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The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.” Jim Hightower

A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS

MAY 2011

Est. 1994

Vol. XVII No. 4

64 PAGES

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Downtown has been wholesaled and traded like red meat. The politics that brought Kell Muñoz to the table will surely land them an extension of a contract as well as other jobs, and not just for city business. The massive proposed reconstruction of San Dario and Santa Ursula for the five blocks before Bridge II, the tunnel to and from the bridgehead, the Pan American Center, a million square feet of new buildings — these are not revitalization plans for downtown. These are plans for new development. If all of this was not so seriously being considered by the City at a $60 million price tag, the very notion would be hilarious, today and 20 years from today.

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Opinion

This place matters

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By JESUS NAJAR LareDOS Contributor

ediscover Laredo, the master plan for downtown revitalization, is a great opportunity to create those conditions needed for a long awaited reinvestment and renaissance of the urban center. A master plan is an interesting exercise of public participation that lays out the guidelines to help restore the physical conditions of a city, thus allowing new investment and urban opportunities. San Antonio-based architecture firm Kell Muñoz partnered with local architects Hickey Peña to develop the master plan. This past fall, during informational public meetings held at the Civic Center, task force teams and community members participated in drafting this plan, by expressing what they loved and what they didn’t love about downtown Laredo. By the end of February 2011, at the last City Council meeting, results from community input and the design teams’ ideas were presented to elected officials. Unfortunately, some of the vision strategies presented to council members as a means to achieve a thriving downtown can become a threat to what we love about this place, instead of a viable solution. For instance, a much-showcased Pan American Plaza is proposed to be located on I-35 concentrating a series of high-density, superblock-buildings over a tunneled expressway that would seamlessly connect Bridge II with the rest of I-35 toward San Antonio. Pan American Plaza is being planned as a “parallel downtown” comprised of a federal office building anchor, mixed-use buildings, a bus depot, and other urban amenities. If built, this massive development not only will further accentuate the current urban scar that divided the historic barrio of El Azteca from the rest of downtown in 1974, but also would create a forWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

eign architectural environment to the remaining low-scale historic buildings and homes that characterize the Spanish Colonial character of the neighboring San Agustín and Old Mercado Historic Districts. In addition, the proposed tunnel connection will serve to funnel potential visitors away from downtown, the destination we all aim to rescue in the first place. Another strategy that Rediscover Laredo considers is to redevelop Convent Avenue to create a commercial corridor and urban mall with pedestrian and streetscape improvements from a one-lane reduction to a total closure to vehicular traffic. While closing a street is often perceived as an attractive solution that would create a safer environment for shoppers and pedestrians, it has proved disastrous in repeated studies all over America. Between 1960 and 1970, downtown pedestrian malls were a popular urban planning formula used to bring back shoppers to decaying downtowns. Today, out of more than 200 pedestrian malls built during those decades, only five survive, and the rest were reopened to vehicular traffic, causing additional expense to taxpayers. (See: Pedestrian Malls: Back to the Future, NYTimes, February 27, 2009.) Currently, Convent Avenue is perhaps the most thriving street in downtown, and this is exactly because it has been historically an open thoroughfare for pedestrian and vehicular traffic coming from our sister city of Nuevo Laredo. An easy bridge connection to Mexico and the existing steady flow of traffic on Convent Avenue is the reason for its success and a definitive part of what historically has defined us economically as “the Gateway City.” Closure of so vital a historic artery would be a renunciation of our past. In sum, these two strategies seem to favor di-

verting visitors away from downtown, encouraging the perception of us as a “ciudad de paso” more than we already are. Will these “solutions” be the last nail in downtown’s coffin? We all welcome new development and growth, and now is the perfect time to contribute to Rediscover Laredo’s plans with increased community input. Laredo

deserves a downtown with more dining, cultural, and entertainment options linked by restored sidewalks and adaptive re-use of existing old buildings and infill opportunities in vacant lots inside the downtown area, not out of it. (Jesús Najar is the South Texas Community Outreach coordinator for the Southwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He can be reached by email at jesus_najar@nthp.org) u

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1812 Houston Street Laredo Texas 78040 Tel: (956) 791-9950 Fax: (956) 791-4737 Copyright @ 2011 by LareDOS

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ditor

ecently, I received the following information from Dr. Ernest Perez, former director of bilingual education at the Texas Education Agency, concerning the passing of his wife, Idalia. In the late 1990s, Dr. Idalia Perez served as chairperson of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at TAMIU. For her former students and colleagues, I offer the following transcription. Idalia was born — December 28, 1940 — and reared in Crystal City, Texas. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas Women’s University in home economics: fashion design. As a student, she worked part-time by designing children’s clothes for Neiman Marcus. In her senior year, Idalia was selected by the TWU Faculty to attend Oxford University in London to study Shakespeare and his works. Continuing at TWU, she earned her master’s degree in reading. In time, she earned her PhD in reading at the University of Wisconsin under the direction of Dr. Dale Johnson. Idalia got married, bore three children, got divorced, and as a single mother, reared and educated all three children and put them through college. Currently, one is a physician, another holds a Ph.D. in geriatrics, and the third is an accountant. Later on, Idalia married Dr. Earnest Perez, who also worked for TAMIU for a while. Idalia earned her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin under the guidance of her mentor Dr. Dale Johnson. As part of her doctoral studies, Idalia was one of the original investigators of “schemata” or “schema theory,” known today as “the reader’s prior knowledge” that leads to the reader’s particular level of comprehension of a text. Throughout her career, Idalia concentrated on comprehension, emergent literacy, and teaching critical thinking skills to early learners. She presented professional papers in several states and in foreign countries: Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, and several South American nations. She was a life-time member of the National Social Sciences Association, the largest multi-disciplinary association in the United States. In Texas, she served on the committee to develop the Master Reading Teacher Program and the Reading Specialization Program. For a while, she served as a senior editor for the International Reading Association and served as president of a Texas chapter of IRA. In drawing on 30 years’ experience of teaching teachers to assist young learners to achieve literacy,

Idalia produced Phonemic Awareness in 2009. (Amazingly, my commentary/critique on her book that I had written and forwarded to the publisher was printed on the hard cover when it was published.) That volume urged parents and teachers to “… combine playful activities with literary pieces that expose children to the rhyme and rhythm of language through poems and music leading them to play with the sounds of language.” Throughout Idalia’s teaching career, she maintained contact with her mentor of her doctoral studies, Dr. Dale Johnson, who eventually culminated his career by serving as the president of the International Reading Association. Later, while Idalia was serving as our chairperson of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, she learned that Dr. Johnson had suffered a divorce, had re-married, and that his second wife was Hispanic and wanted to move to Texas. Idalia appointed a search committee, advertised for candidates, and received several applications including one by Dr. Johnson. We carefully reviewed all of the applications. We selected Dr. Johnson for his obvious record of excellence and sent our findings to Dr. Perez, who forwarded her recommendation of our recommendation. For some unknown and unannounced reason, Dr. Johnson was not hired. Can you imagine? For us on the border to have employed a former president of the International Reading Association to serve as one of our professors? As far as I was concerned, that would have been a great honor for us, and I could have learned so much from a day-to-day listening and talking to him. I also, with his permission, would have liked to visit his lectures. Idalia and her husband Ernest moved from Laredo to San Antonio, where she began teaching for Our Lady of the Lake University. During her last year, Idalia was asked to sum up her contribution to literacy training and critical thinking/reading skills. She replied, “As an educator for most of my adult life, my most memorable experiences were (1) teaching children to read, and (2) teaching university students how to teach reading.” She added, “The love you liberate in your teaching is the love you keep.” She never got to finish her second book: she passed on July 25, 2009. Signed, Lem Londos Railsback WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

LISD valedictorians, salutatorians spotted downtown Pictured in full graduation regalia, LISD graduates with top honors are, from left to right, Brandon Jacob Romero, Cigarroa High School salutatorian; Rogelio Gonzalez, CHS valedictorian; Veronica Arias; Early College High School salutatorian; Jessica Yvonne Cisneros, ECHS valedictorian; Jessica Arriaga, Martin High School valedictorian; Gabriela Solis, MHS salutatorian; and Ruby Grace, Nixon High School valedictorian. Not pictured is the salutatorian from Nixon High School, Jessel Gutierrez.

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

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News

Inventory of lost architectural treasures: a compelling indictment of disregard and inaction By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

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Jesús Najar

María Eugenia Guerra / LareDOS

ast month’s opening of the “Lost Laredo” exhibit at the Villa Antigua Border Heritage Museum presented Laredoans with a startling summary, a large pictorial inventory, of historically significant structures now vanished from the cityscape, many of them destroyed in 1979 in a 22-city block plot cleared as the terminus for Interstate 35 and its connecting approach to the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge. The exhibit, the result of a collaborative effort between the Southwest Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) and the Webb County Heritage Foundation, was researched and curated by Jesús Najar, South Texas community outreach coordinator of the NTHP. The collection of photographs, drawings, and news stories offers a poignant record of significant architectural losses throughout the city, including grand riverside homes, downtown mansions, commercial structures, sandstone homes built in the Spanish vernacular tradition, and modest board and batten bungalows. “The 22-block corridor of 200 homes, La Escuella Amarilla, and an important plaza, La Plaza de la Noria, were a large part of El

Azteca neighborhood, a neighborhood that was thriving and not separate from downtown as it is today,” Najar said. “The architecture we lost in El Azteca was the most intact core of historic buildings in the nation. We condemned a live, thriving neighborhood filled with businesses and homes to make way for a highway,” he continued, adding, “If you consider the highway project as an example of urban renewal, we flattened a significant part of our history and got little in return, and we lost the seamless link between El Azteca and downtown.”

Najar said the Azteca neighborhood, once called El Ranchero, was initially a rural area that provided Laredoans beef, milk, firewood, and produce. He said that after the Mexican Revolution the neighborhood’s density changed as families crossed the river to make their homes in Laredo. “There’s no need to romanticize the loss,” Najar said, “It’s gone. There’s nothing out there to remind us, no traces to tell us, ‘It was not always this way.’ But it is very important to think critically about our past so that we know who we are. It is also important to un-

derstand what we lost to become who were are now. “The purpose of this exhibit is to document and display some of the most significant architectural losses in Laredo and to suggest recommendations for the preservation and revitalization of historic resources in this area. Historic preservation promotes and protects the health, safety, prosperity, education, and comfort of the people living in, and visiting Laredo. Preservation of Laredo’s past provides continuity of Laredo’s heritage,” said Najar. u

Opinion

A hard look at whether the history of this place has value By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff The three components of the “Lost Laredo” exhibit — photographs and drawings of demolished old structures, some of them juxtaposed with present-day photos of the same locale; a show of post-condemnation slides of unknown origin taken in 1979 of the vacant homes and stores of El Azteca before they were destroyed; and a series of newspaper stories enlarged and mounted — tell the larger story of this city’s preservation efforts and failures at the time that Laredo’s romance with transportation infrastructure began. In the August 5, 1979 issue of The Laredo News, Sydney Rubin wrote of the loss of the Azteca neighborhood buildings, “Exchanging homes for concrete has become a pat-

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tern in Laredo.” She continued, “Although debate on the placement of the new bridge-highway has raged for years, most people now agree on at least one thing — city fathers played politics with Laredo’s past.” She noted that the city planner hired by Laredo’s old guard said that none of the homes torn down were of historic value and none possessed architectural features that were not duplicated in other homes. The State Historical Preservation officer in 1979, Lissa Anderson, countered that perception and affirmed that the losses were large and noteworthy, “Laredo may be on top of all the cities in the state in the number of significant homes torn down. That’s a dubious distinction, isn’t it?” Rubin wrote that Mayor Aldo Tatangelo

called the placement of the highway “a mistake.” He said, she wrote, “It was disastrous in the sense of losing our heritage.” The venerable one-of-a-kind Mayor Tatangelo spoke of other losses. “Economically it hurt the whole city. We’re talking about 22 city blocks eradicated and replaced with a federal highway. It was a tragedy. And once a neighborhood is gone, you can’t get it back.” Rubin wrote that the loss was also a financial disaster, one estimated to cost the city $175,000 from its annual tax base and an end to many retail stores that served the area and pumped money into the tax rolls. Rubin wrote that the Environmental Protection Agency demanded the establishment of the San Agustín Plaza area as a historic zone. “What was set aside is a tiny area of just four blocks. A few weeks

before the zone was officially designated, the same city councilmen who voted to establish the zone granted a building permit for the northeast corner [facing] the plaza to a structure that ruined the Spanish colonial flavor of the square.” Sparing no words, Rubin wrote, “It is difficult to attribute the action by the city to mere ignorance.” Al Barrera, a member at the time of both the Laredo Historical Society and the Webb County Historical Commission, blamed the massive destruction of historical properties on “local business interests. There was very little interest in historical preservation. Commercial development was thought to be more important, and we couldn’t make the business community understand that progress and preservation are compatible.”

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Tatangelo blamed both organizations. “They were here and they allowed those homes to be destroyed and did not work for a larger historical district.” Then-president of the Historical Society Ann Phipps concurred that nothing had been done to save the venerable neighborhood from bulldozers. Rubin clobbered both organizations and their mission. Of the historical society she wrote, “Except for hosting an annual gala, fund raising cocktail party for Laredo’s social elite, the museum is a hot, dirty, dark collection of unrelated and unlabeled artifacts.” Of both organizations, Rubin wrote, “Of the plethora of committees within each historical organization, not one is charged with researching and designating historical sites for inclusion in the National Register of Historical Sites.” Three decades later, thanks to the far reach of this exhibit, we — especially those of us who have memory of many of those buildings — can look back and ponder the riddle that things have all at once changed and remained the same. Change has come in a pro-active Webb County Heritage Foundation that is vigilant, fierce, and tenacious about raising its

voice in the name of historic preservation. Margarita Araiza and her incredibly small and effective staff are to be commended for having so large a presence and so welldefined an impact on what we save for future generations. The foundation has made history — and the places where it unfolded — matter, and increasingly it has made the

weekend, the chorus of city administrators and elected council members rises to an indignant crescendo about the loss of so valuable an historic edifice, the cries of outrage quickly giving way to snuffled murmurs and then (per the script) silence as the perpetrator pays his paltry fine for demolition without a permit.

historical narrative of this city relevant in a manner that school history books have never attempted or achieved. The machinations of city government with its development-at-any-cost credo remains the same. When another old building falls to the wrecking ball over a holiday

It’s the Laredo way, a circumvention of what is right with what is expedient for development. Mayor Aldo Tatangelo — much respected for providing leadership — was an anomaly, the rare politician with a soul, a man who cared for every sector of the

city. He didn’t stage photo ops; the camera found him speaking up, being a leader, being a man of the people without ever saying so himself. The writer, Rubin, too, was out of the mold — the rare, insightful narrator who had something to say and had been handed the editorial reins to say it. Her candid observations no doubt made looks in the political mirror painful. Her August 5, 1979 story evokes praises of mixed metaphors — hitting the nail on the head, homeruns out of the ballpark, pinning the tail on the donkey(s). And as for us, the taxpaying populace, we’re perhaps more aware of the architectural treasures of downtown and the city’s historical districts. But are we any more committed today than we were 32 years ago to preserving buildings that hold the history of this place? I like to think we are, and some like Hank Sames and Gary Jacobs have undertaken incredible downtown private sector reinvestment, a lead other property owners and city government would do well to follow rather than paying for yet another expensive master plan for downtown revitalization that tells us what we already know. u

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LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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Santa María Journal

Rain and the lingering affect of unordinary time

By María Eugenia guerra

I

t was a treat to wake to a low, dark sky with that rumbled thunder and portended rain. The cool, pleasant temperatures added zip to my hay throwing chores, feeding the horses, and checking on the chickens. The storm took its time making the line from Laredo to San Ygnacio and through Zapata County, riding the wind that whipped the treetops around. A few fierce cracks of lightning moved me from the tall steel bodega onto the porch of my house. The wait was a delicious exercise in anticipation as the heavens roiled above in every shade of gray and dark blue and then finally opened with its bendición of pure water. The rain was a pelter — hard, fast-descending drops of water that perforated the dry crust of sand last week’s mata polvos left on the monte floor, rain that made a din on the roof of my house and coursed its way to capture in the 1,500 gallon plastic tank north of my house. But that I could have captured it

Thursday,

May 26th

Sustainable Agriculture Workshop

6-8 p.m. El Metro Conference Room Soil Preparation & Home Composting and Chicken Salad Cooking Demo

Thursday,

July 7th

Sustainable Agriculture Workshop

6-8 p.m. El Metro Conference Room Making Six Figures on One Acre and Six Ingredient Very Berry Bar Cooking Demo

Thursday,

June 2nd

all off of every rooftop on the ranch. The 40-minute shower was brief, just like the Weather Underground website had told

Sustainable Agriculture Workshop

6-8 p.m. El Metro Conference Room Becoming a Market Vendor and Nopal Quesadilla Cooking Demo

Thursday,

July 28th

Sustainable Agriculture Workshop

6-8 p.m. El Metro Conference Room Medicinal Herbs and Flax Seed Cooking Demo

Thursday,

June 23rd

Sustainable Agriculture Workshop

6-8 p.m. El Metro Conference Room Drip Irrigation Vegetable Growing and Soup Cooking Demo

Thursday,

August

4th

Sustainable Agriculture Workshop

me it would be, dropping an inch a minute and moving predictably on to the Alejandreña in another part of Zapata County, leaving the thirsty ranchland around San Ygnacio with a nice gulp of water and leaving this rancher with hope that there might be more rain to repair tens of thousands of surrounding acres of parched South Texas pastures. The rest of the day was a gift, too, the unseasonably cool temperature giving the hours a sense of unordinary time. I drove out to the pastures to make sure it had rained at the back of the ranch and to look at our cattle that mercifully have not grown thin. I was happy to see puddles and the bark of cedar fence posts dark and wet to their northern exposure, as I was happy to see that a cloud of dust did not trail behind me.

From my porch where I sat near day’s end with my new best friend Luna Mi Perra, I enjoyed the chatter of birds calling back and forth and a respite from temperatures that have seared the grasses. I look forward to Luna’s rare calm moments when she simply sits near me and her evil inner twin is not planning a destructive puppy behavior that will inspire consternation and wrath. With perhaps 40 minutes of the last light left to us, I leashed up Luna and we walked over the damp earth of the house pastures. Luna is a work in progress. Her instinct is to drag me to a destination of her choosing — why walk calmly alongside your master when she can be a human travois? We’re working that out along with disabusing her of the need to dig craters where once I had landscaped. And as we walked I found objects the rain had left on little islands of sand. I came across bits of barbed wire, fence staples, old nails, and can pull tabs thrown down decades ago. I found, too, a small metal and plastic level that had probably fallen off the back of a truck and bounced off the roadway into the sand. The odd find, however, was the face of a Casio watch pressed into the dirt and still keeping time, testimony to the product’s durability. Luna and I concluded our walk to the plangent wail of coyotes, and like the coyotes we networked territory, supper, and other matters, our day punctuated by the Casio’s small, sharp alarm, an alert in the life of a stranger who had traversed this ranch and left us with this measure of unordinary time. u

6-8 p.m. El Metro Conference Room Pesticide Free Vegetable Gardening and Earth Salad Cooking Demo

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CALL Alli Kay Hrncir, Market Manager El Centro de Laredo Farmers Market 956-523-8817 http://www.laredomainstreet.org/farmersmarket 8

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Esquivel brings home mariachi vocalist award Javier Esquivel, 8, was named best overall mariachi vocalist at the 9th Annual Día del Mariachi Competition in Alice. The Macdonell Elementary second grader plays guitar in the school’s 22-member Rhythm and Style Orffestra.

Macdonell second grader Javier Esquivel Jr. named best overall mariachi vocalist

M

By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA

acdonell Elementary second grader Javier Esquivel Jr. returned from the 9th Annual Día del Mariachi Competition at Coastal Bend College in Alice on April 16 with the award for Best Overall Mariachi Vocalist in the elementary division. The 8-year-old won for his performance of “Ojitos Verdes.” Esquivel, a member of the 22-member Macdonell Rhythm and Style Orffestra for the last two years, opened the show in Alice. He said when he first stepped onto the stage he had to control how shy he felt. “I made it go away,” he said. “He hesitated, he smiled, and then he performed,” said Macdonell music teacher Betty Escudero. “He was given a standing ovation.” Escudero said Esquivel, a gifted and talented student, “has a very refined voice. He’s a natural. Singing for him is like breathing. We are working on expression, hand gestures, and delivery.” Esquivel plays guitar, bolstering what he learns at school with private lessons WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

News

New Vision offers aprons, placemats, and oven mitts Maria Elizabeth and Noe Ruben Cordero, members of New Vision Community Church, offered hand-sewn aprons and other kitchen wares at the May Farmers Market in Jarvis Plaza.

provided by his parents Claudia and Javier Esquivel. Escudero, an accomplished musician and a lifetime educator, said the Rhythm and Style Orffestra is a starting point for many young musicians who end up in several of the advanced music programs offered within the Laredo Independent School District, including those at Vidal M. Treviño Fine and Performing Arts magnet school programs. She said the Macdonell Orffestra program, which encompasses instruments, voice, dance, and acting, is rigorous and disciplined, and requires practice three or four times a week. “They play as an ensemble. Their instruments are wooden Orff xylophones, African drums, and guitar. They learn rhythm first and the value of the notes, and eventually they learn to read music. Their performance is very dynamic, and they are versatile in both languages,” she said proudly, adding that the orchestra is often invited to perform at local events such as the Laredo Community College mariachi competition on May 4. The Macdonell Rhythm and Style Orffestra competed in the May 13 Spring in the Park Music Festival in Boerne. u LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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News

Downtown merchants, preservationi focus was a major piece of high dol

Not a modern plaza built on the scar of an earlier historical debacle; not a tunnel to move traffic out of downtown; not a world’s fair exposition in the future. We came to hear about the infrastructure improvements that would make downtown a clean, beautiful, safe, and well-lit place — utility, sewer, and street improvements; security; and good traffic flow — the very things we have been talking about for years, and the very things we told these consultants.” Margarita Araiza Webb County Heritage Foundation

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downtown revitalization plan. “From the beginning it has never sounded right. It has been off target, and you have a sense that its designers are putting the cart before the horse. The plan reflects a lack of due diligence, a real lack of interest, a lack of commitment in Laredo, and a failure to comprehend that any plan that is going to work will have to understand how the downtown historical districts and the merchants need to work together and what they want and need. A good plan would have been a good first step, but this is neither a good plan nor a good first step,” he continued. Perales added that the city’s needs to commit to revitalizing downtown, to valuing its historical significance and its value as a key to drawing tourism. He said that downtown needs infrastructure — underground utilities, better sidewalks, lighting, and a more inviting appearance. “It also needs more policing and enforcement and a traffic flow plan that stops the bottlenecks,” he said. ‘They were on another planet’ “Not a modern plaza built on the scar of an earlier historical debacle; not a tunnel to move traffic out of downtown; not a world’s fair exposition in the future. We came to hear about the infrastructure improvements that would make downtown a clean, beautiful, safe, and well-lit place — utility, sewer, and street improvements; security; and good traffic flow — the very things we have been talking about for years, and the very things we told these consultants were our priorities to sustain business and historical tourism,” said Margarita Araiza, executive director of the Webb County Heritage Foundation. The historical debacle to which she referred was the late 1970s demolition of 400 of El Azteca’s most architecturally significant homes — 20 square blocks — to connect the approach to the Juarez-Lincoln Bridge with Interstate Highway 35. The Kell Muñoz plan calls for new development on that five-block

Proposed GSA Bus Inspection Terminal

To El Azteca

To Villa Antigua, San Agustín Historical District, & Downtown

Hidalgo St.

To Downtown

Farragut St.

Santa Ursula

The meeting never reached a comfort level. The communication was not good. We were provided no literature to follow the presentation, which was unprofessional and an insult to us. They must take us for a bunch of buffoons who would fall for smoke and mirrors,” hotelier Raul Perales said, speaking of the May 6 public meeting at which downtown stakeholders met with Steve Tillotson, a representative of Kell Muñoz Architects, the San Antonio firm the City of Laredo contracted for $395,000 to come up with a plan to make downtown commerce and tourism sustainable. The meeting, which was hosted by District 8 City Council member Cindy Liendo Espinoza, sought to show her constituency of downtown merchants, residents, and historic property owners where the Kell Muñoz plan was headed. As the presentation evidenced, the Kell Muñoz plan was not quite headed downtown, aimed and sidetracked instead in large part at a development called the Pan American Center, a proposed arcdomed three-story building that would front a General Services Administration facility to process inbound Mexican bus passengers. The Pan American Center would include retail space the city could lease to fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and peso exchange businesses that service bus passengers. According to plans and drawings, the proposed center’s construction calls for the closing of Hidalgo Street as a thoroughfare that moves traffic from El Azteca neighborhood into downtown. Perales, representing La Posada Hotel Suites and the Fasken family interests in Laredo, said he attended a prior public input meetings on Kell Muñoz’s

To Juarez/Lincoln Bridge Head

As the presentation evidenced, the Kell Muñoz plan was not quite headed downtown, aimed and sidetracked instead in large part at a development called the Pan American Center, a proposed arc-domed three-story building that would front a General Services Administration facility to process in-bound Mexican bus passengers.

