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Est. 1994

Vol. XV, No. 7

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Locally Owned

Charles Darwin


The Wright Stuff:

When the Laredo Independent School District (LISD) sued respected realtor Royle Wright for fraud and breach of contract/breach of fiduciary duty, the district’s unfortunate core value and common practice of maligning good people left the bounds of the boardroom and the human resources grievance hearing room.


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Former Mayor Flores keynotes Leadership Laredo

recruitment luncheon

Courtesy Photo


The mischievous Mushu Sophia Martinez (Mushu) conjures up a plan to help Fa Mulan during LITE Productions presentation of Disney’s Mulan Jr. at the Laredo Civic Center.





Est. 1994

Vol. XV, No. 7

he Laredo Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Laredo will hold its annual recruitment ceremony on August 26, at 11:45 a.m. at the Montecarlo at 6415 McPherson. The event will also celebrate the graduation of the classes of 2007-08 and 2008-09. Corporate sponsorships are available at $500 for a table of 10 or $75 per person. Former Mayor Betty Flores, the 3rd President of Leadership Laredo, is the keynote speaker for the recruitment luncheon. The goal of Leadership Laredo is to educate future leaders on issues most important to the community. Leadership Laredo provides a series of seminars on a variety of community issues to potential community and chamber leaders in order to promote their active participation in the future. Applications are available at the Laredo Chamber of Commerce or online at leadershiplaredo. The deadline for submitting an application is September 9 at the Laredo Chamber of Commerce at 2310 San Bernardo Avenue. For additional information contact Lupita Vogel at (956) 722-9895 or John Kelley at (956) 235-9961.




The Wright Stuff: publisher

MarĂ­a Eugenia Guerra When the Laredo Independent School District (LISD) sued respected realtor Royle Wright for fraud and breach of contract/breach of fiduciary duty, the district’s unfortunate core value and common practice of maligning good people left the bounds of the boardroom and the human resources grievance hearing room.


Monica McGettrick

Read a

Staff Writers

John Andrew Snyder




MarĂ­a Eugenia Guerra

Circulation, Billing & Subscriptions

Jorge Medina Layout/design

JM Design

Mika Akikuni

Charlie Loving

Juan AlanĂ­s

Frontera Nortesur

MarĂ­a Eugenia CalderĂłn Bebe Fenstermaker Sissy Fenstermaker Denise Ferguson JosĂŠ Luis Gamez Mike Herrera IV Jay Johnson-Castro Sr.

Neo GutiĂŠrrez

Randy Koch

Alex Mendoza Salo Otero

Jennie Reed

Steve TreviĂąo

William Wisner

ShuString Productions, Inc.

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

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| La r eDO S | JULY 2009


Santa María Journal

QEPD: Chico, a dog of the free press By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA


hico, a dog of the free press, had nine lives, and he used them judiciously over the 15 years that we belonged to each other, the decade-anda-half concurrent to the time I have published this news journal. There was the time he and his brother Topo nearly hung themselves as pups when they bailed while tethered to the truck bed. There was the compound fracture of his front leg, incurred as he snapped mesquite branches while we drove on the ranch and he hung briefly from the tree before slamming back into the bed of the truck. There was the snakebite to the face when he and Topo lunged at a coiled rattler on the darkened doorway of my house, two piquetes that made his snout and face swell hideously. There was the time he jumped in the back of an oilfield gauger’s truck -- he never met a tailgate he didn’t like -- and was returned to me when the driver called the vet’s number on the tag on Chico’s collar. There was the time he hooked up with some magnet school kids in front of my office on Houston Street, followed them home down Main St. and way past Martin High, and was gone for a week until a good, honest person heard the radio ad I ran to try to find him. And he survived cow kicks as he moved cattle in the corrals, the furious charges of protective mama cows, and horse hoof stomps. And there was my wrath when I discovered Chico liked chicken on the wing, an incurable predilection that was my lot to work out at el pie del rancho. Except for live chickens, I could put a tasty morsel before him and he would remain sitting until I said “OK.” Though he was well disciplined and I could stop him with my voice (except in a homicidal feather-flying chicken-killing frenzy), he had an indomitable sense of adventure. I always thought he could read fear and the need for comfort, mine in particular. Chico could sing, howling back so earnestly if you howled first, his voice trembling with variations on a howl in C minor. He pretty much liked to bark into the wind all the way from San Ygnacio to Laredo in an operatic homage, I like to think, to his clean, open-air life on the ranch lands. For all the years he commuted into town with me, he made himself comfortable on an old horsehair-filled rocking chair in my WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

office. His sighs and the little noises he made when he stretched were a comfort to me. He knew when it was time to go home and sat poised by the door, ready for the words, “Get in the truck, Chico.” He was protective of our home, barking up such a ruckus at the ranch that strangers often opted to honk their horns instead of coming to the door. He was sentry for his domain on wheels, the bed of the truck. He looked friendly enough, but his stealthy snap and bark were a big surprise for those who ventured too close. As the years came at us – me, one at a time and Chico, seven -- old age started taking the wag out of Chico’s tail. He needed a chair to make the leap to the tailgate in two jumps, not one. He became deaf and arthritic. Now and again, however, he surprised us by moving cattle like his old able heeler self. Those of us who love our pets tend to anthropomorphize them, assign to them attributes like loyalty, the very things we hope we are and wish our friends to be. I’ve loved dogs since I was a child, and I’ve had some great ones. I learned to walk

holding onto Papa Armengol’s mutt, Beaver, oblivious to the oily aroma of his coat. There was the big-eared hound named Suki that my mother banished to the ranch. He walked all 40 miles back to the home where he was loved. And the list goes on – Blue, Pancha, Chula,

Pancho, Chata. Relationships -- business and personal -- came and went over 15 of the most important years of my life, and other dogs came and went as strays dumped on our ranch road or dogs that came with relationships. Chico was the constant, always top dog -- often far better company and less demanding than some of the relationships. How many books and morning cups of coffee did I enjoy on my porch with Chico nearby, how many vueltas round the ranch with Chico in the rear view mirror? He was just a dog, I tell myself, lower lip quivering, the wells of my eyes overflowing with tender memories of one of the dearest friends I’ve ever had, my arrowhead hunting companion, my frisky cohort of arroyo explorations, my best roundup cowboy, my best personal safety watchdog alerting me to strangers and javelinas. u

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


Cartoon by Charlie Loving


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Let’s not pretend France’s ban on the burqa is for the defense of Muslim women By MIKE HERRERA IV


here is a distinct cultural paternalism at work in French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision last month to ban French Muslims from wearing the burqa. The burqa of course is the Muslim dress that covers a woman from head to toe. In the west, where we like to think we’re so much more advanced and egalitarian than those male-dominated cultures of the Middle East, it is seen as a symbol of oppression, of the second-class rank of women in Muslim society. If anyone can lecture Muslims on such things, it’s France, where women are not second-class citizens. Muslims are. Though more Muslims call France home than almost any other European nation, the group continues to struggle for equal footing in society. The Journal of Turkish Weekly in 2007 wrote “Muslims of France are heavily concentrated in certain areas, in the Pas de Calais, the Ile de France, Lyons, Provence Cote d’Azure, and Rhone-Alps, in suburbs described as ‘ghettos’ with poor housing and schooling, high unemployment rates, and widespread racism. A study by the Sorbonne found that a standard CV with a Muslim name was five times less likely to elicit an interview that the same CV with a non-Muslim name, and the study concluded that racial profiling was widespread


among employers at degree level.” In addition, Stephanie Giry, writing for RealClearPolitics in 2006, demonstrated how the country’s aggressive secularism affects its Muslims. In 2004, France banned students from displaying religious signs in school, a move that, though universal, the Muslim community took personally. While that’s debatable, there’s no mistaking the anti-Islamic taint of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent condescension: “The burqa is not a religious sign. It is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement.” Sarkozy’s apologists have tried to defend his statement by saying that he alluded to the fact, promulgated by moderate imams, that the burqa is nowhere mentioned in the

Koran. That’s a little like an American government official telling Catholics “Because rosary beads are not specified in the Bible, they are not a religious symbol, and you may not display it in public.” More importantly, if the burqa debases Muslim women, why did Sarkozy’s invective anger so many of them? Indian Muslim women are now speaking out against the French, and in 2006, Muslim women protested outside the Dutch parliament when it considered a measure similar to France’s. What’s perhaps most rank about telling one group of women how to dress is that the superficiality of the issue displays crass disregard for the real oppression of Muslim women. Many are beaten by husbands who believe their violence is justified by their branch of Islam. It takes real gall for a politician to posit himself as an advocate for these women: “Fair maiden, I will rescue thee from thine turmoil by...telling thee how to dress.” If anyone really cared about Muslim women, they’d do something about domestic violence and honor killings. Banning an article of clothing -- symbol or not -- does nothing for Muslim women and only caters to Western cultural sensibilities and lets the French feel better about themselves when they go out in public. (Mike Herrera IV is an adjunct instructor of English at Texas A&M International University and a student of all things literary.) . u

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


Photo by Monica McGettrick

Fancy Nancy and her fashion-forward friends The young ladies in Intelligym’s Fancy Nancy summer class participated in a fashion show at Bella Baby on Del Mar. The ladies strutted down the red carpet in their Bella Baby gear while their proud parents looked on.


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Landeck, Kahn, and me: thoughts on where we’re going By DENISE FERGUSON


areDOS has done it again. I need to use my little grey cells to absorb contrasting philosophies within the issue. In “Is it Socialism” by John Snyder, Mr. Snyder interviewed Dr. Michael Landeck, whose credentials deem him to be well qualified to provide information on the subject. While I have found past comments made by Dr. Landeck in the political arena to be dismaying, his demeanor within the context of this article came over as being objective and professional. After reading it, I felt reassured. A few pages further, one can read alternate comments by Henri Kahn. Mr. Kahn may not have a doctorate, but as one who works in the insurance field, he, too, must have considerable expertise in finance. Mr. Kahn is also capable of applying terroriststyle “nicknames” to President Obama. Anyway, I have my own concerns, which I emailed to President Obama well before he was elected president (present e-mail contact: I told him in said messages that I thought his first concern should be to reduce the national debt. I said in my message, “If the USA goes down, we all go down.” I told him that I thought he should not finance GM or Chrysler with taxpayer money. (That, despite the fact that our family has bought GM or Chrysler Motor Division autos all our lives and will continue to do so.) I told him that he should not send money overseas to help other countries until such time that the USA does not owe China billions of dollars. And I told him that, as a retiree, I would be happy to incur taxes on Social Security if that would hasten the reduction of the national debt. Of course, people in the international business sector would tell me that it is not that simple. (Albeit it was simple enough for Congress to eliminate annual Social Security raises and virtually eliminate interest on savings for people who had the foresight to look ahead.) To President Obama I also addressed the subject of integrity, initiative, and honesty. President Obama and Congress WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

cannot legislate a situation in which the people of the United States have deliberately shafted one another. Many citizens have entered into financial agreements that they could not possibly afford. Institutions are squandering taxpayer and customer dollars. Young men are imposing their whole families on their elderly parents while they “look for suitable work.” The previous president left a financial deficit that might have taken at least eight years to set right. I can tell you that even though I have a couple of college degrees, I do not have the business expertise of Dr. Landeck or Mr. Kahn or Sec. of Treasury Timothy Geithner. But I have not so far had to declare bankruptcy. In saying that, I am well aware that a sudden catastrophe can render almost any family bankrupt in a short time. When my husband lost his job in his 60s he became a Budget Rental Car driver. During the 1991 recession in Rhode Island, I, and many others, sought out new careers in the health sector. And I was impressed with many of the people of Janesville, WI during the 21 months I lived there. They knew this day was coming. People with whom I spoke said they had been waiting about 20 or 30 years for the final axe to fall on the Janesville GM assembly plant. Some milked it as long as they could. In other instances, fathers had directed their sons not to follow in the family tradition of looking to GM for employment. Newspapers reported the success of the younger generation in new venues. Young and old; men and women were flocking to Blackhawk Technical College to earn degrees which would lead them away from the GM factory to new arenas. The people of Wisconsin -- and probably the surrounding states -- had been warned. The newspapers of the area regularly published options that endangered employees could take in order to rescue themselves and their families before it was too late. Some were wise enough to heed the warnings. If only honesty, forethought, integrity, and initiative reigned more predominantly in the people and leaders of the United States of America. u LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


In Memoriam

A tribute to

Martin High Schools’s 1964 baseball team

Henry “El Maestro” Garza By JOSÉ LUIS GAMEZ


rom Del Rio to San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Corpus Christi, and the Valley, the bus rolled on as if guided by a precise magic wand. There were no maps on the bus, no GPS system to guide it or monitor its whereabouts. The bus was under the able stewardship of Henry Garza, affectionately known by everyone on board as “El Maestro.” Few questioned his road knowledge, and many were amazed by his punctuality and ability to drive us to the game and back home safely. It was easy, he would say, “I’m driving the Blue Goose.” For many generations of players and coaches that came on board, he was one of the guys. The camaraderie that existed on those trips came in part from his good-natured personality. Whether we won or lost, we knew that we had his total support. Many times upon arrival I can still remember awakening to his voice, “No te preocupes, coach, yo cierro el portón.” Those treasured good times between departing and arriving served to keep us loose before the game. Everyone knew that El Maestro had a limit, not imposed, and yet understood. Never mind the fact that the bus didn’t have air-conditioning, our comfort zone was to have a seat to yourself. As a player and as a coach, I had the privilege of having him as my driver for 10 years. There are so many anecdotes that come to mind and very little


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space to convey them. After a broken fan belt left the bus stranded, he vowed, “Yo le voy a hacer la lucha con una compostura mexicana.” After catching Dave Leyendercker’s broadcasting cable with the bus luggage rack and toppling the stands, “Oiga, quién tumbó los bleachers?” Driving in the snow in Houston with both Martin and Nixon on board, “Ya traemos air condition, muchachos.” To a bilingual waitress, “Yo nomás quiero unos ham and eggs con huevos.” Times have changed and with more local schools and realignments, there do not seem to be that many out of town trips as before. Yet I would venture to say that many of us yearn for a trip on the old Blue Goose with El Maestro behind the wheel. As we bid farewell to El Maestro, the man with the ever present, thin, cleanly shaved mustache, one can only hope that he can continue his celestial stops with the same efficiency that made him an icon when he roamed among us. Until we meet again, rest assured, Maestro, that you have left a standard for others to follow. To your dear loved ones, let it be known that you earned the respect and admiration from all who boarded the Blue Goose. No te preocupes, Maestro, yo cierro el portón. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

Kiwanis Club Notes

According to appraiser Luis de la Garza, the “run” of foreclosures is over

Kiwanis Club Notes By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER


aredo realtor and appraiser Luis de la Garza updated the Laredo Kiwanis Club on conditions in the local housing market. A Kiwanian himself for the last four years, De La Garza is owner of DLG

Real Estate and was recently appointed a member of the Texas Appraisers Licensing and Certification Board by Governor Rick Perry. “Due to the oversupply of houses, it will continue to be a buyer’s market out there for the next six to seven months,” De La Garza

I Choose

said. “Prices have stabilized in Laredo, although there are pockets within the city where there might be a very slight rise or decline in pricing,” he added. He said that applications for building permits were on the rise. “Home prices could possibly creep up somewhat as we look ahead a few months,” he said. The state’s overall economy, De La Garza said, was not in a major slump and that there was no sign that conditions would worsen to create a California-style crash. “We have checks and balances in Texas, thanks to our economic diversification,” he said. De La Garza said that interest rates are quite low and that the Federal Government is offering an $8,000 cash credit to firsttime homebuyers, adding that the City of Laredo has a new program that makes up to $15,000 available to first-time homebuyers. He also said that he believes the “run” of foreclosures is over, adding that lender scrutiny was at an all-time high for potential borrowers. u

Luis de la Garza

Jose Melendez, Laredo Broncos Manager, and family

Special Deliveries As the manager of the Laredo Broncos, I know how important teamwork is to success. Special Deliveries is the childbirth program at Doctors Hospital, and it really did make us feel special in every way. Thanks to their team, our baby girl is healthy and happy. That’s what I call a home run. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

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

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


Sierra Club Insider

Faces of the Borderlands Take Action! Tell Your Senators No More Border Wall. From San Diego, CA, to Brownsville, TX, the nearly 700-mile-long border wall has fractured communities and drastically altered the lives of countless individu-

Dan Millis and Josseline Dan Millis (above on the border wall) works to save the lives of migrants making desperate journeys through the Sonoran Desert. Dan Millis, born and raised in Arizona, has a daily connection to some of the cruelest realities of our border policy. While hiking along a canyon just north of the Arizona/Mexico border with a group of volunteers, Dan stumbled across the corpse of a girl. At only 14, the Salvadoran girl Josseline was the youngest of the 183 recovered bodies along the Arizona border in 2008. Over 5,000 migrants have died along the U.S. border since the mid 1990s, when border walls and increased enforcement began to funnel them into remote and dangerous terrain. His experiences in the borderlands have led him to divide his working life between the human and environmental costs of bad border policy. He works for the Sierra Club and No More Deaths, a border humanitarian aid group. A child found dead in the desert by Dan Millis is memorialized above.Not long after finding Josseline in the desert, Dan was distributing water jugs along migrant trails near the border. He was stopped by federal authorities and issued a citation. The ticket was written for “littering,” despite the boxes full of trash that he and a group of No More Deaths volunteers had been cleaning up from the area. Dan refused to pay the ticket, and was later convicted in federal court. Harassment and prosecution of humanitarian volunteers continues along the southwest border, including another “littering” conviction issued against No More Deaths volunteer Walt Staton. He faces a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $10,000 fine.


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als. The following profiles tell some of the stories that you haven’t heard. They introduce you to individuals and families impacted by the wall and separated from their land.

Rev. John Fanestil and Friendship Park Rev. John Fanestil celebrating com- meal of homemade tamales, empanadas munion at Friendship Park, before all ac- or pan dulce. cess was blocked by Border Patrol. Construction of the border wall For generations, Mexican-American led the Department of Homeland Sefamilies of San Diego/Tijuana divided by curity to turn its focus on Friendship the international boundary have gathered Park as a theatre of law enforcement on Sunday afternoons on both sides of the operations, and it declared that passborder fence at Friendship Park. ing simple foods through the fence Dedicated in 1971 by then First-La- was a customs violation. Rev. John dy Pat Nixon as a symbol of binational Fanestil responded by joining these friendship, this California State Park families each Sunday, breaking bread overlooking the Pacific Ocean was both together by sharing Holy Communion an appropriate and stunningly beautiful with worshippers on both sides of the setting where grandmothers in Mexico border fence, a symbol of binational could meet with sons, daughters and solidarity and friendship in keeping grandchildren living on the U.S. side with the park’s original purpose. Since of the border, to share a simple Sunday January of 2009, DHS has blocked all

access to Friendship Park. Local and state public officials, local community members and organizations now work for the restoration of this historic meeting place.

Noel Benavidez and Family Noel Benavidez is an 8th generation Texan. He now owns a western clothing shop and sits on the town council of Roma, Texas. Current plans for wall construction include the seizure of Noel’s family land. Noel Benavidez’ family has lived on the northern bank of the Rio Grande in South Texas since the family received a Spanish land grant two hundred years ago. Every year for many generations his family, which is now spread throughout

the US and Mexico, meets on the bank of the river for a family reunion. For the past three years, Noel’s beloved grand daughter Cecilia Sofia joined that reunion, marking the tenth generation of the Benavidez family on this land. If the Department of Homeland Security continues to build the remaining miles of wall it plans for South Texas, Noel’s family reunion grounds, the Rio Grande, and one third of his property will be blocked from him by the wall.

both sides of the border. Christian became conscious of the internation border only when he became a citizen at age 10. While awaiting finalization of citizenship status, Christian couldn’t legally leave San Diego, and Friendship Park became the only place where Christian could go to spend time with family in Mexico. Christian Ramirez giving a lecture on the politics of border security to a group of students from Occidental College.”That’s when I realized just how real the border was — when I realized that we couldn’t go back and forth anymore. It was pretty traumatic,” Christian recalls. Friendship Park continues to be a special gathering place for families le-

gally seeking citizenship status but divided by the international border, but increased enforcement and construction of the border has eliminated public access to Friendship Park. Christian now works with a coalition of over 40 San Diego community organizations calling for the restoration of Public Access to Friendship Park.

Christian Ramirez and Family Christian Ramirez gathers with family through the San Diego/Tijuana border wall. Christian Ramirez and his family have lived and worked in the San Diego/Tijuana border region for three generations. Christian’s grandfather and grandmother came to San Diego as guest workers in the 1950s, and Christian’s father became a legal resident of the U.S. as a child and later moved his family to nearby San Ysidro, California. Like hundreds of children of Mexican-American families, Christian spent weekends in Tijuana with extended family, playing with cousins and friends on


Valer and Joe Austin Valer and Joe Austin own and work to restore land in southeastern Arizona, northern Mexico, and Texas. Border infrastructure has already impacted the Austin’s land in northern Mexico, and if the policy of the wall continues, could affect their land in Texas. Valer and Joe Austin have been working for many years to purchase conservation properties in the borderlands and restore health to their lands’ watersheds, grasslands and wildlife. Their work has greatly complemented and advanced the efforts of state and federal govern-

Ofelia Rivas and the O’Odham Ofelia Rivas stands on the land the O’Odham have inhabited for millenia, which spans the US-Mexico border. Ofelia Rivas’ people, the O’odham, have lived in the Sonoran Desert for thousands of generations, freely traveling to communities throughout their territory, which radiates outward from Baboquivari, the sacred mountain of the O’odham. Conflicts between other nations have throughout history affected the lives of the O’odham, and today is no different. Ofelia lives in Ali Jegk village in southern Arizona, less than a quarter mile from the United States/ Mexico International Border, and her nation, the Tohono O’odham Nation occupies reservation land that lies adjacent to 74 miles of international border. The border wall represents a massive scar through the heart of O’odham lands, which cover a vast area on both sides of the border. Now Ofelia’s people must cross a militarized border to visit each other and their sacred sites and conduct ceremonies. Treated as suspects in their own lands, they are often delayed or prevented from crossing as they are subjected to harassment, detention, confiscation of papers, and even violence.


