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Locally Owned

A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS

march 2011

DOS

Est. 1994

Vol. XVII No. 3

64 PAGES

@lareDOSnews

Barbara Kazen January 03, 1941 - March 15, 2011

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s there is much to admire and love about Barbara Kazen’s exemplary life, there is also much from which to draw inspiration. Beyond the feeding of the poor, the elderly, the homeless, and the disenfranchised, and beyond offering them shelter as Bethany House expanded its services over the last decade, she poured the milk of human kindness into empty cups, offering hope and dignity where there had been none. I had occasion to interview Barbara several times about Bethany’s history, its growth, and its role (and hers) in the service of humankind, and always, always as I asked for responses that might credit her for the noble mission she carried out, she instead gave it to the people she worked with, to generous donors, to volunteers, and to many of the patrons of Bethany House who returned the hand-up with service. She talked about the old standard of giving, the one she learned as a child — “Time, Talents, and Treasures” — time to volunteer, talent to share a skill such as cooking or tutoring, and treasures such as a monetary gift, or a gift of clothing or a commodity. I last spoke with Barbara about a year ago. She’d found our office door locked and had walked around the back where I was working on my vegetable garden. We talked about gardens, and as on other occasions we talked about our collective failure as a community and as a nation to take on homelessness — to end it — and to meet the food and shelter needs of children, the elderly, and families. “Those two things, just those two things,” she said, speaking in the voice of one who every day moved with grace through a life dedicated selflessly to that very purpose. We will long remember and respect the memory of a gentle, soft-spoken woman who went about God’s work with the energy and ideas that grew the Bethany House mission and facilities into a holistic proposition that saved individual lives and whole families. Well it would be that we honored Barbara Kazen by believing as she did that an act of kindness can change a life. Meg Guerra

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. Mother Teresa LareDOS Newspaper


María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

Sacred Heart gets “the floor” from Zapata County Fair IBC banker Renato Ramirez and R&P Ramirez Ltd. purchased many of the Zapata County Fair projects that did not sell to bidders and delivered them to the Sacred Heart Children’s Home. The delivery included steers, sheep, goats, hogs, turkeys, chickens, and rabbits. According to Sister María Teresa Grajeda, the generosity of donors like the Ramirez family and others allows the home to care for children in need.

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Santa María Journal

By María Eugenia guerra

Ninja güelita Tinker Bells and Peter Pans herself across the ranch land on four-wheeler

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ong have I eschewed the whine of four wheelers interrupting the quietude of the ranch lands. The sound is up there with the small engine drone of Weedeaters and leaf blowers outside the office windows of LareDOS when we are on deadline — an assault on clear thinking. And so when my son brought his four-wheeler to the ranch, I mustered tolerance for the camopainted beast and braced myself for something that would surely grow into a nuisance and blossom into a point of contention between us. It didn’t make any noise, damn it, and it looked like my granddaughters, safely helmeted, were enjoying the rides they were taking with their father at slow speeds around the house pasture. Still, I held out with an indignant pose, seeing the machine as frivolity and the toy of a grown man. Then he handed me the keys and the ridiculous looking uber high-tech camo coordinated Ninja helmet, and in the blink of an eye and after a two-minute tutorial, I was Tinker Belling and Peter Panning myself all over the ranch, seeing the land and experiencing it up close and personal, surveying as I have on horseback the rise and fall of the terrain. The carbon footprint of the four-wheeler is certainly smaller than the behemoth of the trusty 10-year-old F-250 diesel. Closer to the ground and with great ease, I can check our perimeter fences and the plumbing that moves water to every pasture. I can spot and gather up the plastic water bottles and litter left by caminantes who move at night from the river at San Ygnacio to points east. And I can have the experience of feeling the temperature change and all the accompanying sounds and water smells of traveling along the dam of a pond. At the end of a full workday in town WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

I traveled to the ranch to make my usual checks on gates and buildings. The temperature near sunset was deliciously cool, and the fading light threw a golden cast across everything that would hold the last of it — strands of wire, the tips of dried bunchgrasses, the red earth. The

air was clean, redolent of the exhalations of winter weeds. On the four-wheeler, my speed topped off at 8 mph, I gulped in the beauty of this piece of earth so dear to me, the serenity of it punctuated with a cottontail scampering through the brush, a covey of quail flushed from their

cover, a massive white owl moving from one mesquite perch to another, its wingspan breathtakingly immense. I made my vuelta and headed back to the compound, all at once exhilarated and calmed by the peace of the natural world that I had traversed. u LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS Staff

The delight of gardeners and cooks Herbs, lots of them, were offered by vendors at the March 19 Farmer’s Market. Aromatic basil, rosemary, and thyme were among the offerings.

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From the Editor’s Desk

Keep Laredo active and eating well By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

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hile waiting in line at a bank the other day, I listened to a mother ask her children, “Do you want McDonald’s or Burger King?” The two choices were fast food or more fast food. Hispanic children are the most at risk to become overweight or obese, meaning that they are also at an especially high risk of developing a cardiovascular disease or diabetes, according to a study put out by pediatrics professor Daniel E. Hale at the University of Texas at San Antonio (Find it at this address: library.uthscsa.edu/events/getHipHale.pdf ). The study finds that in Laredo and the rest of South Texas, children are just getting fatter. This is because of obvious reasons: mainly fattier diets, low income, and poor health care. Fast food is convenient and cheap, and the restaurants are located in high- and

low-income areas. Even an eatery like Subway, which used its mascot Jared to promote the restaurant’s “healthy eating” lifestyle, loses healthfulness when a customer layers on condiments, heavy cheeses, and dressings. Let me be painfully frank: I am overweight. I’m 5’9’’ and nearly 300 pounds (It hurts to type that). I’ve struggled with it since I was toddler. My mother would tell me startling stories of my youth: eating bottle after bottle of baby food, growing as tall as a 4-year-old when I was 2, and a hunger that was insatiable. Her family did not have problems with diabetes, but in my father’s family, the disease is rampant. During middle school, I swam more than 2 hours every day after school — rigorous and tiring workouts. But while my muscles became toned, I lost little weight. Looking back, I could attribute this to overeating. When I came home, I wolfed down everything, and my hunger was even more insatiable. I had the ex-

ercise down, but there was no diet component. Forget the infomercials, diet pills, and magic shakes You’ll never stop hearing this from doctors, dieticians, and health advisers: There is no magic diet pill, shake, or food. The ever-popular Lap-Band surgery shouldn’t be the go-to solution when you’ve gained too much weight. It’s not as simple as the doctors and hospitals make it sound: As with all surgeries, there will be complications, and you won’t know how your body will react until it happens. One of my former teachers recently died of a heart attack because her body could not handle the after-effects of the surgery. There are risks. If you are overweight, think about how much you’ve attempted exercise: One month at time? Two months at a time? If you cannot keep a routine past a few months, I think going to the Lap-Band surgery is not the answer. One of the answers is sheer willpower, with which most people struggle. Do not think you are a failure because you couldn’t keep a routine. Health advisers will tell you that most people give up too easily because they set their goals too highly and they start exercise and dieting routines that are too difficult to keep up. If you are bad with will power like I am, then build it up. You have to start somewhere, and starting small will ensure that you build up the willpower to keep exercising. You must also build up habits — healthy eating habits, exercise habits, and parking the car a little further away from the supermarket so you can fit in a little walking. Let’s lose the weight together, and prevent the health problems later on. Let’s also teach our children to be active. As a parent, it is easy to let your child sit in front of a television all day and play video games or watch Cartoon Network. It’s easy to allow them to stay indoors all day. But an active lifestyle is not about taking the easy way out. Make your children go outside and play today, and tomorrow they will already have developed an active lifestyle. Can a video game really help you be active? For the child or adult who loves video games, consider the Wii Fit.

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Cristina’s advice (22 years in the making)

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he keys to weight loss are small steps, consistent health check-ups, and patience. • My brother, who is wise 17-year-old, advised me to start with a goal of 10 to 25 pounds. Small goals are doable, and just like adding pennies or nickels to piggy bank, these small contributions will eventually add up. You won’t get that failure feeling that you get when you concentrate on losing 50, 75, or 100 pounds. • Don’t go full-throttle into your diet routine. If you start depriving yourself of everything that you love, you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead of Taco Palenque tonight, make some Mexican food at home. You’ll know what you’re putting into your food and can control the portions. Don’t make the excuse of being “too busy.” Ask yourself: Why am I too busy for my own health? Don’t my kids deserve to eat well, too? • Same goes for exercise. Start small: Walk around the block a few times one day until you’re tired. Then increase each week. The weather has been marvelous lately, and when it gets hot, put on some sunscreen (protect yourself against skin cancer, please) and enjoy the sweat. I always feel energized after a workout where I sweat, especially with my extremely slow metabolism. • If you struggle with health problems such as diabetes, make sure you keep up with your doctor checks and medications. I’ve fallen of the wagon when it comes to meds, and I need to get a check-up and get back on my meds. It’ll make you happier in the long run — trust me. u

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Nueva Vida Maternity Clinic Operated by Doctors Hospital, caring for the community since 1974. We’re ready to give your little one a strong start. Services

Office Hours

• Free pregnancy testing • Expectant mother care, including normal and high-risk pregnancy • Ultrasound • Pap smears • Fetal monitoring • Lab services

Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Call 956-727-0722 for more information.

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

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I attended some health demonstrations at the healthy aging conference put on by the University of Texas Health Science Center on March 4, and I was quite surprised to see two trainers demonstrating the Wii Fit. I own a Wii Fit, and I enjoy using it, but take a look around blogs, forums and Facebook and you’ll see people hatefully spewing comments such as “Yeah, sure, fatties pretending to exercise. Why don’t you just go outside?” and so on. This stigma made me question the trainers, and one told me, “Any movement, as long as you’re sweating and moving, is good. Nothing on [Wii Fit] could hurt you.” Indeed, I’ve worked up a good sweat on the Wii Fit, especially with the strength training exercises, which require you to do exercises such as push-ups, lunges, and planks. I don’t see how a video game could make these exercises less effective. And why should haters and Internet trolls discourage you when you’re actually taking the initiative and exercising? My conclusion: Look at the Wii Fit as a fun way to fit in some exercise when you don’t have time to go out, and combine it with a normal exercise routine of walking, running, or attending the gym. Don’t rely on the game alone. Your body needs and craves sunlight. Don’t starve yourself, but don’t overdo it I picked up some literature from the Texas Diabetes Council at the healthy aging conference titled “Food for Life.” This pamphlet says, “The good news is that when you have diabetes, you still can eat most of the same foods you’ve always eaten. But you might have to change: how much you eat, how often you eat, [and] when you eat.” Here are my favorite tips for living with (and eating for) diabetes, from the same pamphlet: • The food you eat should fit in with your family’s eating. A diabetic diet should

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not be very different from a regular, health diet. • Eat a variety of foods. • Never skip meals. • Eat breakfast. You need something first thing in the morning (Side note from the editor: This is very important. I always have a better day when I eat a huge breakfast. Don’t worry too much about dieting during breakfast time.) Watch out for those restaurant portions Despite the detrimental impact restaurant food can have to health, Laredoans love eating out. Under the “tips for living well” title, the Texas Diabetes Council’s literature calls attention to a great tip: “If you eat at a restaurant and the portions are too large, ask for a carry-home container.” I cannot stress this enough. I adore leftovers from my favorite restaurant because I get to enjoy that meal twice. First lady Michelle Obama is pushing for smaller portions at restaurants. While I do not agree with all of her methods in her obesity campaign, I totally agree with this advice. According to a survey by the Obesity Society in 2006, restaurant portions have been steadily increasing since 1970. Know before you go out to eat that you will receive a portion that could be up to four times larger than the normal food portion. Consider the alternatives to restaurant food, though. The Farmers Market at Jarvis Plaza provides a wonderful opportunity to load up on your fresh vegetables and grains for home cooking, which is the healthiest way to provide meals for your family and yourself. You have the ability to control portions and not use unhealthy additives in your dinner. “Fresh products are healthier for you. You know they are not covered in pesticides or any of that stuff,” Farmers Market manager Alli Hrncir told me. “We have an advisory committee that ensures the fresh produce meets our standards.” Check out the market’s website at laredomainstreet.org/farmersmarket/. u

Maria Eugenia Guerra

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A pause in the garden planting RGISC board members Dr. Rodolfo Rincón (left) and Victor Oliveros paused a moment in the compost shoveling to have an animated conversation.

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Speakers at the recent UTHSCSA healthy aging conference included (left to right) Nicolas Musi, M.D., Lyda Arévalo-Flechas, Ph.D., M.S.N., RN, Regional Dean Gladys Keene, M.D., M.P.H., Jerald Winakur, M.D., FACP, CMD, and Eleonore Paunovich, D.D.S., M.S., DABSCD. Seminar topics included medical and dental considerations, mental issues, and caring for caregivers.

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Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Panel addresses healthy aging

At the Healthy Aging Conference Respiratory care student María Cortez-Martinez explained the effects that smoking has on the lungs to attendees at the recent UTHSCA conference on healthy aging. The conference included hands-on demonstrations on healthy cooking, home gardening, physical activity, and dental hygiene.

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Cassandra Canales, Alex Iadiapaolo, and Richard Resendez are pictured in the Laredo Theater Guild International’s production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, which opens Thursday, March 24 and continues through Sunday, March 27 at the TAMIU Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. The play is directed by John Maxstadt and produced by Joe Arciniega. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors and are available at Foster’s at 1202 Del Mar Blvd.; Blue Top at 101 Hillside Rd. #11; and the TAMIU Bookstore. For more information, call (956) 319-8610.

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María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS Staff

Armando X. Lopez

LTGI in rehearsals for The Importance of Being Earnest

Handcrafts at the Farmer’s Market The March 19 Farmer’s Market, another success for Laredo Main Street, featured some beautiful handcrafted items including the recycled wood birdhouses made by Dimitri García who is pictured with his son Dimi.

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Commentary

Long ER wait not particular to Laredo By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

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desperate mother clings to her sick child, who is wrapped in a tattered Winnie the Pooh blanket and letting out anguished cries of pain, while an elderly woman sits with her husband calmly. I wonder why the elderly couple is there, because they don’t look like they need urgent care, but I try not to make too many assumptions. Plenty of mothers sit with their children, who wreak havoc around the room. I see few fathers, but that’s not surprising to me, unfortunately. This is the Laredo Medical Center’s Emergency Room. My mother also sits in the room, miserable and deathly pale. She isn’t waiting for an ER doctor to see her; she’s simply waiting for the nurses to clear out a room. They’ve put her in the ER to wait, which is absolute hell for her. Children yell and cry — I am startled

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by the sheer amount of children waiting — and my mother has had a pounding headache for hours. “Can you just call me when you find a room?” she asks the nurses, half jokingly and half serious. At least she wouldn’t be suffering in a noisy, fluorescent-lit ER. The lit-up billboard outside of the hospital boldly proclaims a four-minute wait time. My mother has been sitting there for three hours, and this is what she tells me about the wait: “Yeah, they are calling people every four minutes, but the people who come in wait longer than four minutes.” Deceptive advertising, I opine. The billboard leads ER patients to believe that they will only have to wait four minutes before they are admitted. I remark about this to the receptionist. “Yes, we get a lot of questions and complaints about those signs,” she says with a nervous laugh. What? Then why advertise it? I’m not

surprised, but this type of advertising has always bothered me, especially after taking a few advertising classes that taught what constitutes false and deceptive advertising. Sure, an argument could me made that all ads are kind of deceptive, but these signs are blatantly so and a sad affront to people in need of medical attention. When we finally get a room, we wait for every service for long periods of time. It takes and hour to get pillows, another hour to get an IV hooked up to my mother, another hour to get her a shower, and so on. But I do not blame the staff of LMC for the long waits. They are clearly understaffed and overworked. The nurse who brings me a pillow for my mother struggles with pillowcase. She is clearly frazzled, so I tell her, “Please, let me do that. I know you are busy.” She gives me an appreciative look, says, “Thank you so much!” and hurriedly walks away to another duty. There are plenty of rooms available for newly admitted patients, but there are not enough nurses and doctors to take care of the patients. No, I don’t blame the staff. I blame the system as a whole, and although it may seem like I am aiming my complaints at Laredo Medical Center, I am really aiming them at ERs across the United States. Will Obama’s health care law alleviate the ER waits? Do a quick Google search

and the answers are grim. A doctor quoted in an AP article about longer wait times had this to say about the changes brought on by the health care law: “’Just because we’ve insured people doesn’t mean they now have access,’ said Dr. Elijah Berg, a Boston area ER doctor. ‘They’re coming to the emergency department because they don’t have access to alternatives.’” The AP article provides some reasons for the overcrowding. From 1991 to 2008, there was a 10-percent decline in the number of emergency rooms, but the demand rose “dramatically.” The article goes on to give an alarming and probably most important reason ERs will only become more overcrowded. The largest number of patients who use ERs are Medicaid recipients, and Obama’s health care law added 16 million of them. Family doctors limit how many Medicaid patients they take in simply because it doesn’t pay to take in a Medicaid recipient. State and federal governments give low reimbursements to doctors who take in Medicaid recipients, so you can do the math. And to add to that, the number of general practitioners is dwindling under the stress of too many patients and not enough pay. More med students are opting for specialized medicine, which provides more lucrative careers. So, the ER wait continues. My mom says it best, “Just try to stay out of the ER at all costs.” u

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News & Commentary

A tale of two school districts By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series focusing on the daunting budget cuts that the two school districts in Laredo may face. In this part, we talked to superintendents and spokespersons from both districts, focusing on

the transparency of how the districts have been with the process. In a March 5 news conference about state sovereignty, Gov. Rick Perry sent a message loud and clear to Texans: The state will not be at fault for teacher layoffs. “The lieutenant governor, the speaker, and their colleagues aren’t going to hire or fire one teacher, as best I can

United Independent School District Superintendent: Roberto Santos Staff: About 6,700 Students: 40,885 [Numbers based on 2009-2010 school year] Check out the front page of United Independent School District’s website and you might notice something missing. The page makes no mention of any budget-cutting process. It takes some digging in school board agendas and documents to figure out that there is a budget crisis going on at UISD, too. It also took this reporter much prodding and poking to get answers out of UISD’s superintendent Roberto Santos and the communications office. “It’ll be up to our department to let [employees] know. We’ll have to do some sort of publication,” said UISD spokesperson Veronica Cantu. “You can go to our website and get that information. If you go to our website, you’ll find the back-up of what we’ve presented at other meetings.” As of press time, the “Agenda Packet” links for each meeting did not direct to documents presented at each meeting, but rather another copy of the meeting’s agenda. Cantu said she would check with the IT Department after the spring break. When asked whether UISD planned to post a special section of their website for the budget-cutting process like LISD, Cantu said, “That’s not up to me.” Superintendent Roberto Santos did not provide a clearer answer. He seemed unprepared for the question of why the district had not provided much explicit information on their website. “I don’t know yet why — I’m sure we’ll post something. Maybe we

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Laredo Independent School District Superintendent: A. Marcus Nelson Staff: 4,479 Students: 24,707 [Numbers based on 2009-2010 school year]

haven’t done it. It comes from our finance people. We had noticed that [LISD] had posted it, but everybody’s different,” Santos told LareDOS at the March 8 business and instructional committees meeting. “The public is welcome to all these meetings that we have. We post, and people know when they will be, just like today.” Among the cost-cutting measures proposed were district boundary changes that would move students from one school to another. More than a dozen parents and employees showed up at the March 8 meeting to voice their concerns about the district’s proposed boundary changes, which would move 120 students from Fasken Elementary to Kazen Elementary. Three representatives were allowed to speak on the subject before the timekeeper told the rest of the parents that three more would be allowed to speak at the next board meeting, the one at which board members will make their decision on the proposed changes. The district does not seem to have any plans to have public discussions about the boundary changes. “I understand why our parents are concerned if they’ve been attending there and they don’t want their students to be moved over to another campus,” Cantu said. “I know that the board is going to take those matters into consideration because they didn’t take any action. They’re wanting more from the parents.” Continued on page 17

tell,” Perry said at the conference. “That is a local decision that will be made at the local districts.” Public education in Texas, notoriously ranked low in SAT scores and graduation rates, is already hurting with continuing decreases in property taxes and state funding. LareDOS examines the school districts and their budgetcutting processes.

