. Many members of Congress that represent the border are closely allied to the military world and help facilitate the militarization rather than protect the borderlands and the border citizens from such greedy tyranny. That is why certain members of Congress cannot be trusted to represent the voice of the people of the borderlands. They are complicit by taking money from the military industrialists and their respective lobbyists. The militarization of the border is based on two pretexts, both illegal -- “illegal immigrants” and “illegal drugs.” Neither of which the security-immigrant-industrialcongressional-complex that kills wants to see resolved. Why? Because, as long as the

problems exist and remain unresolved, they serve the interests of the powerful and greedy who stand to exploit billions more taxpayers’ dollars. These are the very same people that would block comprehensive immigration reform and an honest reevaluation of our drug policies. If we were to honestly and constructively focus on resolving these two issues, we would have no need for militarization of the borders, let alone border walls. So, let’s face it. The security-immigration-industrial-congressional-complex does not want immigration or drug policy reform to happen, ever. They want another Iraq-Afghanistan market for their wares and for which they will continue to receive their billions of dollars of contracts. Such a military theater, if it were closer to home, would be more convenient and even more profitable. Their strategy has worked well for them. Their new military zone is right here in our homeland -- the part of the United States that most Americans have all but written off, the Borderlands, USA. Is it not time for a Department of Peace -- perhaps here on the border? u LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

49


Kiwanis Club Notes

Kiwanis Club Notes By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

A

recent UNESCO press release on the topic of literacy contained the statement, “The aim is to transmit knowledge and promote participation.” I am one thing, among another dozen or so -- a gangster for literacy. I use the word ‘gang’ “en el sentido amable,” to borrow a Chespiritoism. I use the word ‘gangster’ to assert that I am (thank God) not a lone wolf in the age-old war of literacy and enlightenment versus illiteracy and intellectual midnight. It is largely due to the mysterious appeal of midnight to the muddled-minded minions of mendacity that real gangs and gangsters have been out there wreaking havoc among the civil-minded people of the world for so long. The darkness is their friend -- it hides the features of their faces, it masks many of their deeds, it mocks the flashlight of prevention and protection. It comforts them by letting them get away with crime and desecration; it allows them to sow the black seeds of sorrow that are grimly reaped. Gangs are really mockeries of governments, clubs, and organizations. They’re anti-associations, contra-corporations. The cohorts are “the children of the dark” in a ‘reality’ vampire movie, and the victim is red-blooded America, which includes you

50

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

The pastor and the sage: Miguel G. Zúñiga and Drew Claes; The Laredo Kiwanis Club is a beacon of light and a haven of hope and me and our way of life. The light of day is a vampire’s main enemy. It gets them every time. There’s a lesson here for our society, a society that has of late been benighted by practical and spiritual illiteracy of an egregious nature. Are we spreading the night instead of the light? Are we perpetuating the tyranny of gangs and fangs? I’ll tell you this much for sure -- they’re not doing that at the Laredo Kiwanis Club. Much to the contrary. Now in its 67th year of dedicated service to this area, the Laredo Kiwanis Club is a beacon of light and a haven of hope in these troubled times. This is a literate bunch who ‘saw the light’ a long time ago and have made it their mission to spread the message of enlightened existence throughout the community. Two reasons why they manage to have meaningful weekly meetings that are productive and an inspiration to attend are current Kiwanis president Pastor Miguel G. Zúñiga and citizen Drew Claes, the resident philosopher and token Buckeye. Both of these men are God-fearing hams with a good sense of humor. (You guys realize I’m not speaking pejoratively, right?) In addition to being excellent public speakers, they’re appreciated by their fellow Kiwanians for their gift of gab, their openness to others’ ideas, and their wisdom. Frankly, there are no dumb bunnies or

Miguel G. Zúñiga and Drew Claes seat warmers in the whole group -- they’re all committed to personal and public awareness. Zúñiga and Claes are by no means the only Kiwanians whose voices are heard at the meetings. But when they are…. It’s that “when they are…” that prompted this story. When Zúñiga rings the ceremonial brass bell and calls the meeting to order, the triumph of literacy is evident in the civilized behavior and oratorical display that ensues. President Zúñiga’s welcome to the members, guest speakers, invited guests, and media types is cordial and sincere, and it makes everyone feel relaxed. Pastor Zúñiga’s invocation follows. I always look forward to it, if for no other reason than it is always fresh, always original, never pat and formalized and stale, never repetitive, never predictable in its wording -- always a castle of sturdy thoughts whose bricks are the language of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and altruistic sentiment that make individuals and well-meaning groups of individuals (like Kiwanis) stand proud, even while they reverently bow their heads as the Pastor sets the tone for the proceedings, which are all about civic improvement through concerted effort. Pastor Zúñiga’s latest invocation began: “As we come before your heavenly throne, Father, we acknowledge that all good things come from you.” There’s a re-

freshing and ingratiating directness about these words that speak of a very healthy relationship between a man and his God. After initially addressing the Almighty, the Pastor’s invocations invariably center on requesting His assistance in the furtherance of the group’s collective goals of service and dedication. Pastor Zúñiga does a masterful job of wording his prayers -- he is both literate and eloquent; I think that his Tuesday-noon “congregation” appreciates his informal artistry with the spoken word as much as they do at the First Church of Christ on Sundays. Then comes the Pledge of Allegiance, recited by all and led by a different Kiwanian each week. After guests are introduced, Zúñiga graciously turns the floor over to Claes, the Sage of Kiwanis, whose set-piece weekly address is always full of wisdom and sly surprises, newsworthy novelties, nutty nuances, and, occasionally, naughty knick-knacks of nonsense. Claes, who is simply known as Drew to his fellow Kiwanians, is uncommonly smart, well-read, well-versed in current events, funny, and a good public speaker. When the applause for Drew dies down, he yields the floor to the invited guest speaker for that week, whose presentation ends with a q-and-a segment. Both Zúñiga and Claes -- the Pastor and the Sage -- literate and enlightening, do Kiwanis and Laredo proud. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Laredo Community College