San Dario

By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LreDOS Staff

matamoros St. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

ists: master plan missed the mark; llar construction at the end of IH-35 The plans we were shown at the presentation were totally ridiculous, the silliest thing I’ve ever heard of. Those who don’t know downtown probably thought it was great. Those who know downtown saw a pipe dream and a waste of money.” Henry Goldberg Downtown merchant

stretch of untended, randomly landscaped TxDOT-owned green space bound by San Dario and Santa Ursula from Houston Street to Hidalgo. Araiza was incredulous at the substance of the May 6 presentation. “They were on another planet. Here was another downtown revitalization show to add to the ones sitting on the shelf. These people acted like planning for infrastructure was project work that was beneath them,” she said. Araiza said that the short-term needs that would transform downtown were not addressed in the presentation, and that it took District 8 City Council member Cindy Liendo Espinoza reading from the city’s contract with Kell Muñoz to reiterate that infrastructure was to be a large part of the discussion and the work rendered.

“How grounded was the Kell Muñoz plan? The museums of the Webb County Heritage Foundation were not even figured into their plans. The presentation was a complete disconnect, and a whole new world was unfolding before us. It had nothing to do with downtown. It was focused on a major piece of high dollar construction at the end of IH-35. We were being told, ‘We’re building you a new city and a new downtown. Forget the old downtown,’” Araiza continued. ‘A lot of big ideas’ Liendo Espinoza concurs with Araiza. “What we got instead of a plan for an initial phase of improvements to downtown was a lot of big ideas that would cost in the tens of millions. I’d like to give Kell Muñoz the benefit of the doubt to say that what they presented to us was their concept of a good plan, but it did not reflect the wishes of the downtown merchants and the people who want to preserve the historical architecture of the area,” she said. The council member said that whether or not the plan is accepted by City Council for implementation, nothing will come between Kell Muñoz and their check from the city. “Much of their fee has already been paid,” she said. Liendo Espinoza slowed the greased wheels of the council’s enthusiastic ap-

GSA $74,947,000 Design/Build Prospectus

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n March 9, the GSA posted a $74,947,000 Design/Build Prospectus for the Laredo Port of Entry — including $8,038,000 in design and review fees and $5,567,000 in management and inspection fees — for a project that includes improvements to all existing primary and secondary inspection areas at all four international bridges, the expansion of pedestrian lanes, and the construction of the bus inspection and passenger processing terminal at the Juarez/Lincoln bridgehead. Improvements to inbound pedestrian areas will be upgrades that will process pedestrians more quickly and safely, especially during extreme temperatures. The current bus facility at the Juarez/Lincoln bridge processes 100 buses a day and 200 a day during holidays. GSA specifications call for a 10,000- to 15,000- square foot bus and bus passenger processing facility with luggage x-ray and inspection area; I-94 processing area and permit counters; waiting area; detention area; areas for federal and state inspection agencies; restrooms (public and staff); pedestrian inspection lanes; individual bus stalls (primary and secondary); non-invasive inspection area; and canopy for loading and unloading. u

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proval of the plan at ductory luncheon We are worried about opena February 22 City with the Kell Muñoz ing our doors tomorrow Council meeting, at principals at one of morning, not what downwhich she entered a downtown’s best town will look like 10 or 20 motion to table acexamples of private years from now.” cepting the Kell Musector investment Les Norton ñoz plan, citing the in revitalization, Downtown merchant need to share it with El Pasillo de San her constituents who Agustín. “My sister had expressed concerns over the direction Evelyn went with me and we were straightthe plan was taking. Addressing Henry forward about the area we thought defined Muñoz at that council meeting, the council the business district and what the Downwoman said, “I find it disturbing and disre- town Business Association had defined as spectful that calls were made to other coun- infrastructure needs over a 5-to 7-year plan. cil members that this item was on the agenda I was never asked for my opinion again; and that they were asked for their support. never heard from them again,” Goldberg However, as a representative of this district, said. “Our business goes back 65 years, esI was not called. I find that process unprofes- tablished by my father and built on his work sional.” ethic. We know downtown. The plans we The council woman continued, “I re- were shown at the presentation were totally spectfully ask that I meet with Mr. Muñoz,” ridiculous, the silliest thing I’ve ever heard adding that she believed it was important for of. Those who don’t know downtown probnew City Council members “to know that ably thought it was great. Those who know your firm was trying to receive other con- downtown saw a pipe dream and a waste of tracts with this city, and that’s when com- money,” he continued. munication stopped with me.” Liendo EspiGoldberg wants answers about a $395,000 noza made reference to another city project city expenditure with so little yield. “How in which she had earlier supported a local did we get here? This City Council and architectural firm over Kell Muñoz. mayor and several before them have known Street closures what we need downtown. Who hired this “Close Hidalgo Street? That’s how many firm and why, who let them run with such of us get to our stores,” said downtown re- grandiose ideas? It’s not the architects or the tailer Henry Goldberg, who, with his sib- builders we need to heap blame on — it’s lings, owns five family run businesses and a who from the city failed to watch over this wholesale operation. “It’s a major cross-over developing plan to make sure we got what from the Heights and the Azteca into down- we needed. All along it has been poor decitown.” sion making and no due diligence,” he said, Perales said La Posada’s earlier participa- adding, “There is a perception that we are tion in the closure of Zaragoza Street from just a bunch of wealthy whiners downtown. the hotel to Convent Avenue “backfired.“ He The truth is that we have felt the full impact said the hotel contributed $25,000 “to make of the economic downturn on our side of the it look nice and to offer shoppers a respite. river and that of the drug violence and unToday it is dirty and not maintained.” rest on the Mexican side. For several reasons, Araiza, too, questioned the wisdom of not the least of which is the long lines and closing streets like Hidalgo, a major artery the bottleneck of walking traffic entering at that crosses IH-35 to feed into downtown as Bridge I, many Mexican visitors who used to Farragut and Houston do. “We don’t need shop downtown are now driving to destinato close streets or narrow them or constrict tion shopping where parking is not an issue them in any way. We need to make traffic and getting there is not a struggle in 100 deflow better. Many cities that closed streets in gree temperatures. Did the Kell Muñoz plan revitalization efforts in the past. consider that chokehold that keeps shoppers have now re-opened them,” she said. out of downtown?” ‘We know downtown’ 4 Continued on page 41 4 Goldberg said he was invited to an introLareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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Correction In our April 2011 issue’s “Food for Thought ends participation in One City, One Book,” it was written that “Hundreds of people had bought tickets” for One City, One Book 2010. However, tickets were not sold for money, there were “bought” with donations to the food bank and attendance at book discussions. LareDOS regrets the error.

From the Editor’s Desk

The technological addiction By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

O Well fracking topic of round table discussion Well fracking topic of round table discussion José Ceballos, representing the American Natural Gas Association, accountant Jeff Jones, Alyssa Beguin of the Texas Drought Project, and Tricia Cortez, assistant executive director of the Río Grande International Study Center (RGISC) are pictured at a recent round table discussion on the impact of the fracking of oil and natural gas wells in the Eagle Ford Shale play in northern Webb County and in 10 contiguous counties north and east of Laredo. The meeting was hosted by RGISC to gather information on the vast quantity of Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer water being used per well completion — about 4,000 to 6,000 gallons.

401 MARKET STREET 956-722-0981

WHEN SECURITY IS YOUR CONCERN, USE THE BEST

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n this day I am more connected to the outside world than I’ve ever been before. Even as a naturally introverted person, I am no stranger to what is going on out in the world and in my community because I own a smart phone, a laptop, and a television. All these technologies make it difficult for the technologically connected world and me to tune out the noise. Humankind can add another addiction to the growing list: technology. I fully enjoy the conveniences of technology, and I appreciate the vast array of information available to the masses. So maybe I check my phone every 10 minutes and refresh my Facebook feed because I’m bored — so what? We’ve convinced ourselves as a society that the increase in technology use has fueled productivity, but when I started seeing reports about technology addiction and low work productivity due to Facebook, I became curious about my own tech habits. I also started paying close attention to others who couldn’t keep their phones in their pockets for more than 10 minutes. I recently sat in on a high school class and observed what the students were doing while the teacher was giving her lecture. The student in the first row, sitting right next to where the teacher was lecturing, had tiny ear buds blaring music that could be heard in the whole classroom. When she asked him to take out the ear buds, the student replied, “Why? I’m bored” I spotted at least five students who were texting or checking social networking sites on their smart phones, and one student even answered her phone during class. This kept happening amongst most of the classroom until an hour and half later, when the bell rang. “Every… single… day,” the teacher told me in a strained tone. With the increased use of smart

phones, many students are not getting anything worthwhile completed during their classes. While technology can act as a aid to education, its use during class time also interferes with learning. Ever since the rise of social networking sites, the media has published articles about study after study that shows social networking sites have led to lower productivity in the workplace. According to a 2010 Nielsen Three Screen report, 44 percent of online videos are viewed at the workplace now. Our technological addiction is not just hurting children in school, but it is also hurting the productivity of the working person who is bored at their desk. Another anecdote: I took a course called “Human Sexuality” during my last semester in college. The professor for this course had rule that no laptops would be allowed for note taking. He also said that if he saw someone texting on a cell phone, he would take the phone away until the end of the class. I would eventually witness firsthand the embarrassing and often humorous consequences of not following the rules. During the semester, he physically closed three laptops and confiscated countless cell phones. He would often stop his lecture and stare at a people who were texting. They usually hid the phone under their desk so the professor wouldn’t notice, but what they were doing was usually obvious. These students were oblivious until they finished and realized the whole class was staring at them. Continued on page 144 4

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News

Superintendents examine HB 400, salaries

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By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

oth school district superintendents have said they would take a pay cut or furlough their own days if their employees were forced to, according to UISD’s Roberto Santos and LISD’s A. Marcus Nelson. The superintendents were referring to the now-dead House Bill 400, which did not make the May 13 legislative deadline but could still be revived if legislators attach HB 400 as an amendment to another bill. “In order for us to balance our budget, before we even riff any employees, all of us together will have to look at what other options we have,” Santos said in an interview. “Whatever it takes to make sure no one loses their jobs, I’m here to do that.” Nelson concurred that any type of cut in pay employees might take would allow the district to avoid layoffs. “We may pay them less, but if we have to pay them less, I’m going to take a pay cut, too,” Nelson said. “If I’m going to pull a day from everybody, I’ll pull the day from me and the whole staff.” The average superintendent salary in Texas is $120,689, according to data from the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB), which is up 2.8 percent from last school year. UISD’s Santos started out with a base salary of $180,000 during the 2005-2006 school year, and it escalated to $194,000 after his contract expanded from 226 days to 236. It again escalated this school year, increasing to $197,800. Starting in the 2008-’09 school year, Santos started receiving extra performance pay: $20,500 in ’08-’09; $25,000 in ’09-’10; and another $25,000 in ’10-’11. Santos’ performance pay seems to be part of a growing trend across Texas, according to TASB. According to the data, 10 percent of districts gave a bonus to the superintendent. This is even with last school year’s data, but increased from the 5 to 6 percent of districts that gave superintendents’ bonuses before ’09-’10. “I wouldn’t consider turning it down,” Santos said. “It is my pay, as far as my contract. It’s like any employee — I haven’t had an employee come to me and tell me, ‘Reduce my pay.’” Superintendent salaries vary widely across the state, and many superintendents have certain stipulations for their WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

District Superintendent Start date Base salary Raises

Superintendent Salary Comparisons United ISD Roberto Santos 2005 $180,000 $194,000 in ’06-‘07

Laredo ISD A. Marcus Nelson 2009 $185,000 None

Performance pay

$197,800 in ’10-‘11 $20,500 in ’08-‘09

None

$25,000 in ’09-‘10 $25,000 in ’10-‘11 Sources: UISD, LISD contracts, like performance pay clauses. According to a database by The Texas Tribune that compares superintendents’ salaries across Texas, Santos’ salary ranks 88 out of 500, but he presides over 41,876 students, nearly half more than LISD. Santos gets paid $5 per student. The district has been deemed academically “recognized” by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). UISD is also the fifth largest district in the state — it covers 2,502.5 miles compared to LISD’s 13.5 miles. LISD’s Nelson, who started working in 2009, started with a base pay of $185,000, and has stayed at that level ever since. Nelson said that he has discussed adding a performance pay clause to his contract, but had decided against it each time. “The reason I did not bring [the clause] is because I knew I couldn’t ask for more money,” he said. “Right now, I just didn’t think it was a good time to be asking for more money.” LISD has over 24,706 students. Nelson is paid $7 per student, according to the Tribune database. His salary ranks 102 out of 500, and TEA has determined the district as academically “acceptable.” Both superintendents said certain aspects of HB 400 would indeed allow more flexibility to save money in the districts, including the furloughing of days and expansion of the class size ratio from 22-to-1 to 25-to-1. “I think that no matter what the class sizes are, there’s going to be a group of teachers that are going to do their best and get it done for kids, and it doesn’t matter if you put 21 in their class, 22 in their class, or 35 in their class — we’ve

got teachers who will get the job done,” Nelson said. The bill also loosens contract protections and gives more flexibility for districts to let go of employees, but Nelson and Santos stressed that they would do everything to avoid terminating employees. “I think that in this point in time, based on the financial circumstances, it’s better to take a cut in pay than tell the teachers, ‘You’re going to lose your jobs,’” Santos said. The Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE) and the Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) have been rallying their members against HB 400,

but Nelson said educators couldn’t have it both ways. “This isn’t a typical budget situation; this is a crisis,” he said. “You can’t say we want no layoffs and no House Bill 400.” For now, it seems that all school districts will be in crisis mode for a long time, Nelson said. As far as the impact on students and employees, the superintendents say any extreme budgetcutting measures like these are never a “good” thing. “Is it good for employees and students?” Santos said. “No, absolutely not. But again, based on the circumstances that the state has put us, we have no choice.” u

LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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News Brief

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he Laredo Tennis Association (LTA), on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club of Laredo, has received $5,000 from the International Bank of Commerce for the pilot QuickStart Tennis program. The money, presented to the LTA at the main Boys & Girls Club on Moctezuma Street on April 27, will go toward paying the clubs’ QuickStart assistants. “We hope this helps in the endeavor to increase the awareness and increase the participation in tennis,” said IBC representative Nativido Lozano III during the presentation of the check. For now, the club will offer the program to all local Boys & Girls Clubs, but members of the LTA, who are working with the clubs on the QuickStart program, say they want children citywide to participate in QuickStart Tennis. “The next phase is going to be [tennis]

Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

QuickStart Tennis program gets boost from $5,000 check

IBC supports QuickStart Tennis Laredo Tennis Association president Tina Treviño thanks the International Bank of Commerce for the $5,000 donation to the Boys and Girls Club QuickStart program on Wednesday, April 27. IBC representative Nativido Lozano III holds the check, while children who are already playing QuickStart Tennis pose as well. leagues for competition, and eventually it’ll become a city-wide league for the elementary schools,” said Dr. Alfredo Treviño, president of the Texas chapter of the U.S. Tennis Association and former president of the LTA. Quickstart Tennis is a nearly 2-year-old format that has adapted the game of tennis

for children 10 and under. In its short history, the format has reached the White House, according to LTA president Tina Treviño. President Obama is himself a tennis player. The sport features equipment such as balls that are lower in compression, rackets that are smaller, and smaller courts — all to Continued from page 12 It was during that class that I first clearly grasped the notion that society was addicted to technology. The sneaky texters continued to find inventive ways to text in class, and while their methods usually failed, I was amazed that they continued to break the rule until the very last day of class. Nothing would stop them from texting whoever they were texting. It cannot be that hundreds of students absolutely needed to text that person then and there. No, they weren’t patient enough to let the hourlong class finish, and this was a class that revolved around sex. If you could ever get a typical college student’s attention, you’d think it’d be in this class. On April 23, The Independent reported that technology addiction is “taking a toll in Asia.” The article mentions parents who allow their child to starve to death while they take care of a virtual baby and a boy who killed his mother after he was scolded for too much online gaming. These are extreme examples, to be sure, but they are also very telling of the risks of technology addiction. The science behind tech addiction is shaky. The topic hasn’t been studied

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make it easier for young children to play tennis, according to 10andundertennis.com. “It’s exciting, and the children will learn how to play and eventually become better tennis players,” said LTA board member Robert Cavazos. — Cristina Herrera much among researchers, but that doesn’t keep them from formulating pretty solid opinions of the dangers of tech addiction. According to a LiveScience article called “How to Tell If You Are Addicted to Technology,” an addictions expert explains that “these over-wired people are so focused on their gadgets, they neglect relationships with other people…” and “Communication aids such as texting and e-mail may actually hamper our abilities to have more important face-to-face conversations.” I watched this type of stuff happen in college, especially when dealing with coworkers at the job I worked. Instead of sitting down with an employee to tell him he was fired, one of my bosses e-mailed him about it. Needless to say, this did not soften the blow. Complaints were often sent via e-mail or text in a passive aggressive attempt to avoid confrontation. I, too, was guilty of this. And what was the outcome? We did a worse job because nobody wanted to communicate face-toface. It seemed that we were too cowardly to face each other and have a real conversation. I’d rather not be part of the generation that became awkward and closed off because we used technology to do the talking for us. u

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News

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an Phillips is one of the most unconventional home builders you’ll ever find. In fact, he’s more an ecological social messiah than a home builder (see video below). For $10,000, he builds affordable homes for low-income people that are attractive, energy-efficient and save landfills. Most builders purchase building materials — piles of wood, sheet rock, nails, bricks, and tiles — that are used in construction and then, when the house is finished, the waste is discarded to the dump. Phillips, 66, salvages those materials, hauling them from the trash or even picking them up on the road, to build or remodel homes for low-income buyers. He says he’s just doing what people have been doing for years — using whatever they can scrounge up to to build shelter. “And if you ponder what could be used,” says the Huntsville, Tex., resident, “then building materials are everywhere.” Phillips himself has been “everywhere”: He worked as an intelligence officer in the Army, then as a dance instructor, an antiques dealer and a puzzle maker. Fourteen years ago he started a new career: Creating affordable homes for low-income families out of trash. He is a self-taught carpenter, electrician and plumber. His motivation came from the disparity he saw between landfills overflowing with discarded building materials and a lack of affordable housing. He started Phoenix Commotion, a for-profit company that hopes to solve the world’s social problems associated with housing. Phillips builds homes for as little as $10,000, making them energy-efficient with tight insulation, solar hot water and even a rainwater catchment system. He hires unskilled workers, teaches them marketable construction skills and then helps them find

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jobs when the project is complete. He keeps the landfills shallow by using truckfuls of leftover building materials such as lumber, tile and granite. Locals even hand off their old fixtures and doors to Phillips when they remodel, which he keeps in a warehouse and distributes free to low-income and needy people and organizations. Huntsville officials say he is saving costs as well as Mother Earth. In fact, his materials warehouse has inspired a spin-off in Houston, the nation’s third largest metropolitan area. The Houston warehouse opened in October 2009 and within the first six months diverted 200 tons of building materials. So far, Phillips has built 13 homes that are highly unusual, especially in Huntsville, a town of 35,000 north of Houston whose main industry is the huge high security prison that houses Texas death row inmates. There’s the “Bone House,” which features a stairway made of bones, floors covered in wine corks and beer bottle caps, and a skylight made from — are you ready? — a Pyrex baking dish. There’s the Storybook House that has that medieval Hansel and Gretel feel. There’s the Budweiser House with an exterior of red, white and blue. There’s the 600-square-foot Doll House, built for Gloria Rivera, a doughnut-shop cashier who put her own thumbprints in the bright yellow stucco walls, which was constructed of almost 100 percent salvaged, donated or recycled materials. To Phillips’s dismay, about half the homes he has built in Huntsville have been lost to foreclosure. As he told the New York Times in 2009, “You can put someone in a new home, but you cannot give them a new mindset.” Undaunted, he is continuing to spread the story of what he does to others and preach his philosophy: You may not save the world anytime soon, but you can help tidy up your own backyard. u

UHS cadets bring home national JROTC honors United South High School ROTC instructor Master Sgt. Joselito Tijerina is pictured with Gunnery Sgt. Yadira Gamas, Cadet Capt. Reynaldo Davila, and Cpl. Samuel Sanchez, members of the Panther Battalion, at a recent reception hosted by Commissioner Wawi Tijerina. The UHS battalion, recently returned from Nationals High School Drill in armed and unarmed divisions in Daytona, Fla., competed with 43 schools. They brought home a 5th place trophy in the un-armed inspection, a 4th place trophy in un-armed drill regulation, 3rd place in armed inspection, and second place in armed regulation. Cadet Capt. Davila, armed commander for the UHS battalion, placed third against all commanders in the competition.

Jorge Medina/LareDOS

By CANDY EVANS Huffington Post

Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

Home builder turns trash into $10,000 green homes

Remembering the veterans Alicia Martinez bows her head at the Vietnam Soldiers’ Gold Star Families Memorial Service at LCC’s Private David B. Barkeley Cantú Veterans Memorial Chapel on Tuesday, April 26. Martinez and her family, who are standing next to her, commemorated 27 veterans who were killed on duty during the Vietnam War. LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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News

The great immigration stalemate

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By KENT PATERSON Frontera NorteSur

ive years ago, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people marched in big cities and small towns across the U.S. demanding justice for the nation’s estimated 12 million undocumented residents. Hitting a high point with work stoppages on May Day 2006, the pro-immigrant protest was the largest social movement in the U.S. since the civil rights and antiVietnam War years. Mounting a counter-offensive, immigration restrictionists blocked legislation in Washington to legalize undocumented persons, while at the state and local levels they enacted a smattering of immigration-related laws and ordinances. Though the jury is still out, it’s looking increasingly likely that the restrictionist movement has overreached and could have hit its own peak with the passage of Arizona’s SB 1070 last year, the controversial law that requires local police to interrogate and detain people they stop who are suspected of being in this country without papers. With key parts of the law blocked in the federal court system for now, and massive grassroots opposition to it continuing, SB 1070 could be losing its luster to potential supporters. What’s more, Arizona lawmakers have recently backed down from approving several immigration-related measures, including a bill to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. of undocumented parents. After Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law one year ago, the conventional wisdom was that “Arizona copy-cat legislation would move quickly in other states,” said Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR). “The copy-cat wave seems to have fallen,” Murguia contended. Of 31 states which have witnessed attempts at passing SB 1070 clones, 22 have rejected them so far, a new NCLR report notes. However, the 2011 legislative season is still not over yet in a number of states, the NCLR cautions, and a law similar to SB 1070 is sitting on Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk. Lawmakers in Florida and other states are also considering immigration bills. Utah has gone the route of SB 1070, but also has approved a controversial guest worker program to

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regularize the status of undocumented people in the state. Arizona Republican state Sen. Russell Pearce, sponsor of SB 1070, recently told National Public Radio that his law was a success. Pearce claimed that SB 1070 had reduced crime, resulted in a 500-inmate reduction in state prisons, and encouraged between 100,000 and 200,000 people to flee the border state.