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With enrollment of roughly half the students of UISD, this land-locked district does not face the burgeoning problems of an expanding population, but according to spokesperson Veronica Castillon, the district does face a large percentage of students with low English proficiency and low income. The district must also deal with shrinking property taxes and decreases in state financing. Laredo Independent School District’s central office administration was more forthcoming and clearer about how it is facing proposed legislative cuts. “I would say that there is nothing that is sacred,” superintendent A. Marcus Nelson told LareDOS. “There’s nothing that we are willing to say shouldn’t be reviewed and considered for possible reduction or elimination.” Nelson also stressed that the plan was still to hold off on teacher layoffs, and to start cutting at the administrative level. He said this could probably be aided by a proposed early retirement incentive plan. “I would tell our teachers that it’s premature to worry about a reduction in force. They should be more concerned about their performance this semester… I’m not trying to send fear to employees, but I am trying to say that you cannot sit and worry about tomorrow when all you have control over is today.” At the March 10 business and services support committee meeting of the board of trustees, superintendent Nelson layed out three plans for an early retirement incentive plan, which included 5, 10, or 15 percent of the employee’s

salary. Nelson pushed for the 15-percent plan, which will be decided at the board’s next regular meeting. These presentations and the documents that accompany them are all readily available at LISD’s website for parents, employees, and students to read. LISD’s website has a small banner for the “Budget Crisis Web-site,” which provides an overview of the crisis, a list of town hall meetings and presentations, and a page that urges parents and employees to contact their legislators. “Our cabinet and really our communications department felt like it was important so that the community could go and see what we’re doing and see that we are transparent in our actions,” Nelson said. For those who have limited or no Internet access, Nelson said the district does offer alternatives in English and Spanish. LISD’s central office administration has held three town meetings at three separate schools, posted information about the crisis at PTA meetings, and held faculty meetings at each school, where teachers were asked to submit index cards with their own ideas for cutting the budget. “There was everything from reduced stipends, reduced travel, reduce the number of days, increase the studentteacher ratio, reduce the number of field trips, and contracting out some services. Some of them wouldn’t add up to much, but we’re considering everything,” said LISD spokesperson Veronica Castillon. Continued on page 234 4

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News

LCC to recruit part-time faculty at job fair By STEVE TREVIÑO JR. LareDOS Contributor

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rea educators who want to explore the opportunity of teaching part time at Laredo Community College are invited to the LCC Part-Time Instructor Job Fair on Thursday, April 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the De la Garza Building, room 101 on the Fort McIntosh campus. Prior to attending the fair, job hunters are encouraged to complete LCC’s application for employment, which can be downloaded from LCC’s website at laredo.edu; click on the tab for “Jobs@LCC.” The application may also be picked up in person at the Office of Human Resources (P-154) on the Fort McIntosh Campus. Event organizers say that the job fair will feature representatives from more than 20 instructional programs, including adult education, allied health, building trades, business management, computer technology, English, kinesiology, language and cultural studies, mathematics, nursing, performing arts (music, dance and drama), police academy, reading and communications, science, social and behavioral sciences, transportation

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technology and much more. “Laredo Community College is interested in building a pool of part-time instructors to meet the demand for classes during the summer sessions and the fall semester,” said Carolyn Otero, co-event organizer and interim dean of health sciences. Otero commented on how most parttime, also known as ‘adjunct’, faculty members are needed to teach evening classes, which usually meet two or three days out of the week for 90 minutes to three hours. She also noted that educational requirements and teaching experience vary depending on the course topic. As a community college, LCC offers an array of courses that can require teaching professionals to hold a professional certificate, an associate degree, bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D., depending on the course’s requirements. “Laredo Community College is pleased to host this job fair, and we want to encourage interested persons to come find out if they can expand their career options by joining the LCC family,” Otero added. For more information, call the LCC Human Resources Office at (956) 721-5138. u

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News

A new business model challenges predatory payday lenders By Melissa del Bosque The Texas Observer

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rowing up the son of Mexican immigrants, James Gutierrez, 32, saw how hardworking people paid twice as much to predatory lenders because they didn’t have bank accounts or credit histories. “If you don’t have a credit score, it’s like you don’t exist,” he says. If your power is going to be shut off or your child is sick and you need money, you’ll have to go to a payday lender that makes small, short-term loans. And you’ll pay a sky-high interest rate — usually between a 400 and 1,000 annual percentage rate. After graduating from business school at Stanford University in 2005, Gutierrez set out to prove those rates weren’t justified. He opened a lending company called Progreso Financiero that provides loans of up to $1,600 at a 36 APR. He has 52 locations in California and Texas. Progreso Financiero, along with other startups such as San Francisco-based Billfloat.com, is part of a fledgling industry. These companies are engaged in a grand experiment to serve the 60-million-andgrowing subprime market. By offering more affordable loans, they hope to attract loyal customers, rehabilitate their credit histories and turn them into “prime” borrowers. Down the line, the companies hope to sell them other financial services, such as life insurance and student loans. “We’re taking the long-term investment view on our customers,” Gutierrez says. “It’s not driven by how we can make a profit in six months.” The problem is, Gutierrez has yet to turn any profit at all. Traditional payday lenders are making millions. They are often referred to as modern-day loan sharks because of their predatory business model. The recession has been a boon to the industry. Some of its biggest players, like Cash America International Inc., reported $115.5 million in profits last year — its best ever. To borrow from these lenders, you need a job. It usually works like this: The borrower gives the company a check for the amount being borrowed, plus interest and fees. The lender keeps the check for the term of the loan — typically two weeks — then cashes it on the borrower’s next payday. But more than 70 per-

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cent of borrowers can’t pay their loans and fees in two weeks. They have to pay a fee from $60 to $500 to renew their loans. Typically, the fee isn’t applied to the principal. The average borrower will roll over a loan at least five times, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending. Long hated by consumer advocates for preying on low-income communities, the payday lending industry is now targeting middle-class borrowers left high and dry by the recession. Last year, Advance America, one of the nation’s largest payday lenders, reported its average customer had a median income of $50,000. Among these borrowers are millions of people who can pay back their loans, but traditional credit scores don’t identify them. “They pay their bills on time, but they’re still denied credit, so they’re paying through the nose in fees,” says Arjan Schutte, Managing Partner of Core Innovation Capital. The firm invests in marketbased financial services for low-income borrowers, including Progreso Financiero. “It’s not only a social justice issue,” he says. “It’s also a commercial opportunity.” Most of Gutierrez’s clients are recent Latino immigrants who don’t have bank accounts. Others have blemished credit histories. Most don’t have traditional “FICO” credit scores, generated by the nation’s three largest credit rating bureaus. The trick is finding out who’s a reliable borrower and who isn’t. Gutierrez took many ideas for his risk model from the nonprofit microfinance industry in Latin America, which has few defaults. Most borrowers, he says, are able to pay back their loans, provided they’re given enough time. “The poor in the world are more responsible with their obligations than wealthier people.” Gutierrez went to Mexico to study the microlending programs. He used those insights to create his risk model, which he likes to call his “special sauce.” Part of it involves an E-Harmony type, in-depth online questionnaire. The other part consists of buying nontraditional data such as rental and utility payment histories. The Gutierrez model looks at 1,300 attributes, such as home and car ownership. It’s a throwback to 1950s banking, when bankers knew clients, but with a technological

twist. The process is labor-intensive, and it’s not cheap, he says. But it works. Credit card company losses for subprime borrowers range from 15 to 30 percent. His default rate is in the single digits. Progreso Financiero isn’t the only company trying new approaches. Billfloat.com caters to anyone with access to the Internet. Started six months ago, the company provides loans for utility payments of up to $225 at 36 APR. Billfloat pays the utility company, then collects repayment within 30 days. Shelling out $21 in fees for a $200 loan to pay your utility bills isn’t the best deal, but Billfloat says it’s better than what an average payday lender will charge — about $65. Billfloat’s average customer is 36 and employed, but lives paycheck to paycheck. These employees are being squeezed tighter and tighter, says company CEO Ryan Gilbert. Utility companies, especially deregulated ones, are more cutthroat about timely payments than they used to be. As with Progreso, the Holy Grail to profitability for Billfloat is getting its default rates down to a single digit. Like Gutierrez, Gilbert is banking on technology to create a risk model that accurately determines a borrower’s ability to pay. The company buys lots of alternative data showing everything from lawsuit settlements to vehicle ownership. “We’re taking the slowgrow approach rather than expanding too quickly and making a lot of mistakes,” he says. “If we can drive down the defaults, we can save money.” To date, the company has approved 2,000 loans. It keeps its loan agreements simple and doesn’t let clients take out more than one loan at a time. The company tries to promote budgeting for its clients. “Ultimately, we want to help consumers plan ahead and budget and not wait until the last minute to pay a bill because that costs more,” Gilbert says. Like Gutierrez, Gilbert is focused on rehabilitating clients into “prime” borrowers. Every time a borrower pays off a loan, it’s reported to the credit bureaus, which helps improve their credit scores. Gilbert would like to partner with other financial companies to provide traditional loans to these rehabilitated borrowers. Companies like Billfloat bristle at being called payday lenders. Some consumer ad-

vocates point out that while the 36-percent annual percentage rate is more affordable than payday lenders, it’s still too high. Mohammed Yunus, a microcredit pioneer and Nobel Laureate, warns in a recent editorial in The New York Times against the commercialization of microfinance. He writes that it’s “been a terrible wrong turn for microfinance, and it indicates a worrying ‘mission drift’ in the motivation of those lending to the poor. Poverty should be eradicated, not seen as a money-making opportunity.” Arjan Schutte says developing a fair business model is the only way to meet the growing subprime demand. Nonprofit microlenders, typically funded by charitable foundations and donors, will never be large enough to serve 60 million subprime borrowers. Schutte says a market-based solution that is profitable and self-sustaining is the most logical solution. “Nonprofit microlenders do wonderful work,” he says. “But I don’t think it’s acceptable to serve a thousand people. It needs to be a million or tens of millions to really make a difference.” His investment firm is willing to take the long-term risk on companies like Progreso Financiero, but many venture capitalists want a quicker return on their money. There’s constant pressure on CEOs like Gutierrez to hike the APR and start raking in profits. “CEOs like James Gutierrez are damned if they do and damned if they don’t,” Schutte says. Gutierrez seems determined to make his brand of payday lending work. In Texas, where he has a partnership with the Fiesta grocery chain, he has a total of seven kiosks in Houston and Dallas — nowhere near the 2,700 storefronts payday lenders have statewide. To become profitable, he’ll have to expand. He’s made 100,000 loans and says he’ll need to make a million to turn a profit. He could charge more, but he won’t. He wants to prove that an affordable payday lending model can be self-sustaining. Thanks to the economic recession, he won’t lack for new customers. Gutierrez says Progreso Financiero could become profitable by the end of next year. Traditional lenders, no doubt, are watching. Can a more ethical payday lender make it in the cutthroat world of subprime lending? “I like to think so,” Gutierrez says.  u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


United Independent School District Continued from page 13 The district has not conducted town hall meetings to explain the budgetcutting process or boundary changes to parents and educators. In the past few months, UISD paid Austin-based financial consultants Moak Casey & Associates to provide information at a budget workshop on January 18 about what the district could face after legislative decisions are made. UISD conducted a second budget workshop on January 26, and has not held any other workshops since. Santos, who did not seems especially interested in speaking to LareDOS, was vague about what UISD has done to persuade legislators to ease the cuts on public education. “I’ve talked to all of [the legislators] for the last three months. Ryan [Guillen], Richard [Raymond], and Sen. Zaffirini,” Santos said. “The idea is how they are going to help with the funding. Hopefully look at the Rainy Day Fund, and the other item is that they delay our payment. I mean is it good? We’ve got some fund balance money — we can handle it. I think that will save $1 billion a year at the state level.” The Rainy Day Fund is a savings fund with the state’s excess revenue. Lawmakers in the Legislature are wrangling over whether the state should use some of that excess money to battle the budget crisis. The fund currently contains $9.4 billion, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Meanwhile, UISD’S school board approved Phase 1 on the district’s costcutting measures at a March 3 special called meeting. The measures include eliminating 14 central office and support service positions, using the current year’s budget savings to cover the shortfall, reduced overtime, elimination of full-time

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substitutes, and reductions to non-payroll items — a projected savings of $14,133,086. Fewer than 50 people showed up for the meeting, a very small number in a district that services more than 40,000 students. “People are notified, we tell the newspaper people, we post the agendas on our webpage,” Santos said. “How do I get people to come to any meetings? I don’t have the answer.” The next day, Santos sent a one-page memo to district employees explaining Phase 1, but the memo provided few specifics. It listed what had been provided on the meeting’s agenda, but offered no breakdown of what exactly would be cut. UISD is the largest employer in the county, with more than 6,000 employees, and its early retirement incentive plan pales in comparison to LISD’s proposed plan. UISD offered $1,000 for professionals and $500 for paraprofessionals to retire by a March 1 deadline. Just over 70 employees of the more than 6,000 took advantage of the incentive. Employees have had little say in the budget process. Spokesperson Cantu listed ways for employees to get involved, including advisory groups, and liaisons on each campus. But when asked if the district had any faculty meetings set aside to discuss the budgets, she did not provide a clear answer. “Our board members are very involved. They get calls themselves, and those calls are given to Mr. Santos,” she said. “We just need to remain calm. Our superintendent and board have the best interests of employees and students.” UISD’s next regular board meeting is scheduled for March 23 at 6 p.m. at the Student Activity Complex at 5208 Santa Claudia Lane. Find the agendas for UISD’s school board meetings at v3.boardbook.org/ Public/PublicHome.aspx?ak=240903. u

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The Anonymous Teacher

Everybody needs to be part of the budget-cutting process

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f the system is broken, don’t ask the people who broke it to fix it. Teachers have been following the guidelines of legislators and administrators for years. The result has been disastrous — financially and academically. We have been on a “spend it quick” routine for years. Schools and teachers spend needlessly because they’ll lose the money if they don’t. November and January spending deadlines leave no money for items needed in the spring. Allow teachers to build up a “savings account” to be used as they need it — not “before the budget is closed and we’ll take your money away.” Most teachers and schools, when faced with use or it or lose it to someone else who will spend it, will find something to spend the money on, even if it is not exactly what they need. And most budget deadlines are set for the convenience of the bookkeepers and administrators, not the students. Prioritize. Teachers, parents, and students know what they truly need and the order in which they need it. The paternalistic view of “we’ll take care of the money and tell you what you should do” goes against every tenet of education. Education should teach us to think — not tell us what to think and have us blindly follow. The more minds working toward a solution, the better the odds that one will be found.

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Solutions will definitely involve sacri- work closely with legislators, educators fices on the part of everyone. That is an and families to come up with the least obvious reality, but sacrifice should start devastating resolution. This is not a time at the top with attitude and symbolic ges- to delegate or to pass the buck. It’s time tures. Effective leaders lead by example, to take action and show leadership. not by commands. If a superintendent acLegislators need to look at finances cepts a bonus and a raise, and then tells and make cuts based on needs, not polistaff they must be prepared for drastic tics. Education has long-term effects. You cuts, there will be distrust and disbelief. cannot go back and educate a student who Telling the board he was ignored in order to will not accept a raise save a pet project in a while asking his staff representative’s home When Gov. Rick to make sacrifices is a district. And there is Perry says that much better public reno excuse for taking it won’t be his fault if lations gesture. months to analyze fisome teachers lose To have an effective nancing in an attempt plan, everyone needs to delay the reaction to their jobs, he is abdito feel like a stakecuts. Look at projected cating his reholder, with input concuts, make decisions sponsibilities. cerning budget and and notify districts so educational decisions. they can start making As legislators struggle informed decisions. with deciding on the least politically Ideas and projected cuts should alharmful cuts, school administrators and ready be available, in detail, on the disboards are anticipating the worst, and trict level. Committees made up of memreacting instead of planning. Staff mem- bers of all concerned groups should be bers see this as blind panic and won’t be meeting regularly in order to stay abreast as likely to support these decisions. of developments and create various methLeadership is vital on all levels. When ods of dealing with cuts. Members of the Gov. Rick Perry says that it won’t be his public should have easy access to these fault if some teachers lose their jobs, he plans so they can comment and suggest is abdicating his responsibilities. As the possible alternatives. Knowledge and public leader of the state he needs to communication are vital to solving our

budget crises, and who is better educated than our teachers? These people prepare doctors, economists, lawyers, and everyone else, yet they are ignored when decisions concerning these subjects need to be made. Teachers are also responsible for coming up with solutions. If teachers wait for someone to ask for help, they will never be involved. Marches locally and at the capital bring attention to their concerns, but individual action is also called for. Go to a board meeting. Call a board member and volunteer your help or offer your suggestions for savings. Speak up and ask questions at meetings. Don’t be intimidated, but do be respectful and show a desire to help. Parents and students can also help. Getting involved, learning where the money goes, and where more money is needed goes a long way toward cooperative problem solving. At a time when students are asked to raise more and more funds, families need to support those efforts, which will improve their children’s education. When parents understand the costs of an education, they place a higher value on it. And this carries over to students. Involved parents increase the involvement and commitment of their children, thus improving education all around. u

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News

LISD Office of Communications wins top honors at annual TSPRA conference in Arlington Courtesy of Laredo Independent School District

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embers of the Laredo Independent School District’s Office of Communications and the Instructional Television (ITV) Departments have returned from the annual Texas Schools Public Relations Association (TSPRA) conference with top honors in the Star Awards competition. The conference was held from February 23 to 25. LISD won 40 awards including three Best in Category, 21 Gold, and 16 Silver Star Awards for excellence in school communications. The awards were announced at the TSPRA Star Awards Celebration during the association’s annual convention in Arlington. TSPRA recognizes communicators in school districts, education foundations, education associations and organizations for outstanding contributions in school communications. Over 1,000 entries competed for honors. “The LISD Office of Communications and Instructional Television have been

LISD nets TSPRA awards The LISD Office of Communications took top honors in this year’s Texas School Public Relations Association Star Awards contest. From left are Ruben Vela, Esteban Borjas, Jr., Jeannette G. Martinez, Veronica Castillon, Bobby Treviño, Armando Saldaña, and Jack Nelson. earning the state’s top prizes in school public relations for more than 10 years,” said LISD superintendent Marcus Nelson. “LISD is very proud of this winning tradition. It is so good to see creative effort and

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talent rewarded to a staff that is passionate about their publications, programs, and services to the LISD community.” TSPRA is a professional organization whose members are dedicated to improv-

ing public education in Texas by promoting effective public relations practices, providing professional development for its members, and improving communication between Texans and their public schools.u

Arts & Culture

Chillwave: a genre born from the Internet age Song: “Lissoms” Artist: Toro Y Moi Album: Causers of This (2010)

Song: “Hold Out” Artist: Washed Out Album: Life of Leisure (2009)

Song: “Cynthia” Artist: Millionyoung Album : Be So True EP (2010)

Song: “Photojournalist” Artist: Small Black Album: New Chain (2010)

