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* GZ P V DB O ´UB O O P Z  T P N F C P E Z UI F S F ´T MJUUMF  Q P JO UJO X S JUJO H  

A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS SEPTEMBER

2009

Est. 1994

Vol. XV, No. 9

LOCALLY OWNED

64 PAGES

Scrambled eggs, a side of sausage The shame of it all: You know you are in Laredo when a Webb County employee tells Good Government League founder Marissa Martinez “For my balls, I will not sign� the open records request she has made of your department

See page 14


COUNTY JUDGE RACE 2010 It Boils Down to a Clear Choice

Businessman Bruni vs. Desperate Dan

TThe he ccurrent urrent “Crisis” “Crisis” bbudget udget pput ut together together bbyy a committee committee tthat hat DDesperate esperate DDan an appointed appointed ttoo ddoo the judge’s job is a cut-and-paste fiasco that doesn’t work any way you cut and paste it.

However… The Texas Constitution states that the County Judge is the county’s “Chief Financial Officer.” Judge Louis H. Bruni understood this; the current Webb County fund balance is the Bruni Balance -- it is all that separates Webb County from the Abyss.

Furthermore, Since Louis H. Bruni is a successful businessman and understands the private sector, he has the qualifications to be Webb County’s Chief Financial Officer. In the private sector, he built the successful BRUNI ENERGY business “from the ground to the crown.”

On the other hand… Desperate Dan can’t find a budget with both his hands --- What has he ever done in the private sector? What does he understand?

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

Voters of Webb County, who is better qualified to run Webb County’s business… Bruni the Businessman or Desperate Dan? POLITICAL ADVERTISING PAID FOR BY SANDRA M. BRUNI, TREASURER, POST OFFICE BOX 1810, LAREDO, TX, 78044

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M AILBOX L

ETTERS TO THE PUBLISHER

To the Editor: My highest compliments to Mr. Jay Johnson-Castro Sr. on his superior article in your August issue titled “Something on the US-Mexico border is SICK� and to you for having the guts to publish it. He really hit the nail on the head and I recommend every concerned resident of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo to study it closely. It is one of those in-depth revelations that make me feel “I wish I would have said that.� I have been a severe critic of the workings of the Department of Homeland Security that OUR federal government has used for their covert attempt to establish “martial law� in our “free society.� (Even questioning how soon they will put on their swastika armbands). People only have to review the history of how Hitler was able to brainwash millions of peace-loving German citizens into emphatic belief of the “super race� to the point that he was able to slaughter millions of Germans because they may have been Jews and thus of an inferior race. And, the poor and starving populace saw nothing,

heard nothing, and said nothing. A great sage once said, “If we do not learn from history, we are likely to repeat it.� Even our government refuses to see our current economic crisis (and everything that flows with it) for what it really is -- the second great depression. Look how long it took them to admit that we had lapsed into a “recession.� As Mr. Castro so aptly described, our border is no longer merely a small stream of water flowing in the middle of two neighborly groups of friends. It has become an armed, hostile fortress driven by a paranoid fear of terrorists behind every bush. Wow, it is amazing the amount of government protectors assembled in overwhelming numbers to guard our border (of our neighbor) over the years since 9/ll, yet there has never been a single Islamic terrorist detected trying to attack America via the Mexican frontier. Wake up, Laredo. We have been invaded from within. I have said repeatedly, homeland security is a ruse -- they even posted an oath they are supposed to live by. It goes something like “treat people humanely, with respect and dignity.�

Monica, I was relieved when I read the last words of your “letter to my grandparents� and discovered that your article was all sarcasm. However, I did become concerned with your vitriolic rhetoric and obvious hate for my great country, the USA. Oh, that treatment for your injury in Britain was not gratis. Some British family wage earner paid the bill. Geesh, I pray to God that the gushy spout of your pent up liberal frustrations gave you a sense of relief. Your article could easily be the subject of a spooky movie. Henri D. Kahn

Instead, they treat every border crosser as a terrorist until proven innocent. I crossed many borders in my 35 years of federal service and this one (coming from Mexico) is currently the most fearful, hostile one I have ever experienced. Clifford A. Gibeaut

# V UN F N P S Z C MV T I F T B UUI F T O F F S " O E I P O P S UV S O T X JUI GS P X O E F GJB O U  " O E GS F F E P N MF B O JO H P O I F S T Q F B S - B V H I T MP V E F S UI B O UI F  MB V H I JO H H JB O U

Oliver Wendell Holmes

A JOURNAL OF THE BORDERLANDS SEPTEMBER

2009

Est. 1994

Vol. XV, No. 9

LOCALLY OWNED

64 PAGES

PUBLISHER

MarĂ­a Eugenia Guerra meg@laredosnews.com EDITOR

Monica McGettrick mcgettrick@laredosnews.com

Scrambled eggs, a side of sausage The shame of it all: You know you are in Laredo when a Webb County employee tells Good Government League founder Marissa Martinez “For my balls, I will not sign� the open records request she has made of your department

4 F F Q B H F  

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ShuString Productions, Inc. www.laredosnews.com 1812 Houston Street Laredo Texas 78040 Tel: (956) 791-9950 Fax: (956) 791-4737 Copyright @ 2008 by LareDOS

Write a Letter to the Editor meg@laredosnews.com

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Santa María Journal

Emily and Amanda: the ongoing discovery of them comes at me like rich-colored ribbons attached to flares By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

S

omething wonderful happened this summer when my granddaughters attended classes at Intelligym. Emily enjoyed herself, reveling as any five year-old would in all the creative, imaginative learning explorations of fairies and fashion dreamed up by the Jordan sisters. For Amandita, my younger granddaughter, the Intelligym experience was her first immersion in a structured social setting. She moved in those weeks with nearly time-defying speed to become more articulate, to make the sounds of counting or reciting the alphabet, to dance and to sing with abandon through some new open-hearted set of sensibilities. There was a week this summer during which their parents were out of town, and getting the girls ready for school,

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driving them, and retrieving them was a responsibility I shared with their other grandmother, my comadre María. It was one of the best weeks of my life. I love my son George and my daughter-in-law Rosita, but without the filter of them for that week and without the instructions they still insist on giving us for childcare -- as though we have no common sense, as though we had not successfully raised them -- the girls were ours. If I tell you how rich that was or how late into the week the girls began to inquire about their parents, it might offend the young peeps who had traveled south. “Do you think they will really come back?” Emily asked the day before they returned. In that week in which we followed the household horario for bath and bed time, that week of meals together and sweet

moments of play and choosing outfits, that week in which the comadre and I were sources of comfort and referees for these two precious girls, I understood profoundly my role in their lives. That I love them deeply is a given, but the ongoing discovery of how I love them comes at me in the most unexpected ways -- like rich-colored ribbons attached to flares, like delicious jolts of unconditional love that come to rest in the hold of my heart. The conduit of that comfort is so direct, so uncomplicated -- my heart to theirs, theirs to mine. When they come to visit, they arrive at my door as one with two sets of knocks, one higher and one below the doorknob. Emily rushes in with some observation she needs to get off her chest and asks if we can watch Mamma Mia! (for the 20 th time.) Amandita, a few steps behind, closes the door like it’s her job. She is wearing an elastic head-

band of shiny golden fabric and carrying on her shoulder a large furry pink purse filled with pictures of her family. There’s a Barbie doll in each little fist, but at the sound of music, she drops dolls and purse and begins to dance in a swirl. Emily has memorized the lyrics to the Abba epic and many of the gestures in the film, including making the sign of the cross as it is done in the film. Amandita knows the refrains, losing herself as she sings some abbreviated semblance of “dancing queen.” When their interest in song and dance wanes, they attach themselves to me, and we watch the rest of the movie in a heap on a big chair. I settle into the rhythm of their breaths, the way they smell, the silk of their hair on my face. By genetics, by love, by the gossamer of fairy wings, we are inexorably, inextricably and for eternity connected. ◆

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Courtesy Photo Photo by Meg Guerra

Zapata Chamber introduces latest marketing tool

Good food, great atmosphere at Los Generales Rosi and Raul Ceballos, owners of Los Generales on Santa María, are pictured with keyboardist Moises Chaires who provided patrons of the restaurant with a diverse repertoire of piano favorites.

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The Zapata County Chamber of Commerce recently unveiled its new 36-page visitors guide, which was produced by Laredo’s Graphitiks Advertising Design. The guide’s logo features a cowboy atop one of the bass for which the Falcon Reservoir is well known and the slogan “A venture in adventure.” The guide is but one of the Chamber’s push to bring visitors and investors to Zapata County. Pictured with the dean of design, Joe García of Graphitiks, are Zapata Chamber CEO Paco Mendoza and president Teresa Hein. For copies of the guide, visit www.zapatachamber.com, call (800) 292-LAKE or visit the Chamber’s office at 601 N. US Hwy 83 in Zapata.

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News

White Mass scheduled for October 21

Courtesy Photo

T

White Mass

WBCA in Washington Congressman Henry Cuellar joined John Galo as George Washington and other delegates from the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association in Washington, D.C. to celebrate George Washington’s legacy at the White House and on Capitol Hill. Approximately 50 representatives from Laredo joined Congressman Cuellar and other lawmakers to commemorate WBCA’s 113th Celebration.

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Photo by Monica McGettrick

Among the Doctors Hospital health care professionals preparing for the Eighth Annual White Mass on October 21 are (seated) Leti Gonzalez, Dolores Boswell, Rachel Rodriguez, and Gilda Villarreal. Standing behind them are Chaplain Sergio Rodriguez, Ethel Ike, Laura Villarreal, and Javier Compean.