Lodging Association related how business groups were working with other community members to soften a proposed SB 1070-like law. Indiana doesn’t “want to be the next Arizona,” said John Livengood, who also serves as president of the Indiana Restaurant Association. “Even Arizona doesn’t want to be the next Arizona. We’ve been making progress here but still have work

Though the jury is still out, it’s looking increasingly likely that the restrictionist movement has overreached and could have hit its own peak with the passage of Arizona’s SB 1070 last year …

But many others have a very different assessment of SB 1070, which inspired tourism boycotts, convention cancellations and the launching of Sound Strike. A movement of prominent entertainers who have pledged not to perform in Arizona, Sound Strike endorsers include Cypress Hill, Juanes, Maldita Vecindad, Kanye West, Los Tigres del Norte, Lila Downs, Ozomatli, Steve Earle, and scores of others. Based on earlier research by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, the new NCLR report estimates that Arizona will have lost about $769 million in economic and tax revenues because of SB 1070 by the end of 2011. Arizona’s business leaders have taken notice. In a letter to Sen. Pearce last month, the captains of state industry appealed on state lawmakers to leave the immigration matter to the federal government. While careful to declare they were not “pro illegal immigration,” the signers of the letter urged the Arizona state Legislature to “redirect its energy by joining us in pressing the federal government for meaningful immigration reform.” The letter was signed by executives of U.S. Airways, Cox Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Sundt Construction, Intel Corporation, and the Arizona Republic newspaper, among many others. Business sector opposition to local immigration laws is percolating in many other states as well. Participating in the same phone conference as Murguia, the president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Hotel and

to do.” “Utah, Alabama, Florida and others should closely examine Arizona’s current financial and social situation,” Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, warned in a statement. “The choice is theirs: they can embrace immigrant integration and community cohesion, or they can choose the politics of divisiveness and find themselves as targets of economic boycotts and subject to costly litigation in the near future.” But on the one-year anniversary of SB 1070, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer defended the legislation in spite of setbacks in the federal court system, asserting that Arizona is “stronger and more united than ever before in its resolve.” Brewer credited SB 1070 for not only focusing national attention on an immigration crisis, but encouraging President Obama to dispatch National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. She vowed to take the legal fight over SB 1070 to Supreme Court “if necessary.” The Arizona governor cited unnamed polling and private donations of nearly $4 million to the SB 1070 legal defense fund as evidence that public support for the law was strong. Wade Henderson, head of the national Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, countered that resorting to private money to defend a state law “demonstrates a real lack of political support” for SB 1070. “There’s a contradiction that needs to be exposed,” Henderson said, in answer to a question from this reporter about the issue of privatizing the legal defense of public policies that normally would be paid for

by taxpayers. To some extent, push back against strict immigration measures is underway within Brewer’s Republican Party. Somos Republicans (We Are Republicans), a Latino Republican group that claims 6,000 members, is leading opposition to immigration hard-liners. On its website, the group defines its guiding principles as free market capitalism, low taxes, gun ownership rights, pro-life, traditional marriage and “humane immigration reform” that conforms with the needs of a capitalist economy. In a piece about Somos Republicans this month, conservative columnist Ruben Navarette Jr. quoted Somos Republicans’ leader, 39-year-old DeeDee García of Scottsdale, Ariz. “I started the group so people would know that not all Republicans are like (Maricopa County Sheriff) Joe Arpaio and (state Senate president) Russell Pearce,” García told Navarette. The U.S. Air Force veteran said her pro-immigrant activism has attracted interest from a number of Democrats, but urged the rival party to take on the immigration question head-on within its own ranks. “I have enough on my plate going after racist Republicans,” García was quoted. “I don’t have time to police racist Democrats, too.” While the momentum behind SB 1070-style laws could be dissipating, assorted controversies connected to immigration are still stewing in the political pots of different states. In New Mexico, for example, rancor over the practice of granting drivers’ licenses to people without Social Security numbers dominated much of the 2011 legislative session. Flooding print media and cyberspace with letters and messages, supporters of doing away with drivers’ licenses for undocumented residents contended that New Mexico had become a lawless entity and a magnet for criminal rings engaged in fraudulently obtaining drivers’ licenses for unauthorized immigrants living in other states; some even suggested the Land of Enchantment could become an easy staging ground for terrorists. A state House bill repealing the current drivers’ license law in question and backed by new Republican Gov. Susana Martinez passed after unusual parliamentary maneuvering, but failed to survive in the state Senate. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


In response to the repeal defeat, Gov. Martinez and her office blasted the state Senate for maintaining a “dangerous status quo,” vowing “the fight will continue.” Martinez’s office maintained the repeal effort had the support of more than “70 percent of New Mexicans.” On the other side of the debate, immigrant organizations and their allies testified in the state capital of Santa Fe about public safety and other benefits of having undocumented people who use the state’s roads duly licensed, registered, insured, and tracked in the state’s record-keeping system. The Santa Fe-based Somos un Pueblo Unido organization, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Border Network for Human Rights, the ANSWER Coalition, and other groups also staged pro-immigrant candle-light vigils and public demonstrations in at least 10 New Mexican cities. In a statement, Somos un Pueblo Unido founding board member Maria Cristina Lopez characterized the drivers’ license brouhaha as having more to do with “politics and re-election campaigns” than with specific concerns about fraud or sound public policy. Lopez said the failure of repeal supporters to consider a compromise bill was proof of her position. In a state where water shortages threaten environmental emergencies, and where an ongoing economic crisis was culturally symbolized this month with the decision of the 79-year-old New Mexico Symphony Orchestra to call it quits, it remains to be seen how much traction the drivers’ license issue will gain in the 2012 Legislature, which will convene during the pared-down centennial celebration of New Mexico statehood. Back on Capitol Hill, it is almost certain that comprehensive immigration reform will fail to fly in the current Congress, given the partisan split between a Republican-dominated House and a Democraticcontrolled Senate. If no breakthrough is achieved, national immigration reform will not see any mean-

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ingful action until 2013 at the earliest. As stop-gap measures, pro-immigrant forces are pressuring the Obama administration to suspend the deportation of undocumented young people, known as Dreamers, who were brought here as children, and end Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program that deputizes local police to carry out federal immigration law enforcement functions. The demands have the sympathetic ears of prominent individuals like Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank, Wade Henderson, and many others in the law enforcement, civil rights, labor, and religious communities. Henderson attended last week’s White House meeting at which President Barack Obama reiterated his pledge to work for comprehensive immigration reform. But he predicted that it would be politically difficult for Obama to administratively halt deportations, and that it would require a bipartisan initiative in the Congress to safeguard young people who arrived in this country through no fault of their own. Henderson criticized attacks on immigrants as part of a broader assault on workers, the young, the poor, and people of color, especially Latinos. He called the attacks part and parcel of a politicized, “coordinated campaign of subtle and notso subtle intimidation.” Whether immigration will re-emerge as an important issue in the 2012 elections is an open question. For now at least, the economy, the deficit, and the crisis in the Arab world all overshadow an issue that counts decades without serious action at the federal level. Meanwhile, to keep their cause alive in the public eye, immigrant rights advocates are gearing up for this year’s International Workers’ Day commemorations. May Day events are planned in San Francisco, Albuquerque, New York, and other cities. (Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies; New Mexico State University; Las Cruces, New Mexico) u

Arts & Culture

Farmers Market offers demonstration workshops

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By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff

l Centro de Laredo Farmers Market will be hosting a summer series of demonstration workshops that will focus on sustainable agricultural techniques. There will be six workshops held every first and fourth Thursday of every month, starting May 26 at the El Metro Conference Room. Each workshop presenter will focus on a different aspect of sustainable agriculture, from drip irrigation vegetable growing to the business aspect of developing the land to grow on. Another presenter will also provide a cooking demonstration for attendees using vegetables and herbs that are usually found at the farmers market. The demonstration workshops are open to the public for a fee of $5 and will be bilingual. This is the second year the workshop series will be held after a great response to last year’s series, according to market manager Alli Hrncir. “People are hungry for the information. The workshops will provide all-inclusive information to promote sustainable living,” she said. Master gardener Danny Gunn will be the presenter at the first workshop. He will demonstrate how to make home compost out of plants and other outdoor materials to prepare soil to grow on. Composting is a method to make soil amendment and fertilizer from naturally decomposed outdoor wastes like leaves and grass clippings. “The principle of composting is recycling to make

new soil and fertilizer. It’s fundamental to growing organically because it [diminishes] pesticides and chemicals,” he said said. Gunn grew up on a farm and has been gardening since he can remember. He now has a garden of 12,000 square feet on Mines Road and is a vendor at the farmers market. El Centro de Laredo Farmers Market was started eight months ago in a partnership between Laredo Main Street and Streets of Laredo Urban Mall. According to their website, their objective is to “get as many local produce vendors involved as possible.” The market currently features 28-30 vendors. According to Hrncir, Laredoans are appreciative of the market but have voiced their desire for a larger variety of vegetables and fruits. The demonstration workshops are in part targeted to reach potential vendors. “We are focusing on creating an atmosphere that wouldn’t exist if [vendors] just set up post on the side of the road,” Hrncir said. “We hope to reach a potential market of vendors through the workshops.” Other workshops include: Becoming a Market Vendor and Nopal Quesdilla Cooking Demo, June 2; Drip Irrigation Vegetable Growing and Soup Cooking Demo, June 23; Making Six Figures on One Acre and Six Ingredient Very Berry Bar Cooking Demo, July 7; Medicinal Herbs and Flax Seed Cooking Demo, July 28; Pesticide Free Vegetable Gardening and Earth Salad Cooking Demo, August 4. u

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Laredo’s blogging community

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By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

hree newspapers — four with Nuevo Laredo’s El Manana — are devoted to Laredo news, but print readers are also turning to another source for their news and entertainment: the local blogging community. Laredo’s own blogging community has gained a small but loyal following, with its members conversing and cooperating with each other to share story tips, opinions, and general musings on life in the city. LareDOS sent a questionnaire to the four bloggers behind La Sanbe, Bordertown Blues, Que Fregados, and LaredoTejas. Three of the bloggers noted that most of the blogging community has at least one thing in common: They come from the west side of town; from barrios and older buildings unique to Laredo. “… We’re knee-deep in Laredo culture, in its essence,” said “Keyrose,” founder of La Sanbe. “We hear Tejano music blaring from our neighbors’ houses, yet George Washington is the town’s symbol. We traditionally vote Democrat but our values are very conservative … Laredo is a very peculiar city. As a blogger I can dispel some of its myths and expose its realities.” u

Blog: Que Fregados: life and love, in and of Laredo, Texas (quefregados.wordpress.com) Blogger: “V” Start date: January 2010 According to Google Translate, “Que Fregados” translates into “scrubbing,” but blogger “V” talks about different translations of the phrase: “I thought it appropriate for the multiple meanings it can have, from the Spanish version of WTF, to anger, to surprise, to just playful banter among friends,” V said. Que Fregados mainly covers Latino-based topics, local current events and trends, and any topic that interests V. But V does have other aspirations for her blog. “My hope is to give information people might not know about and maybe encourage more involvement in community or action,” V said. “The average person really does have more power to stand up for something than they assume they do — maybe if they see that someone else cares, they will take action.” V also said her blog serves another purpose. “I know I have readership that no longer lives in Laredo and they often write about memories or ask questions about changes that have happened here,” she said. “They read the blogs to get a better feel for the community, not just the polished ‘objective’ stories of regular media.” Like the other bloggers’ pages, V’s page has a “blog roll” that links to her fellow Laredo bloggers. She says her fellow bloggers are multi-faceted. “It’s a different relationship with every one — collaborative, combative, neutral, but friendly with all,” V said. V also acknowledged that the bloggers were sometimes taking on journalists’ roles, especially with stories that may cross ethical boundaries. “With personal blogs, you never know who is watching, who is recording, who just snapped a picture of a big company owner, big politician, big unethical something going on,” she said. “We are new journalists without even thinking about ourselves as journalists. You’d be surprised at some of the stories people tell us that we don’t write about — we are a pretty ethical bunch.”

Blog: Bordertown Blues (bordertownblues.blogspot.com) Blogger: “El BTB” Start date: September 2008

The bloggers from Bordertown Blues don’t pretend to have noble causes for their blog. Bordertown Blues is one of the more critical Laredo blogs, and blogger “El BTB” says the “Blues” part “reflects the deep sorrow and melancholy that is associated with growing up and living in Laredo.” “Bordertown Blues is specifically designed not to help people,” El BTB said. “It contains ludicrous, nonsensical topics mixed in with harsh, sarcastic, biting criticism of certain people or things having to do with Laredo. It epitomizes most things wrong with our society.” Blog posts revolve around beer runs, dumped tires — a topic all four blogs have been bringing attention to — stray dogs, and barrio life, according to El BTB. El BTB says he won’t continue blogging long-term, but for now, he’s still writing. He says his favorite blog is La Sanbe, but, “Contractually, we have to say its La Sanbe or the guys in the dark suits show up and stand menacingly at our doorstep.” The sarcasm shows through even in El BTB’s answers. He acknowledges KeyRose, who has maintained one of the older Laredo blogs. “Everyone owes their existence to KeyRose. He is the godfather of Laredo blogs. He is the master of the Laredo blogosphere. He sheds a tear and a new Laredo blog is born.”

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Blog: La Sanbe (lasanbe.com) Blogger: “KeyRose” Start date: September 2007 What started as an idea for a newsletter-format website that would tell stories of Laredo’s old neighborhoods has transformed into La Sanbe — a nickname for San Bernado Avenue — a blog that covers many local topics and whatever interests its contributors. The blog has five contributors in all, with blog founder “KeyRose” leading the way. “There’s a lot about Laredo that people don’t know,” KeyRose said. “We offer a glimpse into the daily life of someone who lives beyond another’s boundaries. To some extent, we are critical of our surroundings. But I think most Laredoans are that way.” Like the other blogs, La Sanbe often makes posts with a sarcastic delivery, critical of the city’s politicians and playful about Laredo’s quirks. “It’s the obligatory use of nicknames for public office, the call for a water park when we waste so much water, our code-switching lingo,” KeyRose said. “All these thing we take for granted but it’s not how things are done elsewhere.” KeyRose said he thinks his blog is making some information more accessible to readers. He has included material that tells Laredo’s earlier history. “However, the full story of Don Tomas Sanchez, J.C. Martin, and Count Natas hasn’t been documented,” he said. “These people contributed to Laredo’s history in some way. Their story needs to be told. That’s where we come in.” KeyRose is pretty sure he’ll keep blogging. He still has some subjects to write about, he said. “As long as their are political candidates out there, who use their nicknames on billboards, or put forth questionable campaigns, I’ll be there,” he said.

Blog: LaredoTejas (laredotejas.blogspot.com) Blogger: “Maximiliano” Start date: November 2010 Blogger “Maximiliano” is relatively new to the Laredo blogging scene. His blog, LaredoTejas, covers the more political side of the city, including state and sometimes national politics. Maximiliano says he also posts about schools, language, and how culture is changing in the digital age. “I think I do help inform my fellow Laredoan and/or maybe have given them a different perspective of things in regards to what they read in the [Laredo Morning Times] or hear on TV,” he said. In the year that he’s been blogging, Maximiliano says he has gained a loyal following. His posts are also dripping with sarcasm and playfulness about the city, something that all four bloggers seem to share. Maximiliano likes to regularly visit Que Fregados, Bordertown Blues, and La Sanbe because “different blogs have different strengths.” He doesn’t think Laredo can have too many blogs. “It’s not something that’s necessarily easy to do,” he said. “Sometimes, you just run out of ideas and I’ve heard some of the other bloggers mention that on more than one occasion.” Maximiliano doesn’t know if he plans to keep blogging long term or not, but it seems that for now, as long as the ideas keep coming, he will write. “There are days that it comes easy and there are days when I draw a blank and wonder to myself, ‘What am I doing this for?’” he said.

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

call 723-1707

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LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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News Brief

News Brief

Sames Motor Company offers teachers new vehicles at $50 over employee cost

Best in state L.B.J. High School senior Jose Jacobo, left, brought home a fourth place medal in U.I.L. accounting competition at the state academic meet in Austin. Rachel Huynh, also pictured, placed third in U.I.L. editorial writing.

Students bring back medals from UIL Academic state meet

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ome local students took home medals from the state University Interscholastic League Academic meet held in Austin at the University of Texas from May 4 to 7. Junior Rachel Huynh from J.B. Alexander Higher School placed third in U.I.L. editorial writing, and placed eighth overall in journalism team. Huynh also competed in the state news writing competition. Senior Jose Jacobo from L.B.J. High School tied for fourth place in U.I.L. accounting. The United South High School spell-

ing team took home fourth place. Its members are seniors Omar Bretado, David Canseco, Sabrina B. Espinoza, and George Cortez. The Alexander social studies team placed fifth. The team’s members are junior Leci Solis, senior Madeline Kelble, junior Yesenia Macias, and junior Isabella Palacios. Though he didn’t take home a medal, Alexander prose competitor and sophomore Hector Rios placed fourth in the prose semifinals, missing finals by one spot. Rios placed seventh overall in the state. — LareDOS Staff

Sames, who has expanded with dealerships in Corpus Christi and Austin, founded Sames Scholars (SamesScholars. com) and is the originator of the beloved WBCA Jalapeño Festival, which is now being spearheaded by his daughter Evelyn Sames. Continuing in her father’s footsteps of service to the community, Evelyn also serves as the vice president of the Bethany House Board of Directors, helping Laredoans in need every day. Sames operates four locations in Laredo — Sames Ford Lincoln Mazda at 6001 San Dario Ave.; Sames Honda at 6105 San Dario Ave.; and Sames Budget Centers at 2300 E. Saunders Ave. and 802 S. Zapata Highway. — LareDOS Staff

María Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

Courtesy of Beverly Herrera

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uring Teacher Appreciation Month, Sames Motor Company is offering Laredo teaching professionals a “No Hassle; No Haggle; No Homework” incentive program with $50 over Employee Pricing for all new vehicles. The promotion runs through May 31. Special 0 percent financing and $0 down on select models will be offered to all who qualify. Call or text (956) 286-7775 to receive a special teacherpricing certificate. Texas’ oldest dealership, Sames Motor Company is a locally owned and operated dealership founded by William J. Sames in 1910. The firm is an awardwinning and blue oval certified dealership. Fourth generation owner Hank

Environmental meet and greet The Río Grande International Study Center hosted a welcome meet and greet for City Council members Charlie San Miguel and Alex Perez. Among the topics discussed were recycling, illegal dumping, green building, eco-tourism, warehouse inspections for hazmat compliance, a plastic bag ordinance, and making Laredo more environmentally proactive.

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Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

Cutting the ribbon

‘Laredo reads’

Mayor Raul Salinas helps cut the ribbon with Books-A-Million district manager Ann Garrett during the store’s grand opening on Thursday, May 12.

Laredo Public Library mascot Reader Bear welcomes customers to the grand opening of Books-A-Million in Mall Del Norte on Thursday, May 12.

Opinion

Local booksellers left out in the cold

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By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

inally — we are a legitimate city again! Before Books-a-Million, we had absolutely no bookstores, or in the minds of many Laredoans, no legitimate bookstore. And what makes a bookstore legitimate? Why, the backing of a large corporation, of course.

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You see where I am going. For the year that Laredo was supposedly without a bookstore, small business owners tried their hand at keeping the reading spirit alive with stores such as Escape Again Bookstore, The Book Nook within the Laredo Center for the Arts, and Laredo Books & More on the second floor of the library. I will acknowledge that these bookstores are very much mom and pop,

and their stock is limited. Customers could order books that were not in stock, but it is just as easy to go to Amazon and purchase your own books online — but all bookstores are facing the daunting competition in technology. Financially, it was a bad time to open a bookstore anywhere, but there was something sadder about these business endeavors: The city put very little effort into drawing attention to these small businesses, even after officials made a big hoopla about Laredo not having a bookstore. And there is a long history in this city of looking to big corporations and wealthy people to come in and solve our problems. The city has often brought in outside architects, accountants, and lawyers to do work. Maybe this wasn’t the city’s intention, but I’m starting to get the impression that they don’t think Laredoans can do the job. What does that say about our city government? What does that say about our city? I imagine a Laredo where we aren’t obsessed with brand names, and where we don’t automatically assume something is better because it’s “not from here.”

Maybe our local bookstores aren’t as grand as the large box stores, but with success, these bookstores could have become local businesses that the city could especially take pride in because they were local. I am glad that there is another bookstore in Laredo. I am not one to totally reject large corporate entities, however I have come to see that with a small business, almost 100 percent of the profits will go toward local employees, while in bigger corporations, money is going elsewhere, and employees must answer to higher-ups who they might never see in their lifetime. When these corporations come in and the small business cannot compete with the large store’s prices, the business owner cannot survive. When all the competition is pushed out, the large store is then allowed to set all the prices. Keep that in mind when you are deciding where to purchase goods, because as a customer, you have more power than you think. “The light is back,” overstated the Laredo Reads committee T-shirts. But I never thought that light had gone out in the first place. u LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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News

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LareDOS Staff

ifetime educator, historical preservationist, and Zapata County rancher Annabelle Marie Uribe Hall has been named honorary President of the Republic of the Río Grande by the Webb County Heritage Foundation (WCHF). Of the accolade, Hall said, “I am deeply honored and moved to have been  chosen as the President de la Republica del Río Grande. I love Laredo and its history and try each day to help preserve and enrich its heritage for future generations.” Margarita Araiza, executive director of the WCHF, said Hall embodies outstanding commitment to historic preservation and heritage education. Hall joins a roster of distinguished Laredoans who have done much to foster historical preservation, including U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, the late Evan J. Quiros, Dr. Ray M. Keck, III, Judith G. Gutíerrez, Dr. José Roberto Juárez,

Norma Z. Benavides, Mercurio Martínez, Jr., Elizabeth Foster, E.H. Corrigan, and the current president, Sam Johnson, III. Representing the original President of the Republic of the Río Grande, Jesús Cárdenas, Hall will be inducted with her cabinet at the WCHF’s annual Founders Day luncheon on Saturday, May 28 at noon in the Student Center Ballroom of Texas A&M International University. Her cabinet members represent historical figures who also played a part in the government of the Republic of the Río Grande. They are Toni Longoria Ruiz representing Francisco Vidaurri y Villaseñor, vice-president and delegate for Coahuila; Lorraine Withoff Laurel representing Juan Francisco Farias, secretary; Joe Moreno representing Col. Antonio Zapata, Commander of the Cavalry; Leticia U. Martinez representing Manuel Nina, quartermaster general; Minita Ramirez representing Antonio Canales, Commander-in-Chief of the Army; and Anita Zúñiga Dodier represent-

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ing Juan Nepomuceno Molana, delegate for Tamaulipas. Hall is the widow of the Honorable William N. (Billy) Hall Jr., the mother of William Nesbit Hall III, and the grandmother of Sophia Mariana Hall. The retired educator is a 1965 graduate of Ursuline Academy and a 1969 graduate of Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos. Hall taught in the Laredo Independent School District from 1969 to 1999. She has been a member of numerous professional and civic organizations and is currently active in the Webb County Historical Commission, Alpha Nu Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church Altar Society, Society of Martha Washington,  Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association, Texas Legislative Ladies’ Club, Princess Pocahontas Council, Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Children’s Advocacy Center Board, and the Ladies Luncheon Club. She received a Valley Forge Award from Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge; recognition for notable accomplishments in legislative work while on the State Board of the Vocational Home Economics Teachers Association of Texas; a Certificate of Merit from the March of Dimes for volunteer work; selection as “Madrina” of the J. W. Nixon High School Golden Spurs; a Nuevo Santander Museum Association Meritorious Award; selection as “Madrina” of the Raymond and Tirza Martin Tigerettes; a certificate for outstanding and unselfish volunteer services by the Laredo State Center for Human Development; selection to Outstanding Young Women of America; selection as outstanding home economics teacher; home economics professional tenure awards; and selection as outstanding teacher at Raymond and Tirza Martin High School. She portrayed Martha Washington in the 2001 Washington’s Birthday Celebration festivities. Thirteen honorees will be recognized at the May 28 luncheon with Heritage Awards that recognize individuals, businesses, organizations, and families that have contributed to the unique architectural and cultural heritage of Webb County. The awardees include the Local History Curriculum Development Committee for Meritorious Service Award for collaboration in developing — along with

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Uribe Hall named honorary President of the Republic of Texas; induction set at WCHF’s May 28 Founders Day Luncheon

Annabelle Uribe Hall the WCHF — Laredo’s first comprehensive local history curriculum for area schools; Gary Jacobs and Hank Sames, the Historic Rehabilitation Award for restoring the historic Grant Street residence now known as El Pasillo de San Agustín; University of Pittsburgh professor Jessica Enoch, the Jim Parish Award for her book, Refiguring Rhetorical Education - Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students 1865-1911; George Farías and Guadalupe A. Martínez, the Jim Parish Award for their book on the family history Agapito Martínez and Emma Almazán of Laredo, Texas: Their History, Ancestry, and Descendants; TAMIU student Ricardo Martínez, Volunteer Service Award for his work as an archives assistant at the WCHF; The Laredo Paranormal Research Society, the Preservation of Folklore/Customs/Traditions Award for their contributions of time and expertise during the WCHF’s annual “Haunted Heritage” celebration in October; and local historians Dr. José Roberto Juárez, Dr. Stan Green, Dr. Jerry Thompson, Dr. Carlos Cuellar, Dr. Manuel Ceballos, María de la Luz Cárdenas, and Ricardo Hernandez, the Luciano Guajardo Award for promoting awareness of the history of this region. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM

3/30/2010, 4:22 PM


News Brief

About Work

A five-question survey Q: What part of yourself do you bring to the job every day? A: My humanity. Every day this job recognizes the humanity of individuals.

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Q: Is there prestige or pride in your work? A: Both. It is very prestigious to work for a humanitarian organization and I am very proud to work for an organization that every day helps persons when they are suffering most from a disaster.

Employee: Isela Sanchez Employer: American Red Cross Position: Laredo branch manager Start date: January 2009

New LWCBA officers Pictured from left to right are president George Altgelt; treasurer Guillermo del Barrio; vice president Gustavo Quintanilla; director of public information Melissa Vidal; Judge George Kazen; continuing legal education director Estella Rodriguez; secretary Armando Roman; and president elect Edward Nolen.

