Issuu on Google+

Locally Owned

I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be. Thomas Jefferson

A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS NOVEMBER 2011

Est. 1994

Vol. XVII No. 11

64 PAGES

@lareDOSnews

LareDOS Newspaper

INSIDE Under the Middle Eastern Star By Maj. Luis Tinajero Sr.

Page 20 UFO Conference draws experts and the curious By Cristina Herrera

Page 24 Stop the proposed San Ygnacio oil field waste dump! Page 25 OPINION Get the blood off the drugs By Cristina Herrera

Page 34 OPINION Plaza Theatre Lease A handout masked as a preservation project By María Eugenia Guerra

Page 38 6th Annual MISSION: GIVE LAREDO DONATION DRIVE

YOU ARE HERE

The OccuPie

Page 36

Teresa Ramírez, José Ramírez

for Bethany House 12/10 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. 12/11 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.


2

| La r eDO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


SEVEN GOOD REASONS TO CHOOSE DR. RAFATI’S

RADIOLOGY CLINIC OF LAREDO

£ Ó Î { x È

°ÊYou save time, money, and regrets. Call us for a price quote.

° No appointment necessary. Just walk in at your convenience.

°Ê Immediate results. You walk out with complete knowledge of your exam results ° You can always consult Dr. Rafati free of charge.

° Second opinion is always free of charge.

° Dr. Rafati has 35 years of experience, knowledge, and common sense. We saved thousands of patients the horror of unnecessary surgery.

Ç

°ÊThe last reason is very, very important. If your doctor tells you not to go to Dr. Rafati’s clinic, you should immediately go to see Dr. Rafati and at the same time you should look for a new doctor. Many doctors are mad at us because we put our patients �irst. Remember, you have the right of choice.

OUR PRICE LIST Our philosophy at Radiology Clinics of Laredo is to practice medicine in a manner that involves complete disclosure of our opinion and our charges. In this spirit, I decided to publish my fee schedule, and I urge others to follow suit. Δ MRI Δ CAT SCAN Δ MAMMOGRAMS Δ BONE DENSITY Δ SONOGRAMS

$400.00 $250.00 $125.00 $125.00 $150.00 TO $175.00 Δ STOMACH OR INTESTINE EXAMS $200.00 Δ SKULL AND SINUSES $ 90.00 Δ BONES $ 85.00 Δ CHEST X-RAYS $ 80.00 Δ DOPPLER EXAMS $150.00 These prices include the x-ray, the interpretation, and consultation with the patient on what his/her exam shows and what to do next.

RADIOLOGY CLINICS OF LAREDO 5401 Springfield • (956) 718-0092

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

LareDOS | NOVEM B ER 2011 |

3


M ailbox L E etters to the

publisher

María Eugenia Guerra meg@laredosnews.com Editor

Cristina Herrera cherrera@laredosnews.com

Read

Sales

María Eugenia Guerra

at www.laredosnews.com

meg@laredosnews.com Circulation, Billing & Subscriptions

circulation@laredosnews.com Layout/design

Izza Designs design@laredosnews.com

Contributors

Irma Cantu Pedro Castañeda Jr. Bebe Fenstermaker Sissy Fenstermaker Denise Ferguson Neo Gutierrez Jason Herrera Guillermo Alejandro Jimenez

Henri Kahn Randy Koch Salo Otero Lem Londos Railsback Teresa Ramírez José Ramírez Luis Tinajero Leslie L. Young

ShuString Productions, Inc. www.laredosnews.com

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

Write a Letter to the Editor cherrera@laredosnews.com

4

| La r eDO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

ditor

I read with interest your article in the September issue of LareDOS on Laredo’s police Chief Carlos R. Maldonado. As I read the article, I read an incredible sentence therein that Chief Maldonado does NOT SPEAK SPANISH? I found this language shortcoming in the City of Laredo to be an incredible shortcoming — particularly in that important position of police leadership in Laredo. It also seemed to me that he was

hired under strange circumstances. There is never a dull day in Laredo, and with the hiring of this police chief, the beat goes on. But best of all is the continued success of your great newspaper LareDOS, truly a media force in Laredo.

Some of the local merchants and civic leaders are in a state of shock upon learning that the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon has erected signs along the Monterrey highway (and probably other Nuevo Leon highways) urging their citizens to go to the Columbia bridge to bypass the congestion, etc. in Laredo and go directly to San Antonio and beyond to do their shopping, etc. Well, whoop-dee-doo! It appears that the Mexicans have gotten tired of the insulting slurs made toward them by the Laredo mucketymucks. For years the game has been to invite them to visit/shop in Laredo (out of one side of the mouth). Then, out the other side, slap their faces with “welcoming” signs like, “Restrooms may be used for $l.00 per person ... or by making a purchase.” That was rudely notched up another step by spending $8,000 to clarify that Nuevo Laredo was in Mexico, not to be confused with us saintly people in Laredo. It would appear that visitors have not been aware of that distinction for the past hundred years and were always getting lost... shame, shame, shame. It may only be a figment of my imagination, but I recall in 1962 and 1963, during the annual George Washington’s Birthday Celebration, there was a three-day period during which several thousand Mexicans walked across the “Gateway to America” bridge (only one at that time) without so much as a piece of paper in their pocket, no questions and 10-20 abreast right up Convent Street... and walked back later without paying the nickel bridge fare — no visa or ID crap. I cannot account for periods prior to mid-1961, when I first arrived in Laredo (courtesy of Uncle Sam). My-oh-my, those were beautiful times... when we held the Mexican people with high regard. Now too many

Americans regard them as our mortal enemies. “Bring money, but you are not fit to use our restrooms.” Just thinking of that makes me HAPPY to see the retaliation. “Bypass Laredo TX,” I just love it. While I am unloading on the unfairness of our “better-than-thou” attitude towards Mexicans, I seem to recall that the first time the pedestrian toll fare on the American side was raised above a nickel. It was announced that they needed to collect the toll to pay for its reconstruction costs in the 1950s, but after those bonds were paid, there would not be any further charges to walk across. Now, Mexico charges 25 cents, and Laredo charges 75 cents; that’s what I call a real “thank you for shopping in Laredo” translation: “Put it to the Mexicans again.” If I haven’t got your attention yet, let me add some more doo-doo to the punch bowl. I have looked and looked for bridge “five”(yet to be named) and I can only surmise that either it got stolen by aliens (no, not the illegals, but those from outer space), or it’s invisible and being used by “ghost riders in the sky.” However, I doubt that the $2 million paid by the city and the county (in planning about 10-15 years ago) was invisible when it went down the drain. Keep good thoughts; it may appear in 10 or 20 years. If you really want to conjure up a “pipe-dream supreme,” try to picture Laredo as a “destination paradise.” The closest it ever came to being a destination city was when visitors from the north wanted to see Mexico (but we’ve canned that) and the Mexicans wanted to shop in Laredo (but we’ve canned that, too). My big regret is that I am 77 now; don’t expect to live past 150, so I can’t imagine it happening in my lifetime. Signed, Claude Gibeaut

Best wishes for continued success. Sincerely, George F. Ballard Jr. Baton Rouge, La.

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

LareDOS | NOVEM B ER 2011 |

5


Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

City staff makes household haz collection work Among the members of the Environmental Services Department who staffed the November 5 Household Hazardous Waste Collection at El Metro Park and Ride were Leticia Benavides, Bernardo Romero, Gerardo Cantu, Rosa Tijerina, John Porter, and Francisco Rosales.

6

| La r eDO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

‘Move your money’ David Hunt and Nerissa Lindsey, protesters with Occupy Laredo, hold up signs in front of Bank of America on the corner of Del Mar Boulevard and McPherson Avenue on Friday, November 11. The protests were part of the group’s Move Your Money March, a symbolic march to move money from banks to credit unions. Read more on page 36.

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

LareDOS | NOVEM B ER 2011 |

7


Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

Why it matters Margarita Araiza, director of the Webb County Heritage Foundation, explains to the audience at the Laredo UFO Conference why “history matters” on Saturday, November 5 at TAMIU’s Fine and Performing Arts Center Recital Hall.

8

| La r eDO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Santa María Journal

Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

Back at the ranch, coffee cup in hand, the morning begins with a walk

I

By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

t’s almost always the same work out here on the ranch land — a broken water line, a strand of barbed wire to be replaced, a fence line to be reinforced, mowing and cleaning — but taking care of those chores in cooler weather is far more pleasant than working in the punishing heat of our prolonged summers, which sap your energy and sometimes your will. There is in these fall days a wonderful quality to the mornings out here, something generous about the way the earth looks and feels in its response to a little bit of rain and a momentary recovery from the grueling heat that is the norm. We haven’t had the kind of rainfall events that will repair the pastures and fill the tanks, but we are thankful we had any at all. Coupled with the cost of feed and

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

hay and hay shortages, the grim reality of water shortages adds to the uncertainty of what we’ll face this winter. I’m not sure we’ve all ever been this aware of how the cost of fuel factors so heavily into the cost of goods. Fifty–pound sacks of feed, 70-pound hay bales, rolls of barbed wire, and steel T-posts are no exception to the expensive, diesel-fueled movement of goods from manufacturer or grower to buyer. Open-window weather has added to the comfort of evening rest at the ranch, and so has the void of oilfield service traffic and its noise. The silence, broken only by bird calls, is a lovely thing, a great break in the clatter of my other life in Laredo — the wail of sirens, the mournful steel-on-steel groan of train traffic moving in and out of two countries, and music that makes its way across the Río Grande, like a lost radio signal beaming the message: Some of us over here, despite what you

hear, we’re still OK. The heart of our country while getting a handle on the present. still beats. However convincingly I have stated Meanwhile back at the ranch, coffee cup my affinity for the solitude of my own in hand, the morning begins with a walk good company, the truth is that if my through the corral pasture to the chicken grandchildren showed up, I’d put down coop, where the hens have finished their the work for the opportunity to play with molt, and then them or to show onto the goat some“… music that makes its them pen to check thing grand on way across the Río Grande this ranch like on our hooved charges. like a lost radio signal, beam- the new little I find these ing the message: Some of us over mare, Luz. days — no But on this here, despite what you hear, we’re quiet doubt a sign of day I work still OK. The heart of our my impending in the bodega, dotage — that I losing myself in country still beats.” often relish my the cleaning up time alone here and the putting and in possession of my own thoughts. away of our tools, making order and makNo company, no work crews, just the ing it easier to find what we will need for quiet comfort of the inner dialogue try- the next repair on the next ruptured water ing simultaneously to sort out the past line, which I am certain is a metaphor for of remembered conversations and events something. I forget. ◆

LareDOS | NOVEM B ER 2011 |

9


From the Editor’s Desk

From Spanish colonialism to ‘Gateway to Mexico,’ downtown Laredo continues to witness history By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

D

owntown Laredo at night is a different animal. The historic Mercado district is one of the few areas in Laredo where people can easily walk from place to place, enjoying the often cheap and disposable delights each shop has to offer. At night, though, when all the shops have closed for the day, there are the homeless, the elderly who sit and enjoy the cooler weather, and of course, the travelers. On one Friday night I was covering two masquerade balls: One at La Posada Hotel called the Streets of Laredo Masquerade Ball hosted by Laredo Main Street, and the People’s Masquerade put on by Occupy Laredo at Jarvis Plaza. The night was chilly, but it was perfect walking weather, so I decided to simply go on foot back and

forth between both events. Down by the bridge on Convent Avenue, where the only shops still open were money-exchange centers, I witnessed a scene usually reserved for romance films, but much more beautiful and free of Hollywood cheesiness. A young man and woman, about college-aged, were holding each other tightly, as if they did not want to let go. Clearly they were saying their goodbyes. I did not want to become the creepy spectator, but I slowed my pace to see who would be leaving whom. As I passed by, the girl let go of her boyfriend and slowly walked away. I was able to catch one last scene: her looking back at him as she forced herself forward to the bridge. The desperate manner in which they said their goodbyes was made more heartbreaking as I remembered the real danger she faced on the other side of that bridge, lit up by cars and U.S. Customs stations. Downtown Laredo is not just a place where

people shop, it’s also a place where families, friends, and couples say their goodbyes until the next time they are able to come across the bridge. It’s difficult not to wonder if that will be your last goodbye to a friend or relative going over to Mexico. Is that an extreme statement to make? You be the judge. I’ve heard both sides. “You’re making a big deal out of nothing. The cartels usually stick to killing fellow cartel members.” Or, “I am left here worried every single day, hoping my mother is not in the wrong place at the wrong time.” That’s a good way to put it —“wrong place at the wrong time.” Whether we want to admit it or not, when a drug war is this widespread, innocent civilians will get caught in the crossfire. You are taking a risk each time you go across that bridge. And if you were in high school, when it was standard for teens to go across each weekend and drink, you won’t find that much

nowadays. What does Laredo have to offer? But then there’s downtown Laredo. Smelly, run-down, but most of all, still charming through it all. I do not care what people say or think about downtown — it’s a precious commodity. It has the potential to be a booming center of tourism, if only more Laredoans would see that. Downtown is a time machine, a symbol of our consumerism, and a familiar friend. When I was walking downtown, I remembered I was treading on history. The remains of Don Tomás Sanchez might be a few feet away, I thought as I walked past St. Augustine Cathedral. I imagined Spanish Colonial parties and Indian raids as I passed by the present-day Popeye’s on my way back to Jarvis Plaza. I imagined the beautiful ruggedness of the land, when there weren’t so many buildings and lights. In downtown Laredo, it’s easy to let your imagination go wild when you witness the history that surrounds you. ◆

Looking for a place to view some bucks?

Rural Land Loans Country Home Loans Farm & Ranch Loans Livestock & Equipment Loans Operating Capital Real Estate Appraisal Services

We’re the answer.

Capital Farm Credit has been making loans for agriculture and rural real estate since 1917. The source of our strength is our cooperative structure: We share our earnings with our customers and have returned more than $400 million.

Agribusiness Financing Leasing

Laredo Office, 1303 Calle Del Norte, Ste. 200

1.888.218.5508 or 956.753.0758 CapitalFarmCredit.com

T E X A S

10

L A R G E S T

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

R U R A L

L E N D E R

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Fair Game

Reign of terror motif begins at Monticello; citizens score victory for the environment The assault on Monticello How long before Laredo’s stately Monticello-on-La Clark turns into an early reign of terror, vision-of-hell pastiche of chile and garlic ristras, Roman busts, and assorted chachara? Some are laying bets that it will happen before the frost is on the pumpkins or Pegasus springs a leak. A victory for the environment Here’s what can happen when a group of concerned citizens get together to oppose a potential environmental disaster. At the November 17 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Committee, staff members denied a request to amend the zoning ordinance and rezone a lot from M-1 (Light Manufacturing District) to M-2 (Heavy Manufacturing District). The applicant, Santa Fe Precious Metals, LLC, wanted to build a silver smelting operation on the lot, located at 310 Enterprise St., right off Mines Road. The committee first heard three poorly informed representatives for the applicant. Jessica Serna was the only one of the three women who stated her name for the committee, and the rest refused to comment or give their names to reporters after the meeting. Serna said the applicant was out of town. “The machine is not going to be with fire; it’s all going to be done with electricity,” Serna said, not going into any more detail than that. Committee member Belinda GuerraMeurer was concerned about the method used to melt, but the representatives did not have knowledge of the exact method used to smelt, the chemicals used in the process, or the potential environmental impact (though, in their very sketchy manner, they claimed it was a completely clean operation without facts or statistics to back them up). However, Guerra-Meurer sharply pointed out that the brochures handed to the committee showed fire, smoke, and all the rest of the trappings that come with smelting. The representatives said they worked for Santa Fe Precious Metals, a local company located on 11204 McPherson Road. Opponents of the applicant, most of who lived in La Bota Ranch, which is the area where the smelting operation would WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

have been located, addressed several concerns on behalf of subdivision residents. They pointed out the fact that Muller Elementary lay about 800 feet directly across from the proposed site; the fact that the operation would be built on the Río Grande side of Mines Road; and the potential lowering of property value as a result of the smelting facility. And the memory of the Anzon antimony smelting mine and its poor regard for the environment and workers’ safety loomed in the minds of three opponents. Victor Oliveros, a retired chief of environmental health with the city, gave some brilliant historical perspective for the mine. He said that in the early 1960s, he investigated complaints about Anzon. “To this day, we’re still fighting problems that Anzon created for us,” Oliveros said, adding, “The process of smelting always produces waste. Yes we may create 10 or maybe 20 jobs, but we’re going to be affecting the citizens of Laredo, El Cenizo, Rio Bravo, and everything that is downriver from us.” The committee asked Oliveros if he was familiar with the process used to smelt nowadays, and he said that the notice sent out to La Bota residents did not contain information on the process at all. Tricia Cortez of the Rio Grande International Study Center said that cyanide bleaching was the dominant process in the industry. Attorney Melissa Montemayor pointed out the danger to the children that live in La Bota Ranch and attend the nearby elementary school. “Any children that have complicated health problems such as asthma or allergies would be affected,” Montemayor said. “We don’t even know what they want to do here, and obviously they weren’t even prepared, yet they’re the applicant and they want this zone change?” The residents of La Bota Ranch and other citizens who opposed the mine should be commended for their strong-willed and educated effort to spur the committee to deny the petition, which they did with no hesitancy. The well-informed populace ruled that night.

ing, entertaining for one nanosecond the idea of putting the Plaza Theater lease out for bid, Councilman Jorge Vera said, “It’s a shame you do all the legwork and then give it to someone else.” Yeah, Jorge, ask the late Broncos home team how it felt when they did all the legwork for a new stadium, including a referendum, and then got shafted by City Council. Pee-yew all over again Both public restrooms at the cityowned and city maintained Dryden Park in South Laredo are disgusting disease factories — the white porcelain of toilets and urinals leached yellow and dirty, an inch of water on the floor of the women’s bathroom. Our tax dollars pay for Comet, bleach, plumbing that works, and the manpower or girl power to clean and maintain public property. It would be interesting to know if the parks in the north part of town have cleaner facilities. Bill O’Reilly’s religious intolerance Apparently the folks over at Fox News continue to allow Bill O’Reilly to be prejudiced against other religions, particularly Islam (no surprise there). It’s surprising to write this, but thank goodness for Fox News anchor and former attorney Megyn Kelly, because she actually knows the law, and she has the boldness to tell O’Reilly what he is, calling him “religiously intolerant” at one point. O’Reilly first talked about a story Fox has been covering since early this year, about teacher Safoorah Khan, who quit her

job after she requested a three-week leave of absence for Hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Khan filed a federal complaint, and eventually settled for $75,000. O’Reilly claimed this case was an example of our justice system falling apart. “If she has a right to do that, then every single teacher, of any faith, can walk in and say, you know what? I want to go to Lourdes? Or if I’m a Buddhist, and I want to do Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I’ll see you later!” Yes, Mr. O’Reilly, they can do those things. Religious freedom allows them their holidays like it does us — Christmas, Easter, etc. You do not have the authority to decide what is a “legitimate” religion and what is not. “The law says that all schools, in case where you’re talking about religious pilgrimages or beliefs, they have to grant you a reasonable accommodation,” Kelly replied. Kelly asked O’Reilly if he wanted to work on Christmas, desperately trying to get him to understand by relating the issue to his own sacred holidays. It was a great strategy, but O’Reilly deflected by treating her retort as complete hogwash. The conversation went downhill from there. O’Reilly’s display of religious intolerance and just plain ignorance got even worse, and eventually he started to mock Hajj and its importance to Islam. And to make matters worse, O’Reilly insults a religion that already gets a bad-enough rap. And yet he keeps getting the highest ratings on TV news. ◆

Déjà vu all over again At the October 17 City Council meetLareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

11


News

Laredo Main Street welcomes vintage shop, restaurant to downtown BY CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

M

works were previously displayed at Caffe Dolce. Now they are displayed for sale all over Lovebird’s. “I sold a few paintings [at Caffe Dolce], saved a little money, and decided to invest it into something that would be different for Laredo,” Padilla said. The shop also carries prints, a small selection of books, and vintage clothing that were donated and from Vega and Padilla’s own closets and donated by friends. Lovebird’s also offers shirts and accessories created by Mexican T-shirt designer Olivia Cotton, and Vega and Padilla hope the shop can be more of a profitable outlet for local artists. “What we really want to do is have local artists who make crafts or jewelry, or just people who make things, so we can bring them in and sell their stuff here,” Padilla added.

Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

embers of Laredo Main Street welcomed two new businesses to downtown on Wednesday, October 26, as part of an effort to revitalize the struggling business district. Organizers introduced the members of the public and press to Lovebird’s Vintage Shop and Kiwi’s Restaurant, both located near the Laredo Center for the Arts. Lovebird’s is an art and vintage clothing shop that could fit in perfectly with the likes of Austin’s eclectic array of quirky, colorful local businesses. “I think [Lovebird’s] adds a very important missing piece to downtown,” said Alli Hrncir, market manager for the Laredo Farmers Market. “I think a lot of time down-

town gets lost, and small businesses like this will help it be found by the young crowd.” Co-owners Jasmin Vega and Andy Padilla, who are also girlfriend and boyfriend, styled their shop in that same quirky style but maintain that the style is all their own, starting with the name of the shop, which Vega said was originally going to be “Love Buffalo.” “At the beginning of us deciding to open, I guess we were very affectionate with each other, and everybody would always be like, ‘Oh, you lovebirds,” They always called us that,” Vega said. And the name stuck. Vega and Padilla are taking time off from college to manage Lovebird’s. Vega’s mother is the owner of Caffe Dolce, a fairly young business that opened last September and that has been embraced by the downtown community. Padilla is an artist; his

A downtown welcome Laredo Main Street executive director Sandra Rocha-Taylor extends a formal welcome to two of the Kiwi’s Restaurant owners, Rodolfo Corona and Martha Corona, on Wednesday, October 26. Martha Segovia is Kiwi’s other owner.

12

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

Lovebird’s, which is located at 915 Lincoln Street, is open from Monday to Friday, noon to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Lovebird’s go to the shop’s Facebook page at facebook. com/lovebirdslaredo or contact lovebirdslaredo@hotmail.com. After congregating at Lovebird’s, Laredo Main Street members walked the short distance to Kiwi’s Restaurant to eat lunch. The restaurant opened October 19. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, and is located at 515 San Agustin Ave., right across from the Laredo Center for the Arts. Owner Rodolfo Armando Corona offers his clientele comida Mexicana — caldos, mole, fajitas, and enchiladas and a rich salsa asada. The restaurant seats about 40, so get there early for lunch. For more information about Kiwi’s Restaurant, contact (956) 722-8811. ◆

Lovebirds Actual “lovebirds” Jasmin Vega and Andy Padilla recently opened Lovebird’s in the heart of downtown Laredo. Vega and Padilla are pictured here in their shop. WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Traces of Reality By GUILLERMO ALEJANDRO JIMENEZ Jimenez writes regularly

about constitutional issues and politics on his blog at

I

tracesofreality.com.

n January of 2010, it was revealed that the Obama administration was engaged in a “presidential assassination program” in which the President along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff compiled a list of names, which they alone decided, would be marked for death. This information, hidden in plain view, was reported by Dana Priest of The Washington Post in an article about the role of U.S. military intelligence in Yemen helping hit squads snuff out “scores” of people. The program, originated by the Bush administration after 9/11, though never carried out, is aimed at taking out potential terrorist threats, even if said threats are U.S. citizens. Although, what constitutes a terrorist or a threat is not exactly known. It remains unknown because, like the Bush administration, Obama through his policies has decided to remain as transparent as the waters of the Río Grande. On September 30 of this year, the Obama administration succeeded in striking off its first name on the secret hit list via an aerial drone attack in Yemen, killing Americanborn citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. Although apparently not a target in the attack, Samir Khan, also an American citizen, was killed in the strike along with him. In the days following the drone strike, some raised questions regarding the legality of the order to kill Alwaki, rather than taking him alive, as well as calls for the evidence used to justify his assassination. Predictably, neither was given. The only legal justification for the targeted killing has come in the form of a “secret memo” leaked from the White House, drafted by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The secret military program of using unmanned predator drones to drop missiles in places like Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan remains just that – secret. Officially, the White House can neither confirm nor deny these clandestine operations, and as such, cannot speak publically about their results. This was illustrated quite clearly during a White House press conference the day of the bombing that killed Alwaki. Senior White House correspondent for ABC News Jake Tapper asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney if any evidence would be presented to the American people, or even a judge, regarding Alwaki’s alleged ties to WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

President Obama orders hits, decides who sleeps with the fishes terrorist plots. Carney refused to address his concerns, reciting a long-standing White House policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” as it relates to accused terrorists. In other words, “Don’t ask us, because we’re not telling.” Still, absent any hard proof of his guilt, it’s not difficult for many to accept that Anwar al-Awlaki was exactly who our government says he was — a bad guy who needed to be reined in. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist who regularly lambasted Bush’s foreign policy, could not outright condemn the assassination. When pressed by Wolf Blitzer of CNN, he said “…when you have an American citizen killed by the United States government, it raises some real questions. On the other hand, when you have somebody who’s a terrorist, at war with the United States, that’s the other side of that equation.” But even if, like the senator from Vermont, you are able to rationalize the statesponsored killing of an American because he was an alleged terrorist, what then of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar’s 16-yearold son? Two weeks after his father was killed, the teenager’s life was cut short by the same hand, in the same fashion. According to the boy’s grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, Abdulrahman and his 17-year-old Yemeni cousin were outside preparing for a barbeque when the pair, along with nine others, were struck down by a predator drone missile. Initial reports described the Denver-born teen as a “militant in his twenties” — an “Al Qaeda fighter.” While reports of his age have been proven false with the emergence of the child’s birth certificate, the allegations of his involvement in terrorism — allegations which his family has called “nonsense” — have not been substantiated. As in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the secrecy that shrouds these military operations prevents officials within the administration from discussing the attacks in detail. It remains unclear whether Abdulrahman was specifically targeted for assassination like his father, or if he was merely a victim of “collateral damage.” What is clear, however, is that this 16-year-old child has become the third American citizen in the last two months to fall victim to a foreign policy

of murder, as directed by the president of the United States. Some have argued that the real reason for these targeted assassinations was simply a matter of convenience. After all, as an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki could not be tried at a military tribunal, but rather would face a civilian court, just like you or I. Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times quotes an unnamed former military intelligence officer who states, “I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court.” Scarborough goes on to list other “inconveniences” of a criminal trial in civilian court, such as having to read the accused his Miranda rights, giving him access to an attorney, and avoiding the use of “tough interrogation tactics” (i.e. torture). Of course, the same logic used to justify the circumvention of a trial in this case could be applied to hordes of high profile murder suspects or any run-of-themill criminal who may have been caught red-handed. It would certainly be much easier, efficient, and perhaps even prudent to avoid the difficulties of a trial and just hand them over for sentencing — even execution. There is no doubt that a constitutional republic with strict adherence to the rule of law is difficult to maintain. This has been the allure of dictatorships throughout history. As George W. Bush said during a speech in 2000, “If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” While few in this country mourn the loss of Awlaki as an individual — an alleged high ranking member of Al Qaeda, reportedly linked to several terrorist attacks — many do, however, lament the death of a principle. The ACLU, who unsuccessfully petitioned the government to represent Awlaki when it was learned his name was among those the president planned to kill, has condemned the action and filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the legal basis for these attacks. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a Republican

presidential candidate, called the strikes “an outrage and a criminal act carried out by the President and his administration.” He went on to say, “if the American people accept this blindly and casually that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys. I think it’s sad.” The implications of the actions that have occurred under the “presidential assassination program” are truly astounding. When citizens of a country can be tried, judged, and sentenced to execution by a small panel of men, answerable only to the president, it would be called a tyranny in any other place in the world. When it happens in America, however, it’s called part of the Global War on Terror, or even more euphemistically, the “Overseas Contingency Operation.” There was a time, not so long ago, when one could not watch the nightly news or open the pages of The New York Times without being exposed to words like “torture” or “water boarding” on a regular basis, due in large part to a very vocal dissenting minority. During the Bush years, much fuss was made over the violations at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the treatment of prisoners and suspected terrorists. Public outrage over the blatant disregard for due process seemed to reach a fevered pitch during Bush’s second term in office and the escalation of the “war on terror” — outrage that was then appeased with his departure. Since then, the anti-war left appears to have been pacified, effectively silenced with the election of a Democrat who championed an anti-war, anti-torture platform during his successful campaign. What have not been pacified, however, are Washington’s appetite for war in the Middle East and the desire for a domestic police state. While the esoteric “War on Terror” slogan has been dropped by the current administration, the secretive and destructive nature of our nation’s foreign policy has not. Where Bush stretched the fabric of the Constitution through rendition and “enhanced interrogation,” President Obama has ripped it apart by ordering the deaths of American citizens. The president then flaunts his exalted authority by citing that he need not even explain why. Our dear leader has decided they were bad men who needed to die, and that should be good enough for us all. ◆ LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

13


About Work

Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

A five-question survey

Employee (s): Valeria Vega / Chris Contreras Employer: Caffe Dolce Position: Owners/Chefs Courtesy photo

Start Date: September 2010

San Ygnacio Senior Citizen Nutrition Center dedicated Gabriel Villarreal IV, Anna Silva, Wally and Gloria Gonzalez, Diana Villareal and Zapata County Precinct 2 Commissioner Gabriel Villarreal are pictured at the dedication of the new nutrition center in San Ygnacio.

Q: What brought you to this job? A: After living in Austin, we were excited to bring our experiences and fun to our hometown. Q: What part of yourself do you bring to the job everyday? A: We are so passionate about our jobs that we bring our experience from the food industry to provide excellent customer service and tasty cuisine. Q: Is there prestige or pride in your work? A: Most people that walk into the cafe have done so because someone or other has recommended us to them. It absolutely makes us very proud to have a place people enjoy and visit frequently, whether it be for a cupcake or a sandwich. Prestige or pride? We have both! Q: Tell us something about your job that would surprise people. A: We have an INCREDIBLY small kitchen but BIG dreams! Q: Are there new hires in your career ? A: When the going is good, the food industry always needs new hires.

14

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Veterans Day

In gratitude of my father, a veteran

V

eterans Day. I had the idea for several years now — honoring my father Pedro Castañeda Sr. with a special ad in the daily newspaper. I saw the announcement and deadline but missed it several times. My father was not much for publicity or showiness. He dismissed the idea when I pointed out how many veterans there were in Laredo, and how people should remember and honor them for their service in the war. “We know who we are and why we were there” was as much as I got when the subject was brought up. He would never talk much about the war. When my brothers and I were growing up, and after he had a few beers, he would bring out his honorable discharge papers, his Silver Star, Purple Heart, and Marksmanship medals and tell us what they meant, but precious little about the war itself. He was very proud of having served in the 84th Division, U.S. Army, 334th Regiment (Railsplitters). He let slip some details over the years, like how we lived in Louisiana while he was in boot camp at Fort LeJeune. But the stories were more about my mom and me in camp, at the commissary, going into town on the bus. He spoke of being shipped by train to New York and boarding a huge ship to go overseas, and how my mom and I came back to Laredo. He remembered going up a huge inclined ramp to the ship, meeting a sergeant at the top who would bark the men’s last names, and the men responding with their first names. He told of men getting sick on the trip, how he played poker and dice, and how he sold his supply of cigarettes to send the money home. My father landed in England and marched into Germany. His big impression of leaving England was that the men had gotten real bullets. That was when the butterflies began. In Germany they joined men already in combat. His company would fight all night, then suddenly and quietly got picked up. They climbed on trucks with their lights off to go and rest, only to be picked up again and taken to the front at the Ruhr river. This was most of December. Word spread that the Germans had issued an ultimatum to the Allies: “Surrender or die!” They all whooped when WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

General McAuliffe had answered, “Nuts!” Suddenly and hurriedly, the troops were loaded into trucks and moved away from the front. Rumor was that they were going to a rest camp in Holland. However, they traveled for two days, and the men began to wonder. They were finally told that the Germans were preparing for one last offensive effort while retreating. They kept traveling and suddenly heard the rat-atat of gunfire and explosions of bombs. The sounds kept getting louder and nearer until the convoy stopped and the men were let out onto fields of snow — everything was white! My dad’s lieutenant explained that all troops available were being sent to hold and overpower what seemed Pictured in this black-and-white photo, dated cirto be the Germans’ last desperca 1944, is a young Pedro Castañeda Sr., who ate push. The skies were overby the war’s end had been conferred the Silver cast and full of snow, so the Air Star and Purple Heart. Force could not come in to help. German troops were suited for the weather, with white clothing and Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, instructing the hoods, snowshoes, gloves, and skis. men to view the concentration camps to see The GI, meanwhile, had regular brown why they were fighting the Germans, what combat uniforms that contrasted starkly atrocities were committed (“So some S-Oagainst the white snow. Dad remembered B doesn’t say later that it never happened,” falling to the ground after hearing “in- Dad said in his best General Ike voice), and coming,” and actually getting frozen to why we needed to prevent them everythe ground. Apparently five Panzer tanks where. My dad cried and sobbed as he told had broken through, spurring a frenzy of this part. There was an awkward silence. fire. Dry socks, boots, and gloves were at I put my hand on his shoulder and cried a premium, and soldiers would dry them with him. in small fires at any break they had. GerMost of these remembrances came after man soldiers would put on the uniforms of Veterans Day celebrations, after being indead GI and try to get away. vited to a school during Veterans Day, or on Christmas was postponed — nobody a chance meeting with a fellow veteran at had the spirit for it, even though the men the mall or McDonald’s. We would remind shouted “Merry Christmas” up and down him how proud and grateful America was the infantry line. Suddenly, and miracu- of all its veterans, and how proud we were lously, as many men repeated “Merry for his personal sacrifice and service. Christmas,” the skies cleared on the mornMy mom mostly saw the sacrifice and ing of January 1, 1945. The sun came out constant fear of any harm to my dad. She brilliantly, and my dad immediately heard remembered that news from overseas was the drone of planes as they silhouetted the not as forthcoming as it was during the skies and commenced bombing. Spontane- Vietnam War. She would rely on letters ous cheers and tears broke out as the GIs and her nightly rosary to pull her through. saw the ribbons of bombs falling on the en- She would say she had her hands too full emy. Nobody immediately thought of the with me to stop for long and worry about war being over or going home — they just dad, but she would always get teary-eyed wanted to rest and eat a hot meal. and sobbed when she said this. The word came down from General I recently took out an advertisement in Courtesy of the Castañeda family

By DR. PEDRO CASTANEDA JR. Special to LareDOS

the local daily for Veterans Day with my dad’s picture in his master sergeant’s uniform, stating our family’s gratitude for his service. I had been considering this for several years but would hesitate for fear of his reaction. It came out on a Tuesday morning. During the day, I got phone calls from friends and family and remarks from my patients’ parents, but nothing from dad. One man called and said he had recognized the Railsplitter insignia and said he served with dad. A lady told me her husband, who was now deceased, had mentioned dad’s name along with others from Laredo. Late in the day, dad called. He had not seen the newspaper, but friends he walked with at the mall had mentioned it. “Thank you very much, hijo. That was very nice of you — thank you,” he said. I thought it was terse, but I was not expecting thanks. I merely wanted to honor him and give thanks for his helping to secure our freedom, which allowed my brothers and I to study, live, and work freely. Later in the week, as we were having lunch, he told me of the many people who had congratulated him for his service and his three sons’ message. He also felt that some remarks were tongue in cheek, like, ”Congratulations, I heard you won the war by yourself,” or “ I heard Ike would regularly call you to consult you.” Jealousy, I explained. People who admired him were jealous of his service and family life. I do not think that he fully grasped the enormity of his service, even more than 60 years after the war. Maybe from repressing thoughts for so long, or maybe when you are 20 years old, you see and feel things differently. Maybe he just saw it as a job he had to do to preserve and continue his way of life for his family and country. I know that I am supremely proud of him and forever grateful for his and mom’s sacrifice. My dad made me promise that I would have “Taps” played at his funeral. Unfortunately, that happened suddenly on June 24, 2010, when he died at home. Experiencing and hearing the 21-gun salute and “Taps,” and standing at attention re-enforced my pride in my dad — not just as a veteran but as the real father and friend he was. Thanks, Dad! (Dr. Pedro Castañeda Jr. is a pediatrician who practices at 1003 Garfield Street. Contact him at (956) 724-7181 or at babydocpcj@sbcglobal.net.) ◆ LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

15


Military Appreciation Day Nov. 12, 2011 El Metro Park & Ride

16

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

17


Parents, for more information see the principal of your child’s school or call the executive directors of elementary education and secondary education, respectively. The main number for the District’s Curriculum and Instruction Department is (956) 473-2000. 18

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

Convention and Visitors Bureau staff unveils redesigned website, mobile version

T

BY CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

he official face of Laredo tourism has been revamped. The Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB) unveiled a newly designed website on Wednesday, November 9 at the Laredo Center for the Arts. The website has been in the works since July of this year, though the proposal for a new website dates back to a year ago, according to LCVB director Blasita Lopez. “It took a while to really hone it, and bring it to a point where we could feel proud of it, we could feel excited about it, and we could get it to a point where everybody in our office was satisfied from an internal standpoint,” Lopez said. The new website, which is available in both English and Spanish, contains a new and improved event calendar, which will work through Google Calendar and allow

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

users to add events to their own calendar. “They’re going to be able to go to an interactive Google map, which will help them navigate the city just in general [and] they’re going to be able to see how to get into the city, because as you know, we’re a mainly drive-in market,” Lopez said, noting the limited flights at the airport. The website also features maps of the city, information about meeting facilities, a visitor guide, suggestions for dining, shopping, and family entertainment, a relocation guide, photo gallery that showcases Laredo, and itinerary ideas “We didn’t put together itinerary packages like that before, so it kind of gives you an idea of where to go on a particular day when you want to hit the streets of Lare-

do,” Lopez said. Another modern feature the LCVB unveiled was the website’s mobile version, which can be accessed from any smartphone and offers directions to Laredo, city maps, accom modat ion information, contact information, and a mobile version of the events calendar. Both versions of the site also bolster the LCVB’s social media pages on Facebook, Spanish- and Englishlanguage Twitter, and YouTube. “It’ll be wonderful for us to have that complete package, and that complete mobile device presence and the desktop presence,” Lopez said. Lopez said the LCVB has also created its own blog (seeyouinlaredo.blogspot.com/) which offers more “conversational,” casual

Go to

visitlaredo.com

tips and information about Laredo. Lopez added that she is also hoping to capture the attention of youth, while providing an easily navigatable website for everybody. The site receives an average of 7,500 visitors a month, according to the LCVB. “It really shows the better side of Laredo; the one that isn’t shown,” said Jesus Lara, an intern with the LCVB and student at United South High School’s Academy of Global Business and Advanced Technology. “For example, A&E’s Bordertown: Laredo — I don’t think that gives a full view of Laredo. This shows Laredo and two wonderful cultures coming together to make one.” Lara added that the website is “really versatile as well, because you can use it on your desktop or on your mobile device.” The new website was designed and developed by a third-party contractor, KGBTexas, which is a public relations firm based in San Antonio. ◆

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

19


Under the Middle Eastern Star

I

By MAJOR LUIS TINAJERO

t had been a whole two hours since the small group of leaders had landed on my side of Afghanistan. They had flown in from the States with the key purpose of gathering information about their next assignment, and serving as a survey group for their unit, which is scheduled to replace ours. The time was well past 2000 — 8:00 p.m. for all you civilians, and these weary travelers were at this point evidently anxious, jet-lagged, and starving. Since I was the project officer for this reception it was incumbent upon me to ensure that they were fed before being bunkered down for the night. My initial plan was to take them to either Applebee’s or Texas Road House, but since I am deployed in an area of the world at least 200 years back in time, there is no Applebee’s or Texas Road House anywhere in Afghanistan! The best we have here are the contracted dining facilities

20

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

The eyes under the table with somewhat of a semblance of an American menu. The good thing is that on any given day you have two choices of entrees: bad or worse! We arrived at one of the finer establishments just 10 minutes shy of its scheduled shut down for the day, and my guests were apparently skeptical of what was being offered to them by a motley crew of what are known as Third Country National’s (TCN’s) who are employed as part of the strategy to support the local economy. It took them close to 20 minutes to maneuver around their new surroundings and finally gather as a group at one of the areas of the facility. There was soon lots of small talk and comedic facial expressions as the travelers poked, sniffed, and taste tested the servings they had on their cheap plastic plates and their even cheaper plastic forks and knives. As we struggled with and over what

was for dinner, a young female Captain that was part of this visiting team commented on how things seemed so different here compared to Iraq where she had previously served. As I sat across the table listening to her observations, trying to bite into a piece of “food” that looked like meat (I assumed), the way too familiar sound of the alarm warning of an incoming rocket, usually a 107 mm piece of metal designed to cut a vehicle in half, wailed across the facility, prompting us to hit the dirty floor as all good soldiers who wish to stay alive and in one piece are supposed to do. The first eight seconds are always the worst. That is the average ‘alarm to bang time’ before you hear what gravity does to falling steel. Sometimes that crash is comfortably far away; sometimes that crash is too damn close. This time the attempt to kill us was just close enough and in the direction of my unit for me to feel both worried for my troops and ecstatic that I survived one more of almost 100 of these attacks since we arrived in this lovely place. While in the prone position and under the table for the duration of the drill, I looked across the floor and was captivated by what I know now is the look of sheer fear and anxiety. My attention was focused on the young captain’s wide-eyed glare as she looked around trying to find her breath and wondering what was next. She looked like she want-

ed to get up and run away from this place, but couldn’t even find the strength to move any part of her body except her head. This was the sole rocket that came in that night and, even though God was watching his favored Army, it definitely had the effect intended; messing with the psychological and emotional core of those on the receiving end. 22 years of service have proven to me that the American soldier is truly the best and most lethal fighter in the world. We are true survivors capable of accomplishing astonishing feats in the most austere conditions imaginable. But survival is an operative construct dependent on maturity level, training, mindset, and religious ideology. All the aforementioned protect the mind against the psychological and emotional trauma experienced every single time the enemy attacks. Unfortunately, no matter how many times one is on the front end of an insurgent’s rocket, the eyes still snap shut, the teeth still clench, and the mind wonders where you will be in a few seconds: getting up, in pieces, or headed towards a white light. (Major Luis Tinajero writes from Afghanistan where he serves with the U.S. Army in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  Upon completion of his tour he resumes duties as Lt. Tinajero with the Laredo Police Department, where he has served for 20 years.) ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

Waiting patiently for the show Laredoans of all ages anxiously awaited the beginning of the wrestling matches that were one of the highlights of the South Texas Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Association’s Military Appreciation Day on November 12 at the Laredo Park and Ride.