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he summer of 2009 brought a wave, so to speak, of artists who had a similar lo-fi, chilled-out, beach-y sound. That summer, the genre of “chillwave” was born (so dubbed by Carles, who runs the blog Hipster Runoff). Chillwave has been called the genre that music blogs created and the “postindie” genre. Some music bloggers and journalists have even questioned whether chillwave is even a real genre of music. That summer I also took notice of the music My disdain for the hipster subculture has never prevented me from liking the music associated with it, so I bought into chillwave. The melodies and beats resonated with me, but the boring vocals also underwhelmed and irritated me at times. One aspect you’ll notice about chillwave: You don’t have to sing well — or be able to sing at all in some instances — to be a chillwave artist. These are my top six chillwave songs, in no particular order. u

Song: “Psychic Chasms” Artist: Neon Indian Album: Psychic Chasms (2009)

Lefse Records

Song: “To the Lighthouse” Artist: Memoryhouse Album: The Years E.P. (2010)

Cover art for Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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Feature

TMLC annual tea features Dana and Joe Crabtree

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By DENISE FERGUSON LareDOS Contributor

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he Tuesday Music and Literature Club celebrated the last Annual Valentine Tea of its first 100 years on February 8 at Christ Church Episcopal Hall. About 120 Laredoans participated in the celebration. Guest performers were TAMIU voice, music, choir, and opera instructor Dana Crabtree, and her husband, Dr. Joseph Crabtree, professor of voice and chair of the Performing Arts Department at Laredo Community College. Dana Crabtree is a lyric coloratura soprano and has performed in genres from Broadway to operatic repertoire. Her performance of the title role in Donizetti’s Die Regimentstochter led to a six-month engagement at the Staatstheater Oldenburg in Oldenburg, Germany. A native of Baton Rouge, Crabtree attended Louisiana State University, completing both the bachelor of music and master of music degree in vocal performance. She has completed postgraduate work at the University of Texas at Austin and the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England. Bass-Baritone Dr. Joseph Crabtree has performed on both sides of the Atlantic in roles ranging from Broadway musicals to the comic roles of Mozart. He also served on the faculty of the Austrian American Mozart Academy in Salzburg, where he conducted both masses and operas of Mozart. The Crabtrees were accompanied at the TMLC Valentine Tea by pianist Alejandra Rodriguez. A long-time member of TMLC, Rodriguez is involved in the Laredo music, theater, religious, and educational communi-

ty. She has been affiliated as a music teacher with LISD for 40 years. She plays the piano and organ and has been involved in acting, directing, and dancing in local theater. For the Valentine’s Day Tea at TMLC, the trio performed show tunes such as “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahama; “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific, and “So In Love” from Kiss Me Kate. A particular favorite of the club members and guests was “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera. The Crabtrees also performed the comic operatic skit, Salzburg by the Sea. Dana Crabtree smilingly mentioned to the audience, “My husband and I met in Salzburg, Austria.” She explained, “Joe and I met in Salzburg at the Austrian American Mozart Academy, a summer program for young opera singers. That was in 1999. The very next summer we returned there for the same program, got engaged, and were married in Salzburg 12 days later. We returned in subsequent summers to serve on the AAM faculty up through 2003.” The Crabtrees have since become the parents of Nicholas, 7, and Lena Belle, 1. Dana Crabtree said that the family has returned to Salzburg through the auspices of the TAMIU Music in Austria program created by her and Dr. Fritz Gechter. “We expect that program to be reprised this summer and welcome interested applicants,” she said. After the TMLC performance, a raffle was held, which offered eight Valentine’s baskets that were the creations of club treasurer Roxanna Guerra and her daughter. Among the winners of the Valentine’s baskets were Theresa Nimchan, Bertha Barrera, Delia Leal, Roxanna Guerra, Mary Freeman, Gwennie Potzka, and Diana Lecuona. u

TMLC hostess committee Pictured from left to right are Alejandra Rodriguez, Imelda Gonzales, Hercilia Camina, Viola Godines, Frances Quesada, Mary Esther Sanchez, and Theresa Nimchan.

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About Work

A five-question survey what I needed to do to improve my quality of life. I felt that I had this gift to talk to people, and hopefully help adolescents and other people do likewise. Q: Is there prestige or pride in your work? A: Very much, especially when you help people with their crisis, walk with them for a while, help them find some meaning to their pain, and offer them options or alternatives.

Employee: Candelario Escamilla Employer: Self-employed at Professional Counseling Center Position: Licensed professional counselor Start date: June 1991 Q: What brought you to this job? A: I kind of felt that since I was young, I was able to recognize and I was cognizant of the power of the mind —how when we set our mind to do something, we can do it. Q: What part of yourself do you bring to the job every day? A: I had a very challenging childhood adolescence, but I was able to recognize

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Q: Tell me something about your job that would surprise people. A: One is that even the adults get nervous, and what surprises them is that if we just talk about anything that they want to and we make them feel at peace, we offer them a safe haven to process their pain. Ordinary people that weren’t aware of people’s ability to get lost sometimes and not know what they need to do — we help them re-evaluate. I think the stigma [around mental health] is not as profound as yesteryears; I think a lot of people are aware that sometimes we need this. I think there are a lot more people utilizing these services than before. Q: Are there going to be new hires in your career? A: I think [professional counseling] is expanding to a lot of areas. I think there are some special needs that need to be addressed, like autism.

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News

Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar on his plans to make law enforcement more effective and to ensure officer safety By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

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he high level of energy in the Webb County Sheriff’s office is palpable. I experienced it first hand in a recent visit, first with Maru de la Paz and a score of administrators as I waited for an interview with Sheriff Martin Cuellar. The department has a new look, fresh paint on the walls and officers in sharp uniforms. Sheriff Cuellar, in his third year of a first four-year elected term, has been focused on implementing safety measures in the Webb County Jail. Inner doors that offer visibility and the installation of 96 cameras, he said, have vastly increased the safety of prisoners and jailers alike. Cuellar said the cameras and the operation of the Jail Intelligence Management Group has allowed jailers and administrators “to keep the upper hand” on the interception of drugs and cell phones smuggled into the jail. Coupled with the classification of prisoners by analyst personnel, he said, the new measures have also cut down on incidents of overdoses, violence, and drug sales within the jail. An enclosed parking lot currently under construction on the Washington St. side of the jail will further enhance security, Cuellar said. The sheriff has plans to build a new jail and is grappling with how to find funds in the current economic climate. He said the existing jail could be used as a facility to house

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federal prisoners, and to that end the aging facility is being revamped. The jail has a capacity of 572 prisoners, but Cuellar said the population is held at 10 percent below that. Cuellar said that one of the hallmarks of his tenure is an elevated level of professionalism for officers and administrators. “We evaluated the organization when I came in and began to make changes in training, leadership, and equipment. There was room for improvement everywhere. The changes were gradual at first and then we got to the bigger ones,” he said. “With those measures came a big boost in the depart-

ment’s morale.” He said that most new hires first work at the jail. “The jail is the learning environment for new officers. It is here they learn what crime really is. We have a process of evaluation to move them from the jail into other positions,” Cuellar said. When questions went to the bloody cartel violence in Nuevo Laredo, Cuellar turned somber. “It’s there, it’s real, and it is very serious. As long as there is a demand for drugs, this will be what we live with. This will continue until the cartels settle their business. The Mexican army, out-manned and outequipped by the cartels, is in the middle of the fight,” he said. “Members of the cartels are here. They move in and out of border towns and all the large cities in the state. It is everyone’s job to stop this, and that’s why it is important for agencies to work together and share intelligence. Stopping the demand for drugs is a key to ending the violence. And as simple as this may sound, another component is the education of children.” The sheriff said that at a recent TAMIU seminar for school district counselors, it was evidenced that the drug usage trend for children under 16 is not illegal drugs, but rather prescription drugs found in the home medicine cabinet. Cuellar, who said he works “in plain and simple terms,” has big aspirations to find funding to build a state-of-the-art training facility for law enforcement officers. “Ideally it would be on a 100-acre tract to account for future expansion. The facil-

ity would allow us to train not only our own officers but also law enforcement officers from Mexico and other cities and countries,” he said. “The facility’s purpose would be to improve and train in every aspect of law enforcement, making every officer safer and better at his or her job. We are envisioning firearms training in different scenarios, a driving course, classrooms, and learning to use the latest technology in crime fighting, forensics, and intelligence gathering.” Cuellar also envisions a local crime lab for drug analysis, DNA processing, fingerprint retrieval, firearm ballistics, facial recognition, and processing vehicles that have been involved in a crime. “The Laredo PD and other cities would benefit from such a lab,” he said. A fusion center — a real-time pooling of intelligence resources, — is another project Cuellar would like to bring to reality. “Imagine having vast intel on the border to intercept the movement of drug loads and the other crimes that are part of the drug trade,” Cuellar said. “We want one here,” he added, and said that for more than a year he has discussed the possibility with U.S. Rep. John Culberson, Congressman Henry Cuellar, Rep. Richard Raymond and other legislators who could see to the funding of the center. Cuellar said federal funding, grants, and forfeiture funds are key to the projects he envisions. As to immigration and sheriffs and deputies in other cities and states who use ethnic profiling to make traffic stops, Cuellar said, “Public safety is my job. By what authority, on what grounds, with what probable cause can I stop someone who looks like he might be from another country?” he asked. “There are many federal immigration agents here to address illegal entry into this country. We have plenty of homegrown criminals to keep us busy.” Asked how he would like to be remembered, he said, “For being transparent, for having had the confidence to take on a big job, that I was hardworking, that I tried to do the right thing, and that I left a department in good shape. The next sheriff will come in running, not walking through disarray as I had to initially.” Of the upcoming Paul Harris Fellow award from the Laredo Rotary Club, Cuellar said, “There are others more deserving, but I am happy to be recognized.” u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


M ailbox L E etters to the

Mark Your Calendar March/April 2011

8th Annual March for Justice When: March 26, assembling begins at 8:30 a.m. / march begins at 10 a.m. Where: St. Peter’s Plaza to San Agustin Plaza More info: Call (956) 774-1744 Greens of Guadalupe Neighborhood Cleanup When: March 26, registration 8 a.m. Where: Church Hall, 1700 San Francisco Ave. More info: Call (956) 286-7866 Webb County Commissioner’s Court meeting When: March 28, 9 a.m. Where: Webb County Courthouse, 1000 Houston St. More info: webbcountytx.gov Autism – Know it!

When: Wednesday, March 30, 6:30 p.m. Where: Multi-purpose Room, Laredo Public Library, 1120 E. Calton Road More info: Ramon Orduño, (956) 763-6044 Day of Action for Texas State Teachers Association When: April 2, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Where: Laredo Public Library to Blas Castañeda Park More info: facebook.com/event. php?eid=138173809582666 City Council meeting When: April 4, 6 p.m. Where: City Hall Council Chambers, 1110 Houston St. More info: (956) 791-7300 Voz de Niños 3rd Annual Field Day When: April 10, 1 – 4 p.m. Where: I.B.C. Lago del Rio More info: facebook.com/event.

ditor

I noticed that the City Council has been briefed on a long-range master plan to “revive” downtown Laredo to promote business, prosperity, improve appearances and promote the city as a tourist DESTINATION. Plus, a plan of action is needed IMMEDIATELY (mainly because the situation had been neglected far too long). Whoopdeedoo! Tourism in Laredo was based 99 percent on the fascination with Mexico. Since that is at a screeching standstill and will be until Mexico is restored to safety, why haven’t we done more to assist the Mexican government in protecting their honest citizenry? Of course we have spent billions to “protect” our “border” from invasion by the drug cartels and al-Qaida terrorists massing on the Mexican side; that is a trifle compared to the thousands of American service members that have been sacrificed in the Middle East … all in the name of democracy. Why oh why must we impose democracy into other nations that have been settling their own problems in their own way for thousands of years, without our interference? But, Mexico is our next-door neighbor; they provided thousands to assist us in World War II. Wouldn’t we be doing the same if the situation prevailed in Canada … that’s what bordering neighbors should do … help each other. In the meantime we COULD be doing more to improve our city’s appearances. I keep hearing the cry that “we have a problem with absentee landlords.” I thought we had code enforcement ordinances that provide for the city to “clean-up” eyesores, as

Thank you for giving us, the Laredo people, a “voice” in this town of political red tape and oppression under the school districts, Webb County, and the City of Laredo kingdom! I admire you for your strong opinions and courage as a woman and a citizen to stand up for what is the TRUTH!! Gracias.

Gloria Villagran

needed, and bill the owner for the maintenance expense. If a landlord is unknown or won’t pay, seize the property and sell it. If we don’t have such an ordinance, I suggest we establish and enforce one ASAP. The federal government performed many covert operations and sent countless “advisors” to assist Columbia in their drug problems years ago. I recall we coined the reference “advisors” to many military servicemen (in civilian clothes) in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand (before we were “officially involved”). (Many of those were “written-off” as “MIA”). LOSING so many “involvements” in far off lands is becoming a bad habit for America. Why don’t we help thy neighbor once in a while and ease some of our problems at the same time? We (all of America) once had a peaceful paradise right beside us, why can’t we have it again? Call/ write all your elected officials; that’s what they are there for ... to represent US. Clifford A. Gibeaut

Laredo Independent School District Continued from page 13 According to superintendent Nelson, LISD has been in constant contact with state legislators to help combat the budget shortfalls. He gave more specifics on what message LISD was sending and to whom. Nelson said the board members had met with the offices of U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison; and U.S. Reps. Rubén Hinijosa, Francisco Canseco, and Henry Cuellar. “These are face-to-face meetings in the last 48 hours,” Nelson said. “Yes, we’ve been trying to borderline harass

our legislators in trying to find a way to solve this deficit.” LISD, like UISD, is stressing the need to take money out of the state’s Rainy Day Fund. Nelson is also pushing for the delayed payments option, which would allow the state to delay aid to school districts by one month. LISD’s next regular board meeting is scheduled for March 24 at 6 p.m. at the LISD Board Room at 1620 Houston St. Meeting date and time are subject to change. Find the agendas, agenda packets, and videos in .wmv format at laredoisd.org/board/meetings2.html. u

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Autism group to host town hall meeting

here are over 275 individuals diagnosed with Autism in Laredo and the surrounding communities. Families for Autism Support and Awareness in Laredi will host Autism - Know It!, a Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, March 30 to discuss and raise awareness on Autism and how it affects an individual, the family, and the community. Autism is a neurological disorder that affects a person’s behavior, socialization,

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What: Autism – Know it! When: Wednesday, March 30, 6:30 p.m. Where: Multi-purpose Room of Laredo Public Library, 1120 E. Calton Road

sensory integration, and communication. It is now being diagnosed at a rate of 1 out of 110 individuals. For more information, contact Ramon Orduño at (956) 763-6044 u

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Opinion

Demolition by neglect — the heart of the Slaughter Farm finds itself subject to vandalism, vagrants, and the vagaries of the weather

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hen the City of Laredo acquired the Slaughter Farm in 2004 for development as parkland, it also took possession of the stately family home built in the late 1890s to house the Guggenheim Smelting Company. Joseph Hampton Slaughter purchased the house and the surrounding acreage in 1915, making his home and farming enterprise there with his wife Elise Courtney Slaughter. The fertile farmland produced onions, tomatoes, corn, canteloupe, watermelon, and cotton, and featured an orchard of 250 orange trees. The home — with its high ceilings, hardwood floors, and elegant light fixtures — was eventually converted into four apartments occupied as late as 2004 by members of the Slaughter family. The grounds featured a sunken garden and were once beautifully landscaped and dotted with massive pecan and ash trees. David Slaughter, the son of David March Slaughter and Lora Ophelia Thurmond Slaughter, recalled fond memories of growing up there with his sisters Davyne Slaughter and Sheilah S. Glassford. While the city has developed some of the 30-acre tract into playing fields for rec-

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reational sports, the old house and its surrounding grounds have fallen into neglect. With no security lights and with windows and doors left unsecured, the structure has invited vandals and the theft of copper plumbing, air conditioners, appliances, and the banisters and light fixtures. Rain has come through the open windows. The same is true of an apartment over the garages at the rear of the property. The house sits on an island of dirt, no longer landscaped, and many of the old growth trees that once surrounded it have been bulldozed. This is no way to treat a valuable asset that belongs to the taxpayers. Allowing its further degradation is an affront to the public trust. Margarita Araiza of the Webb County Heritage Foundation calls this failure to protect an asset “demolition by neglect.” The Slaughter Farm property falls under the purview of District 3 City Council member Alejandro Perez. We, and all who care about significant historical structures that tell the story of our city, urge Mr. Perez to mobilize city staff to secure the Slaughter Farm house with lights and coverings for all doors and windows. We urge him, too, to take the lead to restore it, put the building to good use, and to put the brakes on bulldozing old growth trees. u

Jorge Medina / LareDOS

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By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA

Perfect weather for kite flying Roberto Alejandro Ruedas got his kite airborne at the recent kite festival at North Central Park. He is pictured with his parents Raquel and Armando Ruedas.

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News

Gergen reflects on presidents, takes questions from TAMIU audience

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four-time presidential adviser and CNN senior political analyst discussed topics such as immigration, the uprisings in the Middle East, and his experience during Richard Nixon’s presidency at Texas A&M International University on February 24.

David Gergen, who is also the current director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School, took questions from the audience during a breakfast in the packed TAMIU ballroom. Gergen has worked under presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. He said that Reagan “is the best leader I’ve worked for,” and “the best leader we’ve

On President Ronald Reagan: “He really believed [the U.S.] could be a great people [and] we could do anything we set our minds to. He also had a sense of humor. Humor is extremely important in leadership. You’ve got to make people relax, and it also helps to keep you grounded. You don’t get too big for your britches.” On President Richard Nixon: “We all have our demons. We’ve all got trials and things about ourselves that we need to work on that are out there and can bring us down. Nixon had not learned to control his demons; they raged him and that’s why we got into spying on other people and Watergate … The lesson I brought out of that and what I’ve seen again and again was you need somebody to be a bright leader of an organization, but more important is the character and does that person have self-awareness? Do you know who you are and do you have self control?” On the role of minorities: “We need to have more Hispanics at the table. It doesn’t mean Anglos have to leave the table or blacks have to leave the table; it means we have to make a bigger table.”

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had in the White House since Franklin Roosevelt, possibly John Kennedy.” “It’s the first time I’ve been to the Valley. I do speak here and there around the country, but I’m privileged to come here,” Gergen told LareDOS. “I’ve learned a lot; I wish I could stay here a little longer.” Here are some quotes from his Q-and-A session.

On weapons of mass destruction: “I’m among those who felt George W. Bush was precipitous. He acted rationally by going in. He should’ve waited for the inspectors at the U.N. and that sort of thing and gotten the vote. Having said that, I do not think he lied to us about his belief that there were weapons of mass destruction there. The reason I’m saying that is Bill Clinton has told me on more than one occasion that when he was president, the intelligence people were saying, ‘Mr. President, there is a strong likelihood that there are weapons of mass destruction there. We don’t know for absolute certainty, but we think there’s a very great nature of it.’ And Clinton told me, ‘I think George W. Bush was told the same thing, and I give him a pass on that issue.’” On the press: “I do think we’ve had a deterioration of discourse since I went to Washington. I think the press has gotten worse in a variety of ways. The press has gone from

being skeptical, which the press should be, to cynical. I know any number people of business who think they can’t get a fair break … We demonize people who are not like us. It’s made it much, much harder to cross the divide.” Continued on 4 page 354

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By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

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Eric Ellman

Enjoying what will become River Bend Park Outfitter Eric Ellman snapped this recent photo of kayakers in the bend of the river in an area that will become River Bend Park.