LWCBA swears in new officers ederal District Judge George Kazen swore in the new officers of the Laredo-Webb County Bar Association on May 18. LWBCA works with legal professionals and the general public of Laredo, Webb County, and surrounding communities. The association has been around for 75 years and has more than 250 members. The LWCBA and its new appointed officers plan to carry out their “ambitious agenda of public service and professional development by continuing to provide education opportunities for lawyers and judges.” The Bar will continue to raise funds for scholarships to support law students in the Laredo area and will also hold several “Ask a Lawyer” clinics throughout the community to “make itself accessible to the general public.” Newly appointed president George Altgelt commended the work of last year’s officers and said that past president Victor Villareal “set a good pace” and put LWBCA on the map. According to Altgelt, the new group of officers is a very dynamic group WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Q: Are there new hires in your career? A: We are always looking for good people willing to dedicate themselves to helping others; either by working or volunteering for our organization. u

New Slate President - George Altgelt Vice President - Gustavo Quintanilla President Elect - Edward Nolen Vice President of Events and Fundraising - Luis Antonio Figueroa Treasurer - Guillermo del Barrio Secretary - Armando Roman Continuing Legal Education Director - Estella Rodriguez Director of Public Information - Melissa Vidal

composed of individuals that work in the public sector and in private practices. “Everyone brings to the table a diverse set of skills,” he said. Altgelt hopes to continue the work that is the “hallmark of every [slate] of officers” and facilitate professional development and reach out to the community they serve through scholarships, fundraising, and charities. u

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By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff

Q: What brought you to this job? A: The challenge of working for a nationally and internationally known organization.

Q: Tell me something about your job that would surprise people? A: Although every day I deal with the suffering of persons, either with a single home fire or a flood, sometimes there are downtime moments when I can have fun and enjoy meeting the different members of my community.

Working for the Bronze Award Junior Girl Scouts Amanda Ramirez, Jassandra Garcia, Arianna “Buddy” Alvarado, and Danniell Hale hosted a baby shower to benefit the March of Dimes on May 21. Funds raised will buy blanket and beanie sets that will be donated to the Neonatal Intensive Care Units at both local hospitals. LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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LAREDO, BE A PART OF THE AUCTION! Courtesy photo

ual our 45th Ann nations for do g in ice rv ek se se a KLRN is hether it is s Auction. W eater, el th e av G th to ng Blazi your tickets or es id om ov ny pr en tune in fr your compa tion today. Th na do ch a at g w in ewers and consider mak r 2 million vi he ot e th ith June 9-18 w ay. xans bid aw cture. your fellow Te ar t to acupun taways. From ge ipate to ic s rt te pa ca ho rtifi dividuals w From gift ce in d an es 0 business Join the 2,50 ity event. un come in this comm w you can be to find out ho d an n io at form For more in 93. ll 800.627.81 ca , ed lv invo

VMT Quill & Scroll inductees The new Vidal M. Trevino Chapter of the Quill & Scroll International Honor Society of Journalism held its first-ever induction ceremony at the school’s Recital Hall in the Urbahn Music Building on Tuesday, May 10. Twelve students from print journalism/online media, creative writing, and broadcast journalism were inducted. Shown here, from left, Jamin Teran, creative writing instructor; Diana Fuentes, former Laredo Morning Times editor, guest speaker; Sonya Sanchez-Lopez, broadcast instructor; and Mark Webber, print journalism/online media instructor.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! LAREDO NIGHT IS SATURDAY, JUNE 11! BlazingGavels.com klrn.org

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M ailbox L E etters to the

News

ditor

Dear editor,   As a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and an educator, I would like to invite teachers of all levels in our community to honor and remember the memory of all the victims of the Holocaust by teaching a lesson or by showing a video on this subject anytime during the next four weeks. April is a very significant month in the history of the Holocaust. It is the month when, in 1945, the allied troops advanced undefeated to the German borders and started liberating the Nazi concentration camps. But, also, early April marked the uninterrupted, infamous death marches to evacuate some of these camps. According to the chronicles, these are the names and the dates of the death and slave labor camps liberated during April and May 1945 by the Allied forces in Germany: April 4th, Ohrdruf; April 9, Dora-Mittelbau; April 11, Buchenwald and Nord-hausen; April 15, Bergen-Belsen; April 23, Flossenburg; April 27, Sachsenhausen and Kaufering; April 29, Dachau and Neuengamme; April 30, Ravensbruck; May 1, Sttuthof, Poland; May 4, Oranienburg and Wobbelin, Germany; May 5, Mauthausen, Gusen, and Gunskirchen, Austria; May 6, Ebensee, Austria; May 8, Gross-Rosen, Germany; and, finally, on May 9, Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia. Of the total estimated 13 million vicDear editor, When homeless and unemployed veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts are denied assistance by the Laredo Veterans Coalition, it’s difficult to restrain your outrage. What was once a noble organization dedicated to supporting our fighting men in need has resorted to deceptive tactics by ignoring repeated requests to provide full disclosure of public fund expenditures. Some of the abuses include: Of the $75,000.00 received from Webb County for indigent veterans, $67,000.00 or 90% is paid in unnecessary staff salaries. When the City decreased funding by 40%, the Coalition downgraded services to veterans by 62% while increasing their salaries from $57,600.00 to $67,000.00 – a 14% increase. In next year’s proposed budget the LVC staff is requesting a 16% salary increase for

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tims of the Holocaust, 6 millions were Jews while the other 7 million were political dissidents, prisoners of war, Roma Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, teenagers who were fans of American swing music, and homosexuals. One million and a half of them were children. Congress established the National Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust and created the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a permanent living memorial to the victims. This year’s Holocaust remembrance week was May 1 to 8. The theme designated by the Museum for the 2011 observance is “Justice and Accountability in the Face of Genocide: What Have We Learned?” The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has set up a section with free resources for anyone interested in participating in the National Days of Remembrance. To download a video or any other material, please visit www.ushmm.org. Whether it is prevention, response, or accountability, the Holocaust teaches us that inaction can be deadly; actions, even small ones, can make all the difference for those whose lives are at risk, now and in the future. Signed, Marco Franco Freedom Writer Teacher work that should be the responsibility of the County’s Veterans Service Officer. Monies intended for services including rent payments, pharmaceutical expenses, and medical treatment have been wasted on promotional advertising, food, pastries and other sundries. Along with the weatherization scandal, irate taxpayers must now contend with a recently held illegal election which violated the by Laws and Robert’s Rules of Order. Because of this scam, the LVC has no officers thereby negating their non-profit status with the Secretary of State in Texas, which makes them ineligible to spend public funds. Until Webb County and the City of Laredo conduct audits to clear up the misapplication of funds, indigent and incapacitated veterans will continue to suffer because of a few filchers posing as patriots.

Private prison profiteers lobby for harsher immigrant policies By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

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he National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIR) and Enlace International, an alliance of low-wage labor groups in the U.S. and Mexico, continue to shed light on the profiteering of private prison construction and management companies — including the GEO Group and Correctional Corporation of America — from the incarceration and imprisonment of immigrant men, women, and children. Enlace has launched a National Prison Divestment Campaign nationwide to draw attention to and demand the divestment of private and public holdings in the private prison industry. The incarceration for-profit industry relies on taxpayers for its income by lobbying for harsher immigrant incarceration policies. Such policies drive up prison populations and put added strains on state and federal budgets. According to Peter CervantesGautschi of Enlace, “Detentions of immigrants are set to cost taxpayers billions this year while profiting Manhattanbased hedge fund managers and other finance industry magnates like Wells Fargo who have significant investments in the private prison industry.

“The private prison industry, in league with major investors, is working to increase the criminalization of our communities and thus overpopulation in our prisons, through lobbying efforts that increase penalties and incarcerations by the federal government and by states such as Arizona and Georgia, which recently passed legislation that accelerates the detention of immigrants. “Now they’re conspiring to get states to put more people in jail for longer periods of time, costing tax-payers millions for no justifiable reason which undermines the credibility of our justice system. We can’t let this happen,” Cervantes-Gautschi said. In partnership with community groups and unions across the U.S., Enlace is calling on all public and private institutions to divest their holdings in Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group, America’s largest private prison corporations. Major investors in the private prison industry include Pershing Square Capital Management, Wellington Management Company, Wells Fargo Bank, General Electric, and others. Read more at enlaceintl.org, including “Wall Street and the Criminalization of Immigrants” and NNIR’s report, “Injustice for All: The rise of the U.S. Immigration Policing Regime.” u

Signed, Hector Farias, Jr., Ph.D. Marine Corps veteran

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News

Austin farmers offer community-supported produce AUSTIN — When Brenton Johnson’s backyard was covered from end to end in vegetables, he began growing produce on the front yard of as well. What started out as a hobby eventually outgrew his home in the Holly Street neighborhood and became a full-sized 70-acre working garden in east Austin. Known as Johnson’s Backyard Garden (JBG), the family-worked farm has become a staple at local farmer’s markets for over five years now and provides more than 60 vegetables, flowers, and herbs to over 1,000 Austinites. They deliver produce straight from their farm almost every day all over the Austin area. “It started as a hobby in my yard. We

Courtesy photo

By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff

Vegetables from one of JBG’s share boxes had extra vegetables so we began to sell, and our business grew from there,” Johnson said. JBG is one of the countless alternative produce vendors that have popped up in Austin in the past couple of years. It is also operated as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, a program that creates a direct partnership between the consumer and the farmer. “Brenton’s wife Beth was the one who pushed for the CSA for the Johnson’s, and the program has been successful ever since,” said JBG financial manager Carrie Kenny. Known as members of the CSA farm, the consumers pledge support to a specific farm in form of an annual or monthly subscription fee. The allotted funds from members are invested in the farm to harvest produce year-round. The members

receive weekly or biweekly “share boxes” that include a variety of seasonal produce. Workshares, volunteers who work on the farm for half a day, help pick, package, and deliver the harvest to over 30 JBG pick-up sites in exchange for a share box. Johnson planted his first garden in what he calls “a small urban backyard” in 2004. The Johnson family began their CSA in early 2006 and served about 30 Austin families. When summer of 2006 rolled around, the Johnsons decided to purchase 20 acres of land on Hergotz Lane, 5 miles east of downtown, and moved there in September. By that time, the farm served 500 members of the Austin community. In the following years, the Johnsons acquired an additional 50 acres of land in Cedar Creek and doubled the number of members in their CSA. A graduate of Auburn University with a degree in agricultural engineering, Johnson worked for the government in water conservation for 10 years before he “fell back into farming by accident.” He says farming was something he always wanted to do, but he set it in the back burner throughout his college days. The father of four now works 60 to 80 hours a week on the farm. “I am fortunate to love what I do, and when you do, it’s not work,” Johnson said. JBG’s website promotes supporting local farming because it helps ensure that there will be farms in the community in the future so that generations to come will have access to healthier food. “The reason I got into farming was because I wanted to do something positive,” Johnson said. “Farming is a job that is truly needed in society.” u

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News

Animal shelter rife with problems and directorship turnover By RAFAEL BENAVIDES & CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

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mid allegations from pet owners about a potential parvovirus and distemper outbreak among dogs at the animal shelter, city health department director Dr. Hector Gonzalez assured that the shelter is not experiencing an outbreak. Gonzalez said the real problem is a flea and tick infestation, and he met with the shelter’s board members on Friday to discuss ways to combat the infestation. “We want to minimize that with [good] hygiene, like foot baths and the washing of hands when handlers go from the pound side to the adoption side,” Gonzalez said. Gonzalez said his department is focusing on making sure kennel handlers follow all proper hygiene protocols. Alejandra Landis, president of the Laredo Animal Protective Society’s board, said the board members and Gonzalez discussed looking into alternative flea and tick products to use on the animals. She also said the shelter staff would start giving every animal a complete dip for fleas and ticks. The facility we have is so old and we’ve been there so long that it’s just in infested,” Landis said. “We fumigate every two weeks, but now we are going to find an animal-friendly product to fumigate the kennels themselves.” ‘Skeeter’ In January 2009, Debra Stratton rescued a 10-week-old German shepherd named “Skeeter” from the Laredo Animal Protective Society (LAPS). Stratton took him immediately to her vet so he could start receiving his shots. At first, Skeeter looked to be in good health. But when Skeeter became ill, Stratton’s vet diagnosed him with distemper. His condition worsened, he stopped eating, WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Courtesy of Debra Stratton

Editor’s Note: Animal shelter executive director Lori Brizius was terminated from her job on May 16. This story was reported and written before the termination. Look for more details about Brizius’ termination in the June issue of LareDOS.

‘Like an empty hole’ Debra Stratton’s dog Skeeter, which she adopted from the animal shelter, was euthanized after he became ill with distemper. and eventually started having seizures. Three weeks later, Skeeter had to be euthanized. “We’re very much a dog family, so it was like an empty hole,” Stratton said. “I wouldn’t go back, and I would tell someone else the same thing, not to go back. I would recommend checking in the newspaper first.” Canine parvovirus is spread from contact with feces of infected dogs. After dogs ingest the virus, parvo is carried to the intestine, where it invades the intestinal wall and causes inflammation, according to an information sheet supplied to by local veterinarian Sandra Leyendecker. Symptoms include several vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, listlessness or depression, and fever. Distemper is a much more serious disease than parvo, often called “moquillo” in Spanish because of the heavy mucus secretions. The disease starts as an upper respiratory infection and attacks the nervous system. “If I had a choice with my own dog and it got sick, I’d rather have parvo than distemper. It affects the nervous system and

you can’t treat it,” Leyendecker said. “It takes about three to four weeks to run its course, if the animal survives. Once you get distemper or parvo in your home, any other dogs are vulnerable forever.” It is not exactly known how many cases of dogs adopted from the shelter had parvo and/or distemper. Lori Brizius, director of the shelter at the time of this writing, said that since January, the shelter has adopted out over 300 dogs and had 13 returned because they had canine distemper and/ or the parvovirus. She added that only 1 percent of all their animals are returned to their shelter sick, according to the shelter’s records. She attributes this percentile to having a healthy environment for the animals. Brizius explained that when animals are brought into the shelter sick, they are immediately euthanized so that they cannot infect the other animals. Leyendecker, however, claims that when she worked with the shelter, wellintentioned volunteers tried to save infected animals instead of euthanizing them. She explained that parvo and distemper could be spread around to the rest of the dogs at the shelter within a

day. Leyendecker also explained that the diseases don’t always display obvious symptoms, and that even vets can’t always tell if an animal is harboring the virus. She recommended that the infected dogs be immediately euthanized to save the rest of the dogs. “Members of the [animal shelter] board are very caring; they mean very well. You have to run the shelter like a business though, even though you’re heart is in it and you feel sorry for the animals,” Leyendecker said. Leyendecker resigned as the shelter’s consultant vet earlier this year because of this disagreement, though she still helps out the shelter. Instead she is taking matters into her own hands, and is planning to open her own animal shelter, which has been in the works for more than two years. As of press time, Leyendecker said she was waiting for an OK from the Internal Revenue Service to declare her shelter a nonprofit organization. The shelter will be called Critter House, and the exact location has not been determined yet, though the land has already been donated. Health department director Dr. Gonzalez said he respects Leyendecker and all she does for the animal shelter but expressed some disagreement with her. “You have to look at it case by case, and the potential for that to happen, and then crossing the animals with the shelter staff,” Gonzalez said. “We want to try everything and beyond before we euthanize. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, so we have to [euthanize] so that the rest of the pets aren’t exposed.” Debra Stratton, meanwhile, has since adopted two Labradors, which she found in the classifieds section of the newspaper. A larger problem While Leyendecker admits that she did not see eye-to-eye with Brizius, the two agree that the disease problem stems from the inability or refusal of local pet owners to vaccinate and spay and neuter their dogs, which would prevent the disease from becoming even more widespread and lower the euthanasia rate. Continued on next page

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Continued from page 27 Those problems are worsened by the fact that Laredo only has four vets for the whole city. Another vet stepped in for Leyendecker at the animal shelter, but Brizius said many problems the shelter faces stem from a lack of vet care and money for medications. Many of the strays the shelter takes in are already sick when they get picked up, and most of those are euthanized. “We don’t have the ability to treat animals here, which is what we would like to do, but we just don’t. We don’t have a vet here, we don’t have most of the medications and stuff …” Brizius said. Leyendecker said every vet in Laredo has treated animals that got infected with parvo from the animal shelter. “In the past, they’re kind of torn between putting animals down and trying to save animals. My opinion is that you vaccinate the dogs — the first shots take about a week before they take effect — you wait a minimum of 2 weeks or 10 days, give that vaccine a chance to take effect, or for the dog to break with parvo, but it breaks before you adopt the animal out,” Leyendecker said. “Because if you adopt the animal and they take it home, incubation time can be like 3 or 5 days. During that incubation time, you take a puppy that looks

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totally normal but it’s already incubating the disease.” Brizius said that although they try, the shelter’s staff couldn’t guarantee the health of the animal, since over 90 percent of the animals come off the street. LAPS board member Alejandra Landis agrees. “The problem is that it’s impossible to alleviate any parvo or distemper out there,” Landis said. “We can do countless measures to prevent it within the facility, but as soon as an animal comes off the street, we cannot guarantee.” The shelter recommends new adoptive pet owners make a visit to their veterinarian as soon as they receive their new pet in order to catch any problems early on. Puppies can be vaccinated as young as four weeks if they are born in an area that may have parvo. Leyendecker says the average price in town for the vaccine is between $17 and $20, which are much cheaper than attempting to treat the dog once the disease is in its advanced stages — this can rack up the bill into the thousands. Leyendecker does two low-cost vaccine clinics for the rabies and parvo/distemper shots the first Wednesday of every month at the WICC Clinic on Zacatecas Street across from Cigarroa High School, and the third Wednesday of every month at the health department on Cedar Avenue.

Renovating the shelter LAPS is trying to do its part to keep up with the constant inflow of pets. Staff members are currently renovating its facilities thanks to some money from the city and private donations. Dr. Gonzalez said that lighting, surveillance cameras, and more electrical lines and plumbing have already been added, and there is still some paving and kennel work to be done. The city has also set aside $86,000 to build a spay-and-neuter facility. In the approved 2010-11 city budget, $300,000 was set aside for the shelter. “Yes, you could still improve — I think the city is doing a good job supporting it,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “In the last five years, we went from $50,000 a year, to $100,000, to $300,000. And the health department’s budget takes care of minor repairs for the pound site.” Last year, the shelter received about $150,000 in private donations, according to shelter bookkeeper Eddie Perez, who explained that while that may seem like a large amount, not all of the money goes toward medications and basic vet care. “Some of the money is restricted to certain projects,” Perez said. “For example, we might receive $25,000, but that money could be earmarked for the puppy palace, which we are renovating.”

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MarĂ­a Eugenia Guerra / LareDOS

MarĂ­a Eugenia Guerra / LareDOS

May Farmers Market Acela Sanchez enjoyed the company of her daughter and grandchildren on an outing to the May Farmers Market in Jarvis Plaza. She is pictured with Angie, Christina, and Joey Sanchez.

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Family ambience in Jarvis Plaza Josephine Luera and her niece Malena Benitez and nephew Ramon Benitez spent a morning exploring everything the Farmers Market had to offer in Jarvis Plaza.

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From the Publisher

No nos faltan public money debacles; back at the office, good changes

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By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

’ll take just a moment to comment on what’s been happening in our offices at the west end of Houston Street and on larger topics in the news. Two stories dominated this issue — the off-the-mark misfire of a May 6 presentation of a downtown master plan that addressed a tunnel to and from Mexico at Bridge II, new retail development on IH-35 in buildings foreign in style to the two adjoining historical neighborhoods in which they would be constructed, and obtuse, big scheme prattlings and drawings about what downtown (the new one that could be built) could become if you just threw $60 million bucks at it. In addition to bringing the downtown merchants and the historical preservationists to the table with a common cause, the presentation has fomented continuing dialogue about the prudent use of taxpayer money by those we elect to make good decisions for us. It also calls to question the budding romance some City Council members seem to be having with the Kell Muñoz firm they hired to come up with the $395,000 master plan. For a good part of a week our phone lines were occupied with Laredoans who had definite opinions on downtown revitalization and on this sitting council’s exercise of judgment on the grandiose return for so large an expenditure. Public money debacles no nos faltan. El Portal’s poor occupancy. Owning something as valuable as the Plaza Theater and doing

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nothing with it for five years. Letting the old Southern Hotel have pigeons for tenants. Having cobblestones and misters installed in the last decade as monuments to this city’s best downtown restoration efforts. We will not move forward with downtown revitalization until this administration and this council comes to its senses about what is required, until it commits itself, and until it becomes a priority. Downtown and its old buildings tell the story of this city. It is a treasure trove of intact architecture. Ignoring this vast asset speaks to the short-term thinking (and small minds) of those who could make a viable plan, but have not. Wake up and smell the sewage wafts that hang over so vital a historical and commercial district, and do something about a place that embodies the history of commerce, the railroad, religion, and international trade of this region. Join council member Cindy Liendo Espinoza — add your voice to hers and make it known that you believe downtown is worthy of our best efforts to restore its streets, sidewalks, and facades. Make it a goal to make downtown and the rest of this city a shopping and tourism destination. (Council members and Mayor, it will make you look smart and caring and may bear political cache, should you need it next time around, and you will. Money where your mouth is, remember that. Now that you’ve got the cops keeping the dancing beer babes in check, think about making it a priority to pick up all the tires, couches, and mattresses on street corners.) I’ve digressed.

The other story that came into this office and ended up having an evolving life of its own was news of events at the animal shelter. I’m happy to say editor Cristina Herrera was at the helm on that neverending tale. Take a look, too, at the straight-up story she wrote comparing the salaries of UISD superintendent Bobby Santos and LISD’s A. Marcus Nelson. Cristina, a 2010 UT-Austin journalism graduate, has been on board since January and came highly recommended by former Laredoan Wanda Garner Cash, the associate director of UT’s journalism school. We are happy to welcome recent Baylor University graduate Rafael Benavides to our staff, as well as summer intern Alexa Ura, a United High School graduate and a journalism sophomore at UT-Austin. Alexa hit the ground running and wrote a handful of

good stories in her first four days here. We share the good news that last summer’s intern at LareDOS, Maegan Vasquez, a 2011 Alexander High School graduate, has been accepted into the journalism school at New York University. I enjoyed working with her and watching her develop as a writer. I noted, as everyone has, that determination was one of her strong suits. I wish her well, and I am happy LareDOS provided a fertile environment for a good mind. That’s about the sum total of things. I’ll just whine a little about how difficult it is to remain in publication, and how much we need your advertising revenues to keep at the work we began 17 years ago. To those who have remained as loyal advertisers, thank you for believing in what we do. Thanks to our writing contributors and to our readers. We want to hear from you. u

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Feature

Volunteers Megan Vallejo, Magdalena Vallejo, and Olga Vasquez

Women Build empowers volunteers

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By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

ne hundred and fifty women picked up power tools and paint to work on three houses at Habitat for Humanity’s Tierra Prometida during the Women Build on Saturday, April 30. The build was part of National Women Build Week, which challenges women to volunteer one day to help eliminate poverty housing, according to a press release. “We can empower women by bringing them together, and that’s the message of today,” said Habitat executive director Carol Sherwood. Sherwood said the fact that most of the volunteers did not have experience with tools and building material added to the comfortable atmosphere and empowered the women even more. “We’re all copilots today,” said volunteer Olga Vasquez. “It’s a total learning experience. We got to use tools that we had never used before.” The volunteers widely ranged in ages and careers. Magdalena and Megan Vallejo, who are mother and daughter, respectively, volunteered together. “It’s given me a lot of experience learning how to give back to the community,” said Megan, who is a junior at United High School. “And we went through those power tool sessions, and I think we can go home and build anything now.” Companies such as Lowe’s, H-E-B, and Briggs Equipment sent out volunteers to help with the build. Lowe’s gave a $5,000 grant to help buy materials and tools for the build. The store also hosted a how-to and safety clinic earlier that week for the participants. Olive Garden also sponsored the event by providing lunch to the volunteers. u

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Earth Keepers explore the Río Grande, help clean banks

Courtesy of Eric Ellman

Santo Niño Elementary School Earth Keepers became the first LISD school group to take advantage of Big River Foundation’s Field Trips to Go! program, which is funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Field Trips to Go! seeks to demonstrate that nature is the best classroom. Pictured with the young environmentalists and river enthusiasts are Raul Delgado of Monte Mucho Audubon and Kaj Fjelstad, Santo Niño special education instructor and founder of the Earth Keepers.