Dr. Eloisa Tamez For Eloisa Tamez the land is sacred. She is a 74 year old descendant of Lipan Apache and Basque and it was on this very land in South Texas that 15 generations of her family lived and died. In 1767, King Charles III of Spain granted her ancestors the land that is now known as the community of El Calaboz where some 20 families still live. Eloisa served in the US Army Nurse Corp and over her long service achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel. Today she is a professor at the University of Texas Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, and also a Commander of the Texas Medical Brigade of the Texas National Guard. She has served her country and preserved her family’s long history on the land. But now her country is building walls through the lifeblood of her family heritage. In 2008, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff demanded Eloisa sign over her land

or be sued by the federal government by which a large portion of her land would be condemned through eminent domain. She refused and fought back and became the symbol of resistance against the wall when she filed suit against Chertoff and the DHS. In April of 2009, a district court said

DHS had the power to build through eminent domain, but the court required DHS to consult with Dr. Tamez about how construction would proceed. DHS ignored this court order, and within 48 hours, the US government built 18’ of steel wall across her land leaving her no access to the southern portion, including the Rio Grande river which drew her family here more than 200 years ago.

Smoking Joe Martinez Jose Martinez III, whose classic presence and countenance are instantly etched into one’s mind, is the third generation of his family to live on the Rio Grande. His home, land and business are on the south side of Hwy. 281 in the southern reaches of Mercedes, Texas, between McAllen and Brownsville. He shares the land with his aunt, who lives in a home near the river. It is on this land that Joe derives his sole livelihood from well known Smoking Joe’s BBQ, one of the most popular in the Rio Grande Valley and a place known for its kindness to strangers and those without means to pay for food. His BBQ stand

ment programs to restore habitat connectivity and revive struggling wildlife populations in the Southwest. In a time of global warming, their work to create free passage for animal migrations has never been more important to myriad species like black bear, mule deer, and mountain lions. Their tremendous commitment to the land and wildlife of North America is now at the mercy of border and immigration policies-especially the construction of border barriers and roads through land that the Austin’s own and manage for the primary purpose of wildlife restoration and migration.

Bill Odle and Ellen Logue Bill Odle and Ellen Logue bought land near the San Pedro River corridor looking for a quiet life in remote Arizona lands. The border wall has brought noise and construction, and blocked them from their mountain view, their neighbors, and wildlife. The government didn’t consult Bill Odle and his wife Ellen Logue about building a border wall directly adjacent to their property near the San Pedro River Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona. Bill and Ellen have seen first-hand the damage caused by new walls and roads, including accelerated erosion and blocking of wildlife like deer and porcupine, bobcats, coatimundi and countless other species that drew Odle and Logue to this quiet grassland region. A former Marine, Odle acknowledges the importance of national security. “Our country certainly does need security and boots on the ground, but a fence is false security,” he says. “We don’t want miles of walls, search lights, towers, and mine fields around our borders-that’s not what America is all about.”

sits on the banks of a “Resaca,” an old Rio Grande channel before the International Boundary and Water Commission built a levy a couple hundred yards away from the family home to prevent the Rio Grande from changing course. Smoking Joe is now raising the fourth generation of his family on the banks of the Rio Grande. But that is about to change. Joe’s home and famous BBQ are flanked by border wall on both sides of his property. And if construction continues, the

wall will be built right through his property, along the levy his grandfather helped build. This concrete wall will separate him from both the Rio Grande and the home of his aunt and cousin, which will be on the Mexican side of the wall.

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



La Cosecha (The Harvest) exposes hidden lives of some of Laredo’s most vulnerable youth while unsung heroes work behind the scenes to give migrant children a voice “We are our brother’s keeper.”


hen was the last time you took a moment to truly think about what you’re eating? About where it came from? The miles and hours of labor it took to deliver that banana/watermelon/strawberry straight to your mouth? When you see the USA sticker, do you ever stop to consider that a child -- an American child just like yours -- might have spent her summer picking that very tomato? Filmmakers Robin Romano and John Drew have. Romano, a French-Canadian educated in France, has spent the last 12 years working on films that deal with children’s rights. Drew, a New Yorker raised abroad and in Latin America, traveled the border from the southern tip of Texas to San Diego with several other filmmakers in order to capture the unique spirit of the U.S.-Mexico border. He is producing Romano’s film, La Cosecha (The Harvest.) In collaboration with UISD Federal Programs Coordinator Estella de la Garza and UISD Migrant Coordinator Veronica Burgoa, Romano and Drew are following one UISD family as they traveled north, following the crop. At the heart of the film is 12-year-old Zulema Lopez, the eldest of four children in a family that migrates to pick strawberries, cucumbers, and other produce in Michigan and Florida. Having worked the fields since the age of seven, Zulema’s chance at an education has been severely tested by the need to help support her family. Romano’s experiences with the plight of child laborers began when he realized that over 250 million children are involved in the worst kinds of labor. To Romano, seeing their dangerous and hopeless lives clearly marks the distinction between labor and work. Their story had not yet been told -- they had yet to be given a voice. Thus, he began a three-year exploration around the world, traveling to Pakistan, Kenya, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, and India. But he was struck most by the fact that child bondage was alive and thriving in the United States, the land of the free. “America is always really good at pointing fingers,” said Romano, explaining that our policy has always been to look towards other countries and decry their use of child labor as inhumane, all the while American


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children toil on the fields of American soil under dangerous conditions. “I’m looking at this as a question of a global Río Grande. There are first world pockets surrounded by third world pockets. For example -- Laredo is first world, El Cenizo, third world,” he said. When Romano came to Laredo, he was shocked. “A crime is a crime.” Throughout his work in other countries, Texas and its migrant children remained deeply ingrained in his psyche. He couldn’t escape the horror of knowing we have over half a million American children working out of sight and out of mind. In this he sees a distortion of democratic values and racism at work. He often asks himself what kind of America we are going to leave behind. “This asks both a moral question and ethical response, which says something about who we are. These are children of tabula rasa. They are how we define ourselves -- as of November we chose to define ourselves as a multi-racial country -perhaps there is an opening of the political mind. Now is the time to bring this story to the fore. It is a simple story of a simple child. We can begin the process of seeing each other as human beings again. By using children we are using subject matter that is blameless. Any blame we place says more about us than them,” said Romano. Drew, whose view of the border was formed previously through his work on Border Stories, a mosaic documentary of life along the frontera, has gained a new perspective. “My view of the border is that it is a thoroughly politicized and complex space that serves as a flash-point for some of the most pressing issues of our time, many of which receive poor mainstream news coverage. The purpose of our project [Border Stories] was to illustrate this complexity with a diversity of perspectives and to provide an alternative source of understanding for border politics. The voices Photos by Robin Romano


that we share on our website not only broadened my view of the border but also of globalization and the challenges we face as a species with disparate access to material and natural resources.” Border Stories is available online at Like Romano, Drew sees his work as a documentarian as a way of exposing social injustice and economic disparity -- and The Harvest is their medium. “Growing up in Latin America I came to see how global economic policy drives many of the conditions that cause people to migrate north in the first place. Immigration is a global phenomenon and is driven principally by an international economic system that is increasing wealth disparity as opposed to addressing it. After seeing the front lines of this equation characterized by extreme poverty, it’s hard for me not to want to say something about it, hence

the storytelling.” Romano saw a need, on the 50th anniversary of Edward Murrow’s Harvest of Shame, to revisit the issue. “Murrow made an upfront piece full of moral outrage. People are so alienated from their food -- they need to see what they’re eating and who is bringing it to their table,” he said, referring to a recent study that showed 80% of children in New York think milk comes from a carton. The story is as tragic as it is true. American children still work in the fields under dangerous conditions. They work with sharp tools, they work in extreme weather, and very often they are exposed to poisonous pesticides. Why? Legally, there is a hole in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, the act that was to prohibit “oppressive child labor.” Under its guidelines, children who work on farms do not have the right to minimum wage, overtime, hour limits (even during the school year), collective bargaining, or OSHA guidelines. The official tally of food produced by children that ends up on American tables is 18 percent. The argument presented to oppose the complete prohibition of child labor is that preventing children from working in agriculture would provide an unnecessary burden on family farms -- although less than one percent of our food comes from family farms. For those children whose families migrate with the season, many because they have become part of a vicious cycle of migratory work, Title I and No Child Left Behind has allowed UISD and LISD to actively assist them in almost every need -- a collaboration of services, WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

said Fernando Cruz, who has been working with LISD’s Federal Programs, including the Migrant Education Program, since 1965. According to Cruz, when the program first began, there were thousands of children in LISD who identified as migrant. For the 2008-2009 school year, LISD identified 400, only 289 of whom were enrolled in school. Cruz explained that the difference in accounting might have to do with students who have full time jobs or have started families. They are counted as being school age with younger siblings in school. Every year Cruz and his staff -- Jorge García, Luz Polendo, and Sylvia Lecea -- work to identify students and their families who qualify as migrant. “Children have to go with their parents,” said Cruz. “They work in industries like fishing, agriculture, meat processing.” Once the students are identified, they are placed in schools. To Cruz, the key is coordination of services. García and Lecea go to each school so the child knows there is someone out there who cares for them, someone who keeps up with their grades. It is rewarding for them while reinforcing education. They make sure they are properly attired and that they have the school supplies they need, including backpacks and clothes. They act almost like parents, but their main function is to act as a voice. Very often, when a teacher has a concern about a student but has trouble contacting a parent, they speak with Lecea or García. For the students who aren’t enrolled but are identified as migrant students, Cruz and his employees work to encourage their parents to get them to take their GED. “There are lots of interventions to make sure these kids fit into their schools. We have lots of programs to make sure their needs are met. In this way, Title 1 has been good,” Cruz said. Parent involvement is also a crucial component. Lecea works with the Parent Advisory Council, which meets to discuss issues and recognize students doing well. Each school has a parent liason, hired by the district, who knows who each child is. Together, Lecea and the parent liason work to assure that each child receives the care he or she needs. “Some parents resist,” said Lecea. “There is some apathy, but by talking to the parents we try to motivate them to participate. We have good attendance at some of the meetings, maybe because we honor the kids.” It’s all about showing them a better way of life. According to Cruz, many of their parents make sure the kids are there when school starts and they try to stay until the school year ends. Migrating tends to be a difficult cycle to break -- parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles all migrate, and families often make less than $15,000 a year, far WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

below poverty level. Every available hand is needed, no matter how young. However, many of their students go on to college, which is a main goal for Cruz and his staff -- to show these children that they can aspire to jobs that aren’t related to agriculture. Both school districts have interstate cooperation. Their system allows them to track students who migrate from one state to another. They also have an intrastate system, which follows students who migrate within Texas. Their early childhood program allows them to work with parents and young children at home teaching them basics like colors, puppets, etc. Despite the hard work, however, there are some roadblocks. For example, of the 14 seniors this past school year, only 12 graduated. One of the students who did not graduate migrated up north with his family -- but Cruz and staff arranged to have him take his TAKS anyway, in the hopes he would be able to graduate in August. For 2009, 54 students took the TAKS test. Of those, nine were commended and there was 80 percent mastery. “There are many reasons why these kids don’t progress. Students are very often on their own because the parents don’t offer any support. Also, a lot of teachers don’t know of the hardships they face at home,” said Lecea. “If need be, we make referrals to social service agencies.” These advocates let teachers and principals know why these kids are struggling in class, falling asleep, or lack basic hygiene. “One of our families is a 31-year old, single mother on dialysis. Her husband ditched her, and she takes care of the kids when she migrates, despite being on dialysis,” said Lecea. “Another family came from Mexico. The parents have limited English, but their son was determined to work. He came in to eighth grade, and English was difficult for him. We arranged for tutoring, and now he’s going to college. His father was so grateful.” About 20% of the families in the LISD migrant program come from Mexico, and the average family size is four. Cruz and his staff have found that parents are now working to make sure their kids are here for the whole school year. It is harder for those who arrive late because state sanctions require a 1:22 classroom ratio. When they arrive late, the classes might already be full and the kids are then required to attend a different school that may be much farther from where they live. Cruz, Lecea, Polendo, and García work hard to accommodate the families as best as possible. For older children who want to work, they inform them that the legal working age is 14 to 18, and in many cases, they help them find a job. “These are very good, humble people,” said Lecea. Polendo has been with the migrant program since 1971. Lecea since 1999, but before

she worked as a HIP aid (Home Instruction Program), and García is in his third year with the program. Burgoa and De La Garza of UISD also acknowledge the benefit of federal funding. Burgoa acknowledges that the children in her schools have everything working against them. Some don’t continue with school in the state they’ve migrated to. The younger children, including babies, stay in the car or in a shaded area while their parents and siblings work the field. The families prepare lunch in the morning and eat it quickly in the car. Some go to camps at night, and for the lucky ones, some states offer classes at night so they don’t fall behind their peers. Despite Burgoa’s efforts to track these families, however, they often leave overnight without notifying the school. “The parents are sometimes an obstacle. They don’t have dreams for themselves and very rarely have dreams for their kids. Life is about survival, not dreaming,” said Burgoa. “But seeing these kids graduate, well, my face was shining. At the end of the day, these kids eternalize the help we’re able to give. They are in awe of an experience as simple as going to a restaurant.” On a practical level, Burgoa, like Cruz, Lecea, Polendo, and García, identifies each kid with a number. She tells the parents that before the family leaves she can help them prepare the paperwork. This makes it easier Burgoa to track where they are going and follow up with the district in whichever city they head to. The program provides the children and their families with nutritionists, mental health clinics, and they do Community Migrant Awareness. Burgoa recruited a group of Customs and Border Protection agents to help start a mentoring program, and currently, CBP assists by providing tennis shoes. “Many of these kids don’t have basic supplies,” said Burgoa. “We accept help wherever we can.” She added, “Most of these migrant kids are located on the south side -- it isn’t a coincidence that many of them live in the poorer parts of town. Many of them meet homeless guidelines. To help in these circumstances,

the program also helps families navigate through social programs. Everything Burgoa and her coworkers do revolves around providing opportunities for students who don’t have access to the same materials as their classmates -items as simple as computers and Internet access. They lack all the tools that give others a head start in the world. Both Cruz and Burgoa emphasize that the majority of these children are US citizens. Some don’t speak Spanish at all. Romano and Burgoa are both extraordinarily proud of Zulema and the other children. Romano and Drew have traveled with them to Michigan for the summer, and ultimately, the film will cover a year of their lives. “The kids are engaging regardless of their circumstances and their surroundings. Some kids will get out of the system but the question is, why don’t more?” he asked. The film’s objective is to raise awareness to the point that a law is passed that would prohibit the use of child labor in every area of industry, but, again, opponents argue that it would rob parents of much-needed income. They argue that this would lead to $6 heads of lettuce. Romano couldn’t help but laugh at the preposterousness of it. He said, “If the story is presented properly, it would be unstoppable. It is a simple request -- are you for abusive child labor or not? We are against the abuse of child labor. We have child labor laws that should be applied equally. Equal protection under the law.” While Cruz, García, Polendo, Lecea, Burgoa, and De la Garza deal with the day to day reality, while the children in their care struggle to break free of the cycle and dare to dream of a future away from the fields, Romano’s sincerest hope is that a film with children at the center will move beyond the political and the rhetoric to engage in broader conversations. He wants to raise awareness and open the door, to humanize a section of the population. “If a Laredo judge can work her way out of the cycle, so can these kids,” said Romano. u

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



USDA tick riders overworked and under-funded; Cattle industry hangs in the balance of timely eradication By MARíA EUGENIA GUERRA


hough the eradication of fever tick in South Texas focuses about a small arachnid on cattle, the battle has quite a human face on it. There are the ranchers, many of them barely eking a profit from raising cattle on family tracts the way their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers did before them. And there are the USDA tick riders, cowboys who work tirelessly with the ranchers in every kind of weather to try to reverse the spread of a parasite that could hold the fate of the Texas cattle industry in its multi-legged clutch. Though there have been some successes in containment by quarantine, the attempt to control the foreign invasive species of fever tick has placed an enormous financial and labor-intensive burden on ranchers and the understaffed, underfunded USDA effort to control the growing problem. Ranchers whose premises are under quarantine round up cattle out of the thick South Texas brush for inspections and put their herds through two on-site dips in portable chemical vats provided and staffed by USDA inspectors. A third mandatory dip takes place at the government vats, with ranchers incurring the expense of hauling herds to those facilities. Thereafter, ranchers in the quarantine area must first dip cattle in the government vats as a prerequisite to moving them from the quarantine zone. Horses, too, must be sprayed before moving out of the zone. The dipping solution in the vats is CORAL, an organophosphate that inhibits cholinesterase enzymes that transmit nerve impulses. Warnings for CORAL indicate a battery of poisonous effects for cattle, humans, birds, and wildlife, including an acute oral hazard. The USDA initially used a wettable powder version of the insecticide, but went to a liquid to obviate airborne safety hazards. According to USDA director of field operations Ed Bowers, ranches along the river are the most seriously infested. Bowers oversees 102 tick riders and the eradication effort in nine counties, seven on the Río Grande. The number of tick quarantines on South Texas ranches for FY 2009 will eclipse 2008’s number of 132, according


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to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The increasing trend will likely meet or beat 1973’s record of 170 premises infested with fever ticks that carry Babesia, a blood parasite that can kill adult cattle and is carried on horses, deer, elk, aoudad sheep, and a number of other deer species. Of 127 outbreaks since October 2008, 68 quarantined ranches are in Zapata County, 51 in Starr County, and the remainder

scattered among Maverick, Brooks, Cameron, Kinney, Dimmit, and Webb counties. In Zapata County, the TAHC has drawn temporary quarantines within five-mile perimeters of fever tick-infested pastures. Ranchers in the temporary quarantines can move livestock after the animals undergo a clean tick inspection and treatment by the USDA Tick Force or TAHC. While 152,716 acres in Starr and Hi-

dalgo counties were recently added to the quarantine list, nearly 375,000 acres in Webb, Dimmit, and Maverick counties were released. According to Texas state veterinarian Dr. Bob Hillman, the successful release of those tracts mirror landowner cooperation coupled with the good efforts of the USDA tick riders. In Zapata County, 18 tick riders try to manage the increasing fever tick problem on about 1,000 square miles of ranch land, an area the size of Rhode Island. In tandem with 13 riders from Starr County, they staff a 423,000-acre quarantine area, clearly too few riders for so vast an area. “It’s a massive effort we are undertaking with not enough money,” Bowers said, adding that the funding is “caught in the snarl of red tape and bureaucratic mire.” Dr. Hillman estimated that “sustainable funding of at least $14 million a year” would go a long way to address the problem, and that Mexico would need to mirror efforts on the U.S. side of the border, fully funding their program to, at the very least, eradicate the tick along the U.S. Mexico border. “Keeping their dipping vats charged at the optimal level to kill ticks is essential, as is preventing animals from crossing the Rio Grande into the U.S.,” he said. Bowers said that Mexico could remove immense pressure from the problem by working its side of the riverbanks. A comprehensive plan of attack, the National Fever Tick Eradication Strategic Plan was developed and approved by the USDA in 2006 to identify and procure the tools necessary to keep the U.S. free of ticks and prevent entry of cattle fever ticks into the U.S. from Mexico. Bowers said the plan has never been implemented for lack of funding for additional personnel, sufficient treatment products, and enough equipment, such as portable dipping vats or portable spray boxes for cattle, and treatment equipment. Bowers stressed the urgency of funding for containment and eradication. “It has bearing on the health of the cattle industry throughout the state,” he said, adding that the spread of the fever tick could be devastating to ranchers, not only in the aspect of cattle raising, but also in the leasing of land for white tail deer hunting. Continued on next page



Rotary Club Notes

Rotary Club Notes

Jim Williams, new president of Laredo Rotary Club



ew Laredo Rotary Club president Jim Williams has begun his oneyear tenure at the head of Laredo’s oldest service organization vowing, “We’re going to keep the machinery moving in the right direction.” In keeping with the 2009 Rotary International theme of “Back to Basics,” Williams has demonstrated from day one a businesslike leadership style that prioritizes membership solidarity and efficiency of operation. The new president characterized the past year under the leadership of outgoing president Ed Gonzalez as “fruitful and productive in the best tradition of Rotary.” A Rotarian for 38 years, Williams said, “The Laredo Rotary Club is the cornerstone for the civic organizations for this end of the world,” adding, “It has always been composed of top business leaders and has a track record second to none.” He said that the LRC had always been characterized by its low-key approach to getting things done. “Each year we are involved in a number of good projects, of which, in many cases, the public has not been aware,” he said. James Ellison Williams IV was born in San Antonio and moved to Houston at an early age. He graduated from Houston’s Lamar High School in 1956 and attended the University of Houston, receiving a BBA degree in economics in 1962. He worked for the Buick division of General Motors, serving as assistant car distributor for the

Río Grande Valley at the time that Newman Peyton was distributor. Peyton brought Williams with him when he opened the Honda dealership (cycles only) at 2301 Saunders, which also encompassed the sales of Fiat, MG, and International Harvester vehicles. Williams bought the franchise in 1968. “Honda had expanded into the car market, and they made a good product -- the only problem we had was keeping enough of them in stock,” Williams said. He added that it wasn’t long before Honda opened its first American assembly plant in Marysville, Ohio. “Honda was a smaller company than Nissan and Toyota, and they were always in short supply,” he said. Business was good and Williams eventually opened a new dealership at 5800 San Dario, where he sold Honda only. “All my employees were from around here -- we worked well together, like a family,” he said. In 1993, Williams sold the dealership to Frank Gilman, who in turn eventually sold it to Sames Motor Company. “I’m glad I came down here -- I made a living, I enjoy the country, and I love hunting,” Williams said. “I have always had good rapport with the city and the people of Laredo,” he added. Looking forward to the year ahead as LRC president, Williams said, “We will continue to take care of our own on both sides of the river; we intend to keep working together with the Nuevo Laredo Rotary clubs to make an impact on the border area.” u

Continued from page 16 Bowers said the movement of wildlife, often hosts to fever tick, is part of the problem with the spread of the parasite. “A white tail doe will move within a mile of her home. A buck will move seven miles during the rut.” To that end, USDA personnel are also spreading treated deer corn on ranches, something in which ranchers have no say. “With each new infested premise, costs rise for the fever tick program --more equipment, more personnel, more products and more time,” said Dr. Hillman. “Sadly, because we have worked so hard to keep this outbreak contained to South Texas, it is not fully recognized as a national animal health issue, with potential international consequences,” said Hillman, adding, “The longer it takes to eradicate this fever tick incursion, the greater are the chances fever ticks will be spread to other states, which will raise the costs exponentially. More people, more national resources, and new tick-fighting products are needed now to get this potentially deadly pest out of the United States.” While all ranchers comply with the efforts of the USDA, not all of them are happy with the processes. Zapata County rancher Jorge Uribe called the dipping vats on Hwy. 83 in Ramireño “a real problem.” He said, “They are filthy. A young calf or a weak animal will not withstand a dip in the vats. They will drink some of that toxic water, and it can kill them.” Uribe added that the tick problem and the quar-

antine has “been a huge hindrance.” Though no infestation was found on his San Jorge Ranch northeast of San Ygnacio, he voluntarily put his herd through two dips in the portable onsite vats after errant cattle loose on Ranch Road 3169 broke through his fence and entered his property. He recalled the recent month-long movement of the small herd of calves running loose up and down the ranch road. “Many of us on that road called Zapata County Deputies and the USDA tick riders. Those cattle came from the river. They were as much a traffic hazard as they were cattle that might be carrying tick. As it turns out, they went through my fence and were captured on my ranch, thus subjecting me to inspections and having to dip my cattle,” he said. Zapata County banker and rancher Renato Ramirez called the fever tick epidemic “devastating to the small ranchers of Zapata County.” He said that some ranchers have taken on the cost of building a concrete dipping vat on their ranches. “They have accepted the monthly dipping of their cattle as the price of doing business. It is labor intensive and very expensive. A dipping vat costs in the range of $15,000,” he said, adding that “rounding up cattle gets more difficult after every experience of being shoved into a tub of dirty, insecticide-laden water.” Ramirez said many ranchers have done what he has done -sold all their cattle and “rebuilt fences and pens to be ready when the tick eradication succeeds.” u

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

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



Bi-national conference looks at ranching on both sides of the Río Grande ecosystem


he recent Bi-National Ranchers Conference and trade show drew more than 140 Texas and Mexican ranchers, academics, elected officials, individuals in agribusinesses, and others interested in the latest developments in livestock and wildlife management, conservation practices, technical and financial assistance programs, and disease updates. “The ranchers of South Texas and northern Mexico deal with a very similar ecosystem,” said Flavio Garza Jr., Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) district conservationist for Webb County. “The Río Grande doesn’t divide us, it joins us in our common interests. This was an excellent opportunity for producers from both sides of the river to come together to discuss topics of mutual concern and to open dialogue and share ideas,” he added.