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Up in the air Liliana and Alyssa GarcĂ­a, Arturo Vasquez, Matthew Click, and Katherine and Vero Cigarroa are pictured at the recent kite festival at North Central Park.

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An environmental disaster waiting to happen — fire hazard, rat harborage, junk heap of upholstery foam, cardboard, and polyester scrap along with boxed UISD documents ripe for identity thieves 1900 Block W. Calton Road

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News

RGISC/Webb County community gardens sow sustainability and the promise of wholesome produce By MARíA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

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he Río Grande International Study Center (RGISC), in conjunction with the Webb County Commissioners Court has planted four demonstration community gardens, one per precinct. The commissioners unanimously approved the project at a February 14 meeting. Precinct 3 Commissioner Jerry Garza allocated $62000 to the construction and planting of the gardens. Commissioners Frank Sciaraffa (Pct. 1) and Jaime Canales (Pct. 4) contributed $600 each. The sites of the four gardens, by precinct, are the Sacred Heart Children’s Home in South Laredo (Pct. 1); the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Nutrition, Health, and Learning Center on State Highway 359 (Pct. 2); Hillside Recreation Center (Pct. 3); and the Laredo Regional Food Bank on Anna Street (Pct. 4). Each site consists of five raised garden beds — two 3’x12’ beds for several varieties of tomatoes and peppers; two 8’x8’ beds (one for squash and one for melons); and one 4’x4’ herb bed for basil, cilantro, mint, and rosemary. The purpose of the demonstration gardens is to encourage sustainable gardening methods and self-reliance for home food production, and to grow healthy foods. Under the direction of RGISC assistant executive director Tricia Cortez and board members, volunteers from LCC’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, the Alexander High School Chapter of the National Beta Club, and the Divine Mercy Youth Group assisted in all aspects of the project including working with Juan “Bro” Vargas and Mike Peña, who constructed the raised beds. The site that offered the most instruction to the most participants was the State Highway 359 Nutrition Center site. A score of community volunteers who will manage the garden took possession of the project from the onset — clearing the area where the raised beds would be built. Along with Nutrition Center staff Sara Buentello, Linda Casarez, and Juan Galvan, the volunteers assisted in the construction and leveling of the beds, lined them with newspaper that will act as a weed barrier, and mixed the soil, a blend of composted horse manure, peat moss, and an iron-rich red dirt/black dirt mix.

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“Working with families from Tierra Prometida and exchanging gardening tips with them was the most rewarding part of building the community garden at the Webb County Nutrition Center,” said RGISC board member Fabiola Flores, an attorney, of the Nutrition Center workday, RGISC board members and volunteers were enthusiastically welcomed to the big open space behind the Laredo Regional Food Bank by executive director Linda Tijerina and foreman José Moreno. Tijerina said the prospect of offering food bank patrons fresh produce or selling surplus

many choices for each planting,” Cortez continued, adding, “With a little TLC, sun and water, a community garden is sure to flourish, providing an abundant harvest full of good nutrition, great taste, and safe eating. It is a community effort and everyone should get involved. I want to invite our community of Laredo to get involved in this most important and healthy endeavor.” The garden site that provided immense inspiration for all involved was the one that went in at Sacred Heart Children’s Home. Rather than having a cluster of raised beds

at the Farmers Market were welcome additions to the work of the food pantry. “A community garden means a good workout, a healthy body, and a good investment for cooperatives,” RGISC assistant director Cortez said. “The success of a community garden is measured by the involvement of the community and its commitment to the garden’s daily needs. Once started, it is a rewarding experience because friendships are formed and you learn how to select and plants whatever fruits, vegetables, and herbs you want. Gardening is seasonal, so you have

in one place, they were built near individual dorms where children would take responsibility for the care of the plots. Home director Sister María Isidra Valdez said that the gardens will offer the children an invaluable learning experience that defines the relationship between living things, soil, and water and also defines the relationship between work and harvest. “We are very happy to have this project on our campus,” she said. RGISC board member Dr. Rodolfo Rincón captured the broader reach of the importance of community gardens.

“They offer a great opportunity for community networking, partnership, and integration. They go hand in hand with the ‘Let’s Move’ initiative promoted by First Lady Michelle Obama,” he said. Rincón said that there is growing scientific evidence connecting pesticides used to kill insects in crops, fruits, vegetables to autism, learning disabilities, and some cancers. The community gardens will reduce exposure to pesticides, he said. According to Rincón, “Produce, specifically, green leafy items, have a high content of antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce free radicals, which are associated with higher incidence of some types of cancer. Studies show that increased consumption of green leafy produce (broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and cauliflower) could potentially reduce the possibility of developing cancer.” Produce in the diet has been documented  to help reduce  chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and metabolic syndrome among others. He added that gardening is itself a physical activity that helps burn calories and that the overall gardening process adds to consumption, awareness, and the importance of fruits, vegetables, and exercise towards a healthier lifestyle. He stressed that since childhood obesity is a chief public health concern in Webb County, community gardens allow children to be exposed to healthy choices earlier in life. He also cited the economic development aspect of gardening. “Produce could be raised and sold at the monthly Farmers Market in downtown Laredo. Profits could either generate income for the growers or be used to reinvest in the cultivation of additional crops or both,” he said. Rincón said that many communities look at gardens as a creative way to transform vacant parcels of land into a functional and aesthetically pleasing use. Cortez noted the participation of local businesses in the success of building and establishing the gardens. “Maribel Moncivais, the manager at Lowe’s, and assistant manager George Cantu were of invaluable help coordinating with us, offering their best prices for lumber and tools, and donating the plants for the gardens. Continued on page 46

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Not a tidy place — 800 Block of Willow — shamefully unkempt property in South Laredo near old Tex Mex rail yards

√ Fire Hazard √ Broken Glass √ Rat Harborage √ Garbage √ Old Tires

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Continued from page 28 On the current climate of partisanship in the country: “There was a lot of partisanship [when I arrived in Washington], but the World War II generation had a different ethic about the county and that is, there were strong Democrats there and there were strong Republicans, but the people of that generation believed that first and foremost you had to be a strong American, that the country came first, and that you had to be willing to put down your differences.” On the ‘rise and fall of the West’: “I think we need to get our act together and rebuild this economy, understand that this is a capitalist country, [and] unleash the forces of innovation and creativity. Yes, they need to be refereed, but they can’t be smothered. We don’t want the people in Washington to be making all the calls. They don’t know how to run business. Let business run business. Washington should be a referee … Great nations often go down because they don’t manage their finances properly.” On the education system: “It seems to me particularly important

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here in this Valley area to pay attention to [education] because what we know is that such a rising proportion of our population is now Hispanic and black and Asian… I thought George W. Bush had it right when he talked about ‘a soft bigotry of low expectations.’ There is a sort of conventional wisdom in the Anglo community that kids who come from poor families who are Hispanic, black and have a single mom that they are probably not going to make it educationally, and they set low expectations. I think it’s unfair to the kids and it’s an urban legend … You set up a good school, and all kids can learn.” On teachers’ unions: “There are great teachers, but the unions are a problem. When the unions come along; if the unions work with the reformers, you can get great results. But if the unions resist, we cannot let education be the question of how good the adults do.” On immigration reform: “Here’s my fundamental issue: I have come around to the view that the approach that George W. Bush took early on — that there ought to be pathways to citizenship or people can prove

themselves — is right, and we ought to get that done.” On Mexico’s drug war: “I do feel that we need to do things in this country to make it easier for Mexico to succeed. We ought to be taking much more seriously our part of the responsibility on the drugs we consume in this country that make it such a magnet to get the drugs up here. Mrs. Clinton, to her credit, is willing to say that, but I don’t think we’ve been willing to act on it.” On the protests in the Middle East: “Now, if Egypt becomes radicalized and Saudi Arabia cracks, we’re going to have real trouble there — serious, serious trouble. This has to be done with enormous care. I hope and think the administration is up to it. This is one of the few times in my life where I can say I sure miss Richard Nixon because

he was one of the only people I know who understood the dark side as well as I did, and understood that you can also get outfoxed in this situation. And the world is not made up of really pleasant people sometimes, and you got to have a little bit of that dark side in you to be able to understand it and appreciate it. He was a man who walked around with a scepter in one hand and a switch blade in another.” On energy reform: “We need far more nuclear power in this country. It’s crazy that we haven’t done this. And frankly, we need to put a tax on oil. We need a gasoline tax that helps us get away from this addiction we have … Technology is getting online now to get this done and create incentives. We’re going to have to raise taxes anyway somewhere.” u

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‘Mariachitos’ calendar sends message to food bank clients

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By SALO OTERO LareDOS Contributor

he 2011 South Texas Food Bank Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) calendar is being distributed to clients of the program, which serves more than 6,500 elderly residents monthly in Laredo and an eight-county area from Rio Grande City to Del Rio. Persons age 60 and over who meet federal (USDA) income requirements qualify. They receive a bag of supplemental food per month, valued at $80 to $90. CSFP clients are mostly on fixed incomes. After paying their bills and buying necessary items, the clients run out of money for food by month’s end. That’s when the food bank comes in. The calendar, designed by the food bank staff, depicts cartoon-type mariachis drawn by Pancho Farias. It calls attention to CSFP recipients’ pickup date of their product. The food bank has 69 distribution

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sites, including 42 in Laredo-Webb County. Distributions are usually scheduled from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Farias, a longtime Laredo artist, used his talent to draw cartoons with nutrition information aimed at the elderly. Caricatures of sombrero-wearing, guitar, trumpet, violin and maracas playing mariachis belt out the words of nutrition wisdom and health tips in printed song. The South Texas Food Bank printed 7,000 calendars in Spanish. The calendars are free and include the food bank logo and telephone numbers for services: (956) 726-3120 or (956) 726-0888. Calendars were distributed at the Senior Citizen Home downtown, where 207 clients per month pickup their bag of food; a bag of food that really hits the spot. Gloria Gomez, 76, is very happy to get her supplemental food. “The food helps bastante [a lot]. I eat everything that’s in it — corn flakes, macaroni, beans, Cream of Wheat, oatmeal,” she said. “I’m thankful to God and the food

bank. I now have extra money to buy toiletries and other necessities.” Gomez also appreciates the calendar’s nutritional tips. “It makes me want to eat more fruits and vegetables,” she said. “I’m very healthy, there’s nothing wrong with me. We all have to eat healthier.” Ismael Galvan, 75, a retired mechanic, picked up his bag of groceries. “This helps big time economically. I spend less on food and have money for other items I need,” he said, also commenting on the health tips. “These are good tips. Especially not to just sit down and eat but know what’s in the food and to exercise.” Farias explained the idea for the calendar was born from conversations with retired executive director Alfredo Castillo, who wanted a birthday card “with mariachitos” to be sent from the food bank to CSFP recipients. “I started doing sketches and it turned in to more than a birthday card,” Farias said. “The little mariachi is ‘Chico,’ the only one in shape. The others are a little over-

Courtesy South Texas Food Bank

Feature

weight. Chico gives health tips throughout the calendar.” Farias credited food bank staff member Angie Osterman for coming up with themes of awareness of the food pyramid, food labeling, and sugar and sodium intake. In fact, Farias’ favorite message is in the August cartoon, where two mariachis are chasing Chico, who is riding a bicycle while holding a taco. It encourages exercise to lower cholesterol. “It promotes having fun, exercise and at the same time taking care of the elderly’s issues of diabetes and sugar intake,” Farias said. Lee Pipken of the Texas Food Bank Network said as he viewed a copy of the calendar on a recent visit and called the idea “outstanding.” The South Texas Food Bank staff is planning to make publication of the calendar an annual project. For more information about the calendar and the South Texas Food Bank, go to southtexasfoodbank.org. u

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News

Habitat for Humanity adds green building to mission of affordable, sustainable home ownership By MARíA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

Habitat for Humanity Staff

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he houses we have built in the last year have been about 95 percent green,” said Carol Sherwood of Habitat for Humanity of Laredo-Webb County. According to Sherwood, building crews under the direction of construction foreman José Luis Villanueva frame walls of 2x6 timbers, use R-49 ceiling insulation and R-19 wall insulation, finish exteriors with Hardie Board (fiber cement siding), install energy-rated windows and insulated doors and orient them to deflect heat and maximize ventilation, install tile floors, encapsulate HVAC ducts in an insulated zone, paint with eco-friendly low VOC (volatile organic compounds), and install Energy Star appliances. Sherwood said that building green may cost more than conventional practices, but that it makes home ownership more sustainable by keeping down utility costs. The value of a zero-interest Habitat for Humanity home averages about $85,000, including the lot. “We are able to offer homes at this price because we have no labor costs and because many of our materials and services are donated or offered to us at less than full price,” she said. Most Habitat homes have a monthly mortgage payment of between $450 and $525, including taxes and insurance. Sherwood said that moving a family from sub-standard housing and into the ownership of a Habitat home bears the rewards of a better environment in which to raise a

Carol Sherwood Bertha Galvan

Executive Director Office Manager

Jose´ Luis Villanueva Construction Manager Ezequiel Laurel

Safety Training Officer

Juanita Cardenas Family Service Manager Michelle Begwin Ileana Valdez Cindy Villarreal

Outreach Coordinator Educational Director Volunteer Coordinator

family and becoming a responsible taxpayer. “They are no longer a burden to the system,” she said. The local Habitat for Humanity affiliate was established in 1995. “We have built 60 homes, including 10 in Río Bravo and 18 in Tierra Prometida,” Sherwood said. “We used to build one home a year, but thanks to the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation, we were able to hire a construction manager in 2008. That changed much of what we do by

allowing us to focus and expand our opportunities for volunteer services. A Prairie Foundation grant allowed us to hire volunteer coordinator Cindy Villarreal, and a D.D. Hachar grant allowed us to hire Ileana Valdez, who coordinates construction and safety classes.” She said the organization has matured, becoming adept at mortgage lending law while adhering to its mission of advocacy, green building, and building sound, affordable homes with a trained volunteer workforce. She said the local affiliate, which is now building 10 houses a year, is considered a “block builder” by Habitat for Humanity. Tierra Prometida, a 50-lot tract off State Highway 359, was donated to the affiliate by the late Richard (Dicky) Haynes, Arnulfo Gonzalez, and Jesus Ruiz. Sherwood said that the pro bono services of engineer Carlos Mejia, Closner Construction, and Medina Electric Coop have been a large part of Tierra Prometida’s success. “We build for less money in a community that is in one of the poorest regions in the country and in an area that faces the biggest challenge for finding funds,” Sherwood continued, adding, “We have had so many incredibly generous partners. The culture of helping others is a big boost for us — not just for donations and grants, but also for volunteers. There are many opportunities for Laredoans to become involved.” One such project is the Lowe’s Women’s Build May 2-7 in Tierra Prometida. Prior to the build, Habitat for Humanity will hold a training session for volunteers. For further information, call Habitat for Humanity at (956) 724-3227. u

College students build for Habitat ‘Challenge’ By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

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Hammering away DeSales University senior Stephanie Chrzanowski frames an interior wall during the Laredo-Webb County Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge at Tierra Prometida on State Highway 359 on March 10.

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undreds of college students from as far away as Canada gave up ski trips and beaches to spend spring break working with hammers and power tools. The Habitat for Humanity of LaredoWebb County hosted its eighth annual Collegiate Challenge at the nonprofit’s Tierra Prometida (Promised Land) subdivision on State Highway 359. The project will eventually become a 50-home neighborhood for families who meet Habitat’s qualifications. Families must display a need, meet income requirements, repay a zero-interest mortgage, be legal residents of the U.S., and reside in Webb County for at least two years. Each family must put

in 500 hours of sweat equity, but they receive help from Habitat volunteers — volunteers such as Stephanie Chrzanowski. Chrzanowski, a senior from DeSales University in Center Valley, Penn., has worked with Habitat before at a build in North Carolina. “I’ve really enjoyed talking to the person who will own this house,” she said. “You get re-oriented to think about what you have and how you get it.” Katarina Mendoza is a freshman from Regis University in Denver, Colo. Her group of 12 volunteers drove 20 hours by van to reach Laredo, a little over a 1,000-mile trip. Students like Mendoza paid their own way, while local Habitat volunteers cooked meals and local churches provided beds for the students. “It has been wonderful to build a

house. Laredo reminds me of the culture of my hometown,” said Mendoza, who is from Gilbert, Ariz. With the aid of safety directors, the students worked Monday through Friday under the beating sun. Each house is built to be environmentally sustainable, energy efficient, and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. When all was done, the students had built four homes. Christiana-Jo Quinata, a freshman from Regis University, installed doors, a pantry, the trimming, and the top siding of one of the houses with her group. “It’s kind of hard, but everyone is so positive out here,” she said. “It makes you want to work harder.” The nonprofit provided activities such as fiestas for the volunteers, giving them a taste of local foods and a chance to smash piñatas. u

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Courtesy of Laredo Community College

Riding for a good cause Eyden Caracheo, 4, and Ixtazi Hernandez, 5, led the way at the sixth annual Laredo Community College Trike-A-Thon to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on Friday, March 11 at the LCC South Recreation Complex. The children rode their tricycles to raise funds for the hospital’s work in finding cures and providing free medical services for children with cancer and other severe diseases.

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WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Mercy Ministries

Prevention — exercise and healthy diet — key to beating diabetes

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By ROSANNE PALACIOS LareDOS Contributor

revention is the best hope for a healthy life. We say it time and time again, and you hear it over and over again. Through our participation in the University of Texas Community Outreach (UTCO) Prevention and Control Program, we have collected data on our patients who have taken part in this program with a focus on education on nutrition, exercise, counseling, and knowledge of diabetes and its complications. After 18 months in the UTCO program, we can report that Mercy’s cohort of 56 individuals with uncontrolled diabetes became controlled and ceased progression of their disease. Those 56 individuals alone — out of the 1000s participating in UTCO programs — represent a lifetime savings of $84 million. In collaboration with UTCO, Mercy Clinic delivers comprehensive diabetes prevention and control services, including community nurses and promotoras (community health workers), platicas (in-home prevention classes), screening and monitoring, media campaigns, and exercise and nutrition classes and facilities at a cost of at a cost of $21.50 per at-risk individual per year, compared to an average cost of $12,000 per year to treat an individual with diabetes. The annual budget for this program serving 80,000 residents of Webb, Cameron, Nueces, and Galveston counties is $3 million. The average lifetime treatment for a (one) diabetic with end-stage renal disease who requires dialysis is $1.5 million. Preventing only two diabetic patients from advancing to end-stage renal disease per year would pay for this program. It is almost too late to prevent the diabetes epidemic in Texas. The UTCO model of community-based diabetes prevention and control programs is the model endorsed by the Texas Diabetes Council and is integrated with other state-funded programs to reduce redundancy and optimize yield. It is the last best chance for preventing diabetes from overwhelming the state. Insofar as the program targets populations most likely to use Medicaid, County Indigent Program funds, and emergency room services, UTCO’s healthcare savings WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Prevention is the only way out of the diabetes epidemic.

are savings to the state of Texas. The primary beneficiary of this prevention work is not the federal government or private insurers, but rather the taxpayers of Texas. The possibility of discovering a cure for diabetes remains remote. Diabetes leads to or is tied to so many other chronic illnesses such as heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and retinal disease to name a few. Prevention is the only way out of the diabetes epidemic. For more information on this program you may contact Rosanne Palacios at (956) 721-7408. The truth about the heart Mercy Clinic is proud to support the Heart Truth campaign, a nationwide effort to raise awareness among women about the risks of heart disease. The City of Laredo Health Department leads the local effort. Heart disease is the number one health threat for women. One in four American women die of heart disease and most fail to make the connection between risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol with their risk for developing heart disease. Last year in Laredo, 40 percent of the total deaths were due to cardiovascular disease. Each risk factor greatly increases a woman’s chance of developing heart disease, but having more than one is especially serious. Healthy nutrition, physical activity and early detection are key to prevention, and through initiatives such as HEAL, our community is encouraged to improve health by creating environments where healthy eating and active living are supported. Visit laredoheal.org for a physical activity guide, a dining guide and other resources available to the community. (Rosanne Palacios is director of development for Mercy Ministries of Laredo. For more information, to volunteer, or make a donation to Mercy Clinic or Casa de Misericordia, please call Rosanne at (956) 721-7408 or email her at Rosanne. Palacios@Mercy.net.) u LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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Maverick Ranch Notes

By bebe & sissy fenstermaker

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Trees, flowers and heifer; planting in the garden despite drought

lovely white and red roan heifer named Trill has joined the Maverick Ranch longhorn herd. Her father is DWD San Clemente Otis, who ‘throws’ roaning as we were informed by his owner, Debbie Davis. Indeed he does because Miss Trill’s mother is solid red. We await the rest of Otis’ progeny with anticipation. The agarita bushes are beginning to bloom and their fragrance makes walks with red heeler Ruby just heavenly. Pretty little windflowers, or anemones, are also blooming white, purple and pink. In the yard the roses look very nice with bronzed and red new leaves. I remembered to feed them last week. The old pomegranate is starting to leaf out, too. The bois d’arc trees are my real worry since the rough drought two years ago left them in very bad shape. We fed them but I don’t see any swelling buds.