Courtesy Photo

he Eighth Annual White Mass, a liturgy for health care professionals, is set for Wednesday, October 21, at San Agustín Cathedral. Sponsored by the Diocese of Laredo, the Mass is open to the public, healthcare workers of all denominations in Laredo and surrounding counties, and those in religious health care ministry. The event is held in conjunction with the October 18 Feast of Saint Luke, patron saint of healthcare workers. The Gospel of Luke emphasizes ministering to the poor and conveying God’s mercy to all. Traditionally, health care workers wore white. In the Catholic Church, white symbolizes hope and comfort to the ill and hospitalized. A reception will follow immediately after the Mass at La Posada Hotel. Parking is available in the Church parking lot and La Posada. For more information about the White Mass, please call Chaplain Sergio Rodriguez at 956-796-3657. ◆

Honoring 9/11 Students and faculty of the Vidal M. Treviño School of Fine Arts and Communication recently held their annual Patriot’s Day Ceremony honoring the memory of those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as well as our local first responders.

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color


Opinion

History will remember the tenacity of Manuel Menchaca IV and Hector Farias Jr. as the stuff of conviction and commitment By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

J

ust after the printing of our maiden issue at the end of 1994, I had the opportunity to meet Manuel Menchaca IV. I met him through U.S. Customs broker Hector Farias Jr. The two former Marines, along with a few other individuals, were in the mid 1990s the core of the effort to upend LISD’s administration and purchasing department with a fusillade of open records requests for how school district money was being spent on construction, landscaping, and paint schemes at the VMT magnet school and how administrators and trustees (and their spouses, some who were district employees and some who were not) traveled on the public nickel. Hector was vocal, often the face on camera citing the latest detail of the district’s blatant abuse of public money and the violation of the public trust. By comparison, Manuel was possessed of a quiet calmness that belied a dry, spot-

on, decimating sense of humor and a great laugh. Like Hector, however, he was all business –- outraged by the hemorrhage of taxpayer money and purchasing practices that raised the questions that merited answers and/or policy changes. Both men are deserving of recognition for the relentless pursuit of information that cast a revealing hot, white light on practices formerly kept from public scrutiny, some practices worthy of indictments. There was no shortage of examples of the school district’s questionable spending practices. There was the matter of assistant LISD superintendent of finance Tony Gutierrez who owned a flower shop on Saunders Ave. selling LISD oak trees, ligustrum, and boxwoods to landscape the magnet school, planting the shrubs threedeep to make the plantings look wellestablished in preparation for the visit of then-governor Ann Richards. (How many flower shops stock oak trees and bushes?) There was Supt. Vidal Treviño’s travel

by entourage with assistant superintendents and trustees, wives in tow, to meet with bond issuers in NYC and DC; $600 suppers replete with cocktails and wine; a road trip vacation junket from La Jolla, CA to Santa Fe, NM (no doubt with some dice-y stops along the way), the trip of superintendents and wives chalked up to establishing an architecture curriculum at the VMT magnet school; what the superintendent spent to feed his entourage at Laredo’s best downtown eatery; stays in the best hotels (Sheraton Torrey Pines in La Jolla – there were reportedly no rooms in San Diego); a stay in Montreal presumably because there were no rooms in Burlington, Vt., the city of record for a conference attended by an assistant superintendent. My personal favorite for reimbursements was the Harrah’s receipt turned in by an assistant superintendent. “This should get you started,” Manuel would say as he dropped off a thick pile of manila folders, the harvest of his latest

open records request. We marveled at the district’s meticulous record-keeping for bad spending and how LISD trustees and administrators turned in every last receipt for reimbursement for travel, meals, or the cheap acquisitions from airport gift shops. For anyone who believes there was glory to be gained in asking for these materials and bringing them into public discussion, there was not. There was, in fact, sometimes acute discomfort and retaliation with attempts to discredit those who spoke up, a discomfort and retaliation that spilled into business and personal and family life. Manuel Menchaca IV had style. It was evidenced by his fine mind, his demeanor, and his merry laugh. It was noted, too, in his snap-brim cap and his good wool coat. Thanks to Manuel and Hector, LISD’s spending practices continued to be exposed, the record keeping of the district’s practices the stuff of dreams of reporters and editors, the tenacity of Manuel and Hector the stuff of conviction and commitment. ◆

I Choose Pediatrics

Zachary

When I was born at Doctors Hospital, I was really sick. But the doctors and nurses took great care of me. Since then, I’ve gotten sick a few more times. Each time, they made me feel better. Now they’re like family to me!

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

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Business

Matias De Llano Charitable Trust donates close to $500,000 to local non-profit organizations

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he Matias De Llano Charitable Trust, administered by International Bank of Commerce recently donated $466,500 to local non-profit organizations. IBC Bank Trust Committee representatives presented the checks to the representatives from each of the organizations at a reception at IBC’s Main Bank Community Suite. Matias De Llano was born in Laredo in 1918, the second of the eight children of Matias and Dolores De Llano. He attended Laredo schools and New Mexico Military Academy. He was a graduate of St. Mary’s University and a veteran of World War II. His father was the founder of the Texas Hat Company, at one time one of the largest manufacturers of straw hats in the country. De Llano was employed by the Hat Company for many years. He had a zest for life and for helping the disadvantaged. He contributed to many causes, including the Boys Club, the Sacred Heart Children’s Home, and other charitable organizations. Laredo’s Matias De Llano Elementary School was built and named in his honor. De Llano enjoyed many close friendships, including his beloved nieces and nephews, and others. He often said his favorite sport was being with his friends and enjoying life. He is remembered as a kind, gentle, and caring individual who evoked smiles with his positive words and deeds. The Matias De Llano Charitable Trust was established April 1, 2003, under the

Matias De Llano Charitable Trust donates $466,500 Last Will and Testament of the philanthropist. De Llano appointed IBC Bank as sole Trustee of his Trust to benefit education and charitable organizations. From 2004 to 2009, the Trust has donated close to $2,500,000 to local organizations and

schools. De Llano directed that the Trust continue his legacy by helping the hometown community that he loved. He was especially interested in the Trust assisting children and the less fortunate.

The Trust intends to maintain the corpus of the Trust while distributing the annual income to charitable organizations in Laredo for many years to come. The organizations and fund amounts that were distributed are as follows:

Avance - Laredo Chapter

$5,000

Diocese of Laredo-St. Peterʼs Memorial School $15,000

South Texas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse$10,000

Bethany House of Laredo

$33,000

Diocese of Laredo-San Carlos Catholic Mission $30,000

Special Olympics Texas, Inc Laredo

$25,000

Border Region MHMR Center

$20,000

Girls Scouts of Greater South Texas

St. Augustine High School

$10,000

Boys and Girls Club of Laredo

$25,000

Junior Achievement

Casa de Misericordia

$30,000

Mary Help of Christians School

$25,000

/Laredo Childrenʼs Museum

$10,000

Childrens Advocacy Center of Laredo

$20,000

Mercy Ministeries of Laredo

$40,000

UTSA - Laredo Campus

$12,000

Communities in Schools of Laredo Inc.

$10,000

Ruth B. Cowl Rehabilitation Center

$17,500

Vidal Trevino School of Communication

Diocese of Laredo-St. Augustine Cathedral

$20,000

Sacred Heart Childrenʼs Home

$20,000

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$75,000 $6,000

The Imaginarium So Tx

TOTAL

$8,000 $466,500

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Business Bu Loans

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Opinion

Will Dems, Obama lose immigrants? A fter less than eight months in office, President Barack Obama’s administration is under serious scrutiny by some leading immigrant advocates. As the legislative drive for health care insurance reform picks up steam, pro-immigrant groups are increasingly alarmed by proposals that target both documented and undocumented residents of the US. In a telephonic press conference September 16, Latino rights, religious, and political leaders blasted policy ideas circulating around the White House and Capitol Hill as not only an attack on the

immigrant community but a threat to public health as well. “We’ve been deeply disturbed by developments in the health care debate and the treatment of immigrants in it,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the Washington, D.C-based Americas Voice immigrant advocacy organization. Sharry criticized Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana), President Obama, and Democrats for bending over backwards to accommodate political opponents, especially Republicans like shouting South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, who “demonize immigrants.”