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“It was clear at the Bi-National Ranchers Conference that the ranchers identify themselves more with the ecosystem on which they ranch than with the country in which they ranch,” said Ellen Humphries Brisendine, editor of The Cattleman, the magazine of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. “Everyone in the room seemed to have shared interests in cattle and wildlife, and everyone seemed to understand that they must manage their resources under primarily drought conditions,” she said. “The commonality of issues and concerns cuts across nationalities and comes to rest squarely on the effected ranchers’ business,” said Omar J. Garza, Executive Director of the Texas-Mexico Border Coalition CBO, which helped sponsor the meeting. “Meetings such as this can lead to effective dialogue between both

Mexican and American ranchers who face the same type of problems on a daily basis,” he added. Conference speakers and attendees included both English and Spanish speakers. Arturo May of Monterrey provided translations via headsets. May, who has been translating for more than 30 years, amazed attendees by keeping within a few words of what the speaker had just said. This event marked the first time a binational conference of ranchers was held on the U.S. side of the border. In past years, AgriLife Extension Service had held meetings on the Mexican side in conjunction with ranch tours. Talks are underway for future bi-national agricultural producer meetings to address additional challenges faced on both sides. In addition to the ranchers, four agricultural students from Laredo Community College (LCC) were in attendance with Rosario Martinez, USDA Grant Administrator at LCC. Martinez works with recruiting high school students and informing them of available opportunities with USDA. “It was very educational to bring our USDA students from Laredo Community College,” said Martinez. “We learned so much about agriculture and careers in these areas by listening to all of the presenters and visiting with the exhibitors. Being bilingual helped us to enjoy hearing from the U.S. and Mexico ranchers.” Dr. Wayne Hanselka, one of the speakers, was recognized for his years

of service and assistance to South Texas ranchers. Carroll Summers, president of the Webb County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), recognized Hanselka, who has served for 33 years as associate department head, professor, and Extension range specialist in the Department of Rangeland Ecology and Management at Texas A&M University. Summers acknowledged Dr. Hanselka’s work with the SWCD/NRCS and landowners during his career. Webb County agriculture and natural resources agent George Gonzales also presented a plaque of recognition to Dr. Hanselka for his dedicated efforts in South Texas. Webb Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) chair Guillermo “Memo” Benavides said the conference was an important step in reaching landowners about the technical and financial assistance available through the NRCS and SWCD programs. “I was extremely pleased to see such a plentiful and diverse turnout for our conference,” said Benavides, adding, “My gratitude goes out to all attendees as well as a multitude of financial sponsors and program participants.” In addition to the USDA- NRCS, Webb Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and Texas AgriLife Extension Service, sponsors of the two-day workshop include Texas/Mexico Border Coalition CBO, BBVA Compass, Asociación Ganadera Local de Nuevo Laredo, ANGADI, Río Bravo Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D), and Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI). u



Catch L.I.T.E.’s Cabaret revival downtown at the Laredo Center for the Arts Aug. 7-16


“Willkommen,” “Don’t Tell Mamma,” “Money,” “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” “Cabaret,” and many more. Set in 1931 Nazi Berlin, the story focuses on nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub and revolves around the 19-yearold English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and her relationship with young American writer Cliff Bradshaw. A sub-plot involves the ill-fated romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor. Overseeing the action is the Kit Kat’s emcee. The show’s producer J.J. Flores said, “It’s a production of great quality. We have very talented actors on stage, a fabulous set, costumes, and music.” The young cast of 20 is comprised of veteran L.I.T.E. members. Other production staff members include director Daniel Villarreal, assistant director Jessica Cardenas, choreographer Sessie Zapata, and stage manager Vanessa Villarreal. Hacel Arias is co-producer and music supervisor. Angie Cisneros is marketing and publicity consultant. The cast includes Ricardo Holguín as the Emcee; Casandra Canales as Sally Bowles; Armando Lopez as Cliff

Bradshaw; and Rick Villarreal as Herr Schultz. Also featured in L.I.T.E.’s production of Cabaret are Marla Perez as Fraulein Schneider and Erica Salinas as Fraulein Kost. Tickets are available at the Laredo Center for the Arts or by calling (956) 725-1715. The show is intended for a mature audience of 18 years and older. L.I.T.E., which was formed in the summer of 1997, encourages appreciation of and participation in all aspects of live theater and conducts related educational programs for adults and children. Community outreach efforts include workshops for junior high and high school students and a scholarship program for graduating high school seniors who have worked on a specific number of L.I.T.E. Productions The Laredo Center for the Arts, established in 1987, has hosted a vast collection of Laredo’s most talented artists as well as nationally and internationally recognized artists. Regular programming includes presentations of cultural performances by storied traditional cultural and heritage institutions from both Laredos. For more information on the Laredo Center for the Arts call (956) 725-1715 or log on to u

Courtesy Photo

revival version of the Broadway musical Cabaret comes to life at the Laredo Center for the Arts in six performances beginning Friday, August 7, at 8 p.m. The production, which is underwritten by the Fernando A. Salinas Charitable Trust, is produced by the Laredo Institute for Theatrical Education (L.I.T.E.), a nonprofit community-based theatre organization dedicated to the development of the performing arts in Laredo and nearby communities. Additional performances of the 1966 Broadway hit are set for Saturday, August 8, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, August 9, at 3 p.m.; Friday, August 14, and Saturday, August 15, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, August 16, at 3 p.m. General admission auditorium seating is $10, and cabaret table seating for six is $200, including hors d’oeuvres. The musical is based on John Van Druten’s 1951 play, I Am a Camera, which in turn was adapted from the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood. The revival version, a musical production from the book by Joe Masteroff, was the longest-running Broadway incarnation of Cabaret. Songs by Fred Ebb and music by John Kander include

Live at the Kit Kat Club Ricardo Holguín as the emcee and Cassandra Canales as Sally Bowles promise to bring the revival version of Cabaret to life at the Laredo Center for the Arts. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



Border Media garners two Marconi Award nominations; La Ley nominated Spanish Station of the Year


order Media Partners announced that popular morning show host Albert Alegre of KSAH 720 AM Norteño in its San Antonio market has been nominated as the Marconi “Spanish On-Air Personality of the Year.” In addition, BMP’s premier Spanish station KBDR La Ley 100.5 FM in Laredo has been nominated as the Marconi “Spanish Station of the Year.” Albert Alegre is a career broadcaster, who has been in radio for 32 years. He was born in San Antonio and got his start in radio shortly after serving in the Army, working for KUKA Fiesta Radio. Albert has captivated audiences across Texas and has worked in Houston, El Paso, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio. He identifies with listeners -- his charismatic style, great voice, and sense of humor delight and entertains listeners throughout the week. Alegre has worked for Tichenor Media


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System and El Dorado Spanish Broadcasting System. His morning show is hugely popular with San Antonians, and he hosts “The Job Hour” to help people find jobs every day. He is a highly respected broadcaster who is in touch with his community, and he has become a valuable resource for listeners because of his vast knowledge of organizations, community outreach programs, and community services. Lance Hawkins, Vice President/Market Manager of Border Media in San Antonio, commented, “We are very proud of Albert Alegre and his nomination for this prestigious award, which represents the best in the industry. Albert is very focused on serving his listeners and the community. His commitment to excellence is commendable,” he added. Marconi nominee KBDR is one of the most listened-to radio stations in America, boasting a 14.8 AQH share for all persons

12 plus in the latest ratings. Additionally, La Ley is the number one general market station for Adults 18 to 34 with an impressive 20.0 AQH Share, and it is also the second overall station for Adults 25 to 54 with an 18.2 AQH Share. La Ley recently hosted “St. Jude’s Radio-a-Thon,” which allowed Border Media Laredo stations to raise nearly $300,000 in charitable contributions. The station also hosted the South Texas Food Bank Radio Drive that raised over $180,000 for the community. Miguel Villarreal, Vice President/Market Manager of Border Media in Laredo commented, “We are humbled by the honor that the Marconi Station of the Year Award nomination brings. To be included amongst the radio broadcast industry’s best of the best simply reminds us of who we are, where we have come from and that our audience has everything to do with every step we have taken. It is only through our listeners that we are given the gift to share this very special place in time with our peers.”

Bob Proud, long time Spanish radio broadcaster and Senior Vice President of Border Media stated, “Alberto’s nomination is recognition of the great contributions he’s made to the San Antonio Hispanic community and to the success of KSAH Norteño 720. His presence and relationship with his listeners are a major reason that KSAH remains one of the highest-rated AM music stations in the country, regardless of language. Furthermore, the nomination of KBDR La Ley 100.5 in a category that includes so many incredible radio stations offers proof that great radio can originate anywhere, no matter what size the market. It’s a fitting tribute to localism, a great staff, and their unyielding service to the Laredo market.” The Marconi Award winners will be announced on September 24 at the NAB Marconi Radio Awards Dinner and Show held during the NAB Radio Show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The prestigious Marconi Award is the highest honor that a radio personality or radio station can achieve. u



LISD v. George Royle Wright:

Over 50 boxes of documents and 15 amended petitions did not tell the real story; the relocated residents of the Western Division Blocks 255 and 313 did By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA


hen the Laredo Independent School District (LISD) sued respected realtor Royle Wright for breach of contract/breach of fiduciary duty, the district’s unfortunate core value and common practice of maligning good people left the bounds of the boardroom and the human resources grievance hearing room. The story of the events that ended up in the 111th District Court with a victory for Wright is long and layered. For the purposes of telling this story it began with the board of trustees that made decisions for the district in 2000, decisions that included relying resolutely on Wright’s judgment and expertise for real estate transactions as the district had many times before. The story ends with Wright prevailing in the suit that the 2004 board filed against him. The board of 2001-2002 – Dr. Dennis Cantu, José Valdez, John Peter Montalvo, Jorge Rodriguez, Carmen Ramos Treviño, Jesus Hinojosa III, and Viola Moore -- contracted the experienced realtor, specifying the services expected of him – to act as an appraiser as in the case of the 31 properties some of which could be exchanged with the city for street property, to conduct a feasibility study for the acquisition /purchase of real property, to act as a broker for the acquisition/purchase of real property such as that on the blocks across from the Bruni and Macdonell campuses, and to act as a broker or appraiser in condemnation cases. Fees were also clearly spelled out. A supplemental agreement specified a leasing fee and Wright’s role as Broker and as Trustee or Special Trustee for the district in the matter of acquiring properties. Of immediate concern to the 2000 board members were two projects for the expansion and re-construction of two of the district’s most run-down schools, Bruni Elementary and Macdonell Elementary. Though both projects would make the expansions possible by making more land available, they differed as to what was required of Wright. One board directive to Wright was to conduct a feasibility study for the acquisition of properties on one city block adjacent to the Bruni and Macdonell campuses (Blocks 313 and 255, respectively) and another was to act as broker for the purchase of those homes and lots. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Another directive was to conduct appraisals on 31 back tax-acquired properties so that LISD could exchange some of those properties with the City of Laredo for value equal to streets that ran alongside and through several LISD campuses, including the block of García Street that abutted Bruni Elementary and the block of Benavides Street that abutted Macdonell, blocks that would be incorporated into the campus expansion. Known for being organized and methodical, Wright knocked on the doors on the blocks adjacent to the two schools, making offers and negotiating with homeowners, estates, and the owners of commercial properties to purchase their tracts at condemnation value. In most instances the transaction Wright negotiated included the cost of a replacement

On March 21, 2002, just as Wright was finalizing offers on all the properties, Kazen, Amezcua, and construction supervisor Jorge Cabello advised the trustees of the need for appraisals for the 24 properties, but the board countered staff advice and said that it did not need appraisals (motion by trustee José Valdez, second by John Peter Montalvo; unanimous board decision). It should be noted that it would have been illegal for Wright to act as an appraiser for property for which he was the broker and special trustee for the district. Acting as a broker, he closed on the last of the properties in August 2002, selling the 24 properties to LISD at the same price at which he acquired them. A volume of email from Wright to Kazen and Amezcua specifies in great detail the particulars of many of the

Jurors heard trustee George Beckelhymer testify in tones of unvarnished arrogance to a 2004 epiphany-inthe-shower about real estate values as he considered the $160,000+ he had just paid for a home in the Heights versus what Wright had paid homeowners in the Western District for their old, small “rundown” homes. home, costs for relocating, set ups for utilities, and some consideration for ADA necessities. In most instances the residents were elderly and were moving from homes in which they had been raised or in which they had raised their children. In all instances, Wright negotiated in the presence of real estate agent Bernie Posadas who documented all agreements and saw to the execution of all documents for closing, for the purchase of replacement homes, and for the move to new homes. Both projects – the appraisals for properties to be exchanged for streets and the offers for the purchase/relocation for 24 properties – came to their conclusion in late 2002. Wright was paid an appraisal fee for the 31 appraisals. Wright also delivered on the purchase of the 24 properties of Blocks 255 and 313 after months of negotiations, some of them heartrending but fair nearly to a fault to the property owners and the school district. Though the board that hired him had budgeted $3.5 million for the acquisitions, Wright brought them in at $2.7 million, a savings of $800,000 to LISD.

transactions. After due diligence and closings by Neel Title Company, and after the review of each transaction by LISD attorney Kazen and CFO Amezcua, the board of trustees passed a resolution to approve each of the transactions. For his effort, Wright earned $79,615.50 in commissions, a sum he split down the center with Posadas. The district moved quickly to demolish and rebuild the old substandard campuses. Content with Wright’s work, the board looked forward to re-opening the two campuses and no longer having to bus students out of their neighborhoods to a campus of portable buildings on the old air base property. Despite having reviewed and approved the purchases of the 24 properties of Blocks 255 and 313, despite checks now cut and cashed by the property owners, LISD attorney Kazen and CFO Amezcua were determined to have after-the-fact appraisals for the properties. Kazen hired appraiser Fito Santos in December 2002 to value the properties that had long since been abandoned, scavenged for building materials, moved, or torn down. Santos’ market value appraisal of December

2002 contrasted with Wright’s in lieu of condemnation value by $1.6 million. Santos’ figures, coupled with new board members and LISD’s climate of revolving door superintendents, set the table for the district’s $2 million plus treble damages lawsuit against Wright for alleged unjust enrichment, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. Some of the most telling testimony in the recent 111th District Court jury trial came from two current LISD board members, both of them more concerned with property values and less so with the upheaval in the lives of the residents who’d willingly relocated to make more land available for Bruni and Macdonell schools. Jurors heard trustee George Beckelhymer testify in tones of unvarnished arrogance to a 2004 epiphany-in-the-shower about real estate values as he considered the $160,000+ he had just paid for a home in the Heights versus what Wright had paid homeowners in the Western District for their old, small “rundown” homes. Detachment and indifference had no finer moment than the testimony of John Peter Montalvo, privy in his 10-year tenure as LISD trustee to the school board’s directives to Wright and to the board’s vote against the Kazen/Amezcua/Cabello call for appraisals in 2002. Though he lives in the Colonia Guadalupe a scant two blocks from the relocated residents of Block 313 and Bruni Elementary, Montalvo said that those residents were “not my neighbors” and that he had no knowledge of them. The five-year lawsuit generated reams of paper and a hundred boxes of discovery documents dating back to 2000. Included in that boxed legal morass are 26 depositions, the 15 amended petitions by the firm that sued Wright on behalf of the school district, Kustoff and Phipps, which took the case on a contingency basis and is now out the $272,000 in legal fees it says it spent -- $199,000 of it prior to the three-day trial in June. What is not in those boxes are the faces and stories of children and teachers back in their neighborhood schools, the emotions and long family histories of the displaced property owners who willingly relocated, and the tireless effort of Wright to come up with just compensation. Continued on next page


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Continued from page 21 Nor is it in those boxes what the defense of his good name cost Wright. The accusation over five years that he had “unjustly enriched” himself carried the weight of a black mark on his integrity as a respected member of the Laredo business community, aspersions that affected the viability of the realty and insurance enterprise he spent four decades building, aspersions that had grave consequences on his health and the well-being of his family. By having been fair and kind in the details of relocating residents -- including elderly residents with special needs and a bedridden veteran of World War II – while working out a myriad of legal details and special circumstances, Wright kept the dignity of the seller residents intact. He also made them feel a vital part of the solution to the district’s dilemma to the timely replacement of the unsafe, outdated schools. “Those good people were the solution to the school district’s need for land for new schools,” Wright said. “By accusing me of profiting from the purchase and relocation of those property owners, the school district accused the very people who helped them of enriching themselves, which was simply not the case,” he added. “If there was a lie to be told, the other side


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“My faith in God got me through this, too. You have to know you are right and that you did your best. You can put your fate in God’s hands -- it’s a hard thing to do, but you have to be part of the implementation. You have to have the wisdom to move in the right direction.” George Royle Wright

told it,” Wright said of the LISD suit. “John Kazen wrote the contract that secured my professional services and named me a Special Trustee. He signed off on the just compensation purchases, but in depositions stated otherwise. He was in closed session when the board said it did not need appraisals, and he knows that if you are acting as a broker for a property, you cannot be its appraiser. That he just sat there knowing what he knew was a horrible surprise to me,” Wright said. “Kazen hired Fito Santos at a cost of $8,800 to conduct appraisals without a request for proposals. Fito Santos appraised abandoned properties and empty lots on those two blocks. Seven houses had been moved, an apartment house was valued as a single-family home, four commercial properties had become vacant lots for residential use. It took him less than half a day,” Wright said. Wright was represented by attorneys

Zone Nguyen and Guillermo del Barrio, whose defense -- besides being factual and concise – brought forth the human stories of those most affected by Wright’s purchase and relocation efforts. Among them was Rufina Torres, 76, who told the jury she owed nothing on her property and had not wanted to sell. She said she sold her home in the interest of children attending a new school that had air conditioning. “She was recovering from recent surgery, but she came any way to tell the jury her story. All she wanted was a house for a house,” Nguyen said. Nguyen said he had not interviewed the homeowner witnesses in advance. “They told their stories. Their stories matched what Mr. Wright had said. It was the truth. They came to see that the right thing was done,” he said, adding that the case was important to him on many levels, not the least of which was that Wright was a good friend. “This was a tough case to defend, especially for breach of fiduciary duty because we had the burden under the law to prove that that Royle Wright did not breach. We had to prove a negative. I had other lawyers telling me this was not winnable, and that we should settle,” Nguyen recalled. That sentiment was echoed by Judge Raul Vasquez who on the second day of the trial urged both parties to settle. “Settling would not have been a vindication,” said del Barrio. “Mr. Wright is a good man. We had our strategy, we stuck to it, and it worked. We felt the pressure going into the trial because we really wanted to win for Mr. Wright. It was a great feeling to see him and his family rejoice at the verdict. It was a good win for our client, his family, and our firm,”

recalled del Barrio. Nguyen said that the trust Wright had placed with him and del Barrio elicited their best effort. Wright said it took several days for him to fully understand that he had won the case that had cost him five years of his life and his credibility as a realtor and an appraiser. “With something like this hanging over you, you don’t get any state, city, or county jobs. Your insurance company isn’t selling as much insurance. Your appraisal business is down and so are your listings. The school district made it very clear that me and my family were not welcome on school property. My son Steven had a client in from out of state who came to look at a property listed for sale with my office but at that time leased to the school district. Steven and the buyer were denied entry by a security guard,” Wright said. “The stress of this was hard on my family. My wife Nancy ended up with a bleeding ulcer. I didn’t sleep and I had double vision, which has corrected somewhat. I have Type I diabetes brought on by the strain. Some of my employees left when this started. The ones that stayed didn’t know how we would end up, but they stayed anyway, and I am grateful for that. Family and friends helped immeasurably, and I had good attorneys,” Wright said, adding, “My military training was good preparation for facing adversity and being tested. My faith in God got me through this, too. You have to know you are right and that you did your best. You can put your fate in God’s hands – it’s a hard thing to do, but you have to be part of the implementation. You have to have His wisdom to move in the right direction.” At the next Rotary meeting just after the dust had settled a bit on the suit, Wright, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as he had for all the decades he’s been a member, said that the last four words – “and justice for all” -- caught in his chest. “I understood how our judicial system can work, and I understood how good it is to be an American,” he said. (LareDOS’ attempts to reach LISD attorney John Kazen and attorney Melanie Phipps for comments were unfruitful.) u



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Laredo Main Street launches Explore Laredo initiative; locals and tourists are reminded that “All streets lead downtown” By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER


aredo Main Street, working under the auspices of the Texas Historical Commission, has recently launched a program called Explore Laredo, designed to preserve the historical integrity of the downtown area while providing an economic stimulus to rekindle interest in some of Laredo’s main attractions. Laredo is a beautiful city, and there are many interesting and picturesque locations here worth visiting. Out-of-towners have different motives for visiting Laredo -- they have friends or relatives here, they want to get away from northern winters, they love the dual-culture ambience, they like to stay in our hotels and motels and make day-trips to Nuevo Laredo, they like to tour parts of Historic Laredo, they like to walk the streets of Laredo and soak in the sights and sounds, they want to shop, they want to relax while doing one or more of the above, they like the people, they’re here on business, they’re here for hunting season, or they’re simply attracted by the romantic lure of our famous bordertown.