These great trees date back to the earliest Mavericks here in 1907. They have been our sentinels, and when one dies, it is like losing a family member. I guess I never thought they would die and now where they grew are great empty spaces. I should have brought on other trees just in case but didn’t, so I have to start with little things now. Their loss makes the place look very different, and it’s disconcerting. We are in a bad drought once again; no significant rain for months now. Someone from the Texas Forest Service told me that we are 14 years into a 30-year drought. That ought to change the face of Texas! It ought to really, once and for all, define who will and who won’t have groundwater. Every day I look at a solid blue (but beautiful) sky. Every day the dust boiling up behind my pickup gets higher. It’s a little late but we’re planting on-

ions and potatoes in the vegetable garden. There are still things to repair and a bit of chain sawing to go before the place is sparkling. Our friend Mary is starting tomatoes, peppers of all kinds, and eggplants for all of us in her greenhouse. This is wonderful and keeps the chance of germination way above 80 percent. If we had to do that work here it would involve lots of running seed trays in and out and over and under dogs and cats. Mary and I got together last week to swap, seeds and I turned our packets of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants over to her. We share seeds and every year try some new varieties — all heirlooms. A cousin just loaned me her Kitasawa seed catalogue. These seeds are for Asian vegetables, and just reading about them makes me want to try lots of them. That will be for next year, but I can’t wait for Mary to see the catalogue. There are many varieties of greens for a winter garden and that is certainly one thing we can have here in Central and South Texas. Bebe Fenstermaker We had our second black-capped vireo (BCV) habitat workday. The afternoon was mostly cloudy, which kept us from getting too hot. When you’re bending down to clip little cedars below the bottom bit of greenery or leaning down to pick up an armful of brush cuttings to carry over to the nearest brush pile, the day seems much hotter. We had another good turnout of people and this time our fearless leader man-

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aged to get two volunteers from Lackland Air Force Base. Everyone worked mighty hard, and there were a bunch more bright blue and pink scrub oak stumps to show where we had been. After our first BCV workday, one of the hunters stopped me on the ranch road one day and asked about all the blue and red dots that had suddenly appeared on the landscape. I explained to him the nesting requirements of the vireo and told him about our work day. I also said that the color was pink, not red. Days later, while walking through the work area, I noticed the pink was no longer pink but orange. We had had a couple of weeks of overcast mornings with drizzle. So I guess the pink paint we used to paint the scrub oaks that were lopped off might have turned colors and he actually did see red. However, the blue remained bright blue. The creek is about dry now. There is a large puddle below the house here at Fromme’s. We haven’t had a good rain for too long. The hunters are trying to get a hog or two but I’m afraid those that were here until recently are staying close to water sources that are more reliable. There must be enough food out and about for the deer. They have not been hanging around for a handout lately, and I do not see them during the day. Only the cattle come around eyeing the grass that is still green in the yard. Bebe and I are slowly getting a garden in. There are six little tomato plants over here that will be ready to transplant as soon as we are sure there will be no more freezing weather. Sissy Fenstermaker

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

Sheriff’s department adds mobile command center to fleet

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By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

he next time the Webb County Sheriff’s Department faces a hostage situation or weather emergency, deputies will have a state-ofthe-art mobile command center at their side. “In the past, when we had those bomb threats and grenades that we found at the justice center, we weren’t able to set up anywhere other than on the streets or around our patrol cars,” said Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar. “Now we’ll be able to set up and be more unified in what our operations consist of. We’ll be able to collect more intelligence.” The command center cost $321,140, with $260,000 funded by a federal grant and $61,140 from federal forfeiture funds. According to the department’s press release, no taxpayer money was used to pay for the center. Cuellar showed members of the press around the mobile command center, and pointed out the amenities and high-tech equipment included. Among them was a briefing room with a large flat-screen TV that displays video of emergency situations up to 3 miles away, another TV outside the center that allows deputies to gather around and watch what is being shown in the briefing room, and a 9-1-1 dispatch center. “To us, it was like a wish list all this time we’ve been here, but the sheriff right off the bat wanted to make it happen. It took us a while, but we got it,” said department training coordinator Alex García, who will cross-train all deputies to work in the center. “It gives a place that’s secure. It has the capabilities so we can see the situation from far away, so we can stay safe from the danger.”

A dispatch on wheels Pictured is the Webb County Sheriff’s Department’s newest addition to its fleet: mobile command center. The center will contain multiple laptops that provide access to criminal history and drivers license checks. Deputies can also print maps and assess the area in an emergency situation. Besides hostage situations, the sheriff said the center could help with traffic, the SWAT team, and floods, such as the Río Grande flooding last summer. Every division of the sheriff’s office will be able to use the center. The Laredo Police Department already has its own command center, but this is the first of its kind for Webb County. Sheriff Cuellar said that as the department sees the need for other technology, it could add other equipment. u

Inside the command center J.J. Rendon of the Webb County Sheriff’s Department shows off the new mobile command center’s television surveillence system, which can capture video of situations up to 3 miles WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

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News & Commentary

Muslim feminist punk helps destroy stereotypes of gender, religion and race through the Muslim punk movement taqwacore abeya, a main character in Muhammad Michael Knight’s 2003 novel, The Taqwacores, is a riot grrrl who wears a burqa covered in patches, a devout Muslim and an outspoken feminist. The Taqwacores, once described as “Catcher in the Rye for young Muslims,” is the story of Muslim punks living in a house in Buffalo, New York. The world that Knight created sparked the creation of a real-life taqwacore scene, with the introduction of bands such as the Kominas, Secret Trial Five and Al-Thawra. While taqwacore involves Islam and punk rock, it is not a form of worship, but rather a form of self-expression that disrupts stereotypes of Muslims and critiques conservative Islam. The punk rock movement, while initially serving as a space in the 1970s for DIY culture and living on the fringes of society, was eventually critiqued as being a space dominated by white men. As an answer to this, in the 1990s, the riot grrrl movement was formed, with the creation of bands like Bikini Kill. A new form of “punk rock feminism,” riot grrrls focused on a fight for gender equality through expression. Taqwacore, while featuring many prominent male figures, can also serve as the road to growing a version of punk rock that confronts gender inequality based on sex and race. One of the most prominent female figures is Sabina England, an ex-Muslim, punk, playwright, mime artist, and filmmaker. Through her work, she dissects and challenges gender norms defined by religion and culture. England first read The Taqwacores in 2003, while it was still the product of photocopying and free distribution. England says taqwacore taught her to stay faithful to her visions and opinions. She describes it as giving “a platform for Muslims to be able to criticize Islam or Muslims to other Muslims and feel secure about it, and not worry about being called sell-out traitors.” The primary appeal of taqwacore is as a space for those who exist on the fringe of the Muslim community. Safe from the “conservative attitude that’s somewhat common with older Muslim Americans,” she saw taqwacore become a safe space for “liberals, feminists, queers, and outcasts.” In addition to writing plays and maintaining a blog, the most popular aspect of her work is her YouTube channel. One video in particular, titled “Allah Save the Punk,” is set in Pakistan. The main character, Zeena, is the daughter of a mullah who regularly warns against the evils of sinners, drugs and whores. Zeena rebels against her father with punk rock, and this character appealed to many of England’s fans. “I’ve gotten so many messages about it from Muslims all over the world who said they totally related to Zeena,” England says. Social networking and other online spaces allow her to express her views and share her work as an “alt Desi

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Soft Skull Press

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By Sara Yasin Alternet.org

Muslim punk feminist.” At the same time, her work helps other Muslim women feel that they are not alone. England’s power is in her ability to inspire her fans to feel more confident in expressing their opinions and challenging patriarchy within Islam. However, her work and the work of other taqwacore artists is not to be confused with Islamophobia, or even an avenue of worship; rather it confronts the frustrations with being Muslim as a cultural identity. What is central to taqwacore is its ability to express the frustration associated with growing up in a Muslim community, encountering sexism, or racism. England believes the notion of being a Muslim “has been turned into a racial, political and cultural identity.” Thus, while one may no longer have faith in Islam as a religion, it remains part of one’s identity — which, in turn, makes the taqwacore scene “a safe space for Muslim punks who could express themselves and their dissatisfaction through music and art.” For many Muslim women, who confront stereotypes of being submissive and sexism within their own communities, such a disruptive outlet can be very appealing. England believes that taqwacore may even be more appealing to women, because it provides them with a space to “express themselves as alternative feminists” and even as devout Muslims.

What is most significant about England’s work is its ability to inspire dialogue. Often times witty, sharp and truthful, England touches on some of the issues that many Muslim women struggle with. Confronting that loneliness and finding a sense of community is comforting. The Internet is a powerful space for women who identify as taqwacore across the globe. England may be based in the United States, but her fan base reaches as far as the United Arab Emirates (where her blog was banned for “having pornographic content” earlier this year). The movement has even picked up in Malaysia and Indonesia. While some women may attend the shows, the most powerful voices of taqwacore exist online. Micropixie, a Guajarati artist currently based in the United States, toured with the Kominas in 2009. In a show titled “Arranged Marriage,” she had the chance to perform within a predominantly South Asian line-up, and interacted with many taqwacore fans in person and online. Micropixie engaged in many intense dialogues about art, racism and sexism. For some of the women she encountered, taqwacore provided them with a place to belong as “outsiders.” Her initial enthusiasm for the movement was fanned by that of fans, as they had a sense of community, and created ‘zines, where “they collectively recounted their experiences of identity.” While Micropixie does not identify as taqwacore, she still tackles some of the same issues of sexism and racism in her own work. For Sabina England, the passionate online community helped her actualize her dreams of making a film, which will travel the festival circuit in 2011. She raised finances for Wedding Night through donations via an online fundraiser. The short narrative tells the story of an arranged marriage between a Pakistani bride and a PakistaniAmerican man. Expecting her to be an innocent and good Muslim woman, his expectations are shattered when he learns his wife had a promiscuous reputation back home in Pakistan. Shocked and disgusted, the film explores the realization through a Desi and feminist lenses. Through Wedding Night, England also critiques the idea of purity, and the sexist double-standards applied to women. While England is a unique figure in taqwacore, it still helped her be more bold in her messages, as Muhammad Michael Knight encouraged her to be true to her vision and voice. Hopefully, as the movement grows, it will encourage more young Muslims to be more open about the challenges and struggles they face. The taqwacore movement plays a large role in creating a platform for shattering stereotypes of Muslims and also creating a space for marginalized identities within the Muslim community itself. The significance of taqwacore is its ability to encourage one to question and critique their own faith -- a lesson not unique to Muslims. (Sara Yasin is a program assistant for Violence is Not Our Culture, a campaign against culturally justified violence. She also regularly blogs for Muslimah Media Watch, and her work has been featured in Elevate Difference, Jezebel, and The Times Higher Education Magazine.) u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


History of the Borderlands By Hector Farias Jr.

Hector Farias, Jr. is a U.S. Customs broker. He obtained his PhD from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and is a former faculty member at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, N. C.

I

Centralism, military occupation sparked the Texas Revolution

mmigrants from the United States made revolution inevitable when Mexico allowed them in the 1820s. The colonists had populated Texas in less than 15 years and created a province that would soon be revolting when Santa Anna became a centralist and replaced the congress with officials that he controlled. The most damaging action taken by Santa Anna was abolishing the Constitution of 1824 and replacing the states with departments run by his appointed officials. Many of the Texians, as the immigrants called themselves, were not united and were confused by the politics of state officials in Coahuila. In 1832, Anahuac was the central point of the Texians’ problems, which were acerbated in 1835 when Captain Antonio Tenorio arrived with troops to re-establish the customhouse and imposed higher duties than those in effect at Veslasco. The residents responded by smuggling and refusing to provide supplies for the Mexican soldiers. Captain Tenorio warned his superior General Martín Perfecto de Cos that the Anglos were on the verge of insurrection. De Cos did not send troops because he was occupied with a federalist rebellion in Zacatecas. Anahuac resident and merchant Andrew Briscoe added to the tension when Captain Tenorio arrested Briscoe for alleged smuggling. Briscoe was innocent, and the incident led to retaliation by William B. Travis, who raised an army of volunteers, went to Anahuac, and forced the surrender of Tenorio. The Mexicans evacuated Anahuac and turned their arms over to Travis. Resolutions in the province condemned the attack by Travis, and the citizens of Brazoria honored Tenorio and his men at a July 4 barbecue. Texians appealed to General de Cos, who disregarded the appeals by sending additional troops to Texas. Colonel Domingo de Ugartechea, the commander at San Antonio, reinforced this group of soldiers. General de Cos, the brother-in-law of Santa Anna, believed that military occupation of Texas was an unlikely measure to control the province. In early August, Cos and Ugartechea asked Texas officials to arrest Travis and other Anahuac leaders. These men were to be tried by the Mexican military as the colonists had no intention of arresting their own. The requests for arrests obliged local leaders to call for a convention to be held at Washington-on-the-Brazos on Oct. 15, 1835. The purpose of the meeting by Travis and the settlers was to obtain unity regarding constitutional terms and to begin making preparations for war caused partly by augmented customhouse taxes at Anahuac. After Stephen F. Austin arrived home after being a prisoner in Mexico City, his presence increased unification. Santa Anna’s change to a centralist government left the colonists no choice but to become independent of Mexico. Austin was pleased with the reception he received at Brazoria on Sept. 8, 1835, and blamed Mexico for the threat to the peace in Texas which prompted the Texians to follow his lead. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

On Sept. 17, 1835, General de Cos left Matamoros with 500 soldiers determined to arrest William B. Travis, Samuel Williams, and Lorenzo de Zavala — thereby attempting to bring Texas under control. From Corpus Christi, de Cos marched his troops toward San Antonio to take over the garrison under the command of Colonel Ugartechea. This action formed the basis for Austin’s conviction that war was inevitable. In early October of 1835, the town of Gonzalez was the site for the beginning of the Texas revolution. The settlers utilized a cannon that had been loaned to them by the Mexican Army for defense against the Indians. Colonel Ugartechea went to reclaim the cannon, which the Texians refused to turn over.

Mexico did not take any action threatening slavery during those years, but it was a defining difference that separated the Mexicans from the Texians.

Lieutenant Francisco Castañeda was ordered by General de Cos to retrieve the cannon with a group of 100 soldiers. When the Mexicans arrived, they found the Guadalupe River too high to cross and all available boats tied up at the east side of Gonzalez. The Texians took advantage of the delay and asked for volunteers that soon numbered 150 soldiers, with John H. Moore as their colonel. They attacked the Mexicans on October 1, firing once and then charging, which forced Castañeda’s withdrawal. The skirmish at Gonzalez initiated the war, and the sizable group of Tejanos knew they had to drive the Mexicans out of Texas and organize their own government or flee the province and risk losing their lives. There were many reasons for the cause of the revolution. On the one hand, American and British abolitionists blamed the slave owners for creating the revolt and ignoring Mexico’s ban on slavery. Some historians argued that President Andrew Jackson sent Houston to Texas to incite a revolution that would lead to annexation. Patriotic Americans opined that it was a conflict between democratic people rising against Mexican tyranny. Others saw the war as an ethnic conflict between peoples of Anglo and Mexican descent. There was no basis for the argument that President Jackson encouraged Houston to create a revolution. Sam Houston had been living quietly in Nacogdoches, played no role in the war of 1835, and strongly urged the settlers to undertake conciliatory measures. Houston never publicly favored or advocated warfare. While there was supposition of a Jackson-Houston conspiracy for annexation, it turned out to be purely speculative. A plausible reason for the revolution was the protection

of slavery by settlers. The Mexican government was opposed to the institution of slavery, which was not a major issue in any of the developments between the period of 1832 to 1835. Mexico did not take any action threatening slavery during those years, but it was a defining difference that separated the Mexicans from the Texians. American freedom from Mexican oppression did not hold water because Mexico offered considerable self-government at local levels. Texas settlers served as alcaldes and on ayuntamientos, and received important concessions such as trial by jury and the use of the English language. It was Santa Anna’s turn to centralism that Texians feared would result in the loss of self government and which partially contributed to the revolt. The ethnic and cultural conflict between Mexicans and Anglos requires thorough analysis. Most Anglos thought they were inherently superior to Mexicans, who they regarded as a race intermingled with Spanish and Indian blood. Mexicans also viewed the Anglos in Texas in a negative light, believing they were lazy and vicious according to José María Sanchez, who accompanied Mier y Teran’s tour of Texas in 1828. Texians and Mexicans spoke different languages and differed in their religious beliefs. While Anglos encouraged the institution of slavery, this practice was not acceptable to Mexican officials. Additionally, the Anglos in Texas favored subordinating the military to civil government and did not respect the unstable government in Mexico City. Many of these reasons were important but they were not the only issues that gave rise to the revolt. Anglo settlers in East Texas had very limited contact with Mexicans. Although there were differences in language and religion, Anglos and Mexicans cooperated with each other, and a great number of Mexicans in Texas fought alongside the Anglos during the Revolution. The Anglos and Mexicans in Texas had similar interests that placed them in conflict with policies adopted by Mexican authorities. Together Anglo and Tejano merchants obtained mutual benefits by acquiring contacts with suppliers in the United States and Mexico. As land speculators, they also had common concerns in the population expansion of the province by opposing anti-immigrations laws and tariffs while supporting slavery. Both Anglo and Mexican leaders believed that Mexican authorities were out of touch with their proffered direction for governmental stability. The Texas Revolution resulted from several conditions, the first being the population of a Mexican province in Texas by Anglos. Being close to their homeland, the Anglos had little loyalty to Mexico and believed that the central government was remiss in supporting their endeavors. Santa Anna’s centralist government and the demand by General Martin Perfecto de Cos that the people of Texas accept the new system and military occupation was the spark that ignited the revolution. u LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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The Food for Thought Foundation Continued from page 32 Juan Molina of La Flecha Materials was generous with his prices for soil and compost and with his delivery fees. We are grateful to Gerardo Sanchez of G&G Dump Services for the use of a trailer to move our equipment and materials. We want to thank David Martinez at Laredo Implement Company for donating fencing, posts, and a gate for the gardens at the Sacred Heart Children’s Home. Thanks to Scott Grimm and Jorge Mendez of Laredo Discount Metals who donated fencing, post and a gate for the Hillside garden, and thanks to Roger Martinez at Home Depot for fence posts, lumber and hinges. And thanks to Whataburger and Little Caesar’s for feeding us.” Cortez continued, “Big thanks go to the Webb County Commissioners Court,

and especially to Commissioner Jerry Garza for financial support and for his forward thinking on this project. And of course, thanks to the volunteers and students who worked over spring break to get the work done. We are especially indebted to Bro Vargas and Mike Peña, not only for constructing the raised beds, but also for showing volunteers the skills they needed to do the same.” Cortez said that eight of ten RGISC board members worked on the gardens. “It was hands on with shovels, wheelbarrows, and rakes. We couldn’t have done the project without the gardening expertise of Meg Guerra and Danny Gunn. Tom Miller, Dr. Jim Earhart, and Dr. Alfonso Martinez moved a lot of soil and compost and also kept us hydrated with a donation of bottled water. Victor Oliveros was our point man for logistics. It was team work,” Cortez said. u