News

Doctors Hospital Nueva Vida Maternity Clinic opens it doors in Central Laredo

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octors Hospital, which marks 35 years of service in the community, has expanded its services with the recent opening of a maternity clinic in central Laredo. The Nueva Vida Maternity Clinic at 801 Corpus Christi provides expectant mother care, ultrasound, pap smears, fetal monitoring, and lab tests. Free pregnancy tests are also offered. “Women’s services continue to expand at Doctors Hospital,” said CEO Elmo Lopez Jr. “We want to continue

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to grow with the community and reach out to our patients through excellence and convenience.” Obstetricians and Gynecologists Dr. Wilfrano Sanchez and Dr. Johol Chan are now seeing patients at the Heights Nueva Vida Clinic. Medicaid and Medicare and all major insurances are accepted. For more information on the Doctors Hospital Nueva Vida Maternity Clinic, please call 727-0722. A grand opening is planned for early October. ◆

Sharry and other pro-immigrant leaders said they were deeply concerned by measures unveiled in the Senate Finance Committee and in other quarters on Capitol Hill that would exclude immigrants from participating in an insurance exchange even with their own money, prevent children of undocumented residents from getting coverage, probe the residency status of emergency room patients, and make verification of residency status an expanded, cumbersome process for both citizens and non-citizens alike. According to Eric Rodriguez, vicepresident of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) an estimated 7 of 28 million legal immigrants do not have health insurance. Under the plan released by Senator Baucus today, undocumented immigrants, who will be virtually barred from obtaining any kind of health insurance at all, would face fines of $950 and upwards if they managed to obtain any sort of emergency treatment. US Representative Luis Gutierrez (DIllinois) voiced dismay that the White House was considering keeping many immigrants out of the insurance exchange, especially after Gutierrez and other members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus agreed that no public monies or tax credits could be used by undocumented residents in a new health insurance reform scheme. Gutierrez contended that prohibiting undocumented residents from being in the exchange even with their own cash could result in masses of people losing their health insurance coverage. “What about millions of undocumented workers who have health care through their employers?” Gutierrez asked. “Are they going to lose their benefits?” NCLR President Janet Murguia, in a separate statement also made on September 16, said, “Health care policies should not be dictated by a heckler.” Despite some improvements in the plan announced by Sen. Baucus, Murguia warned that the legislation coming out of the Senate Finance Committee had the potential to “drive up costs, leave people uncovered, and threaten public health.” Kevin Appleby, director of migrant policy for the US Catholic Conference of Bishops, said that the Church, one of the largest health care providers in the country, often provides treatment to im-

migrants. The migrant advocate characterized the denial of health care to sick people as a “fool-hardy” and “mean-spirited” policy. Asserting that the Obama Administration had “capitulated” to anti-immigrant forces, Appleby said that elected officials had sacrificed public health care on the altar of politics. Rev. Luis Cortes, president of Esperanza USA, said that it wasn’t too long ago when widespread concern surfaced about the H1N1 virus, but that current proposals on the table would jeopardize people in dire need of health care. Both political parties, Cortes contended, are “running the fastest to see who is the harshest.” Judging looming actions by Congress and the White House, as “morally punishable by Christian scripture,” Cortes said that the political price could be high for Democrats as well as Republicans. Adding that the immigrant community was once hopeful of the Democrats, Cortes said that local elections would have to be examined “one-by-one” in the future. Numerous analysts consider new American voters, immigrants, and their children, a key voting bloc that swept the Democrats into the White House and Congress last year. Many pro-immigrant groups are growing increasingly frustrated by the pace of immigration reform promised by presidential candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign. Speaking to reporters, Rep. Gutierrez recalled how the Latino community was inspired by Obama’ candidacy, and took to heart the fellow Illinois Democrat’s pledge to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows and on to the path of legalization. “That’s the President I voted for, not the one who says you cannot have health care,” Gutierrez said. The longtime Latino political leader and other participants of the September 16 press conference called for the end of “wedge” politics and the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. Additional sources. NCLR, September 16, 2009. Press statement. CNN September 16, 2009. (Frontera NorteSur (FNS) is an on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico. For a free electronic subscription email fnsnews@nmsu.edu.) ◆ W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


Feature

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espite seeing some gains in adolescent pregnancy rates, a Mexican border physician is concerned about what he considers an elevated number of high-risk pregnancies and deliveries. Dr. Humberto Tanguma, assistant director of the Nuevo Laredo Women’s Hospital, said teenagers comprise a high percentage of Cesarean section births attended by his institution. Of 2,000 births handled annually by the hospital, more than one-third, or 34 percent, is done by cesarean section, according to Tanguma. Of the C-sections, 15 percent are performed on mothers less than 19 years old, while approximately 50 percent are done on mothers between the ages of 19 and 32. In the United States, C-sections represent about 31 percent of all births. Stressing that C-sections are especially risky for younger mothers who have not had adequate prenatal care, Tanguma said that many patients are migrants from rural zones in the states of Veracruz and Chiapas- places where medical care is spotty. The gynecologist calculated that single mothers make up half of all mothers who give birth at the

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Women’s Hospital. Tanguma, however, was upbeat about one trend. According to the women’s health specialist, adolescent pregnancies served by the hospital are down about five percent from previous years. Sex education provided by the hospital could be one reason, Tanguma contended. According to Tanguma, an information booth run by the hospital informs young people of the inconveniences of having children before 19 years of age, and promotes condom use as a means of avoiding unwanted pregnancies. “This has given us good results so far,” he asserted. This story was compiled by Frontera Nortesur. Sources: Enlineadirecta.info, August 31, 2009. Article by Gaston Monge. Associated Press, January 8, 2009. Article by Stephanie Nano. (Frontera NorteSur (FNS) is an online, U.S.-Mexico border news center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico. For a free electronic subscription email fnsnews@nmsu.edu.) ◆

Photo by Monica McGettrick

A border city’s high-risk pregnancies

Rediscovering their flavor Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCVB) employees Nora Bertani, Marí Carmen García, and Selina Villarreal were on hand to answer questions about LCVB’s new marketing campaign, created in collaboration with PMDG Marketing. The bureau hopes to attract both Mexican and American visitors with their new campaign, including a new tagline -- “Rediscover our flavor!” -- and revised print and billboard advertising in Monterrey and Texas.

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Opinion

Scrambled eggs, a side of sausage The shame of it all: You know you are in Laredo when a Webb County employee tells Good Government League founder Marissa Martinez “For my balls, I will not sign” the open records request she has made of your department BY MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

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hat stars crossed over the Webb County Administration Building, what angry kismet, what planetary retrograde moved to cause the chance serendipity-not meeting of Good Government League founder Marissa G. Martinez -- open records request in hand for the Webb County Engineering Department -- and Arnulfo Gonzalez, a recalcitrant Engineering Department employee, who by Martinez’s account was rude, combative, demeaning, insulting, and a violator of her civil liberties. Martinez had made it clear to the Webb County Commissioners at their August 24 meeting that she would be making an open records request relative to the Engineering Department’s staffing and other aspects of the department’s operation. The requests she had in hand at about 2 p.m. on August 28 asked for

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bid information, contracts, the County’s Master Plan, the County Engineer’s time sheets for county duties and ongoing projects, and Right of Way status reports for all ongoing ROW projects. Martinez entered the Engineering Department offices several times to deliver her open records requests, but could find no one to sign for them. On her fifth visit to the office, engineering project coordinator Arnulfo Gonzalez, standing at a nearby elevator, asked if he could help her. When she apprised him of her business and her need for a signature to acknowledge receipt of her requests, Gonzalez told Martinez he would not sign for them until he had the opportunity to read the contents. Martinez told Gonzalez he could read the requests once he signed the acknowledgement. She said Gonzalez insisted on reading the requests before signing because he said he was not

the engineer and had to know what he was receiving. Martinez countered that the acknowledgement listed all the requested documents and that the absence of the county engineer was of no consequence. The exchange, she said, led to Gonzalez telling her he no longer represented the Engineering Department and that she would have to ask the department secretary to sign for them. Martinez said Gonzalez became “aggressive and irate” and that he “violently snatched the forms” from her hand. Martinez retrieved them from his clutches and told him he had to sign for them before he could have them. Gonzalez, she said, countered with, “I don’t have to do anything; you don’t know what you are talking about, lady. That is not the way we do things at the County.” Martinez said Gonzalez continued to argue, raised his voice, and became visibly agitated, and if for a moment you think Gonzalez had finished regando la manteca with bad manners and disdain for the freedom of information and open records requests, agarrense. According to Martinez, Gonzalez stepped forward and told her in English in case she was Spanish impaired, “For my balls, I will not sign.” Martinez said she felt threatened and that Gonzalez had stepped into her personal space. Another exchange ensued with Gonzalez who dismissed Martinez by telling her she was crazy. She said she followed him to the Engineering Department’s secretary, Aleida Sanchez, who attempted to sign for the requests. Martinez said Gonzalez scolded Sanchez and told her she could not sign for them until she read them. Martinez said Sanchez was a professional and attempted to explain to Gonzalez that it was a standard practice to acknowledge

receipt of the requests. As Martinez attempted to show Sanchez where to print her name, time stamp, and sign the acknowledgement, Gonzalez once again took the forms from Martinez. Martinez grabbed them back, and in doing so, invited more vitriol from Gonzalez. Martinez asked Gonzalez to leave the secretary’s office and pointed to the door, to which Gonzalez reportedly responded by asking Martinez, “Are you gay?” Flabbergasted and taken aback by the question, Martinez responded, “Did you just ask me if I was gay?” Martinez said Gonzalez simply replied, “Yes.” She said, “I was insulted and shocked, as was the secretary, evident by the expression on her face. I finally responded and said, ‘How dare you ask me if I am gay. What difference does it make? What is wrong with you? Have you lost your mind? Are you mentally challenged or are you an imbecile?’” Gonzalez reportedly responded, “You cannot speak to me that way!” She said Gonzalez exemplified “government at its worst” and that he was “unable to extend basic civilities to the public.” Martinez said that her exchange with Gonzalez was at best sexual discrimination and at worst sexual harassment and a violation of her civil liberties. She said that had their exchange continued, Gonzalez could have become violent, having already grabbed the request twice from her hands and getting in her face to assert dominance. According to a source who wished to remain anonymous, Gonzalez’s untoward comments and actions were witnessed by secretary Aleida Sanchez, an intern in the Planning Department, the office manager, and two dismayed taxpayers who reportedly backed away W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