LCC to offer tuition-free courses for senior adults introductory technology courses that can help seniors learn how to explore the Inenior citizens are learning that there’s a lot ternet, develop their keyboarding skills, or more to life after 65 at Laredo Community discover the components and functions of a College. They can take advantage of several computer system. tuition-free courses available through the LCC The college is also offering a Senior Club Continuing Education Department. Workshop, which consists of a set of four, The senior citizen classes, which focus mosttwo-day classes to be offered in October. ly on computer technology, were introduced The series of courses includes an introduclast fall. Since then, the classes have grown in tion to basic computer applications, specialpopularity to include a moderate aerobics class ized computer applications, and exploring tailored to meet the needs of this population. the Internet, as well as a bonus class on CPR “Senior citizens who have taken our classes basic life support. love them,” said Sandra Cortez, continuing eduThe senior citizen classes scheduled for cation projects coordinator. “The first group of this fall will be offered at the LCC Fort McInsenior citizens who took our introductory techtosh Campus. Interested senior adults are nology courses last year have moved on to our encouraged to go through the registration Tuition-free courses for seniors intermediate and advanced computer courses in process for continuing education classes by Continuing education instructor Olivia Ramos, left, led a moderate aeroMicrosoft Word, PowerPoint, and QuickBooks.” visiting the LCC Admissions and Registrabics class tailored for senior citizens this summer. LCC plans to offer She added that a majority of the senior citition Center, located in Memorial Hall, room several computer technology courses and a Senior Club Workshop this zens who have taken the classes are retired 125. They can present their Texas driver’s lifall. Registration is now under way. teachers with varying college degrees. cense or ID card to verify their age to enroll “It’s very interesting to see how some of these in the courses without payment of tuition. individuals are benefiting from these courses by This fall, LCC is offering several options for senior For more information, call the LCC expanding their knowledge of computers,” Cortez added. citizens. In September, LCC is offering one- and two-day Continuing Education Department at 721-5374. u By STEVE TREVIÑO

Courtesy Photo

S

LARED

CHEERS

Wine Tasting

KLRN, along with co-chairs Evelyn & Ryan Cain, cordially invite you to the 15th Annual Laredo Wine Tasting. This gala event features exquisite wines from around the world and gourmet dishes prepared by Chef Beto of the La Posada Hotel. A silent auction will also showcase items from Laredo businesses.

September 10 | 7 - 9:30 pm 1000 Zaragoza P RO C E E D S B E N E F I T

SPONSORED BY

$100/person (non-Refundable) FOR TICKETS, CALL 800 6278193 OR VISIT KLRN.ORG/WINE

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

51


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.

“I

South Texas Food Bank: more than just for food

t goes to show that we’re more than just a food bank,” said Alfredo Castillo, executive director of the South Texas Food Bank (STFB), whose programs deal not only with food but with other necessities. It’s a fact that Laredo families are losing out on more than $40 million per year in federal and state government food stamp allocation because they don’t apply for the feeding program. Enter the STFB and its food stamp outreach program that signs up needy Laredoans who qualify for assistance. Actually, the food stamp program has a new name as of this year -- SNAP (Special Nutrition Assistance Program) -- and the program receives both federal and state funding. “These are people who are entitled to food stamps, but for one reason or another have not applied,” Castillo said. STFB representatives set up sign-up areas, mostly at

52

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

area H.E.B. stores and health fairs. Castillo emphasized, “More than $40 million per year of food stamp money is not claimed in Laredo and returned to Washington. That’s big for Laredo’s economy. More than 40 percent of those in Webb County who qualify do not apply.” He added, “It will be awhile before people start referring to it as SNAP. They still call it food stamps.” The food stamp outreach program is in its third year under a Community Based Organization (CBO) grant that has been extended for another year with additional funding from the Texas Food Bank Network. The STFB is partnering with H.E.B.’s annual checkup campaign for a healthier Laredo. Alma Blanco, SNAP director for the food bank, said her staff will be at the H.E.B stores on Saunders and the Zapata Highway on Saturday from 9 a.m.

to noon on Sept. 12 and Oct. 10 registering for SNAP and other programs that include children’s Medicaid, CHIP, women’s health, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and CHIP prenatal. “All these programs are available, but the state doesn’t publicize it,” Castillo said, adding, “It goes to show we’re more than just a food bank.” Blanco says some of the reasons people don’t apply for food stamps are that, “They think they don’t qualify and among the elderly, they think they‘re only getting a minimum of $14 to $16 per month. They know the process is long and the service is bad. They’d rather come to us. We take the documentation for them and call the caseworker at health and human services directly. In a majority of the cases, we make a difference. We’re the medium.’’ Laredo city councilman Mike Garza, who is on the STFB board, lauded Castillo and staff at a recent board meeting for their SNAP outreach efforts. He noted, “Can you imagine the economic impact in Laredo if everyone who is entitled to food stamps applies and qualifies?” Castillo reported at the August board meeting that 551 SNAP clients were signed up in July. The total represents 686 adults and 642 children. The STFB’s yearly SNAP outreach total is 2,418 families, among them 3,306 adults and 3,147 children. STFB board members also heard the echoing words from Castillo, “The need is great,” Castillo told board members, adding, “We distributed 780,978 pounds in July and have delivered 4,832,688 pounds for the year.” The monthly figure is the second highest of the year, and the 4.8 million pounds is the highest six-month total in the last four years. Castillo raised board member eyebrows when he noted, “Four million pounds translates to $6 million worth of food if it was purchased at retail.” The STFB served 20,921 families in June, including 20,069 children and 33,328 adults with 53,972 meals. The food bank is serving 785 families in the Adopt-A-Family program and 6,336 (mostly elderly) in Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). The waiting list for adopt-a-family is 705 and for CSFP is 918. The food bank’s 12 Kids’ Cafés served 15,926 meals in July and has served 86,708 meals for the year. “Those numbers mean we just have to work harder during our fundraisers,” board president Erasmo Villarreal said. The latest was the very successful third annual Laredo Entertainment CenterSouth Texas Food Bank Empty Bowls at the LEC. Almost 4,000 Laredoans helped raise about $100,000 to help STFB’s mission of