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News

A new take on field trips

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By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff

tudents from Santo Niño Elementary School became the first LISD school group to participate in “Field Trips to Go!,” a Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) program administered by the nonprofit Big River Foundation (BRF). Santo Niño’s “Earth Keepers” club activities included learning to paddle, birdwatching, trash clean-up, and kayaking at Riverbend Park, a 200-acre park with three small lakes and miles of trails along the Río Grande BRF is an international educational nonprofit, that organizes festivals, programs, and events that “address environmental, ecological, economic, and social benefits of healthy rivers.” Field Trips to Go! is funded through a TPD Community Outdoor Outreach. Executive director Eric Ellman came up with the idea for Field Trips to Go! after teaching 8th grade science in Mission. “It was obvious to me that a windowless classroom is the last place kids of that age should be expected to learn,” he said. Field trips were difficult to plan because of expenses and administration requirement of lesson plans that would demonstrate prog-

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ress towards TEKS objectives for approval of the field trip, according to Ellman. “All of it added up to zero field trips as well as widespread non-compliance with TEA guidelines that science students spend 40 percent of their time doing hands-on investigations,” he said. Field Trips to Go! pays for teachers to develop inter-disciplinary outdoor lesson plans that address TEKS objectives, facilitates paperwork for field trips, arranges transportation, and pays for students to return to same nature sites to implement such lessons. “Our hope is that follow-up testing demonstrates student achievement in multiple subject areas is equal to our superior to that shown by those who remain indoors,” Ellman said. The program is also trying to promote Laredo’s lakes and streams as “great places to develop an appreciation for outdoor life-style sports” that also include hiking and fishing. Field Trips to Go! is offering free kayaking opportunities for teachers and students from LISD, UISD, Laredo Community College and Texas A&M International University, and are also looking for teams of teachers to design inter-disciplinary learning programs for the 2011-2012 school year. For more information, call Eric Ellman at (956) 209-1879. u

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Feature

Mellow Yellow — formerly Lazy Daze — takes on Laredo’s counterculture By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

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Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

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n elderly couple from Mexico pause during their stroll around a shopping center on Bob Bullock Loop called The Shops at Lakeview. They see a storefront with darkly tinted windows and the words “Lazy Daze.” The couple decides to give the shop a chance and walks in cautiously, but with looks of realization, they quickly close the door and leave. What line the inside of the store are rock ‘n roll posters and shirts, patches celebrating counterculture, stash boxes and there, at the back part of the store, is a modest selection of glass and metal pipes. “I hate being associated with [drugs], and especially since everybody links us to that,” said shop manager Claire Guardiola. “I don’t even like to call this place a ‘head shop’ because it’s so much more than that.” Lazy Daze — now Mellow Yellow Novelties after a name change in April — is a head shop, which, besides its rock ‘n roll memorabilia, also offers items such as pipes, rolling papers, and products that claim to “defeat urine tests.” The shop was taken over by Debbie Ortiz in January 2007, after Ortiz had engaged in several other random ventures, including a wedding planning business. Ortiz brought on family members and close friends to help her run the business, including Guardiola, who started as a lower level employee and quickly became manager of Lazy Daze. Ortiz was unavailable for an interview, but Guardiola has been with the shop since the beginning and explained that Ortiz never had experience with head shops before. “She liked the business aspect of things. That was her main thing: business,” Guardiola said. “And because [the previous owner] was already running a lucrative business to begin with, she saw an opportunity to take it.” When Ortiz took over the franchise, the shop consisted mostly of glassware. She has expanded the inventory to include a large section of products related to rock music and counterculture merchandise. Half of the store contains this merchandise, while the other half — only for customers

A mellow atmosphere Claire Guardiola checks her computer at Mellow Yellow Novelties, a head shop that offers rock memorabilia and smoking accessories. 18 and older — is reserved for glassware and paraphernalia. “She quickly expanded the shop,” Guardiola said. “By the time I went in there, it was completely different.” Guardiola graduated with a communications degree and worked with one of the local school districts as a teacher. She left the shop to work with the schools again, but came back for good after becoming disillusioned with how the teaching profession had changed. Debbie Ortiz also graduated with a degree in accounting. “We’re both very well educated, we both have degrees, and we both kind of just learned as we went along and the main thing we noticed was to offer what our customers wanted,” Guardiola said. At one point, Ortiz owned two Lazy Daze locations; one on 201 W. Hillside Road in a shopping center, and one on Chihuahua Street for a brief period. She closed the Chihuahua location after a break-in. In the span of four and a half years, there have been five break-in attempts at

the Lazy Daze locations. Guardiola said that sometimes their customers, who she said could be involved with the drug trade, and the large cash flow can pose dangers to the employees. Guardiola said that for these reasons, competitors have come and gone. For a while there was Lazy Daze Too on Arkansas Street, which was not owned by Ortiz. Ortiz has bought the rights to the franchise name in Webb County and prevailed in a legal challenge to use the name. The owner changed the name to Holy Smoke, which he moved to Shiloh Avenue. Guardiola said that location got broken into, and the owner closed it down because of that break-in. Another head shop that recently opened, Sizzle, also got broken into. Guardiola has talked with the owner of Sizzle, and he will probably turn the shop into a hookah café. “Those are the downfalls of having a shop like this; you deal with customers who are angry, who are desperate sometimes,” Guardiola said. Added to those risks are the constant-

ly changing drug laws. For example, as of March 1 of this year, five cannibinoids used in “synthetic cannabis” were banned in the U.S. These cannibinoids showed up in products such as “Spice” and “K-2,” which mimicked the effects of marijuana. These were sold as “herbal incenses” that were “not made for human consumption.” “That’s another 24-hour thing — where we’re constantly looking up the [state and federal] legislature to find out what laws have been implemented, what bans have been implemented, and what laws have been proposed to pass so we can be prepared for the future,” she said. “Those are things we need to consider every day.” Customers can still find herbal incenses and potpourris at the shop that are labeled “not for human consumption,” but are nonetheless sprayed with mysterious chemicals. The ingredients do not show what these chemicals are, and when Guardiola was asked, she said the lab reports that come with these incenses only show the chemicals that are not in the products. “Once the customer purchases the incense, whatever they do with it is their business. We aren’t here to be their mothers,” Guardiola said. “And it clearly says it’s not for human consumption.” The incense section, which includes the traditional long sticks of incense that come in scents such as patchouli, is the highest seller at the shop. The glassware actually sells the least. The head shop’s customer demographics are hard to pinpoint. Guardiola said she gets customers ranging from ages 20 to 60, and they range from construction workers to lawyers and government workers. “It’s so hard to determine our customer base because we are one town and we’re the only shop of our kind here,” Guardiola said. “I feel like the more years I go by, I’m noticing people less afraid of coming in here.” Guardiola attributes this to the shop’s prominence in the community. Ortiz and the employees have worked to get the shop’s name out there and help the city become comfortable and feel safe at Lazy Daze. The shop has sponsored school fundraisers and often donates money to local charities. Continued on next page

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Continued from page 35 In 2008, Lazy Daze experienced a boom period. Ever since Ortiz had taken the shop over, she had worked to bring in more customers mainly by advertising more and hosting special promotions. Ortiz and her employees would bring in local bands, play music from radio stations, and offer their products at special discounts. However, the organization that had control of the Hillside shopping center became increasingly unhappy with the large crowds the shop brought in after hours. Eventually, Ortiz had decided the location was wrong for the shop. In August 2010, the shop was moved to its current location on 201 Bob Bullock Loop. Guardiola said they also liked the location partly because of the 24-hour security that patrols the shopping center. After all the break-ins, the security was a welcome relief. Now Ortiz and Guardiola are concentrated on keeping Laredoans familiar with their shop. They hosted the One Love Music Festival on April 20, which is unofficially known as a counterculture holiday

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within cannabis culture. All proceeds went to Keep Laredo Beautiful. Guardiola said even Mayor Raul Salinas recognized Lazy Daze for its work, a testament to how much the shop has penetrated Laredo’s mainstream. “I feel like a lot of people do have this perception of who we are, and it’s not even until they actually come into the store that they realize, ‘Oh, well this store is predominately rock memorabilia and novelties,’” Guardiola said. “We have a small portion of glassware and tobacco products, but it’s for those customers that we have. That’s why we advertised throughout the years, so people could become familiar with us.” The shop’s name change also partly comes from a desire to become more disassociated with the drug culture. Ortiz bought out the franchise and changed the name to Mellow Yellow Novelties in April. The Lazy Daze sign is still in place, but customers will hear “Mellow Yellow Novelties?” when they call now. “We like being hippy and being happy,” Guardiola said. “Yellow is bright color, so we want to say we’re women, we’re bright, and we’re loud.” u

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

Fracking coalition advocates for regulation in drilling

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By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff

embers of the Laredo community and surrounding areas have formed an environmental advocacy group to address the possibility of the negative impacts of fracking natural gas and oil wells in the Eagle Ford Shale, a field that encompasses 22 South Texas counties, including Webb County. The Safe Fracking Coalition (SFC) has raised concerns about ground water and air quality regarding the well completion fracking process— the hydraulic fracturing of rock and shale formations with a mixture of highpressured water and various chemical additives used to penetrate tight shale rock layers in order for oil and natural gas to flow out. Research and studies have shown that the chemicals in fracturing fluids including benzene and lead could be harmful to human health and the environment especially if they enter drinking water supplies. Use of such dangerous chemicals is allowed by the 2005 Energy Bill that exempted fracking oil and gas production companies from the Safe Drinking Water Act that regulates the fluid

injected into wells. Oil and natural gas companies have withheld disclosure of the amount of various chemicals in the fluid used to frack because of proprietary reasons. “We understand the positive economic impact the [Eagle Ford Shale] will have for landowners and field service employees in the area, but we want to make sure the drilling will be safe and done in a responsible manner,” said Tricia Cortez, assistant executive director of the Río Grande International Study Center (RGISC) and a founding member of the SFC. Because of water scarcity levels in Texas, the coalition is also concerned that there is no entity watching over the water supply used to frack. A well in the northwest Webb County area will use over 7.5 million gallons of water to frack, according to Cortez. Geologist David Thirkildsen of the Texas Water Development Board revealed to them that there was “no designated entity or process for monitoring groundwater usage for the purpose of drilling” in the shale. Members of the SFC also question long-term effects the drilling would have on the environment including possible contamination of drinking water and various health risks. “There is a serious, long-lasting environmental impact involved that would be detrimental

to human health,” said David Hunt, a member of the coalition. The impact, he said, could well tally to billions of dollars in health factors, livestock contamination and remediation of sites after the drilling is done. Attorney and SFC member Fabiola Flores said that lawsuits challenging the permits assigned to drilling companies have been very few considering the volume of wells and number of people affected by the drilling. “People are still trying to get their bearings of the spectrum of things. Some want to stop it altogether because water contamination scares them, and others are educating themselves and want higher standards of regulation for drilling,” she said. The SFC has worked closely with Rep. Richard Raymond to set up a town hall meeting on June 10 at the UT Health and Science Center Laredo campus. The event is also coordinated by the RGISC and will be hosted by Dr. Gladys Keene, regional dean of the UTHSC Laredo campus. “To be successful, we have to work with stakeholders,” Cortez said. The coalition hopes to increase community awareness, advocate for more research and studies of the area and “unconventional” fracking effects, and gain support for regulations that would help protect natural resources. u

Alexa Ura/LareDOS

These five million-gallon water storage tanks give you an idea of the 5 to 7.5 million gallons it takes to frack one well in the Eagle Ford Shale field.

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

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News

Bacteria study looks for sources of contamination in the Río Grande he U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission’s Texas Clean Rivers Program (USIBWC CRP) carried out a two-day sampling bacteria study of the Río Grande in the Laredo sector from May 19 to 20. Seven individuals from the USIBWC CRP, Texas Commission on Environment Quality (TCEQ), and TAMIU took water samples from almost 40 different stations designated as areas of interest along the Río Grande on both the U.S. and Mexico sides of the river. The purpose of the study was to identify potential sources of bacteria contamination in the river in order to create a final report of data analysis and possible recommendations for action. The area of focus for the study was from the Jefferson Street water plant’s intake area through the International Bridge #2 and downstream to the confluence of Zacate Creek. The Laredo/Nuevo Laredo area of the Río Grande has had high levels of bacteria, specifically E. Coli and fecal coliform, for decades. Segments of the river, which run from the Jefferson Street water treatment plant to International Bridge I, have been listed as impaired for contact recreation by the Texas Surface Water Quality Standards. Río Grande E.Coli bacteria values from 2009-10 ranged from 1,300 to over 1,800 colonies per 100 milliliters at certain sites of the river, more than 10 times the Texas standard for E.Coli Tom Vaughan, Ph.D., TAMIU biology professor and co-founder of the Río Grande International Study Center, was one of the participants of the study. He has conducted monthly testing of the river for the past 17 years but said that the study is a historic and significant first step for the area. “This stretch of the river has not met its designated use because of high bacteria levels. We know where some of the sources of that bacteria are, but we don’t know all of them,” said Vaughan. “This will be the first step at stopping the inflows.” A majority of the 40 proposed sampling stations were sites that haven’t been sampled in the past and will be

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Tom Miller moves to the next testing site on the Río Grande

Alexa Ura/LareDOS

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By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff

compared to previous samples from the TCEQ database. The study will also survey structures along both banks of the river in order to identify the areas at which inflows of the bacteria are taking place. The study mimics a similar study carried out in the Río Grande in the Brownsville/Matamoros area in 2010. The Laredo/Nuevo Laredo area bacteria issue is very similar to the Brownsville problem. According to the study’s problem statement and proposed solution, the City of Laredo Health Laboratory will analyze both fecal coliform and E. Coli bacteria samples. Results will be sent to the USIBWC CRP for “quality assurance review and assessment” and they will collaborate with other participating entities to create a final report of the data. If some of the sources on the U.S. side are in outfalls, then the city of Laredo would be obliged to remedy the problem, said Vaughan. u

Dr. Tom Vaughan reviews testing stations prior to pushing off

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LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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Jorge Medina/LareDOS

News

Azteca opens business tech center From left to right, City Council member Cindy Liendo Espinoza, Acción Texas loan officer Hector Ramirez, and Azteca CTC director Steve Gutierrez view a presentation on the new small business technology center at Azteca Economic Development & Preservation Corporation.

New opportunity for small business development

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By ALEXA URA LareDOS Staff

ocal entrepreneurs now have the opportunity to develop their businesses and create jobs at a small business technology center operated by local nonprofit organization Azteca Economic Development & Preservation Corporation (AED&PC). The Latino Micro-entrepreneur TechNet Center comprises of 15 computer workstations, printers, scanners, projectors, software and licenses for business development. Local residents can also access bilingual business curriculum linked from Plaza Adelante, the headquarters of the nonprofit Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) in San Francisco, Calif. “Local entrepreneurs will train on standardized bilingual curriculum with targeted modules specific to micro-entrepreneurs, including QuickBooks, Excel for Budgeting, E-Commerce and Online

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Marketing,” said Rafael Torres, executive director of AED&PC. AED&PC promotes technology training to empower individuals through skills that will make them competent in the current workforce. They are advocates for affordable housing, economic development, education, workforce training, and financial education. According to Torres, the organization hopes to provide basic and specialized bilingual micro-entrepreneur computer training in order to increase usage of broadband technology among local entrepreneurs. The center is part of a national effort to increase local entrepreneurship in Latino communities and is funded by a National Telecommunications and Information Administration federal grant. It is a collaborative project between MEDA and the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders of San Antonio. For more information, contact Steve Gutierrez at (956) 726-4462. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Continued from page 11 “We are worried about opening our doors tomorrow morning, not what downtown will look like 10 or 20 years from now,” said Les Norton, president of the Downtown Merchants Association. “You can have the most beautiful facades on old buildings, but what good are your beautiful plans if those buildings are empty?” Norton said he was shown the Kell Muñoz plans in the works last October. “It was a set of pretty and professionally done plans, but so out of touch with reality — plans for the future with costs that were inconceivable,” he continued. “Kell Muñoz had meetings with us and took it all down, everything we said we needed, but what came back was quite different,” he said. “Our needs downtown are so basic. Yes, help us get tourists and shoppers downtown and to venues all over Laredo where they can shop, have a stay in a good hotel, or have a good meal. Give visitors a reason to spend money downtown and anywhere in Laredo. The number of Mexican shoppers is seriously compromised by the waits in long lines in unbearable heat. Those who used to come from the interior of Mexico to shop here have now gone on to San Antonio, New Braunfels, San Marcos, and the Río Grande Valley. Between what is happening in Mexico and our own economy, we have some very real problems,” Norton said. ‘Downtown is not broken’ “I understand they have ideas, but where did ours go?” asked Sandra Rocha Taylor of the Kell Muñoz plan. Rocha Taylor is executive director of Laredo Main Street and one of the rallying forces that have given the monthly downtown Farm-

The council member said that whether or not the plan is accepted by City Council for implementation, nothing will come between Kell Muñoz and their check from the city. “Much of their fee has already been paid,” she said.

ers Market sustainability. “Downtown is not broken. It needs cleaning, utility, sidewalk, street, and façade improvements, clean public restrooms, cafés, crosswalks, accessible routes in and out of downtown, traffic flow, and incentives to property owners and new businesses wanting to locate downtown. WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Because much of the architecture is intact, we have so much to work with,” she said. Rocha Taylor said city-funded recreational and entertainment venues like a new golf course and a new baseball stadium are well and good, but that the city could also commit itself to make downtown an evening dining and entertainment venue that could be frequented by post-game golfers and baseball fans, and Laredoans and visitors alike. She said the newly defined downtown arts and entertainment district needs a comprehensive marketing plan,

federal money for those projects. “If Kell Muñoz has the ability to bring federal or other money to Laredo, great. Go get the money and we’ll pay you a negotiated percentage, but don’t be showing up with any more expensive comic books,” he said. Norton is right about the impact of the meeting. City now responsive City manager Carlos Villarreal, who seemed brusque and a bit cavalier at the May 6 meeting about the closing of Hidalgo Street and cited traffic studies as justification, has now said it does not have

We can work on a master plan and a downtown improvement plan at the same time, a plan that brings activity sooner than later to downtown and reflects what citizens would like to see. We will arrive at a plan that makes sense to all of us. City manager Carlos Villarreal and downtown property owners need to avail themselves of Façade Improvement Grants that allow a $15,000 match. ‘So not rooted in reality’ Norton said, “If we saw the city doing their part to make downtown a better place and a better destination for shoppers and tourists, rest assured that there are property owners who would sign up for façade grants and any other incentives. What we’ve seen about how the City Council decides to spend money,” he continued, “Is some bad judgment and poor spending — an 80 percent empty El Portal, buying the Plaza Theater and doing absolutely nothing with it for five years, buying the old Southern Hotel for parking and doing nothing with the old structure, and now paying Kell Muñoz this kind of money for a plan so not rooted in reality.” Norton said he had a feeling that the May 6 meeting — despite the ire and disappointment of downtown merchants and historical preservationists — served the important purpose of showing numbers and solidarity for consensus that the Kell Muñoz plan was not viable, and was in fact so far off the mark as to be lamentably laughable. His prescient thought, he said, came true in the form of a Sunday phone call from architect Mario Peña, who said that Kell Muñoz wanted his input “for immediate action.” Norton said, “Now they want to do this. They had this information a year ago.” He said that Kell Muñoz has done little to dispel the transparency that they want more projects in Laredo and that they can find

to be closed. Two weeks after the meeting Villarreal said that there is a misconception about the Kell Muñoz master plan. “Without a master plan we cannot go after federal resources to address some of the infrastructure we need downtown like underground utilities. Many funding sources require you to have a master plan.” He continued, “We can work on a master plan and a downtown improvement plan at the same time, a plan that brings activity sooner than later to downtown and re-

flects what citizens would like to see. We will arrive at a plan that makes sense to all of us.” According to Villarreal, “They (the merchants) haven’t told me what they want.” The city manager called the May 6 meeting “meaningful dialogue” and “part of the process to begin turning things around downtown.” He said, “We will never all agree, but we will work on downtown with the consensus of the downtown merchants and other stakeholders. We are going to do what is right.” Villarreal said there are plans to develop only one block of the five-block approach to the bridge, and that those are GSA plans for a bus and passenger inspection terminal. He said GSA had no other available land for such a facility. “No Pan American Center, no tearing up of San Dario and Santa Ursula, no street closures. Look for work to start on the terminal in 2012,” he said. Asked if the city should be in the business of building and leasing retail space in proximity of the terminal, he said, “Leasehold agreement would pay for a building and would provide amenities to welcome these visitors into the country, and those amenities are restrooms, playgrounds, fast food places, peso exchange puestos.” Villarreal said the city has been in negotiations intermittently over several months with TxDOT over acquisition of the fiveblock approach to Bridge II. “They no longer want to assume the cost of maintaining it. It’s in the works now, and there will be no exchange of money,” Villarreal said. u

To share your thoughts with the Mayor and City Council about better ways to spend $395,000 of your money, give them a call or write to them. Mayor Raul G. Salinas (956) 791-7389 
Fax: (956) 791-7314
 rgsalinas@ci.laredo. tx.us

District III Alex Perez Cell (956) 236-949 Tel. (956) 791-7389 isoto@stx.rr.com

District VI Charlie San Miguel Cell (956) 324-5678 Tel. (956) 791-7389 charliesm@stx.rr.com

District I Mike Garza Cell (956) 473-9200 Tel (956) 791-7389 mgarza@mikegarza. net

District IV Juan Narvaez Cell 286-7201 Tel. (956) 791-7389 isoto@stx.rr.com

District VII José A. Valdez Jr. Tel. (956) 791-7389 isoto@stx.rr.com

District II Esteban Rangel Cell (956) 473-9909 Tel. (956) 791-7389 isoto@stx.rr.com

District V Johnny Rendon Cell (956) 763-1953 Tel. (956) 791-7389 district5@stx.rr.com

District VIII Cindy Liendo Espinoza Cell (956) 744-4439 Tel. (956) 791-7389 cindy.liendoespinoza@ me.com

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Social Security

One more homework assignment

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f you’re cv of the many teenagers or young adults planning to get a summer job or start a career this summer, you may be surprised to see what’s deducted from your paystub. If you don’t know already, it’s time to learn what your Social Security taxes are all about. By law, employers must withhold from a worker’s paycheck Social Security taxes. While usually referred to on an employee’s pay statement as “Social Security taxes,” sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA taxes” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a reference to the original Social Security Act. The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection, for retirement in old age or in the event of disability. And when you die, your family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work as well. Right now you probably have family members — grandparents, for example — who already are enjoying Social Security benefits that your Social Security taxes help provide. Because you’re a long way from retirement, you may have a tough time seeing the value of benefit payments that could be many decades in the future. But keep in mind that the Social Security taxes you’re paying can provide valuable disability or survivors benefits in the event the unexpected happens. Studies do show that of today’s 20-year-olds, about 1 in 4 will become disabled and about 1 in 8 will die before reaching retirement. Warning: If an employer offers to bend the rules and pay you “under the table,” you should refuse. They may try to sell it as a benefit to you since you get a few extra dollars in your pay. But you’re really only allowing the employer to cheat you out of your Social Security credits. It’s also illegal.

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ASK A SOCIAL SECURITY EXPERT Q: I can’t seem to find my Social Security card. Do I need to get a replacement? A: In most cases, knowing your Social Security number is enough. But if you do apply for and receive a replacement card, do not carry that card with you. Keep it with your important papers. For more information about your Social Security card and number and for information about how to apply for a replacement, visit socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. If you believe you’re the victim of identity theft, read our publication Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, at socialsecurity.gov/ pubs/10064.html. Q: What can Social Security do to help me plan for my retirement? A: Social Security has some great online financial planning tools you can use to make an informed decision about your retirement. Social Security’s online Retirement Planner and our online Retirement Estimator are both tools you can access online at any time. These will let you compute estimates of your future Social Security retirement benefits. They also provide important information on factors affecting retirement benefits, such as military service, household earnings, and federal employment. You can access our Retirement Planner at socialsecurity.gov/retire2. Find the Retirement Estimator at socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Q: How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits? A: Everyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security “credits” to be eligible. You can earn up to four credits a year. So, you will need at least 10 years of covered employment or self-employment to become eligible for retirement benefits. During your working years, we post earnings covered by Social Security to your record. You earn credits based on those earnings. The amount of earnings needed for a credit rises as Another tip: Don’t carry your Social Security card around with you. It’s an important document that should be safeguarded and protected. And it can be a valuable tool for an identity thief if it’s lost or stolen. If you’d like to learn a little more about

average earnings levels rise. In 2010, and 2011, you receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits a year. For more information, visit our website at socialsecurity.gov. Q: I get disability benefits. I would really like to try to work again, but I can’t risk losing my medical coverage. I understand Social Security’s Ticket to Work might let me try working without endangering my benefits. What can you tell me about it? A: Ticket to Work is a voluntary program that offers disabled Social Security beneficiaries a variety of choices in obtaining the support and services they need to help them go to work and achieve their employment goals. If you receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits based on disability or blindness and would like to work or increase your current earnings, this program can help you get vocational rehabilitation, training, job referrals, and other ongoing support and services to do so. For more information, visit our Ticket to Work website at socialsecurity.gov/ work. Q: What can I do if my Medicare prescription drug plan says it won’t pay for a drug that my doctor prescribed for me? A: If your Medicare prescription drug plan decides that it won’t pay for a prescription drug, it must tell you in writing why the drug isn’t covered in a letter called a “Notice of Denial of Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage.” Read the notice carefully because it will explain how to ask for an appeal. Your prescribing doctor can ask your Medicare drug plan for an expedited redetermination (first level appeal) for you if the doctor tells the plan that waiting for a standard appeal decision may seriously harm your health. For more information, visit medicare.gov.