Visitors to our city often come back sooner or later because the appeal and charm of old Laredo never gets old. Sandra Rocha Taylor, Executive Director of Main Street, said that locals and visitors alike need to be made more aware of the many attractions, both old and new, that Laredo has to offer, adding that the Explore Laredo initiative is designed to showcase sites that deserve to be regulars on everyone’s “must see” list and to provide experiences that are sure to win over hearts. She said that the City is “totally in favor” of the project, adding that City improvements to infrastructure and recreation centers, along with numerous park projects, are indicative of a trend toward a positive team mentality focused on countering negative publicity with facts about the improving quality of life in Laredo. “The City is strongly supportive of the Explore Laredo promotion because it is an effort to engender internal pride in our city while it emphasizes to tourists that visiting Laredo is a rewarding experience and a good value,” Taylor said. The Community Heritage Development

Division or the Texas Historical Commission conceived of the Texas Main Street Program as a downtown revitalization strategy for 140 Texas cities, including Laredo. The program receives funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Nearly six thousand new businesses have been established, over 20,000 jobs have been created, and a billion dollars have been invested in Texas downtowns and neighborhoods and commercial districts. “The motto ‘All Streets Lead Downtown’ calls attention to civic pride and preservation for the sake of prosperity and historical continuity,” Taylor said. A colorful new brochure announcing Laredo Main Street’s Explore Laredo Project has just been printed for distribution. The brochure features vivid pictures of select locations around the city and an entry form for various prize giveaways that will take place during this July-through-December publicity campaign. The family-oriented aspect of Laredo locations worth visiting is underscored by the tourist-friendly features of Laredo selected for the Explore Laredo bro-

chure. These features include a free ride on El Metro’s red trolley to everywhere downtown and Mall Del Norte; the Border Heritage Museum at 810 Zaragoza; the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum at 1005 Zaragoza Street; the Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center at West End Washington Street; the Laredo Center for the Arts at 500 San Agustin Avenue; Casa Ortiz at 915 Zaragoza Street; the Imaginarium located at Mall Del Norte; Lake Casa Blanca at 5102 Bob bullock Loop; and the Lamar Bruni Vergara Planetarium at 5201 University Boulevard. Taylor said that Laredo Main Street also sponsors the annual Jamboozie Festival, to be held next on January 23, 2010, and will participate with the Laredo Hotel and Lodging Association in the Laredos Río Fest which is slated to feature a professional kayak race and an arts and crafts show, and has also collaborated the last two years with La Posada Hotel in its monthly Festivals in the Park from October through February. She added that the next Jamboozie Festival will include San Agustín Plaza. “This will provide additional ambience to the festival,” Taylor said. u

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Exciting new features for MHCS students By MONICA MCGETTRICK


nyone driving by Mary Help of Christians School on Del Mar Blvd of late will have noticed a flurry of activity. According to Principal Sr. Suzanne Miller FMA, the school is currently undergoing a facelift. The trees have been trimmed, the staff is preparing to reopen the Learning Center for the kindergarten classes, and some students have spent part of their summer painting murals throughout campus. The murals -- which includes a beautiful painting of St. Mary Mazzarello, the first Salesian Sister, with her trademark “It’s time to love God” painted underneath -- were painted by Margarita Molano’s fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students. The students began their project in June with a mural of St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesians, outside the front office, facing Del Mar Blvd. When Sr. Suzanne, whom the students ZGlunchDOSLAREDOSproof.pdf



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surprised with their project, expressed her pleasure at their artwork, they asked if they could continue. “When they are so excited about what they’ve done, and when they are willing to do more, how can you say no,” said Sr. Suzanne. Local artist Enrique Hernandez assisted the students by doing the lettering for the murals in free hand. The murals are not the only new feature greeting students this year. MHCS is the first school in Laredo to feature Promethean Active Boards. These interactive, high-tech boards connect to a computer in the classroom and the projectors are connected directly to the board, eliminating the need for a television, DVD/VCR player, projector, or transparencies. The images are sharper than with regular projectors and there is no worry that a teacher’s shadow will interfere with the image. Continued on page 43


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Intelligym’s stimulating, theme-based curriculum: a solid beginning for lifetime learning skills By MARíA EUGENIA GUERRA


isters Janyne Jordan Haralson and Pamela Jordan, rounding the corner on the first-year anniversary of Intelligym, the school they opened last September, are preparing for another great year of innovative, high stimulus pre-school curriculum. The learning center at the corner of North Point and Calle del Norte is dedicated to preparing youngsters between the ages of two and four with well-developed learning skills before entering formal education. Intelligym’s theme based, developmentally appropriate learning curriculum offers both structured and hands-on learning opportunities in two sessions, the morning session from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and the afternoon session from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Enrollment is limited to eight two-year olds, 10 three-year olds, and 10 four-year olds per session. The school’s teachers are all degreed instructors. ”Experience is the basis of learning, and so we offer center-based activity areas that engage children in learning while offering them fun and unique experiences,” Jordan said, adding, “The centers allow children to develop skills and self confidence as they use their imagination, solve problems, explore, and exercise decision making and independent thinking skills. We are happy to announce a new addition to our staff, Ashley Person, who will teach American Sign Language twice a week. We are also offering formal music instruction for all ages.” The curriculum introduces certain letters, numbers, shapes, colors, and three themes each month. The activity centers for reading, math, science, social studies, art, and music WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

follow those themes with concepts that offer hands-on immersion. The school is equipped with Lego activity centers and sand and water tables. Its movement center, a small indoor gym, is equipped with sensory stepping stones and other activities that inspire movement. Science activities include experiments, magnets, making snow, following the life cycles of ladybugs and butterflies, and “green” lessons about taking responsibility for recycling and the environment. “Everything in Intelligym is educational and everything is scaled to size,” Jordan said, adding, “Children will have a sense of the world as well as the country, state, and city in which they live. Those lessons will be bolstered by

being greeted in the language of the country being studied, language dolls, maps, costumes, and interactive storytelling.” According to Jordan, Intelligym’s exceptional academic curriculum and its art/music/ movement program aim to stimulate intellectual growth by pairing the best educational resources with personnel who can meet the emotional, social, cognitive, and physical needs in an environment of patience and respect. “This fosters the development of a positive self-image, respect for each other and other cultures, and the earth,” Jordan said, adding that she has researched curriculum for a learning center over the last 20 years. She and her sister, she said, have purchased the best, most intelligently written curriculum possible to have a school

on par with the Acorn School in San Antonio. Summer enrollees at Intelligym have enjoyed a variety of short-term classes – everything from meditation to natural science discovery instruction based on the books of Eric Carle. Some of the more light-hearted and creative summer classes include I Want to Be A Princess; I Want to Be A Pirate; Dinosaur Dig; Fancy Nancy; I Do Believe in Fairies!; I Like to Move It, Move It; Cowboys and Indians; Spa Science; Beginning Quilling; Ocean Animals; Quiero Ser Periodista; and Farm Animals. “Intelligym offers a clean, safe, and nurturing environment for exploration, discovery, and learning,” Jordan said, adding, “We want to provide positive guidance for discipline. There is no punishment or time out at Intelligym. There’s a ‘How do I feel today?’ mirror to help identify emotions, and if emotions look like they need attention, there’s an area for reflection and quiet time in every classroom.” Jordan said parent participation is welcome. She added that Intelligym provides “only healthy snacks.” The Jordan sisters are no strangers to education or the concept of an escuelita in Laredo. Their great-grandmother Mary Ward was the founder and director of Laredo Preparatory School on Victoria Street. Their grandmother Margaret Peterson was a 50-year educator and a principal in the Laredo Independent School District, and their mother Sharyn Peterson Jordan was an LISD trustee for eight years. Lifetime educator Haralson is Intelligym’s director of Academics. She holds a Master’s in Education from Incarnate Word in San Antonio and an undergraduate degree in Child Psychology from Pine Manor University in Boston. Pamela Jordan is the school’s business manager. For further information on fall enrollment, call (956) 717-1142. u LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



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Courtesy Photo

Breathing life into Fa Mulan Sophia Alonzo (Fa Zhou) comforts his daughter Katia Vega (Fa Mulan) after she fails all of the matchmaker’s tests. Vega and Alonzo were the mainstays of LITE Productions presentation of Disney’s Mulan Jr. You need a lawyer with a Top Ten largest personal injury verdict in the U.S.A. in 2006. You need a personal injury trial law expert experienced with local courts and juries. Don’t settle for less!











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he misbegotten landscape of good and evil got a little more even in Laredo Musical International Theatre’s recent production of The Wiz last July 16 through 19 at the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Center Theater at LCC. Thanks to a balanced cast of characters, excellent orchestral accompaniment, and plenty of dancing and coloristic effects, it is no wonder the audiences heaved themselves out of their seats to make way for numerous standing ovations. This is the eighth musical production LMTI has given Laredo over the years, and they have their solutions worked out very well -- huge tapestries of casting calls, rehearsal schedules, funding, cooperation across city entities, etc. This is no mean task. Director Vernon Carroll, who makes all of this look easy, was pleased at the intermission of the first showing that -- despite the production’s length (over two hours) -- the audience was sticking with every musical number and joke onstage. The script is an adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the revered children’s classic by L. Frank Baum, updated for modern audiences and turned into a musical. The principal actors in LMTI’s production each weighed in with a ton of talent in their roles, highly individualizing each one. And each of the main characters displayed very nearly comparable skills, so no one actor stood out. They were just all good, as the lady next to me noted. Perhaps there is a process of identification going on: we all, like the Tin Man (John Maxstadt), the Scarecrow


(Joseph Santos), the Lion (Alex Lopez), and an incomparably beautiful Dorothy (Cecilia V. Zavala) -- want to go home to the great remembered past of our childhood, and we are all struggling to find a heart, develop our intellect and perceptions, and, perhaps above all, find -- somehow -- a courage to be ourselves. Controlling adult forces in the production, the witch Glinda (Lilly Austin) and the Wiz himself (Joe Arciniega) propel, accompany, and advise the four principals on two separate journeys -- first to find the Wiz (a failed Midwestern evangelist come to Oz) and then locate and destroy the wicked witch of the West (Veronica Ramirez). In the end, of course, evil is banished and everyone receives what he or she wants, mostly by believing in themselves (one of the titles of the musical numbers). Mr. Arciniega provides the production with the closest thing it has to spiritual depth, set against the backdrop of his own self-aware failures before he came to the Land of Oz. He plays the role as a lanky, smooth-talking revivalist preacher whose accents, mad-cap movements onstage, and singing transform everybody. The Wiz reminds us that art is the only venue in life in which evil can be absolutely defeated. LMTI assumes that if you put well-rehearsed actors, young and old, onstage, and link them up with convincing musical firepower (like the Emerald City Orchestra, Brendan Townsend, conductor), precisely choreographed dances, and add in a dose of pure entertainment you can’t possibly go wrong. They’re right. u

Courtesy Photo

The Wiz -- a dose of pure entertainment

Who do you think you are! Joseph Santos (Scarecrow), Alex Lopez (Lion), Joe Arciniega (El Wiz), John Maxstadt (Tin Man), and Cecilia Zavala (Dorothy) uncover the true identity of El Wiz in Laredo Musical Theatre International’s production of The Wiz.

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Role playing: Laredo’s Julia Vera on craft and industry By MIKE HERRERA IV


pon first meeting Julia Vera, you would not guess she’s shared the screen with Harrison Ford, Minnie Driver, and had drinks with Hollywood big-wigs, but, of course, that’s because you don’t know her world. “Movies that depict Hollywood show a diva throwing a fit, and a director slamming his script on the floor; that’s not what it’s like,” Vera says. “The biggest stars I’ve met are the most humble people.” Humble and strong both describe who Vera is and whom she often portrays. With her soft-spoken demeanor, world-wise brown eyes, and cerebral approach to her job, she embodies both the traditional and tomorrow of Mexican culture. “How you look is a big factor. I typically play the grandmother, or ‘barrio woman.’ Don’t think that those small roles just go to anyone. You have to know what you’re doing, and you have to be prepared.” Prepare she has. A native of Laredo who returned this June to celebrate the 90th birthday of her mother, Juana Zambrano Vera, Julia caught the acting bug while performing in local school productions. She first set out to Los Angeles in 1965. There she auditioned, answered casting calls, and found an agent. But the life of a working actor proved difficult to reconcile with motherhood. “I was married and had kids by then,” says Vera over the phone, her voice resonant with experience. “When you’re going for roles sometimes they call you from one day to the next and you need to be here or there right away. I just couldn’t do it.” Focusing on her children, Vera’s ambitions settled into a quietus until the age of 47, when she found herself hungry again. “I said, God, what was that I wanted to do? That acting thing. And I decided it wasn’t too late.” She looked through the pages of the trade paper Dramalouge, and found theater jobs that offered her the training and exposure she needed. Agents started noticing her. One job fed into another. The more


roles she got, the harder she worked. “You’ve got to be the best. The more books you read, the more acting classes you take, that’s what’s gets you there. You need to learn how to breathe. People who don’t pay attention to their breathing get out there and breathe very deliberately. It’s not natural.” Not only must one master the craft of acting, but the “on the job” training, as Vera calls it, requires an actress to know her role on and off camera. “There’s a pecking order,” she says. “Every minute of a production is thousands of dollars, so on lunch break who gets to eat first? The crew because they need to get back and set up. The actors are the ones who eat last. You never touch your costume once you’re in it. Those are all big deals.” Vera’s breaking-in years included a stint at Ricardo Montalban’s Nosotros Theater. “There’s a rich tradition at Nosotros,” Vera explains. “Cesar Romero worked there, so did [Pedro] Gonzales-Gonzalez, who worked for many years with John Wayne. It holds a special place in the history of Latinos in Hollywood.” The late Montalban founded Nosotros in 1970 in part to improve the industry’s portrayal of people of Latin descent. In her career, Vera has been credited as “Cleaning Lady” or “Mexican Nun” more than a few times. She explains it’s just business. “The money is very good,” Vera says. “If they want me to scrub toilets on camera, I’ll do it. If you take the job you do what the role calls for. That’s just being a professional.” Regardless of the role, Vera believes it is on the set that she demonstrates the academic preparation and broad cultural awareness that make a Latina successful. “I can’t emphasize the importance of being bilingual,” she says, adding that knowing the languages is not enough. Mastery is key. “I spoke Spanish with an English accent at first. Then I started working with a Spanish coach, who I sill consult Julia Vera

when I need to know how a certain word or phrase should sound. When a director wants you to speak Spanish for a role I ask, ‘What type of Spanish?’ They have no idea what I’m talking about. They think it all sounds the same. A girlfriend of mine and I saw the movie Traffic. Well, when they get to the parts set in Mexico, we just started laughing. You have Benicio Del Toro, who is Puerto Rican, trying to sound Mexican, but he really sounds Cuban. Another guy sounds Colombian. None of the gringos in the theater of course knew why we were laughing.” Vera knows a thing or two about laughter: her vita boasts appearances in Tracey Takes On, Will and Grace, and My Name is Earl. Comedies like these, she says, are distinct from dramas, but only a permeable border separates the two. “This is comedy -- it’s funny to the audience but not to you. The same situation can be both (comedic or dramatic). It can be hilarious for the audience, but usually, from the perspective of the characters experiencing the situation, there’s nothing funny about it at all.” Looking back on a 20-plus year career, Vera believes many fellow Laredoans can achieve what she has. “Laredo has so much talent, and the arts

have always had a very strong presence there. Now that the population has grown so much, there are more venues. The weekend I was there, they had theater productions of The Wiz, Mulan. There is so much going on.” Vera remains proud of the arts in Laredo, and she hopes many young people experience the life-enriching experience that is performing. “Most people go through life feeling invisible. We say ‘Hi. How are you?’ These are brief moments of recognition. To feel good about himself, the person has to do something that makes him feel a little smug. That smugness, in Laredo, they say, ‘Se cree mucho.’ Some people are just waiti ng for you to fall. But you can’t let that get you down. You have to give yourself the right to do something that lets you feel smug.” (Mike Herrera IV is an adjunct instructor of English at Texas A&M International University and a student of all things literary.) . u

Alzheimer’s Support Group Meeting

Parkinson’s Support Group Meeting

Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, Meeting Room 2

Monday, August 3, 2009 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, first floor, Community Center

call 723-1707

call 723-8470 or 285-3126.

| L a r e DO S | J U LY 2009


2010 COROLLA • Model 1832 • 4 Speed Automatic Transmission • 4 CYL. •1.8-L Engine • 4-Door Sedan

LEASE A NEW 2010 COROLLA $169 a month / for 36 months Amount due at signing includes DOWN PAYMENT of $2600, FIRST MONTHLY PAYMENT of $169 and no security deposit. Tax, title and license are extra. Based on MODEL 1832, TOTAL MSRP $17503, & NET CAPITALIZED COST of $15175.47. LEASE END PURCHASE OPTION is $10013 plus tax, title and license. Customer is responsible for excess wear & tear and 15 cents per mile over 36,000 miles. Dealer participation may affect final negotiated price and applicable taxes. NOT ALL CUSTOMERS WILL QUALIFY. Special financing available for a limited time to qualified buyers through Toyota Financial Services and participating Toyota dealers. Toyota Financial Services is a service mark of Toyota Motor Credit Corporation. Offer valid July 7, 2009 through August 3, 2009.

LEASE A NEW 2010 CAMRY $169 a month / for 36 months Amount due at signing includes DOWN PAYMENT of $3831, FIRST MONTHLY PAYMENT of $169 and no security deposit. Tax, title and license are extra. Based on MODEL 2514, TOTAL MSRP $21419, & NET CAPITALIZED COST of $17712.86. LEASE END PURCHASE OPTION is $12676 plus tax, title and license. Customer is responsible for excess wear & tear and 15 cents per mile over 36,000 miles. Dealer participation may affect final negotiated price and applicable taxes. NOT ALL CUSTOMERS WILL QUALIFY. Special financing available for a limited time to qualified buyers through Toyota Financial Services and participating Toyota dealers. Toyota Financial Services is a service mark of Toyota Motor Credit Corporation. Offer valid July 7, 2009 through August 3, 2009.



• Model 8215 • 5 Speed Automatic Transmission • Standard Bed • 6 CYL. • 4.0-L Engine

• Model 7188 • 5 Speed Automatic Transmission • 4X2 V6 PreRunner • 6CYL. • 4.0-L Engine

LEASE A NEW 2010 TUNDRA $299 a month / for 36 months Amount due at signing includes DOWN PAYMENT of $2701, FIRST MONTHLY PAYMENT of $299 and no security deposit. Tax, title and license are extra. Based on MODEL 8215, TOTAL MSRP $25819, & NET CAPITALIZED COST of $23317.37. LEASE END PURCHASE OPTION is $13512 plus tax, title and license. Customer is responsible for excess wear & tear and 15 cents per mile over 36,000 miles. Dealer participation may affect final negotiated price and applicable taxes. NOT ALL CUSTOMERS WILL QUALIFY. Special financing available for a limited time to qualified buyers through Toyota Financial Services and participating Toyota dealers. Toyota Financial Services is a service mark of Toyota Motor Credit Corporation. Offer valid July 7, 2009 through August 3, 2009.


2010 CAMRY

• Model 2514 • 6 Speed Automatic Transmission • 4 CYL. • 2.5-L Engine • 4-Door Sedan

LEASE A NEW 2009 TACOMA $299 a month / for 36 months Amount due at signing includes DOWN PAYMENT of $2701, FIRST MONTHLY PAYMENT of $299 and no security deposit. Tax, title and license are extra. Based on MODEL 7188, TOTAL MSRP $25994, & NET CAPITALIZED COST of $22275.92. LEASE END PURCHASE OPTION is $15275 plus tax, title and license. Customer is responsible for excess wear & tear and 15 cents per mile over 36,000 miles. Dealer participation may affect final negotiated price and applicable taxes. NOT ALL CUSTOMERS WILL QUALIFY. Special financing available for a limited time to qualified buyers through Toyota Financial Services and participating Toyota dealers. Toyota Financial Services is a service mark of Toyota Motor Credit Corporation. Offer valid July 7, 2009 through August 3, 2009.

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



García writes a letter home inside his bunker at Loc Thie4.