from the scene. “If that had happened when I worked for the county, this man would be out of a job. What excuse could there possibly be for a county employee to speak this way to a citizen, to bring his private parts into her attempt to access public information, ask her if she’s gay, and then denigrate the intent of the Open Records Act? How many kinds of wrong is that?” The intern and the county employees, according to County Attorney Anna Laura Cavazos Ramirez, gave statements that corroborated different parts of Martinez’s allegations. In a letter to County Attorney Ramirez, Administrative Services director Cynthia Mares, and County Judge Danny Valdez and commissioners Frank Sciaraffa, Wawi Tijerina, Jerry Garza, and Sergio Martinez, Martinez asked, “Will I require a security guard when I deliver my revised open records request? Will I be asked what my religious affiliation is as well? What other civil liberties can I expect to have violated? Is this retribution for the presentation I made at Commissioners Court August 24, 2009? Am I to understand I will not be allowed to question my government for fear of this treatment? Might I assume the doors of my government are now closed to me?” Martinez asked in her letter that Gonzalez be terminated. She said, “Your failure to do so would only affirm that you condone such behavior. Send a message of zero tolerance. Send a message that the constituent’s rights are intact, that our government is open, that we honor our taxpayers and welcome them and that they should never fear speaking out. No one should ever be subject to such treatment, particularly by a servant of the people.” Martinez said Gonzalez’s invective was offensive to everyone who heard it. “I would think his supervisor would take issue with language that would offend his wife, his mother, his daughter, or a female employee in his office, and yet Arnulfo Gonzalez is still at work, still collecting his $54,000 a year as though his diminution of the freedom of information and his nasty language had little consequence.” Martinez, who is a former Webb County employee, said she had heard only from commissioners Martinez and Garza personally about the incident and from aides to commissioners Tijerina and Sciaraffa, but had not yet heard from Judge Danny Valdez. LareDOS attempted to contact Fitzgeraldo Sanchez, head of the Engineering Department and Gonzalez’s boss, but as yet had not received a call back. Judge W W W.L A R EDOS N EW S . CO M

Valdez declined comment via email, stating, “The information regarding the alleged incident is currently being reviewed by our County Attorney’s Office. Since this is an on-going investigation we will withhold any comments until the investigation is complete.” County Attorney Anna Laura Cavazos Ramirez was more forthcoming. “I thought it was outrageous behavior by Mr. Gonzalez, completely out of line for how a county employee talks to a citizen and a taxpayer. It is appalling,” she said, confirming that her department’s investigation was complete. “It is not known if Mr. Gonzalez’s immediate supervisor has apprised everyone on the engineering staff for how to receive an open records request. Certainly the department’s secretary, Ms. Sanchez, knew what to do with the request,” Cavazos Ramirez said, adding that while some open records requests go to the County’s Public Information officer Larry Sanchez, some are also routed directly to department heads. She said the incident evidences the need to establish a clear policy for Webb County employees to follow when presented with an open records request. “Per Civil Service rules, what happens to Mr. Gonzalez is in the hands of his immediate supervisor,” she said. Cavazos Ramirez said that Gonzalez had denied asking Martinez if she was gay. “I have never been so aware of my rights to access public information as in the moments Arnulfo Gonzalez stomped on them,” Martinez said, adding, “Nor have I ever been so aware of a Commissioners Court that keeps the people out of the equation of good government. You could get more from the rock-faced assembly at Mt. Rushmore than you can from this court. ‘We the people’ are the least of their concerns. Arnulfo Gonzalez represents exactly what is wrong with this Commissioners Court and this administration –- small minded individuals protecting their own interests and their own power base rather than putting real energy or leadership to work for us, to put the brakes on spending, and to find new ways to save taxpayer money.” Former Laredoan Wanda Garner Cash, past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and a clinical professor of journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, commented, “What a sad and embarrassing commentary on the ignorance of public officials and their responsibility to the public. Why is it that we must continuously remind them that the information belongs to us: the people who pay their salaries and unjustly suffer their abuses?” ◆ L ar eDO S | S EP TE MBE R 2 0 09 |

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Opinion

NOLA One of the jazziest ways to say “Yes!” is N.O.-a conversation in the Río Hotel restaurant By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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arlier this month, I heard Lyle, a tourist from New Orleans, say, “Katrina didn’t wreck New Orleans, the levees did.” Lyle was one of a group of about 35 “repeat visitors” to our city from New Orleans -- they come down every year at about this time to relax, shop, and generally have a good time. I’ve been to New Orleans and can millionth the motion whenever anybody says, “New Orleans rocks, or swings, or jitterbugs, or just plain ‘has a lot to offer.’ In a word, the place is a classical symphony with soul -- and jazz, and the blues, and Flamenco, with a unique, ancient culture made up of layers of lineage, language, laughter, and love. It is one of America’s classiest classic cities -- a city that has seen it all, been through it all, changed with it all, and kept its dignity through it all. The African American citizens of New Orleans, like Lyle and the other 34 in his group, if we can consider them “typical” Big Easy people, are truly to be admired for the way they handled the Katrina crisis. The brutal 2005 frontal assault by the Category Five megastorm

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was one of the worst monsters of mayhem with which any American city has ever had to wrestle. Well covered by the media before, during, and in the wake of its wet, windy, wracking onslaught through coastal Louisiana and Mississippi, Katrina’s primordial presence was felt to shake the foundations of the world when it made landfall in the Big Easy. Everybody (all over the world) was shaken up by it, everybody was p-o’d by the President’s and FEMA’s lackadaisical attitude about all the suffering and all the destruction of homes, lives, and livelihoods, and everybody was horrified and stressed out by the traumatic scenes of dire danger and desperate emergency that we saw on our television screens. What a drag! What a hassle! What a shame! But what about the people on the very horns of the dilemma? How were they going to cope? How were they going to muster the strength, the bravery, the heart, the will to carry on? to rebuild? to start from scratch? to keep their families, and to keep New Orleans going? It wasn’t going to be easy, and I think that we rest-of-the-worlders were actually kind of glad that we didn’t have that

horrendous disaster on our own plates or in our own flooded living rooms. Not really glad that it had happened to someone else, but relieved that it hadn’t happened to us. Who wouldn’t feel like a babe in the woods when confronted by the Mother of All Storms? Add to this the Father of Waters -- the mighty Mississippi River -- “flooding your home and your entire neighborhood eight foot deep,” as Lyle put it. Talk about “a must to avoid,” but this mess was unavoidable. It was more like a crushing blow for Lyle, sitting in his office at his job and hearing over the radio that a levee had broken and that his entire neighborhood was under water. But Lyle was instinctively philosophical -- the Stoic philosophy -- and instead of feeling sorry for himself, started thinking about the safety and wellbeing of the rest of his family -- his mother, his brother, and his brother’s family. It turned out that both his mother’s and his brother’s homes, along with his own home, were flooded but not rendered completely unsalvageable. “My brother headed for higher ground, and was so frustrated that he was prepared to stay completely away from civilization forever -- until he saw that alligator,” Lyle said, adding “He got closer to see what the alligator had in its mouth, and then he realized it was a human being.” Lyle’s brother took his family and left New Orleans a couple of

weeks later and didn’t come back until June of this year. “He’s a lot better now; the kids are glad to be home,” Lyle said. Two images of the lasting kind that Lyle carries around in his head are the glance he took towards the ocean from the 10 th story of an office building at the height of the storm. “I wanted to see the storm surge,” he said, adding, “but I was looking too low -- so I looked higher and saw a huge wave heading in, higher than the telephone posts. The streetlights up on the posts illuminated it. It was a scary sight.” The other image from the downtown area that still haunts him is the 10-foot shark “hunting around for something to eat in a circling motion.” “We’re not totally OK yet, but we’re making it -- we don’t have any choice. The government has helped some, but mostly everybody has helped everybody else,” he said. Both Lyle and his mother are back in their own homes, which they have been fixing up little by little.“ Lyle said “Nice talkin’ to you” before getting up to rejoin the rest of the group that was getting ready to go shopping. Lyle’s tone was somewhere between serious and matter-of-fact, with none of the ‘poor me’ thrown in for good measure. I think that’s the spirit of New Orleans -tough, resilient, triumphant. I’m glad my son was with me when Lyle happened along and joined us for a cup of coffee and a little conversation in the Río Hotel restaurant. ◆

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News

World Pugilist Hall of Fame: Cabeza Fria Con Pie De Plomo: second annual martial arts gathering. Professeur Paul-Raymond Buitron III hosts Grand Masters By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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any of our era’s greatest martial arts masters from around the world will be in Laredo as participants in the second annual induction ceremony into the World Pugilist Hall of Fame. The three-day celebration will include seminars and demonstrations from November 6-8. Workshops will be held at the Laredo Job Corps on Friday, November 6, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, November 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The cost to attend the workshops is $120 prepaid by October 1 and $200 thereafter. Children’s tickets are $50 prepaid and $100 thereafter. Tickets are $10 for demonstrations and awards Sunday, November 8, at noon at the Laredo Civic Center. Event organizer and technical director Proffesseur Paul-Raymond Buitron III said that the “Cabeza Fria Con Pie De Plomo” is an homage, as was last year’s inaugural gathering, to his late uncle Isidro “Chilo” Chapa, the last person in the world to know the full system of Zipota, the Basque system of martial arts.” Buitron, also known a “Professeur Popeye” and “Le Bon Diable,” said that the World Pugilist Hall of Fame “receives all legitimate masters of martial arts and fighting sciences who come from a true lineage traceable to a founder and have fought, used, and taught pugilism.” The illustrious inductees at this year’s ceremony will be Kajukembo Grand Master Alii Don Nahoolewa of Hawaii, founder and chairman of the board for the American Kajukembo Association and Master Richard “Huk” Planas of Pasadena, California,