Social Security and exactly what you’re building up for yourself by paying Social Security taxes, take a look at our online booklet, How You Earn Credits, at socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html. Do you prefer videos to reading? Check out our webinar, “Social Security

101: What’s in it for me?” The webinar explains what you need to know about Social Security. You can find it, along with other informative webinars, at socialsecurity.gov/webinars. You can also learn more by surfing the web at socialsecurity.gov. u

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The Food for Thought Foundation

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President

ary is back at Mall del Norte. She kept the spirit of books alive with her bookstore at the library, Laredo Books & More, supplying schools and readers with a local place to buy reading material. Books-A-Million, opening in the same spot as B. Dalton’s previously occupied, took advantage of Mary Benavides’ experience and hired her to manage their new store. As you’re thinking of what book to buy at the new bookstore, think of which books you would like to donate to the Literacy Foundation of Laredo, which is having a book drive. You can drop off books at the main campus of Laredo Community College in Building P -10. It’s a good way to make room for new books and help out the community. Call (956) 724-5207 or email them at lvlaredo@gmail. com for more information. They are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. One book you might pick up is Rob Lowe’s Stories I Only Tell My Friends. Yes, this is the Rob Lowe who was in The Outsiders, The West Wing, and member of the Brat Pack. And the book is a look at his life, from Ohio to Malibu to the wildness of the ‘80s to his quest to establish a family. It is funny while sending a cautionary message to the teenage heartthrobs of today. Another actor who is familiar to those of us who watched his Dick Van Dyke Show in the ‘60s has written a book about his career. Dick Van Dyke also made a lasting impression on children with his movies, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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and Mary Poppins. His book, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, talks about the people who influenced and worked with him. For those who fondly recall watching him when they were younger, this book should take you back to those days. For teens who want to read about “the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance,” they could check out Gayle Forman’s Where She Went. Told from the boyfriend’s perspective, it will leave readers guessing, like Adam, about what Mia is thinking. For Wimpy Kid addicts, there is a new one, called The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book, which is exactly what is implies. You can write and draw your own book. Also new is Patrick McDonnell’s Me . . . Jane, a book for 4- to 7-year-olds about Jane Goodall and her childhood fantasies, which led her to work in the African jungle, learning about the apes. As the foundation changes direction a bit, it is necessary to thank people who helped make the One City, One Book a success. Librarians throughout the area, City Council members, teachers, and those who donated food, showed up to the movie screenings, book discussions, and to the authors’ presentations. It has been a wonderful experience for all of us, and we could not have done it without you. It is important to point out a person who was there from the very beginning: Tito García. When we got the chance to bring Gerda Weissmann Klein to Laredo, the first reaction

from others was that it was impossible. When Tito heard, he immediately said he would do whatever we needed. He was instrumental in getting us the Civic Center and in providing the pre-lecture author reception. There was never any hesitation on his part, which made our job much, much easier. Another person who provided essential help was Gene Belmares, with La Posada becoming the official hotel of the One City, One Book. He provided beautiful rooms, a place to hold press conferences, food, and his complete support. I mention these two men because they were there at the beginning and have supported us throughout, often without public acknowledgement. The Laredo Public Library, through María Solis, offered us a meeting room for our planning meetings and for our pre-author activities. Pam Burrell led the book discussions and the film showings, often with the help of other librarians, who all kindly helped us prepare the community for the author’s visit and even collected food for the food bank. Gloria Jackson, Salo Otero, and JoAnn Piland were there from the beginning, making sure we were able to get the food delivered to the food bank. The citizens of Laredo gave tons of food, and I hope they continue to

Courtesy photo/One City, One Book

By BEVERLY HERRERA

A new bookstore; thanking One City, One Book volunteers

One City, One Book Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein, left, who wrote All But My Life, visited Laredo in September 2008 as the first One City, One Book author. Food for Thought Foundation president Beverly Herrera sits next to her at the event’s book signing. give, as the need is even greater now with the tough economy. Others helped throughout, and I am unable to name them all due to space, although each deserves special thanks. The goal of the foundation is to feed the body, the mind, and the soul, so eat well, pick up a good book to read, and help someone else who is in need. All three activities make you a better person. u

LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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The Anonymous Teacher

What’s to love about teaching?

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So, why do teachers persist in a job with high stress, lack of respect in society, and students who come to class with ear buds permanently stuck in their ears? It’s that chance to change the world, one person at a time.

ciety, and students who come to class with ear buds permanently stuck in their ears? It’s that chance to change the world, one person at a time. A teacher makes a difference, whether good or bad, in every student’s life. It’s easy to remember that teacher who seemed to make your life miserable or who didn’t seem to put much effort into teaching, and to say all teachers are lazy and mean. Take a moment, though, and consider that the teacher might not have been making your life miserable. He might have been challenging you to reach higher goals than

you thought you could. And that “lazy” teacher might have been lazy, or he might have been so skilled that he made the job look easy. There are teachers, definitely, who should not be teaching, just as there are people in every profession who do not fit the job. Most of those leave within the first five years. What is left is a majority of dedicated individuals who only want a chance to share their love of learning. When they are given that chance to teach, these teachers love their jobs. They go home with a smile on their faces and can’t wait to come back tomorrow. They

Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

n today’s culture of blaming teachers for poor grades, lack of learning, and students’ behavior, it’s a wonder anyone would want to become a teacher, let alone teach for 30 years. Yes, young teachers run out of the classroom and the profession at the rate of 50 percent within the first five years, but those who stay form a love/hate relationship, which they find hard to give up. In every teachers’ lounge you’ll hear complaints about students, parents, administrators, lack of time to teach what needs to be taught, and almost everything else associated with teaching. But listen closely and you’ll also hear teachers praising that student who succeeded when he seemed doomed to failure. You might also hear that teacher say, “I love teaching; it’s the paperwork I hate.” So, why do teachers persist in a job with high stress, lack of respect in so-

For the needy Students at Alma Pierce Elementary drop money into a basket that will go to the American Red Cross to help Alabama tornado victims on Wednesday, May 11. The project was also a lesson on climate, geography, community service, and humanitarian aid.

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live for the chance to impart knowledge about the quadratic formula, deoxyribonucleic acid, Macbeth’s reason for killing Duncan, 4/4 time vs. 6/8, and how to throw a fastball without hurting your arm. If you doubt this, look at how many teachers stay after school, explaining, reteaching, or just listening. Moreover, every club needs a sponsor, usually with no financial rewards and lots of paperwork involved. Ask an athletic or academic coach the best thing about their extracurricular job and most will tell you it’s the chance to work with students who want to excel in that particular area. There are definitely obstacles to enjoyment of teaching. Distracted students, constant interruptions, classroom days lost with benchmarking and testing, paperwork, and more paperwork are just a few things that can dishearten a teacher. Add a parent who is frustrated with his or her child and looking for someone to blame and an administrator doing a walk-through on “one of those days,” and it’s enough to send many teachers to the want ads to look for another job. All it takes, though, is one student saying thanks to get most teachers to throw away the want ads and head back to the classroom, determined to make a difference in every student’s life. That difference might be subtle, and not realized for several years, or it might be helping a student get a scholarship and a chance to realize his dream. Teachers don’t always get thanks for their help, but there appears to be something in their genetic makeup that revels in helping others succeed. Want to make a teacher happy? Tell him you (or your child) learned something in his class. Want to make a teacher deliriously pleased? Write a letter explaining how that teacher changed your life for the better. It could be your first grade teacher who spent her free time to teach you how to read or your college professor who would not accept anything but the best from you, or any teacher in between that you always said you should thank. A few words of praise, a chance to see the result of their labors, and the opportunity to teach what they love are all it takes to make a teacher want to teach forever. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Texas A&M International University

TAMIU sophomore named public policy institute fellow

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By STEVE HARMON LareDOS Contributor

AMIU sophomore Philip Balli didn’t consciously set out to see how he could individually realize TAMIU’s international mission, but he’s already logged over 14,500 miles in University study-travel — and he’s about to add thousands more. Balli has been selected as one of two Texas students to be named a fellow in the 2011 Institute for International Public Policy (IIPP), a six-year fellowship offered by the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corporation. The fellowship commitment includes participation in three summer institutes, a study abroad program, an internship, language study, and graduate school. IIPP director Nicolas Bassey notified Balli of his selection as a cohort member, remarking, “the 2011 Selection Committee noted your commitment to international affairs and your capacity for progressive professional achievement.” He added that the program is dedicated to “ensuring that a broader range of this nation’s diversity is strategically prepared to contribute to our international dialogue.” TAMIU president Dr. Ray Keck lauded Balli’s historic accomplishment. “This is a young man of remarkable clarity and vision. To have been selected as one of only two Texas students to participate in this competitive multi-year fellowship is a testimony to his intelligence and global potential,” Dr. Keck said. Balli said he is looking forward to his fellowship and believes that his previous study travel opportunities helped to prepare him for the Fellowship and the career in international relations that he envisions. “I was blessed to participate in study abroad trips to both Taiwan and Ghana and each helped me to establish a clearer path to international relations. My major shifted from music to communication, which I feel is better aligned with my caWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

reer aspirations,” Balli explained. Balli will begin his fellowship this June with a 7-week program in Washington, D.C. The Washington program will include daily classes and coursework in topics including research methods, statistics and policy writing, and introductions to international affairs and global economics. Balli was born and raised in Laredo and is a J.W. Nixon High School graduate. He is the son of Nick and Bea Balli, longtime Laredo music educators. After Balli completes this summer’s program, he’ll proceed to a junior year program in Maryland, a Study Abroad program in Hong Kong, and a senior program at Vermont’s Middlebury College, renowned for its strengths in international studies. An internship component is also available, as is support for graduate school studies. University expands summer course offerings In response to requests for additional summer course offerings, TAMIU has expanded course availabilities. TAMIU dean of student success Dr. Minita Ramirez said the response means additional courses and sections will be available to students. “With budgetary concerns prompted by the state’s shortage of funding for higher education, it has been difficult to sustain a robust course offering for the summer without impacting the fall schedule, when expected cuts will be in full effect. Regrettably, this has inconvenienced students greatly and so we’ve worked to identify alternatives and resources that would allow us to expand our summer course inventory,” Dr. Ramirez said. Ramirez said expanded offerings are being updated constantly on the university’s online summer and fall schedule available at schedule.tamiu.edu. Early registration for summer and fall is underway now at uonline.tamiu.edu. Online registration is available 24/7. Maymester begins May 16. Summer Session I begins June 6. Summer Session II begins July 11.

TAMIU sophomore Philip Balli, who was selected as IIPP Fellow Fall 2011 classes start August 25. Registration open for summer camps Schools will be closing for the summer soon, and parents and children alike are excited by the prospect of wiling away summer hours at fun summer camps.  TAMIU has announced its full roster of summer camps. Registration is now underway. Looking for fun with Legos?  Are you keen on robotics? Interested in weight loss or camps dedicated to your favorite sport? Or maybe you’re eager to augment math or reading skills over the summer, learn about the importance of entrepreneurship in modern business, or get ready for ACT,

SAT, or THEA?   All are TAMIU summer camp topics. In an effort to help parents and interested students better navigate available camps, the university has launched a dedicated web site that offers a one-stop site to select a camp that fits your needs. The site provides links, phone information and costs, if applicable and is located at tamiu. edu/camps. As camps have strictly limited enrollment, advance registration is critical. Camps are offered across campus, disciplines and interest areas and are professionally presented by university offices and departments throughout the summer for participants from ages 3 to 18. u LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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Laredo Community College

LCC to offer plenty of summer learning, fun for kids

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

ummer is around the corner, and that is good news for youth of all ages. Laredo Community College is once again offering a bevy of summer camps and recreational activities to satisfy kids and teens, including the areas of academics, music, sports, and much more. Space is limited in each camp; parents are encouraged to sign up their children now. Deadline nears for health program applications For those wishing to take a shorter route, LCC’s Phlebotomy Certificate Program takes only one semester to complete. The program is designed to train students in utilizing proper techniques and procedures for collecting blood specimens for analysis in a clinical laboratory. Phlebotomy technicians are hired in physician offices, hospital laboratories, blood donor centers, and private laboratories. The application deadline for LCC’s phlebotomy program is May 26. For more information, contact LCC’s Medical Laboratory Technology office at (956) 721-5261.

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Environmental science summer camps The Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center once again offers its summer camps for youngsters from ages 4 to 14 with a love for Mother Nature and its environmental wonders at the Fort McIntosh Campus. The summer camps are divided into four age groups: tots, ages 4 to 6; youth, ages 6 to 8; regular, ages 9 to 11; and advanced, ages 12 to 14. Camps begin in June. The camp fees range from $125 for tots and youth to $180 for regular campers and $200 for advanced campers. To register or more information, call (956) 764-5701.

Volleyball camp Young and experienced volleyball players can enhance their skills on the court by participating in the LCC Summer Volleyball Camp, which will be offered in midJuly in the Maravillo Gymnasium at the Fort McIntosh Campus. Binny Canales, coach of the LCC Palomino volleyball team, is directing the camp to offer participants between the ages of 5 to 18 an opportunity to expand their talent in this sport. A morning camp will be available for ages 5 to 12, while the advanced camp for ages 13 to 18 will meet in the afternoon. The camp fee is $78, which includes a T-shirt if registered by July 7. For more information, call the LCC Athletics Office at (956) 721-5326. LCC’s Radiologic Technology Program (RADR) prepares students for a career as a radiologic technologist in two years. Radiologic technologists use specialized equipment to perform diagnostic procedures, mainly by using an x-ray machine. Technologists use an x-ray to produce

Basketball and soccer camps Youth who enjoy the thrills of playing team sports can have some summer fun at the annual basketball and soccer camps hosted by the LCC kinesiology department. Two sessions are planned. The first session begins in early June. The focus of each camp will be to help students develop their offensive and defensive skills by participating in basic drills and some form of play. Good sportsmanship and teamwork will be emphasized in camp. While the basketball camp will be held at the Maravillo Gymnasium at the Fort McIntosh Campus, the soccer camp will be held for the first time outdoors at the new LCC South Recreation Complex. The camp fee is $60 per child. Call 721-5858 for more details.

images that aid in diagnosing disease, trauma and physiological malfunctions. A radiologic technologist develops and critiques the radiographic images and assists physicians, including specialized radiologists who use ionizing radiation to diagnose and treat diseases or injuries. LCC’s RADR program is the only

school in the area accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The application deadline for the RADR program is May 26. For more information, contact the LCC Radiologic Technology Program office at (956) 721-5386. u

Child development summer camp Children between the ages of 3 to 5 can learn and have fun at the same time during the summer camp offered by the Camilo Prada Child Development Center at the South Campus. The first camp begins in early June. Campers will be treated to an array of activities that will enhance their academic and artistic skills. Movement and physical health also will be promoted through dancing, exercising, and other creative activities. Tuition, which includes breakfast, lunch, and a gift bag, is $150 for the first three-week session and $100 for the second two-week session. For more information, call (956) 794-4561.

Percussion camp High school percussionists can march to the beat of a different drum, as LCC offers its annual Percussion Camp and Yamaha Sounds of Summer in early June. Campers will meet at the Fort McIntosh Campus. The camp will offer a chance to gain valuable knowledge and skills in all areas of marching percussion from noted masters. Additionally, performances and master classes will be offered in the areas of drum set, marimba, and classical percussion. Tuition, which includes a T-shirt and warm-up book, is $50 due June 1. For more information, call camp coordinator Matthew Adams at (956) 721-5332 or the LCC performing arts department at (956) 721-5330.

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The Mendoza Line

Mexico City violence in the 1968 Olympic Games

By alex mendoza

Native Laredoan Dr. Alex Mendoza received his PhD from Texas Tech University and has written books and articles on various historical topics from war and memory to barrios and distance running. He can be reached at mxela@hotmail.com.

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already engaged in brawls and violence that led to the deaths of four students and 200 injured in the months leading up to the Olympics. The summer of 1968 only saw additional protests and demonstrations, nearly 50 rallies in all, by August. President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz was clearly not happy, particularly after August 27, when student protestors marched in front of the presidential palace and vandalized

Courtesy of obrag.org

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n recent weeks, the American media and several pundits have registered a variety of opinion pieces on the violence in Mexico. In a recent CNN story, “Murder in Mexico,” which hit close to Laredo, television reporters investigated the fall 2010 disappearance of David Hartley, a McAllen-based oil company district manager, at the hands of alleged drug runners. The continual thread through all of these stories, to be precise, revolves around the perpetual level of violence that the drug wars have afflicted on Mexico and the Texas border. Yet, violence has long been a part of Mexico, and in many cases it has had nothing to do with drugs or other illicit activities. In some cases, it has actually been the government who is responsible for the loss of human life. In fact, one of the most famous instances of governmental-led violence is often overlooked and forgotten. In October 1968, the Mexican capitol was hosting the XIX Olympic Games, anxious to demonstrate to the rest of the world how far the nation had come. In the summer of that year, government official scrambled at the last minute to finish housing and other infrastructure necessities before the world’s eyes focused in on the lightly regarded host country. As athletes from across the various corners of the globe converged on Mexico City, the world angst was palpable. The war in Vietnam was raging. The Civil Rights movement was raging in the United States. And, a counterculture element was part of the youth culture that was brought on by post-World War II baby boomers. In Mexico City, students — like those found in the United States — agitated for change, hoping to inspire the ideological underpinnings that were prevalent in that era so hopeful for change. These challenges to the status quo, however, stood in stark contrast to the image of harmony and modernity that the authorities in Mexico City wanted to portray to the rest of the world. Accordingly, to the government, they could ill afford to allow the pent up angst of these student demonstrators — many of whom had

significant square adjacent to some Aztec ruins and a Spanish colonial era church. By 5 p.m., about 1,000 Mexican troops, supported by army tanks surrounded the students at the housing projects as helicopters circled overhead. Normally, student angst and governmental objections were not uncommon that tumultuous decade. But Díaz Ordaz had been embarrassed enough. Visitors were beginning to arrive. Skeptics about

Mexican soldiers combat student protestors

it with spray paint while taunting Díaz Ordaz’s physical appearance. The Mexican government would not be robbed of their moment to shine in the international spotlight. Since May, Díaz Ordaz had been ordering riot gear from the United States, preparing for all possibilities. In September, the Mexican president threatened protestors that he would use all means available to him to ensure the games would go on undisturbed. It was clear that the two elements — students protestors and the Mexican government — were heading towards a collision. On October 2, just a little less than two short weeks before the Olympics were about to begin, students gathered at the Plaza de Las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco housing project for a demonstration. It was estimated there were about 5,000 to 10,000 students near the historically

Mexico’s ability to host such a momentous athletic competition abounded. The government felt it had to clamp down on all dissent. Thus, by 6 p.m., the Mexican helicopters fired green and red flares while troops sealed off the exits and began firing into the crowd of students. Students simply toppled over, helpless to stem the tide advancing before them. The Mexican soldiers — all wearing one white glove so as to easily identify one another — simply marched forward, shooting and beating students at will. The protestors were helpless in the onslaught, hands and fist a paltry response to bayonets and bullets. History was hazy in the wake of the massacre. At first, it was reported that a mere four students died in protests, according to government news reports. The

state-run television news stations simply reported that a police incident occurred. As days passed, the information became even more distorted. In one report, a Mexican newspaper, El Sol de Mexico, said student snipers had fired into the Mexican troops, wounding 11 soldiers and killing a general. It would take years for the truth behind the even to fully unfold. Ultimately, the truth revealed that it was an outright massacre. Contrary to the initial government reports and The New York Times’ best sleuthing, the death toll was not in the single or double digits, but in the hundreds. It was estimated that the deaths from the Tlatelolco Massacre would number at least 325, thousands more disappearing into prisons and thousands others fleeing into the mountains and going into hiding. On October 14, Sports Illustrated’s Bob Ottum published a story on the Olympics, “Grim Countdown to the Games,” highlighting the “backdrop of violence” between students and the government, but never mentioning how much bloodshed did occur. The games went on while families mourned and others searched. For years, the number of deaths and the specifics of the shootings remained shrouded in mystery and government denial. For decades, Mexican textbooks failed to acknowledge the event as PRI officials refused to cooperate in any investigation. By the 21st century, as President Vicente Fox broke the PRI’s hold on power, an investigation into the events of 1968 resulted in the charges of genocide against former Interior Minister Luis Echevarria for his role in the massacre. Echevarria, Díaz Ordaz’s successor in 1970, avoided conviction in 2006, at the age of 84. Since then, Mexico has tried to recognize the violence it once tried to ignore. Movies, books, and a National Day of Mourning have begun the healing process. But, it remains bittersweet in that many of the leading antagonists were absolved of blame. Yet it remains true that Mexico has long been a beautiful, but violent country. u LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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Keeping a Weather Eye By Juan Alanis

Alanis, former of Laredo, is currently a meteorology student at Mississippi State University. He is a member of the American Meteorology Society (AMS) and Webb County Coordinator for the CoCoRaHS/National Weather Service rainfall observer program

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pril showers brings May flowers is what is supposed to happen, however this year has not been the case. A La Niña pattern has resulted in several weather records being broken across the nation and here in Texas. La Niña is the cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean waters. This cooling alters weather patterns across much of the world. In the United States, a La Niña typically brings colder than normal winters across the Great Plains and warmer conditions to the south. Precipitation-wise, La Niña brings unusually dry conditions across the southwest and southeastern portions of the U.S. and wetter conditions in the Pacific Northwest, sections of the Ohio River Valley region, and middle Mississippi River region. Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reveal the numerous records were broken across the nation. The Ohio Valley region, including the states of Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky had the wettest February through April periods on record. The Pacific Northwest region had one of its coolest Aprils ever. Meanwhile, the largest tornadic outbreak in history occurred over the southern states over several days toward the end of April. Nearly 200 tornadoes slammed Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. Preliminary data rank the outbreak as the fourth deadliest ever with 339 deaths. In all, there were 875 reports of tornadoes for April 2011. The National Weather Service is in the process of confirming these

La Niña’s extremes: drought, deadly tornades, and wildfires Webb County Rainfall Report Station Location

March April

WB 35 KHOY Radio

0.00” 0.00”

WB 2

Heights Garfield St

TR

0.00”

WB 36 Del Mar/Inwood

0.00” 0.00”

WB 4

Las Tiendas Ranch

TR

0.00”

WB 5

Callaghan Ranch

0.09” 0.00”

WB 37 Stamford Street (East Laredo)

0.00” 0.00”

WB 6

McPherson/Chacon

0.01” 0.00”

WB 8

Juarez Lincoln Elem

0.00” 0.00”

WB 38 Centeno Elementary School

0.00” 0.00”

WB 9

Mangana Hein Rd 8E

0.00” 0.00”

WB 39 E. Clark Blvd/Jarvis

TR

Laredo KGNS-TV Del Mar Blvd

0.00” 0.00”

Laredo International Airport

TR

WB 12 Del Mar C

0.00” 0.00”

WB 13 Del Mar North /Preston Ln

TR

WB 14 Laredo 18.4 NE

0.00” 0.00”

WB 18 Springfield/Hillside

TR

0.00” 0.00”

WB 19 Prada Elementary School 0.00” 0.00” WB 21 Shiloh/Woodridge

000” 0.00”

WB 22 Laredo 23.7 ENE

0.00” 0.00”

WB 23 Freer 29.5 WSW

TR

0.00”

WB 24 Trautmann MS area

TR

0.00”

WB 25 United South MS area

0.01” 0.00”

WB 26 Zaragoza St-downtown 0.02” 0.00” WB 27 Jacaman Rd/Saldana Ln TR

0.00”

WB 28 Gutierrez Elementary area TR

0.00”

WB 29 Heights E. Lane St

0.04” 0.00”

WB 31 Laredo-Plantation

0.00” 0.00”

reports and if confirmed, would easily break the record for most tornadoes in a single month set in May 2003, with 542 tornadoes. Here in South Texas, we have had the

0.00” 0.00”