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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

21


News & Commentary

The Anonymous Teacher

Lost in the headlines: biggest jump in global warming gases — ever BY TOM ENGELHARDT Alternet.org

W

Peter Grima / Flickr

hat's the biggest story of the last several weeks? Rick Perry’s moment of silence, all 53 seconds' worth? The Penn State riots after revered coach Joe Paterno went down in a child sex abuse scandal? The Kardashian wedding/divorce? The European debt crisis that could throw the world economy into a tailspin? The Cain sexual harassment charges? The trial of Michael Jackson’s doctor? The answer should be none of the above, even though as a group they’ve dominated the October/November headlines. In fact, the piece of the week, month, and arguably year should have been one that slipped by so quietly, so off frontpages nationwide and out of news leads everywhere that you undoubtedly didn’t even notice. And yet it’s the story that could turn your life and that of your children and grandchildren inside out and upside down. On the face of it, it wasn’t anything to shout about — just more stats in a world drowning in numbers. These happen to have been put out by the U.S. Department of Energy and they reflected, as an Associated Press headline put it, the “biggest jump ever seen in global warming gases.” In other words, in 2010, humanity (with a special bow to China, the United States, and onrushing India) managed to pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than at any time since the industrial revolution began — 564 million more tons than in 2009, which represents an increase of 6 percent. According to the AP’s Seth Borenstein, that’s “higher than the worst case scenario outlined by climate experts just four years ago.” He’s talking about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which is, if anything, considered "conservative" in its projections of future catastrophe by many climate scientists. Put another way, we’re talking more greenhouse gases than have entered the Earth’s atmosphere in tens of millions of years. Consider as well the prediction offered

22

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

by Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency: Without an effective international agreement to staunch greenhouse gases within five years, the door will close on preventing a potentially disastrous rise in the planet’s temperature. You’re talking, that is, about the kind of freaky weather that will make October’s bizarre snowstorm in the Northeast look like a walk in the park. (That storm had all the signs of a climate-changeinduced bit of extreme weather: New York City hadn’t recorded an October snowfall like it since the Civil War, and it managed to hit the region in a period of ongoing warmth when the trees hadn’t yet had the decency to lose their leaves, producing a chaos of downed electrical wires.) And don’t get me started on what this would mean in terms of future planetary hot spells or sea-level rise. Honestly, if we were sane, if the media had its head in the right place, this would have been screaming headlines. It would have put Rick Perry and Herman Cain and the Kardashians and Italy and Greece and Michael Jackson’s doctor in the shade. The only good news — and because it unsettled the politics of the 2012 election, it did garner a few headlines — was that the movement Bill McKibben and 350.org spearheaded to turn back the tar-sands pipeline from Hades (or its earthly globalwarming equivalent, which is Alberta, Canada) gained traction in our Occupy Wall Street moment. Check out McKibben’s account of it, “Puncturing the Pipeline,” and think of it as a harbinger. Mark my words on this one: Sooner or later, Americans are going to wake up to climate change, just as they have this year on the issue of inequality, and when they do, watch out. There will be political hell to pay. (Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), will be published in November.) ◆

F

Learning to learn: preparing our students for the future

ront and center on newspaper after newspaper are articles highlighting the failure of U. S. students. They aren’t ready for college. They can’t score high enough on SAT’s and other standardized tests. They rank low worldwide in math, reading, and science. And the blame immediately falls onto teachers. Lawmakers and education officials add more tests and regulations in an attempt to improve education, but scores have been steadily dropping. Teachers spend more time filling out paperwork and analyzing data, but less time teaching. Everyone has the same goal – to adequately prepare students for college, careers, and life. But the strategies are not working. Good intentions don’t always solve problems. More often than not, good intentions pave the way to hell, not higher education. What is needed is a realistic look at today’s student. Texting while listening to the thousands of songs saved on that same smartphone and ignoring the droning of the teacher, the 2011 student simply does not have the time or desire to learn. School is a social event and the classroom a place to catch up on sleep missed the night before. Homework is ignored and teachers, on an increasingly limited budget, are chastised for not engaging students. The question arises: How do you engage students who do not have the attention, time, respect for education, or social skills necessary to learn? Before learning advanced calculus, physics or accounting, students need to learn how to learn. It sounds almost redundant, but this vital skill has all but disappeared in our society, due to increased demands on our time and constant distractions. I cannot drive a car if I have not learned how to start it. We need to teach our students how to start their engines so they can be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their own education. Start with respect for education. I’m not saying parents and students should never question a teacher or a school. Education is not one person or one student. It is learning and can occur anywhere and everywhere. More and more, parents are demanding a grade without demanding quality work from their children. Students drop classes

that might help their education but harm their GPA. Colleges have discovered that A+ students often need remedial classes in order to meet minimal standards. Recently teachers in Taiwan, whose math scores rank among the highest in the world, were asked what they did with students who misbehaved or did not do their school work. Their response was that they never had those situations. Students were eager to learn and had been taught the value of an education by their parents and family members. To become successful, our students first have to want to learn. With communication often occurring through technology, today’s student does not have as many opportunities to learn basic social skills. Although this may seem trivial, try doing a group project with students who have not learned the give and take of face-to-face interaction. Any person who has had to work closely with a fellow employee who doesn’t know how to “play nice” understands how difficult that can be, and how damaging to the entire project. If a high school student learns how to behave in the classroom, he won’t get kicked out of a college class because of talking, texting, or tardiness. Because of instant communication, fast-paced video games, and non-use, our attention span has dropped off severely. This is not a defect; it is simply a skill that has not been properly developed. Just as an athlete needs to build up physical stamina, an academic needs to build up mental stamina. Multitasking, frequent interruptions, and lack of practice have led to an inability to concentrate on longer standardized tests or to read an entire novel for class. This skill can be developed by learning to focus on one thing at a time, increasing the length of that focus every day. Just as an athlete does not run a marathon on the first day of practice, an academic does not ace the SAT the first time he sees one, but with practice, both are possible. If you think a student is unable to concentrate on one thing for long periods of time, watch how long he can play a video game without moving. It takes effort and some time to develop these skills, and most students, parents, and even educators will exclaim they don’t Continued on page 45

44

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


News

Loving Laredo hikes emphasize environmental stewardship aredoans are experiencing a different side of the city with the monthly Loving Laredo Hike Series, sponsored by the Rio Grande International Study Center (RGISC). This month, RGISC converted their hike into a clean-up of the Chacon Creek Trail in partnership with the Texas National Guard and the City of Laredo. The next hike will take place on Saturday, December 17, with time and location to be announced at a later date. “The trails belong to all of us — every single one of us,” said RGISC director Tricia Cortez, who usually manages the hike series. “Whether the trails are natural or built by the city, they are meant for us to enjoy and actively use.” RGISC has hosted four hikes since July of this year, including a special fifth expedition to search for wolf spiders and scorpions during the Halloween night hike on October 22. “Before we started these hikes [in late July], I was not familiar with the creeks, the river, and all of these nature trails,” Cortez said. “It has been an incredible learning experience.” The hikes usually last from two to two hours.

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

Besides bringing along curiosity and desire to learn, Cortez said hikers should plan to bring the following:

• Water • Sunscreen and hat (sunglasses OK) • Appropriate dress — no street clothes, street shoes, or purses • Tennis shoes or hiking shoes and long pants, and long-sleeve cotton shirt encouraged • Small rucksack or fanny pack to dispose of your trash. (“We encourage reusable water bottles. Otherwise, we will recycle empty plastic bottles after the hike.”) • Binoculars encouraged to see migrating birds Cortez said the hikes, which usually occur on the last Saturday of each month, have no strict age limit, but the group does encourage people 12 and up to join. “I hope that these hikes will give people a chance to do something different on a Saturday morning, relax, get some exercise, and come into closer contact with the plants, birds, and other wildlife that depend on the river just as much as we do,” Cortez said. For more information about the hikes, contact RGISC at (956) 718-1063 or rgisc@rgisc.org. ◆

Courtesy of RGISC

L

BY CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

Local horticulturist Tony Ramirez displays a cactus plant to fellow hikers during the Loving Laredo hike at Bob Martin Ranch on Saturday, October 15.

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

23


Feature

Conference draws UFO experts and the curious

E

By CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

xperts, believers, skeptics, and those who were just plain curious congregated at TAMIU’s Fine and Performing Arts Recital Hall to discuss stories and theories related to UFOs, or Unidentified Flying Objects. The first Laredo UFO Conference, presented by the Webb County Heritage Foundation, went on all day Saturday, November 5, and concluded with a talk by former Arizona logger Travis Walton, whose story is considered one of the bestknown — and even most credible — cases of supposed alien abduction. “We can actually make the connection between space exploration and exploration here on planet Earth,” said WCHF director Margarita Araiza, who explained how the conference was connected to the foundation’s goal of documenting human history. “The idea of traveling to other places and other worlds is part of human history, and space exploration is an extension of exploration on planet Earth.” Presentations at the conference included Ismael Cuellar of the Laredo Paranormal Research Society, three lectures by UFO author Noe Torres, and a showing of Fire in the Sky, which tells the story of alleged alien abductee Travis Walton. The movie was later followed by a talk by Walton himself. The conference concluded with book-signing session with Walton and Torres. Some conference-goers came to reinforce their belief in extraterrestrial life, while others still wonder if life does exist beyond the realm of Earth. “I’m very intrigued by all this. There’s a part of me that wants to believe, but I’m not really too sure if it’s actually real,” said LCC student Juan Salinas. Webb County Attorney Anna Laura Cavazos Ramirez also attended the conference. “I’m a believer. Yes, absolutely,” she said, adding that she did not know about the 1948 UFO incident in Laredo before this conference and was thrilled to learn about it. What follows is a wrap-up of all the presentations at the UFO Conference. Laredo Paranormal Research Society LPRS’ Ismael Cuellar started off the conference with his presentation of UFO footage taken with an improvised high-power telescope. Cuellar and the crew captured hours of footage with “unexplained lights” using infrared cameras. The group displayed how infrared light

24

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

Alleged alien abductee Travis Walton cannot be seen by the human eye by flashing invisible infrared lights at different spots in the theater and displaying the image of the theater on a the large white screen in the front. The group captures these images with a sophisticated, government-issued monocular attached to a camera. “We don’t know if this is military, natural phenomena, or exploration,” Cuellar told conference-goers. “How we started these investigations were by pure curiosity.” Cuellar’s own first sighting occurred on September 18, 2008, in northeast Laredo late in the evening. His daughter pointed out two

Cuellar also shared the anxiety about who to tell after witnessing a UFO. “It’s very difficult to talk to a loved one about an event you can’t explain,” he said. His wife did not believe him at first, and begged him not to investigate what he saw. She knew about Cuellar’s curious, investigative spirit. But one year later, on Christmas Day 2009, Cuellar’s whole family witnessed two similar lights that eventually disappeared before their eyes. “Curiosity is the most phenomenal thing to have as humans. We have to investigate. If it wasn’t for investigations, we wouldn’t have

UFO replica created by Zertuche Construction “stars” in the sky. Cuellar, who has been an avid astronomy enthusiast for 20 years, saw the two lights — one bigger and brighter than the other — and checked his star map. Right after Cuellar told his daughter that those stars were not supposed to be in the night sky, the lights disappeared.

medicine, men on the moon, cell phones, microwaves, cars — a lot of things. Curiosity is good.” Cuellar said. The audience was astonished by a series of videos LPRS captured with their improvised camera — a plane with Federal Aviation Administration lights and the engine sounds,

night video of birds, then of a UFO that had no propulsion system, no FAA lights, and no engine sounds. The mystery light glided effortlessly and silently in the night sky, almost like a laser. One of the most startling videos was the “ghost car” lights, which showed a light that split into two lights, and glided through the clouds like headlights through dense fog. LPRS plans to do public UFO hunts in the near future. For more information, contact the group at laredoparanormal@hotmail.com. Noe Torres, UFO author Torres conducted the bulk of the conference, with three presentations, each on a book or article he had written. Torres is recognizable for his appearance on the History Channel’s UFO Hunters, along with his definitive Ultimate Guide to the Roswell UFO Crash, published in 2010. He is also the state section director of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) for South Texas. “In the past few weeks, Laredo has been kind of a hotspot for UFOs. There have been several sightings here that we have collected data on,” Torres said. His first presentation was called “Fallen Angel: UFO Crash near Laredo, Texas,” which detailed the story of an alleged UFO spacecraft that was chased by a U.S. military aircraft until it crashed 30 miles south of Laredo on July 7, 1948, exactly one year after the world-famous Roswell UFO incident in 1947. Torres wrote the Wikipedia page for case, entitled “Laredo, Texas UFO Crash.” The case is especially notable because of a supposed “non-human entity” that was recovered from the wreckage. Torres said the case is one of the lesser-known cases in UFO crash retrievals. “Although it’s not nearly as known as the [Roswell case], it has attracted attention historically over the years,” Torres said. Torres brought in an article published in Texas Monthly back in 2006, which stated that government agents near Laredo allegedly recovered an extremely short being with unusually long arms. The second presentation’s title, “The Real Cowboys & Aliens: UFO Encounters of the Old West,” took its inspiration from the Jon Favreau film earlier this year, Cowboys and Aliens. Torres criticized the film for perpetuating the stereotype of violent alien beings, and the general campiness of the production. Torres and co-author John LeMay, a historian who lives in Roswell, then posed a question to Hollywood: If you’re going to make a Continued on NEXT page4 4 WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


big-budget movie about extraterrestrial contact with the Wild West, can’t you at least get it right? “These happened at a time when there were no aircraft. Nowadays we are so accustomed to seeing planes flying overhead … In the 1800s, there were no spacecraft or airplanes. Nothing in the sky but birds,” Torres said. “When people looked up and saw a disc with a spotlight, or shining multiple spotlights to the ground, that was obviously something that can’t be explained away very easily.” Torres’ last presentation, “1955 UFO Crash on the Texas-Mexico Border,” offered the audience recordings of a real-life Colonel Robert Willingham, a decorated officer who chased an object “bright as a star” until it crashed on the Mexican side of the Río Grande near Del Rio. Willingham, now in his 80s, spoke openly about his experience with Torres in a series of tapes recorded at his home in Archer City, near Ft. Worth. He said that when he landed near the crash site, Mexican soldiers were guarding the wreckage. Willingham was able to take a piece of metal from the site, which “looked like it was made out of stainless steel, but it

had a yellow tint to it and holes on the side of it.” He said nothing he tried could destruct the metal. Willingham said that while he was mostly not allowed near the wreckage, he “snuck around there” and got a glance inside the cockpit. He claims there were three Continued on page 52

44

Opinion

San Ygnacio, let’s stop the proposed oil-field waste dump on Texas FM 3169

T

exas Energy has submitted an application to the Texas Railroad Commission for a five-year permit to develop a land-farm dump at its existing Farm to Market 3169 (Aguilares Road) salt water disposal site. The proposed dump will accept volumes of Eagle Ford Shale oilfield waste, including drilling mud laced with diesel, crude oil, and pit sludges. The operation will generate increased traffic of 18-wheel dump trucks through San Ygnacio and on Texas Farm to Market 3169. The 72.5-acre site owned by the C.C. Forbes Company backs up to Valle Verde subdivision and is six-tenths of a mile from the historic town site of San Ygnacio. Per Railroad Commission (RRC) rules, land farms such as the proposed Texas Energy dump apply waste directly to the soil in layers about 4 inches thick and then rake and till it into the soil. Though the Texas Energy permit states that land surrounding the proposed dump is not productive agricultural land, there are numerous cattle raisers in proximity who would argue

otherwise, as would nearby hay raisers and farmers. Like RRC-permitted dumps operating in Bustamante, this proposed land farm has the potential to allow the powerful chemical brew of BETX, volatile organic chemical compounds and hydrocarbons found in oil and diesel — Benzene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene, and Xylene — into the soil and the air, and in a heavy rainfall as runoff into the Río Grande. El Grullo Creek runs through the extant salt-water disposal facility at the site, crosses U.S. Highway 83 just north of San Ygnacio, and makes its way to the Río Grande above the intake for San Ygnacio’s municipal water supply. There are two protests on file to the proposed Texas Energy dump — one filed by attorney Donato Ramos on behalf of landowner Belia Benavides, and the other in the form of a resolution passed by the Zapata County Commissioners Court on January 10, 2011. The resolution cites opposition based on health detriments, visual unsightliness, and foul odors.

— Maria Eugenia Guerra

If you would like to write a letter of protest, you may do so to:

Jill Hybner, Manager Environmental Permits and Support Section Railroad Commission of Texas P.O. Box 12967-2967 Austin, Texas 78711-2967

Ismael Cuellar, Laredo Paranormal Reasearch Society

Make reference to:

Commercial Surface Facility Permit Application Texas Energy Services, LP Zapata County Facility RRC District 04

If you would like a copy of a sample protest letter to mail in to the Railroad Commission, please email me at meg@laredosnews.com or call our offices at (956) 791-9950.

Our new website is still under construction. Please see this issue online at www.laredosnews.com Noe Torres, MUFON Section director

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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

25


News & Commentary

TAMIU talk focuses on challenges for Hispanic writers

P

BY IRMA CANTU LareDOS Contributor

rofessors, students and the general public gathered at TAMIU’s Western Hemispheric Trade Center on November 10 to enjoy a literary conference, “Crossing Cultures: Hispanic Authors and the Challenges They Overcame in the United States,” presented by Dr. Rhina Toruño-Haensly. A Salvadorian native who holds two doctoral degrees and currently teaches at the University of Texas-Permian Basin, Dr. Toruño spoke of her experience interviewing five Latino writers and their struggles to make their voices heard in the United States. The interviews are collected in a book of the same title. Dr. Toruño’s approach to the subject drew her audience into her lecture —particularly students — stressing the importance of education in liberal arts as a way to achieve a better life. The majority of the authors came from humble backgrounds and overcame language

26

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

barriers. Through education and discipline, they made their voices heard in their communities, contributed to society, and help improve the lives of others. The first author discussed was Mario Bencastro, a writer of the Salvadorian Civil War. A central figure in his narratives is Monsignor Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980 for his political involvement in the conflict and for being a champion of the underprivileged and the poor. Bencastro’s most recent novel, Odyssey of the North (1998), concentrates on the struggles of immigrants and refugees heading north in order to escape war. Aristeo Brito is a well known Chicano writer who uses Spanish, English, and Chicano Spanish to unveil different realities and levels of awareness in The Devil in Texas (1990). Through legends, folklore, and oral history, Brito weaves the struggles of the oppressed and exploited agrarian community of Presidio, Texas, through three historic periods and four generations of the Uranga family. Greed personified, the devil swings back and forth

between Presidio and Ojinaga across the border in Mexico and savors the betrayals and violent deaths that choke Presidio’s history. Dr. Toruño pointed out that this novel was not well received by the Presidio establishment despite being the recipient of the 1990 Western States Book Award for fiction. Inspired by the fall of the Berlin Wall, Rolando J. Díaz’ Tales from the Tortilla Curtain and Other Stories (2007) unfolds a series of stories in which a future wall between Mexico and the United States will become a reality. He forecasts its terrible consequences in the lives of fronterizos, Mexican-Americans, Mexican nationals, and Americans. Professor Toruño stressed that Diaz’ narrative functions as a cautionary tale for politicians and supporters of this onerous but unfortunately popular idea. Graciela Limón is a Mexican-American author living in Los Angeles. In the early ‘80s she came in contact with the realities of the Salvadoran civil war through her Catholic community. Her church was providing basic needs and care to the refugees. She was moved by their tragedies and decided to make their

voices heard through her writings. Based on their memories, her novel In Search of Bernabé (1993) narrates the impact on refugees’ lives through the years. Demetria Martinez’ novel Mother Tongue (1997) was the result of her experiences also with Salvadorian refugees. Her story began when as a journalist, she joined a Lutheran minister who helped two pregnant Salvadoran women trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. She was not a collaborator in the border crossing, but an eyewitness of this process. Nevertheless, Demetria Martinez was indicted for helping undocumented people enter the country illegally. The possibility of 25 years in prison and $1 million in fines awoke the Hispanic writers’ community of the country, and different activists protested until the charges against her were dropped after they were found to violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Dr. Toruño’s appearance at TAMIU was courtesy of Dr. Manuel Jovel and Mrs. Marcia Jovel. ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

27


The colors of autumn

Cristina Herrera/LareDOS Staff

This piùata-like piece of art currently hangs outside the Laredo Center for the Arts along with several others that were originally sent out a few years ago as blank shells for students from private schools and both school districts to decorate. The piùatas were originally decorated and sold as part of Navidad Fest, but now the center has the pieces that did not originally sell on display for the holidays. Art enthusiasts are welcome to purchase the pieces by calling the center at (956) 725-1715. All proceeds benefit the center. — Cristina Herrera

28

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

29


News Brief

RGISC, National Guard, city, and volunteers undertake major cleanup of Chacon Creek and trail

T

Commander José Perez, Sgt. Adolfo Gonzalez Jr. spearheaded the effort. fore, during, and after deployment to Afghanistan in 2007 — asked his father, Martin High School ROTC instructor Adolfo (Popo) Gonzalez, a four-decade Guardsman, his ideas for such a project. The degraded condition of Chacon Creek came to mind as Gonzalez Sr. recalled his firsthand observation of the condition of Chacon Creek on a recent hike with MHS ROTC cadets. After RGISC president Fabiola Flores

and National Guard Cmdr. Perez went before City Council on November 7 to discuss their intent for the Chacon cleanup, the city joined the effort. “Eventually every drop of every toxin dumped into Chacon Creek makes its way into the Río Grande,” Cortez said, adding that every imaginable non-biodegradable plastic container could be found in the creek and on its banks, including oil and auto fluid containers.