feeding the hungry. In the hierarchy of needs, food and water are number one and the food bank has both. Attendees cheered for the award-winning group America. VIPs enjoyed an outstanding meal, and the chance to bid on autographed-artwork bowls. They raised their wine glasses in a brindis to 2009 STFB honoree businessman and philanthropist Arturo Nicanor Benavides Sr. for his contribution to the Kid’s Cafés program. Benavides beamed as he was presented a bowl with his picture, painted by Laredo artist Pancho Farias. America put on a great show and the two original members still with the group signed autographs after the concert until past midnight in the lobby of the LEC. Special thanks to platinum sponsors LEC, Fernando Salinas Charitable Trust, ANB Cattle Company, Los Angeles Cattle Company, and all Laredo media outlets -- Laredo Morning Times, LareDOS, KHOY 88.1, Border Media, Guerra Communications, Univision KLDO 27, and KGNS. Laredo has come through again during these most difficult economic times for the 20,000 families per month served by the STFB. Se aventaron. The hard-working STFB board of directors, staff, and our clients agree, Laredoans are a blessing to us and we wish more blessings to you and your families. Keep us in mind and in your charitable giving. One observer noted that there were a lot of happy and smiling faces all night. It was an uplifting event, and co-chairs Kevin Romo and Anna Benavides Galo received a lot of compliments. The America concert was sponsored by the ANB Cattle Company and through a donation from the Fernando A. Salinas Trust. Food for thought The Laredo office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has adopted 21 families by donating $2,520 to the adopt-a-family program. Agent Alex Amaro, a former Nixon High School linebacker, coordinated the event with his ICE colleagues. The newest Best Buy store on Loop 20 near McPherson Road donated $10,000 to the food bank at the store’s grand opening. Sam’s Club Foundation presented a $3,000 check to the food bank as part of their corporate donation during a recent Saturday morning bucket brigade at six Laredo street corners. More than 30 Sam’s Club associates collected more than $2,800 in the bucket brigade, and Sam’s Foundation, based in Bentonville, Ark., matched the total. Vanessa Leal, operations manager at Sam’s coordinated the event. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


The Mendoza Line By alex mendoza Native Laredoan Dr. Alex Mendoza is an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Tyler. He can be reached at mxela@hotmail.com.

A

few months ago, I was running through Tyler’s downtown district on a hot and humid Sunday morning when I came across a historical marker in front of a nondescript barbershop. In my younger days, I might have not given it a second glance. But today, I stopped and read the entire plaque while my heart rate hovered well over 160. The marker commemorated Henry Miller Morgan, an African American barber in Tyler who founded a barber college in 1933. Morgan’s school proved so successful that he later opened branches in Houston, Dallas, Jackson, Mississippi, and Little Rock, Arkansas, among other cities. According to the Texas House Concurrent Resolution (No. 25), which paved the way to the historical marker remembering the Tyler barber, Morgan’s enterprise grew so vast that it reportedly trained the vast majority of black barbers in the entire nation. And while I learned something I deemed valuable about the city I live in, I later lamented the fact that Laredo often lacks some of the same effort to remember the subtle nuances of its vast 255-year history. Don’t get me wrong, in last month’s LareDOS column I highlighted the numerous historical studies that explore Laredo’s past. Yet, most studies still deal with the decision makers, the men and women that played a role in politics and enterprise. Lost in the cracks is a study of the everyman -- or everywoman -- that forged the identity of the Gateway City through their skills or labor. For instance, it has been more than 16 years since I told my then-girlfriend: “Listen, if you ever hear anyone tell you that they saw my truck at a hotel on San Bernardo, it’s OK. I am merely getting a haircut.” The reason for the portentous disclaimer was that back in the early 1990s, I used to get a haircut from a barber, Adolfo Garcia, who ran his business out of a hotel room he rented. Mr. Garcia was from my barrio, Las Cantaranas. His son, Javier, attended the same schools as I did -- Farias Elementary, Christen Middle School, and Martin High. He was my barber since I was 12 years old. At one time, I recall, Mr. Garcia plied his trade from a small shop on Pace Street. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Barbershop estilo Laredo I lost track of him for a short while during my years on the Forty Acres campus. But once I returned to Laredo, I looked him up once more. He was working out of a room he rented from a now defunct hotel on the corner of Baltimore and San Bernardo. I didn’t care about the strange accommodations; I was happy I found him. During my years in Austin, I floated from Super Cuts to other shops. But I felt comfortable with Adolfo. In fact, I never had to say a word about how I wanted my hair cut. He knew. Barbers are different from hairstylists. And each group is sensitive of being described as the other. But being a barber requires some additional abilities with a straight razor. Shaves, beard trimmings, and the finesse of a natural neck fade are just a few of the skills a barber possesses. Needless to say, I am a fan of the authentic barber cut. As such, from the early 1990s to 2005, when the hotel Mr. Garcia worked at was bought and refurbished, I had my barber. Oh, nevermind the fact that when I was in grad school in Lubbock, I waited patiently for my return to Laredo so I could have my hair cut by my own barber. Adolfo often spoke of his dying profession. Particularly, he once told me how upsetting it was for him to see non-certified barbers employing the use of the traditional red, white, and blue barber’s pole to advertise their haircutting business. It was disingenuous for non-barbers to use that symbol, he argued, with reason. In some cases, Adolfo confessed, he reported those businesses to the Better Business Bureau for misleading advertising. In Adolfo’s shop (hotel room), I was usually the youngest client as I heard discussions ranging from the economy to politics to simple idle gossip. A barbershop, as many know, is a culture unto itself. But during the Christmas holidays of 2005, I returned to Laredo to find Adolfo gone. I asked the new hotel clerks if they knew anything. Of course they knew nothing except that a barber used to rent that room. That was it. He was gone.