Source: CoCoRaHS/National Weather Service

Average April 2011 Temperatures Location

Temp˚F

All Time Ranking

Brownsville

80.4

new record

McAllen

80.8

new record

La Joya

81.2

new record

Falcon Dam

82.3

tied record

Laredo

82.9

new record

Corpus Christi

76.9

4th warmest

Victoria

76.0

2nd warmest

Austin Mabry

76.1

new record

Del Rio

78.4

new record

San Antonio

75.7

3rd warmest

Source: National Weather Service

opposite problem: too much heat and a lack of storms and rain. No measurable rainfall was recorded at any observation site south of a line from Laredo to Corpus Christi, including Webb and Zapata counties as well as all of the Río Grande Valley for the month of April. Officially here in Laredo, no measurable precipitation has fallen (at the official observation sites) since the ice storm back on February 4, a span now 96 days long (as of press time). The record for most days without rain in Laredo is 97 days back in 1978. As a result, much of South Texas is now under “Extreme Drought” status (D3 on the drought scale of D0 to D4). In fact, Texas as a whole, after averag-

ing out all observations sites across the state, has received only 1.68 inches of rain from February to April, making this the driest February-through-April period ever on record, according to NOAA. Texas’ previous driest was 2.56 inches set back in February to April 1996. Making matters worse have been the heat, low humidities, and wind. Heat records have been smashed as well in many areas. Temperatures for the month of April have averaged out to be the warmest ever at many locations, including Laredo, which finished with an average April temperature of 82.9 degrees. Average high temperature for April was 96.8 degrees, also a record. Laredo also had nine days above the century mark compared to the April normal of two days. Many locations across South Texas set new marks for heat. The heat, combined with very low humidities and windy conditions across many areas of Texas, have kept fire officials busy as wildfires continue to break out ands spread quickly across many areas of the state, including El Cenizo and the Austin suburb of Oak Hill, both of which damaged and/or destroyed homes and other properties. According to NOAA, 2.2 million acres of land have burned in Texas since January, the most of any state in the nation so far this season. Outlooks issued by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center are not looking any wetter in the near term. For the time period of May-June-July, the outlook is calling for a fairly good chance of above normal temperatures across Texas and much of the south, with precipitation remaining below the normal. Outlooks do show a glimmer of hope toward the latter part of the summer months, with precipitation returning to near normal levels starting in August. The return to near- normal precipitation coincides with the peak period of tropical activity in the Atlantic basin, which runs from August to mid-October. Temperatures, however, are expected to remain above normal through the summer months. 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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Empty Bowls V to feature Christopher Cross concert, artwork, trio of honorees

he South Texas Food Bank Empty Bowls V is set for Thursday, August 11 at the Laredo Energy Arena starting at 6 p.m. The event is one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the South Texas Food Bank’s mission of feeding the hungry. Featured will be Christopher Cross, the 1980s award-winning singer and writer. There will also be framed and bowl artwork in a silent auction, and longtime South Texas Food Bank board members Odie Arambula, Erasmo Villarreal, and Galo García will be honored. Arambula and Villarreal have been on the board since the food bank opened. García joined the board shortly thereafter. The South Texas Food Bank distributes supplemental food to the needy of an eight-county area along the TexasMexican border from Río Grande City to Del Rio. It is one of the poorest regions in the state and nation. The food bank opened in December of 1989 in cooperation with the H-E-B grocery stores. The food bank serves 23,000 familes, 7,000 elderly, 6,000 children, and 250 veterans and their widows per month. Previous Empty Bowls honorees have been Arturo N. Benavides and State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo). Previous concert performers were America and Three Dog Night. Empty Bowls V tickets for a table for 10, which includes a meal and access to artwork, are $1,000 (bronze), $2,500 (silver), $5,000 (gold), $10,000 (platinum), and $20,000 (diamond). Single tickets

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are $100 per person. Concert only tickets are $10, $15, and $25 and will be available at the LEA box office and Ticketmaster. South Texas Food Bank board members Anna Benavides Galo and Kevin Romo are the event co-chairs. Cross, a native of San Antonio, has composed and recorded 90 songs. He has won five Grammy Awards, one Oscar, one Golden Globe, had four No. 1 singles, nine Top 20 Pop/AC hits and has sold 9 million albums worldwide. His signature song is “Sailing,” which reached no. 1 in 1980. Other top songs are “Ride Like The Wind,” “Never Be The Same,” “Say You’ll Be Mine,” the movie Arthur’s theme “Best Than You Can Do,” “All Right,” “No Time for Talk,” and “Think of Laura.” He also co-wrote and sang “A Chance for Heaven,” which helped define the 1984 Summer Olympics and “Loving Strangers,” which played in the 1986 Tom Hanks movie Nothing in Common. The South Texas Food Bank’s resident artist, Pancho Farias, is in charge of the Empty Bowls artwork. A longtime Laredo talent, Farias is gathering art pieces from well-known Laredo, Mexico, Texas and national personalities. The artwork will be on display during an artists’ reception on July 14 at 7 p.m. at the Laredo Civic Center. Farias also donates personal pieces for auction during several Laredo nonprofit fundraisers that benefit organizations such as Casa Misericordia, the Di-

ocese of Laredo Catholic Social Services, Bethany House, and others. Also, on July 14, the South Texas Food Bank’s annual Lock Up For Hunger will take place at Embassy Suites from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Laredo personalities will be jailed, then bailed by donating funds to the food bank. Cindy Liendo Espinoza, chief development officer for the South Texas Food Bank, is the Lock Up organizer. The South Texas Food Bank converts every dollar donated into seven meals, $9 worth of groceries, or 16 pounds of food. “Empty Bowls is the catalyst that certainly brings the community together for a most-worthy cause,” Liendo Espinoza said. South Texas Food Bank executive director Alfonso Casso, who took over in May, adds, “Our mission of feeding the hungry is second to none and Empty Bowls gives people an opportunity to join us, and in the process come out for an evening of socializing and entertainment.” Honorees Arambula, Villarreal and García are native Laredoans, and have also provided diversity on the South Texas Food Bank board. Arambula graduated from Martin High School in 1954; Villarreal from St. Joseph Academy in

1969; and García from San Antonio Peacock Military Academy in 1959. García also attended St. Joseph. All three have been involved in other Laredo civic organizations. Arambula is a journalist; Villarreal works for the City of Laredo; and García is a businessman and rancher. Arambula has chronicled Laredo, South Texas and northern Mexico activities for more than 50 years. A retired editor of the Laredo Morning Times after 30-plus years, Arambula, a University of Texas graduate, is still a columnist for the Times. Villarreal, the City of Laredo Building Development Services director, is a Texas A&I-Laredo graduate. He has worked for the City of Laredo since 1990, and before that with the Texas Employment Commission from 1973 to 1990. He has also been involved in South Texas ranching. García, who grew up in Zapata County in the family ranching business, ran a janitorial and paper supply business in Laredo for several years. He was a donor of paper goods during the first H-E-B Feast of Sharing, which now has grown to feeding a Thanksgiving Day meal to thousands of Laredoans. García has also been a contributor to the food bank’s Ranchers for the Hungry program. u

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Maverick Ranch Notes

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By bebe & sissy fenstermaker

t’s a busy-bee session of the Legislature again. I’ve never seen so many horrible bills. Some are ready to clear-cut trees off the Texas landscape. There’s another that would have a Texan who opposes a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) permit foot the bill for opposing it even when there are glaring problems with the application. There are bills preventing cities from enforcing any new environmental ordinances for a long time, and three grandfathering bills making it absurdly easy for developers to get exemptions from new city ordinances. San Antonio’s tree ordinance may be gone-to-heaven in SA’s extra-territorial jurisdiction if developers get their way. Oh yes, they are busy as little bees over there in Austin this spring. A group of ours is having some success with a little bill that would designate three old roads in northwest Bexar County as historic. Sissy has gone to Austin twice to speak at committee hearings on behalf of our bill. It sailed through the House committee, got onto Calendars and was unopposed in the House floor vote. Now it is working its way through the Senate. Our thanks go to our legislator, Rep. Lyle Larson, for introducing the bill, getting it into wording and through the House. Now

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The importance of civics; dealing with Texas wildfires Sen. Jeff Wentworth is kindly ushering it through the Senate. We made sure to not ask for any allocated funds or signage. If we want a sign we’ll raise the money ourselves. So the bill is harmless to anyone, costs no money, and poses no threat in any way. That’s the kind of bill ordinary citizens get through the Legislature these days. An article a friend sent from The New York Times, reprinted in the Austin American-Statesman, is entitled “Students Largely in Dark on Civics, Test Finds” by Sam Dillon. It laments young people’s lack of knowledge of civics resulting in not knowing their rights. Not being an informed citizen makes them easy targets as they move into jobs and the voting booth to send representatives to the Legislature and Congress to work for them. My civics class was required at our high school in San Antonio, and our teachers managed to make us conscious of the Constitution and a good many rights. That class created my lifelong interest in how our government operates and who exactly is doing that operating. The article’s bright spot is retired Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O’Connor’s website encouraging young people to get involved in civics. Icivics. org looks wonderful to me with jazzy

information and games to play. How would you like to learn how to argue like a lawyer or make decision like a judge? Or you could run your own firm of lawyers who specialize in constitutional law. A burning love of civics is not required. Down the line it might lead to better Legislature sessions. The fact that the voting public is shrinking is scary. Those who show up -at meetings and the voting booth make the decisions. Too many people won’t show up to because they are sure they won’t have any input. I’ve found just the opposite is true, but it’s amazing how few people come to meetings to express their wishes. And nearly all who do come are over the age of 50. Just getting more buses on the road or a tree ordinance beefed up is still up to the voting public — but it takes civics to know that! Bebe Fenstermaker The summer of 2011 will undoubtedly be viewed as one of the most, if not the most, active wildfire seasons on record in Texas. One account I read noted that all but two of Texas’ 254 counties had experienced wildfires so far this year. I have been trying to keep up with the ones in far West Texas. The Rock House Fire that began south of Marfa and swept north through Fort Davis, burning many homes, had to be one of the worst. On a more personal note, our cousin’s house was saved from that fire when neighbors — Bud and Adele Coffey and their son, Ross — using garden hoses, wet down not only their home but at least two others as the fire approached. I have to say it takes a special kind of individual in the face of such a dangerous situation to do what the Coffey’s did. They are undoubtedly very special neighbors. An electrical spark at an abandoned structure (human error) started the wildfire that torched many homes and 314,444 acres. The containment area covered 490 square miles. The fire started April 9 and was 98 percent contained by May 3. The Texas Forest Service’s estimated containment date was May 9. However, fire crews were still on alert

for hot spots and smoldering vegetation after that date. The fire was at the whim of winds that were constantly changing direction. Wildfire crews from all over Texas and the U.S. were fighting the blaze. They were backlighting fires to try and contain it. The terrain in much of the area is some of the most rugged in the state. The loss of livestock and wildlife was said to be major. An article in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram by Bob Hood about the effects of a wildfire on wildlife and livestock was quite sobering. No doubt the area this fire covered will feel the effects for a number of years. Those residents who lost their homes to the blaze face a major life change. I do not recall a disaster of that magnitude ever in that area. Alpine, which completes a triangle with Fort Davis and Marfa, was plagued with wildfires on just about all sides of it during the same time. At present fire crews are battling three different wildfires: Gage Holland Fire, Iron Mountain Fire, and Schwartz Fire. Each wildfire has burned several thousands of acres. When I last checked, the Gage Holland Fire was 90 percent contained and the other two were only 25 percent contained. The Texas Forest Service lists the wildfires on its incident webpage at inciweb.org/forest/4502/. Four o’clock in the morning is an untoward departure time for a trip to Austin. However, four of us, all members of the Scenic Loop-Boerne Stage Alliance, set out on such a trip in order to be present for an 8 a.m. meeting of the Texas Senate Transportation Committee. We made good time, which allowed for breakfast before the committee hearing. Our bill, House Bill 1499, was to be reviewed and voted on. We wanted to take the opportunity to testify and answer any questions the committee members might have. Unfortunately a vote on the bills presented that day was not taken during the committee hearing. That is normal legislative procedure, I have learned, so we are continuing to track the bill waiting for that vote. Patience is the key word and we are becoming quite experienced with that human trait when it comes to that bill. Sissy Fenstermaker 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.

“H

ow do you become a writer?” “Why do you want to know?” “How else can I figure out what to do or say, what to wear or eat, whom to study and whom to ignore?” “Is that what you think makes somebody a writer — choosing between a Stetson and a porkpie, Provolone and Limburger, Miguel de Cervantes and Ana Castillo?” “Isn’t it? Aren’t those at least some of the choices any author has to make?” “And now you’re equating a writer with an author?” “Don’t you? Aren’t you familiar with the concept of synonyms?” “Very clever. You always throw literary terms around like you’re tossing a fresh salad?” “Why not? Didn’t Shakespeare say, ‘Lettuce not to the marriage of true minds / admit impediments’?” “You think you’re funny, don’t you? But doesn’t your homophonic carelessness both insult the Bard and admit your ignorance?” “How dare you accuse me of being narrow minded? Anyway, you were the one who tried to sound so smart with that amateurish metaphor, weren’t you?” “Metaphor?” “Cripes, would you stop repeating what I say and stick to the point?” “What point?” “Good grief! Pete and Repeat jumped in the lake. Pete drowned. Who was left?” “Hilarious. You think I’m gonna fall for that juvenile joke?” “Why not? Isn’t that what a juvenile joke like you falls for?” “And you probably think that’s another metaphor, don’t you?” “How ’bout we just call it an insult?” “Do you always play so fast and loose with language? If you can’t tell the difference between a simile and a metaphor, then it shouldn’t surprise anyone that you

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Trouble with writers think a writer is the same as an author, should it?” “Well, aren’t they?” “Aren’t they what?”

“Yeah, but who knew it was gonna be this much trouble?” “Exactly. That’s the point.” “What’s the point? That you’re a pain

“The same?” “The former or the latter?” “Why bring up climbing implements when we’re talking about writers and authors?” “Now who’s not sticking to the point, Ladder Boy? Let me ask you this: What does a writer do?” “Isn’t it obvious?” “Would you just humor me?” “That’s what I’ve been doing, haven’t I?” “A writer…?” “A writer writes, OK?” “And if a writer writes, what does an author do?” “An author…?” “Yes?” “Au-, author-, authorizes?” “And one who authorizes can do so only because he or she is also supposedly an…?” “An… authority?” “Exactly. And how does one become an authority?” “Good grief. When are you gonna stop grilling me and just give me a straight answer?” “Weren’t you the one who asked how to become a writer?”

in the assonance and this conversation has been nothin’ but trouble?” “You wanna be a writer?”

“Why else am I enduring this interrogation?” “You really wanna be a writer?” “Haven’t I answered that question already?” “Are you familiar with the writers’ precept, ‘Only trouble is interesting’?” “Is that a metaphorical way of bragging about your allure?” “Look — if only trouble is interesting, then a writer is someone who looks for, who asks for trouble. Sound familiar?” “Are you saying I’m a writer?” “I’m saying that if you write regularly and if you ask questions that lead you to trouble in your writing, then you’re a writer.” “And when will I be an author?” “When you spend your time publicly talking about what you’ve written but refuse to be troubled by people who ask-” “’How do I become a writer?’” “Exactly.” u

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News

News

Editor’s Note: J. B. Alexander High School student Hector Rios is the area winner in Rotary’s Four Way Speech Competition. He competed with 19 Laredo students sponsored by the city’s five Rotary clubs. He was sponsored by Laredo Gateway Rotary and will compete in the upcoming District meet. The text of his winning speech follows.

“I

magine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you will join us and the world will live as one.’ These words were sung by famous musician and peace activist John Lennon, a member of The Beatles, who faced anything but peace when he was assassinated December 8, 1980. It was not fair to anyone that this horrendous event occurred, but his wife said, ‘John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him.’ In truth, John Lennon was a dreamer. “As I’ve grown older I’ve experienced unfairness, situations that haven’t built good will and better friendships, and that have not been beneficial to all concerned. “What I’m about to say is completely truthful, and I’ve always known it was. I’m gay. Before you shift in discomfort, I’d like to say that my life isn’t as bad as many people make it out to be. It is quite normal to be frank. But unfortunately many people see the difference between me and the football player and immediately point in disgust. “As of this year, it’s been three years since I first came out to my friends. Wow, was that a challenge. I knew they loved me, but I was terrified at the thought of losing any one of them from my life. To my relief they all took me as I was and said they would never let me go. The amount of joy that I felt was unexplainable. Knowing that these people didn’t care about what I was, but who I was —

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that was the greatest joy and it definitely built goodwill and better friendships. “Although my friends seemed to accept me, being open about who I was struck others as strange. Because they felt that since I wasn’t normal, at least in their eyes, I became the victim of their name-calling, their shoving, and even their threats. When this occurred I thought, ‘Why are you doing this? Do you think it might change me?’ It wasn’t fair. It wouldn‘t build goodwill and better friendships, and it definitely wasn‘t beneficial to all concerned. “But my biggest fear faced me when I walked into my own home. I had heard such horror stories of the consequences of telling your parents, like being sent away to a conversion camp, being thrown out of the house, or being completely disowned. But one day I knew that it was time to share with them this piece of information I had been hiding for so long. When the words came out of my mouth they looked at me in silence. Those few seconds were the most horrible seconds of my life, not knowing how they were going to react. And then they broke the silence and said, ‘We love you no matter what. We’ll be supporting you the entire way. We accept you and are proud to call you our son.’ “That was truly the greatest moment of my life. That was true unconditional love, and I can now say that I have a better relationship, no, friendship with my parents. After that day I had so much confidence in who I was I was no longer afraid to express myself and benefited from the truth that I could be more involved in my community without being socially disrespected. “Afterwards, my life settled, and it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I really do have a normal life. But the thing that is not normal is the social inequality I get from my peers. I’m always being looked down upon, which is hard being that I’m a giant. Continued on page 62

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Rotary’s winning speech takes on being gay in Laredo

Laredo named a Preserve America Community Downtown stakeholders and members of the board of Laredo Main Street shared a proud moment with the news that Laredo had received a Preserve America Community designation. Pictured are Steve Jackson, Enrique Lobo, Gabriel Castillo, Viviana Frank, Rafael Torres, Alfredo Gutierrez; Arturo García, Larry Friedman, Alli Hrncir, Jose García, Cynthia Snyder, Esperanza Sauceda, and Laredo Main Street director Sandra Rocha-Taylor.

City named Preserve America Community

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By Alli Hrncir LareDOS Contributor

aredo has been designated as a Preserve America Community and recognized for its efforts to celebrate its heritage and enhance appreciation of historic resources. The designation was received after Laredo Main Street submitted an application to Preserve America with assistance of the Webb County Heritage Foundation and the support of the City of Laredo. According to their website, Preserve America recognizes and designates communities that protect and celebrate their heritage, use their historic assets for economic development and community revitalization, and encourage people to experience and appreciate local historic resources through education and heritage tourism programs. Laredo Main Street received a certificate from Preserve America on January 21 along with a letter from First Lady Michelle Obama congratulating the citizens of Laredo on its designation and applauding the city’s efforts to preserve the roots that run deep in downtown Laredo. As a designation, Laredo has received

White House recognition, eligibility to apply for Preserve America Grants, a Preserve America Community road sign, listing in a Web-based Preserve America Community directory, inclusion in national and regional press releases, and official notification of designation to state tourism offices and visitors bureaus. Laredo Main Street hopes that these benefits will spark a renewed interest and confidence in tourism to Laredo, and further promote downtown as a tourist destination. Over the next few months, the organization will be working with representatives in Carrizo Springs and Poteet to develop what they hope will become the “New Texas Triangle.” Bus tours will begin in San Antonio and travel to Laredo on Friday, visitors will shop at the Farmers Market and other downtown areas on Saturday, visit the Texas Olive Ranch for brunch in Carrizo Springs on Sunday morning, and then proceed to visit the Strawberry Farms in Poteet Sunday afternoon. This project should be finalized by the end of the month. For more information, visit laredomainstreet.org or call (956) 523-8817 about upcoming events or to become a member of the organization. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Arts & Culture

I

By LEM LONDOS RAILSBACK LareDOS Contributor have been going to Las Vegas nearly every year since 1967. I have never seen exactly the same city twice; some things are always being torn down while other new things are being constructed. In those days, the Circus Circus really did provide a bit of a circus. Nearly every afternoon, a parade of one tiger or lion, one elephant, several monkeys, and a few other previously wild animals would be led in by an elaborately dressed leader with a loud whistle and a big, long baton. He was joined by beautifully costumed female trapeze artists, muscular male trapeze artists, animal trainers with quirts and sometimes chains connected to some of the animals’ necks, a clown or two or three, and a band. After the parade finished and the paraders disappeared off-stage, the different acts and clowns would start. Although a very large safety net was situated below them, the amazing antics of the trapeze artists were always exciting. Through all those years, I never saw a single one miss a “grab” and fall to the net. The jokes and antics of the clowns were usually funny. And the other acts were very entertaining. After the show, we would start gambling. In those days, we used dollar bills to make bets. Consequently, on windy days, we had to use rocks or some other heavy objects to hold the dollar bills on the tables. Perhaps one or two years later, the Circus Circus had constructed a large solid circular cone. We had to walk up the gangway around the cone until we reached the top. Once we got to the top, we could carefully look over into the cone to watch motorcyclists racing their machines so fast that they would race around inside the cone while remaining perpendicular to the ground. Then, as they completed their race, each cyclist would start slowing down in a fast spiraling path to the ground. Just as they “hit” the ground, they up-righted their machines and quickly brought their engines to a stop. Most amazingly to me during those few years was an act by one motorcyclist who performed the same perpendicular ride around inside the circular cone while carrying a beautiful female on his handlebars . She held WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

on to the front frame of the cycle and waved with the other hand to the crowd above. Her costume was sparse, but her make-up was abundant. Only as the motorcyclists and his passenger began their descent to the floor did she finally use both hands to hold on. Over several decades, the Circus Circus has undergone many changes: Today, it is basically a linked set of big boxes transformed into a large casino, a stage, several eateries, and a giant hotel. On that stage, I used to see as many as four or five different shows in one morning. On this recent trip in April 2011, I saw a couple from Russia who could do quickchanges of their clothes. It was a quick show, and it was the only show. The old statue of a clown is still standing at the northern end of the entrance, but the other statue that used to sit on the other side of the entrance is gone. And squeezed into that whole large expanse of land that I used to visit on the north of the property is a strip mall. Just across the street from the new Circus Circus is the old Riviera. In that historic site, I have spent nearly a decade of attending annual National Social Science Association and Technology Conferences: I stayed in their hotel rooms, I watched their many shows, I attempted to wear out several of their slot machines (Never succeeded.), and I had wonderful times listening to and interacting with my N.S.S.A. colleagues. After all, it is the largest multi-disciplinary professional organization in the United States. Each year that I visited the Riviera, I loved to go back to the fast-food counter and buy inexpensive foods — shrimp cocktails for $1, large hotdogs with all the trimmings for $ 1, large salads for $ 1, and other such pleasures. But what I really found pleasure in were the big blown-up photographs of Marilyn Monroe that were posted all along the wall to the customer’s left, all along the wall behind the food counter, and at strategic places on the wall to one’s right. As I would sit there and eat my wholesome and cheap food, I would gaze at those photographs. Some showed her in her youth when she was still red-headed and not yet a celebrity. Others were “outtakes” from her different movies. The photos were absolutely beautiful. On my recent April 2011 trip, I stayed

Courtesy photo

The times they are a-changin’

in Las Vegas Hilton, the place that Presley called his home while he was in Las Vegas. For my first breakfast, I simply walked through the giant parking lot, away from the Hilton to the street, crossed the busy boulevard, walked carefully up the alley by the Riviera, crossed the street, and ate a “full breakfast” at McDonald’s. On this trip, intending to repeat last year’s performance, I simply walked through the giant parking lot, discovered that a new fence had been installed, discovered that the fence was higher than either of my legs could raise up to, walked to several other places in the parking lot and found that the fence was still too high and that the entire parking lot had been fenced in! So, I walked probably a quarter of a mile back to the hotel itself, read the signs to discover that no pedestrians whatsoever for any reason whatsoever were allowed on my old route, and walked down the designed path to the busy boulevard. Then, before attempting to cross the boulevard, I looked across the street and found that the entire area behind the Rivera and new hotels being built had been fenced in. Again, I concluded that “The times they are a-changin’.” Before I began the long walk back to the Hilton, I decided to visit some of my old haunts. I finally found “The World’s Largest

Gift Shop” where I used to buy post cards, tea shirts, and other items. I visited several other sites that I used to know — e.g., Arby’s, which was managed for several years by a beautiful girl from Texas, the old wedding chapel just down from the Riviera on the south side, the wedding clothing rental shop nearby, and others. On this last trip, I discovered that they are all now gone. At lunchtime, I visited the old Riviera once again to savor the cheap and delicious fast foods and gaze at MM’s likenesses. Once inside, I made my way through remodeled and resituated sections for the slot machines, the roulette wheels, and other gambling furniture. When I finally found my old eating establishment, I found that those wonderful cheap and delicious foods were gone; in their place were very quickly prepared fast foods, poor customer service, and very high prices. And, most sadly of all, all of those beautiful images of Marilyn were gone forever — “Oh, those old pictures? We just threw them in the trash. Besides, nobody who works here even knew who that was.” Sadly, I walked out of the Riviera and into the sunlight. I looked across the street and saw the new TRUMP edifice (which is not all that impressive with its single very tall and rather plain building of a dark color.) Once again, I concluded, “The times, they are achangin’.” u LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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Arts & Culture

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Marvel Comics’ latest recipe for white bread: Thor Chris Hemsworth plays Thor

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By CORDELIA BARRERA LareDOS Contributor

he best thing about Thor is that you get two films for the price of one. The worst thing is that neither movie is all that exciting. A fairly reliable narrative technique is the intertwining of two stories that are completely unrelated to each other. The story line might read something like this: The primary narrative will be set in 965 A.D. in a place called Asgard, the fictional world of the Asgardians of Norse Mythology. The secondary storyline will be totally unrelated. (In fact, the more incongruous and incompatible the two story arcs, the better.) The secondary narrative will be set in the 21st century and involve the exploits of a pretty, seemingly scatter-brained astrophysicist and her equally ditzy cohorts. Maybe they could be investigating particle matter in New Mexico. The setting is key. Position these two narratives within a fluid universe, say The Marvel Comics Cinematic Universe, which is known for the crossing over of shared plot elements. Layer a wormhole, or even the awesome aurora borealis — two classic literary and filmic devices that easily ma-