Purple Heart pending -Gerardo “Jerry” García of Laredo:

Loyal to the flag -- a MexicanBy JOHN ANDREW SNYDER


García in full combat gear at Loc Thien.

García takes a break in a South Vietnamese village with some small friends


| L a r e DO S | J U LY 2009

. S. Army veteran Gerardo “Jerry” García, wounded in action on Valentine’s Day 1969, still hasn’t gotten his Purple Heart decoration 40 years later. But a recent communication from the National Archives in St. Louis has relit the candle of hope for García that this unfortunate oversight will be corrected. Apparently, García’s medical records were lost at Cam Ranh Bay Hospital during the time that he was there undergoing treatment for blownout eardrums and a shrapnel wound to the leg. García’s patriotism is undiminished after all this time. “I love my country; I volunteered for the Army -- I wasn’t drafted -- and a short time later I volunteered to go to Vietnam,” García said. The road from semi-arid South Texas to the lush jungles of Vietnam and back to the States to get tangled in the vines of bureaucratic red tape for four decades began with one week of training at Cam Rhan Bay in southern South Vietnam. “My company (52 men) got there on a commercial flight from San Francisco, the main shipping and receiving point, where they suited you up, issued you a rifle, and equipped you with everything else to make you totally ready,” García said. Four companies, or a whole battalion, made the flight in four planes from San Francisco to Cam Rahn Bay at the same time. Born in Laredo on September 8, 1950, Jerry was an “original” Nixon student, entering J.W. Nixon Jr.Sr. High School as a 7th grader when the school first opened its doors in the fall of 1964. He joined the U.S. Army in 1968, took Basic Training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, then joined a combat engineer company in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. “They were training us as combat engineers for reconstruction of bridges,” García said. “We were affiliated with the 1st Cavalry Division, an all-chopper (helicopter) unit.” He got there in July, and in August he asked to be sent to Vietnam. “Do you have the slightest idea what you’re doing?” he was asked by his company commander, who added, “100,000 men want to come back home from Vietnam on a daily basis.” García told him that he had volunteered for the Army because he wanted to go to Vietnam. García explained. “They flew us out in choppers to Loc Thien, two miles from the Cambodian border in the middle of nowhere. It was very dangerous; we had no protection whatsoever. They had sent us out to build hooches (living quarters) for MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam). Each hooch

was equipped with flush toilets and showers and housed eight personnel -- a major, a captain, a lieutenant, a staff sergeant, a buck sergeant, and three enlisted men.” Then came Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1969. “We were asleep in our bunker a couple of hours before dawn when we were attacked by ground by Vietcong (VC), who threw a satchel charge (a charge of dynamite in a metal container with a blasting cap on one side) into our bunker. I was about two feet away from it when it exploded. It blew out my eardrums; I also caught a piece of shrapnel in my right leg. I was freaking out. John Sanchez (of Richmond, Texas) came over and gave me a bear hug to calm me down and kept assuring me, ‘you’re alright, you’re alive, you’re alright.’ “There was no time to waste. We put on our bulletproof vests and helmets and grabbed our rifles and went on top of the bunker to fight. Every time the M60 machine gun -- or any other gun -- went off, it felt like a hammer blow to my head,” he continued. “Two bunkers down there had been a grenade attack. One guy got his legs blown off and another had massive shrapnel wounds to the back. Since their wounds were life-threatening, they had priority for getting flown out by Medivac (medical evacuation helicopter service). The rest of us had to secure the area around the perimeter for the choppers to come in and evacuate the wounded. I was hurting big time. The VC kept fighting for the rest of the night. Around dawn we realized that the VC were coming at us out of the rice paddies. We called in the Cobras (helicopters), and they came in and blew the hell out of the rice paddies with rockets and mini guns (Gatling guns with rotating barrels). I know we killed several Vietnamese, but we couldn’t spot them. “After dawn they sent us out to walk the paddies on a search and destroy mission. We found two badly wounded Vietnamese, but no dead bodies -- they had been carried out under the cover of darkness. The next day they took me by Medivac to the 8th Field Medical Facility and examined my damaged eardrums and shrapnel wound. Two days later I was at Cam Rhan Bay Hospital, where I met David Navarro of Laredo, who was a medic stationed there. They did a procedure to repair the damage to my eardrums with some kind of membrane. I could have come home then, but I did not want to come home. I thought that they would laugh at me in my neighborhood for coming home one and a half



almost-forgotten veteran of an often-overlooked war

American warrior through and through

García (left) with ex-bunker mate Julio Damian of Houston in 2005. months after I had gotten to Vietnam. So they put me on a chopper and sent me back to my unit. My medical records either stayed at Cam Ranh or were lost there. I received no Purple Heart then or later. “Our camp was at Bhami Thuot. From there we were sent back to Loc Thien to resume our building assignment. We were sitting ducks out there for snipers hiding in the jungle, and often we’d get hit by mortar barrages from the nearby mountains of Cambodia. Our Hueys (helicopter gunships) would go out there and shoot the place up, but could never pinpoint their positions,” he said. García recalled three unforgettable incidents at a creek about two miles from their Loc Thien camp. “Since we didn’t have water for bathing at the camp, we had to drive (by truck) to a creek about two miles away in the jungle,” he said. This was a recipe for danger. He recounted the anecdote. “We were 13 men to a squad, and two squads at a time would head out for the creek. We took turns bathing. One squad took a bath while the other squad secured the perimeter,” he said. “On one occasion, we came up out of the water covered from head to toe with leeches. Another time, when we arrived at the creek there were already some water buffalo in the creek, peeing and pooping, so we didn’t take a bath that day. On a third occasion, we came under a fierce mortar attack while we were trying to bathe. We were buck-naked. We scrambled out of the creek and ran to leap in the truck with


our clothes in one hand and our rifles in the other. Luckily, nobody was hit.” A fact that tends to add insult to injury for García is that the project was never completed. “We spent eight months at Loc Thien and then the brass decided to dump it. The hooches were never built -- the project was discontinued. I mean, 20 men in our platoon were injured, some seriously, for nothing. It might have been a ridiculous project from the beginning -they actually wanted to run lines to the creek. What the idea behind that was, God only knows.” From Loc Thien García’s unit was sent back to Bhami Thuot. “They set us to doing what we were originally sent out there to do -- construct bridges,” García said. Regardless of its condition, we were sent out to do a repair job on every damaged bridge -- sometimes the enemy would blow half of it away,” he added. He said that it was standard and necessary procedure to do mine sweeps before they started working in any given area where they were going to work. “We needed a safe area to put our machinery, materials, and tools, and we worked around the clock, day and night, until the job was completed. The Army told us that if we slept four hours, it was more than enough to keep your body going.” García wears a pleased expression when recalling the amenities available at the army compound at Bhami Thuot that hadn’t existed out at Loc Thien, mainly cold beer and warm food. García described the one vacation, so to speak, that they got. “After 180 days (six months) we flew commercial out of Da Nang to Taipei, Thailand. It’s a beautiful country -- the water in the bay is crystal clear, and the scenery is beautiful, and all the people were very nice, extremely courteous and helpful. We went on a little cruise in a sampan (two-oared flat-bottomed boat) -- you could see the caves on the floor of the bay. They told us that snakes lived and bred down in those caves. We had a tub of beer on board, and there was a cook who cooked us some really good food. We stayed in Thailand for a week, not counting travel time,” he said. When García’s yearlong combat tour in Vietnam came to an end, he was flown stateside to Seattle in a C141, and then he took a commercial flight home to Laredo for a 30-day leave. At the end of 30 days García was sent to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri to serve out the remaining year of his military obligation. He was discharged on November 17, 1970. Continued on page 46


a, and García, Juan Medin Arturo Davila, Jerry t. uo Th i am ound at Bh Edwin Brown, at comp

Bunker sandbags at Bhami Thuot

Bungloo torpedo ala rm for jungle snipers LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


Photo by María Eugenia Guerra

Keeping cool

Photo by Monica McGettrick

Evelyn Medina has become a better swimmer this summer and has enjoyed fine-tuning her new skills in the water.

Cool place to avoid the hot sun Danny Treviño and Maribel del Bosque of Starbucks Mall del Norte spend their days serving delicious caffeinated treats to mall shoppers. Brave souls coming in from the heat may try one of their hot coffees, but if you’re looking for a good way to cool off, an iced latte might just hit the spot.


| L a r e DO S | J U LY 2009


United ISD Continues to Improve


LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



| L a r e DO S | J U LY 2009


Texas A&M International University

TAMIU-SBDC Offers July Workshops By MIKA AKIKUNI


his month, the Texas A&M International University Small Business Development Center (TAMIU-SBDC) will sponsor the following workshops: Understanding Credit and Budgeting workshop will be held Wednesday, July 29 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the TAMIU Student Center, room 120. The $20 fee includes the workbook, and Tina Rodriguez, business advisor, will go over credit reporting myths, disputing inaccuracies, rebuilding credit, and debt management. Understanding Financial Statements workshop will be held Thursday, July 30 from 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the TAMIU Student Center, room 120. The $20 fee includes the workbook, and Gladys Rangel will assist to understand financial statements. One statement cannot diagnose a company’s financial health, but by putting several statements together, one can make smart finanContinued from page 26 The boards connect to an interface called Promethean Planet, which contains thousands of lesson plans for grades K3 to 12. For example, a third grade teacher covering volcanoes can enter the program, type in “volcanoes” and pull up a lesson plan that is age appropriate. Textbooks come with CDs that play through the boards, and teachers from across the world access and add lesson plans. Promethean Planet also allows for student interaction. Students are given a remote control that allows them to respond to lesson questions from their desks. For example, if that week’s lesson is long division, and each student answers 10 out of 10 correctly, the teacher need not waste a week on a lesson students have already fully grasped. It can also help point out which student/s might need a little extra help with a certain lesson. The school currently has eight boards, with seven more soon to arrive. Sr. Suzanne is hoping to have 20 by the start of the school year. “It’s thanks to the parents that we have these,” said Sr. Suzanne. “Fifteen of these 20 were paid by the Room Mothers Fund, part of the Salesian Parent Association. These boards


cial, investment, and management decisions. For lending purposes, statements will help to determine if one can afford to pay a loan, the loan amount, the loan term (number of years), which assets one should buy versus which assets should be financed, and what collateral is available to secure a loan. The Think like a Marketing Guru workshop will be held Friday, July 31 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the TAMIU Student Center, room 120. The fee is $20. This workshop explains what a marketing plan is and why is it so essential to the success of a business. Instructor Norma Rodríguez will define components of a marketing strategy. For more information or to register for any of these July workshops, call the TAMIU SBDC office at 956.326.2827 or e-mail: sbdc@ Register online at Fall registration is underway at TAMIU Registration for fall 2009 at TAMIU is currently underway at

Classes begin Monday, Aug. 24. All tuition and fees are due Aug. 21, and a late fee will be assessed to students registering and/or paying after this date. New students and first-time freshmen are required to attend a two-day new student orientation, “Dusty Camp.” Dusty Camp Session III is scheduled for Aug. 6 and 7. The international student orientation is scheduled for Aug. 20. Freshman convocation and final day for late registration is Aug. 28. For more information on the new student orientation, call the Office of Student Activi-

ties at 326.2280. For more information on the international student orientation, please contact the Office of International Student Services at 326.2282. For more information, contact the Office of the University Registrar at 326.2250, come by their offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 168, email, or click on Complete schedules, catalog and additional registration information are available at The University’s summer hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Fridays. u

are wonderful because when the students are engaged, the process is more exciting,” she added. Teachers will receive two full days of professional training in order to fully utilize the program. Another wonderful technological addition is the NEO2 Educational Portable Computers, of which the school has 30. Created by National Geographic for their field reporters, these durable, lightweight computers run on three AA batteries for up to 700 hours. “Currently, we’re using these with our fourth graders. Their writing and editing skills are advancing, and this lets them immediately edit their work. They can also send it directly to their teacher’s computer,” said Sr. Suzanne. The computer is basically a keyboard with a small screen, and aside from the space for eight files with one-key access, students can also take their Accelerated Reader tests on it. “While we have two full computer labs, it’s sometimes easier for the teacher to use these in their classrooms,” said Sr. Suzanne. Facelift and technology aside, MHCS is still, after 74 years of serving Laredo, a bastion of intellectual and spiritual exploration. u

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



VITA is helping -- free of charge -- to file taxes and get tax returns; Volunteers are making a huge difference By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER


he hassle of filing an annual tax return has never been so easy, thanks to a handful of public-spirited local volunteers working with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). VITA exists as part of the Laredo Family Economic Success Coalition (LFESC) for the stated goal of “removing financial barriers that discourage people from filing a return.” Filing is often a burdensome task for some retirees, the elderly, and the segment of the local population for whom English language skills are a daunting hurdle, according to Julio Cruz, VITA public relations specialist and grant writer. “The Coalition exists to promote awareness in the community through the print media, radio, television, the Public Access channel, flyers at community centers, and word-of-mouth communication,” Cruz said, adding, “Tax preparation sites have been set up all in a geographical variety of locations for easy access for people in all sectors of the city, including the Laredo Public Library and Bruni Plaza Branch, Martin High School, Cigarroa Middle School, Santo Niño Community Center, and Goodwill Industries.” Cruz said that VITA may soon have access to a mobile unit, depending on the availability of funding. He said that he and fellow grant writer Steven Gutierrez are hopeful about securing financial backing for the mobile unit for alternate deployment to El Cenizo and Río Bravo on specified days of the week. “We’re trying to get the word out with bilingual marketing on the radio, and we’ve started to air a scrolling bulletin on the Public Access channel,” Cruz said.


| L a r e DO S | J U LY 2009

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance VITA grant writers Julio Cruz and Steven Gutierrez are pictured with tax preparation volunteer Rick Rodriguez (left). The tax preparation season at these sites lasts from January through April. “The last eight months of the year are utilized for recruitment and training of tax preparation volunteers. “Tax preparers must be certified by the IRS, and certificates are granted after a candidate takes an online course and passes the test in December,” Cruz said. “Successful candidates are then issued one of three types of certificates, Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced, which determine what tax forms he or she is qualified to fill out.” he added. Richard Rodriguez has been a Martin High School teacher for the last 16 years,

has also been teaching technology at Lara Academy since 2005, and has been a VITA volunteer tax preparer for six years. He is also director of the Martin High preparation site. He said that a preparer’s average client load is 45. “Some preparers get repeat clients year after year, and many satisfied customers recommend certain preparers to their friends,” Rodriguez said, adding, “Once we sit down with them (clients), they begin to gain confidence in the system and begin to realize that working with a VITA volunteer is a safe way to ensure that you are going to get back your whole return, since there is no charge to the client.” “Our main job as volunteer tax preparers is to instill trust and build a relationship with the client. We need to get the client to overcome any fear of filing and to better understand tax law. Some of their fears are natural due to the fact that most of them are low-income earners. The poverty line is $12,000 per annum, and many of our clients make less than $6,000 per annum. Of course, we are very instrumental in helping them overcome the language barrier -- many of our clients have limited English proficiency -- and some of our clients who are working towards citizenship become convinced that it is to their benefit to pay their taxes because it demonstrates good

citizenship to the government,” Rodriguez explained. He noted that whereas 16 percent of the Texas population is considered below the poverty line, a full 30 percent of Laredo’s population falls below the line. Rodriguez said that the Martin High tax preparation center was open for clients beginning at 4 p.m. on weekday afternoons during the filing season, adding that filing hours varied at the different centers, each center demonstrating flexibility by adapting its schedule to its clients. He said that all filing was done electronically and that every client was provided with a hard copy of the filledout forms. “We have a first-rate quality review system to ensure that taxes are prepared correctly and efficiently,” Rodriguez said, adding, “It is fairly common for our clients to get their tax returns within seven days,” Rodriguez said. The LFESC has been around since the 1980’s in various guises, and VITA is in its seventh year of operation in Laredo, having served over 1,800 clients and producing more that $3 million in 2008, according to Cruz. He said that the drive to recruit more tax preparers is currently on, and he encouraged prospective tax preparers to contact him for more information by telephone at (956) 726-4585 or online at u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

In Memoriam

S.K. Lawson: Laredo’s Norman Rockwell doctor was an LAFB pilot instructor, but most of all he was a caring and capable gentleman of the old school By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER


or many, since the recent sad passing of Laredo’s beloved Dr. S.K Lawson, it is still hard to keep a dry eye when thinking about him. He was such a loving husband and father, such a great uncle, such a brilliant and compassionate man, such a consummate physician, but most of all, such a genuine person. Those last two words are almost a contradiction in terms in this day and age. The way he carried himself -- such dignity, such seeming nonchalance, his face portraying a mind that was involved with his world, a world whose Nature he cherished, whose sky he conquered, whose people he respected, to whose health and welfare he was totally committed. The easy charm, the keen intelligence, the soft-spoken wit, the call to duty -- all these qualities seemed innate in S. K., as complements to his good looks and his quiet friendliness. And, as if all of this is not enough, this man was a proud American! A bona fide Midwesterner and adopted Texan -- in fact, in tastes, in pride, in patriotic feeling. He learned the best American values in Iowa, where he was born and raised by loving parents, surrounded by bright and loving siblings: honesty, integrity, soft-spoken frankness, the value of hard work, the lure and spur of achievement through dedicated effort, were all second nature to him. In so many ways, my uncle S.K. was a gifted individual who made a gift of himself and his life’s work to his fellow human beings, especially the people of Laredo. He was God’s servant and Laredo’s Norman Rockwell doctor. My uncle once told me about the first time he ever piloted an aircraft. “I was walking home from high school one afternoon when I saw a crop duster parked in a field near the road (single-wing, single-engine plane used to spray insecticide) in one of the cornfields, so I climbed in and flew it,” he said. Within ten years he would be flying the huge Douglas C-124 Globemaster II for the Strategic Air Command out of Randolph AFB, San Antonio to Thule Air Base in Greenland and back on a weekly basis. In the summer of 1964 he drove Aunt Sylvia and Cousin Mary and me by the flightline one day and pointed out a parked flock of Globemasters. I was up there for a WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

S.K. and Sylvia Rosenbaum Law son on their honeymoon in 1959.

sister Young S.K. with his Iowa. , od wo Virginia in Glen couple of days to help them get some furniture moved into an apartment in Schertz. I was extremely impressed. I don’t think that any other member of the extended family ever got the guided tour. Between the lark flight in the Piper Cub and the transatlantic hops to Thule and back, S.K. did a couple of things. He graduated from Glenwood High School (Glenwood, Iowa) in 1948, joined the Army the same year and went to Korea where he served as a combat pharmacy specialist. Then he came Stateside and served three more years, stationed in Seattle, Washington. Upon being honorably discharged from the service in 1952, he moved to California, where his mother and sisters were now living, and worked at a series of miscellaneous jobs -- lumberjack, car salesman, and coin meter collector. One day in 1953, while at the post office he saw an Uncle Sam Wants You poster and joined the Air Force hoping to become an Air Force pilot. He took pilot training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, and he was stationed at Lackland for a few months after pilot training before being sent to pilot instructor school in Malden, Missouri. By the summer of 1955, he was teaching young pilots to fly jets at Laredo Air Force Base. By the end of the 1959, S.K. married my aunt Sylvia Rosenbaum, and then he retired from the Air Force with the rank of captain. He attended Trinity University in San Antonio and graduated with a major in biology and a minor in English in 1962.