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who received his Seventh Degree Black Belt from Grand Master Ed Parker in 1985 and is known as the Instructor’s Instructor, having taught all over Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and the Caribbean. Also attending will be Boxe Francaise legend Professeur Richard Sylla, a 10-time French Savate champion and a kick boxing world champion, national trainer for the French Savate Team from 1990 to 2004, and trainer of numerous professeurs of savate, including Buitron, and Ubirajara (Bira) Guimaraes Almeida, better known as Mestre Acordeon, a native of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, master of the Brazilian martial art known as Capoeira, teacher, performer, organizer, and author, and director of the United Capoeira Association (UCA), as well as the creator of the Capoeira Arts Foundation in Berkeley, California. Rounding out the catalogue of distinguished martial arts masters are Mestre Jelon Vieira, choreographer/performer and master instrumental in introducing AfroAmerican artistic endeavors to the United States, trainer of soccer icon Pelé and American movie stars Eddie Murphy and Wesley Snipes, who described Viera as “one of the masters of the martial arts of the 20th century,” along with Maha Guru Stevan Plinck, whose first teacher was his grandmother, practitioner and teacher of the Sumatran art of Silat, along with several of its styles and systems such as Pekulan Pentjak Silat Bukti Negara, a former Green Beret and member of the U.S. Special Forces, and one of the foremost exponents of Serak Silat. Last but not least, the event will include Guro Carlito Bonjoc, a native of

the Philippines, fourth-generation master of Cadiz-Lapu Lapu Escrima, and adept practitioner of the long-range blade art of Talawan Largo Mano; and expert in the Serrada system. According to Buitron, the Buitron Academy is the first school of the French martial art of savate in the New World. In addition to organizing the “Cabeza Fria Con Pie De Plomo” martial arts gatherings, Buitron looks forward to expanding the scope of martial arts training and visibility in the Laredo area. “Within the next two years we hope to provide a viable museum for Laredo and the surrounding areas for this subculture that has transcended international boundaries and given a good path

for youngsters that were being led astray,” he said, adding, ”The museum will be open to everybody who wants to learn about the various style systems, so the public will be able to appreciate the wealth of styles, knowledge, and methods available in this subculture.” Buitron’s focus and dedication are best explained in his own words: “In this world where there are a lot of charlatans who are misleading the world in the fighting realm, it is very hard for the average person to distinguish what is the truth until it is too late. The World Pugilist Hall of Fame pays homage to masters of all martial arts and sciences while these masters are alive.”◆

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Feature

Attorney David Almaraz named a 2009 Texas Super Lawyer -Hebbronville High School debater to top Texas lawyer By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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aredo attorney David Almaraz, member and director of the Laredo-Webb County Bar Association, was named a 2009 Texas Super lawyer by Texas Monthly magazine in its October 2009 issue. Only five percent of the state’s 82,701 practicing attorneys were considered in the selection process for this honor. While a total of 29 lawyers from Houston and the South Texas area were selected, Almaraz was the only attorney named from Webb County. A native of Hebbronville and once a stellar participant in UIL debating, one-act play, and prose reading, Almaraz credits his involvement in these extra-curricular activities with laying the groundwork in his mind for his eventual decision to pursue a career as a lawyer. “When I placed second as a junior in state competition in prose reading, my sponsor, Laurence Ray Smith, told me that I had potential as a public speaker,” Almaraz said, adding, “The piece I read was the closing argument from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.” Almaraz said that the Mockingbird piece and the results of his performance planted the seed in his mind of the real power of persuasive speaking. “That’s when the idea of becoming a lawyer first entered my mind,” he said. It could very well be that the times he grew up in and the social ferment that surrounded this Class of ’66 graduate played a major role in shaping his study plan, his direction, and his eventual decision to become a lawyer and an advocate of the disenfranchised, the voice of those who had no voice of their own. “The late ‘60s were interesting, turbulent times. It was an era of a lot of liberal-type activities and a time when Latinos were actively seeking better opportunities and more representation in government and other leadership areas,” Almaraz said. He described his next few years thus, “I attended the University of Texas, and there was a lot going on there during the late ‘60s, just as there was a lot going on in the country -- civil rights demonstrations, anti-war marches, all kinds of freedom movements, music, the draft, the Peace Corps, the first environmental movement. I graduated in four years with a major in political science and a minor in speech. I didn’t get drafted thanks to a high lottery number, but when I graduated in 1970 I had to make a decision as to what to do with my life.” Almaraz contemplated joining the Peace Corps and then decided to become a VISTA volunteer. “I took the training courses in Eugene, Oregon. Then I found out about the Teacher Corps, which was about to start a new cycle in San Antonio in August of 1970, so I returned to Texas to join,” he said.

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The Teacher Corps was initially a Great Society program to train teachers for the task of educating economically disadvantaged elementary school children in inner city settings. Almaraz explained, “There were about 30 of us, an equal number of African Americans, Latinos, and Anglos, and we were placed in the SAISD elementary schools where they thought we would be most effective. I spent two years at Storm Elementary School in west San Antonio. I spent weekends and summers going up to Austin to study for my master’s degree at UT. I got my master’s in elementary education in 1972 and got married that same year. Then I spent the next two years (1972-1974) teaching at Gregorio Esparza Elementary School. During 1973 I took the LSAT and applied to several law schools, and was accepted by four. I had almost decided to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder, but the first time the weather hit about 20 below, I decided to return to Texas and attend St. Mary’s. I earned my Juris Doctor degree in three years.” Almaraz took and passed the bar exam in 1977, at about the time his daughter Marisa was born. He took a job with a Midland law firm where he worked for one year and gained invaluable experience. “It was a good firm that mostly took a special interest in the poor Mexicans who worked in the oil fields,” Almaraz said, adding, “Many times they would get injured and then fired and sent away, even though they were owed back pay or injury pay, and even though many of them had families to support. We helped a lot of them, and I felt good about the work we were doing.” Before long another opportunity offered itself in the form of the assistant district attorney’s job in Río Grande City. “I had been warned that it was a dangerous job because of all the drug cases, but I took it anyway, and things went pretty well for the two and a half years I was there,” Almaraz said. Upon learning from his friend attorney Emilio “Chito” Davila Jr. in 1980 about the need for an assistant federal attorney in Laredo, Almaraz applied for the job and was selected in October of that year. He spent the greater part of the next five years as the sole federal prosecutor in Laredo. “I handled hundreds of cases, many of them in the U.S. Magistrate’s Court -- all kinds of cases, murders, rapes, crimes of every kind,” Almaraz said. It was 1985 when Almaraz hung up his shingle and began the private law practice in which he has distinguished himself for the past 29 years. Although he is known as a formidable criminal lawyer, Almaraz has not limited himself to handling only criminal cases. Among his achievements is the successful handling of many high-profile state and federal cases. Almaraz’s cross-examination skills are legendary, and his reputation among judges and his peers

Attorney David Almaraz as a consummately prepared professional are part and parcel of the Almaraz aura and mystique. “I’m a strong believer in being prepared,” Almaraz said, adding, “My role models are Jerry Spence and Clarence Darrow -- I don’t try to be like them, I’ve just learned a lot from them -- I’ve read their books and picked up a lot of tidbits of knowledge. A lawyer can only be himself, and I try to improve myself constantly. I’ve learned a lot throughout my career; I didn’t pick everything up overnight -- it took a long time and a lot of hard work.” Always an avid reader, Almaraz still reads at least one book per week, and not just books about the law. He is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (TCDLA) and is a founder and the current president of the Laredo chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Before being selected as a Texas Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly, the publication Texas Lawyer named him one of the top three criminal defense attorneys in the Laredo area. Regarding being named a Super Lawyer, Almaraz said, “All I can say is that I am passionate about my job. I think my preparation bears this out. I know that 99 percent of my clients are satisfied, and I get my share of acquittals. I’m gratified that a great number of the people that I have come up against come to me to defend them when they get in a jam.” ◆ W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


News

Doctors Hospital receives prestigious national award for Clinical Trials Participation

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and several community-based oncology research networks. All of the nominated practices were invited to apply for the award, and their applications were peerreviewed by a subcommittee of the ASCO Cancer Research Committee in order to select the eight award recipients. The award criteria were based on a number of factors, including patient accrual to clinical trials over a three-year period. Special consideration was given to practices that increased clinical trial participation among under-represented populations and to practices that used innovative techniques to overcome barriers to the enrollment of cancer patients onto clinical trials. Without clinical trials, there would be significantly fewer advances in cancer treatment. Since 2003, the Clinical Trial Participation Awards have publicly honored community practices that have demonstrated outstanding work in the area of patient clinical trials. â—†

Courtesy Photo

octors Hospital of Laredo was one of eight hospitals selected across the country -- and the only hospital in Texas -- for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Clinical Trials Participation Awards. The announcement was made at the ASCO national meeting last May. Doctors Hospital received the award in recognition of its active, ongoing participation in clinical trials in the private practice community and the role it plays in the development and refinement of cancer therapies. Dr. Gary W. Unzeitig, Breast Surgeon and Principal Investigator of Clinical Trials at Doctors Hospital, and Dr. Jessica Guajardo, Director of the Cancer Center, received the prestigious award on behalf of the hospital. Nominations for the award were received from many of the National Cancer Institute Cooperative Groups, the ASCO Clinical Practice Committee, the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP),