Naturally I tried to look for him via the Yellow Pages, but that was not his nature. He had a small business that advertised by word of mouth. Less than a year later, I made my way to Tenorio’s barbershop in the downtown area. The haircut was great, the wait horrendous (he was that popular). I asked Mr. Tenorio if he knew anything about Garcia, to which he simply shook his head. In the few years since Adolfo Garcia relocated, I have paid heed to other barbers in the Gateway City, noticing that there are fewer barbershops in the city as a whole (even the longstanding barbershop on the corner of Santa Maria and Sanchez Streets closed down not too long ago). Of course this is symptomatic of many trades, not just barbers. Yet the gist of my column is this: what will Laredo do to remember these men? What will we do to observe how for generations the barbershop was the nexus of

business and politics in the Gateway City, where barbers would be privy to whatever Laredo’s Powerbrokers had to say? This one column might be a start, but it might not be enough. There have been far too many barbers in the Gateway City that have been omitted from any serious historical thought. A few years ago, one of my professors, Julie Willett, wrote a book entitled Permanent Waves: The Making of the American Beauty Shop, which traces the impact of the beauty salon through the prism of race and gender. And while I am not proposing the need for a book, perhaps the simple notion of remembering the barbers that provided a valuable service to the city throughout the years might be appropriate. And while chronicling these memories is an important step, keep in mind that speed is of the essence because those recollections could be gone before too long. u

Parkinson’s Support Group Meeting Monday, September 7, 2009 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 1, 2009 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, Meeting Room 2

call 723-1707

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

53


Serving Sentences By randy koch Randy Koch earned his MFA at the University of Wyoming and teaches writing at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

Around your table

Dear Paty, n a July evening, after I’d driven for three days, Mary and you conspired to surprise me at your house in Laredo. When you directed me to sit on the couch -- which I did, happily suspicious -- Toni, Lucinda, and Elsa, laughing and throwing up their arms, emerged from a hallway. And when Destine, Charlie, Faridoun, and Carlos arrived, the house overflowed with handshakes and embraces. Then you all spread dishes of rice, Persian chicken, salad, spinach dip, Special K bars, and peach pie across the kitchen island, and we laughed as we heaped our plates and settled around the table. Though I’d spent the last two years in Laramie, you all made me feel as if I’d never left Laredo. A week later I waved goodbye to Mary, made the long drive back to Wyoming, and at the end of July -- with the help of

O

54

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

my brother’s family -- loaded furniture and boxes of books on a U-Haul truck, strapped the Jeep to a trailer, got on I80, and drove 1,640 miles east. Now it’s early August, and I’m in a house in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, sunlight from the open patio door filling the room as I sit alone at the dining room table. Outside, a cardinal flits from evergreen to reddening sumac, two mourning doves cuddle on a dead limb, and a chipmunk skittering across the vertical hillside sends small slides of stone over broken slabs of shale and slate. Goldenrods slouch like Rastafarians under the weight of their yellow dreadlocks, round white clusters of flowers balance on stems of Queen Anne’s lace like trays on busboys’ palms, and from the top of the ridge, blue jays -- shrill as obnoxious neighbors -- bicker across the limb-filled sky.

Trying to describe this new place makes me long for that evening of laughter and talk at your kitchen table with all those friends who write and teach. And it makes me think again about what you asked later as Mary and I gradually went out your front door: “What new techniques for teaching and writing did you learn in Wyoming?” As teacher consultants with the South Texas Writing Project for over 10 years and colleagues at the TAMIU Writing Center, you and I have long considered how writing can and should be taught. For students who struggle with English, we saw the need for teaching methods that engage them and course objectives that build on what they know, not what we assume they know. And along with several other university instructors, we spent two years rethinking freshman composition and identifying skills essential to writers’ development, skills such as using specific, concrete details; varying sentence length and structure; cutting clutter; and replacing weak helping and linking verbs with precise, memorable action verbs. So your question about what techniques I’d learned was expected though my response -- “None” -- was premature, I think, and incomplete. You see, the University of Wyoming’s MFA program mostly reinforced -- albeit abstractly -- what I already knew. Because professors’ endorsement of any techniques was implicit, not explicit, I’m still trying to deduce -- from class discussions, comments on my poems and papers, and my experience teaching in the UW freshman comp program -- which, if any, overarching principles about writing and teaching they were advancing. However, of those I think I recognize, some can be framed only in terms of what one should not do while others are such broad, self-evident truisms that they provide little concrete help for the teacher:

Do not give only oral feedback on students’ work. Do not consider referring to writers or book titles adequate substitutes for providing specific examples of effective writing. Do not restrict the scope of possible writing topics for students by focusing the writing course on your preferred theme, whether food, rural issues, or extraterrestrials. Similarly, others provide little guidance for the writer: Do not bore or confuse readers. Be neither too explicit nor too vague. Do not expect to satisfy everyone. I suspect that an MFA program like UW’s doesn’t emphasize specific skills because faculty select the students to be admitted, students who already demonstrated mastery of basic techniques of good writing in their application. The fact that I discovered no substantial additions for our list of writers’ skills suggests that there aren’t any others, or that those I could identify have an unlimited number of solutions (unlike our finite list of 20 ways to cut clutter or the 23 helping verbs that writers should strive to avoid), or that beyond the fundamentals, there are only ways to vary or violate the principles and still produce successful writing. Even though this answer both troubles and satisfies me, I’m still certain of two things: (1) that the two years I spent reading and writing in Laramie and the encouragement and attention my work received from other writers, both faculty and students, were invaluable and (2) that among conscientious teachers like you and those around your table in July, questions about how to teach writing and the answers, even ambivalent and incomplete ones, should never be tabled, not in Laredo, Wyoming, or Pennsylvania. u

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Keeping a Weather Eye

Laredo may be hot, but it could be much worse

By Juan Alanis

Juan is Webb County Coordinator for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) and an Associate Member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He is currently a teacher at United Middle School.

Rainfall Observers Needed

CoCoRaHS and the National Weather Service need additional rainfall observers throughout the following areas: Webb County; Zapata County; Jim Hogg County; Starr County, as well as in the cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros, Mexico. All you need is an interest in the weather and to submit rainfall data (including zero reports) daily to the National Weather Service. For details on how to sign up, log on to www.cocorahs.org or call Juan Alanis, Webb County CoCoRaHS Coordinator at 956-251-3996.