Courtesy of Astrid Hinojosa

Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

he Rio Grande International Study Center (RGISC), in partnership with 55 members of the 436th Chemical Company of the National Guard, a crew of 50 volunteers, and a handful of City of Laredo administrators and employees undertook a massive cleanup of the Chacon Hike and Bike Trail on Sunday, Nov. 20. In addition to manpower, the 436th provided winch-equipped Humvees to pull and haul debris and tires from the banks of Chacon Creek, a tributary to the Río Grande. The idea for the cleanup took root in a Loving Laredo Hike sponsored by RGISC on August 27, according to Tricia Cortez, the organization’s executive director. “We found that this beautiful, natural waterway and trail was literally dammed with trash, tires, pallets, shopping carts, and other debris. It’s heartbreaking to see something of such recreational potential marred by unfettered illegal dumping and neglect,” Cortez said. “In many places Chacon Creek is so choked with debris that it does not flow,” she added. National Guardsman SFC Adolfo Gonzalez Jr. — recently instructed by his commander José A. Perez to find a meaningful project that would return to Laredo what the community had shown in support for members of the 436th be-

Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA

Volunteers and National Guardsmen at the Chacon Creek cleanup.

30

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

Environmentalist Oscar Medina IV.

The waters of Chacon Creek’s 4.5-mile channel and the small lake a quartermile from the intersection of Clark Blvd. and Loop 20 are considered waters of the United States, as are the creek and pond’s wetlands. Tires and stagnant water in the creek bed are potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry Dengue fever virus. Volunteers included local environmentalists of all ages, including Girl Scouts, a City Code Enforcement’s crew of youngsters in need of community service hours, staff members of the Environmental Services Department, and 20 members of Dr. Tom Vaughan’s TAMIU biology class. Vaughan, co-founder of the 18-year-old RGISC organization, said he hoped crews could go back to Chacon, for another pass at cleaning it. “That isn’t just flood debris from a few years ago. This creek has been a dump for sometime and in present time. There is no vigilance for illegal dumping,” he said. “The Guard’s work was impressive. Their time and effort was a gift to all of us, and we are very appreciative of their work and the opportunity to work with them,” said RGISC board member Victor Oliveros. “Commander Perez and Sgt. Gonzalez both said they would like to return to the park and the surrounding area, and maybe celebrate the Guard’s family day there,” he said. Oliveros noted that some of the volunteers were from the Chacon neighborhood and valued the recreational area’s green space. “Others, like Mr. Lacy, had grown up in El Chacon and remembered how beautiful it once was. He came here to honor that memory,” Oliveros said. “We can’t thank the members of the 436th enough, nor Mr. Gonzalez Sr.,” said Cortez. “We want to team up with them again, something they’ve let us know is possible. We owe special thanks to Lynne Nava of Keep Laredo Beautiful for bringing tools, plastic bags, gloves, and water and for spending the day staffing the cleanup. Thanks also go to former Webb County Judge Louis H. Bruni, who fed the volunteer crews,” she said. ◆ WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Feature

Knitting circle — conviviality of shared stitches and stories By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

A

Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

t 88 Bertha Sepulveda Dawson is the shaker and the mover behind the Laredo Medical Center’s weekly Senior Circle knitting and crochet group. “I can’t wait to be here with my girls,” she said, gesturing to a gathering of a dozen women whose hands move deftly to make a myriad of crocheted accessories in all the colors of the rainbow and every shade in between. There’s not an idle hand in the group, nor an idle mind. Those not incorporating yarn into what will become an article of clothing — shawls, vests, scarves, slippers, caps, and hats — are helping someone sitting nearby. Depending on their choice of yarns, techniques, and the looms they may be using — hairpin, broomstick, or tablitas (a dowel-pegged small board), they come up with a variety of patterns. Others work with a crochet hook to create expanses of yarn that will become mufflers or squares for afghans. “I started knitting when I was 12,” Dawson said. Her grandmother Juliana

Mendez taught Dawson how to turn the cotton strings from tobacco pouches into yarn that she could knit into baby shoes, potholders, and caps. “I could dye those strings into other colors and tie them together,” Dawson said. She said that when she began to read books on knitting and crochet, she learned to use looms and different hooks, expanding her repertoire to include scarves, winter caps, and shawls. Her most ambitious projects to date have been bedspreads for her four children and 13 grandchildren. Bertita, who has been knitting and crocheting for 76 years, is the circle’s goto person for instruction. Members of the group defer to her and are happy for her guidance. She came as a volunteer teacher several years ago and does not like to miss her Wednesday commitment to the group, which also meets on Mondays. “The companionship is what I enjoy,” she said of the obvious conviviality of shared stitches, life stories, and meriendas of home-baked cakes and pastries. There is among this group of women a tranquility that approaches serenity, an ambiance of hands at work, minds engaged. ◆

LMC’s Senior Circle: Knitters find conviviality in many colored yarns and great stories

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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

31


La Posada Hotel’s 50th Anniversary Oct. 20, 2011

32

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

33


Opinion

Get the blood off the drugs But it turns out many “innocent” people are susceptible to the dark side, as well.

ordertown: Laredo has shown the rest of the nation what Laredo cops are doing to fight the flow of drugs going through this city. One of the first reviews posted to the Internet, by David Hinckley of the New York Daily News, tapped into the most important message we can glean from the show: “They’re not going to ‘win’ in any big-picture sense of the term.” It is unfortunate, then, that much of the public missed out on Judge Jim P. Gray’s drug law reform symposium on Wednesday, October 26. Gray, who presides over the Superior Court of Orange County, Calif., also ran as a Libertarian in 2004 for the U.S. Senate in that state. Like our own Rep. Ron Paul, whose drug-policyreform message has certainly resonated with younger voters, Gray believes the War on Drugs is simply not winnable, and that the United States government should refocus its efforts — especially its money — on treatment and rehabilitation instead of trying and jailing drug offenders. He explains this further in his 2001 book Why Our Drug Laws have Failed and What We Can Do About It. It doesn’t take a liberal, conservative, or person of any other political persuasion to realize that the War on Drugs has become a constant failure. In this piece, I am writing under the realistic assumption that we cannot completely prevent drug use, but rather that it is a fact of life that our society must cope with.

The drug war’s real ‘winners’ Gray’s list of “winners” in the current War on Drugs included juvenile gangs, terrorists, big-time drug cartel members in the U.S. and Mexico — where some cartel members have openly proclaimed their thanks for U.S. drug policy — and more surprisingly, politicians and law enforcement. Gray explained that politicians “talk tough on drugs, but not smart.” “… From my vantage point — you can ask any judge you want to — you only have so many resources put into the criminal justice system,” Gray said. “And the tougher we get with regard to drug problems, the softer we get in regard to prosecution and everything else.” Law enforcement officials from several agencies — FBI, Border Patrol, DEA, etc. — also stand to gain billions from the government each year toward the War on Drugs. According to DrugSense.org’s “Drug Clock,” which continually measures money spent on the War on Drugs, about $36.5 billion (as of press time) has been spent on both the federal and state levels so far this year. Gray cautioned that he wasn’t against these agencies, but rather the system they worked in. One other winner Gray mentioned was the security industry, probably one of the most eye-opening pieces of information during the presentation. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association is largely considered the most powerful union in the state, Gray noted. He also brought up the flourishing private-prisons industry, which, since the 1980s, has reportedly saved money for over 30 states through privatization of the prison system. But what seemed like a good money-saving idea turned into an industry that has major political sway in Washington and receives millions in taxpayer money each year. The Corrections Corporation of America, for example, is the biggest corporate prison and detention center company in the world. According to Texas Prison Bid’ness, a blog that focuses on the state’s for-profit prison industry, private prisons employ lobbyists across the country. “CCA and The GEO Group, Inc., the two largest private prison corporations, hired 271 lobbyists in over 32 states between

B

The moral war Unfortunately, we’re stuck between two extremes — the “parent” crowd who paints drug users as bad people, and the drug users and advocates themselves, many who downplay marijuana’s potential harms. We have not found that happy medium, where we can talk openly about drugs without making anybody out to be the bad person. The bad people are those who seek to suppress education about drugs and tolerance of drug users, who tend to be, well, anybody. Yes, folks, anybody can be a drug user. Judges, police officers, teachers, students, a friend, or a family member. But if legal drugs such as nicotine and alcohol kill more than all the other drugs,

34

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

Courtesy of Charles Loving

BY CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

why are they legal in the first place? Well, we know that it isn’t realistic to expect a world clean of these two drugs. Secondly, let’s think back to 1920s/early 1930s Prohibition era, a wonderful experiment in history to which we can compare our current prohibition policies. Here again alcohol use became a moral issue, as part of the temperance movement, which labeled alcoholism as a sin. The reasons for the repeal of Prohibition sound suspiciously familiar —  the ability to bring in new revenue through taxation and regulation of alcohol, a decrease in alcohol use, and most importantly, a way decrease the violence that resulted from Prohibition. Prohibition had boosted big-time criminals, who took to bootlegging and

wielding their influence over law enforcement, which then became largely corrupt and untrustworthy. Repeal of Prohibition would essentially help quell the dangerous black market for alcohol, the anti-Prohibition crowd argued. And it did. “Prohibition never works as well as regulation and control,” as Gray told the audience. Most importantly, Gray stressed that the War on Drugs becomes a moral issues that labels all drug users as “bad people” and all non-drug users as innocents. This is simply not reasonable, and as my own grade school experience has shown, it is happening worst in our schools. Not too long ago I was watching drug addicts portrayed as sniveling villains, out to convert everybody else to the dark side.

Continued on page 41

44

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS Staff

Courtesy of La Posada Hotel/Andy Segovia Fine Art Photography

At the Dia del Río art exhibit

Rey y Reina del Sol

San Juanita Martinez, her niece Gabriela Mendoza García, and sobrinitos Sally, Alejandra, and Javier García enjoyed an evening of art and music at the opening of the art exhibit at the Laredo Center for the Arts. The exhibit, which included the work of Laredo high school students, focused on the Río Grande.

Pictured at the first-ever Streets of Laredo Masquerade Ball on Friday, October 28 are, from left to right, La Posada assistant general manager Hector “Tito” Garcia, Reina del Sol Linda La Mantia, Rey del Sol Gabriel Castillo, and Laredo Main Street Association president Cynthia Snyder. The masquerade ball was held at La Posada Hotel’s San Agustin Ballroom, and proceeds went toward Laredo Main Street.

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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

35


Occupy Wall Street

“The Occupy movement is a huge concept. At its core is the idea that government should be working for us and not against us,” she said, “I grew up poor in the barrio hearing adding, “If more Laredoans looked at what the that nothing ever changes in Laredo, that Occupy movement stands for, they would unla politica maintains the status quo. I saw derstand that we are about social justice,” she people hold back from said. “Each of us can speaking up about make a difference. injustice. I heard a lot We should all work to of complaining and better ourselves and very little standing up to raise awareness for to voice an opinion,” the need to change said Emily Sanchez, how government an Occupy Laredo orserves us,” Sanchez ganizer, a native Laresaid. doan, and a physical San Antonio natherapist assistant. tive Marisa Laufer, “Nothing makes like Sanchez, grew you more socially up in poverty, and aware than poverty. Emily Sanchez and Marisa Laufer like Sanchez, she School is where you said that having exunderstand that poverty can define you, but perienced poverty firsthand made the deciit is also where you learn that you can work sion to join the Occupy movement a natural to make things different,” she said. one. An advocate for the homeless, Laufer Sanchez, the single mother of two, said has been in Laredo since July. that even though a large percentage of Lare“There were eight children in my famdoans live in poverty, there are some who ily. We learned how to get along and how to will work three jobs and go into debt “to have make the most of what we had,” she said. nice tire rims. It’s as though there is shame to After graduation from John Marshall being poor, so it’s easier to deny it.” High School, Laufer joined the Coast Guard She dispelled the oft-repeated belief and later settled in Seattle where she raised that being poor is a choice that lazy people two sons and completed a degree in commumake. “There are so many challenges to be- nity, environment, and planning at the Uniing poor,” she said. “Education is a way out versity of Washington. of poverty, but that system has failed many. “This country has been dealing with I was lucky that I had teachers who pushed homelessness for more than 30 years. Homeme and older brothers who mentored me lessness is a very visible reminder that as a and read to me. They made my education im- nation we have not addressed affordable portant to me and taught me that the world housing or living wages,” she said. “It’s time could be yours if you could read and write,” to amplify the message. I’m committed to be she added. “I want my children not to give in instrumental in trying to address homelessto what society tells them they have to do. I ness in Laredo. want them to speak up and to evolve, to not Of her fellow Occupy Laredo members experience oppression.” Laufer said, “We see a world that could be betShe said that for her, Occupy Laredo is ter.” The local Occupy movement has grown about social justice in all aspects of life, be- markedly in membership since the first handginning with health care. “We rank behind ful of sign-carrying Occupy members trasome third world countries in what we offer versed Jarvis Plaza at last month’s Farmers for health care. Insurance company profits Market. She noted that their first appearance and corporate greed come before the needs across the plaza was thought by some to be a of the people,” she said. protest against the Farmers Market. Sanchez said that reductions in funding “We are all about grass roots, community for public education and how that has spelled based efforts that change lives for the better. cutbacks for the arts in education, fosters a We can all learn together,” Laufer said, expresssense that government does not serve those ing hope that the group could establish urban who pay for it. gardens and bring Laredoans together to learn Corporations, she said, have built their about alternative energy and conservation. successes on the backs of minimum wage “Our consistent effort to ask questions, to employees, many of whom have no health learn, and to find solutions are far more imcare benefits. portant than the signs we carry,” she said. ◆ Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

36

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

Protesters aim to camp out at 12 parks across city

P

BY CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

rotesters with Occupy Laredo approached city leaders this month in an effort to build bridges and make their demands known. On Monday, November 28, Occupy will go before City Council for the second time this month to request that they be allowed to camp out at 12 different city parks on 12 separate weekends. “We’re trying to appeal in a diplomatic way, but we’re also trying to get the consensus of the City Council and engage Laredoans on important issues like poverty, drug recovery, housing, jobs, and economic development,” explained Marisa Laufer, one of Occupy Laredo’s founders and lead organizers. City officials first met with four Occupy representatives on November 18, where they were told that they could not camp out at Blas Castañeda Park, the spot originally chosen, because it was against the city ordinance on camping. “We spent all morning talking to City Council,” protester Lakshmana Viswanath told TAMIU students during a communication class lecture the evening after the group’s meeting. “We didn’t get anywhere, but that doesn’t mean we are dead yet.” The meeting did not leave Occupy without alternatives. City manager Carlos Villarreal told the representatives that Occupy must create a specific plan for their campouts, including dates, times, locations, and number of campers. They can then present the plan before City Council on November 28 for approval, bypassing the ordinance. “I thought we had a good dialogue going back and forth,” Villarreal said. “For the most part I tend to agree with the greed of certain individuals and groups and that things have to be changed. But there are certain laws and Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

Putting a face on Occupy Laredo

ordinances that I must follow.” Laufer, who was at the November 18 meeting, said the plan that Occupy will present before council will be styled as “12-12-15”: 12 parks, 12 weekends, and 15 tents maximum. It is amended from the original plans to occupy North Central Park and then Blas Castaneda Park. Instead the parks chosen will be spread out across all of the council members’ districts, Laufer said. She added that this would afford the group a lot more visibility and would give a definite schedule for City Council. Occupy Laredo protesters originally went before the council at the November 7 meeting, where protesters pseudo-ambushed council members by relating their public commentary to the agenda but discussing the group’s goals instead. The tactic was called “Occupy City Council.” Occupiers appealed to the city to answer their permit requests to camp overnight, but were told that they must meet with city managers first before coming back to council. “Personally I think that when you want to promote justice, the last thing you would want to do is act on an injustice, which would be going around the law,” said TAMIU student Cesar Vanoye, one of the protesters who spoke before council on November 7. “And you practice social justice by speaking openly to your leaders.” Laufer concurred with Vanoye. She said some people have asked her why the group is going through City Council — isn’t it defeating the point? But she said there is no need for civil disobedience if there are legal means to get the group’s message out. “We’re going to exhaust all our legitimate options first,” Laufer said. “If it came down to it, and we know we did everything we could, there may be opportunities for civil disobedience. But that doesn’t seem likely.” ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


John Galo poses with his hardworking team that took second place honors at the annual Military Appreciation Day fajita cook-off on November 12 at the El Metro Park and Ride. The event, which included a car show and wrestling events, was sponsored by the South Texas Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Association.

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

Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

Maria Eugenia Guerra/LareDOS

Team Galo takes second place in fajita cook-off

Palomo team takes first place in Veteran’s fajita cook-off Rebecca Palomo, candidate for 341st District Judge, is pictured with her son Danny Jr. and her husband Danny at the recent cook-off sponsored by the South Texas Afghanistan Iraq Veterans Association.

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

37


Opinion

The Plaza Theatre — Gone with the Wind? Treviño-Lopez plan rooted in profit, not preservation By MARIA EUGENIA GUERRA LareDOS Staff

38

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

H

ow appropriate that the next incarnation of the historic Plaza Theatre — as it played out before the Laredo City Council on October 17 — was, well, like watching a movie, albeit a bad one, from which the players took cues and read from scripts. It was disheartening to see Councilwoman Cindy Liendo Espinoza — on more than one occasion the stand-alone conscience of the City Council — support a plan that could become a costly misstep in the fate of the landmark structure. In matters regarding downtown, Liendo Espinoza has often acted independently to attempt the best possible results for the taxpayer, but at this meeting — using language that hinted broadly at an alignment with the Victor Treviño Jr./Danny Lopez Jr. plan to reconfigure, chop-up, partition, and subdivide the old theater into a host of businesses (including bars) — she seemed to read from a script. Treviño and Lopez are doing business as HBR, Inc., Hospitality, Bar & Restaurant Association, Inc. The city purchased the Plaza Theatre from United Artists in 1999 with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) money and in late 2001, commissioned restoration architect Killis Almond to determine the feasibility of rehabilitating the theater as a venue for the live and performing arts. Over the last decade the city has not moved forward with the then-$6 million dollar price tag for renovation, but it has spent about $1 million in asbestos abatement, tearing down United Artists’ subdividing walls, replacing the roof, façade improvements, and restoring neon to the old marquee. What an odd pair are these two selfproclaimed downtown revitalizers, Treviño Jr. and Lopez Jr., and what an odd plan they propose for the future of the Plaza Theatre, a piece of Laredo history many Laredoans carry with them in memory. More odd is that some members of the Laredo City Council — discussing an agenda item to consider all options — all but agreed at that meeting to support the request of Treviño and Lopez that the city and the taxpayers bear the financial burden for the electrical, plumbing, and air conditioning needs of the old structure.