Doctors Hospital recognized Pictured at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting at which Doctors Hospital was recognized for Clinical Trials Participation are from left to right Dr. Jessica Guajardo, Director of Doctors Hospital Cancer Center of Laredo; Dr. Jane Unzeitig; Dr. Gary W. Unzeitig, Principal Investigator; and Dr. Nancy Davidson, Immediate Past President of ASCO. W W W.LA R EDOS N EW S . CO M

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Opinion

Absence of functioning Civil Service a denial of due process for city employees and a big black eye for the City of Laredo By MARÍA EUGENIA GUERRA

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ivil Service for non-uniformed city and county employees remains as wood in re-election campaign planks, joining vacuous platform promises like enhancing the quality of life, working in the best interest of the taxpaying public, and making sound, informed decisions. While most elected officials and highly paid administrators in city and county government make their petty grabs for glory, wage turf wars to expand their fiefdoms, lift the mighty lever of palanca to hire their friends, relatives, and Godchildren, and promote the incompetent and castigate the good, employment issues and termination disputes of city and county employees pile up like so many orange sandbags outside the Webb County Justice Center. How puffed with pride were the chests of so many council members and commissioners when they established Civil Service committees in city and county government, throwing out to rank and file employees the false hope that they would have a forum of fairness and impartiality to hear grievances and disputes without fear of retaliation. As of now, Civil Service for non-uniformed employees has been what it was the first time it was presented as the right thing to do -- a whole lot of yadda-yadda and mucho nada. When you hear an incumbent rattling the Civil Service saber remember that he or she did little to get the effort moving during his or her tenure. Take heed, watch for falling dead wood. In this town there’s no shortage of examples of cases of questionable demotions, retaliatory actions, violations of due process, and firings that could best have been handled by Civil Service hearings that invite the airing of issues and evidence in the fresh air and sunlight of an open, impartial forum. I’ve looked at the case of Robert Leza, a former City Public Works street construction supervisor and a heavy equipment operator, who was featured on the front page of the Oct. 16, 2007 issue of the Laredo Morning Times. Leza

was named as a third arrestee in a thenongoing City investigation into illegal water taps, bypassing city permitting requirements, and damaging city property. He was accused of acting in tandem with Utilities Department employee José Ramon Gonzalez and plumbing contractor Manuel Santos who had both been arrested a week earlier. Leza said he had never worked with Santos, and that the only occasion he’d had to work with Gonzalez, a part time plumber, was when he hired him to connect water lines from the apartment building he owns at 2906 Gustavus to City of Laredo water infrastructure. Leza said the job necessitated a street cut, and he assumed Gonzalez had secured the necessary permit.

it is not known who voted for termination or what notes of caution may have come from a legal or HR standpoint in discussion by committee members assistant City Attorney Valeria Acevedo and HR Officer Rosa E. Salinas with Orfila. LareDOS made an open records request for documentation of the PAC’s proceedings, its minutes, forms, or written findings, and communications including emails, but the City’s response was a one-sheet form entitled PAC Recommendation. While that PAC recommendation to terminate Leza cited “Other” as the reason for termination and not “Performance,” “Department Hardship,” “Job Abandonment,” or “Disciplinary,” a Texas Workforce document entitled

Orfila told committee members Sylvia Ornelas, Anna M. Cortez, Gregorio E. Hernandez, and Guillermo Walls that Leza had been “a fine employee” and that he had decided to terminate Leza after meeting with the City’s Personnel Action Committee. According to a summary of the Appeals and Grievance Committee meeting drafted by member Walls and addressed to City Manager Carlos Villarreal, “the committee felt that the termination of Mr. Leza was unjustified” and recommended “that Robert Leza be reinstated.” Three committee members voted in favor of reinstating, one abstained, and one was absent. At that hearing, Leza’s attorney Murray Malakoff asked for Leza’s reinstatement and for a Civil Service committee to decide Leza’s fate as a City employee. In this town there’s no shortage of examples of cases of Leza, along with countless other City employees who questionable demotions, retaliatory actions, violations of due have looked to Civil Service process, and firings that could best have been handled by Civil to settle termination disputes, Service hearings that invite the airing of issues and evidence in did not have that option, for the fresh air and sunlight of an open, impartial forum. though the City appointed a Civil Service ad hoc committee in February 2007, it has yet Leza said that when he heard there Employer Internet Response -- part of to appoint a functioning commission to was a warrant for his arrest, he turned Leza’s application for unemployment hear cases. And well that the City had, for it himself in to authorities on Monday, benefits -- is more specific, citing the October 15. When he took two subse- reason for firing as “misuse of city re- would have given Leza what every city quent days of sick leave, Leza said new- sources” and naming John Orfila as the employee is entitled to -- due process ly named Acting Public Works direc- “Person Firing the Applicant.” and a fair hearing -- and it would have tor John Orfila Jr. made calls to Leza’s That Leza misused city resources has obviated the City having to hire excell phone urging him to resign, even never been proven, nor was it alleged pensive out of town attorneys to take though it had not been proven that Leza on the arrest warrant. An October 31, depositions and answer the suit filed was part of the alleged illegal activity 2007 examining trial before JP Hector in Federal Court by Leza’s attorney Edof the other two arrestees. Even before Liendo found no probable cause in Le- ward Fahey. Leza’s firing had become official, Orfi- za’s criminal mischief case. Except for In the defendant City’s answer to la moved quickly to fill Leza’s yet to be Laredo PD Inv. Rene Rodriguez, who Leza’s suit, the City acknowledged that terminated supervisory position with made the case against Leza, neither there was an examining trial held on another public works employee. Orfila nor any other representatives of October 31, 2007, but that the City is Though Leza considered resigning, the City of Laredo were at the hearing “without knowledge of sufficient facts he instead returned to work Thursday, to present evidence or to attest to the to either admit or deny whether the charges were dismissed due to a lack of October 18. Leza said Orfila verbally events that led to Leza’s arrest. fired him that morning, telling him At the examining trial and subse- probable cause.” In the two years that have elapsed the order “had come from his boss.” quent dismissal of charges, JP Liendo The 8 a.m. verbal firing was in advance chided Rodriguez for the impact the al- since Leza was arrested and fired; or -- not after -- the meeting of the City’s legations and arrest had on Leza’s rep- fired, arrested, and replaced; or rePersonnel Advisory Committee (PAC) utation, his income, and his family. placed, fired, and arrested, he has not which met at 10 a.m. that day to discuss A month after the case against Leza been able to find gainful employment and decide Leza’s employment status. was dismissed in JP Liendo’s court, and has endured losses of $ $35,609.50 While the decision to terminate Leza Orfila did, however, attend a November each year he has not worked. was handed down by the three City em- 28, 2007 meeting of the City-appointed CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE 4 4 ployee members of the PAC committee, Appeals and Grievance Committee.

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by City Manager Carlos Villarreal to raise Orfila to $49.50 an hour indicates that $49.50 is over maximum point of his pay grade, which is to say the new salary was well over the midpoint of the range for that pay grade. Eight months later, on October 5, 2008, Orfila began to earn $106,059 per year ($50.99 per hour), the same salary

way to the hinterlands, moving at first like the rolling thunder of righteous indignation. By the time it got to our offices just a few blocks down Houston Street, it was more like a fetid burp apprising us that if we wrote this story, we would be sued by John Orfila, and if Leza didn’t back away, the matter of Leza’s alleged participation

“I want to clear my name. The reporters were there to write about my arrest, but they weren’t there to say that the examining trial found no basis to prosecute me. I need to find work in construction so that I can meet my obligations and take care of my family,” Leza said. Conversely, things have gone well for Orfila, who was earnTo be clear, this is not written in defense of Robert Leza and ing $81,390 annually ($39.13 whether or not he is guilty of that with which he was once per hour) up to the time he was named to the temporary posicharged. This story is about a stealth firing without due protion of Acting Public Works dicess and fast-track City of Laredo administrators in Rambo rector, a position to which he mode, well-remunerated for being imprudent. was named October 12, 2007 and which he assumed officially on October 15, 2007. As Acting Public Works Director, Orfila’s salary was pushed up to $93,600 ($45 per he enjoys today. Between October 7, 2007 (long ago dismissed for probable cause) in hour). According to Orfila’s Employee Sta- and today, Orfila’s salary has moved up- an un-permitted illegal street cut would find new life in the District Attorney’s oftus History, his salary reverted to $81,390 ward by $24,669. He is Public Works manager and not fice. on February 15, 2008, the salary he had The braying and the kicking of the been making as Asst. Public Works Direc- director, as was decided in the reorganitor, and on the same day, reflecting a job zation of City departments in December hindquarters of an uttered plan for retalititle change to Public Works Manager, his 2007. He would have needed a degree in ation has such a distinct sound, and such a special smell, not unlike a mound of masalary was raised to $102,960 ($49.50 an engineering to be named director. What is blathered at City Hall makes its nure steaming in the summer sun. hour). A notation on the written request