During 1962 he taught school at South San High, and he taught at San Mateo Community College in the latter part of the year. MaryKathryn, the first of the three Lawson daughters, was born that year. In 1963 he joined the Air Force Reserve and began doing his Randolph-to-Thule pond hops. After one year he began studying medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. He graduated in 1968 and did his residency in Corpus Christi in 1969. In 1970 Dr. S. K. Lawson opened his private medical practice in Laredo, and he remained faithfully and conscientiously on the job until 1996. For a short while, Dr. Lawson was employed by Mercy Regional Medical Center as vice president for medical affairs, and during his tenure he was responsible for handpicking a number of excellent doctors who greatly increased the prestige of the institution and expanded the horizons of its medical treatment capabilities. Dr. Lawson home-taught his grandson Andrew Carranco, the eldest of Chendo and Mary Carranco’s three children,

through middle school and up to the time when Andrew qualified for the College-in-High-School program when he was 15 years old. Now 17, Andrew is set to graduate from high school having racked up over 60 hours of college credit. “My grandfather used to say, ‘There’s no point in life if you can’t learn, and no point in learning if you can’t teach,’” Andrew said. My aunt Sylvia Rosenbaum Lawson passed away in 1998, a loss that profoundly affected Dr. Lawson. He remained close to his three daughters (Mary, Susan, and Laura) and his seven grandchildren. He was always close to his two sisters (Virginia and Carol), who survive him. My uncle S.K. Lawson was Laredo’s Norman Rockwell doctor because his whole life, which we have just held up to the mirror, reflects a clean-cut American who gave it his all every step of the way -- gave his best effort to his schooling at every level, to his students as a teacher, to his country as a battlefield medic and as a pilot, to his wife, children and grandchildren who adored him, to his extended family who accepted him as true-blue kith and kin and admired and looked up to him as a great doctor, a kind man, and a stalwart, spiritual man with a tender heart and a sharing soul. He had a special place in his heart for the Sisters of Mercy and the needy people of the barrio. He was a true friend to all the brothers and sisters of Laredo. God bless this golden and extraordinary soldier of the Lord. u

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


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

No shortage of border histories, but where’s the defining tome on Mexican tejanos?


few months ago, I was happy to find out Dr. Roberto “Beto” Calderon, Associate Professor of history at The University of North Texas in Denton, was working on a history of Laredo. Calderon’s study, tentatively entitled Tejano Politics in the American Era: Laredo, 1845-1911, will be published through the Frontera Series at Texas A&M University Press. I asked Calderon what the scope of his project is, and he informed me that it will examine the establishment of electoral politics in Laredo and Webb County up until the Mexican Revolution era. The study, which should be completed by the summer of 2010, will also offer readers something beyond a traditional recounting of politics and political figures. According to Calderon, he will “examine many other things, not least urbanization, labor, civil rights, education, religion, the formation and significance of social

or civic organizations, and economic history.” The North Texas historian is no stranger to border history or border life. A few years ago, Calderon published his first book, Mexican Coal Mining Labor in Texas and Coahuila, 1885-1930 (2000), which examines the impact of labor ideology and race in Webb County and Coahuila. Professor Calderon takes great pride in writing about South Texas. After all, he is a native of Eagle Pass. Even though he has lived far longer in California, where he attended graduate school at UCLA and taught at the University of California, Riverside, he has always maintained his ties to the Lone Star State, even subscribing to LareDOS for the last few years. More importantly, Beto is bringing an added dimension to his study -- the ability to intimately understand the Tejano perspective in regards to Laredo history. Like

many Laredoans, Calderon was born in the U.S. (Eagle Pass), but maintained ties to Mexico, having spent many summers during his formative years in Piedras Negras, Coahuila. As such, border identity and border life is something that Calderon still fondly remembers. “I claim to be a fronterizo,” Calderon maintains. “I am from both sides of the border culturally because that was my social formation growing up, my plural seamless reality.” And while Eagle Pass may lie more than 100 miles from the Gateway City, Calderon recalls Laredo fondly. “Growing up, Laredo was part of my reality, and I easily knew more about Laredo by the time I was six or seven than, say, I did about New England, which is where I attended college,” he points out. Regardless of background, the UNT history professor is looking forward to finishing his study and sharing it with Laredoans and Webb County residents alike. Even though Calderon’s study is still to be completed, his project will be a welcomed addition to the growing literature on Laredo. Yet his study on Laredo also brings an additional nuance to the histories of the city. It will be written by a Tejano border native. Oh, there are several histories of Laredo already in print, John A. Adams’s Conflict Continued from page 37 But the war was not over for García. His days of active duty in the U.S. Army were behind him, but where was the Purple Heart that he had earned? To make matters worse, the brave, wounded-in-action volunteer from Laredo was overlooked by the Veterans Administration for disability compensation until 2002, when he began to get partial payments, which fall short to this day of what he probably deserves to be getting, and which have not included back-compensation for the 32 years that he was left high and dry and forgotten. “I wouldn’t be getting anything at all if Vietnam veterans like myself hadn’t raised a ruckus back in 2002 when President George W. Bush was pressured into prioritizing Iraq War wounded vets for VA attention. Vietnam vets stood up and said,


| L a r e DO S | J U LY 2009

and Commerce on the Rio Grande: Laredo, 1755-1955; Sam R. Wood’s Life in Laredo; Jerry D. Thompson’s Laredo: A Pictorial History (and other specific studies); J. B. Wilkinson’s Laredo and the Rio Grande Frontier; Rogelia Garcia’s The Bells of St. Augustine/Dolores, Revilla, and Laredo; and additional works by Stan Green, María Eugenia Guerra, and Kathleen Dacamara, to name a few. But for all these works in print there is still a missing perspective, the focus on Laredo’s Mexican Texan population. Laredo is not lacking Tejano historians. In recent years, José Ramirez (Cigarroa High School) and James Garza (Nixon High School), in addition to myself, have graduated from doctoral programs in Texas. Yet for various reasons we have neglected -- up to this point -- to examine our native city’s past. And while our various research interests, which range from Porfirian Mexico to Mexican Americans in World War I, may overlap Laredo’s past, it is not specific to the Gateway City. In past columns I have advocated the need for a barrio history of Laredo and a Tejano military history of the city. And while some of those projects are on the burner, so to speak, perhaps Calderon’s upcoming book will spur further discussion and examination of the city’s bicultural past. u “What the hell is going on, what about us? We’re still here!” Disappointed but undeterred, García, now retired, got on with his life. His career included jobs of various descriptions and spanned the 32 years between 1970 and 2002. He was an LISD teacher aide, a MOPAC crane engineer, a Webb County employee, an EMT for the first Laredo Fire Department rescue unit, an oilfield roughneck, a warehouse foreman in the import-export business, and a self-employed construction contractor. He married the former Thelma Sauceda in 1970, and they have three children, Jerry Jr., Jessica, and Gabriel. Although García keeps up the good fight for his blood-earned Purple Heart and his just deserts from the VA, he hasn’t lost an iota of his respect for the flag and the Land of the Free. “I volunteered at 17 and I’m ready to go back,” he said. u


Otro Punto de Vista

Let your gifts be your guides By MARÍA EUGENIA CALDERON


he gift of imagination is often linked to persons who show an external projection of an abstract thought or concept. Many will comment, “I am not creative, I don’t have imagination.” If you measure the success of imagination by the skillful presentation of concepts with colors, textures, shapes, and volumes, you are misunderstanding this wonderful gift. As spiritual beings on a human adventure all of us equally share in this gift of imagination. Our ability to manifest our gifts into an agreeable and popular venue is varied. However, all of us can project into the third dimension an abstract one-dimensional thought and create a visual manifestation of our intention. This sounds complex and may be difficult. Simplify the process and you can even turn it into an algebraic equation where a portion of this in an inverse position to this but of equal character and expandable variability can equal an answer. We are all familiar with the discipline we challenged in school, the equation solution process where we anticipated an outcome based on the projected variables, but this is how our imagination is formed, by looking for an answer from within a conceptual basis created by personal life experiences and collective agreements with our world’s material infrastructure. The logic of algebra which we thought we were never going to use is the setting for the development of the life skill we call imagination.


The complexity or simplicity of our formula is contingent on our personality, but our imagination is always present and always dominant. So, our partnership with imagination migrates and settles within us. It is this wonderful imagination that then proceeds to partner with us in the field we call life, in which our perception poisons or enriches our life. So, where are you now? Where has your imagination driven you most of your life? What has been your imagination’s driving force? Is it the poison of misperception or the wealth of wisdom? When we participate in most of the world’s religions we are asked to use this imagination. Spiritual journeys are embarked with a “clear vision” of what we imagine exists beyond this very visible realm. Now, with a focus on how you have trained yourself to imagine the unseen, reflect on how you engaged yourself to your beliefs through your imagination. The process seems very easy, but when you analyze what you are doing, you are proposing to view life, all of its participants, and your spiritual journey from a perspective created by the collective mind of your culture and socioeconomic status. What does this mean? It means that if you are not careful, all the feelings that hurt you or made you happy over your entire lifetime were a consequence of expectations from learned behavior that someone else decided. It means that unless you stop and reflect on how your imagination was formed and how

it arrived at the conclusions that control your emotions you are not really in touch with yourself. In a life full of the unexpected, stop and reflect before you react. Don’t be submissive to someone else’s vision of what is acceptable as happiness, failure, or success. When we measure ourselves against the world and the others in it we usually say that we measure by our own yardstick on the assumption our yardstick is impeccable. Our delusions based on our corrupt imagination compound a more serious problem when we accept that our spiritual journey is superior to someone else’s simply because our imagination was trained to believe we were right and they who don’t think as we do are wrong. As a consequence their god is inferior. In this journey called life, we travel with baggage full of material we never challenged. We never challenged the grey areas of belief systems that structured a spiritual path that conformed to the ideals of a few and left out everybody else. We accepted a god that had mood swings. Historically, he saved some nations and destroyed others, specifically those under the conditions of imposition by stronger governments, as needed by imaginative perceptions, in this case the historically conquered. Centuries later, in the Americas, in the name of this moody god, the historically conquered were no longer the victims that had to be saved, this time they were the evil presence that must be annihilated in order to honor the name of their god. What an imagination. This ride takes a

god on a man-made roller coaster ride that points out who is acceptable under the “rule of oppression” and who should be exterminated by another rule in which the exterminator is always right. Imagination without introspection is a perilous journey. History is the proof of the misperceptions of man’s mind. Stop and think; would a Divine Creator have human attributes that demanded regular ego feedings? I personally don’t think so. Isn’t it time to step back and take a look at where we are going? Isn’t it time to stop thinking that someone out there is going to reward and punish us based on the social requirements of the epoch we live in? Isn’t it time to retrain our imagination to be present to the moment with a balanced focus stripped of nonsensical perception? Get rid of the concept of a duality with the God Force. It is not out there, and you are not its victim or short-term honoree. Upon creation you were given the tools by which to discern His presence use them. Take just one incident in your life that was of special challenge. Take your ego out of it and redefine its importance. If you are truly honest with yourself you will understand that you were using your imagination in a self-destructive way. Don’t do it. Use your gift to create not destroy. At the end of your life whose imagination patterns will you depend on? Hopefully yours, from deep within you and not the ideas of others predetermined to control your imagination. Focus, reflect and let your gifts be your guides. u

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |



Dr. Juan R. Lira: U.S. Marine and Educator The value of loyalty, learning, teamwork, and consistency By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER


Dr. Juan Lira


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ccording to TAMIU Associate Provost Dr. Juan R. Lira, a United States Marine Corps (USMC) reservist during the 1970s, USMC training instilled in him a set of leadership skills that rounded out his education – skills that were character-building and careerapplicable. He said he feels that he is the living embodiment of the truth of this assertion. The trajectory of Lira’s academic, military, and professional life definitely reflect a close interrelationship between his Marines-fostered sense of self-discipline and goal-orientedness and his own inner drive that has led to high achievement and high responsibility in academia. Three common themes that run like intertwining threads through Lira’s life and work are loyalty, learning, and teamwork. These concepts are crucial in the Corps and indispensable to the success of an academic institution like TAMIU, Lira said. A fourth theme, consistency, is a character trait that Lira has in spades and that has been a major factor in his high level of performance down through the years. Lira doesn’t quibble about the shared relevance of these themes to the modus operandi of a career educator who is a former Marine rifleman. Born and raised in Sinton, Lira graduated from Sinton High School in 1965 and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&I University in Kingsville in 1969 with a minor in Spanish. He joined the Marine Corps Reserves in San Antonio in 1970. “That might have been the best decision of my life,” he said. He successfully com-

pleted Boot Camp at San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) and the second phase (advanced infantry training) at Camp Pendleton. “They have 13 weeks to turn you into a basic Marine,” Lira said, adding, “The Rifleman -- the ‘grunt,’ is the backbone of the Marine Corps. This individual must meet certain standards of competence with his weapon, he must be an excellent marksman, and he must pass the physical fitness test and meet other requirements, like demonstrating required knowledge and skills. Boot Camp was very productive -- the drill instructors were very well organized, and they had a sense of urgency, a sense of concern -- they had a timeline to follow.” Then came Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) training, where Lira learned additional skills to refine what he had already learned in Boot Camp. Lira explained, “It was amazing. Marine Corps training is remarkable because they teach you to think about how to deal with a challenge, not if you can deal with it. You learn that some tasks are accomplished gradually, not all at once, but even more important is that you realize that the goal is not out of reach if everyone works together for a common cause. The drill instructors repeat over and over that there are only two colors that matter -- green and yellow. Green stands for the color of our uniforms. These words helped tremendously to unify us -- we were made up of a broad ethnic and racial mix. We learned that we could do things better and more effectively by working together.” He added, “In the Marine Corps we had to do things together, because the tasks were not always clear; we learned to think, problem-solve, ask questions, and support one another in a common effort -- the Corps enlisted everyone’s strengths and talents so that together we could accomplish something.” After boot camp, Lira began his teaching career in the Edgewood School district in San Antonio, where he taught elementary school for two years and earned his teaching certification by attending night school. He also began fulfilling his sixyear obligation to the USMC Reserves by attending the required weekend meetings once a month in San Antonio and an annual two-week summer camp.

In 1971, Lira married Juanita Rocha of Laredo, who was teaching that year with the San Antonio Independent School District. Both Liras had embarked on careers as educators that would soon lead them to Laredo and would eventually culminate in high-level administrative positions for both of them. With an MOS of 0311, Lira spent his three years in the Reserves with a reconnaissance unit. “During my two-week extended training in the summers I was part of a recon platoon,” Lira said. He added, “At the end of my third year, I had a chance encounter with members of the 32nd Marines Interpreter Team, and after I made a few inquiries, my platoon commander told me, ‘It (joining the 32nd Interpreters) will be good for your career because you have the background and the experience to be a translator,’ and I was transferred to the 32nd Marines Interpreter Team.” Lira credits Professor (later Father) Don Critchlow for inspiring him to pursue the field of Reading in greater depth, and it was Critchlow who recommended Lira to then-UISD superintendent Don Hughes as a promising reading instructor, with the result that Lira was hired to teach at Nye Elementary School, as was his wife Juanita. “Dr. Critchlow was a phenomenal hands-on teacher who liked to work with kids and had a knack for getting kids to learn how to read,” Lira said. “As a Reading Specialist I helped kids with reading problems and worked closely with other teachers during the course of the week so that we could keep tabs on each individual student. Through collaborative planning, we ensured that all of us were using complementary material that was at the student’s appropriate level of difficulty, that dealt with interesting topics for the students, and that challenged the students without frustrating them. Keeping accurate records was also vital to help us accurately monitor students’ progress. I also collaborated with the teachers to ensure that they had at their disposal supplementary reading materials to make needed adjustments to effectively meet the needs of specific groups of students.” Continued on page 634 4 WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

Keeping a Weather Eye 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.

“Chance of rainfall” explained


CoCoRaHS and the National Weather Service in Brownsville needs rainfall observers in Jim Hogg and Zapata County. All you need is an interest in the weather and be willing to submit rainfall data (including zero) daily to the NWS. For details on how to sign up, log on to or call Juan Alanis, Webb County CoCoRaHS Coordinator at 956-251-3996.


t certainly has been hot and dry for a while now. For much of June and July, our rain chances have been zero. Hopefully a shift in weather patterns will bring a much- needed chance of rain to the forecast. “Chance of Rain”…You watch the evening forecast and they might say, “there is a 20 percent chance of rain tomorrow.” Tomorrow comes and it floods at your house, while on another occasion, “a 50% chance” brought nothing to your house. So what exactly does “chance of rain” mean in the forecast? This topic is the subject of an essay in the February issue of the Bulletin of The American Meteorological Society. According to the essay written by Susan Joslyn, Limor NadavGreenberg, and Rebecca Nicholsten all from the University of Washington in Seattle, recent studies show that many

people do not understand what “chance of rain” (probability of precipitation, PoP, as it is referred to in the essay) means. Based on the studies conducted by these researchers, the main source of the misunderstanding appears to be the “class of events” that the probability or “chance” refers to. Given a forecast for “80% chance of precipitation,” about 35% of New Yorkers did not understand of “what” it is 80%, as did a large number of Europeans. Some people thought that an “80% chance of rain” meant “80% percent of the area would receive rain.” Others felt that an “80% chance of rain” suggests that it would “rain for 80% of the forecast period, either day or night. Both of these interpretations are clearly wrong for the meaning of PoP. There is even some debate within the scientific community on what the meaning of PoP should be. Some Webb County Rainfall Report within the scientific community feel the “chance” Station Location JUNE reflects a forecasters “conTX-WB-2 Heights-Garfield St 0.00” fidence”. For example, an TX-WB-3 Laredo-San Isidro 1.09” 80% chance of rain, would TX-WB-4 Las Tiendas Ranch 0.00” mean the forecaster is TX-WB-5 Callaghan Ranch 0.12” 80% confident it is going to rain. Others state that TX-WB-6 McPherson/Chacon 0.00” the PoP should reflect a TX-WB-7 Espejo Ranch 0.00” “frequentist” interpretaTX-WB-8 Juarez-Lincoln Elem NR tion. In this thinking, an TX-WB-9 Mangana Hein Rd 8E 0.02” 80% chance of rain would TX-WB-10 United Middle School 0.25” be that, “there will be at TX-WB-12 Del Mar C 0.00”” least a minimum amount TX-WB-13 Del Mar North/Preston Ln 0.23” of rain on 80% of the days TX-WB-14 Laredo 18.4 NE 0.55” with weather conditions TX-WB-19 Prada Elementary NR like they are today.” MeTX-WB-21 Shiloh/Woodridge 0.50” teorologists and scientists TX-WB-22 Laredo 23.7 ENE 0.58” may understand this inTX-WB-23 Freer 29.5 WSW 0.68” terpretation, but the average person watching the TX-WB-24 Trauttmann MS area 0.42” evening weathercast will TX-WB-25 United South MS area TR not have a clue as to what TX-WB-26 Zaragoza St-Downtown TR that means. Laredo International Airport 0.03” The National Weather Sources: CoCoRaHS/National Weather Service Corpus Christi Service has used PoP in forecasts since the 1960’s.


According to information from the NWS office in Atlanta and a recent article published by the NWS Austin/San Antonio… here is the current meaning of PoP: The “probability of precipitation” describes the chance rain will fall at any point you select in the area. A mathematical formula is used to come up with the PoP. In math terms, PoP = C x A. The “C” is the level of confidence the forecaster has that precipitation will fall and the “A” is the percentage of the area that will receive measurable precipitation, if any occurs at all. So here is an example. The evening forecast calls for a 40% chance of rain in the Laredo area. The forecaster may be certain it will rain somewhere in the city, so his/her confidence is 100% it will rain. However, he/she feels only 40% of the city will get some kind of precipitation, therefore when converted mathematically 100% becomes 1.00 in decimal form and 40% becomes .40, so 1.00 x 0.40 = 0.40 or 40%. This is often the scenario with summer time daytime heating type of showers. The forecaster knows it will rain, but only in a few areas of the city. Thus, a 40% chance of rain could mean a good rain at your house, but nothing

at someone else’s house a mile down the street. Another example. The forecaster is only 50% certain it will rain in the area, if it occurs, with measurable rain falling over 80% of the area. So mathematically…0.50 x 0.80 = 0.40 or 40% chance. In any case, the PoP is simply the chance that rain will occur at any given point in the forecast area. While the essay goes on to discuss several experiments they conducted to determine how to make PoP clearer in forecasts (use of icons; stating the chance of no precipitation; using a pie chart, etc), clearly explaining to the public how the “chance of rain” is determined may help end some of the confusion. Forecasts calling for a 100% chance of rain are not common except in the cases of land falling tropical systems, such as a hurricane. Our chances of rain here in the Laredo area may be increasing some in the near future as the most active period in the hurricane season approaches and outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center are now showing southern Texas with normal precipitation chances from August through October. u

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


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


Giving voice to people of the borderlands

he borderland is a wonderful region of North America. It is rich with cultural diversity. The food, music, art, architecture, and languages of Anglo and Latin America all blend together symbiotically on a narrow strip of diversified geography about 1,950 miles long and about 120 miles wide from the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Coast. Tens of millions of people live on both sides of the of United States-Mexico border, yet they have no true voice in Washington, D.C. or Mexico City. This requires that the citizens of the borderlands stand up and define the borderlands and exercise the voice and the force of their democracy. No one else has the power to do so. Our elected officials have tried and failed. That leaves us. Only “we the people,” la gente fronteriza, have such power. For years, the House, Senate, administration, and political pundits have vili-


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fied our borderlands and justified militarization, totalitarian border walls, racial profiling, immigrant raids, and a proliferation of for-profit immigration internment camps. D.C. and Austin have used federal and state funding -- or the withholding of funding -- to get our economically depressed borderlands to submit to more aggression and militarization. Today, citizens all across America justifiably complain about the undermining and stripping of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. But those same Americans would stand by and let something more undemocratic victimize the borderlands. In April of 2008, the poorest region in the United States -- Texas borderlands -- became stripped of Congressional protections. Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, waived 36 Congressional Acts that were passed to protect America. It took 109

years of the People’s Congress to pass those laws, and 18 US Presidents to sign them into law. Congress allowed Chertoff to also waive all our local and state laws, so as to further militarize the border and build an “iron curtain” between us and our friends and families on the other side of the political boundary. Our government has never recognized our right to enjoy our amistad fronteriza. Many of us now call the borderlands the “deconstitutionalized zone.” Today, the Democratic controlled Congress and White House have not lessened the crippling racist strategy of the previous administrations but intensified it. More militarization, more agents -- perhaps even the Army National Guard -- the implementation of the passport requirement, more technology, longer waits at the ports of entry, and now, the threat of more border walls. What was a Republican agenda is now the Democratic agenda. That is not the change we need. On a recent visit to Capitol Hill to lobby for an end to the border wall, an alliance of border wall opponents from all across the country visited with some 80 members of Congress to promote legislation that would protect the borderlands. While there, we were informed in very clear terms that the borderlands were the “bargaining chip” for “comprehensive immigration reform.” We were told that to appease the racist, nativist xenophobes and get their vote for immigration reform, the border would have to be sacrificed. It seems that the lawmakers in D.C. and Austin do not recognize the goodness and peaceful racial diversity exhib-

ited here on the border. But multimilliondollar contracts to militarize our border are indeed recognized. Just recently we learned that the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), a federal program, is not being run by the federal government. Like the war in the Middle East, our border has been outsourced to corporations like Boeing that have open-ended/no-bid contracts to build the wall, both physical and virtual, that separates us from our friends, destroys our environment, and is the cause of thousands of deaths of economic refugees -- men, women, and children in their quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How do we fronterizos get a voice in these kinds of decisions? It is obvious that here in Texas, the two Republican senators have both voted to further militarize our borderlands. The Democratic Congressmen that represent our border region, no matter how sincere, seem impotent to defend us, let alone make sure that our voices are heard. How do we make sure that Texas and the rest of the United States north of I-10 recognize us? How do we protect our unique cultura? The borderlands have yet to rise up in solidarity to say “Ya! Basta!” Until we do, there will be more victimization of our earth, our peoples, our culture, and our economy. We must exercise and unite our voice if we want to be heard. That is the only way democracy works. Here’s a question for self-examination: “Am I ready, even willing, to exercise my democracy and unite my voice to promote the goodness of the borderlands?” u


Laredo Community College

LCC launches construction for south recreation complex By STEVE TREVIÑO JR.