The iconic Plaza Theatre Treviño, visibly disorganized, launched into a longwinded presentation that spanned more than 30 minutes and began with the reading of a note he said he found on his car; a note he said spoke to “the core of why we’re here. It’s an important reason why we are here. It reinforces our efforts in the downtown area. There was some hesitation to read a letter that was placed on my vehicle the first day we started the Plaza, but I think it’s important. It sheds light on change. Change is sometimes very difficult to accept, sometimes especially in light of the current situation. It reads something like, ‘Shame on you, shame on you. The Plaza Theatre has so much history and to think that the people of downtown are going to let two mojados that are not even from here try to change it into their profiteering enterprise, you have another thing coming.’ This hit very close to the heart of our project and besides the letter being hateful, it was some of the …..” Councilmember Johnny Rendon, aware that Treviño’s digression had yet to touch on numbers for the cost of a renovation or a feasibility study, interrupted him politely with, “Excuse me sir, you were going to present a feasibility study, and we prefer that you stick to that.” “I felt that it was something important, but basically, it is the downtown that is very important to Laredo,” Treviño said.

Rambling presentation Treviño’s rambling presentation included an old movie poster from 1947, and his feasibility study wasn’t so much a study as it was a single piece of paper, a Power Point presentation, a narrative for traveling across the country to visit “over 40 theaters,” a meeting with restoration architect Almond, who had authored the 140-page 2002 feasibility study for the Plaza Theatre, and the creation of something Treviño called “Our Hidalgo Concept” — “a plan and a vision” to bring the theater and adjoining buildings under the Treviño-Lopez umbrella for development. “When we took over the Plaza there were some items we discovered,” Treviño said. That “discovery” was that the Plaza needed new electricity, plumbing, and air conditioning infrastructure, and that as potential lessees, he and Lopez wanted the city to come up with those high-dollar improvements. “Truly our project guiding principle was to provide a destination-type venue and to avoid the paths of cities such as Chicago, New Orleans, and Los Angeles, where they spent tens of millions of dollars to revitalize their downtown because basically over time it had gotten to the point that they had turned into basically slums and we want to avoid that for our downtown because it is very important to us,” he

said, stressing that economic development and preservation “are two key facets of our guiding principles.” So are, according to Treviño and Lopez, potential immigrant investors, foreign nationals willing to invest in a U.S. business that will create or preserve American jobs. As they spoke of their business development plans, it became clearer that their concept had less to do with preservation and more with subdividing the 19,379 square feet of the storied Plaza property into restaurants, bars, shops, and businesses other than a theater. Lopez spoke of an investment of $400,000 in private “hard money” and very little financing for the proposed project. “We’ve got some investors interested in sacrificing money they have saved. It has to make business sense and taxpayer sense to have a for-profit business in there. How can we leverage this? That is why we are precautioned about it,” he said. Liendo Espinoza, sticking to the script, asked, “Mr. Lopez with the idea that you have once we would get the theater up and running, would this be available to low-tomoderate income citizens, because I’m sure that in your study you saw this was purchased with CDBG [Community Development Block Grant] funds and so one of the requirements is that it has to be available to low-to-moderate income residents?” “Yes,” Lopez answered, “We would create it into a theater. We want to create it into a reception, we want to create it to maybe one day have the City Council have their meetings and their agendas there. We want to disassemble it, assemble it, put it back together. We want to really create a whole use of it, almost like a multitask deal.” Mayor Raul Salinas and Councilman Mike Garza couldn’t confer superlatives quickly enough on the business acumen of Treviño and Lopez. “I admire your energy, both of you,” the Mayor said. “If you are committed to something, go for it.” Garza said Treviño and Lopez’s plan “was not just talk and lip service” and called the public money electrical, plumbing, and AC request of the two businessmen “a no brainer.” According to Garza, “We own the property. It should be ready for lease.” He added, his voice laced with Continued on next page

44

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


done-deal, “We’re going to do it responsibly.” He told City Manager Carlos Villarreal, “We own this building. We would probably have some obligation to have to have it ready for use.” Garza made reference to having city-owned property near the airport “ready to lease.” CM San Miguel urges prudence Councilman Charlie San Miguel, the voice of prudence on the Plaza Theatre issue, noted that every business downtown would like for the city to pay for upgrades to their electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. Expressing concern over the “hard money” financing of the proposed project, San Miguel said, “Financial institutions are experts at investing for profit. If they want nothing to do with this project, that’s a concern.” He said he would have liked to have seen “surveys and some kind of a guarantee that we would get our money back.” San Miguel said, “It’s not our money. We would have to be even more careful using taxpayer money for private profit business.” San Miguel suggested “going out for bids [and] open it up to the public to bid on a lease for the Plaza Theatre.” Councilman Jorge Vera countered, “We just changed zoning downtown. You’re going to need an anchor. It’s a shame you do all the legwork and then give it to someone else.” San Miguel made reference to the contentious $400,000 downtown revitalization study the city recently paid for. “The Kell Muñoz plan — was there an anchor business in that plan? We don’t have the numbers yet. It’s important right now that the city manager gets costs [for the mechanical infrastructure for the Plaza].” He told Treviño and Lopez, “I am pro business. I do recognize your energy for this, but we do need to be responsible.” Villarreal said, “We are a long way off

from second base. Let’s work at it practically. We have other things we need to do.” The upshot of the Treviño-Lopez request before council was that the city grant one of three options — a 5-year fair market value lease once the city upgraded electrical, plumbing, and air conditioning; nominal rent for the lobby of the theater; and keeping communications open on the possibility of a private-public partnership with a gross profit lease. El Portal all over again? Of those options, downtown merchant Les Norton argued against the use of taxpayer money for private enterprise and he questioned how the city would come up with a fair market value lease. “The City of Laredo should not be in the real estate business. It is not fair to the taxpayers to invest their money in private ventures. Bars are not the answer to revitalizing downtown — it’s restaurants and shops. The Plaza will probably never be a theater again,” he lamented. “What kind of fair-market lease payment will be determined on a city block that is virtually vacant of businesses and shuttered store fronts? Will the city and the taxpayer’s outlay for new electrical, plumbing, and air conditioning infrastructure factor into what the city will charge for a lease? It’s El Portal all over again. Let’s not forget that debacle,” he said pragmatically. During the meeting and in a telephone interview with LareDOS in mid-November, Treviño referred to his feasibility study, which actually consisted of the sheet of paper he shared with the City Council by overhead projector. This “Statement of Probable Cost” was generated for Treviño by architect Almond in December 2011. The city’s June 2011 contract with Treviño and Lopez called “for a feasibility study of the Plaza Theatre” and for “deliverables that will consist of a feasibility study and a cost estimate report when completed, but

within the time specified in this agreement.” The term of the contract was 90 days. “To my knowledge, there was no written feasibility study from these individuals. I need more information. We’re wanting to find out about the cost of basics relative to plumbing and electrical, and we need to know where such funds could come from,” said the city manager, making reference to having just made “tough budget decisions.” He added, “We would be using city forces to make these improvements. Nothing has been decided at this point.” Plan not about restoration; “liquor license a must” Treviño said that the study he and Lopez made was not for the restoration of the Plaza, but for reconfiguring the theater into spaces Mural by the theater’s grand staircase that could be leased. “We made a study using local labor. Mexican cinema classics. Our study reflects the use of local contrac“A liquor license is a must, and we are tors, veterans, TAMIU students, people looking for ways to incorporate the lobby who have made volunteer commitments.” and extend it out about 1,500 square feet. We He said that initially their plans called are looking at a bar downstairs and another for using concrete to level the slope of the upstairs, since both have concession areas,” theater seating. “We do need to take the Treviño said, adding that there are plans for seats out,” he said, “a lot of them were four shops, a reception area for weddings chewed up by rodents, and homeless peo- and quinceañeras, two bars, and restaurants. ple were using the cushions as bedding. The purchase of an adjacent building could We’ll use plywood decking to level the house kitchens for the restaurants, he said. slope and have rail seating. We have plans He said that some of the potential Mexito eliminate the present stage and move can investors have time constraints regardit back 15 feet. We’ll get rid of the screen ing their visas. and use a roll- down screen,” Treviño said, “We are competing with McAllen and adding that daycare children could be South Padre. The investors are very interested bussed downtown for movie viewings and Continued on page 62 4 4 that there were plans to screen Cine de Oro Cristina Herrera/LareDOS

Continued from page 38

Let the Mayor and Council know how you feel about the preservation of the Plaza Theater. Call or write to them. Mayor & Council Members Contact Information Name

Cell/Office

Fax No.

E-mail

Mayor Raul Salinas

791-7389

791-7314

rgsalinas@ci.laredo.tx.us

District 1 Mike Garza

956-473-9200; 791-7389

725-0407

mgarza@mikegarza.net

District 2 Esteban Rangel

473-9909; 791-7389

791-7314

councilman_rangel@hotmail.com

District 3 Alex Perez

236-9498; 791-7389

791-7314

alexperezjrdistrict3@gmail.com

District 4 Juan Narvaez

286-7201; 791-7389

791-7314

isoto@ci.laredo.tx.us

District 5 Johnny Rendon

763-1953; 791-7389

728-9545

district5@stx.rr.com

District 6 Charlie San Miguel

324-5678; 791-7389

791-7314

charliesm@stx.rr.com

District 7 Jorge Vera

744-8372; 791-7389

791-7314

jvera7@ci.laredo.tx.us

District 8 Cindy Liendo Espinoza

744-4439; 791-7389

791-7314

cindyle@ci.laredo.tx.us

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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

39


Perpetual Care Cemetery revisited

B

ack in the June issue of LareDOS, I wrote about Perpetual Care Cemetery out on Highway 359, accompanied with photos I took of the area. In November I revisited the cemetery for the fifth time, and found it repeatedly in the same condition. My anger was doubled during my recent visit in November, when I discovered that grass had grown over piles of trash because they had been left there. This seemed to contradict what cemetery groundskeeper Fidencio Cruz told us back in June — that he would sweep the trash to one side of the cemetery and take it to the dump every month. The photos don’t seem to back that claim up. — Cristina Herrera

1 Trash collects at the back of one of the bigger monuments at the cemetery. 2 Some of this trash is buried in the dirt, with grass grown over it, seemingly contradicting the claim back in June from the groundskeeper that the trash is taken to the dump regularly. 3 A doll’s head eerily lays in the pile of garbage near the west end of the cemetery. 4 The area by the west wall is in the same condition as it was in June. 5 Beer bottles like this one make the polluted area of the cemetery difficult to walk on.

40

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Continued from page 34 2003-2011,” the blog states in a November 3 post. “Between 1999 and 2009, CCA alone spent over $18 million on lobbying, just at the federal level.” Health effects, and Gray’s four-pronged drug policy Critics of the anti-War on Drugs movement write off those who suggest reform as a bunch of Libertarian stoner kids who simply want to smoke their pot without getting in trouble. And to a certain degree, that’s true. Gray certainly did not fit that stereotype, and Ron Paul doesn’t, either, but that’s not to say that the movement has not gained support through the popularity and sheer amount of Americans who use marijuana recreationally. Though I recognize marijuana’s painrelieving benefits for cancer patients, this argument wears thin when I started to notice that groups such as NORML are not mainly composed of cancer patients, but rather recreational smokers. And while these groups cite research on the benefits of marijuana, this research is still ongoing. But no actual harm has come from marijuana, right? This is harder to verify. I tend to believe that marijuana’s harmful side effects have been severely downplayed in the media (especially the mental side effects of paranoia, increased anxiety, and increased depression for those who are already suffering mental imbalances). But that’s for another story. Unfortunately marijuana has not been thoroughly enough studied in order to educate its users of all the side effects.

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

Gray, however, professed his belief in allowing people to choose what they wanted to put in their bodies. And he asked, if it’s socially acceptable to use a potentially harmful substance such as alcohol in your own home, why not be allowed to get high on a substance that is apparently “less dangerous”? For the most part, I tend to believe that marijuana is a relatively harmless drug — though I am weary of the cognitive and emotional harm it can cause to your brain. I do not believe — and there is no scientific evidence to suggest — that drinking and driving and getting high and driving are comparable actions. However, reactions to marijuana differ, especially given the fact that when you buy illegally, most often you do not know the potency of the drug, or if its been mixed with other drugs. In support of Gray’s theory, regulated and controlled drugs like marijuana would allow the user to be informed on the potency of the drug he or she consume, and be assured that it is not cut with other substances. In other words, the user would be educated about what he or she was putting in his or her body, decreasing the risk of injury or death from more dangerous substances. But what about one of the biggest concerns — that legalization would allow for a drug free-for-all? Gray does not believe legalization or decriminalization of these substances would significantly motivate people to go out and try them. He made a good point in saying that the drugs are already readily available and easier to acquire in our current failed drug policy era.

“If I wanted to get some cocaine, I could easily acquire some, and I guarantee you I’d have some already,” he said. There’s a reason kids aren’t selling bottles of Jack Daniels to each other — alcohol is controlled and regulated by the government, and harder to obtain. How true that is, I’ll allow you to decide. Gray noted that smoking fatalities have decreased in the last few decades, and he gives credit to education, one of the four pillars of Gray says any reformed drug policy must have. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking causes 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. every year, but in 1965, 42.4 percent of adults were smokers, compared to 19.3 percent in 2010. That decline in cigarette use occurred among high school students, too — 27.5 percent in 1992 and 19.5 percent as of 2009. Gray’s four pillars: Education: Gray gave smoking as an example, saying the decrease in the number of smokers can be attributed to education about the dangers of smoking. Treatment: “Treatment works,” Gray said. Economics: “You need to set up a system that strongly encourages people to do what is socially acceptable, and today it’s completely on its ear.” Individual responsibility: Here’s where

it gets a bit politicized. Gray believes drug policy should hold people accountable for their actions, though he also admitted that law enforcement should be concentrating their efforts on those who drive and commit violent actions while on drugs or alcohol. However you feel about Gray’s politics, he was telling the truth when he said, “We know what we’re doing is not working, but we’re going to perpetuate that failed policy ‘for all of its defects.’” And whether Americans like to admit it or not, our consumption of drugs is fueling a more tangible, violent drug “war” in Mexico. But as we’ve seen in the past few years, writers and journalists like me can criticize our consumption, and officers from several law-enforcement agencies can continue to fight the supply, but the demand never waivers. We will never truly eradicate the desire for getting high. But whatever new drug policy must focus on getting the blood off the drugs. If we have reasoned that drug use to whatever degree is unavoidable, then we must step forward with realistic ideas such as the ones Gray proposed in his lecture. Gray is a chief proponent of Regulate Marijuana Like Wine, a 2012 California ballot initiative that, if passed, would allow California to regulate and tax marijuana as it does with wine. ◆

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

41


Feature

Tom Hanks and the National World War II Museum in New Orleans

I

BY LEM LONDOS RAILSBACK LareDOS Contributor

was scheduled to present a professional paper to the Fall Professional Development Conference of the National Social Science Association in New Orleans in October 2011 — and I went early and stayed late. Since I had not been in that great city for a decade, it took me nearly two days before I regained my bearings and could navigate that majestic citadel. Within two days, my early rising each morning and riding the St. Charles Avenue Trolley to Canal Street in the downtown business district and back at night helped me regain my bearings within the city. This trolley is the world’s oldest street railway system, operating since the early 19th century. As our airport shuttle van approached from the interstate to downtown, we encountered a statue of President Andrew Jackson riding on a very high round pedestal close to one of our intersections. At first I wondered why New Orleans would have such a high majestic statue of Jackson, who was actually from Tennessee, and then I remembered that the mighty achievement that had make him president of the United States was his victory over the British with the help of pirate Jean Lafitte in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. I visited the World War II Museum in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. Tom Hanks and his band of contributors, designers, media-artists, and supporters have achieved an amazing and heroic feat. They have collected equipment — airplanes, a workhorse jeep, machine guns, uniforms, and gear — into an impressive sequence of displays. They have also added mediated documentations and explanations, with plenty of visuals, to acquaint the viewer/ participant with the events, horrors, and personnel of World War II. Since I am a charter member of the Museum, I had recommended that my uncle’s name be added to the honor roll of WWII veterans. So as it was my first visit to New Orleans after nearly a decade, I visited the museum on my first day there. My visit brought back many memories of WWII — the weekly newsreels at the local theaters, rationing, collecting thrown-away bottles and paper for recycling in my little red

42

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

wagon (Yes, young folks, we were doing that before your parents were even born), the gold stars in the windows, newspaper stories, the neighborhood sharing of “news from the front,” and radio “flashes.” A small red fire truck with a bullhorn went through the neighborhoods of Brady, Texas, inviting citizens to an important announcement later that day at the local Christian church. My father took our family in our car over to the church a bit early, and while he parked, my mother, sister, and I found a spot on the lawn and sat down. Our father joined us and we waited for nearly an hour for the announcement. As we looked around, we saw practically the whole town sitting close to and all around us; the latecomers stayed in their cars that idled in the streets. When the time arrived, leaders of the church opened a side window and hung out over the window a large speaker that was loud enough to be heard for about a block and a half. Within a few minutes, we heard President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offer the “Day of Infamy” speech and his notice that he had asked the Congress to pass the resolution of war. As the crowd broke up to return to their cars, loud crying could be heard, along with strings of angry curses. The Bradyites returned to their homes and prepared for war. Along with the draftees, many young men volunteered for the armed forces. During the war, we kept each other informed, we

helped each other, we shared car rides, we accepted rationing without bitterness, and we all pitched in in our different roles to help the war effort. As our war dead were returned, we attended their funerals, even if we had barely known them. A prisoner-of-war camp was established for German prisoners about 3 miles from our home. About 4 miles in the other direction, a U.S. Army Air Corps training base was established. My uncle was taken into the U.S. Army and trained at Camp Bowie, close to Brownwood. Joe Ramon, who owned Little Mexico Restaurant and for whom our father worked as the chef, was drafted and trained at Mineral Wells. Eventually, our father was summoned by government officials to San Antonio for a physical and interview. After reviewing the results of the physical and the different interviews/tests, the examiners informed our father that they would place him in the Navy. When he explained that he did not know how to swim, in spite of his father’s several efforts to teach him, the examiners exclaimed, to the effect that “Well, that’s just a matter of a few hours in the water!” Our father returned to Brady to await his shipping-out date. He made plans, he made a list of payments —mortgage, utilities, etc. — and instructed our mother on when to pay and to pay on time. He also spoke to his banker about our mother’s securing loans as she needed them. He even packed a bag of clothes to take with him

to his first training site. Before he was formally taken into military service, the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A second bomb flattened Nagasaki three days later, and the Japanese surrendered. According to archival records, the high command and diplomatic officials of Japan were split on whether to surrender or to “fight to the last man,” and the emperor broke the tie by voting to surrender. Since Germany had surrendered earlier, the Japanese surrender ended the war. Opened in 2000, the National WWII Museum provides a hands-on learning experience for the visitor. Covering every aspect of the war, the museum immerses its visitors. Realia include but are not limited to a C-47 bomber, fighter planes — the Spitfire Fighter and a Dauntlass dive bomber — a bombsight, a Sherman tank, a jeep, a medical van, machine guns, military clothing, and tools. An LCVP, or Higgins Boat, is also displayed. The amphibious landing craft that played so vital a role in the Normandy landing had been designed by Andrew Higgins and constructed and tested by the Higgins Industries right there in New Orleans. Even an Enigma Machine, the special coding device by which the Germans could send secret ciphers, was on display. Visuals include photographs and several different shows in the theater. A particular documentary narrated by Hanks runs on a 120-foot-wide screen with simulations such as wind and snow, animation, and props to help the viewer get a real feel for the conditions of battle. Using vintage footage from WWII, the documentary brings home the savagery, insanity, and heroism of war. Hanks continues to assist, helping to raise funds since the museum’s inception. Currently, the museum is successfully pursuing its $90 million expansion, to be completed in 2015. Already in place are a canteen to provide specialty programs like the old USO shows; reserved space on the second floor for special exhibits; an observation deck on which one can see the different airplanes hanging from the ceiling up close; two auditoriums for showing educational videos; and, of course, a gift shop. An air raid shelter sits in front of the museum. Continued on page 46

44

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Maverick Ranch Notes

I

By bebe & sissy fenstermaker

Cooler weather on the ranch spurs fall, winter gardens

t’s sort of making an effort to shower on remaining areas) and see how your speA boat trip up to and along Niagara Falls this evening. Wind is expected, and bad cial part of Texas is described, plant-wise. during our first day would have gotten us weather is taking place north of here in Treuer-Kuehn earned her master’s degree completely soused without the blue plastic the Panhandle and on into Oklahoma. in biology with a focus on plant ecology from rain gear handed to us that was equal to a Although night temperatures cleaner’s plastic sac. It kept us dry on have twice hit freezing, the flowtop, however, and we were thankI was amazed to take a look at the ful to have them. The spray from the ers in the yard are still lovely after finally getting just enough rain corral garden after the 3-inch rain falls started out as a mist and quickto encourage bloom. They are a ly became a rain shower. Even so, the in early October and find several chil- view was spectacular. happy bonus after the hard, hard summer. ies, an eggplant, and all the other basil On another day, some of us We have started fall and toured several structures designed plants still going strong. What fortitude winter gardens in pots in our by Frank Lloyd Wright. We visited after the brutal heat and no wayards. This avoids nippy trips two homes built by him for one famto the corral to water in the winily, and a boathouse designed by him ter from July to October. ter wind. So far we have chard, but built after his death. During our Bebe Fenstermaker day-and-a-half of driving around, spinach, and collards doing well. I also planted cilantro, parsley, we admired the beginnings of fall and dill in pots, along with a foliage. basil plant I uprooted from the corral gar- the University of Texas at Arlington. Prior to Buffalo has a number of historic neighden when we abandoned it in July. I was her career at TPWD, she taught an under- borhoods from different eras. Along Lake amazed to take a look at the corral garden graduate plant science course and worked Erie and the Niagara River, several abanafter the 3-inch rain in early October and as a field research assistant in Alaska and doned grain elevators and a shuttered find several chilies, an eggplant, and all Texas. She said she loves her job and prob- Bethlehem Steel plant stand as reminders the other basil plants still going strong. ably drives more than anyone we know. She of a time when the city’s economy was What fortitude after the brutal heat and no certainly knows Texas like the back of her booming due to the movement of raw and water from July to October. hand. Her car mileage is tremendous. After a manufactured goods up and down the Erie Last week at our Boerne chapter of the bit of searching, one of our members turned Canal. Luckily for Buffalo developers, we Native Plant Society’s monthly meeting, up an online version of Amie’s presentation. were not interested in the city because of Amie Treuer-Kuehn, plant ecologist with You should be able to enlarge all of the hard- its downward economy as much as its histhe Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to-see slides: natureserve.org/visitLocal/confer- toric fabric, much of which is still intact. (TPWD), gave us an up-to-date look at the ence/BWB2010/04-26_DDiamond.pdf. I did attend some interesting educational vegetation mapping of Texas that the agency Another member also hooked us up with sessions. We all ate plenty of Buffalo wings is doing. the online county directory to Texas Soil SurShe described the methodology involved: veys manuscripts. Just find your county and going to each county, region by region on click on it at soils.usda.gov/survey/online_surpublic and, when invited, private land and veys/texas/. describing the visible vegetation. This inBebe Fenstermaker formation will now give a much more complete picture than anything we’ve had. The Conferences, New York visit highlight mapping describes the plant communities in historic preservation each part of the state and shows the threats October was the month for the National to those communities. This also documents Trust of Historic Preservation Conference, the present vegetation for comparison to the this year held in Buffalo. I joined three other future — a timeline database sort of thing. travelers who guided me through the airPretty soon one can go online to see the work port routine, since I had last flown during completed (there is still some work to be done the 1990s.