John Orfila denied that he had visited with DA Chilo Alaniz about Leza’s case or bringing new charges against him. LareDOS inquired of the District Attorney’s office for the status of the case against Leza and whether the DA had met recently with Orfila, but has not yet heard back, though it was learned through another source outside of the DA’s office that the case was denied for prosecution by the DA’s office just before the statute of limitations ran out in July 2009. Leza is in the process of having the matter expunged from his record. To be clear, this is not written in defense of Robert Leza and whether or not he is guilty of that with which he was once charged. This story is about a stealth firing without due process and fast-track City of Laredo administrators in Rambo mode, wellremunerated for being imprudent. This is not an unfamiliar story. It resonates with repetition. The pipe dream of an up-and-running Civil Service forum for non-uniformed city and county employees remains what it was the first time it was uttered by a politician to get votes -- an empty promise. ◆

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Feature

Mental Illness Awareness Week: October 4-10: Awareness fosters understanding and invites community involvement By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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he Border Region MHMR (BRMHMR) Community Center is an enabling reality that reaches out to individuals and families faced with mental health issues, and gives them a hand up to a more dignified lifestyle, devoid of the baggage of social taboos and stigmas. The advantages of independence are still in the larval stage of development to many citizens who are struggling with mental illness. Laredo’s BRMHMR Community Center offers expanded possibilities for over 3,000 clients (consumers) and their loved ones, serving four South Texas counties -- Jim Hogg, Starr, Webb, and Zapata. The current BRMHMR Community Center has evolved in the last 30 years from its original configuration as the Laredo State Center, established in 1979 by the 66th Texas State Legislature as a facility of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. Its initial administrative and outpatient facilities were housed in the former Laredo Air Force Base Hospital. The current facility is located on a 14.5-acre campus built in 1996. The facility transitioned into a community center in September 2000. New facilities have been added in the form of culturally sensitive

structures to accommodate the number of persons served. There is a distinct difference between MH and MR, and the two aspects of MHMR are kept very separate at the center. The Mental Health (MH) aspects that it deals with are the three primary diagnoses -- bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depression. The services for mental illness-mental health consumers 18 years of age or older are crisis services, intake and assessment, continuity of care, case management, assertive community treatment (ACT), psychosocial rehabilitation services, counseling services (CBT), crisis hotline, jail diversion, crisis respite, skills training services, supportive housing, supportive employment, Texas Correctional Office on Offenders with Medical or Mental Impairments (TCOOMMI) services, and medication management. The BRMHMR Community Center board of trustees for fiscal year 2010 are Yolanda Davis, Jim Hogg County; Rosie Benavidez, Gene Falcon Jr., and Dutch Piper, Starr County; Judith Gutierrez, Commissioner Sergio “Keko” Martinez, Commissioner Rosaura “Wawi” Tijerina, and Roberto Vela, Webb County; and Commissioner José Emilio Vela, Zapata County. Like all facilities of its type, BRMHMR faces underfunding and understaffing and

stigma that comes in several forms -- lack of community awareness, parents who won’t find help for their children, and authorities who don’t or won’t recognize mental illness. Certainly one of the reasons behind Mental Illness Awareness Month is to foster greater understanding and stimulate public involvement in the ongoing effort to help sustain services to the mentally ill and ensure the BRMHMR’s continued role in that effort. Currently, as in the recent past, the programs and progress of the Border Region MHMR have been inspirationally fueled and carried forward by the tireless efforts of dedicated and motivated volunteers like Marilyn De Llano, Elvia Ruelas, and Pati Orduña. De Llano, who is seen by some as a veritable guardian angel among those involved in mental health providership, has for many years demonstrated an unselfish example of love and commitment, and a pattern of pro-active participation second to none. De Llano is the originator and the annual organizer and producer of the annual Secretary’s Day Style Show, an immensely popular event (with 400 attendees last year), which raises funds for consumers’ rent, eyeglasses, and transportation. Ruelas is Laredo’s representative for the National Association for Mental Illness

(NAMI), and Orduña conducts art classes that provide an avenue of self-expression and self-esteem for individuals. These three volunteers who met with us at the LareDOS offices to promote Mental Illness Week told us that their own involvement in the mental health arena was at least partially inspired by the fact that a family member had occasion to be served by the Border Region MHMR. Ruelas said, “Volunteers are of crucial importance to the effort in Laredo as advocates, educators, and as teachers for art, music, and exercise classes,” adding, “We invite the community as a whole to join us in heightening awareness of mental illness and to work at diminishing stigma. Mental illness is just that -- an illness of mental and emotional disabilities, a disorder of the brain and how it responds. Police officers need to be a part of this, too. They need crisis intervention training. The counseling community needs to participate.” Kathy Seitel, BRMHMR director of special programs and projects observed, “Social stigma still gets in the way of tolerance and understanding when it comes to mental health issues. We still have a long way to go as a society, but I know that change for the better is possible, because there are an awful lot of people working to bring about positive change.” ◆

News

Big Bend Ranch State Park to Host Fiesta Nov. 14 PRESIDIO – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department hopes the third time will be the charm for a daylong Fiesta set for Saturday, Nov. 14, to celebrate expanded recreational opportunities at Texas’ largest and wildest state park -- Big Bend Ranch State Park. The public is invited to learn first-hand about the many wonders of the more than 310,000-acre state park tucked into the far southwestern corner of the state during a free, daylong Fiesta at the park’s Sauceda Ranger Station. Two previous attempts to hold the outdoor celebration had to be cancelled when the Río Grande uncharacteristically flooded the Presidio area in fall of 2008 and again in May of this year when nearby Mexico suffered an outbreak of the new H1N1 flu. Saturday’s open house will feature a free barbecue lunch at noon, followed

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by a performance by cowboy singersongwriter Dennis Jay. Activities being offered include park tours, hikes, guided mountain bike and horseback rides, desert survival and camping demonstrations, a student art show, Buffalo Soldiers encampment, and informational displays on everything from bats to river recreation. One guided tour will go into part of the recently acquired Fresno Ranch, a significant and strategic 7,000-acre addition to the park featuring wild canyons, stunning vistas, historical roads, rich riparian habitat, and Río Grande frontage. Park rangers, as well as natural and cultural resource specialists, will be on hand to share information about this true wilderness park in the Big Bend Country’s scenic Chihuahuan Desert highlands. The purpose of the Fiesta is to increase

awareness of the state park’s greatly expanded public use opportunities and to provide Texans, especially local citizens, a chance to visit and experience one of the great parks of the West. Thanks to the labors of park staff and friends during the past two years, today’s adventurers now have more opportunities to hike, bike, and ride horses along many miles of newly accessible trails and jeep roads, and much greater access to more than 50 new campsites, many of them in the more rugged, remote, and scenic areas of Big Bend Ranch’s backcountry. Information booths will be open and special Fiesta programs running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Special pre- and post-Fiesta tours, as well as “early bird” tours beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, will be offered by advanced reservation. The regular $3 park entry fee for persons

13 and older will be waived Thursday, Nov. 12 through Sunday, Nov. 15. Visitors attending Fiesta weekend can make arrangements to stay overnight but should be aware that there are limited tent camping options. Camping is free during the Nov. 12-15 time frame, but reservations are required. No lodging will be available at Sauceda. To reserve a campsite during Fiesta weekend, call Big Bend Ranch State Park at (432) 358-4444. To reserve a spot on one of the Fiesta event tours, call TPWD’s Customer Service Center in Austin at (512) 389-8908 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. To learn more about the state park and Fiesta activities online, visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/big_bend_ranch/ fiesta/. ◆ W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


Feature

Bombshell in a Bikini A story about some “hot” goings-on and some “hot” ships Rodolfo “Fito” Sosa: Laredo’s unheralded Atomic Veteran; sailor and soldier The Fightin’ Sosas performed 102 years of loyal service in the U. S. Military

Operation Crossroads, Baker detonation, July 25, 1946

By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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odolfo “Fito” Sosa, possibly Laredo’s only Atomic Veteran, served his country in a military uniform for 42 years -- 28 years of active service in the Navy and 14 years in the Army Reserve. That’s a lot of military service from a man who volunteered for active duty at the age of 17 (he had to get his mother’s signature) and was unknowingly exposed to massive amounts of nuclear radiation at 18 at the famous (or infamous) A-bomb tests during what is known as Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll in 1948. Now 81, Sosa maintains that his patriotism is still firm and unshaken, although he would very much like the government to address a few unanswered questions that have haunted him and his family all these years. At the time two nuclear bomb tests (July 16 and July 25, 1946,) were carried out at Bikini, Sosa and his fellow sailors were unaware that they were within spitting distance of a nuclear detonation, and that the radioactive fallout that they were being exposed to would trigger health issues in many of them that eventually led to serious if not lethal consequences for some. Nor does Sosa want to sue the government for huge sums of money. “I don’t want to make a big deal about this, and I don’t think I’m any kind of a hero,” Sosa said, adding “But I think that the government should compensate me for risking my life in the way I did.” The National Association of Atomic Veterans (NAAV) says in its quarterly news W W W.L A R EDOS N EW S . CO M

pamphlet, Atomic Veterans News that American sailors, like Sosa, essentially took on the “role of living test subjects in order for scientists and researchers and government policymakers to gain answers to the questions posed by ionizing radiation.” In more technical terms, Sosa’s participa tion in the historic Operation Crossroads in the Marshall Islands at Bikini Atoll, during and after the two nuclear tests, involved him in a radiation exposure calculated at 0.550 REM Gamma. The Two Bikini detonations, code-named ABLE and BAKER, were the fifth and sixth nuclear detonations of all time, preceded only by the Los Alamos tests in 1945 and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, “Fat Boy” and “Little Man,” respectively. The Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA) protected all information about Operation Crossroads until issuing a fact sheet in 1984 (DNA Report 6032F). This report states that Operation Crossroads was conducted as a controlled experiment to determine “the effects of nuclear weapons on ships, equipment, and material.” It further states that ABLE was conducted at an altitude of 520 feet and BAKER was detonated 90 feet under water, and each had a yield of 23 kilotons. Personnel (a total of 42,000 men) and laboratory equipment were transported and housed on 150 ships, while 90 empty ships were anchored in the target area. For the ABLE test, mice, guinea pigs, white rats, farm pigs, and goats had been placed aboard some of the target ships as part of experiments on the effects of radiation that were