T

he heat and drought have continued across South Texas, as almost everyday since the end of June has been at least 100˚F or higher, with heat indices exceeding 110˚F on a few occasions. Rest assured though, that things could be much, much worse! After monitoring worldwide weather data for the past month or so, I have noticed that Laredo’s heat is nothing compared to some areas of the world. Many residents of the Middle East would probably consider Laredo’s heat index of 108˚F downright chilly! For example, in Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), the morning low on July 22 was 91˚F. That would be a rather hot night for us, but for this region, it is just a normal night.

Here is the key part, however -- the dew point temperature was 86˚F. The dew point temperature is the temperature to which air has to be cooled in order to reach saturation. The higher the dew point, the more moisture in the air. In Texas and other warm regions of the United States, dew points of 70 or higher make the air feel really sticky to your body. Dew points of 80 or higher are rare in the United States, and would be considered very unbearable to most people. Basically, the higher the dew point, the harder it is for the body to cool itself when outside. Once the calculations are done for the above readings at Fujairah, this converts to heat index of 122˚F! Imagine waking up in the morning and it feels like 122˚F outside already! Ice cream for breakfast anyWEBB COUNTY RAINFALL REPORT JULY 2009 one? On August 9, this same location had a 4 a.m. heat inStation Precip dex of 125˚F! WB 2 Heights Garfield St 0.00” Another very hot locaWB 3 Laredo San Isidro 0.02” tion was Al Jazairah Al WB 4 Las Tiendas Ranch 0.00” Hamra, UAE. At the airport WB 5 Callaghan Ranch TR weather station on July 14 at 3 p.m., the temperature was WB 6 McPherson/Chacon 0.02” 105˚F with a dew point of WB 7 Espejo Ranch 0.20” 89˚, converting to a heat inWB 8 Juarez Lincoln Elem 0.00” dex of 151˚ F! At 5 p.m., the WB 9 Mangana Hein Rd 8E 0.02” heat index had cooled to 144˚, WB 10 United Middle School 0.09” and by 7 p.m., it was a “cool” WB 12 Del Mar C 0.00” 126˚. These readings are not WB 13 Del Mar North /Preston Ln 0.00” uncommon to the Middle WB 14 Laredo 18.4 NE TR East region as cities along WB 17 Riverhill 0.00” the Persian Gulf have some WB 18 Hillside/Springfield 0.00” of the world’s highest dew WB 19 Prada Elementary School NR points, as the gulf is one of WB 21 Shiloh/Woodridge 0.00” the world’s warmest bodies of water. Water temperatures WB 22 Laredo 23.7 ENE 0.00” in the Red Sea and Persian WB 23 Freer 29.5 WSW 0.00” Gulf have been as high as 95˚. WB 24 Trauttman MS area 0.18” Instead of the water having a WB 25 United South MS area 0.00” cooling effect, it has a heating WB 26 Zaragoza St-Downtown 0.04” effectdue to the abundance Laredo International Airport 0.01” of moisture. Laredo KGNS-TV Del Mar Blvd 0.00” On July 22, Al Jazariah Source: CoCoRaHS/National Weather Service-Corpus Christi Al Hamra once again had very high temperatures with

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

very high dew points. At 4 p.m. local time, the airport recorded a temperature of 107˚ with a dew point of 91˚. This calculates to a dew point of 159˚! By 5 p.m. the heat index cooled a little, down to 151˚, and by 1 a.m. the heat index was down to a “pleasant” 106˚. Dew point observations at the city’s airport on July 22 were in the mid 80s or higher for over 12 hours! To put things into perspective, here in South Texas, the National Weather Service (NWS) will issue a heat advisory when the heat index is expected to be 105˚ or higher for at least three hours during the daytime. This was the case during the second week of July as heat indices in central and South Texas were above 105˚ in many locations, including Laredo. When talking to John Metz, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the NWS office in Corpus Christi, I asked what kind of warning would be issued for heat indices in the 130˚s and 140˚s, such as those in the Middle East. Metz jokingly said “Heat Death Watch.” He continued to say, that for indices that high, a new type of warning would likely have to be created, though an “Excessive Heat Warning” could likely cover it. NWS heat index charts do not typically go higher than 140˚ Other UAE readings include: July 14, Al Ain International Airport, 105˚ at 6 p.m. with dew point 80˚, converting to a heat index of

129˚; August 5, Abu Dhabi Airport, 10 p.m. temperature of 95˚ with dew point at 78˚, converting to a nice heat index of 111˚; July 22, Dubai, dew points were in the mid 80˚s with temperatures in the 100˚s. The heat index around sunrise was 122˚, rising to 133˚ by 1 p.m. and 136˚ by 2 p.m. that day! On August 5, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia had a temperature of 95˚ at 8 p.m. with a dew point of 82˚, calculating into a heat index of 119˚. It is not uncommon for many coastal locations in Oman, Saudi Arabia, and UAE to have heat indices at or over 100˚ for the entire day and night, as dew points can be in the 80s and even 90s. Seeb International Airport in Oman had a heat index of 117˚ at 1 a.m. on August 9. The highest known heat index in the world was observed at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on July 8, 2003. At 3 p.m. local time, the temperature was 108˚ while the dew point was at 95˚. Using a National Weather Service heat index calculator, this converted to a heat index of 176˚F! No need for a stove -you could probably cook everything outside quite well, if you could survive outside. Laredo and South Texas can be blazing hot quite frequently, but compared to coastal locations of the Persian Gulf region, our weather is nice and cool. u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

55


Notes from LaLa Land By dr. neo gutierrez

(Dr. Neo Gutierrez in L.A. is a Ph.D. in Dance and Related Fine Arts, Laredo Sr. Int’l USA 2008, Tiger Legend 2002, Sr. Int’l de Beverly Hills 1997. Recipient Laredo’s 2009 Meritorious Service Award in Fine Arts. Contact neodance@aol.com)