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nipulate time, place, space, and matter — over the two narratives. Stir into the mix a classically trained Shakespearean actor to direct … say Kenneth Branagh. Throw in an epic theme or two: perhaps the price of humility, the many threats of sibling rivalry, feuding fathers and sons. Douse some cool CGI over the resulting anachronistic smorgasbord and voila! 142 minutes later out pops a half-baked Thor, the vaguely entertaining, somewhat lighthearted fourth installment of Marvel Studios superhero blockbusters, which stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor, the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder and protector of humankind, and Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, his Earthling scientist love interest. I must admit, the reason that I even gave Thor a chance was Branagh’s direction. Branagh is best known for his acting and directing in successful, big screen adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Othello, and Henry V, for which he received an Oscar nomination for both Best Actor and Best Director. What’s more, if you’ve seen Branagh’s Super Wide 70 mm, line-byline adaptation of Hamlet (1996), you know that Branagh is a director with guts, vision, and a solid handle on the classics. But you can’t do much without a good

story, and this is Thor’s biggest failing. If you know anything about Greek and Norse gods you understand that they are “types” defined by their attributes. Thor is a warrior and a god of thunder. He is defined by his superhuman strength and his abilities via Mjolnir, his mystic war hammer. His father is Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins), a peacekeeper and the king of the Norse gods; he is defined by his great power. Odin is capable of manipulating the “Odin Force” for any number of reasons including energy projection, molecular manipulation, channeling lightning, and teleportation, which he ultimately uses to punish Thor for his arrogance toward their ancient enemies, the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. During the first part of the film we are introduced to the two brothers: Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). When Thor’s arrogance and recklessness threatens the peace and stability of the universe, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him to earth, where (and when) he crashes headon into Dr. Jane Foster’s storm-chasing RV. With Thor removed from the realm of Asgard, the pasty-faced Loki, Thor’s adoptive brother (a.k.a. supervillian) is free to usurp the throne. Loki is only one of three

sets of villains, the other two being the aforementioned ancient Frost Giants, and on Earth, the law enforcement agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. headed by Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), who we’ve seen elsewhere in the Marvel Comic Universe (Iron Man, Iron Man 2). None of these villainous entities is given enough screen time to make an impact. This is a key failure of Thor: the bad guys just aren’t wicked, abominable, or dastardly enough. The movement between the CGI-laden world of Asgard, with its golden castles in the air and translucent bridges that connect the nine worlds, and 21st century New Mexico is made fluid by freak thunderstorms and meteoric events. The film’s more jocular moments are typical “fish out of water” scenes in which Thor generally unsuccessfully negotiates 21st century elements like hospital gowns, sedatives, and diner food. These make for the film’s running jokes and sight gags, but they are ultimately banal. Sure, Portman is oh-socute, and Thor is oh-so-cut, but Thor’s plot is clunky, and the villains prove anti-climactic at best. Thor is a typical summer blockbuster: Its plot is thin, its veneer pretty, and there are more to come. Sigh. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Arts & Culture

Epoch stands out against corporate coffee shops By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

AUSTIN — Two young Asian women sip a cold pink liquid from glass soda bottles. They are chatting loudly and quickly in Chinese and sitting in a little area outside of a quirky little café called Epoch Coffee. It’s midnight, but the place is packed with college students, Hyde Park residents, and other colorful characters. The coffee is relatively inexpensive — $2.50 for a 12-ounce chai latte — and the place is great for people watching in the wee hours of the morning. It’s a fairly quiet night at the café, but at 1 a.m., it’s still hard to find a place to sit. Inside, laptops dot the tables; Macintosh is the dominant brand here. Some customers have been parked in a chair for hours, their faces oily from staring at bright LED screens. Others are tap, tap, tap-ping away at their keyboards, attempting to write the next great American novel. On the far wall behind the cash register is an altered — some might call it “defaced” — Starbucks sign; it now says “Fuck Off,” while the twin-tailed siren in the logo still smiles back at you. The owners and staff don’t take kindly to the big coffee corporations around this independently owned shop, another product of the “Keep Austin Weird” mantra. Customers sometimes have to understand that the staff can be quite sarcastic and dry. Their attitude can be off-putting to some. “Do you like Radiohead?” the cashier asks a female 20-something. “Of course! Who doesn’t?” she answers enthusiastically. “I fucking despise Radiohead. Here’s your change, hon!” How does he get away with saying that to a customer? The Epoch staff seem to have nearly free reign to say what they want. While it seems unwelcoming to some customers — “Seems like that ‘fuck off’ sign reflects their attitude here,” says one angry elderly man — others find their sarcasm amusing. Epoch is nestled in Highland Plaza on North Loop Boulevard. Right next to the café is Blue Velvet, a vintage clothing store with an array of large sunglasses, ‘60s-style dresses and musty old suits on display in the brightly lit storefront. Next to that is the Suburban Group, an Alcoholics AnonWWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Jonathan Arehart/arehart.net

Editor’s Note: This story contains some explicit language. Reader discretion is advised.

ymous group that conducts regular meetings. Some of its members hang around the small sitting area late at night, chainsmoking while they gruffly talk about “all these damn coffee drinkers making too much damn noise” and read passages from religious-based AA literature. The café is like a bright beacon in the middle of the dark Hyde Park neighborhood. Open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the café serves as a major study and work haunt for residents in the area. Friends also frequently meet to play Scrabble, chess and other board games provided free to customers. Often, they bring their own games and hold hours-long tournaments. Sometimes Epoch seems more like a community center than a coffee shop. Large canvases with abstract and Impressionist-inspired oil paintings line the main “living room” of the café. The cozy room is packed with couches and tables; the décor is Autumn-y and artsy. Local indie favorites, foreign and avant-garde tunes and tonight, Billy Joel’s greatest hits gently waft from the speakers. It just depends on what the staff feels like listening to that night. Next: the bathrooms. There is a small line of three people forming to use them. The bathrooms’ décor alone make them worth a visit. “Go use the bathrooms,” demands one

friend to another at one table. “What? Why?” inquires the other friend. “Just go! You will be amazed,” replies the first friend. A jumpy young woman introduces herself to the male with a burnt orange UT shirt waiting impatiently behind her. She talks breathlessly to him for a few minutes before an elderly man exits one of the bathrooms. She looks back and gives him a wink. He smiles weakly back at her, but it is obvious that he is weirded out now. “Hi, do you know that woman? Was she on drugs?” the man asks the girl behind him. “I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised,” replies the third person in line, a female college student. What you see when you finally enter the bathrooms might shock you a bit if you are not prepared. Graffiti is scrawled all over the hand-painted murals already covering the walls. The two restrooms are each themed differently — one is “Hell,” complete with a man-sized red devil with what appears to be a beer belly. There is also some classic graffiti scrawling: “For free blowjobs, call [insert phone number].” Then there are hell-themed quotes from the likes of William Shakespeare and Salvador Dali. The other restroom used to be “Heav-

en” before it was completely painted over with an olive green color. Now, the décor for this bathroom is community-driven — the wall is a blank palette for anybody to write or draw on. One person left a note that seems to sum up the purpose of this restroom: “Since writing on toilet walls is done neither for critical acclaim or financial gain, it is the purest form of art.” Other endeavors are less profound: One person altered graffiti to attribute actor Dan Aykroyd to quotes about autonomy and socialism. The outside patio is livelier; there aren’t as many customers with eyes glued to a laptop or book. Friends catch up with other friends while others puff away at cigarettes. The unique ashtrays are mostly made out of recycled metal car parts, and Christmas lights are strewn around the wooden patio’s roof here and there. This hodge-podge décor reflects the unique clientele Epoch brings in. It’s one of those rare community coffee shops that Austin is so fond of, but are fast becoming extinct because of that one corporation that no one dares mention around Epoch staff. It’s nearly 2 a.m. now and the crowd is thinning out. But there are still those strong-willed few pulling an all-nighter, hoping the combination of caffeine and the chilled-out atmosphere will help them focus on finishing their work. u LareDOS | M AY 2011 |

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Arts & Culture

Children’s book about nature, wildlife uses TAMIU as backdrop

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By RAFAEL BENAVIDES LareDOS Staff

Texas A&M International University professor has written a children’s book about the adventures of an armadillo, Spanish for “little armored one,” while he attempts to make friends and find food and safety on campus. The book encourages young readers to be aware of wildlife protection and responsible development for humans and nature. Dr. Sandra Garrett, assistant professor of education at TAMIU, used the university campus as a backdrop out of her deep respect and appreciation for native fauna and flora in South Texas. She published the book under her pen name, “Elaine Renfro.” “When I first set foot on campus, I was enchanted by the abundance of nature: white-tailed deer, javelina, birds of every type and native plants and vegetation, and thought that it would

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make a beautiful setting for my book,” she said. Her book, entitled “Little Armored One of the South Plains,” was published by Treegryphon (AuthorHouse), and is creatively illustrated by Bobby Dunlap in a mix of watercolor and photography. “My protagonist, (The Little Armored One), enjoys the usual fanciful adventures, socializing, and hunting for food on campus, but one day brings something far from ordinary. As the reader learns, one day the armadillo and the other animals discover something of great importance about their future,” Dr. Garrett said. She adds that the book has been accepted well by the community. Garrett plans to write a continuing series featuring the Little Armored One and hopes to continue to inspire young children to appreciate nature. The book is available for sale at the university’s bookstore and online at Amazon. The public may also read the book at TAMIU’s Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library. u

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Rafael Benavides/LareDOS

And the winner is... Mayor Raul Salinas, contest-winner Isabella N. Mercado, and Blasita Lopez of the Laredo Convention and Visitor’s Center congratulated Mercado on her winning artwork and slogan.

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The Mystery Customer

Hang up on Wireless in Style at the Mall; El Catán: a beautiful dining venue

Wireless In Style Mall Del Norte, 5300 San Dario Ave. I have a cracked iPhone and did not want to take it to Apple to get it fixed, since the company charges about $250 to replace it. So, I decided to visit this kiosk in the mall that claims to repair cracked iPhone 4 screens for a much lesser fee. The first time I went, a bored-looking woman told me the man who did the repairs was not there, and she gave me a business card to call back later. I called 2 weeks after, and got no answers. Maybe the kiosk was closed now, I thought. I went back to the mall in search of the kiosk and found it had moved to another smaller location, and the same woman was there. She said the man was still not there to fix the phone, so she took me to another kiosk — that I can only suppose is owned by the same person — to drop off my phone in their safe so he could fix it later. However, nobody knew the combination to the safe, and she ended up giving me a flyer with phone numbers on them. This was after she told me her work phone wasn’t working. I asked, “When will he be back? What time should I call him?” She replied that she didn’t really know, but she “thought” he usually came in during the afternoon. Needless to say, I’m tired of the wild goose chase, so I’m not using Wireless In

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Cristina Herrera/LareDOS file photo

BY THE mystery Customer

Cheaper organics At Joseph Store House Community Food Store, all cereals, which include organic brand names, are priced at $1. The store, which is run by New Vision Community Church, offers organic and gluten-free foods at a discount to customers. Style to fix my phone’s screen. If the man who can fix the repaired phone is never there, then why advertise the repairs at your kiosk? Unless you want to buy rhinestone-covered phone accessories, I do not recommend going to Wireless In Style to fix your cracked phone. Mariachi Express

5114 McPherson Ave. I’d heard a lot of complaints about Mariachi Express’ food and service, but decided to give it one more chance during a late lunch hour. At around 2:30 p.m., I went through the drive-through and noticed absolutely no cars and no customers near the front of the store. I figured it would be a quick in and out, but boy was I wrong. For nearly 15 minutes, I sat waiting for my two piratas. While I was in the car, I had enough time to write up most of this entry for the Mystery Customer. What’s the use of a drive-through if it’s not going to speed up food service for customers? And the restaurant wasn’t even experiencing a rush, so the wait was pretty much unacceptable. Before I rush to snap judgment, let me also say that this is not the first time I’ve had trouble with getting food quickly from the restaurant. A month ago, I went with my mother to order some tacos for dinner at the restaurant’s front. After ordering, it took them about 25 minutes to get us our food. When we finally ate it at home, we all agreed that the food was not worth the wait. Skip Mariachi Express and go to Taco Palenque for drive-through taco deli-

ciousness. I guess I should’ve known to do this in the first place. Besides, the piratas are significantly tastier at Taco P. Office Depot 5718 N. San Bernardo Ave. The MC was a witness to the history of customer service in Laredo. On a recent visit to the copy center at Office Depot, a store manager spoke into his face mic and into the ear buds of all his employees, “There’s a customer waiting at the register.” I told him those were words you would never hear from management at H-E-B or “Gual-Mar.” Joseph Store House Community Food Store 3119 N. Meadow Drive You can’t count on the same inventory on each visit, but that’s part of the charm of shopping in this diverse little store. The MC has found great prices on gluten-free cake mixes, honey, top of the line all natural vanilla extract, and Seventh Generation dishwashing soap at $4 less than the grocery store shelves. You are always thanked for your business, and a blessing sends you on your way. Ninfa’s Nopales (956) 949-8776 A story in last month’s issue of LareDOS told you about Ninfa Carrizales’ nopalito menu and the excellent corn and flour tortillas she makes with fresh nopalitos. She has moved from that location and will open at a new site very soon. In the meantime, however, you can catch her at the monthly Farmers Market and can coordinate with her in advance for a pickup of packages of tortillas. Don’t forget to order a cold nopalito con piña refresco. Rocha’s El Catan Grill 815 Salinas Ave. If you are picky about huevos rancheros prepared just so — whites cooked, yolk runny but not too runny — Rocha’s El Catan downtown is a good bet for you. Reynaldo Rocha himself cooked them one recent Saturday morning. The MC enjoyed the ambience of the retro architecture of the Hamilton Hotel’s old coffee shop, the great morning light pouring through the windows, and the white tablecloths. The place embodies the good things downtown offers. Great service, too. u WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Media Review

PBS series: an invitation to reinterpret, better understand history By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

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A 1943 report written by Witold Pilecki, a member of the Polish underground, had earlier documented the SS’s murderous gas chambers, the Birkenau crematoria, and horrific medical experiments. It was unceremoniously filed away in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, forerunner to the CIA) with a note that questioned the reliability of the source.

account of national or racial origin.” The report is believed to have finally reached the Vatican in October 1944. The BBC, however, first broadcast details of the Vrba-Wetzler report on June 15, 1944, and on June 20, The New York Times ran the first of three stories about the German gas chambers and crematoria. Thereafter other allied nations joined in calls for action to stop the genocide. The mass deportations of Hungarian Jews stopped on July 9, 1944, but only after more than 400,000 had arrived at Auschwitz on 147 SS death trains. Vrba and Wetzler, hoping for swift reactions that would foment decisive life-saving actions, had the heartbreaking experience of watching as the world hesitated to react. The Vrba-Wetzler report is available online at holocaustresearchproject.org. u

Courtesy of PBS

ad enough queso flameado on Dancing with the Stars? Have you reached your threshold for gratuitous gore with CSI and Law and Order? If you haven’t surrendered the thinking parts of your gray matter to the horror of hoarders and the plot lines of Grey’s Anatomy, grab the remote, redeem yourself, and go to PBS programming. Besides programs that offer the straight-up news and insightful discourse on world events that are changing our lives, PBS presents its audience with thought provoking shows that invite us to interpret, and sometimes re-interpret, history. Such is the awardwinning Secrets of the Dead series that produces documentaries about world events, sometimes debunking conventional wisdom and evidencing fallacies repeated through time. I was fortunate enough to view the recent airing of Escape from Auschwitz, the account of the miraculous 1944 escape of Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler from the death camp and their effort to tell the world of the systematic annihilation of European Jews at the hands of Adolph HitRudoph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler ler. Vrba and Wetzler, initially interviewed separately, dictated The Pilecki report, the Vrba-Wetzler a 32-page report in Slovak to the Jewish report, and a third compiled by two other Council. That report, so filled with hor- Auschwitz escapees, Arnost Rosin and rific detail, was translated into German by Czeslaw Mordowicz, became known as Dr. Oscar Krasniansky. Entitled “German the Auschwitz Protocols, later used in the Extermination Camps — Auschwitz and Nuremberg war trials. Birkenau,” it was first published in English The Vrba-Wetzler report included preon Nov. 26, 1944 by the executive office of cise descriptions of the geography of the the U.S. War Refugee Board. camps and detailed information on secu-

rity, camp conditions, how the prisoners were numbered, what they ate, how they lived, and how they were selected for a particular means of annihilation. Czech historian Miroslav Kárny calls the VrbaWetzler account “an invaluable historical document because it provides details that were known only to prisoners, most of whom died — including for example, that discharge forms were filled out for prisoners who were gassed, indicating that death rates in the camp were actively falsified.” The Vrba-Wetzler report circulated in Hungary through April 1944 and news of it made its way to the Vatican in May, though the Vatican did not act on it until June 25 in an open telegram to Hungarian regent Admiral Miklós Horthy. The papal telegram did not refer to the Jews, but only to “the sufferings endured on

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Backstage at 隆Viva el Mariachi! Concert May 4, 2011 Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Center Laredo Community College

Under the direction of Betty Escudero, members of the Macdonell Elementary Orffestra entranced a full auditorium with their Orff, drum, guitar, and dance performances.

Ruben Guadian, mariachi director at L.J. Christen Middle School and Martin High School mariachi director Rafael Alarc贸n had much to show for what they elicit from their talented students. The award-winning mariachi performance by both groups was over the top, the vocals dazzling.

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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

Osama bin Laden: Politics? Truth? Hype?

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arack Obama is absolutely certain that the man shot to death by the U.S. Navy S.E.A.L.s assault team and buried at sea was Osama Bin Laden. Obama is the president of our country, so I am bound as a loyal, patriotic American to respect his statement, however, I do so with reservations. In the desire to justify my misgivings I looked up the definition of circumstantial evidence. For our mutual understanding, it is evidence that tends to prove a fact by proving other events or circumstance, which affords a basis for a reasonable inference of the occurrence of the fact at issue. The information furnished thus far concerning this hyped up event is not, in my layman’s opinion, even circumstantial evidence. Al Qaeda has announced to the world that Osama was indeed assassinated by the evil United States, for whatever that is worth. The burial at sea to respect Islamic law was executed in respect to Islamic law. I am relatively certain that we are the only country that would bestow any type of honor upon a person who was instrumental in killing thousands of its citizens. The adage “Two wrongs don’t make it right” certainly didn’t hold true

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in this situation. Why didn’t we capture Osama, transport him to the U.S.A., and put him on trial? Maybe our leaders felt that our national security would be in greater jeopardy with this terrorist in our country during the trial. Unfortunately we seem to poop in our pants at the mere mention of Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda. How about our billion dollar aid recipients, Pakistan, who are offended because we had the audacity to violate the sovereignty of their borders? Every bit of information published in newspapers and TV indicates that Pakistan does harbor and even train a substantial number of anti-U.S. terrorists. Are we gullible enough to believe that Pakistani security had no idea that Osama was bunking in a comfortable walled compound in their country? Our leaders will probably and unfortunately continue to give protection money to a country that stretched the truth concerning Osama’s residence. As a taxpaying citizen of the U.S.A., I say cut off rewarding the fruits of our labor to Pakistan. Finally, Obama will probably get a few political good boy points for this hyped up event. He will need a lot more “atta boy” points to get my vote in the next presidential election. u

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Notes from LaLa Land

Former Laredoan enjoys corporate Vegas; Mariachi Halcon continues with Mariachi High

Continued from page 52 There was one incident that truly made me realize how unfair the world can be. I sat outside of my school cafeteria waiting for the bell to ring when I heard my name called out over the abyss of voices surrounding me. I stood up to see who it was when an uproar of the most offensive word describing who I was, came up in a chant-like manner. This was repeated numerous times and had me on the verge of tears. What hurt the most was knowing there were adults there to stop it all, and though some of them gave effort to stop the madness, others simply turned away as if nothing was happening. It is a feeling I would never bestow on another person. The lack of respect, humiliation, and hurt that I felt was totally unfair and in no way did it benefit anyone to be bullied or ignored by those around me. The simple truth was that no matter who or what I was, I was still human. “When I act as the bigger person and choose to say nothing back, it hits hard. But I take it — I take it right here. Not only do I do that, but I listen to it and

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as a kid. Since we moved away from Laredo at such an early age, my only memory of school there was the nursery school I attended that was called Mother Goose Nursery School. My parents told me I was the youngest student there at 18 months.” Reminiscing, she recalled, “I do have many memories of Laredo. We were lucky enough to travel back to Laredo every year to visit my grandparents. I loved the easy-going life that Laredo had to offer us as kids. Those times continue to be some of my fondest memories, as I enjoyed the many things Laredo had to offer — going to the presa, swimming at the Civic Center pool, going to Nuevo Laredo and the Mercado, enjoying the tasty Glass Kitchen burger experience, going to the fancy dinner nights out Golding’s restaurant, cooking out at the Tio’s house, and most of all, spending time with my guelita Conce, who was the sweetest grandmother anyone could ever wish for. “We enjoyed the simple life of family, I feel it. I feel the hate and it spreads through my body like wildfire. But then the strong friendships I have made on my journey to become who I am raises me up and cleanses my body of this emotion. “The Rotary 4-Way Test has made me realize being who I am and all that I am will be beneficial to me and will build better friendships with others. I have found that to be true as I have participated in various extracurricular activities in high school such as prose and poetry interpretation, one-act play, choir, and tennis, to name a few. Being who I was did not affect the way the people in these groups treated me. My prose and poetry team in particular has become a family that loves each other and will continue to love each other no matter what. Our coach acts as our mother. She listens to all of us and accepts each and every one of us for who we are, including me.   “All I ask from all of you is this: The next time you see someone being mistreated because they’re different, act on the unfairness of it. Make the difference. The truth is that it can and will truly change and benefit someone’s life.” u

friends, and great memories growing up, like sitting on the porch at guelita’s house every night to catch a cool breeze. Spending time in Laredo every year also helped me maintain my Spanish — something that was not as prevalent back in Indiana. “We moved to Memphis in 1985. I graduated from Indiana University in Bloomington in 1988 with a major in accounting and a minor in Spanish. I got my MBA in 1995 and made the bold move to the west coast. I’ve lived in Las Vegas for the last 15 years. This is where I met my husband Stephen and it is where our son Christopher was born. The hot summers here take me back to my days as a kid in Laredo. Las Vegas and Laredo share the same climate minus the chicharras. “I have been incredibly fortunate to have had a variety of career-building opportunities within the industry, ranging from leadership roles at the casinos, at the corporate level, as well as at the vendor level. Being in the entertainment business has truly been a very rewarding career for me.” She continued, “I never dreamed  that this little girl from Laredo would have the incredible educational and career opportunities that I have been blessed to have throughout the years. It all started with parents who helped me believe in myself

and ensured that I valued the importance of an education. With my family’s support through the years, I really hit the jackpot in believing that  anything was possible if I worked hard enough.” On another note, Zapata High School’s Mariachi Halcon has been involved in a documentary titled Mariachi High, which involves a year in the life of competitive high school mariachi musicians. Zapata is being called a flash point for the complex issues facing the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. Mariachi High is a call to lower Latino school dropout rates, the highest in the country. It turns a positive lens on the dreams and challenges of Mexican-American teens. In this story, college-bound Latino role models compete to be the state’s champion band while experiencing the trials and triumphs shared by all American teens. From nerve-racking band auditions to the thrill of the 2010 Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in San Antonio, graduation and beyond, the program provides much-needed affirmative screen time for teens who are inspired by cultural pride and striving for excellence. Mariachi High is in production in South Texas until August 2011. And on that note it’s time for— as Norma Adamo says, TAN  TAN! u

Courtesy of Jose Gomez-Vazquez

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aredo native Adriana Zirpoli has taken on a new job in Las Vegas as vice-president of slot operations at the beautiful Wynn and Encore resorts in the famous desert city. She is the daughter of my friends Artemio (Temo) Reyna and Felipa Guerrero Reyna MHS 196l, now of Memphis. Adriana joined   the Wynn team after leaving a post at Harrah’s Casino and Racetrack in Pennsylvania, where she also served as vice-president of slot operations.  Her academic background includes a BS in accounting from Indiana University School of Business and an MBA from the University of Michigan. She told me, “We moved away from Laredo when I was 3-years-old, but I have always considered it my hometown. We moved to Indiana because my dad had better career opportunities there, and we had family there as well. It was a nice place to grow up, but I always missed Texas. Luckily, I was able to spend every summer there

Cuellar speaks at AHS U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) speaks at J.B. Alexander High School’s National Honor Society induction ceremony. The 2010-2011 NHS officers watch him. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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LareDos Mayo 2011