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

and even visited the Anchor Bar, birthplace of spicy chicken wings. November was the month for the UFO Conference, which I was not about to miss. The Webb County Heritage Foundation looked way out of the box for a fundraiser subject, and were able to credibly meld it with historic preservation. I was fascinated with the fact that Laredo and other locales on both sides of the Río Grande are known for UFO activity and sightings. Ismael Cuellar of the Laredo Paranormal Research Society spoke about his group’s work and UFO sightings in and around Laredo. Noe Torres, South Texas director of the Mutual UFO Network, discussed two UFO crashes that ended just across the Río Grande in Mexico. One occurred 30 miles away from Laredo and the other across from Langtry. The third speaker, UFO abductee Travis Walton, followed the showing of the movie Fire in the Sky, an account of his abduction. Walton’s description of his abduction was straight forward and without the Hollywood effects of the movie. I was recently asked if I believed all these “stories.” I had to say, “Yes, I do.” All three speakers were convincing, as were members of the audience, who recounted their experiences and sightings. I look forward to the heritage foundation’s next conference. Sissy Fenstermaker

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

43


Social Security Leslie L. Young

Is a Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Laredo.

A

s the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, families everywhere will be traveling to reunite with one another. Generations will gather around dinner tables across the nation. And certainly some people are already coming up with conversation topics to season the festivities. If some of the folks in your family like to talk about Social Security, make sure you’re ready with a visit to socialsecurity.gov. After table time, sit down for some online time with anyone in your family who needs information. In fact, right on your tablet or laptop, you can even help a loved one apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes, or Medicare in as little as 10. There are a number of other things you can help your loved ones do online. Use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to see whether they qualify for benefits. Or use the Retirement Estimator for an instant and personalized estimate of their retirement

44

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

This holiday season feast on information, services for families benefits. You can learn about these and many other online services available by visiting socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. If you’re in a conversation about Social Security, use your smart phone or mobile device to visit our mobile-friendly frequently asked questions at socialsecurity.gov/faq. If you end up talking about Social Security between turkey and pumpkin pie, rest assured that the authority on the subject is as close as your laptop, tablet, or smart phone. Feast on the food at the table, and then take advantage of the feast of information and services available online at socialsecurity.gov. Ask a Social Security expert Question: How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits? Answer: We base Social Security benefits on work credits. Anyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. You can earn up to four credits a year, so you will need to work at least 10 years to become eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by

reading the publication How You Earn Credits at socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html. Question: I'm going to visit relatives outside the country for two weeks during the holidays. Can I still get Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) payments while I'm there? Answer: Your SSI usually will stop if you leave the United States for 30 consecutive days or more. Since you are going to be away for only two weeks, your SSI should not be affected. However, it's important that you tell Social Security the date you plan to leave and the date you plan to come back. Then we can let you know whether your SSI will be affected. For more information, visit socialsecurity.gov or call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).  Question: What is the “definition of disability” for children filing for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Answer: A child is disabled if he or she: Has a physical or mental condition (or a combination of conditions) that results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This means that the condition very

seriously limits the child’s activities; and the condition has lasted, or is expected to last, at least one year or is expected to result in death; and is not working at a job that we consider to be substantial work. To determine whether your child meets the definition of disability, we look at medical and other information (such as information from schools and from you) about the child’s condition. We also consider how the condition affects the child’s daily activities. We consider: what activities your child is not able to do, or is limited in doing; the type of extra help and how much extra help your child needs to perform age-appropriate activities  for example, special classes at school, medical equipment; and whether the treatment interferes with your child’s day-to-day activities. Remember that SSI is a needs-based program where family income and resources also play a role in determining eligibility for benefits. For more information, read Benefits For Children With Disabilities at socialsecurity. gov/pubs/10026.html. ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


The Mystery Customer BY THE mystery Customer

Local restaurants dominate in this month’s column

Los Dos Lobos 7128 Rosson Lane It’s a treat to be at the receiving end of Chano Aldrete’s adventurous “border fusion” creations. It’s a square deal — fresh food deliciously prepared. The MC loves to see our favorite chef in the environment in which he thrives. Adelante, Aldrete! Palenque Grill 7220 Bob Bullock Loop Midway through our good meal at Palenque Grill — Laredo’s unofficial “Welcome to Laredo” restaurant — the MC was remarking on the great respect waiters treated customers with at this local favorite. The MC cursed himself for saying anything at all, as the waitress seemingly disappeared for 20 minutes, just as the MC’s dinner party was ready to leave. Was she on her break? Had she asked other waiters to cover for her? All the respect shown during the first half of the meal was lost during the second. Ah, well, at least the tortilla soup was good. Mar y Tierra Highway 83, San Ygnacio The MC and her breakfast companions had a yen for an uber healthy breakfast. They had brought their own fresh fruit, seven-grain bread, and fruit-only preserves to accompany owner Juanis’ deliciously prepared eggs. Juanis even brewed up a pot of the yummy coffee they brought with them. It was a splendid feast and top notch service. Fuddruckers 711 W. Hillside Road Why does the MC keep going to Fuddruckers? It is a flawed love affair that begins with delicious burgers and ends at the restaurant’s service. For a chain restaurant, Fuddruckers certainly maintains a certain

level of tastiness, but the servers all seem like a bunch of perpetually underwhelmed zombies. I’ve never seen somebody who even pretends to enjoy that they work there, which can be quite off-putting. Fortunately the MC hasn’t caught the employees as Fuddruckers making many mistakes on his order, or else the MC would not tolerate the place enough to keep going back. Tony Roma’s 5300 San Dario Ave. (inside Mall del Norte) Tony Roma’s has the opposite problem of Fuddruckers: friendly service and bland food. The MC has never had an issue with a waiter or waitress at this local steak house, as they have all been nothing but polite and accommodating during each visit. However, the MC recently started noticing that the service was all he remembered after a trip to Tony Roma’s. The food has never been anything to write home about, except maybe for the specialty of ribs and some other beef-heavy entrees. Anything else the MC tried has been disappointing.

Continued from page 22 have the time to teach more — they’re too busy trying to keep up with all the things they already have to do. But this is where the most important element of education (and life) comes in: time management. College students will tell you they don’t know how to organize work, study, classes, and a social life. High school students constantly use lack of time as an excuse for lack of homework. However, everyone has the same amount of time. Some just manage it instead of letting time manage them. Successful students not only know when their assignments are due, but they also know when they are going to do these assignments, then plan accordingly. Without time management, education is impossible. Spending 20 minutes planning your SAT essay leaves you only five minutes to write it. Planning is good, but it must result in action before time runs out. Since we can’t add more time to the clock, we need to find out where we’re wasting the time we have. Spending six hours each school night texting, playing games, or watching television will probably take time away from homework and sleep. If your homework is taking hours

to complete, it might be because you’ve stopped 12 times to answer calls from your friends. Setting goals as simple as waiting until after homework is done to return phone calls can cut hours off this chore. Make lists, organize tasks in order of importance, and eliminate or delegate those you don’t need to do yourself. Knowing what you have to do and when you plan to do it is great for those who tend to put off tasks, and then worry about how they’re going to get them done on time. Let others know you’ll be busy writing a paper or completing a project this weekend and can’t go to the mall all day. It is not only OK, it is also stress-relieving to say, “No.” Eliminating wasted time might also give you more time to sleep, something severely lacking in the lives of today’s teens. Organization, extra sleep, the ability to focus, less stress, and a desire to learn will quickly return U. S. students to the best educated list, no matter who the teacher or where the school is located. Education occurs when a person is prepared to learn – in the classroom, at home, or in life. So, instead of playing the blame game, perhaps students, parents, and educators could join forces in order to rescue America and its educational system. ◆

Sushi Madre 401 W. Saunders Ave. Another delicious visit to Sushi Madre was capped off by our waiter, who at the end of our meal asked us what we thought of the tea. I was a bit surprised by this question, as I am rarely asked with such genuine care what I thought of a product. We told him it was perfect, not too strong and not too weak. The waiter explained that they were trying out a different brand of tea, and wanted to know what customers thought of it. The MC thinks questions like that one help develop better customer satisfaction and at the very least, show that the folks of Sushi Madre at least care about what their customers think. ◆

Send your Mystery Customer kudos or complaints about service in local establishments to cherrera@laredosnews.com

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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

45


Laredo Community College

LCC launches spring registration with courses in Zapata

B

Special to LareDOS

eginning this spring, higher education is coming to the city of Zapata as Laredo Community College offers by teleconference several college-level academic courses at the Zapata County Technical and Advanced Education Center (ZTAC). These courses, which are part of the core curriculum for students who want to earn a certificate or associate’s degree at LCC, and/or a bachelor’s degree at a university, will be transmitted from LCC’s Fort McIntosh and South campuses to the ZTAC using teleconferencing technology. All of LCC’s core courses can transfer to any Texas college or university and most other schools. Among the courses to be offered are history, English, government, and math. “For years, Laredo Community College has provided adult education, English as a second language and GED courses in Za-

pata. We are pleased to extend the benefits of a higher education to the citizens of Zapata through this new and dynamic partnership with the Zapata County Technical and Advanced Education Center,” said Dr. Dianna Miller, LCC’s vice president for instruction. In addition to the teleconference courses, LCC’s Continuing Education Department plans to offer some courses to the residents of Zapata by offering face-to-face courses at the ZTAC in the spring. Courses in computers and certification for food management, occupational safety (OSHA), and HazMat will be some of the topics to be covered, among others.   Spring registration launched Enrollment for the spring 2012 semester is under way at Laredo Community College with priority registration, which allows new and returning students to avoid long lines and get the best schedule possible by locking in their classes early.

“This is a great opportunity for students wishing to choose their classes at the times they want,” said Felix Gamez, dean of enrollment management. “Many times, students don’t think about registering early for the spring semester and will wait until after the holidays to do so, and those who register early don’t have to worry about paying their tuition and fees until December 21.” All students, whether new or returning, planning to enroll in the spring 2012 semester must be advised to be able to register for classes. Self-advisement is no longer an option. Students who have not seen an advisor will have a hold on their account and will not be able to register. “This is a major benefit for our students to help them keep focused on their education track and avoid any potential issues,” Gamez added. LCC also has begun year-round advising, available Monday through Saturday, for those needing help choosing a major or mapping out their degree plan. First-time students and students who are undecided about their major should report to the Student Success Center at the Fort McIntosh or South campuses. Advising is available Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and FriContinued from page 42 During my visit, I noticed that a large group of elementary-school children had arrived and were shown by their teacher and museum staff members to their seats in one of the large auditoriums. Then, a speaker who looked old enough to have been a participant in World War II began a lecture with photographic displays and video recordings. I learned later that the speaker was indeed a WWII veteran who volunteered his authentic lecturing/teaching services whenever a school group made a request. This generous volunteering spirit was obvious throughout my visit. I was very impressed by and deeply thankful to the many volunteers — mostly veterans themselves—who repeatedly helped me find particular displays and information. Every single volunteer from whom I requested assistance provided me with complete information, technical explanations, and/or directions. The

46

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

day from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Advising also is available on Saturdays, excluding holidays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Memorial Hall, room 125, at the Fort McIntosh Campus. Walk-ins are welcome, but students with appointments will be seen first. For more information or to book an appointment, contact the Student Success Center at the Fort McIntosh Campus at (956) 721-5135 or at the South Campus at (956) 794-4135. Students who have declared a major can take advantage of advising now in the instructional department that corresponds to their major. Students must first call the department of their major to schedule an appointment. Students who register between Nov. 2 and Dec. 21 must pay their tuition and fees by Dec. 21, no later than 6 p.m. in person at the LCC Bursar’s Office at either campus, or by 11 p.m. by credit card via the PASPort system. Students who miss the payment deadline may lose their space in class and will need to register again. For more information on registration, contact the LCC Enrollment and Registration Services Center at the Fort McIntosh Campus at (956) 721-5109 or at the South Campus at (956) 794-4109. ◆ volunteers were highly competent, very courteous, very efficient, and very enthusiastic. I swapped memories of different WWII movies with one of them. I could not help wonder on my way back home what will happen to the volunteer staffs when these competent veterans — male and female — currently working at the museum pass on. Their memories and understandings will be sorely missed, and some of our societal consciousness of the war will be lost forever. The museum awarded me two parchment plaques on each of which are inscribed my name as a Charter Member and my uncle’s name — SSG. J.C. Railsback, World War II Veteran. When I got back home, I mailed the second plaque to my uncle’s daughter. I also wrote letters of thanks to the museum founders, professional staffs, consultants, and volunteers. I also wrote a letter of thanks to Tom Hanks. He and his band have honored a most significant part of our American legacy. ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Tuesday Music and Literature Club

Sculptor Armando Hinojosa at TMLC meeting: the process behind Tejano Monument BY CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

Texas Capitol in Austin, with an unveiling ceremony tentatively scheduled for late March. Hinojosa shared with TMLC that he is working on the last piece for the monument. Born and raised in Laredo, Hinojosa has had a 45-year career as an artist and is known for his focus on the flora and fauna of his beloved South Texas. While Hinojosa’s college peers were obsessed with modern art back in the ‘60s, he developed a passion for depicting realistic outdoor scenes. He said there is nothing wrong with taking inspiration for paintings from photographs, which he often does for his own works. “Every time I see something that I like, I take a picture, because you never know when you’ll need it,” Hinojosa said. Hinojosa is a graduate of Texas A&I University in Kingsville (now TAMUKingsville), which unveiled on October

21 a life-size bronze statue of Frank H. Dotterweich — “a pioneer in the field of natural gas engineering,” according to the Kingsville website — in front of its College of Engineering. After Hinojosa’s talk, TMLC began its November meeting with the club’s president Linda Mott summing up last month’s anniversary commemoration. She reported that 84 guests attended the centennial celebration of the club, which went off without a hitch. Mayor Raul Salinas signed a proclamation honoring the club and its long history in Laredo. Local media outlets gave much coverage to TMLC’s 100th anniversary — coverage that was displayed on a trifold for members to view. There were three nominees for membership to TMLC, including Patricia Cigarroa Keck, Marie Ferrier, and Thelma Fernandez. There will be a vote on their potential membership at the December meeting. ◆

Courtesy of Rosalinda Lawrence.

Editor’s note: I got a chance to visit the Tuesday Music and Literature Club for the first time at the November meeting. This month I took over for TMLC historian Denise Ferguson, who usually writes the TMLC reports. Members of the Tuesday Music and Literature Club welcomed Laredo artist and Tejano Monument sculptor Armando Hinojosa to the Fellowship Hall at First United Methodist Church on November 8. A Thanksgiving-like feast preceded Hinojosa’s talk — though tasty finger sandwiches replaced turkey — complete with apple cider and scrumptious desserts.

Hinojosa presented some of his artwork to the group, including a sculpture of a native buck and richly realistic paintings of deer and other wildlife. Hinojosa also took the group through the process of casting a sculpture in bronze, identical to the process for the Tejano Monument. The artist brought a series of photos that illustrated the long and often tedious process, which includes making three molds for a sculpture piece before filling it with hot liquid bronze. He also explained that large sculptures are actually created in pieces and then put together, not created whole. The Tejano Monument will be placed on the south lawn’s main entrance of the

Laredo artist Armando Hinojosa, who is in the process of finishing his work for the Tejano Monument, goes through the process of bronzing a sculpture with the members of the Tuesday Music and Literature club on November 8.

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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

47


Texas A&M International University

‘Milagro’ debuts; famed Cuban poet donates collection exas A&M International University welcomed one of the most important poets of Hispanic letters, José Kozer, to its campus November 14 and received his large personal collection for the Special Collections section of the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library. Kozer presented a bilingual poetry recital and roundtable followed by a reception and presentation of his collection to the library. The more than 600 autographed books written by important Latin American poets and authors are from Kozer’s personal library. Dr. José Cardona López, associate professor of Spanish at TAMIU, said the new acquisition is of great significance to the university. “The acquisition of this Kozer Collection will serve to help TAMIU attract scholars, readers and people of the South Texas region and nation who are interested in Latin American poetry,” Dr. Cardona-López said. A prolific writer of poems, his more

than 50 books have been published in Cuba, Spain, the Dominican Republic, México, Argentina, Venezuela, Brazil, Switzerland, and the United States. His work has been partially translated into English, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, Greek, and Hebrew. TAMIU student Jose Luis Montoya recently premiered his He is the auindependent film Milagro in a special screening at the univerthor of Este judío sity’s Center for the Fine and Performing Arts’ Recital Hall. de números y letras (1975), Jarrón de las abreviaturas (1980), Et mutabile (1995), DíptiIn conjunction with Jacobo Sefamí and cos (1998), Rupestres (2001), No buscan refle- Roberto Echavarren, he co-edited in 1996 jarse (2002), Stet (Spanish/ English, 2006), Medusario muestra de poesía latinoameriTrazas (2007), Anima (Spanish/ English, cana, a capital reference work about Latin 2011). American poetry. Courtesy photo

T

Special to LareDOS

Student’s film ‘Milagro,’ premieres A Texas A&M international University (TAMIU) student film project that morphed into a 91-minute independent film premiered at TAMIU to an enthusiastic crowd of over 700. “Milagro,” a film by TAMIU senior José Luis Montoya, was presented at the TAMIU Center for the Fine and Performing Arts Recital Hall. The film is in Spanish and subtitled in English. It profiles the life of a bright and kindhearted young woman trapped in a chaotic household. Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas, who introduced Montoya, lauded the TAMIU student’s effort and the film’s uplifting message. Montoya wrote and directed the film shot in its entirety in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, México, using high definition video with Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio. He is a psychology major at TAMIU, minoring in creative writing. Montoya hopes that his future will include additional opportunities to write and perhaps create more films. ◆

The best kept secret in Laredo

1, 2 and 3 bedroom floorplans available. Prices starting at $725 Town houses and corporate suites also available For more information, please contact: www.carmelapts.com Carmel Apartments Office Hours 830 Fasken Blvd. Laredo, Texas M-F 8:30-5:30 956.753.6500, 956.753.6502 fax Sat. 10:00-5:00

Sit back, relax, and welcome home 48

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Feature

Mary Help Lady Stallions victorious in UISD middle-school volleyball tourney he last weekend of October became another momentous event for the Mary Help of Christians School seventh grade Lady Stallions volleyball team as they took first place in the United Independent School District (UISD) citywide Middle School Volleyball Tournament on October 28 and 29.