T

World traveler Brian Notzon on Laredo, Spain

he last time I saw Brian Notzon in person was when he was my 9th grade English student at Christen around 1960. We’ve reacquainted through the magic of the Internet, and I’ve enjoyed reading about his world travels. Brian is a retired civil servant living in Washington State. He’s traveled to 90 countries, some of them more than once and several of them a half dozen times. He said he finds developing countries to be the most interesting, particularly rural Peru, Bolivia, and Tanzania. He finds the Middle East fascinating, and says that those countries offer some of the best foods. He said travel is the best means to learn about people and their cultures, traditions, and religions, as well as a means to experience beautiful scenery, picturesque villages, archaeological sites, and works of art. He said the more he travels, the more he finds that many of the most basic things about places and people are alike. He writes of his trip to Laredo, Spain in Cantabria on Spain’s northern coast. Some of the remnants of the old city date to the eighth century. The oldest standing Catholic church, with a remarkable flat bell tower, dates to the 11th century. Laredo was once the most important town on the northern Spanish coast with its long, broad beaches and a harbor that allowed the early development of fishing, trade, and shipbuilding. The old town developed around a fort on a hill at the east end of the harbor. Early on, it was the Romans who taught the coastal people how to build ports, as

56

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

well as the important aspects of managing them. In early maps, Laredo is shown in the Basque region, and many Basque influences are still visible there. Among the traveling royalty who visited the safe harbor of Laredo were Isabela la Catolica and her daughter Juana (La Loca) in August 1496; Catalina de Aragon in 1501; and Carlos V in 1556. As Laredo came upon bad times, including the bubonic plague, nearby Santander, 15 miles away, flourished. A modern downtown core of a few square blocks eventually grew at the east end of Laredo’s old town, but the small commercial waterfront area deteriorated, and the beautiful beaches remained largely underdeveloped until more recent times when it began to develop into a resort community. Laredo with its moderate maritime climate has a yacht club, but no large waterfront year-round industries or businesses. The origin of the name of Laredo, Spain, is not clear. Some say the name stems from Glaretum, which means “sandy, rocky place.” Other scholars think that Laredo stems from a Basque word meaning “beautiful pastures.” Or the name might come from the Latin “Larida,” which means gull. If visiting Laredo, Spain from about June through September, or during one of Laredo’s festivals, be sure to reserve in advance. For more information go to (www. laredo.es/). And it’s time for--as Norma Adamo says--TAN TAN ! . u

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Movie Review

Anatomy of a Comedy 101: The Hangover and Funny People By CORDELIA BARRERA

T

here’s a street vendor in Taos who makes a pretty good living off a scenario: he has trained a mouse to sit atop his cat, which he has trained to sit atop his dog. The vendor’s ware is an incongruous scene, something unexpected yet uncomplicated in its hilarity, and he makes good money as people walk by, laugh, and throw change into his hat. There’s nothing inherently funny about a mouse sitting on a cat sitting on a dog, it’s the three animal’s predicament that makes us smile and wonder. The situation is frightfully comic because of its potential for disaster and chaos. I saw two comedies this weekend. The first, The Hangover, is a riot of comic circumstances full of funny people, outrageous situations, and a convoluted plot twist that includes a missing incisor, a tiger, a flying mattress, an angry Mike Tyson, and a raging gender-neutral Chinese man with a tire iron. Structurally, The Hangover is brilliant. The film deftly maneuvers that fine line between comedy and

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

tragedy to continuously challenge the audience to solve its bizarre mystery along with the hung over protagonists. As four men, each well drawn and likeable in his own odd way piece together the outrageous remnants of their Vegas bachelor party from the previous night, so do we. The result is pure entertainment. Half the fun of this movie is trying to figure out what the hell’s going on; the other half is imagining how badly things might turn out. The second film I saw, Funny People, is not built like a comedy. Written and directed by Judd Apatow and billed as a comedy, Funny People is an indecisive movie that vacillates between dramatic, comedic, and tragic forms. It’s like a comedy only because its protagonists are comedians, and although Adam Sandler manages to be both funny and a selfcentered jerk, his co-star Seth Rogen is an unbearable bonehead throughout most of the film. Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a famous actor/comedian who learns he has a short time to live. Because Simmons is such an egomaniac, he has effectively ostracized both family and friends from his life. Having no one to fall back on during his final weeks, he picks Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), an unseasoned comedian, to be his assistant. Ira talks Simmons to sleep, accompanies him on his doctor’s visits, and meanders tiresomely from scene to scene as paid friend or paid assistant, depending on Simmons’s morose mood. His confusion becomes the audience’s. Frankly, like Ira, I was not sure what I was being asked to feel or think during this film. Although the audience is meant to imagine the tragedy behind Simmons’s empty existence, the only tragedy of this film is its excruciating long run time of 146 minutes. In the end, after two and a half hours of

lewd penis jokes, neither Simmons nor we have learned much, except that Apatow should have applied some of the “girth” of Simmons’s penile obsessions to his film’s plot. Comic situations thrive in an atmosphere of catastrophe, a pattern we associate with tragedy. Films like The Hangover that skate the fine line between comedy and tragedy deliver based on context and narrative; things that could end really badly tend to be kind of funny. But comedy also relies on protagonists who persevere given the confines of their bodies or circumstances. Funny People forgets this key attraction of comedy, and for this, among other reasons, it falls flat -- neither the story nor the characters are compelling enough for us to care about. Actors in film comedies must not merely respond to situations, but feed or bait events and actions. This is what’s funny: people in comedies very often get exactly what they deserve. The Hangover, which begins in the Las Vegas desert at the point of its climax

skates the boundaries of tragicomedy in such a way that we unremittingly cringe with laughter and wince at the possibilities laid bare before our hapless protagonists. We do this from the film’s beginning to its end because the plot is efficient and the characters, despite their foibles, are endearing. We gladly follow their often bizarre travails as well as delight when their (mis)fortunes come to a satisfying end. Conversely, we’re just glad when Funny People ends. u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

57


58

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Book Review

Ravens, Cherokee lore at the heart of Rabbit and the Fingerbone Necklace

Photo by Reiver Rodriguez

R

WBCA Abrazo Children named

Courtesy Photo

The WBCA’s 2009-2010 Abrazo Children were named at a recent reception at the San Agustín Ballroom at La Posada Hotel. Madison Grace Rosales and Stephan Cole Weathers will represent the United States. The children representing Mexico are Carolina Garcia Cavazos and Daniel Octavio Gomez Rechy. Madison Grace Rosales is the daughter of Jerome and Graciela Rosales. Stephan Cole Weathers is the son of J.R. “Bob” Weathers and Nydia Weathers. Leticia Carolina García Cavazos is the daughter of Hector “Miko” García Azios and Leticia Cavazos de García. Daniel Octavio Gomez Rechy is the son of Daniel Gomez Chavarria and Veronica Rechy de Gomez. La Posada sponsors the annual WBCA Abrazo Ceremony on the International Bridge.