Alzheimer’s Support Group Meeting Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, Meeting Room 2

call 723-1707

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By BEVERLY HERRERA

Spring reading

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President, The Food for Thought Foundation

pring — a time to recycle, and a way readers has left his distinct mark on the to help yourself and someone else. children of the world, inspiring readers of As you’re cleaning out all those all ages. clothes, toys, books, and anything If you’re a teenager and feel like you else you can’t find space for, think of oth- can’t cope with your life, pick up a copy of ers. Donate instead of storing or trashing Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Tough useable items. Casa de Misericordia helps Times. According to Mary Benavides at women and families in need — providing Laredo Books & More, it is full of stories a safe place for battered women and their from fellow teens learning to understand families. Most of these families leave home and cope when they are faced with addiwith nothing and need everything from tional troubles. The book promotes that diapers to toothpaste and clothes. “tough times can turn into great times.” The center is in need for clothing of all While you’re waiting for the movie to sizes (including school uniforms) and per- come out, pick up a copy of Water for Elsonal items such as shampoo, toothbrush- ephants by Sara Gruen. This is a work of es, deodorant, and fiction about the brushes or combs. circus during The The children need Great Depression. … Laredo Food for basic school supplies Although it covers Thought Foundato replace what they stressful times, it tion is looking for a way left behind. Also, shows how good to connect young writbooks and toys you things can happen aren’t using would even during bad ers and artists to create go a long way to help times, giving us a community-wide entertain kids who hope during today’s project. are going through uncertainties. an extremely stressIf you’re an artful time. ist and/or writer, Your home and your heart will be bet- keep your eye on us for future projects. ter for your actions. Also, you’ll be helping Last year’s Art Jam was so successful that a worthy cause. Give them a call at (956) the Laredo Food for Thought Foundation 712-9590 to find out how you can help. is looking for a way to connect young writAfterwards, relax in your clean house ers and artists to create a community-wide with a good book. In honor of Dr. Seuss’s project. If you’re interested in participating birthday, pick up The Cat in the Hat to re- or have suggestions, e-mail us at laredofoodmind yourself to take time to enjoy your forthought@yahoo.com and we’ll make sure life. Or pick up the perennial graduation you’re included. We’re excited about showpresent, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! The man casing the talent of Laredo, but need you’re who started writing books for elementary your help to make it a reality. u

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Notes from LaLa Land By dr. neo gutierrez

Dr. Neo Gutierrez is a Ph.D. in Dance and Fine Arts, Meritorious Award in Laredo Fine Arts recipient 2009 from Webb Co. Heritage Foundation, Laredo Sr. Int’l 2008, Laredo MHS Tiger Legend 2002, and Sr. Int’l de Beverly Hills, 1997. Contact neodance@aol.com.

Let’s take a trip to Cuba

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and also some excellent information on Cuba’s history, government, and economy. That information can be viewed at state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2886.htm. “The current U.S. administration recently added cultural visits to the very short list of exceptions allowing U.S. citizens to visit legally. It will be  interesting to see which types of cultural tours American institutions or associations will develop. Many Americans, of course, visit Cuba illegally through Canada or Mexico, although the potential penalties are hardly worth the risk. There are also direct flights into Havana from some European cities.” Bryan points out: “Fidel Castro took over Cuba promising the people liberties and freedom from tyranny. But he instituted just one more tyrannical government, and one in which the people had fewer liberties than ever before. Fidel remains First Secretary of Cuba’s Communist Party (even though one of the lecturers arranged for the group denied that he was a Communist), and his brother Raul carries Fidel’s previous titles.

twicepix/Flickr

or half a century, American travel devotees have not been able to visit Cuba. Castro nationalized businesses and properties, and eventually became responsible for hundreds of thousands of Cubans moving to Miami, Fla. Castro’s repression still controls Cuba via his younger brother, Raul, who received control after Fidel moved over in July 2006 when he became violently ill with “a stomach ailment.” Injustices, indignities, and an out-of-reach currency system have ruled in Cuba, along with lack of beans, eggs, milk, and toilet paper. If a Cuban goes to the doctor, which is free, he’ll have to wait an entire day or more to see the  doctor, but then medications or surgery are not available. American presidents have not had success with Castro, who is a master strategist. The Castro era has still not reached its end. Castro aligned himself with the Soviet Union, but since the government fell, leaving Cuba without its financial aid, Cuba has depended for money on tourism and money from exiles. But Fidel’s brother Raul is not as extreme as Fidel, so some changes have occurred, but the Cuban people are still in a dismal situation. And now U.S. President Barack Obama has eased restrictions on family travel. And so we get to today’s terrific report by ex-Laredoan Bryan Notzon, who is retired and my ex-student at Christen Jr. High School in Laredo over 50 years ago. Bryan tells us about his Cuba humanitarian trip from February 4 to 12 this year: “Elderhostel/Road Scholar runs several humanitarian trips each year into Cuba. Participants in previous Elderhostel tours are invited to attend, although someone who is interested could make the initial contact with Elderhostel. The tours are run under the aegis of Bringing Hope Inc., a charitable organization. The groups deliver medical supplies to the Catholic Sisters of Charity in Havana, who distribute the supplies throughout Cuba. School supplies are delivered to some of the remote schools. “Although donations of supplies can be shipped directly to Cuba, each group of 18 tour participants is able to bring several hundred pounds of supplies with little or no added transportation costs, and the trips offer a difficult-to-get chance to see Cuba legally. Approval to ship/ transport the goods to Cuba is granted by the U.S. Commerce Department. Approval to deliver the goods within Cuba is granted by the U.S. Treasury Department. Travel in Cuba is relatively expensive for westerners, and especially for Americans. Cuba takes a percentage off the top in all currency exchanges. This is effectively a tax, and it’s one that isn’t returned when unused convertible pesos are exchanged upon leaving the country. So, it’s best to exchange small amounts of currency at a time. The convertible pesos are called CUCs, and the only thing that makes them convertible is that Cuba will take them back; no other country or bank would want them. The State Department’s country profile on Cuba has ample information on the ins and outs of visiting Cuba,

“Each city block has a party representative who handles the day-to-day issues a city councilman in the U.S. might, but the block representative also acts like the Big Brother overseer. Such a job offers some privileges, but it’s also a job that can be hard to fill, because there’s always a stream of problems and complaints to be addressed. The government owns the housing. People who owned houses or apartments prior to the Communist takeover, and who had paid for those houses or apartments, were allowed to keep them. Of course, those who fled Cuba lost their properties. Houses or properties can be passed on to children, but if there are no children, the government takes over the house, and decides whom it will be given to. If a house or apartment was not fully paid for, the people pay the government little by little.” Bryan says of the ordinary people in Cuba: “They have living standards far below the living standards of people below the poverty level in the U.S. But, the people tend to express outward contentment, citing their free healthcare and high educational standards.

And, Cubans are, as a whole, well fed. The government makes sure that people obtain the basic essentials, which is also a way of acknowledging that people who are not starving and suffering are easier to control. (A common Cuban scam is for Cubans to approach Westerners to buy food and clothing for their babies. Some westerners fall for that, and then later the people return the good to the stores, and split the proceeds.) But, the people don’t realize that there is no free lunch (quoting Milton Friedman), and what they think that they are getting for free is costing them in overall lowered living standards. “The Cubans also seem to welcome Western tourists, and many were very pleased when they found out we were Americans. Of course, Cubans have been indoctrinated to hate the Cubans who fled to the U.S. when Castro took over. Those Cubans are referred to as exploiters, in one of the nicer references to them. True, some of them did exploit others, but many brought  jobs and development to Cuba. Certainly, most Cubans were better off then than they are now. But, the Cuba that Castro took over was a den of vice. Castro made prostitution and gambling illegal, and threw out the mobsters. Bryan says this on Hemingway’s home in Cuba and Cuban religion: “One of the interesting sites we visited was the old Hemingway estate, which he called “Finca Vigia.” Castro admired Hemingway, and fortunately ordered the estate preserved, including Hemingway’s old boat, “Pilar.” Hemingway had been living in a hotel room in Havana for seven years, or at least parts of seven years. When he got married, his wife insisted they move into a house. Any place that Hemingway frequented, whether bar or restaurant, advertises that … “Most of the Catholic churches appear closed, although people are now free to go to church. I walked into one large church to look at it just as an evening Mass was about to start; usually, the churches are locked. There were three elderly people, and one young woman in the huge church, plus the priest and an adult assistant. But the government still distrusts the Church. In retrospect, writes Bryan: “There a great potential for Cuba. It’s a very large island with lots of beauty, lots of fertility, minerals, coasts, and a population that could probably be converted to capitalism quite readily, were the people given greater freedom of movement and the chance to run business enterprises. The proximity to the U.S. would open opportunities of all types. There is fear in Cuba that if things are freed up, the wealthy expatriates in Miami would return and take over everything. They believe that for sure, there’d be lots of litigation over their old properties in Cuba. And of course, Cuba would have a difficult time fighting off the pressures to reintroduce gambling and other vices. The people are capable, but it would likely not be a smooth or easy transition. And on that note, as Norma Adamo says, tan tan! u LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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Social Security Leslie L. Young

etters to the editor Dear Editor,

Up until Tuesday, February 1, I was a senior at St. Augustine High; then I got expelled. The circumstances surrounding my removal by the administration from St. Augustine High are highly unusual. Despite the fact that I attended this school for a total of 10 years, principal Olga Gentry and coach Rodrigo Romo expelled me for wearing a blue “rootsuit” on campus, after school hours while a basketball game was being played. A rootsuit is a Spandex bodysuit. Earlier that same day the basketball players had asked a group of friends, including me, to wear the bodysuit to cheer on the team. Unfortunately, I did not even make it into the gym. Mrs. Gentry approached me and said in an angry tone to “get out of my school and tell your parents to withdraw you tomorrow at 8 a.m.!” No explanation was given to me as to why I was being expelled. The next morning my father, Dr. Apolonio Santos, and I met with coach Romo and Mrs. Gentry in her office and she explained to my father that the reason for my expulsion was due to a uniform infraction. This has made no sense to me. What purpose is served by expelling a student from school for wearing a rootsuit? I had only good intentions to support my school basketball team. I was surprised at her anger, considering that just three months earlier my group of friends and I were instructed by her to perform in rootsuits at a Halloween event for St. Augustine Elementary School. The events leading up to my expulsion began when a group of friends and I decided to play the traditional senior prank, which had been done every year by a few members of the senior class. We toilet papered the school on the first day of class last August 2010. The prank did not cause harm to anyone, and my friends and I cleaned up most of the toilet paper before class started that morning.

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As a result of the prank and in order not to be expelled, I signed a contract, and I understood that to mean that if I committed other acts of misconduct I would be expelled. I don’t understand how wearing a rootsuit constituted an act of misconduct. How was that harmful? After the toilet paper incident, I was constantly targeted by coach Romo and Mrs. Gentry. On a weekly basis I was harassed for such uniform infractions as wearing a plain grey sweater because it did not contain the words “St. Augustine.” Isn’t it ironic that during the entire fall semester none of my teachers ever commented on my uniform? The uniform criticism that always resulted in two or more days of detention for me came only from two people — the principal and the coach. Many other students had uniform infractions, but were never disciplined. One of my peers, also a senior who was part of the toilet paper incident and who also had signed a contract regarding expulsion at the time, wore a rootsuit to the basketball game on the same day Mrs. Gentry ordered me expelled. It is my understanding that his outcome was quite different from mine – that he is being allowed to finish his senior year with online classes. It is my opinion that punishment and discipline at St. Augustine High School had two standards, meted out for some and not at all for others, which is a mixed message to students. I am 17 years old. I would not be writing this if I did not believe I had been treated unfairly. Being removed from St. Augustine means I will not be able to walk across the stage and graduate with my friends, some of whom I have known since we were kindergarten students at St. Augustine Elementary School. In conclusion, I think it is a cruel irony that my expulsion occurred during Catholic Schools Week. Nicholas Santos

Is a Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Laredo.)

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What women should know about Social Security

hile the Social Security program treats all workers — men and women — exactly the same in terms of the benefits they can receive, women need to know what the program means to them in their particular circumstances. Understanding the benefits to which they may be entitled may mean the difference between living more comfortably versus just getting by in their later retirement years. One of the most significant things women need to remember in terms of Social Security is the importance of promptly reporting a name change. If you haven’t told us of a name change, your earnings may not be recorded properly and you may not receive all the Social Security benefits you are due. Not changing your name with Social Security also can delay your federal income tax refund. To report a name change, please fill out an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5). You can get the form by visiting socialsecurity.gov, visiting any Social Security office or card center, or by calling Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778). You must show us a recently issued document as proof of your legal name change. If building a family is in your plans, it’s a good idea to apply for a Social Security number for your baby in the hospital, at the same time that you apply for your baby’s birth certificate. Social Security will mail the card to you. Or, you can elect to wait and apply in person at any Social Security office.   However, if you wait, you must provide evidence of your child’s age, identity and U.S. citizenship status, as well as proof of your identity.

If you haven’t told us of a name change, your earnings may not be recorded properly and you may not receive all the Social Security benefits you are due.

Then, we must verify your child’s birth record, which can add 12 weeks to the time it takes to issue a card. When women start receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, other family members may be eligible for payments as well. For example, benefits can be paid to a husband: If he is age 62 or older; or At any age if he is caring for your child (the child must be younger than 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits on your record). Benefits can also be paid to unmarried children if they are: Younger than 18; Between 18 and 19 years old, but in elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or Age 18 or older and severely disabled (the disability must have started before age 22). The family of a woman who dies may be eligible for survivors benefits based on her work. For more information about women and Social Security, ask for the publication, What Every Woman Should Know (SSA Publication No. 05-10127) or visit our special women’s page online at socialsecurity.gov/women. u

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Laredo Community College

LCC spring enrollment reaches all-time high LCC Dance Theatre Approximately 40 dancers will grace the stage during the Laredo Community College Spring Dance Concert on Sunday, April 3 at 3 p.m. in the Martinez Fine Arts Center theater. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens and those with a valid student ID. “This dance concert will feature a wonderful mix of modern dance, jazz, hip hop, and contemporary dance,” said Danuta Gazdyszyn, a 27-year veteran of LCC’s dance program and director. “Expect to be entertained.” The concert will feature the LCC Dance Theatre and the LCC Lyric Jazz Ensemble. Special guests include Marilu Gorecki, El Estudio de Cristina Greco, and Higher Grounds Dance Studio under the direction of Sandi Harsa. Proceeds from the concert will benefit scholarships for LCC dance students. For more information about the dance concerts, contact the LCC Performing Arts Department at (956) 721-5330.

By ROGER SANCHEZ JR. & STEVE TREVIÑO JR. LareDOS contributor

LCC dancers put their best foot forward From traditional flamenco to modern dance, Laredo Community College students are putting their best foot forward, as they present two special dance concert fundraisers to the community in March and April. Teatro Flamenco Company Thundering steps and a live orchestra WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

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aredo Community College reported a record enrollment of 9,280 students this spring. The spring figure, based on enrollment on the 12th class day of the semester, is the highest spring enrollment the college has experienced. “We are extremely pleased to have had positive enrollment despite this ongoing, challenging economic period,” said Felix Gamez, LCC dean of admissions and enrollment management. “The fact of the matter is that Laredo shows there is clearly a strong and consistent demand for higher education, and we are doing our best to continue to deliver the high-quality educational programs to meet that demand.” Laredo’s unemployment rate currently sits at 8.1 percent, forcing many people who have lost their jobs to cut back on expenses, and to seek an affordable education to enhance their skills or obtain training in another field. “We are doing our part by not only offering core and technical education classes, but adding programs in specialized areas as well,” Gamez said. For instance, the Computer Technology Department launched an Oil and Gas Industry Specialization Program in mid-February to train entry-level workers as the recent discovery of the Eagle Ford shale attracts local and area oil and gas field companies to seek workers. In addition to having specialized programs, LCC recently launched an initiative to have advisers readily available for students year-round to help them along their educational path. For more information on LCC class schedules or for registration information, contact the Enrollment and Registration Services Center at (956) 721-5109 in the Fort McIntosh Campus or (956) 794-4110 at the South Campus.

Just dance The LCC Spring Dance Concert will offer an eclectic mix of dances on Sunday, April 3 at 3 p.m. in the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Center theatre. Among the featured dancers will be, from left to right, back, Crystal Ortiz, Karla Melendez, Mario Vara; and, front, Alyssa Hernandez and Kristina Garcia. will be heard as Laredo Community College’s Teatro Flamenco Company presents Georges Bizet’s “Carmen,” one of the world’s most popular operas featuring gypsy dancers at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 26 and Sunday, March 27. The performances will take place in the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Center theater on the Fort McIntosh Campus. Admission is $10 per person with proceeds benefiting student scholarships. LCC’s Teatro Flamenco Company will join forces with the Vidal M. Treviño School

of Communications and Fine Arts Flamenco and Philharmonic Orchestra as Bizet’s highlights of Carmen are performed. The flamenco dancers will perform El Toreador with a live orchestra and vocal soloist. This is the fourth year in a row the music and dance concert will offer a full orchestra with live music from the VMT Philharmonic Orchestra. Live music accompaniment also will be provided by the Flamenco Gypsy Passion Band, and Matador Brass Band and by vocal soloist, Dr. Joseph Crabtree.