Goodcommunication and staying focused are the keys to our win. We played very well today as a team. Lorena Fernandez, MHCS player “I’m so proud and happy. We’ve never played so well. Everybody played their positions amazingly,” said MHCS setter Madison Haynes. The annual highly anticipated tournament, which was held at United South High School, drew 16 middle-school volleyball teams from both public and private schools. “We came to play and were not expected to win,” said Julie Iturralde, one of the key outside hitters for MHCS. The Lady Stallions garnered the 2011 UISD district title after a win over the heavy favorite and previously undefeated United Middle School Mavericks. The mighty Mavericks won over this year’s

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

United Day School seventh grade volleyball champions during a tournament on October 21 and 22. In the tense, action-packed October 29 first-set finale between MHCS and UMS, the Lady Stallions rallied to move ahead and from behind a score of 21 (Lady Stallions) and 24 (UMS). Just a point shy of victory, the UMS team witnessed MHCS front-row player Paola Canales serve the ball with no errors. Teamwork and determination paid off for the Lady Stallions, who scored five subsequent points to finish the first set with an upset win of 26-24. The second set was highly dramatic as well, with both ! teams competing toe to toe After a playoff victory over the United Middle School Mavericks, members of the 2011 Lady until the final whistle. After Stallion seventh grade volleyball team gathered for a team photo with their coaches. Sitan early lead by MHCS Lady ting from left (front row) #8-Lorena Fernandez, #4-Monse Ochoa, and #3 -Nicole Recto. Stallions, the Mavericks caught Standing left to right are Coach Allison Haynes, #1-Victoria Villarreal, #17-Andrea De Luna, up during the middle of the #20-Andrea Salido, #10-Julie Iturralde, #11-Andrea Guerra, #2-Madison Haynes, #16 -Paola game. The tightly fought conCanales, and coach Edith Guerra. test moved each team closer to finish the set until they tied at 25-25. The MCHS Lady Stallions com- MHCS coach Edith Guerra told the players. For the Lady Stallion seventh graders, pleted two more points to make it 27-25, Guerra thanked the parents of the the UISD middle school tournament was once again claiming victory in the second MHCS team members, who gave their sup- the second most important tournament set. No third set was necessary, and MHCS port throughout the entire volleyball sea- the team won this season. They took first was declared 2011 UISD middle school son. place in Eagle Pass during a similar citychampions. Lorena Fernandez, one of the MHCS wide Eagle Pass Independent School DisAfter the win, the Lady Stallions team team’s most valuable players in offense and trict Junior High Volleyball Tournament at huddled, letting the moment sink in. defense, added, “Good communication and the beginning of October and were unde“You were playing as a team, and I feel staying focused are the keys to our win. We feated against various seventh grade teams very proud of every single one of you,” played very well today as a team.” across South Texas. ◆ Courtesy photo

T

Special to LareDOS

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

49


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

E

very fall I hear similar complaints from teachers, instructors, and professors: “Why can’t students write?!” But despite their exasperation, most continue to use the same teaching methods they always used. Many, for example, still rely on instruction by contagion. This method requires exposing students to models of “good” writing — as if it were an infectious disease — in hopes that they will eventually contract the ability to write better. Other teachers use immersion, a more aggressive rendition of this approach. They force students’ heads into a tub brimming with dense prose and hold them under until they stop thrashing, their arms go limp, and their eyes roll back in their heads. Then, they yank them out, crack them on the back, and leave them sprawled on the floor —coughing, spewing chunks of academic prose, and gasping for a fresh breath of simple teen vernacular. And still other writing instructors advo-

50

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

‘Language is content’ cate giving students more opportunities to experience the writing process, the equivalent of handing them a shovel and ordering them to dig a hole 3 pages long by 5 paragraphs deep. When they finish, the instructor orders them out and tells them to scoop the dirt back in the hole. Then, they march them off to another patch of stony ground where they repeat the process and dig another hole of similar dimensions, into which students are eventually tempted to hurl themselves. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. A bit. Unfortunately, however, composition theorists and literature professors who grudgingly teach one section of freshman comp each semester often consider instruction by “contagion,” “immersion,” and “opportunity” the only valid ways to teach writing. They denigrate other approaches because, they claim, those methods focus only on surface features of style and grammar, not the more serious underlying problems of substance, logic, co-

herence, and development. I realized this again in October in a room on the fourth floor of Bloomsburg University’s Andruss Library, where the book club I had joined met for an hour on Wednesday mornings to discuss The Elements of Teaching Writing. The group consisted of faculty from economics, nursing, art, English, and history. The other English Department member present was Ted, the Writing Center director, who had visited a couple of my composition classes over the last two-and-a-half years and whose Writing Center consultants often assist my Comp I and II students. He wore a brown sport coat and a dark, bristly goatee. During the group’s discussion, he offered what he considered an important distinction: “Randy gets his comp students to focus close attention on language, but in art history or nursing or economics you would probably place more emphasis on content.” I’d heard it before. I knew what he was referring to. And though he was sincere and meant no offense, I shook my head. “I really have to disagree, Ted. Language is content. What else do we have?” The difference, for example, between “Glen was in his car” and “Glen snored in his car” appears slight, but this isn’t just a matter of diction. Choosing the action verb “snored” over the one most frequently used by inexperienced writers — the linking verb “was” — not only changes the meaning but also adds substance. Instead of vaguely acknowledging Glen’s presence (“was” doesn’t even indicate if he’s alive or dead), the verb “snored” contributes an auditory element and implies information that “was” cannot: Glen’s condition, maybe his posture, and even the po-

sition of his mouth. If that information, both stated and implied, isn’t content, I’ll stick my head in a tub of dense academic prose until I collapse. The difference between “There have been countless times where the only person I have felt comfortable talking to is her” and “Many times I only felt comfortable talking to her” isn’t just a stylistic choice between informal and formal or between effusive and terse. It’s a matter of cutting 8 meaningless words from 1 sentence, which makes room for more substance elsewhere. If cutting clutter from flabby sentences doesn’t push students to add more content, then bring on the contagion because my resistance is down. The difference between “Mr. Koch’s mustache is awesome!” and “Mr. Koch’s mustache is a Fu Manchu!” isn’t just a question of capitalization. The choice between “awesome” and “Fu Manchu” is the difference between an abstract opinion and a concrete fact. Vague abstraction is one of the most common features of unsupported student writing and, whether teachers realize it or not, the main cause of young writers’ empty, sometimes vacuous, unconvincing prose. If pointing out that difference and demanding that students include more facts and fewer generalizations don’t affect content, go get me a shovel and I’ll start digging that 5-paragraph hole. Too often students try to justify their weak, flabby, incoherent writing by claiming it’s their “style.” But instructors are just as guilty if they, too, use the “style” defense in order to avoid pulling aside the curtain and showing students that the inner workings of good writing aren’t as mysterious and subjective as they may have been led to believe. ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Reflections of a New Texan By DENISE FERGUSON

Denise Ferguson is newly arrived in Laredo. A Rhode Islander by birth, she and her husband retired to Laredo to be near their family. She can be reached by email at denisefrgsn845@aol.com

A

s we approach our twilight years (or, as some would say, reflect upon the age of the dinosaurs) my husband and I often discuss the topic of transportation. As a result of one of those discussions, we made a decision to start experimenting with local public transport to acquaint ourselves with route options and costs. For our first experiment with El Metro, we decided to invite our grandson — an aficionado of all transport vehicles — to meet us at the Doctors Hospital bus stop. That stop appears to offer a couple of optional routes, which provide access to either Mall del Norte, downtown, or both. Our destination that Saturday was to go all the way downtown to visit the Farmers’ Market. The first test was to determine if El Metro was on schedule for the 9:30 a.m. stop. We sat expectantly on the bench at 9:29 a.m., and there was not a bus to be seen (and one can see quite a distance from the Doctors Hospital hill.) But, lo and behold, within another 60 seconds that bus was sitting directly in front of us with doors wide open and ready to go. Score! I had made preparations on the previous day to make certain we had plenty of small change and dollar bills on hand for the money box as we do not yet have senior passes. I had put all this in a plastic baggie to have at hand. The bus driver politely directed us on how to use the moneybox after which we found seats and prepared for an interesting ride. However, just as I was about to sit down, a woman who looked about 30 stopped me and asked (in English) for money. I couldn’t imagine why she was asking me for money as the driver had let her pass through and did not appear to be looking around for more currency. It also occurred to me that the passenger might need change for $5 or such, but she did not proffer any bills in exchange for lower denominations. Frankly, I was dumfounded. But it gradually dawned on me that the lady wanted money for her return trip. So, I good-naturedly gave her a dollar (not having mastered the various fee charges). She said it was not enough. So I gave her $.50. She said, “That is not enough!” Then I gave her one more dollar and indicated my two companions sitting nearby and told her that we needed the rest of the change for our own return trip. So the WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Our first El Metro bus trip first lesson of the day was not to step on a bus with a plastic bag containing money without practicing some Jiu Jitsu first. If we were hoping to avoid the four or five charity drives (some of which may or may not be legitimate) that one encounters on a weekend while driving on McPherson or Del Mar, we could certainly say we had not succeeded. (Traveling on McPherson on a weekend can be like driving on a toll road.) But at least the charity representatives don’t say, “That is not enough!” (even if they think it). I decided to do a little detective work (as a result of watching way too much of Inspector Lewis on PBS) while at the same time studying the meanderings of the bus route. We were able to observe that Bus Number 3 (Convent) does not go to Mall del Norte. As for my passenger friend, I noted that she was carrying a large suitcase of good quality and did not appear to be starving. She was later joined by an apparent male acquaintance, who looked like he was capable of a bit of mischief himself as he tried to place his foot on top of the seat adjacent to me, but found it uncomfortable to do so in such close quarters. The bus did stop at the Laredo Medical Center, as advertised, and then meandered along San Francisco Avenue, around which I discovered pleasantly landscaped areas I had not previously seen. As we arrived at Convent Street, my young lady friend got off the bus and was met by an mature looking woman. So my investigative conclusion from this trip was that the young lady did not plan to access a return bus anytime soon, was not destitute, nor was she alone in the world. Anyway, to get back to the bus, our journey ended on time at the metro station right across from Jarvis Plaza and the Farmers’ Market. As a metro passenger, I would have found it helpful for the company to have posted sings as to where each bus would be expected to stop for the return trip. We did see a number 12B bus on which we planned to return parked outside in front of the station, but there were no signs on that side. There were signs for the internal stops. The Farmers’ Market visit is always a pleasure. We saw people picking up herbs, vegetable plants, seed packages, fresh shrimp, and mushrooms, among other as-

sorted products. Representatives from the Imaginarium offered pumpkin painting for children. I was disappointed that they were already low on baked goods at that time and no coffee was offered this visit, but I have heard that the city may provide a baked goods market to alternate with the Farmers’ Market in the future. I certainly am crossing my fingers on that! This trip also provided an opportunity to explore the St. Peter’s historic area featuring the beautiful architecture of the church and the historic ambience of the surrounding houses and buildings. My grandson enjoys exploring historic areas, and it was a nice day for a walk. A nice perk for him was that a Burger King anchors the bus depot. So how did the return trip go? As mentioned, we had planned to try the 12B route (Shiloh Express) for the return trip. As I saw the traffic jams building up around the de-

pot, I had concerns that the bus would take eons to push its way through. The bus was due at noon. At 3 minutes before the hour, I could see no sign of bus No. 12B in the distance, but at 11:58, there it was! My grandson sang happily to himself as the bus whizzed northbound on Route 35 until it approached Mall del Norte whereupon it traveled on San Dario, allowing passengers to get off and on at posted stops. It only took about 20 minutes or less to arrive at Doctors Hospital. According to El Metro’s website, the bus fares are: Adults, $1.40; Students, $1.15; Children, $0.40; Children less than 5 years, Gratis; Senior or person with disability with ID card, $0.25 on peak hours; Senior or person with disability with ID card, $0.15 off peak hours. For route information call: (956) 795-2280. Schedule information and maps may be downloaded at elmetrotransit.com. ◆

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

51


Seguro Que Sí Continued from page 25

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

What constitutes the 'middle class'?

If you earn a living built largely on intensive, hands-on labor, you are middle class. The void between blue-collar and whitecollar work can be middle class regardless he current political buzz word is of income. Hard work held in high honor “middle class,” and after being combined with fairness and equality is a bombarded by the media’s take on measure of middle class. the desperate plight of the middle If you earn millions of dollars but associclass, I thought, who are and what is middle ate socially with people of a high intellectual class, and how does one know whether or capacity, you are middle class. If your ancesnot he or she is middle class? What is the def- tors had significant accomplishments and inition of middle class? your lifestyle is OK Where can I find the Hard work held in but nothing like your officially recognized you are high honor combined ancestors, definition of middle middle class. with fairness and equality class? The world’s popuIf you live in a lation belongs to the is a measure of modern or traditional middle class, but the middle class. monarchy, that void power to create an between nobility and economy that is benpeasantry is middle class. If a family has eficial to the hardworking middle class beone-third of its income left after paying for longs to political leaders. food and shelter, that family is within the The truth is that the majority of our politimiddle class. cians is not civic-minded and cares only for If your main concern is material interests its personal interests. Our great country has and respectability with a tendency toward been besieged by the prior and current fedmediocrity, you are middle class. eral administrations, which have turned the People primarily concerned with social U.S.A. upside down by a good ol’ boy and behavior and political views influenced by a ludicrous, muddled socialist who doesn’t private property interest are bourgeois, a.k.a. have the faintest idea which way to turn. “middle class.” I am middle class, and Newt Gingrich is If you lay in between the educated gentry the best answer to having an intelligent, inand the ruling class, you are middle class. formed person as president of the U.S.A. ◆ Editor’s note: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of LareDOS or the columnists and contributors for LareDOS.

T

52

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

non-human bodies. They were not dressed, had arms “like broomsticks,” and looked like many of the typical grey aliens depicted in popular media. More of Willingham’s story can be found in Torres’ book, The Other Roswell: UFO Crash on the Texas-Mexico Border. Torres said he was honored to be a part of the first UFO conference in Laredo. “When I heard that the Webb County Heritage Foundation was doing this, I got really excited because the South Texas area, historically, has not been a place where there are a lot of UFO-related events, and so this is an opportunity for people to come forward and share their UFO experiences and listen to other major events,” Torres said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to hear about stories that aren’t commonly known.” ‘Fire in the Sky’ and Travis Walton Arizona logger Travis Walton was the conference’s main event, and he did not disappoint organizers and attendees. Most had probably heard about Walton’s case in mainstream media and the 1993 Hollywood film based on his account, Fire in the Sky. A showing of the film preceded Walton’s talk. Walton’s appearance at TAMIU fell on the same day of his abduction, November 5, 1975. The theater’s atmosphere became eerie as Walton explained that his abduction would have been happening exactly at the moment of his speech. According to Walton, he and his crew had just finished a day’s work of logging at the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona and were driving back home. “We really hadn’t traveled that far until we saw this strange glow in the trees,” Walton recounted. That glow, according to the crew, emanated not from a forest fire as they originally thought, but from a large silvery disc. “It was unmistakable. It was just right there, hovering,” Walton said. “Our famous UFO skeptic [Philip J. Klass] actually suggested that what we were seeing was the planet Jupiter, and that’s just totally absurd. This was less than 100 feet away, glowing metallic disc, shaped like two pie pans lip to lip, and right away we knew what it was.” One of the crew members yelled out, “It’s a flying saucer!” When the crew approached the disc, Walton, self-admittedly a bit of a risk taker in his youth, jumped out of the ve-

hicle and ran toward the object for fear that it would go away. But as he got closer, the object stayed in place. “I started having major second thoughts about what I was doing,” Walton said. “The crew was pretty alarmed by what I was doing, too, and they started calling after me to get back in the truck.” Walton made his way directly under the UFO. “It was so amazing, so smooth, and there was this feeling of power there that is really hard to describe,” he said. What followed, according to Walton’s account, was a hellish experience. Walton and the crew watched as the UFO started to move and make noise. The crew watched in complete horror as Walton’s body was picked up and thrown back with such force — what Walton described as a “blast of energy,” — that the crew originally thought he was dead. The first memory Walton has after his violent experience was waking up in what he thought was a hospital bedroom, with a bright light shining overhead and obscuring his view. Doctors stood over him, or what he thought were doctors. “I could see that these weren’t doctors standing over me — I thought maybe there wore surgical masks — but I was looking into the faces of these creatures, and I just flipped out,” Walton said. The creatures had large black eyes and represented the typical “grays.” Walton also saw human-like creatures, two males and a female, who never spoke to him, only smiled and sedated him again. When he woke up, he was outside a gas station in Heber, Ariz. Walton’s full recount of his experience is told in his 1978 book, The Walton Experience, which he signed at the conference. Walton explained that though he continues to relive the horrible memory of his abduction through speaking engagements and conferences around the world, he thinks there could be some good from sharing his own experience. “The process has had a desensitizing effect on me. Over time, I’ve come to realize along with the burden that this has brought to my life and costs it has brought to me also comes a certain amount of responsibility,” Walton said. “I’ve felt like if I could get the movie to tell what really happened with the final details I’ve been able to gather. Probably after that, I won’t want to talk about it anymore. And there have been periods of time where I’ve refused to do interviews and talk about it.” ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


South Texas Food Bank

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

T

Food bank staff plans December holiday fundraisers

he South Texas Food Bank’s mission of feeding the hungry gets a holiday boost with fundraisers in December. “December is identified with the Christmas season, which is a time of giving. The South Texas Food Bank is in the forefront of lending a helping hand to people in their most basic need: food. We are asking the public to support the food bank,” said Anna Benavides Galo, chairman of the STFB development committee. Please mark two key days in December on your calendar: Saturday, December 17and Tuesday, December 6. On December 17, there will be a citywide bucket brigade sponsored by KGNS-TV. On December 6 at Hal’s Landing, there will be a jail-andbail  lock-up of Laredo celebrities from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and a concert featuring local band The Jolly Ranchers. The jail-and-bail lock-up, which is being sponsored by Hal’s, will be located in a mock jail at the restaurant. “Fugitives” must raise at least a $500 bail for release. “We dearly appreciate the Lamont family’s support of the food bank over the last three years with events such as this,” said Cindy Liendo Espinoza, STFB chief development officer. Starting at 6 p.m., Hal’s Landing owners Tom and Marianne Lamont will host a party for the food bank, featuring music by the Jolly Ranchers from 7 to 11 p.m. Admission is $10 per person, and raffle tickets will also be sold. “The food bank is a well-organized, important entity in Laredo. We are conscious that nonprofits are having a tough time because of today’s economy, and we’re willing to give a hand,” Tom Lamont said. The Jolly Ranchers have been playing music in Laredo and the area for 17 years under the leadership of Mark Guerrero, a 1993 graduate of United High School.   “Me and a TAMIU student Steve Pandov started playing at the old Laredo Bar and Grill for fun, making $20 to $30 a night,” Guerrero recalled. “The good money was in the after parties.” And where did The Jolly Ranchers’ name originate?   Guerrero explains, “Some lady put a Jolly Rancher into a cup [that belonged to Steve] and the next day they were calling us the Jolly Ranchers.   It stuck, but with a name WWW. L A R E D O S NE W S . C O M

Courtesy photo

By salo otero

The Jolly Ranchers like that, people don’t know that to expect, a country band or something else.” The group has also grown throughout the years.   “We’ve had 25 or 26 (musicians) come in and out,” Guerrero said. “Many have gone on to better things.” Distinguished by his black fedora on stage (“Because I  like gangster movies.”), Guerrero is the guitar player and lead vocalist. The other Jolly Ranchers are Larry Botello on drums, “Chino” (“He’s just ‘Chino,’ no other name,” says Guerrero) on percussion, Danny García on trumpet and Jerry Espinoza on saxophone. The vocalist is Claudia Rodriguez. Guerrero says the group has diverse musical talents. “[They] all bring something different to the table. I grew up listening to soul.  On any given night we can play soul, rock, classic rock, jazz, salsa, meringue or a cumbia,” Guerrero said. His favorite piece is “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye. The Jolly Ranchers have been on stages in what Guerrero calls “the South Texas circuit” — Laredo, Alice, Corpus Christi, Premont, South Padre Island, and the Valley. We’ll perform four to five times per week … about 225 gigs per year.   I can tell you we work real hard,” he said. “We consider ourselves more than just a band.