tance of ravens in Cherokee history and told in the style of an old Cherokee tale, Rabbit and the Fingerbone Necklace is the latest Duvall/Jacob installment of the adventures of JiStu the rabbit and his friends. Other tales in the series include How Rabbit Lost His Tail, Rabbit and the Bears, Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting, Rabbit and the Wolves, Rabbit Plants the Forest, Rabbit Goes to Kansas, and Rabbit and the Well. A ceremonial raven dance around a fire, Rabbit and the wildlife, the natural Fingerbone world, the heavens and Necklace the clouds above, as well as gods and spirISBN: 978-0-8263-4723-7 its are all beautifully $19.95 hardcover depicted in Jacob’s 32 pages, 17 color plates enchanting drawings that evoke tradition, Ages 6 and up lore, and magic. Publication: Nov. 1, 2009 For more informaNative American tion, contact Katherine MacGilvray at Heritage Month UNM Press publicty at kat@unm.edu . u

abbit and the Fingerbone Necklace is one of the most beautifully illustrated children’s books I’ve laid eyes on. Written by Deborah Duvall, illustrated by Murv Jacob, and published by the University of New Mexico Pres, the 32-page volume is set for release in November 2009 -perfect timing for a precious Christmas gift for any youngster who loves the natural world. Inspired by the symbolic impor-

MHMR Staff Photography teacher Joe Munguia, MR Coordinator Ruby Garza, MR Director Magda Pedraza, MRA Supervisor Lisa Pool, and art teacher Jose Luis Gonzalez take a moment from a busy day to snap a quick photograph.

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

59


Texas A&M International University

Higher Education: investment in yourself brings lifetime returns By STEVE HARMON

60

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

TAMIU students place first TAMIU information systems students David Santos, Juan Reyes, and Manuel Castañeda recently won First Place in an international video contest that promotes the field of information systems. The contest drew 12 participating international student groups. TAMIU’s First Year Success Program helps students get the most from classes and be successful students. Tutors can help them conquer the most intimidating subjects, whether it is English literature or chemistry. The University’s learning communities link students by clustering them in two or more courses, often using an interdisciplinary theme or problem, to help them forge a tight-knit community that learns together. Academic Anchoring gets freshmen students into an academic mindset, helps them to navigate their way through expectations and the services available to them and even provides a guide to getting around on the growing campus. The Office of Financial Aid helps make a university education affordable, and the Office of Career Services focuses on employment, both during school and after graduation. The University prides itself on developing programs that address the needs of its regional service area. Recent undergraduate additions have included programs in Communication Disorders and Systems Engineering. Early medical school admission programs, in addition to pre-law programs, are growing in popularity. Recent graduate additions have in-

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

A

university education is more than four extra years of school or a piece of paper that says one has graduated. It’s not only a tool to invest in oneself, but a means of discovering what one wants -- and how one can keep it. Between the first class day and the moment students collect their diploma, a university education is an expedition of exploration to worlds within and without, to places imagined and real. But rest assured, there are, of course, real world implications to securing a degree. Projected incomes for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are predictably higher compared to high school and two-year degrees. Consider the results of a study released by the U.S. Census: adults with a master’s degree or higher earned an annual salary four times more than those with less than a high school diploma -- about $82,000 compared to $21,000. Those with a bachelor’s degree earned an annual salary of about $57,000, while those with a high school diploma earned about $31,000. The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, suggests individuals considering a career in nursing should weigh their options carefully. A bachelor’s degree is often necessary for administrative positions. It is also a prerequisite for admission to graduate nursing programs and advanced practice nursing specialties. Individuals who complete a bachelor’s receive more training in areas such as communication, leadership, and critical thinking. Education beyond a bachelor’s may also help students looking to enter certain fields or increase advancement opportunities; some career paths are open only to nurses with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. At TAMIU, students can discover themselves, using their mind as a tool to solve problems and change their world. TAMIU is a comprehensive four-year, state-assisted institution. As a regional university of choice, TAMIU offers over 70 undergraduate or graduate degrees in the liberal arts and sciences, education, and business. New students can visit http://www. tamiu.edu/prospect/ for a special website geared to the needs of entering freshmen, graduate, international, or transfer students.

cluded an M.S. in nursing, M.S. in biology, M.S. in psychology, and M.S. in mathematics. A graduate level concentration in fitness and sports is now available through the TAMIU College of Education. TAMIU offers the nation’s first M.B.A. in international trade and a Ph.D. in international business administration. Collaborative Ph.D. programs in curriculum and instruction, education administration, English and Hispanic studies are offered in conjunction with other Texas A&M University System campuses. For more information, contact the Office of the University Registrar at 326.2250, e-mail registrar@ tamiu.edu, or visit room 168 in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library. Complete schedules, catalog, and additional registration information is available at http://www. tamiu.edu. u

Cabaret finale Emcee (Ricardo Holguin) comforts a Jewish girl (Kat Villarreal) behind the tragic finale of Cabaret. LITE Productions performed the classical musical to much applause at the Laredo Center for the Arts. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Seguro Que Sí By Henri Kahn

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

C

The kiss formula for our healthcare concerns

urrent USA healthcare services provide the most up-to-date options that include competent, well-trained, empathetic physicians, qualified caring nurses, state-of-the-art medical technological equipment for diagnosis, and treatments. Our hospitals are incredibly well organized temples of curing in pleasant surroundings that instill confidence and security. The selection of proper medicines to treat every illness or injury is available. Our loved ones can receive whatever curative treatment is needed faster than anywhere in the entire world and with the best of results. All exceptional products and services of any type are expensive and excellence is rewarded with financial gain because of the prevailing rules of property and contract in a free market society. Excellence rewarded with financial gain is treated as sinful and avaricious by our current president and his lap dogs. His entire propaganda and actions to control our financial system and impose “his” virtually immediate solution to national healthcare are nothing more and nothing less than a power grab to satisfy his Marxist philosophy. Further, Barack H. Obama continues to be the polarizing figure creating national unrest, who recently raised his racist banner during the Gates Crowell incidence in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The simplest, most effective way to pay health care expenses for all legal residents in the USA is to impose a 10 percent tax on the net income of every wage earner and a 10 percent tax on the net earnings of every business in the USA. I believe we should start to guarantee healthcare for all legal residents by maintaining the system of healthcare

WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

delivery for under age 65 employed, unemployed, and indigent legal residents of our great country by requiring that all employers provide health insurance for their employees and to impose a 10 percent tax on all wage earners plus a 10 percent tax on every business in the USA. Medicare benefits would stay the same for our senior population. The funds created by this 10 percent surtax would be used to provide healthcare for all unemployed and indigent legal residents in our country via insurance companies that will cover preexisting conditions, employing our current system of free market competition. The overall implementation of this idea would be accomplished over the next four to five years without these riots called Town Meetings that only serve to create a sense of national insecurity. Please read this in a spirit of the free market society that has made us into the greatest country in the world. The following was provided to me by Tommy Dodier, a friend and associate, from an inspiring message sent to him by his positive role model father David Dodier. The 1931 quote is from the late Dr. Adrian Rogers. “You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anyone anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.” u

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

61


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.

Where’s the beach? The clean one is in Rockport

A

s a native of Rhode Island, I have salt water in my veins. It’s in my genes, validated by the 80+ yearold photos of my ancestors wearing their “swimming costumes” and bathing caps posing in front of the same beach pavilion I later frequented. Every Saturday in temperate weather, my father would load my mother and I and two cousins in the car and drive the two hours required to take us to the best beach in Rhode Island -- Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly. A man who drove a delivery truck about 12 hours per day during the week and couldn’t afford a car any younger than 10 years old provided those excursions. There were quite a few stops needed to tend to overheating engines. We would also stop at a rural area near the beach to change into our swimsuits to avoid bathhouse pavilion charges (maybe all of 25 cents). Not surprisingly we would sometimes contract poison ivy.

62

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

Thanks to hurricane erosion through the years, the Westerly beach became too steep, and our numerous summer visits then focused on Sand Hill Cove beach in Galilee -- named after the fishing village of biblical

times. Within walking distance was George’s Beach, where one could stop for lunch at the historic George’s Restaurant and look out the window and wave to passengers aboard the giant ferries going back and forth to Block Island. One could also watch people fishing from the docks and giant rocks along the breakwater, as well as the arrival and departure of the fishing boats, and you could eat local fish caught the same day. A generation later, my father would take my mother, my son, and me to the same beach. Because he was retired, he was eligible for the reduced parking fee. And the bathhouse was now free. The beach was still white; the water was sparkling. On our way home, we would cruise by the very scenic Scarborough Beach, which with its thunderous surf attracted Rhode Island’s youth. And further along the scenic 1A drive, we would approach the sea wall of Narragansett Town Beach where one could bike or walk or sit at a little clam shack and have clam cakes and red or white chowder (which I normally did not eat) and enjoy a vista of surfers, sailboats and sky blue ocean. These impressions were relegated to the past when my husband and I arrived in Houston. Prior to arrival in Texas, I was not aware that Houston was within an hour’s drive of the ocean side at Galveston, which I had only heard of in the Glen Campbell song. In spite of the contrast in beach ambience, we quickly became addicted. Galveston emits its beguiling siren song and its tragic stories. The beach itself was seedy in appearance, not unlike those in Newport, RI. The dark seawater reminded me of the Mississippi River. Nearby, the oil industry was absorbed

in its activities. But I loved the unending sea wall promenade and scenic salt marshes. In addition, Galveston offered the Moody’s entertainment complex, an air museum, picturesque historic architecture, quirky natives, and the delectable Waffle House. Forget about Joe’s Crab Shack or Landry’s seafood restaurants. I never got past the prices posted at the door. And “Joe” wouldn’t recognize a cozy shack if he slammed into it. Nonetheless, we look forward to seeing Galveston’s ongoing rehabilitation efforts. Since arriving in Laredo, we have checked out Padre Island. It seemed reasonable to assume that Padre would be quite similar to Cape Cod National Seashore. I quite often thought of Cape Cod, MA as being “God’s Country.” Padre, unfortunately, looked more like a city trash depot. A public beach there had signs posted, “Beware of AIDS needles thrown overboard by passing ships.” The sand was filled with broken bottles and soda cans. I later discovered that the South Padre Brownsville access area was strewn with plastic bags filled with dirty diapers. No matter. We did find a beach where Texas litterbugs are contained by a parking fee and limited access. The beach is in Rockport, an area that appeals to visitors who are not set on contaminating nature’s beauty with dune buggies, pooping doggies, trail horse riders on the same beaches where babies might crawl, or tourists determined to rid themselves of garbage and junk-filled plastic bags. Rockport Beach appears to be a clean, regularly combed beach with white sand, clean water, relaxing surf -- and two pavilions! Rockport gives an impression that reflects the images left behind by my ancestors. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | AU GU S T 2009 |

63


This is no time for sound bytes and parlor games We need a new Webb County Judge A crucial election is coming up We must choose wisely between

Initiative -- Louis H. Bruni • Businessman • Forward-thinking • Public-minded

• Problem-solving • Decision-making • Action-taking

As opposed to

Inertia -- the incumbent • Perennial office-seeker • Unwilling to take stock

• Unmotivated to take action

• •

• No directional force • Lack of imagination

• Locked into stagnation

Slap-dash press conferences to keep him in the news don’t fill the leadership vacuum. Webb County is drying up! What’s the incumbent doing about it? Nothing.

LEADERSHIP FOR webb county political advertising paId for by sandra M. bruni, treasurer, post office box 1810, LAredo, TX, 78044

64

| L a r e DO S | A U G U S T 2009

Louis H. Bruni for County Judge in 2010

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

LaredosNews August 2009  

Laredos Newspaper Augusto 09

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you