Community invited to Wellness Fair Get on the road to wellness by attending the 11th annual community-wide Wellness Fair hosted by Laredo Community College and Doctors Hospital on Friday, March 25 from 8 to 11 a.m. in the Maravillo Gymnasium at the Fort McIntosh Campus. A number of medical and health services for adults will be offered free of charge, including blood pressure, height and weight, body fat measurements and wellness assessments. Screenings for cholesterol, glucose, prostate (lab work), asthma, and much more also will be offered. Persons must fast at least eight hours to take the cholesterol and glucose screenings. Valuable information for a healthier lifestyle also will be disseminated at the fair. Many health-related organizations will be on hand to join the LCC Kinesiology/ Wellness and Athletic departments and various Doctors Hospital departments. There will also be a demonstration to learn about martial arts for self-defense. Admission is open to students, faculty, staff and the public. Door prizes will be awarded and healthy snacks will be offered. For more information, contact Doctors Hospital at (956) 523-2020 or the LCC Wellness Program at (956) 721-5858. u LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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Texas A&M International University

Registration starts in April; Emmy Award winner to perform By STEVE HARMON LareDOS Contributor

Ed Asner Channels FDR for Distinguished Lecture Series Ed Asner, recipient of seven Emmy Awards (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Lou Grant) and 16 nominations, five Golden Globe Awards, and member of the TV Academy Hall of Fame, will star in the solo performance drama FDR, based upon Dore Schary’s Broadway hit Sunrise at Campobello, on Wednesday, March 23

at 7 p.m. at the Texas A&M International University Center for the Fine and Performing Arts Recital Hall. Admission is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Tickets for the general public are available at The Laredo Morning Times, at 111 Esperanza Drive. University students, faculty and staff may pick up tickets at the Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center, room 301. Seats not held by ticketholders by 6:45 p.m. will be released to others. FDR explores the life of one of America’s best-loved presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the events and decisions that shaped a nation. This powerful play follows the iconic president’s battle with polio and reveals the humanity and grace of the man who led the country through some of its most difficult times, including the Great Depression and World War II. FDR is performed in one act without

intermission. Asner is best known for his comedic and dramatic crossover as the journalist Lou Grant and for his role as Captain Davies, a brutal slave trader, in the epic miniseries, Roots. He has more than 100 TV and motion picture credits and has recorded numerous commercials and books on tape. He most recently lent his voice to Carl Fredricken in Pixar’s 2009 film Up! Schary, a noted director, screenwriter and producer, started his career as a screenwriter for Columbia Pictures in 1932. He became a successful freelance writer after he left Columbia and won an Academy Award for his screenplay for Boys Town. After working for MGM Studios for 20 years, he decided to focus his attention on the life of his personal hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For more information call (956) 326-2460. u

Courtesy Photo

María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS Staff

Registration Begins April 4 for TAMIU Maymester, Summer and Fall 2011 Students interested in advancing their degree coursework at Texas A&M International University can register for Maymester, Summer Sessions I, II, III and Fall 2011 courses, beginning April 4. Summer sessions provide an opportunity for students who would like to get ahead on their degree plans. Traditionally, students enrolled at other institutions advance their studies at TAMIU before returning to school in the fall. Registration for Maymester 2011 will continue through Friday, May 13. Registration for Summer Session I and III – Long Session 2011 continues through Friday, June 3. Registration for Summer Session II will continue through Thursday, July 7. Registration for Fall 2011 will

continue through Wednesday, Aug. 24. To register, visit uonline.tamiu.edu to access the class schedule; for additional information, go to schedule.tamiu.edu. For more information, contact the Office of the University Registrar at 326.2250, e-mail registrar@tamiu.edu, or visit offices in the University Success Center, suite 121. Complete schedules, catalog and additional registration information is available at tamiu.edu.

Singapore-bound

At the Farmer’s Market Retired educator José Angel Solis and pharmacist Tommy Izaguirre enjoyed a visit in Jarvis Plaza at the recent Farmer’s Market.

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A delegation of students from Texas A&M International University is traveling to Singapore this week to participate in the World Model United Nations Conference (WordMUN). Pictured from left to right are Cornelius Kipkorir, Tracy Talavera, Alejandra Avila, Alex Barrera, Alejandra Ovando, GeorgeThomas Pugh, and Aaron Gangi. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

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How to say nothing in 750 words

t is this writer’s considered opinion that there is a matter needing careful consideration, not only by those engaged in efforts to communicate through the written word but also by those who find themselves gaining considerable satisfaction from reading or do so for the express purpose of becoming better informed, being quietly entertained, or merely escaping the everyday humdrum and monotony of their daily lives. The thing to which I am referring and which, I believe, does need our vigilant notice is this: the way a distressingly large number of writers (whom it is my intent to identify later since it is within the scope and purview of this discourse), in their failed attempts to put into an intelligible form an idea that is nothing if not simple and straightforward, habitually resort to employing an extraordinary and — in my experience — unnecessarily large quantity of verbiage. That being said, it should also be understood that in truth there has been, I do believe, a not inconsiderable excess of misguided willingness devoted to publishing and disseminating numerous articles and accounts containing prose bloated with excessively ornate and/or superfluous language, which is something that serves no legitimate purpose. In fact, if the truth be known, this verbosity is one of a variety of annoyances and impediments to understanding that dis-

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courages the potential reading public from purchasing, perusing thoughtfully, and taking seriously the written word in its present state and inflated condition. In the event that my reasoning and observations will be considered legitimate and should, therefore, be taken under serious deliberation, then it follows that if much of today’s published writing is rife with language not only superfluous and unnecessary but excessive and unwarranted, then, it is obvious that this problem is of considerable scope and widespread occurrence.

less experienced who are, because of their natural state, much more susceptible to the endless temptation to inflate and — as I have observed during the long years of my substantial experience in teaching and writing — to go so far as to use a multitude of words to explain an intellectual concept that might well be communicated in far simpler and less complicated and redundant language. To be clear, I mean that writers too rarely implement the sort of expression that says what it means without obscuring it within a dense fog of fogginess, a miasma of super-

…it follows that if much of today’s published writing is rife with language not only superfluous and unnecessary but excessive and unwarranted, then, it is obvious that this problem is of considerable scope and widespread occurrence.

Clearly, this sort of clutter is the result of the habits of mind that cause it, and its perpetual application in its many and diverse forms lead to this unfortunate consequence — a fact about which there should be neither doubts nor misgivings in our minds. It is this, which, therefore, with your kind permission, I intend to explain since it might be well for those of us interested in what is commonly known as the written word to disabuse the

cilious terminology and jargonese so impenetrable and meaningless, in fact, that only with a sharp editorial knife can we dissect and, therefore, reveal the writer’s intended purpose and true meaning. Be that as it may, we would do well to recognize and take to task those persons who are most often guilty of the above-mentioned crime against readers, against fellow writers, and, it must be said, against the very

language we know, love, and respect. That is to say, it is these obfuscators in particular whom I now happily identify that much too frequently and most often are — though not exclusively — culpable: students at institutions of higher learning (though usually out of inexperience or a desire to impress, which is to say they often don’t know any better), announcers of sport who constantly make their way from cliché to truism to platitude to bromide, all in a concerted effort to avoid the condition of silence, political candidates and elected officials in the political arena who are determined to run on their record but only if they can consistently and without undue fanfare conceal from the public their record while simultaneously trumpeting it, and academicians trying to validate their academicism and self-proclaimed scholarly intellectuals attempting to demonstrate their scholarly intellectualism. Far be it for me, however, to counsel those substantially more intelligent and better degreed and pedigreed than I, and who, with righteous indignation, choose not only to defend but also to justify their practice of mistaking verbosity for elaboration, wordiness for amplification, prolixity for explanation, and long-windedness for emphasis. Of course, I could be wrong, in which case please accept this sincere albeit brief apology: Sorry. u

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South Texas Food Bank By salo otero

Salo Otero is the director of development for the South Texas Food Bank. He can be reached at sotero@ southexasfoodbank. org or by calling 956-726-3120.

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he South Texas Food Bank’s Ranchers for the Hungry program literally came to “life” for participants of the 48th annual Laredo International Fair and Exposition (LIFE). Pancho Farias, the STFB’s coordinator of Ranchers for the Hungry, beamed and tipped his hat to LIFE, reporting several donations to STFB’s mission of feeding the hungry. “We had great success at LIFE Downs. We were received with open arms,” Farias said. According to Farias, the South Texas Food Bank came away with nine steers, 10 hogs (including the grand champion) and 15 lambs and goats. All will be processed and packaged to feed South Texas Food Bank clients through the Adopt-a-Family and Kids Café programs. Adopt-a-Family is a sponsorship that, with an annual donation of $120, a needy family receives one bag of groceries per month. The food bank serves 836 families per month through Adopt-a-Family, but there is a waiting list of 522 families. The food bank serves an afterschool meal to between 700 and 900 children Monday through Friday at 13 Kids Cafés in LaredoWebb County. Two of the headliners were young LIFE exhibitors, the Tijerina siblings, Bonnie, 13, and Cayetano, 10. They are the children of ranchers and business people Tano and Kimberly Walker Tijerina. Both are also students at Power Christian Academy. “Bonnie showed a steer, sold it at auction, donated the money [$2,300] as well as the steer,” Farias said. “Caye also showed a steer, donated the steer and $1,000.” Farias praised the youngsters. “This is a noble gesture. They are setting the example,” he said. “These kids work the year around to make sure their animals are tamed and hand manageable. They put in a lot of time and effort.” Also, rancher-businessman Jim Walker, the Tijerina children’s grandfather, made it a family affair with a monetary donation for the meat processing of the animals. A former pro baseball player, Tijerina said, “For being the first time, Ranchers for the Hungry, hit a home run. We’ve set the bar high for the future. The food bank does

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‘Young at LIFE’ help food bank; fishing tournament at Falcon Lake

Cayetano Tijerina Zapata County Judge Joe Rathmell pledged his support in a recent Adopt-aFamily distribution at the Helping Hands Pantry in Zapata. “We’ll do whatever it takes,” Rathmell said. “We know the need is here. We want to get involved.” Farias is looking for more Ranchers for the Hungry donors. For information call Farias at (956) 568-3673 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Bonnie Tijerina an incredible job of feeding the hungry through Kids Cafes and other programs,”. “We need to be a branch of it and supply that much-needed protein. We as ranchers are blessed and need to step up to the plate to do our part and even a better job. We don’t realize what kind of hunger exists in our own backyard. The need is to make people aware. At the end of the day, we don’t want to see anyone going hungry.” The Tijerina children echoed his thoughts. “There’s a lot of needy people, and we

need to reach out. Sometimes we’re their only help,” Bonnie said. Her brother added, “We want to help the food bank. People need food.” The Ranchers for the Hungry were also at the Zapata County Fair in early March, hoping for a response similar to LIFE. “In Zapata, for now we only accepted donations of steers,” said Farias, who noted that Tijerina is chairman of the Laredo division of Ranchers for the Hungry. “We’re looking for a chairman in Zapata and other counties that we serve.”

Falcon Lake fishing tournament The first International Bass Challenge is planned at Falcon Lake in Zapata to benefit the South Texas Food Bank. The fundraiser is sponsored by Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar and the Zapata Chamber of Commerce. Entry fee is $150 per boat with a $2,000 cash prize on the line for the heaviest stringer. There will also be a second and third prize. Headquarters and weighing for the Bass Challenge will be lakeside at the Zapata County public ramp. The tournament starts 15 minutes before sunrise and weigh-in is at 3 p.m. The event will include a March 25 fish fry at night at the Zapata Civic Center or the Zapata County Fair Pavilion. The fish fry is open to the public at $10 per plate. Continued on page 54

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Opinion

Celebrating the birth of Texas independence By JOSE ANTONIO LOPEZ LareDOS Contributor

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e just celebrated the 175th anniversary of Texas independence on March 2. Now, let’s celebrate the 198th anniversary of Texas independence on April 6! What? How can that be? The answer is simple. Sam Houston took over a work in progress. Here’s how it all came about. Father Miguel Hidalgo’s impassioned grito on Sept. 16, 1810 inspired Don Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara’s vision and commitment for Texas independence. Don Bernardo was born and raised 40 miles south of Laredo. Many of his family’s descendants still live in the Laredo/Zapata area. He organized the first Texas Army (Army of the North). After winning a series of battles against the Spanish Army, he took over the Regional Capital (San Antonio) and the Alamo on April 1-2, 1813. (Yes, in this first Battle of the Alamo, the Texans won!) Don Bernardo became the first president of Texas. He wrote the first Texas Declaration of Independence on April 6, 1813. A week later, he issued the first Texas Constitution. Sadly, the path to permanent independence was blocked by the results of the Battle of Medina on Aug. 18, 1813. It was there that the Texas Army of the North (under a different commander) was defeated by the Spanish Army. The Texas Historical Commission calls this Texas independence battle the largest battle ever fought on Texas soil. More Texas patriots (over 800) died there than in all of Sam Houston’s 1836 battles. As such, Tejanos had already done the heavy lifting, sacrificing, and dying for Texas independence by the time Houston emigrated from Tennessee. Put in today’s terms, if Texas independence was filmed accurately, Don Bernardo would be the star of the original movie, while Sam Houston would star in the sequel. However, why is there such a disconnect with our Spanish-Mexican Texas past? For an answer, we must go back in history. When Sam Houston and U.S. immigrants crossed the Sabine River, the separation of Texas from Mexico was not even an issue. Here’s why: The political situation in 1835-36 Texas was clearly between those who supported a centralist government and those who supported a federalist system whose roots originated WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

with Gutiérrez de Lara in 1813. Most ar- roots. Sadly, the Spanish-Mexican hue riving immigrants from the U.S. joined in Texas history was rejected and/or the federalists, but there was one big distorted. In short, Tejanos looked like problem. Mexico had abolished slavery the enemy, worshipped as Catholics in 1829, and the U.S. immigrants owned like the enemy, and spoke Spanish like slaves. When told that they had to free the enemy. Thus, after 1836 they were their slaves, Anglos were upset at their treated like the enemy. Key Tejano help host, the Mexican government. They in achieving independence was quickly opted for a change in direction of the forgotten. Repulsive socio-political, armed conflict. The Anglo clean break economic, and education discriminafrom Mexico betrayed the Tejanos who tion followed against descendants of believed they were fighting for a feder- the first citizens of Texas, especially in alist type of government. Regardless, South Texas. The damage to the Tejano Texas became independent in 1836. Af- psyche continues to this day. terwards, driven by a clear anti-Spanish Years of negative rhetoric has gravely Mexican bias and obsessed by Manifest damaged the integrity of our SpanishDestiny, most mainstream historians be- Mexican ancestors. Shockingly, well into gan to write history the 1950s, Spanishwithout mentionsurnamed men and ing the key pre-1836 women serving as The damage to Texas independence airmen, soldiers, the Tejano psyche events. marines, and seacontinues to this day. The sad truth is men were fighting Years of negative rhetothat Spanish Mexiand losing their lives cans have been overseas while at ric has gravely dameither ignored or the same time their aged the integrity of our disparaged in the families back home Spanish-Mexican mainstream writin the U.S. were sufing of Texas history. fering under appallancestors. It is time to fill in ing bigotry. Albeit, the missing pieces. no one should be reHowever, what exactly is missing from minded that Spanish-surnamed military the way we all have been taught Texas veterans have shed blood in all U.S. wars history? To begin with, Father Hidalgo and have won more than their share of is a hero in Texas, not only in México. medals for extreme bravery fighting for Texas has four independence days: Sep- the red, white, and blue. In fact, it is hard tember 16 (el diez y seis); April 6, March to find another minority group with a 2, and July 4. Each is a milestone in the stronger sense of patriotism and with a story of Texas independence and worthy deeper passion to defend this great counof remembrance. Equally, it’s important try of ours. Sorry, Gov. Perry, Tejanos are to fairly put history in perspective. The in the Union to stay! 1836 Battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto The true Tejano foundation of Texas is are part of the chronological chapter of not that hard to figure out. Ancestors of Mexico’s history and not the U.S, since present-day Tejanos and Mexicanos were Texas didn’t join the U.S. until 1845 when the true trailblazers and settlers of Texas. Anglos traded their independence for They are not immigrants to the U.S, since U.S. statehood as a slave state. As such, they were already here when the U.S. Texas independence lasted only nine conquered the Southwest in 1848. It is years. Consequently, adding insult to this uniqueness that sets Spanish Mexiinjury and violating the 10th Command- can U.S. citizens of the Southwest apart ment, “Thou shall not covet your neigh- from our sister Hispanic groups in the bor’s property,” in 1848 the U.S. attacked U.S. Although some may be unaware of its weaker neighbor, the Republic of it, many of today’s South Texas families Mexico, and took not only Texas but over (and across the country) trace their linhalf of Mexico’s sovereign territory. eage to early 1700s Texas pioneers. This Ever since, most mainstream U.S. is the point that many Anglos miss about historians have depicted Southwest and Hispanics soon gaining the majority in Texas Spanish Mexicans in dreadfully Texas. That is, the expected increased sinister dark tones that border on con- population is not due to recent immigratempt for the region’s Spanish-Mexican tion. Rather, Tejanos are only reclaiming

their well-deserved status as the majority group, a distinction they held before Anglos burst open the Texas-Louisiana border in 1835-36 with a flood of mostly illegal immigration from the U.S. Candidly, the complete story of Texas independence is inspiring enough without the Anglophile mythology injected through the years in Hollywood movies and books that look at Texas history only through Anglo lenses. It is time to end the psychological warfare that has misled generations of Spanish-surnamed Texas students into thinking that their ancestors’ contributions in Texas history don’t matter. The time has also come to advertise the Alamo and La Bahia Presidio for their strength, beauty, and the creativity of their Spanish Mexican builders. We must no longer market these historic buildings just because armed Anglo U.S. expatriates died there. On the bright side, there are indications that the general public is finally beginning to get a more accurate picture of our ancestors’ involvement in U.S. history. It’s a slow but very timely course. As if restoring a magnificent ancient mural that was painted over with coats of unflattering paint, fair-minded historians are finally scraping off layers of misinformation to show a more balanced view of Texas history. There is no better example than Robert H. Thonhoff’s book, The Texas Connection with the American Revolution. In this work, the author describes the crucial help that Gen. Bernardo Gálvez gave to Gen. George Washington in the U.S. colonists’ victory against the British. Even history buffs who are aware of Gálvez’ involvement, may not know the high level of New Spain’s help to the U.S. in its time of need. That is why I refer to General Gálvez as the forgotten Lafayette! There are other examples. For instance, Blas Herrera Day was recently celebrated in Austin. Although it took the Texas Legislature 175 years to honor him, it’s better late than never. Additionally, the state board of education just approved the inclusion of some Spanish-surnamed heroes and events in the school curriculum for the first time ever. It wasn’t much, but it’s a start! Equally important, the Tejano Monument in Austin will depict the genesis of the unmistakable Spanish-Mexican roots of Texas. Continued on page 564 4 LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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Continued from page 52 Contestants can register at the Zapata County Chamber of Commerce or by calling event coordinators: Pancho Farias of the South Texas Food Bank staff and Pete Arredondo of the Webb County Sheriff Department. Farias can be reached at (956) 645-0840 and Arredondo at (956) 489-2421. The Zapata Chamber number is (956) 765-4871. Information is also available from Ellie Reyes of the South Texas Food Bank at elliereyes3@gmail.com. “Falcon Lake is the number one bass lake in the nation,” an enthusiastic Farias said. “Bass 10 pounds or over are common. In fact Ranger boats redesigned their live wells because of Falcon Lake. “ Farias, an avid outdoorsman, predicts: “There will be several 10 pounders because of the time of the year. It’s right at the peak of spawning.” Arredondo, also an avid fisherman native of Uvalde who joined the Sheriff Department two years ago, echoes Farias, “Falcon Lake is the hottest lake in the United States. It’s a fisherman’s best opportunity to catch that big bass and break that personal record. I’ve been fishing the lake for 10 years and this past year I caught four of 10 pounds or more.” Arredondo explained Sheriff Cuellar’s

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involvement. “The sheriff supports many third party funding projects and anything we can do provide meals for the needy is high on our list,” he said. The South Texas Food Bank converts every dollar raised into seven meals. Romeo Salinas, Zapata County treasurer, is a valued member of the South Texas Food Bank board. “A tournament like this is an economic boost to our community,” he said. “We have a beautiful lake. The water levels are high. Our lake is safe if you just stay on U.S. waters. Fishermen will be in for a good treat. They’ve been pulling 12 to 13 pounders. Non-fishermen can come in during the weigh-in and enjoy the big fish. The fish are released right back into the lake. It’s a big plus for Zapata and for the food bank. The money is used to continue the food bank mission.” The tournament is getting support from Mexican sportsmen. Flavio Robles from the Nuevo Laredo Association of Fishermen told Bass Challenge organizers he is eyeing 17 to 25 boats to compete from his group. Zapata is one of eight counties served by the STFB. The food bank distributed supplemental food to 17,502 Zapata County families in 2010. Among them were 24,921 adults and 13,883 children. Meals were served to 30,092. u

Seguro Que Sí By Henri Kahn

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

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The decline of the Roman Empire and the United States analogy?