We are family. We’re a band of brothers, always looking out after each other.  It’s a beautiful relationship.” From 1999 to 2002 and 2006 to the present, the Jolly Ranchers have been regulars at Laredo’s Coyote Creek. And the December 6 nonprofit gig for the South Texas Food Bank is not the first for The Jolly Ranchers.   “We’ve done concerts for LULAC, March of Dimes and others,” Guerrero said. “We love to give back to the community.” Additional funds will be collected during a mass mail-out campaign from late November through December. Be on the look out for the solicitation in your mailbox. South Texas Food Bank employees and volunteers will also be collecting donations at several Laredo intersections on December 17 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The food bank converts every dollar contributed into eight meals, 10 pounds of food, or $17 of groceries.

Money raised from the South Texas Food Bank fundraisers go back into the community through the programs like Adopt a Family and Kid’s Cafés. At the November board meeting, executive director Alfonso Casso Jr. reported 982 families on Adopt a Family with 490 on a waiting list.   A personal donation of $120 per year adopts one family. The STFB has 13 Kid’s Cafés in Laredo-Webb County, serving an afterschool meal to more than 1,000 children from Monday through Friday. Startup Kid’s Café sponsorships are   $25,000 and   $10,000 per year after that. In September, 15,967 meals were served at Kid’s Cafes.   The yearly total is 145,980 meals. More than 400 veterans and their widows pick up groceries every month. Also, the SNAP Outreach (formerly Food Stamps) Program filed 428 applications during the month, representing 569 adults and 626 children. SNAP applications for the year are 4,058 with 5,401 adults and 5,651 children. December will also mark the South Texas Food Bank’s 24th anniversary. The food bank was started as the Laredo-Webb County Food Bank in 1989 with top support from H-E-B. The STFB now distributes supplemental food once a month to 24,000 families, 7,000 elderly, 6,000-plus children and 400 veterans and their widows in an eight-county area from Rio Grande City to Del Rio. STFB is located at 1907 Freight St. in west Laredo. For more information, call the food bank at (956) 726-3120 or check out the website at southtexasfoodbank.org. ◆

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

53


Traditionally Modern Cooking

Savory calabaza warms up the holiday season

By Jason Herrera

Herrera is an English major at Oklahoma City University. He’s had a passion for cooking since he was 8 years old, when he started teaching himself recipes and eventually, creating his own scrumptious meals. Herrera also enjoys gardening and horror movies.

Courtesy of Jason Herrera

I

always loved the few cold and rainy days Laredo had to offer mid-January. During those days, my mother would make chicken calabaza. Its bright and warm color would ward off any of the outside gloom. The tomato-ey broth was smooth and savory. The bits of corn and chunks of chicken and squash looked like gold in the pot. In Oklahoma City, the cold days start in mid October and are sprinkled throughout November. I decided now would be a good time to make and share my time-tested recipe for calabaza so I could bring some warmth to my dorm. Every time my mother would make this dish, the whole house seemed to light up, and the scent would call everybody to the dinner table. As I got older, my mother taught me how to make calabaza, and I made a few changes. First, I added strands of oven-fried corn tortillas. Then, I added cheese to top off the tortillas. I added more or less of the spices Momma would use and changed the name of the dish to tortilla soup. Despite what you call it, this soup is bound to make you happy. Momma’s Southern roots shine through in this traditionally Mexican dish. The flavors have mingled so well, they are happily married. Perhaps the most Southern feature of her calabaza is the ease of preparation. She had her hands full with work and kids, and any meal she could just forget about until it was ready was perfect. This is no exception. The key to a great calabaza/tortilla soup is giving yourself time. I would never serve this soup after only an hour or two of cooking. In fact, I tend to let it cook for twoand-a-half hours and put it in the fridge to set overnight before I serve it. It gets better

with some setting, and this recipe makes enough for a family of 3 or 4 to have for a good three days. The most labor-intensive part of this recipe is chopping the chicken and squash. Besides that, you toss everything into a pot and let it cook for a while. You can use whatever summer squash you like, but I prefer the yellow and/or

Chicken Tortilla Soup/Calabaza 1 pound of chicken cut into rough 1-inch chunks 5-6 crookneck yellow squash cut into 1-inch chunks 1 can of corn, drained Enough water to cover the chicken/squash (3-4 cups) 2 cloves garlic 1 onion 1-2 tablespoons of tomato bullion Corn tortillas cut into slivers the same width as your pinky nail salt and pepper to taste

54

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

crookneck squash. Their mellow flavor is a perfect compliment for the depth of the tomato bouillon. My favorite part of the soup is the chicken, and I’m sure that its flavor comes from that bouillon. The deep orange powder makes the soup come together. If you use the right amount, you won’t have to

use much if any salt. Because of its high salt content, you will have be careful not to use too much. You can always add more bouillon later; it’s hard to take some away. Another thing you’ll want to watch is the chicken. You will have to be sure to not boil the chicken, as it will become very tough quickly. ◆

Sauté the onion and garlic in a bit of oil for five minutes. Add the chicken and cook until it’s browned (10-15 minutes). Add the squash, corn, tomato bullion and water. Cover and cook for at least two-and-a-half hours. Before serving, turn the broiler on. Toss the tortilla slivers in some oil and place evenly onto a cookie sheet. Place under the broiler and cook for two to three minutes or until crispy and golden, shaking occasionally. Top with cheese if desired.

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Notes from LaLa Land By dr. neo gutierrez

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

W

Laredoan Josephine Sacabo featured in 'New York Times'

hat a delight to see Josephine Sacabo, a.k.a. Mary Alice Martin, in the Arts section of The New York Times. I’ve written here about Josephine before, remembering when she was my ballroom dance student at the Galo Studio in Laredo many years ago. The NYT headline says it all: “Life and art, side by side, in the French Quarter of New Orleans.” The article also includes Josephine’s fellow artist/neighbor, Ersy Schwartz, who also uses her house in New Orleans as an “incubator for her artwork.” Ersy is a sculptor, while Josephine is a photographer who produces photo art with a distinctive New Orleans point of view. The Times writer explains, “In Ms. Sacabo’s ghostly, smoky female figures in her photography, you can see the collision of magic realism, allegory and surrealism. It’s the territory of fallen angels and all manner of fantastic creatures.”  The event that triggered the NYT story is Ersy’s and Josephine’s side-by-side retrospectives, which opened at the end of September at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Josephine lives in New Orleans in a 170-year-old house with her husband, Dalt Wonk, which is his stage name. They met when they were theater students at Bard College. Dalt is a playwright and theater critic, and he’s Romanian Jewish. Josephine was raised a Catholic in a formal Latin family that wasn’t thrilled by her choice of husband. Josephine says her father, former Laredo Mayor “Pepe” Martin, never really forgave her for marrying out of her “milieu.”

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

In my email interview with Josephine, these were my  questions regarding her work: How many exhibits have you had? Which are your three favorites? And, what is your mental/emotional process when you do your photo art? And she answered: “I never counted my exhibits, but there are probably well over 100. I really can’t say I’ve had a favorite — all have been incredibly rewarding, and I’ve had the luxury of pretty much setting them up to my specifications, which has been great because I usually have strong feelings about the sequence of images, my galleries, and the museums where I have exhibited. But probably the biggest buzz of my career was the critical essay Elena Poniatowska wrote about my images based on Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo. It simply doesn’t get better than that. “My work is usually my response to some literary text, some person or place that has moved me. But it is mostly the hidden dimension that I want to depict, because it’s from there that the connection is established with the viewer. Trying to show you both what I saw and what I felt about what I saw.  Here is my artist statement from my book Oyeme Con Los Ojos, which will be coming out in November: I believe in Art as  the means of transcendence and connection. My images are simply what I’ve made from what I have been given. I hope they have done justice to their sources and that they will, for a moment, stay ‘the shadows of contentment too short lived.’  You can see her work at josephinesacabo.com. Let’s do a dance jump and consider an incredible human being and dancer, J.R. Martinez, of Dancing with the Stars fame. He has brought audiences to tears with his

incredible spirit and performances. J.R. was injured severely when he was driving a Humvee and hit a landmine in a 2003 mission in Iraq. He is now 28 years old, and it’s amazing to watch him on DWTS considering he suffered severe smoke inhalation and burns on over 40 percent of his body in Iraq. He spent 34 months at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio Fighting for his life and against depression, he found his strength to move on, becoming an actor, a motivational speaker, and, of course, a DWTS contestant. Whether he wins DWTS or not, I think J.R. is the top DWTS dancer this year, as he manages all the raw emotions of sadness, happiness, and hope. Possibly the best dance ever on DWTS occurred when J.R. and his partner produced the perfect Latin dance storm in a samba to a song by Gloria Estefán. As judge Carrie Ann Inaba put it: “Oooh, papi, muy caliente.” Some poquito de todo  random thoughts to close. Dancer  Julianne Hough is terrific in the new Footloose movie. Her dance

teacher at the beginning of her career was Corky Ballas, son of Maria Luisa Marulanda, Laredo dance great of the 1950s, now of Houston. Mark Ballas, who prematurely got bumped from this season’s DWTS, is Maria Luisa’s grandson. Spain’s Javier Bardem is going to be the new villain in the next James Bond movie. Miguel Ferrer made his mark again as an avant-garde art teacher in Desperate Housewives this season. He was my student at Beverly Hills High School, and he is the son of actor  José Ferrer and singer Rosemary Clooney. If you like jalapeño chiles, you might want to try Northeast India’s “ghost” chili, the hottest pepper on earth, about 200 times spicier than the jalapeños we like. And the clincher of the year — a Catholic priest in Las Vegas has been caught embezzling $650,000 from his church because of his gambling addiction. And on that note, it’s time for, as Norma Adamo says, tan-tan! ◆

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

55


Theater Review

LCC Opera Workshop’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ recaptures spirit, humor of original screenplay BY CRISTINA HERRERA LareDOS Staff

56

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

Courtesy of LCC

C

ommunity theater naysayers would bite their tongues after watching the Laredo Community College Opera Workshop’s fun and endearing rendition of Little Shop of Horrors, the famous rock musical composed by Disney greats Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. The production ran for four days inside LCC’s Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Fine Arts Center Theater, from October 27 to 30. The crew captured the spirit of the play in costume and especially excellent use of props. Puppeteer Brenda Renteria deserves much commendation for her excellent work on Audrey II. Going into the theater, I wondered how the crew was going to pull off the Audrey II puppet. There was plenty that could’ve gone wrong — Audrey II’s voice not synching up or a puppet malfunction comes to mind, but Renteria’s puppet work and Colby Cooper’s New Orleans-influenced bass voice looked almost flawless. As the Audrey II got bigger, Renteria skillfully gave life to “him,” and it was easy to forget that the plant was just a prop. To this day I am still wondering how long it took to sync up the puppet and the voice. Kudos to the talent of both Renteria and Cooper. The rest of the cast, comprised of stu-

Alex Vargas plays Seymour in the LCC Opera Workshop production of Little Shop of Horrors. dents, fine arts teachers, and musical theater buffs, put on a stellar performance featuring excellent vocal talents, such as Jessica Cardenas. She was a nearly immaculate Audrey, complete with spot-on nasal imitation of the wonderful Ellen Green’s (she played Audrey in the 1986 film) voice. Cardenas delighted the audience with her range by breaking out of the nasally voice and performing with a strong, full singing voice. And what a voice! Cardenas’ singing talent stood out among the cast, and she

has the charisma needed for theater. Another standout performance was Hector Rios as the villainous Orin, Audrey’s abusive boyfriend. He is probably one of the more memorable characters from the 1986 film, played by the oncegreat Steve Martin. Rios was one of the most confident players up there, which worked for the egotistical Orin, a dentist who likes to sample his own laughing gas. The audience freaked out when Rios made his first appearance, and his performance

told me why. With his charisma and versatility, I could see Rios as one of the freshfaced kids on Glee. Alex Vargas (Seymour) seemed a bit stiffer in his performance, but maybe it was intentional, as this awkwardness actually worked perfectly for the timid Seymour. Vargas has a strong voice, and with a bit more work, it could become much stronger. In Little Shop, Vargas shows burgeoning potential. Vargas’ Seymour worked well with Alfredo Iñiguez’s Mushnik, though his pseudo-Jewish accent was unintentionally humorous. Nevertheless, his Mushnik was great fun for the audience, and any flaws in accent were forgiven by a solid performance. Especially lovable were the three Motown-influenced girl group, with Celia Hernandez (Chiffon), Edna Gonzalez (Crystal), and Renee Hinojosa (Ronnette). As narrators, these three ladies held a very crucial part in the production, but they looked like they were having a lot of fun with their roles. Their vocal capabilities were also superb. Kudos to everybody else from the Opera Workshop at LCC. Thank you for a truly enjoyable night. Dr. Joseph Crabtree, who modestly left his name out of the play’s program booklet, also deserves praise for his directing of the whole production. This is the type of enriching activity kids in Laredo should be doing more. ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


Vietnam ‘reflections’ San Antonio artist Roberto Sifuentes, left, poses with Studio P-33 owner Gil Rocha alongside’ one of Sifuentes' paintings, at the opening reception for his exhibit, “Vietnam: Abstracts and Reflections of a Sky Soldier.” Sifuentes took the photographs that the exhibit’s paintings are based on when he was a soldier in the Vietnam War. The reception, which was held on Friday, November 11, also fell on Cristina Herrera/LareDOS Staff

Veterans Day. Sifuentes’ exhibit

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

will be on display at Studio P-33 at 420 Matamoros Street until mid December. — Cristina Herrera

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

57


Gallery 201 Opening Reception Oct. 5, 2011

58

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

59


The generosity of many figured into making the Second Annual Renato Ramirez Invitational Golf Tournament a successful fundraiser for the Río Grande International Study Center. We thank all who supported the effort and the enthusiastic golfers who participated. We are also grateful to our sponsors: Renato and Patricia Ramirez Ricardo Ramirez IBC-Zapata Los Ebanos Golf Course Med-Loz Lease Service LDR Rentals La Posada Hotel Sames Motor Company Falcon International Bank Border to Border Communications Johnny Rathmell Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz Ricardo Guevara LA Contractors Wolverine Construction Dr. Reynaldo Godines Arguindegui Oil Companies Suarez Bros. Service Mike’s Western Wear Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau Laredo Country Club Golf Course Casa Blanca Golf Course Lowe’s One Way Hauling L&F Distributors Palenque Grill Academy Sports Little Caesar’s Pizza J.R. Martinez Auto South Doctors Hospital Laredo Bucks Laredo Implement Armando Hinojosa Laredo Ranch Heights Border Sporting Goods Kelly’s Western Wear Casa Raul Laredo Discount Metals Holloway’s Bakery Jett Bowl María Eva U. Ramirez Fabiola Flores

60

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

Cordelia Flores Rancho Gas Measurement Discount Imaging of Laredo La India Packing Company Adolfo Campero & Assoc. Neel Title Corporation   Pain Management Clinic Dr. Judson Somerville Henri Kahn Insurance Jeff Jones Kazen, Meurer & Perez, LLP Trade Technology Systems                                               Farias & Farias                                                                            Mercurio Martinez Jr.                                                         Laredo Downtown Pharmacy                                              R.Y. Livestock Sales                                                          Oliveira Audiology                                                             Drs. Jane & Gary Unzeitig                                                 Clark Hardware                                                                    Pan American Express                                                          Drs. Gladys & Roger Keene Blue Top Digital Reprographics                                                                         Webb County Attorney Anna Laura Cavazos Ramirez             Ernesto Dominguez, CPA Gonzalez Auto Parts Patricia Alvarez Aurelio Villarreal State Farm Insurance STX Petro – Jim Kelly Ramiro Torres - Holiday Restaurant                                              Hector Uribe El Paraiso Restaurant   Hillside Funeral Home Laredo Mainstreet/Farmers Mkt. Jiffy Lube of Laredo Logan’s Olive Garden Chili’s Texas Roadhouse Marble Slab Creamery Cinemark Theaters Rudy’s BBQ Johnny Carino’s Buffalo Wild Wings

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


WINNERS FLIGHT A First - Rumaldo Belmares Second - Armando García Third - Ruben Bustamante FLIGHT B First - Cesar García Second - Gib Vela Cuellar Third - Ruben Gutiérrez FLIGHT C Tie for First - Porky Pizaña and Terry Peña Second - Ron Coussons FLIGHT D First - Noe González Second - O.B. Luera

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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

61


Continued from page 39 in coming here to establish businesses, but with delays you’ll start getting apathy,” he said, adding, “The Plaza was one of many sites we looked at as a strategic location.” Idea lacks substance, clear objectives and real business plan Preservationst Margarita Araiza, a champion of downtown’s architecture and its revitalization, is opposed to a building as iconic as the Plaza Theatre being subdivided into bars. She has the expectation that the city will do due diligence on the proposed project that she said has little to do with historic preservation. “It is absolutely crucial that the plan for this structure be clear as to what the objective is, who exactly will be funding it and at what levels, and who is the market audience for it use. It’s imperative that a real business plan be submitted, including formal commitments in writing about who is investing in it, the levels of their personal investment, and the professional qualifications of the project head,” said Araiza, the executive director of the Webb County Heritage Foundation. She said Treviño and Lopez are not the only parties interested in the old theater. “The public should be aware that there have been several entities interested in taking on this project,” Araiza said, adding, “I believe the process needs to be an open one

62

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

with all serious potential bidders considered. Especially if the city will be asked to substantially invest in its rehabilitation.” Araiza said the iconic Plaza Theatre is one that people of different generations remember with great personal fondness. She lauded the city’s 1999 decision to purchase it and commit to its protection as a local landmark. “Considering the cost involved in restorations or rehabilitations of this type, it’s not surprising that many interested parties have not been able to proceed with plans for its use. Sometimes, it’s just better to err on the side of caution and not go forward with a proposal just because a building has stood vacant for some time,” she said. “I know that our biggest stumbling block was the priority of protecting the historic murals inside the building. This consideration is still paramount as far as I’m concerned. And this is what we will continue to advocate,” said Araiza, who participated in the initial feasibility study conducted by Almond in 2002. “There are numerous vacant buildings available downtown that could very easily be transformed into bars and viable retail establishments. The Plaza Theatre is not one of them.” Arrogant wool-pulling There’s a bit of wool-pulling and arrogance about Treviño’s appearance before the council and his choice of words — “when we started the Plaza” and “when

we took over the Plaza.” Pressed by e-mail and by phone to give particulars for his plan, Treviño e-mailed Community Development director Ronnie Acosta, giving her the one-sheet Killis Almond Statement of Probable Cost he shared with City Council. He wrote, “Please be assured that we will not be doing some of the improvements because they are theaterdriven, and the ones we will be doing will be done at a fraction of the cost.” He informed her that estimated costs for the investment he will be making to the lobby and second floor is between $98,782 and $124,432. Interestingly, Treviño’s correspondence closes with his name, followed by “JD, BR, Commercial Pilot, Attorney at Law, Tax, Real Estate, Aviation.” Treviño’s name does not appear on the State Bar of Texas web site as an attorney licensed to practice in Texas. Treviño is Councilman Alex Perez’s appointee to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. His mother Rosa Marquez de Treviño is Councilman Jorge Vera’s appointee to the Historic District Landmark Board. How would it work? Regarding Liendo Espinoza’s reminder of the Community Development Block Grant the city used to purchase the theater and CDBG criteria to make the theater accessible to low income residents — will the proposed bars have nickel beer for low-income patrons, and the poverty-level school children and the

elderly invited to watch Cine de Oro, would they walk through the lobby bar to get to the movie part of the reconfigured space? These are not the right tenants. Why would City Council agree to let them gut the Plaza Theatre when they have not so much as shown their own financials or a credible plan for how they would get the work done? Council lip synch Hard, stressful economic times and the scrutiny of taxpayers mandate more than ever the due diligence of the City Council and the Mayor for decisions they make for how they will spend taxpayer money. Their collective (save for members Charlie San Miguel and Johnny Rendon) and lip synch approval without so much as a feasibility study document or real figures before them sends a clear signal that this council trivializes due diligence and is willing, even in this strapped economic climate, to gamble with public money. In another city, two young men asking City Council for a few hundred thousand dollars of public money for infrastructure for a private venture, without showing so much as a written plan or a study for their part of the work, would have been asked to take a seat or to come back later when they had grown up. In Laredo council chambers they were fawned over, lauded for their halfbaked plan, and accorded much respect for asking for a handout masked as a preservation project. ◆

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


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

LareDOS | NOVEM BER 2011 |

63


64

| L a r e DO S | N OV EM B ER 2011

WWW.LAREDOSNEWS.COM


LareDOS November 2011