Courtesy Photo


he construction of a $3.4 million recreation complex in South Laredo was recently launched during an official groundbreaking ceremony at the Laredo Community College South Campus grounds. Students, faculty, and staff joined officials from LCC, the City of Laredo, and Webb County for the occasion. The 14-acre complex will feature a baseball field, tennis and basketball courts, a walking trail, soccer fields, and an area for exercising. It will be located on the west side of the campus at 5500 South Zapata Highway. “This is an exciting moment because it will help diversify Laredo Community College South’s instruction in kinesiology and physical education with a place to hold these courses,” said LCC South Dean Luciano Ramon, who was the master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking. In addition to the benefits that students will receive from this endeavor, LCC President Dr. Juan L. Maldonado commented on how the complex will improve life in South Laredo. “Although South Laredo is the city’s fastest growing section, it also is regarded as the poorest. The creation of this recreation complex will offer a beautiful and functional area to fulfill the college’s instructional and training programs, as well as provide a resource for the community to improve the standard of living in this part of town,” Maldonado added. At a projected cost of $3,488,321, the project is a collaboration that has received external support, including $200,000 from Webb County and $150,000 from the City of Laredo. “The Webb County Commissioners Court is excited about working with Laredo Community College…in bringing about this major quality of life facility for the students and the community at large of South Webb County,” Webb County Judge Danny Valdez said. The LCC South Campus Bond Revenue Balance will cover the remainder of the project’s cost --$2,945,662. Find your future this fall at LCC Explore your career options at LCC, which offers more than 120 degree

LCC breaks ground on new recreation complex Officials from Laredo Community College, the City of Laredo, and Webb County till the soil on the future site of the LCC South Campus Recreation Complex. plans and certificate programs to help you find your future. Online registration and advising for the fall 2009 semester is under way. Advising is available at the LCC Fort McIntosh and South Campuses in the Academic Advisement and Student Success Center from Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Online registration from home, work, or campus can be accessed at http://pasport. from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Students who registered for fall classes between March 30 and August 13 must pay their tuition and fees by the latter date by 6 p.m. in the Bursar’s Office or by 11 p.m. via the PASPort system. Advising and Registration Days are from August 18 to 20 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Maravillo Gymnasium at the Fort McIntosh Campus and at the Billy Hall Student Center and instructional departments at the South Campus. Payment of tuition and fees is due by Thursday, Aug. 20 by 7 p.m. at the Bursar’s Office or by 11 p.m. via the PASPort system. Classes for the fall term begin on Monday, Aug. 24. For more information, call the LCC Admissions and Registration Center at 721-5117 or 794-4110. u LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


Media Review

Laredo Morning Times now charging a few for daily news


n an entirely disappointing -- albeit unsurprising -- move, considering its position as a tiny cog in a massive media conglomerate, the Laredo Morning Times has decided to no longer offer free online access to their news. What with print newspaper reportedly going the way of the dodo, it appears that LMT is jumping on the moneymaking bandwagon. Or perhaps they’re just jumping the shark? In response to less than affirmative reader reaction, LMT editor Diana Fuentes explained the decision in her “From the Editor’s Desk” blog (http://fromlmteditor. She wrote, “While you can get free access to some of the New York Times online, the paper does charge for its e-Edition - about $175 per year.” What Fuentes fails to mention is that the e-edition is simply a copy of that day’s paper -- and that almost every piece of news in the eedition is in the online version -- and their front page holds up to date news stories. Unless you care to pay $175 a year for the crossword puzzle, plenty of valuable items are merely one free click away. Of course, the two newspapers are far


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from comparable, and the NYT once tried to charge customers for their articles. However, they realized people just wouldn’t pay. Fuentes glazes over this -- no doubt hoping the people who read her blog in search of answers won’t bother to dig a little deeper. In a September 2007 letter addressed to its readers, Senior Vice President and General Manager Vivian Schiller explained why they would no longer require users to purchase subscriptions for TimesSelect content. “Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs, and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand, and the long-term vitality of our journalism. We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion -- as well as share it, link to it, and comment on it.” With the news stories gone from free public consumption, the LMT leaves readers with very little else. Fuentes promises

that many other features, such as “Headlines, breaking news, staff-written blogs, the Lucha Libre public forum, ¿Que Pasa? Online, Business Journal Online, and all our magazines, including Dvino and the Visitors Guide, are all available at no cost.” Offering free headlines is insulting, especially when you consider how often their headlines give nothing away, and only LMT writer Zach Lindsey updates the staff-written blog, and infrequently at that. Former LMT writers Jason Buch and Julian Aguilar also regularly contributed, but like most LMT staff, they disappeared the moment the doors of their journalism purgatory were thrown open. The breaking news is usually news pulled from the AP wire, which readers can get at other, more up-to-date news sites. Readers should never have to search the bowels of a news website for a nibble of news, and there are much better blogs covering Laredo out there, blogs like La Sanbe ( and the new Laredo Watch ( The most tragic of losses, however, is the loss of reader commentary. Occasionally insidious, sometimes encouraging, it was clear that at least some Laredoans were connected to local news. However, since the LMT switched to paid-only access, the comment sections are depressingly empty. And for those who do shell out the $52 to gain access, why leave a comment when it becomes that much easier for LMT to track who you are and what you’ve written? Most odious of all, however, is the small disclaimer beneath the log-in box -- “WARNING: Passwords are for the exclusive use of the paying subscriber. They should not be shared. If a subscriber is caught sharing a password, his or her account will be cancelled and no refund will be issued.” In the interest of being fair, they need to include this disclaimer when distributing paper copies -- see how that goes over. No more reading your paper at Danny’s and then leaving it behind for the next diner. Better be careful not to leave your paper behind at the doctor’s office -- the older gentleman next to you might snatch it. Overall, it is a sad state of affairs. Perhaps if Fuentes had simply owned up to the true reason -- money, money, and money -- readers would not have been so offended. The least she could have done was compare LMT with the Valley Morning Star, the only other paper in Texas that

requires their readers to fork over the dough to catch their news online. In other media news, LareDOS received a rather strange press release from Ashley Patterson of Congressman Henry Cuellar’s D.C. office inviting the media to partake of a “phoner,” which one might assume is a phone interview. Perhaps it is a bit juvenile to think so, but asking the media to participate in something that rhymes with ….er on behalf a congressman is a bit icky. Next time, it may be best to simply use “phone interview.” There are some adults out there in Press Releaseland. According to the Laredo Police Department website, Laredo still has no Chief of Police. Although Chief Carlos Maldonado has been in office since June 2008, LPD has not seen fit to acknowledge their chief’s presence by listing him or his bio on their webpage, Former Laredoan Julia Vera was recently at an audition in Hollywood when her agent called her to report immediately to the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. She rushed over and was informed that she had a part in that night’s telenovela sketch, based on Mexican soap operas. She was given her lines for a 5-minute sketch and went into wardrobe fittings and makeup, including a bouffant hairstyle. “The eye lashes were humongous,” said Vera. By 3 p.m. the sketch had been rehearsed and was being taped for that night’s national showing to an audience of over 10 million. By 5 p.m. the sketch had been taped. The show went on the air at 10:35 p.m. (central), and a Laredo-born actress was on the Tonight Show for the first time in show biz history. Before leaving the set, Vera approached the casting director with a question: How was she selected for this part without an audition? The casting director replied that he had seen her work, remembered her face, and thought she was perfect for the part. Vera has almost 70 acting credits in movies and television. Her latest movies are Operating Instructions and Por Vida. Most recently she appeared in Crossing Over with Harrison Ford, as well as the film Not Forgotten. Patterson, however, isn’t the only press release offender. Nina Pruneda of Immigration and Customs Enforcement needs to remember that spell check is always a friend, never a foe. In her press release announcing the arrest and deportation of a Mexican national, Pruneda filled the subject line of her email with the following: ICE removes Mexican man wanted for homocide. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

Maverick Ranch Notes

By bebe & sissy fenstermaker A whopper can leave an entire roomful of people slack-jawed. Welcome to the Trinity Glen Rose groundwater district’s monthly meeting. This month their tiny conference room was crowded to overflowing with folks whose Trinity Aquifer wells are going dry. They came to hear what the district’s board members had to say about their plight. There were ranchers with no water for their cattle, homeowners buying water by tank truckload and others with pitiful dribble coming from once adequate wells. These folks came from all parts of northern Bexar County because wells are going dry from Hwy. 281 in the northeast to the far reaches of the northwest. There wasn’t much relief in sight for the rancher speaking at the beginning of the meeting. He wanted to know what they could tell him about his two wells going dry. This voter took time off during the day to find the meeting. Another stated it would have been helpful if there were a sign showing how to find the meeting room after encountering the huge church/school campus. Like us several years ago, these folks were just finding out about their groundwater district, which holds sway over our precious groundwater. The board listened to the public comments, said the rancher would find answers during the meeting, and then turned to its agenda. Their budget took up most of the meeting. The legislature allowed the district to raise its rates and gave it the right to transfer water out of the district. This was one of the few bills making it all the way through the recent session. So, the district will be raising its rate to commercial customers, they will hire four part-time employees, and it all looks pretty rosy, financially. There are funds in CDs and plenty of money tucked away for future elections. There was a slight scuffle about hiring USGS to do a study of springs in north Bexar County, but it passed three to two; the president of the board had to break the tie. The manager gave the rancher his card and asked him to call. I’m sorry that the folks weren’t at the May district meeting when a board member quipped that those of us on Trinity wells “better get used to it, you’re going to suffer” and that we should all get on San Antonio public water like him because “there’s no problem with public water.” That’s debatable. Guess what, that public water system pumps water for distribution to their customers from the Edwards Aquifer and the Trinity Aquifer. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

The wells are going dry: If this ain’t a breaking story what is? At this month’s meeting the same director treated folks to a whopper statement (regarding the district doing some recording of water levels during this drought) saying, yes this would be good to do because “this may be the lowest that the water level ever drops.” Buddy, what planet did you step off from? Then he and another director voted against the USGS spring study in northern Bexar County, something we’ve been asking for since we found they didn’t think there was even one spring here. The directors have resisted having Chad Norris, Texas Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist, make a presentation of his extensive data collected on springs all over northern Bexar County. After quite a struggle and a press release from our group, they tell us Norris will come next month. Our alarm has been rising as more and more people move onto the Trinity Aquifer (also known as the contributing zone for the Edwards Aquifer). This aquifer isn’t like the Edwards Aquifer. The Trinity’s absorption rate is comparably nil while the rain falling on us generally flows through our creeks on to the Edward’s recharge zone of sinkholes. More wells here mean less groundwater here. Water levels have drastically dropped, springs stopped running, water quality is much poorer, water pressure is down, and wells are going dry. Yet San Antonio’s major development is over the Trinity Aquifer. The public water system has crawled out to the Hill Country, bringing Edwards water far north of its recharge zone while adding water from large Trinity wells. We hear the Canyon Lake water allotments are exhausted; the Guadalupe River is dry in many places. Still, most newcomers think there is a world of water out here. If they are on public water they turn on the tap and (so far) ta-da! Newcomers with wells in the Trinity are from places with adequate water so they water lawns in the afternoon of a July Stage 3 drought! They turn on the tap and oh my! Why isn’t the groundwater district out screaming about this in the media? Where’s the public education required by their by-laws? Well, they do ‘piggy-back’ on San Antonio Water System’s public announcements when going from one drought stage to another. An article? Oh they told us they can’t do articles because the newspaper told them not to come in with anything less than a breaking story.

That’s what they said. If this ain’t a breaking story what is? It’s a whopper. Bebe Fenstermaker A beautiful ranch south of us on Scenic Loop Road was cut up and parts of it sold for development. It is within the three mile endangered species buffer zone surrounding the Army’s medical field training facility, Camp Bullis. Those of us who live in the area have long recognized the ranch as prime habitat for Golden-Cheeked Warblers and Black Capped Vireos. The Army is not happy about the destruction of the habitat either. It will mean more of the birds will land on them. However, according to the developer’s representative, the birds were not found on the property, and even if they had been found on it they would not be able to fly across IH-10 and the strip mall adjacent to it to get to Bullis. Mind you, these are birds that migrate twice annually between Central America and Central Texas! That same representative described the property as “awful old hardpan land covered with rock” during a meeting with concerned and upset neighbors. Two weeks later we heard him testify before the San Antonio Planning Commission that the longer he was on the land the closer he got to it. Go figure. I just finished reading Law on the Last Frontier: Texas Ranger Arthur Hill by S.E. Spinks. Texas Tech University Press pub-

lished it in 2007. It is an account of the development of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and how the already existing Texas Ranger organization was folded into it, excelling as a first rate investigative division of the DPS. The majority of Hill’s 30-year tenure as a Ranger was spent in the Big Bend area. His home base was Alpine and his territory was immense. It encompassed at least three of the State’s largest counties, Brewster, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He was involved with cases of murder, theft, livestock rustling, and smuggling throughout west Texas and along the United States-Mexico border. We were living out there during some of that time. I remember Papa saying West Texas was lucky to have three of the finest peace officers he had ever known -- Texas Ranger Arthur Hill, Alpine Police Chief Jack Johnson, and Brewster County Sheriff Jim Skinner. Two of our family’s closest friends in Fort Davis were Chief Johnson’s brother and sister-inlaw, Preston and Clara Johnson. Papa knew Sheriff Skinner from his ranching days on the Glass Mountains outside of Marathon. He and Uncle Arthur hired Jim Skinner who became a valued ranch hand, and they thought highly of him. I consider we were privileged to have experienced that part of Texas at that time and reading about it through the eyes of Arthur Hill confirmed my feeling. Sissy Fenstermaker

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


The Mystery Customer BY THE mystery Customer


CBP once again fails to show a beating heart; searching for hot coffee, made right and that won’t break the bank

uchas gracias to Tony Roma’s, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden for recently extending themselves to provide hot coffee on demand -- as opposed to raising an eyebrow and sniffing, “We serve only iced tea at this hour of the day, madam” -- as is the case with certain other eating establishments. It is not easy being a 24/7 hot coffee addict in Texas. In addition, Tony Roma’s host and wait staff made haste to provide extra courteous service to a physically challenged person requiring a walker. Good luck on finding a handicapped parking area nearby, though! Speaking of coffee, it would be helpful if McDonald’s (all stores) would increase the number of trained staff available to serve the much-advertised “McCafe “drinks. Some of these drinks are deliciosos but often require a long wait or are not prepared accurately. It might also be observed that these specialty coffees are not necessarily a great deal thriftier in price than those of Starbucks. Of interest to an addict, the Walmart McDonald’s seems to most consistently serve “hot,” hot coffee. Lukewarm doesn‘t work. However, the MC still loves those specialty teas at Starbucks when it comes time to indulge. Nice staff at Del Mar Starbucks, but they, too, don’t always prepare their specialty drinks accurately. Kudos to some exceptional wait staff at the McPherson McDonald’s. One young fellow goes out of his way to extend a cheery greeting and accurate service no matter what else is going on. And the regular daytime female cleaning person is top notch. The young male weekend protégé is always on the spot when something is spilled. Speaking of McDonald’s, I love the exterior of the newest one on Bob Bullock, and the interior is quite elegant and pleasant. But if one sits in the front (adult) dining area, the chair may tip if a heavyset person sits in back of you. The adult dining area seems smaller than usual, but the children’s dining area seems larger. However, the actual play site is fairly small. What does the grandchild think? “Two thumbs up” for the new McDonald’s. (No complaints about the old ones either.) This grandmother is highly appreciative of McDonald’s, Burger King, and the other establishments in the area that provide an opportunity for local children to exercise in a cool environment. Speaking of play areas for children, there


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is a problem with the children’s “pay as you go” cars, train, and jeeps near the carousel in the Mall de Norte. The two play jeeps either do not take quarters or suck up all the quarters one cares to lose -- and do not work. This has been going on for quite some time. Who is in charge of that little play site? Once again the MC has to question Customs and Border Protection training. Unlike their fellow Department of Homeland Security agency, Border Patrol, whose Laredo sector agents seem to be improving in manners, CBP has once again proven to be almost devoid of human emotion, minus one or two shining exemptions. On June 30, at approximately 12:30 p.m., after a business meeting in Nuevo Laredo, I approached the checkpoint on Bridge II. My coworker and I had already noticed that the line we were in was suspiciously slow. It appeared that at least half of the cars ahead had been “randomly” chosen for a secondary inspection. Handing our passports over, I was surprised when, once again, we were pulled over for a secondary inspection. However, unlike the agents at Bridge I, Agent Howard, the first of several insipid CBP employees, took the passports and car keys and disappeared. In the stall next to us was a man from Guanajuato who had been waiting 30 minutes for someone to acknowledge his presence. In the stifling heat of the day, I asked several CBP agents why the car keys and passports had been taken without a word and why we were left standing with no instruction or clue as to what was happening. After several failed attempts to obtain any information, and after an irritating arm shrug from Agent Howard, who had retreated to the air-conditioned office, I stopped a young man named Agent Coe, who quickly apologized and went in search of information. He returned less than a minute later and began his inspection of the car, which included a canine search. Less than five minutes later, after another apology from Coe, we were off again. All in all, we spent more time trying to reenter the United States than we did at our business meeting. Poor form all around. Particularly galling, however, was CBP’s behavior towards a Nuevo Laredo couple the following week. It was reported to the MC that at approximately 2 p.m. on

July 7, during the hottest part of the day, CBP asked a Mexican husband and wife, one of whom recently suffered a heart attack, to pull over for a secondary inspection. Having entering through the SENTRI lane, their SENTRI cards were taken from them. The agent who asked them to park disappeared, along with their cards, which were never returned. Three hours after they were pulled over, they were informed that their cards had been “lost.” The wife believes the cards were instead handing to the taxi driver in line behind them. Her husband informed CBP that he has a heart condition, providing paperwork that shows he needs to cross to seek medical attention. CBP, however, said that it would be at least 5 days before they received their new SENTRI cards. The woman pleaded with them, fearing that should her husband have another heart attack, they would not reach his doctor at the Laredo Medical Center in time. Instead of trying to discover what happened to their SENTRI cards, CBP informed them that they could “call an ambulance.” The MC recently stopped at the Laredo Public Library to pick up some books to read at home. As I was waiting for the new set of books to be processed, I was told that three books, which had been borrowed over one month earlier, had not been returned. Those three were returned over two weeks prior to my most recent visit. At no time during those two weeks -- during which I had borrowed a second set of three books and returned them -- did anyone call me and tell me I had any books overdue. I advised the staff that I had, indeed, returned the missing books more than two weeks ago and had also returned a successive set of borrowed books. The staff advised me that they would need to do a search, and I was not allowed to leave with the new set of books I had chosen. The search would take about 24 hours. By the way, my husband has also been accused of failing to return books at least two times before. In each case, he was able to request an available staff to go upstairs and look for the books while he waited at the desk as he had, indeed, returned them in time. In both instances, my husband was then allowed to leave with his newly chosen books.

The following day, I called the library to check on the status of my search. The responder told me (without asking me for my identity or library card number) that no search had been done and that she had no idea when such a search would begin. In the over 50 years of borrowing books from five other public city libraries and several colleges throughout the country I have: • Always been advised promptly if books were overdue. • Not been completely ignored when requesting a prompt search if/when I might have contested the late status. • Never have experienced a total of at least three accusations within our family unit of two of holding back books and been embarrassed by being sent away with no library privileges indefinitely. I did eventually track down a couple of library personnel to resolve the situation. The books were, indeed, on the library shelves. The MC realizes that expecting good service at Walmart is a crapshoot. With three busy stores, one of which should be avoided at all costs unless you feel like risking your sanity and health (you know which one I mean), you’re lucky if you find a human being who not only understands what you’re asking of them but can then actually help you. But from time to time, everyone reaches a boiling point. For example, on a recent trip to Walmart on Loop 20, I found myself tempted by a beautiful necklace in the jewelry section. Although I had been burned before by Walmart’s “fine” jewelry, the necklace was too beautiful to pass up, and the price seemed to warrant that it was of fairly good quality. However, to begin with, buying this necklace took close to 40 minutes. When the woman at the counter messed up some information on the computer, she disappeared, leaving a very nice woman named Maritza to fill in for her. We chatted as we waited for an assistant store manager to arrive and undo the computer mess, but barely had I gotten away when Maritza called me back. Another mistake had been made and, of course, the assistant store manager had to be called. However, even the assistant couldn’t undo the mess, so I waited another ten minutes for my receipt to be copied and returned. Maritza apologized and I went on my way, fully expecting that to be the end of the story. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