istorians state that the cause of the decline of the Roman Empire was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. A gradual decline due to disintegration of political, economic, and military actions including social institution functions that slowly, but surely over 320 years eroded and finally destroyed the magnificence of Rome. The ingredients of the decline were brought on by extended military actions, infrastructure needs, guilds (a.k.a. unions), adulteration of money value, and hyperinflation that created enormous economic stress. Defacto organs of the state known as Collegia were designed for control of guild members to work and produce for the state morphing the citizens of Rome into chattels that eventually lost any semblance of wanting to work hard and creatively to improve their lifestyle. If this analogy isn’t a symbol of fear for you, then you better wake up and smell the rubbish spread by the last Republican and current Democratic ad-

ministration in Washington before it is too late. Remember, 320 were years in ancient chronology that is more like 50 years these days! We need to quit being so good that we’re no good by giving money to practically every country, friend or foe, because few if any appreciate our help and turn that immediate fleeting thank you into “We need more now, damn it, or we’ll get in bed with Iran or Russia or China”. Participation in a no-fly zone in Libya? Not only no — hell no! Isn’t Iraq and Afghanistan enough already? Finally, for now, thank God we are a right to work state, because you must know that collective bargaining does not discriminate. Gee, that’s just wonderful, in a pig’s eye! The lazy, barely productive union worker gets exactly the same pay and benefits paid to hard working productive worker. How do you like them apples? For goodness sake, call or write to our wonderful U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and give him your opinion concerning what you think Congress should do to help save our country from eventual decline. u

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The Mystery Customer BY THE mystery Customer

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elicious local flavor at Las Kekas, comparing three garden nurseries, bad banking experience, and China Border’s savory delights

Las Kekas 3914 McPherson St. Nothing can beat the unique flavor and atmosphere you find at a local restaurant, and Las Kekas is definitely one-of-a-kind in Laredo. Nowhere have I tried the fried kekas with fillings such as mushrooms, lots of melted queso blanco, frijoles, roasted chicken, flor de calabaza and more queso blanco. Are you hungry yet? The molletas, three pieces of French bread with refritos cargados — cheese and refried beans — were delectable starters despite the simple ingredients. The restaurant is combination of Mayan and Mexican flavors, or so the menu says, which is entirely in Spanish. If you struggle with Spanish like me, you might want to bring along a translator for the menu (my parents were there to help me out). But you really cannot go wrong with the kekas. We tried six different kekas and they were all absolutely delicious. Two kekas filled me up despite my admittedly large appetite. Each keka was a fried bread/tortilla with a warm, melting filling. These were topped with shredded lettuce, onions, cheese, and some kind of Mexican cream. My favorite filling was the flor de calabaza, so make sure to try it when you go. You can afford to splurge on a few different kekas, which run from $1.50 to $2.50 a piece. You cannot beat savory food for such prices. There were some cons to the restaurant that could be chalked up to the newness of the establishment. Every new restaurant is an experiment that will have some kinks along the way. On that day, the servers told me they didn’t have pico de gallo for the chips or horchata, which I wanted to try for the first time. The servers were lackluster — we had to remind them to serve us chips and drinks often. However, the manager was quick to graciously ask us if we needed anything and chatted us up about the food. It was a nice consolation for the less-than-satisfactory service. Don’t write off Las Kekas yet, though. The food is so good that it makes you forget the cons. Try the arroz con leche and many of the other desserts and candies they make at the restaurant. The lemonade is also refreshing and not too sweet, which can ruin lemWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Food makes up for lacking service at Las Kekas onade for me. Business is booming for the restaurant, fortunately for my family and me, so we can probably look forward to eating more kekas. The owner is considering moving to a larger location. If the owner upgrades the servers and resolves those kinks, the restaurant could become a Laredo favorite. It’s definitely one of my top eateries now. To check out the full menu and get more information on Las Kekas, go to laskekas.com. Lowe’s 6623 San Dario Ave. Home Depot 5710 San Bernardo Ave. Gil’s Nursery 3005 Meadow Ave. Like most folks putting in a spring vegetable garden, you’ve no doubt pingponged between the Lowe’s and Home Depot garden departments to get everything you need. They have identical stock, but the difference is in what each one does to keep their plants alive and in sellable condition. You’ll find most of the Lowe’s stock outside and in full sun, which is what the plants will require in the garden. As always, however, the backs of the flats and the plants in them are tucked away under the shelf above, which causes etiolation, which is the lengthening and weakening of stems growing spindly as they try to get to light. This is as true at Lowe’s as it is at Home Depot. The big difference between the two places is that Lowe’s is more diligent about watering. On a recent Friday evening visit to Home Depot the MC found much of the vegetable starter stock dehydrated and hanging over the sides of pots, and though she brought the matter to the attention of employees, no action was taken to revive plants in the flats. No doubt the store’s vegetable plant sales were not a big item the following day. Not only were the Home Depot starter plants dry, but getting to them necessitated moving two shopping carts filled with garbage that were parked in front of the display. Another striking difference between the two is that at Home Depot there is a scarcity of garden department employees, while at Lowe’s you can always find help.

the line that had built up, but he kept going in and out of the back office, teasing the lone teller who was helping a lady out. It’s not like she wasn’t teasing back, however, and I could hear the sighs behind me as they played around while a longer line formed. Finally, the teller came out and took a station without a computer, which baffled me. When it came to my turn, he needed to check the “computer in the back,” even though there were plenty of stations with computers in the front. I’m not sure what exact protocol these tellers are supposed to follow to access those computers, but it seemed pretty ridiculous to me. After the long wait, the teller still couldn’t help me much with my problem. IBC needs to train their tellers better. Oh, and when I searched bank branches on IBC’s website in the 78041 zip code within Laredo, Texas, I got “No locations found.” Can somebody fix that? The Saunders location is within the 78041 zip code. China Border 802 San Bernardo Ave. What a great quiet working lunch the MC had at China Border, one of a handful of downtown restaurants with a record of sustainability and very good food. Sweet and sour soup, tea that never tastes old, and General Tso’s chicken hit the spot on this occasion. A trip to Gil’s Nursery on Meadow Street on a cold, windy Saturday led the MC to some healthy, I-foot-tall jalapeño starter plants, beautiful mint in 4-inch pots, healthy six packs of marigolds, and rue. International Bank of Commerce 2120 E. Saunders St. I usually have a good experience with the International Bank of Commerce. The bank is open later in the evening, and it is fairly simple to find a location nearby. This day, however, had me cursing the bank’s name under my breath as I waited in line for 45 minutes. Around noontime I had my lunch break, so I decided to stop by the bank to make sure my latest paycheck had been posted to my account. It wasn’t exactly the best time of the day to stop by — surely many of the workers were out to lunch. However, I watched a teller come out three times to tease the other teller with an acoustic megaphone. He saw

AT&T We went through all possible steps to fix a protracted problem with our network dropping and our computers trying to log onto a network other than ours. Twice we went through the hideous, time-consuming paces AT&T put us through from their troubleshooting central in a galaxy far from ours. Turn it off, turn it on, do the hokey pokey with your router and modem. We did it all. We called two local tech support companies. We were advised to buy a twowire AT&T combo router/modem. We did ($100). We called the AT&T 1-877 number again and asked for a live human. He came out, reported their lines and their DSL signal were in order. A chance conversation with Lupita Zepeda of AT&T in Laredo brought us the good fortune of two AT&T techs, who checked the line from the pole to the building, replaced the new modem, and prevailed in keeping us connected. Thank you! u LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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Once and for all, the monument will prove to the world that Texas history is truly bilingual and bicultural. Incidentally, Laredoans should be extremely proud that the artist and sculptor, Armando Hinojosa, is a Laredoan. Texas independence was born amid shouts of ¡Viva la Independencia! long before 1836. The Spanish Mexican heritage in Texas and the Southwest is a thing of beauty. It is worth preserving and protecting. However, it won’t be easy. Using the ugly immigration debate, there are organized efforts in Arizona, Texas, and elsewhere to attack Hispanic heritage almost on a daily basis. Stand up for your history, regardless of political affiliation. Do not support the hidden agenda of legislators and political parties whose racist aim is to eliminate bilingual education and Mexican American

studies in the schools. How can you tell if your party is guilty? Check your party’s platform to see if it contains any level of intolerance toward cultural diversity. In summary, to finally recognize April 6 as the birth of Texas independence, the time has come to stop treating the speaking of Spanish as a sin of U.S. citizenship. The idea that it’s unpatriotic for Texans to speak Spanish as their language of choice is absurd. That right is part of preserving a heritage that is 300 years older in Texas than Anglo heritage. After all, this is New Spain, not New England. Moreover, the U.S. Mexico boundary is a unique region known as the borderlands where blood kinship and extended family have thrived since 1848. Although we value our connection, please remember this key aspect: Linked heritage is our unique cultural inheritance, not nationalistic allegiance to Mexico or Spain.u

Courtesy of Laredo Community College

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Greens of Guadalupe prepare for neighborhood cleanup The Greens of Guadalupe, environmentalists who are parishioners of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, are preparing for their annual neighborhood cleanup on Saturday, March 26. Registration is at 8 a.m. in the church hall at 1700 San Francisco St. According to organizer Birdie Torres, volunteers with trucks are welcome. The target area is Zacate Creek to San Eduardo and Sanchez to Benavides. For further information, call (956) 286-7866.

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The Anna Street Truck Route Out of sight, out of mind Hundreds of acres of tall, dry weeds, abandoned vehicles, tires, wooden pallets and refuse are ripe for a runaway fire. You can’t get away with a hazard of these proportions in Del Mar or Plantation. Why is it acceptable in the western sector of the city?

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Arts & Culture By SYLVIA J. REASH LareDOS Contributor

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Clos Lucé. Pictured below is the historic manor house in Amboise, France, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years.

Erin Silversmith

estled in the countryside of the Loire Valley in central France and built on a steep hill overlooking the Loire River rises the chateau of Amboise, and the manor house of Clos Lucé close by. Many significant historical personages such as Francis I, Catherine de Medici, and Mary Queen of Scots lived in this chateau, but the most interesting and famous person called Clos Lucé his home the last three years of his extraordinary life. For here, invited by the French King Francis I to work as an engineer and architect, and to live out his final days, lived Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci. Da Vinci was a brilliant man with an unquenchable curiosity. He was well loved among his contemporaries; however, because he received no formal university schooling, his scientific studies were mostly ignored by scholars of his day. His genius encompasses a wide range since he has been known as a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. All of these areas of expertise were readily apparent in the exhibition and displays at the manor house of Clos Lucé, his residence from 1516 until his death in 1519. One of the little known facts of Leonardo da Vinci’s life is that that he spent part of his life in France. His last years were a culmination of an impressive and extraordinary career spanning decades of unprecedented powers of invention — scientific studies, which have only been recognized within the last 150 years. Other than the established fact that he was a genius, what was da Vinci really like? This was one of the several questions I asked myself as I spent time exploring his house, garden, and gravesite in the quaint and bustling market town of Amboise. Clos Lucé, constructed of rose brick and tufa stone, is picturesque and cozy. As I entered and walked through its rooms and observed the remarkable collection of machines and models, I

Leonardo Da Vinci’s last years spent in France discovered da Vinci’s everyday life and marveled at his insight and his engineering prowess. I could vividly visualize his rather mundane activities as I wandered through the various rooms — da Vinci and the court enjoying festivities in the gallery; da Vinci painting and drawing in his well-lit studio; warming himself in front of the kitchen fireplace; welcoming his friend Francis I, the King of France, and various other artists in the reception room; strolling through the small Renaissance garden; and spending his last dying days in his simple, but tasteful, bedroom. In addition to the warmth of the actual dwellings, I was most impressed with the exhibition containing models made

from Da Vinci’s very extensive journals and drawings. Here I could observe the precursors of the bicycle, car, cannon, helicopter, airplane, and others that were four centuries ahead of their times. I could readily recognize da Vinci as a visionary who imagined the future and visualized it as it would to be. Da Vinci spent his last three years on Earth surrounded by friends and enlightened conversations. Through his friendship of Francis I, his last days were spent creatively preparing architectural drawings for several chateaus for the king of France. After his death at 67 and in honor of his service and friendship to the king, he was buried in a chapel inside the grounds of the king’s own chateau at Am-

biose, as a memoir to his incredible life and inventions. Even though many centuries have elapsed, da Vinci has not been forgotten for his life and accomplishments have strongly influenced many aspects of our present day lives. Furthermore, we still are discovering and learning from his extensive journals and drawings. As Giorg io Vasari, the first Italian art historian, so aptly described, “Da Vinci was a man of infinite grace, great strength and generosity, regal spirit, and tremendous breadth of mind.” We are indeed fortunate that a brilliant man such as Leonardo da Vinci has left his legacy for the benefit of all mankind. u LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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News

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ward-winning photographer Penelope Warren will open “Re-Visioning,” a solo show of new work, Friday, April 6, at 6 p.m at the Laredo Center for the Arts at 500 San Agustín Ave. Warren has shown work in both oneperson and group shows at the Center for the Arts, Laredo Community College, and other Laredo venues. “ReVisioning” includes a number of her newest photographs, almost all blackand-white prints modified by alternative processes or applied color. The show will also feature works in

watercolor, pastel, and graphite, many of which move beyond Warren’s signature floral and historical subjects. “It’s a deliberate switch,” Warren said, “to get out of my comfort zone. That’s the re-visioning or reseeing that gives the show its title. While I’ve been working in watercolor since last year, I’m still feeling my way there, to some extent, and the drawings are something entirely new and exciting for me.” The opening reception for “Re-Visioning” will run from 6 to 8 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. For further information call the Laredo Center for the Arts at 725-1715. u

Cristina Herrera / LareDOS

“Re-Visioning” features new work by Penelope Warren; opens April 6

A tranquil morning at Jarvis Plaza With the beautiful façade of the Hamilton Hotel behind them, two old friends meet up in Jarvis Plaza. The historic plaza and the old hotel are landmarks in the business district that had once been the heart of Laredo commerce.

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Arts & Culture By Cristina Herrera LareDOS Staff 1. He’s not really a doctor — and Seuss was his middle name. Theodore Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Mass. Seuss added the “Dr.” title to his name as a joke, because his father had pushed him to become a professor.

The man behind the cat

2. Geisel’s pseudonym was born from the Prohibition Era. While in college, Geisel and nine of his friends were caught drinking gin with friends in his room, which violated the Prohibition laws. Geisel was forced to resign from the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, but continued working under the “Seuss” To celebrate his 107th birthday on Mar ch 2, LareDOS offers fascinating trivi a about the writer and cartoonist. Check out a rare first editi pseudonym. on of The Cat in the Hat at the LCC Senator Judith Zaffirini Library, on display until March 25 at the South Campus. 3. His first book was rejected 27 times. Geisel wrote and illustrated And to Think the National Post. The book That I Saw It on Mulberry Street!, which was contains 1626 total words, with a vocabu- issues, such as environmentalism and published in 1937. He nearly burned the lary of 236 words. yes, Hitler. book after being rejected so many times. Yertle the Turtle contains anti-fascist Geisel’s grandparents lived on Mulberry 5. A line from Horton Hears a Who! has themes. Geisel was known to be strongly Street in Springfield, Mass. been commonly used by anti-abortion ac- anti-fascist, and Geisel himself said that tivists. Yertle represented Adolf Hitler. 4. The Cat and the Hat was aimed at The line is “A person’s a person, no matspicing up school primers. ter how small.” Seuss threatened to sue an 7. Green Eggs and Ham has only 50 After reading a 1954 article in Life Maga- anti-abortion organization if they did not words. zine that criticized school reading primers remove the line from their letterhead. Geisel won a $50 bet with his publisher for being “intensely boring, unchallengfor limiting the book to 50 words. ing to readers and responsible for causing 6. Geisel wrote some of his books harm to children’s literacy,” according to about current events and controversial 8. Geisel did not particularly like children. Geisel’s widow Audrey said that Seuss was even afraid of children. According to BBC, “She said he was always thinking: ‘What might they do next? What might they ask next?’ She added: ‘He couldn’t just sit down on the floor and play with them.’”

Seussville Valerie Aguallo and her daughter Katie Aguallo browse seussville.com, Random House’s official site for Dr. Seuss and his works at the opening reception for “A Seuss Celebration” at the Zaffirini Library at LCC’s South Campus on March 7. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

9. Geisel first experienced fame with … an insecticide ad? During the Depression, Geisel supported himself and his wife by illustrating ads for Standard Oil, General Electric, and NBC. He also did an insecticide ad for Flit with the words “Quick Henry, the Flit!” which became a nationally famous catchphrase. 10. Geisel first pronounced Seuss like “soice.” He changed the pronunciation to “soose” because it was similar to “Mother Goose.”

A rare find at the LCC library LCC librarian Deborah Matthews holds a 1957 first edition of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, which is the catalyst for the latest book and art exhibit, “A Seuss Celebration,” at the Senator Judith Zaffirini Library at the South Campus. The book will be on display until March 25 and then available for viewing in the Year Library’s Special Collections Room.

The art of Seuss A piece of student artwork to commemorate Dr. Seuss and his works is displayed at the opening reception for “A Seuss Celebration” at LCC South Campus’ Zaffirini Library. Sources: BBC News, AskMen.com, BuzzFeed, National Post, AbeBooks.com LareDOS | M ARCH 2011 |

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María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS Staff

María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS Staff

Healthy fare at the Farmer’s Market Ninfa Carrizales serves up a cup of delicious and healthy nopalitos at the March 19 Farmer’s Market. Carrizales makes her own corn tortillas which have nopalitos in the corn mix. Her quesadillas de nopalitos were an obvious hit.

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Key to Farmer’s Market success Allie Hrncir staffed the information table at the March 19 Farmer’s Market in Jarvis Plaza. The monthly event, increasingly well-attended since its beginning last year, continues to draw more local vendors. Hrncir, in tandem with Laredo Main Street’s director Sandra Rocha Taylor, has had a hand in that success.

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Gentle Implant Dentistry of Laredo

Dear Denture Wearers,

Rolando A. Guerra, Jr., D.D.S., F.I.C.O.I. Fellow International Congress of Oral Implantologists

Finally there is a solution to loose �itting lower complete dentures. 3M has developed a remarkable mini implant that can be placed (up to four) in the lower jaw to stabilize the denture. This procedure takes less than two hours. It involves gently placing, under local anesthesia, two to four “toothpick sized” threaded implants into the area beneath the lower denture. Since no surgical cutting is required, bleeding, if any, is minimal to none. After placement, the lower denture is �itted with special “snaps” at the same appointment. The only thing required of the patient is that the denture be left in the mouth on the snaps for 48 hours. After this time, the denture will be unsnapped and cleaned and tissues evaluated by the dentist. The patient will be given a special brush and shown how to place and remove the denture. In most cases, the denture you are now using may be used with these fantastic implants. If the denture is broken, too old, or too thin, a new denture may be recommended. Our of�ice has been using the patient’s own denture about 90% of the time. These MDI implants have been approved as a permanent, not temporary, solution to loose �itting dentures. For your initial consultation, please call 956-726-9418 and just say you would like the consultation for the denture implants. With our every best wish, Gentle Family Dentistry Berenisse E. Mares Espinoza, DDS, Certified for 3M MIDI Implants Jovanelly Zaragoza, DDS, Certified for 3M MIDI Implants Rolando A. Guerra Jr., DDS, Certified for 3M MIDI Implants

Rolando A. Guerra Jr., DDS, FICO I Jovanelly Zaragoza, DDS Berenisse E. Mares Espinoza, DDS;

5904 West Drive, Suite 9 64

| L a r e DO S | M A R C H 2011

Laredo, Texas 78041

956•726•9418 WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

LareDos Newspaper March 2011  

Laredos, Newspaper from Laredo Texas