Alas, later that night, as I removed the necklace, the small clasp popped right off, the tiny bit of white gold disappearing into the carpet. I returned to Walmart two days later, trying to explain to yet another Walmart employee named Sandra that it was the necklace, not the pendant, that broke, and all I wanted was a new necklace. However, I was informed that because they did not have that exact pendant in stock anymore, despite the presence of six similar necklaces, they could not exchange it. I was informed that I would have to take my chances at the other two stores. I was asked which store was closer to where I lived, and I had to keep from sputtering, “The one I’m currently in.” After 10 minutes of phone calls and barely intelligible explanations, I was informed that I’d have to go to Walmart on I35 if I wanted a new necklace. And so I went, and after an hour and a half, I finally had a necklace that worked. Free sauna at Dillard’s upstairs! No massage or towels to dry off with, however. Thanks, we suppose, to thermostat adjusting cost cutting efforts, the entire upstairs is disgustingly fetid and customer repelling. The MC would rather shop under a big top on the black asphalt outside than go back in there this summer. What a dis from management to employees and customers alike. Better crank it up for Tax Free Weekend or you’ll have customers desmayandonse. Have a doctor on hand, too, for heat prostration. Great menu choices at Tokyo Garden, which is one of the most relaxed venues for a family meal or a business meeting. Don’t pass up the basil tempura. The restaurant continues to be what it has always been, a class act. Downtown China Border is the venue for Asian food. While other restaurants offer so-so General Tso’s Chicken, China Border does it right. Ditto for the restaurant’s Thai Chicken. The tea is fresh and the wait staff always earns their tips. Stinky bathrooms and noxious fumes in the entryway at Hiyashi Hibachi make for a rather unpleasant eating experience. The food is still delicious but is immediately soured by the smell of sewage. Perhaps they should have placed the restrooms at the rear of the restaurant. Another CBP report came in on Monday, July 13 from a Laredoan who had just crossed Bridge II using the SENTRI lane. After being referred to a secondary inspection, this person was left without instruction. She searched for signs guiding her as to what she needed to do, such as stay in her car, get out of her car, not use her cell phone, etc. Finding none, she opted to stay in her car. After 10 minutes, a female agent approached her to tell her they would be WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

right with her but then disappeared. Another 10 minutes, and she was still waiting for an agent to come and inspect her car. Meanwhile, a group of agents stood chitchatting while those waiting for inspections stood in the heat. In any case, when the female agent finally returned, she took the woman’s SENTRI card, gave it a cursory glance, and then proceeded to open the car doors. However, instead of finishing her inspection of the car, the agent began to chitchat with another agent who wandered by. When she finally finished her conversation, she shut the car door, briefly looked under the hood, used her mirror to glance under the car, and sent the woman on her way. Once again, CBP shows they’re busy keeping our nation safe from ordinary citizens. For those of you traveling to San Antonio this summer and find yourself in Cotulla in search of a quick bite to eat, avoid Wendy’s at all costs. The MC and her friends, as well as 10 other patrons, waited for a half an hour to get their food. Apparently the restaurant staff took a simultaneous break and upon their return, were incapable of doing anything right. No food had been made, which at least meant the food was fresh, and the kids on register messed up the orders so customers who had waited longer received their food last. As far as the food, it was hot, but forgo the Asian Chicken -- it basically consists of chicken nuggets slathered in sauce. The MC was more than a little peeved at the lengths one must go to get tickets to Ricardo Arjona’s concert at the Laredo Entertainment Center. As a normal human being who works all day, it’s difficult getting tickets from the Laredo Entertainment Center when they aren’t open on Saturday and are only open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. When I called the Box Office to purchase them over the phone, I was told they would connect me to Ticketmaster, one of the greatest scams ever orchestrated on music lovers. Two $26 dollar tickets, when combined with all of Ticketmaster’s fees, would cost close to $90. Is it any wonder that the LEC is nearly always half-empty? It was far easier obtaining tickets to Arjona’s concert in Nuevo Laredo. If the Laredo Police Department’s downtown Segway officers want to be pretend like they’re in automobiles while roaming around downtown, the MC believes they should be required to obey traffic laws like every other person. This means no coasting through lights. What a sure fire way to infuriate the people in the cars you’ve delayed because you simply had to ride down the middle of a busy street, blocking two lanes of traffic, for no discernable purpose. u LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


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


fter descending from Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Range, winding through the sand hills of northwest Nebraska, and sideswiping buttes and badlands on the Pine Ridge Reservation, I drove past the revolving wind turbines near the South Dakota state line on July 3 and into Minnesota for a week with my brother’s family. But even before I arrived in Walnut Grove or felt the claustrophobia of cornfields crowding the county roads, I wondered at the stultifying effect of the flat land. Grassy ditches had been mowed like the first cut of rough on a golf course and then baled, and barbed wire fences, strung tight enough to whine in the wind, lined fields and pastures. In southern Minnesota the roads consistently run true north and south and intersect at one-mile intervals, and mechanically parallel rows of corn and soybeans cover section after section laid out in a grid of varying shades of green. Here the idea of a “square mile” is taken literally, “square dealers” are the norm, a “square meal” will sustain men through an afternoon of field work, and the slang for unsophisticated conservatism likely has its origins. And I saw how this land where I was born and raised was also the place where I was bored and restrained, shorn and constrained, where I was sworn to refrain from public displays of nonconformity, and the days seemed paraphrased. So I left. Eventually. But over all those years I hadn’t heard people talk about the land except in terms of dollars or bushels per acre, crop density or concentration of herbicide applied, hadn’t thought much about the land or its effect on me. Until now. And I saw how people had compartmentalized and manhandled it, how imposing this order on the land and seeing it strictly for its monotonous utility -- as I had since I was a boy -- became second nature and infected me as only those influences absorbed throughout childhood can. And I considered how my thought


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Land(e)scape patterns and writing reflexes were predicated naturally and automatically by that flat, partitioned, chemically controlled landscape, much as my blue eyes and pale skin inevitably resulted from my German genes and my bitten lip from Minnesotans’ restraint against conflict. I now suspect this explains my comfort with the logical and rhetorical fundamentals of writing and my growing fascination -- finally, now that I’m past 50 -- with wilder terrain, both geographical and metaphorical. Still I wonder how my writing would have developed had my youth been spent in more extreme topography. Might my paragraphs have been less symmetrical and explicit had I tramped through the monte around Laredo instead of the fenced pasture behind the barn? Might my meaning have been more often deepened and hidden by implication if I’d had canyons and coulees, not just dead furrows and dredge ditches, to explore? Would I have recognized earlier the ways that sense is altered depending on one’s perspective if only I’d hiked through the shifting shadows and overlapping peaks of the Rockies? Would I have recognized the natural, sometimes uncontrollable, eruptive power of language if I’d stood on the north face of Mount St. Helens or circled the base of Devil’s Tower when I was a kid? Could I have understood revision better and sooner or granted language the authority to reveal its own inevitable meaning, not mine, if I’d spent summers watching the Gulf surf endlessly alter the sandy beach of North Padre Island? This is what I’ve felt this summer as I first drove to Laredo, then flew from Denver to Philadelphia, and finally drove to Walnut Grove, all in preparation for moving to eastern Pennsylvania, where the Appalachian Mountains and Susquehanna River will, I suspect, offer their own source of escape from the leveling influence of Minnesota farmland and slowly affect my writing, in the almost imperceptible way that the land changes under our feet. u


By the way…. By Jennie reed By The Way appears monthly in Greater Laredo Magazine. It is reprinted here with permission.


A fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon

e are still trying to come to cast of characters that peopled their lives. grips with the sudden and Husband Barry’s newest gadget, the unexpected loss of brother/ Kindle DX from Amazon, is what tempted brother-in-law/uncle/friend Courtney me. It is an electronic book that looks like a Reed. He died from an aneurysm. Court small computer screen. He says it can hold went to school in Laredo and after earning thousands of books that can be ordered his master’s degree in geology from Texas and downloaded immediately. Curiosity Tech University he worked for several oil led me to take a peek, and I was hooked. companies before settling in New Orleans, There went the weekend, with me up to where the US Geological Survey Minerals my old reading tricks of ignoring whatever Management employed him until his re- was happening until it was finished. tirement. He and his wife Pat made their I enjoyed the e-mails urging all of us home in the New Orleans suburb of Ken- to watch the Tonight Show because Laredo ner. native and actress Julia Vera would be on. They had recently purchased a condo- We watched the skit and hope more opminium in San Antonio and were enjoying portunities come up for this talented and trips to the Alamo City, rendedicated actress. Laredo ovating it and seeing Laretalent still shines. It was do family and friends more also very good to read Dr. often. Their two daughters, Neo Gutierrez’ comments Alexis “Lexie” and Courtin LareDOS, as well. ney “Courtie” are brilliant A wonderful old photo and beautiful young womof the elegant staircase at en pursuing their educathe then elegant Plaza Thetions and careers. His passatre was circulated to all. ing reminds us all not to The past has such a hold on miss a single opportunity so many of us. It is always to tell those you love that fun to revisit “the good old you do, and to make the days,” sometimes convemost of every moment beniently forgetting that they cause we are on God’s timhad their ups and downs, ing, not our own. It won’t Olga Meyer too. The older we get, matter if we finished a task though, the more intriguor didn’t take that trip or straighten the ing they seem to get. closet or write that book. What will matter The Society of Martha Washington is if we took care of the important things, Colonial Ladies, founded in 1968 at the and if we were right with our Maker. Our suggestion of then president Olga Meyer, dear Court. How we will miss you. hosted a lovely tea at Lorraine Laurel’s We also lost cousin Bobby Spear. Bobby beautiful home. Annabelle Hall co-hosted followed in the tradition of many family the event. Olga explained about her idea to members with railroad careers. His long expand the Society, and the new members career culminated as President of the Tex were most interested to learn more of the Mex Railroad. Godspeed to another good history of the venerable Society. On exhibit man. was the beautiful Colonial Ladies’ scrapFor anyone with a million interests, just book, beautifully and lovingly created and kicking back does not come easily, but I’m updated by Lamar Gallagher. trying. You just have to let some things go As I sit at the computer, I am aware of and learn not to feel guilty if settling down all around me. The hummingbirds just outwith a good book turns into more hours side the window dart about, poking their than you intended. Christopher Buckley’s noses into the blossoms of the firecracker tome, Losing Mum and Pup, has made great bushes. The banana trees sway in the faint summer reading. Long an admirer of his breeze. A passing bird takes time to sit on dad, William F. Buckley Jr.’s books on sail- top of the little fountain, flapping its wings ing, Cristo, as his parents called him, writes in gratitude for this respite from the heat. of his parents’ last days and, through flash- It’s summertime and the livin’ is easy. A backs, recounts the fascinating events and fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon. u WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Janice Gonzalez and Veronica Castillon admire the scrapbook.

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Reflections of a New Texan By DENISE FERGUSON

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

Playing it forward -- a life of service


and Honduras as a medical missionary to help the poor and to bring them medicines and vaccines. Ramirez’s oldest daughter Violeta obtained an Associates Degree from San Antonio Community College. She worked within the Christian Church and belonged to the choir and church drama group. Violeta’s husband Jose served in Germany with the U.S. Army for three years. As an administrator for the National Guard, he served as a counselor and advisor. Of her son-in-law, Ramirez said, “I try to teach him Spanish. And he helps me to improve my English.” Ramirez’s son Juan Jr. received his Associate’s Degree in Art Design at LCC. In due time, “Juan started serving God by going to religious conferences. Eventually he was assigned as a prayer leader and learned his calling,” said Ramirez. After returning to Laredo with his wife Diana in 2005, Juan Jr. was offered a position as Children’s Pastor and teacher substitute at Piedra Angular Christian Church. At the same time he is able to ply his trade as a graphic designer in an office within the same building, as well as work on completing his Bachelor‘s Degree. Currently, Lucy Ramirez volunteers about 10 hours weekly at an affiliation of the food bank. She attends church services three days per week at Piedra Angular where her husband, son, and youngest daughter preach. At church on Sundays, Ramirez pursues another important ministry. “I help take care of the babies,” said Ramirez. u

Courtesy Photo

ucy Ramirez is an example of what we all strive for. She exemplifies the best qualities of two cultures in this border city, and has instilled in her offspring a sense of community service, educational initiative, work ethics, and faith. Ramirez’s life began with good fortune when an aunt, a Laredoan, convinced Ramirez’s mother to stay in the city where Lucy was born. Subsequently, her parents returned to their native Nuevo Laredo, and Ramirez attended local schools and continued her studies at Nuevo Laredo City College, where she pursued secretarial studies and helped fellow students with English and shorthand. After graduating, she and her new husband Juan took up life in Laredo while she studied for her GED and worked at Brennan & Company. In 1985 Ramirez earned her Associates Degree from Laredo Community College. She has been working at Los Angeles Wholesale/Las Novedades as an inventory clerk for 23 years -- with a caveat, however. “I have worked part time so that I can spend time with my family,” said Ramirez. Ramirez and her husband now have three grown children. At an early age, their youngest daughter Lilia expressed a desire to be a missionary at the Joyce Meyer Ministries in St. Louis, Missouri. Ramirez said, “Lilia was trained to assist the homeless, drug addicts, and prostitutes and provide meals to the hungry.” Lilia is also a registered nurse who trained at LCC and has worked for Mercy Hospital. She went as part of the “Dream Center” to Cambodia

The Ramirez family Juan and Lucy Ramirez with their daughter Lilia, son Juan Jr., daughter-inlaw Diana, daughter Violeta, and son-in-law Jose. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


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. Contact

Photo by Monica McGettrick


Patient nurses Registered nurses Marisela Lugo, Christina Soto, and Rosa Vidaurri take a brief break from filling out charts and assessing patients scheduled for surgeries at Laredo Medical Center. These friendly and skilled nurses are on-on hand to answer patient questions.


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LMT editor serves as Pulitzer Prize judge

aredo Morning Times editor Diana R. Fuentes served as one of the journalism jurors for this year’s Pulitzer Prize. According to Fuentes, it was a wonderful experience. Her group judged the investigative reporting category. Fuentes became editor of LMT in May 2004, after first working as a police reporter in 1979. She served as news editor and city editor before leaving in 1987. Aside from the LMT, Fuentes has worked for Laredo News, Del Rio NewsHerald, San Antonio Light, San Antonio Express-News, and the Beaumont Enterprise. Fuentes grew up in Laredo and received her BA in journalism from the University of Texas -Austin, and her writing and editing have won several state and national awards. She serves on the national board of the American Society of News Editors, the state boards of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the Texas AP Managing Editors, and has served as national treasurer of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. To Fuentes, one of the most moving moments in her career came while she was reporting on Pope John Paul II during his 1990 tour of Mexico. While interviewing a pair of nuns, the police slammed the gates and told everybody not to move. Stuck in the crush of the crowd between the nuns and a group of priests, the crown calmed

when the Pope made his way down. He stood right in front of Fuentes, who said, “Nostrovia, Father!” (To your health!) He looked right at her, smiled a gentle smile, and blessed her. Jumping now to Austin, Sandra Bullock just scored big with the opening box office results of her latest movie The Proposal. It’s interesting that comedies are doing exceptionally well in our present difficult economy. Also, around mid-June, while channel surfing, I got to see musical group Costumbre of Zapata (my birthtown) glowing on Escandalo TV from Miami, starring Charytin. The quintet sang from their new CD, Siempre. Go to ( and enjoy! Another ex-Zapatan, now of LA, teacher/actress Claudia Villarreal has written a children’s book -- When the Alphabet Thief Stole the Vowels. You can find it on ebay and Facebook Marketplace. I must mention Michael Jackson and the most amazing thing in his entire life -- he never once took a singing or dancing lesson! He was an amazing artist but a very tortured human being. Que en paz descanse. And the June Time Magazine with the Franklin Delano Roosevelt cover reminded me that my major dance teacher at Columbia University, Dr. Jeannette Schlottman, married one of FDR’s sons. And on that note, it’s time for -- as Norma Adamo says -- TAN TAN ! u



LareDOS | JU LY 2009 |


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.


Empty Bowls to help feed the hungry

person taking a philosophical look at life noted, “Life is the eternal now.” And so it is at the South Texas Food Bank, with its mission of feeding the hungry and helping the needy. It’s a constant -- the eternal now. The charitable non-profit STFB is always looking for ways of raising funds to help an ever-growing number of needy people make ends meet by distributing supplemental food. Although the food bank generally averages 18,000 families per month, it distributed food to 20,000 families this past May, an alltime high. The STFB is on pace to distribute eight million pounds of food this year. The tough economy is not only making it difficult for families, it is also challenging charitable organizations. In the hierarchy of human needs, food and water is number one, and we have both. The food bank’s two major fundraisers for the year are the Border Media Radio Drive, which raised over $100,000, and the upcoming Laredo Entertainment Center-South Texas Food Bank Empty Bowls on Aug. 13 at the LEC, which also has the potential to raise at least another $100,000. This year’s event will feature the Grammy Award-winning group America. The doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the concert begins at 8 p.m. The Empty Bowls silent auction and dinner begin at 6:30. While table floor seating is no longer available, there are concert tickets still available for $27, $17, or $12. There are four levels of sponsorship -platinum, gold, silver, and bronze. The platinum sponsors are Laredo Entertainment Center, ANB Cattle Company, Fernando Salinas Charitable Trust, Los Angeles Cattle Company, Border Media, Guerra Communications, and Univision. The Gold sponsors are Carranco and Lawson CPA, Judge C.Y. and Letty Benavides, and Memo Benavides Z. The Silver sponsors are Texas Community Bank, Galo García Trust, and Rancho Viejo Cattle Company. The Bronze sponsors are Penn Petroleum, Goyo Lopez, Arguindegui Oil, Conoco-Phillips, Drs. Vanessa Carpenter and Joe Castellano, Commerce Bank, Jimmy Jones, Pete Saenz, Carrigan Law Firm, Rebecca Azios Benavides, Falcon International Bank, Juan and Sandra Salinas, Ramon Zertuche Construction, Leo de la Garza, Danny Cuellar, Kevin Romo, Leyendecker Construction, A-1 Collision Center-Laredo Truck and Trailer, Joe


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Brand, Joe Rathmell, Zapata National Bank, IBC-Zapata, Laredo Medical Center, Angel Laurel Sr., Nuevo Laredo Mayor Ramon Garza Barrios, David Dodier, Adrian Martinez, Rosaura “Wawi” Tijerina, Salvador Rosa, Elsa Laurel Nicholson, H.E.B., Laredo artists, Mike Garza, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini. To spur concert ticket sales, the food bank staff scheduled a Lock Up on July 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Embassy Suites. Several civic-minded Laredoans agreed to be “arrested” by Webb County constable Rudy Rodriguez and placed in a mock jail at the north Laredo hotel on Calle Del Norte near Mall Del Norte. In order to get bailed out, they must sell a minimum of $200 worth of tickets. Among the “suspects” jailed were Mayor Raul Salinas; County Commissioner Jerry Garza; City Councilmembers Tito Garcia, Mike Garza, and Juan Narvaez; Sheriff Martin Cuellar; Rep. Richard Raymond; Judges Danny Valdez, Hector Liendo, Ramiro Veliz, Joe Lopez, Elma Salinas Ender, and Oscar Hale; and County Attorney Ana Laura Cavazos Ramirez. “The lockup will hopefully stimulate more interest and fill the seats, which means more hungry families will be helped,” said STFB Adopt-a-Family coordinator Cindy Liendo-Espinoza. Laredo rancher, businessman, and philanthropist Arturo N. Benavides Sr. will be recognized for his contribution to the STFB. The Benavides Family, in cooperation with the Fernando Salinas Trust, sponsors Kid’s Cafes at the Benavides Boys and Girls Club, Rio Bravo and El Cenizo Centers. Food notes Carino’s Italian Restaurant will cook a spaghetti meal per month for the boys and girls at the STFB Larga Vista Kid’s Café, which is sponsored by Gateway Rotary Club. Convergys employees raised more than $7,000 and adopted 60 families as part of the Adopt-a-Family program. Convergys operations manager Robert Juarez organized the event. Laredo civic clubs are getting involved in the hunger issue. Among groups donating were Daybreak Rotary Club, Next Generation Rotary, and the Noon Lions Club. Sam’s Club employees collected $2,800 at six Laredo intersections during a Saturday morning bucket brigade for the food bank. The store added a $3,000 corporate donation. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

Continued from page 48 Naturally, it now was necessary for Lira to commute to San Antonio to attend his weekend Reserve meetings. Lira recounted, “There were quite a few Marine Reservists from Laredo at that time. A freshly First Sergeant Tony Gutierrez recruited (deceased) borrowed one of Lira in 1970 those old ‘blue bomber’ buses at Laredo Air Force Base motor pool and we drove up on Friday afternoons to U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and U.S. Naval Reserve Center (USMRC&USNR Center) north of San Antonio on the Austin highway. We traveled light, our ‘Marine green’ utilities, boots, sometimes a blanket or a sleeping bag. already earned certificates in Reading, We bedded down right there at the Cen- Administrative Supervision, and Superter, anywhere we could find the space on intendentship. “The coursework I did in the floor. There were no luxuries, no ame- Austin was transferable and it was sufnities. We made do -- you get used to it. I ficient to earn me my Reading specialist guess that was part of the training. We’d certificate at LSU,” Juanita said. get up early Saturday morning and drill Laredo State University became Texas all day. The Sunday routine was the same. A&M International University (TAMIU) Sometimes it was necessary for us to spend in the early 1990s, and the current campus the night at Camp Bullis (Camp Bullis on University Boulevard was officially Military Training Reservation) in north- opened in 1995. Lira made the move to the west San Antonio. We had to sleep under attractive new location at that time and the stars a few times out there. We didn’t now is Associate Provost/Regents Profesmind, though -- we had our ponchos, our sor. field jackets, and our utility uniforms. “Lira explained, “I operate in a great The year 1976 was a transitional one variety of situations. The Marine Corps for Lira, for his USMC Reserve obligation was a great proving ground. I learned to came to an end when he was honorably be flexible in my thinking and to not keep discharged as a Sergeant and he shifted looking at problems from one viewpoint from UISD to Laredo Junior College alone, and not to close my mind to other (now LCC) as a reading instructor for resources. The experience proved vital to the ’77-’78 school year. Lira also received me. Things I learned back then are useful his Masters in Education with a major in to me every day in my current job. As AsReading in 1975 from Laredo State Uni- sociate Provost, I office must interact coopversity (LSU). In 1978,he began teaching eratively with the academic sector and the curriculum and instruction and reading administration. This is the way I must opat LSU. Lira said that when he took this erate to help coordinate assessment activijob he assured LSU president Dr. Billy ties for the university. If you’re not flexible, Cowart that he would have his doctor- you’re going to be done in. The purpose of ate in hand after five years. Lira actually this office is to examine and weigh options earned his doctorate within seven years, in order to accomplish a goal.” beginning in the summer of ’79, studyHe added, “I credit the Marine Corps ing at the University of Texas during four for much of what I have been able to acconsecutive summer sessions until he complish in my life. I am grateful to the received his PhD. in curriculum and in- Marine Corps for showing me a way of struction with emphasis in reading from life -- a life in which you thrive on being UT’s renowned School of Education in disciplined and accepting challenges. 1985. Juanita took the same courses con- The Corps taught me how to work concurrently to earn a doctoral degree and structively with other people, to bring to return to Laredo to become principal our powers together to solve problems of Newman Elementary School before so that we can take full advantage of evthe final exams were held. Juanita had eryone’s talents.”u


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Here’s a message from my heart -- Please hear me out!

You voted me into office in 2002, And I came through! While I was in charge:

1. I attended every meeting 2. I responsibly managed our fiscal affairs • First A+ bond rating in Webb County history • $12 million budget surplus

3. I renewed and bolstered our infrastructure 4. I was pro-active and involved in the issues

Compare me to the incumbent, And compare my record to his record --

Webb County is in a deficit now, And only new leadership, MY LEADERSHIP, Can set things right again!

Let’s stop the downward spiral!

LEADERSHIP FOR WEBB COUNTY Louis H. Bruni for County Judge in 2010


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LaredosNews July 2009  

LareDosNews July 2009

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