Army Reservist “Fito” Sosa carried out after the detonation. Only pigs and white rats were used for the BAKER radiation experiment. Fully 35 percent of the animals that survived the blasts eventually died from radiation exposure. The battleship Nevada and the aircraft carrier Saratoga were in the ABLE target area, along with an array of other ships, including various German and Japanese ships captured in World War II. The famous German battle cruiser Prinz Eugen, which had a hand, along with the Bismarck, in the momentous sinking of HMS Hood, the pride of the British Navy, in the Battle of the Denmark Strait in 1941, was among the target-area ships for the BAKER experiment, and, along with the other BAKER target ships, was “painted” with radiation that could not be removed. Sosa’s ship, ATR-87, was a member of Task

Force 1.2.7 U.S. Navy Atomic Warfare Test & Support Group. After volunteering for the Navy in November 1945, Sosa was sent to boot camp in San Diego, and then he was stationed briefly at Long Beach Naval Base before being shipped to Honolulu Naval Base, where he was assigned to the ship ATR 87. After several weeks, his ship was sent to the Marshall Islands. “Nobody said a word about where we were going or why we were going there,” Sosa said, adding, “We noticed a bunch of vessels anchored outside the lagoon, some American, some German, some Japanese; they were all empty, except for a few of them where they had placed some live animals, mostly pigs and goats; we didn’t see any natives on the islands, either -- maybe they had been evacuated.” They pulled back about five miles and anchored for a few days until the day of the ABLE detonation. “The captain ordered all hands to go to the back of the ship and turn our backs to the empty ships -- ‘Don’t look, whatever happens,’ he told us,” Sosa said. “We were given no special clothing and no safety equipment,” he added. Then the bomb went off with a loud explosion. “When they finally told us that we could turn around, the mushroom cloud was forming -- it was orange and red and it looked like a tornado or a hurricane. Some of the vessels went up high into the mushroom cloud like toys, where they tumbled in suspension for a while before they fell back down into the sea. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

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Photo by John Snyder

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On the Río Río Grande Plaza Hotel front desk clerk Rafael Maestre takes a moment from aiding guests for a quick chat with LareDOS writer John Snyder.

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The same thing happened nine days later during the BAKER detonation. Since Sosa served as boat coxswain, it was his duty to take scientific personnel on repeated trips to the ships in the target area where the radiation levels were quite high, and he was required to board some of those ships on more than one occasion. Back at Buena Vista Naval Base in San Francisco a little over a year later, Sosa was “separated” (an ‘atomic’ euphemism for ‘discharged’) on October 6, 1947. It was in San Francisco that he had been told that the ATR 87 was radiation-contaminated, a “hot” ship in Navy lingo. He said that he wasn’t given a physical before he was discharged, and he really doesn’t understand how they could calculate the degree to which he was exposed to gamma radiation. Sosa put it this way, “Was there some kind of cover-up that they are still hiding?” It was approximately eight months ago after a friend of Sosa’s died, a fellow Atomic veteran who was living in San Antonio, that he found out through his friend’s wife about the existence of the NAAV, so he became a dues-paying member. Although the organization’s quarterly publication provided him with information that he hadn’t received before, he didn’t feel that he was any closer to getting to the bottom of the “cover-up” situation, so he quit after a couple of months. “But I rejoined only a couple of months after quitting, because I felt that they still might be able to help me find out what I wanted to know,” Sosa said. All three of Sosa’s sons are Navy veterans, too. Alvino served for 28 years, Eduardo served for 26 years, and Rodolfo Jr. served for six years. “Between all of us, we spent a total of 102 years in the U.S. Military,” Sosa said, adding, “ a few months ago I sent a letter requesting help fro the following senators and representatives -- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, she answered my letter; U.S. Senator John Cornyn, he answered my letter, too; and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar; he never answered.” Here is an excerpt from his letter to the elected officials. “My ship was classified as a Radiological Suspected Ship or ‘hot ship’… and we towed another ‘hot ship’ to Kwajalein Island. I feel that we were used as human guinea pigs during the testing of atomic radiation. We were never informed as to the risk we were facing or the after effects of exposure to radiation. No one was given radiation protective gear or briefed concerning exposure to radiation in a highly irradiated area. Yet we continued to work, eat, and sleep while the testing continued. The following are some of my health problems that I have developed since my exposure to high levels of radiation. I have

Atomic Veteran, Fito Sosa shingles, prostate gland enlargement, high blood pressure, loss of hearing, rosacea, abnormal heart beat, heart murmurs, and glaucoma. Also the exposure to high levels of radiation has been passed on to my children. One of my younger daughters, Sonia, died of cancer, and another of my other daughters has a child with leukemia.” Both Hutchison and Cornyn have initiated inquiries on Sosa’s behalf. But there is an Army side as well as a Navy side to Rodolfo “Fito” Sosa. He joined the Army Reserve in 1967 and worked his way up from Supply Sergeant to Warrant Officer (CW4), where he remained until his retirement on December 4, 1989. In 2004 Sosa had triple bypass heart surgery, and his doctor recently told him that his heart was getting weaker and that it wasn’t going to get any better. “He also told me that all four chambers of my heart are leaking,” Sosa said. Sosa’s children, Alvino, Eduardo, Rodolfo, Yvonne, Antonia, and Belinda, as well as his wife Maria A. Sosa, are proud of their father’s service to his country, and they all support their father’s efforts to be reasonably compensated for the risks he took in the name of freedom and democracy. ◆ W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


Feature

The Sylvia Plath foreclosure sale By CON CHAPMAN

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grew up surrounded by females. My dad owned a women’s clothing store. Both of my sisters were girls, and my mom was a woman. We had two female cats whose names -- Big Kitty and Baby Cat-- could have been taken straight from a Eudora Welty short story. As far as I know, the box turtle in the basement was female, too. As a result, I am uniquely wellequipped to intervene in, and resolve, disputes between women, sometimes referred Eudora Welty to colloquially as “catfights.” At the tender age of 12, my dad took me to see a night of men’s, women’s, and midget wrestling matches. The truths I absorbed that night, all wide-eyed innocence as the ladies leapt upon each other’s bodies from the ropes, I have put to good use.

ing them with a brief, mayfly-length existence, before they are recycled at one of the region’s many picturesque do-it-yourself town dumps.

Picturesque town dump, Lincoln, Maine “You’ve got your helmet, right?” my wife asks anxiously as she eyes the bandage on my forehead that covers a threeinch cut I received last weekend when a symbolist poetess smashed a villanelle over my head after I whistled her for a shotclock violation.

June Lockhart, left, Lassie, right

Blacksmith House

Ready for action!

Women’s wrestling, every Tuesday night, in my hometown of Sedalia, Missouri That’s why I am frequently called on to referee the All-Female Poetry Slams that are held around New England as fundraisers for what A.J. Liebling disparagingly referred to as “the quarterlies,” the high-brow, low-revenue publications that pluck drops of verse from the torrent of poetry that is showered on them, providW W W.LA R EDOS N EW S . CO M

“Yes, dear,” I say sheepishly, like a kid who’s asked if he’s clipped his mittens to his coat sleeves. It took three stitches to close the wound, and my carelessness will leave a scar that matches one I acquired four decades earlier when my helmet cracked in a freshman football game. “I worry about you, okay?” she says, her face a placemat of concern, like June Lockhart’s on Lassie when Timmie announces he’s going upstairs to study for his algebra quiz and doesn’t need his genius collie’s help. “Just be careful,” she says with a lump in her throat. “I love you.” “Love you too,” I say. We kiss, and I head out the door with my gym bag.

I arrive at the Blacksmith House in Cambridge, one of the rougher venues on the NEPA (Northeast Poetess Association) circuit. A crowd of black-turtlenecked women and girls mills about outside, smoking French Gauloise-brand cigarettes, “freestyling” with each other. The losing female -- the one who “craps out”, unable to come up with a quatrain after her opponent finishes -- often runs off in tears to gorge herself on pastry inside. I move through the crowd with difficulty, as many of the distaff versif iers have gigantic egos and yield only grudgingly. Tonight’s line-up I squeeze through the front door and notice that two women are already going at it, and the bell hasn’t even rung yet! “You couldn’t write your way out of a Barnes & Noble bag!” one screams at the

other, who has a hand full of beret and is trying to get at her adversary’s hair. “Ladies, ladies -- please,” I say, with more extreme unction than a Catholic priest at a big donor’s dying bedside. “What’s this all about?” “She says she was into confessional poetry before me!” the one in the beret says. “You’re a Ginny-come-lately,” the other hisses. The shock of recognition hits me, even though both women have had cosmetic surgery recently. In the beret is elena gotchko, who’s had the capital letters removed from her name, e. e. cummingsstyle, since I last saw her. Her opponent is jeanmarie benson, who opted for an Italicized style during a recent fellowship in Rome. e. e. cummings I notice that she’s added a hyphen between her first and middle names and her face is still puffy from the surgery, which has not yet been approved by the FDA. Even though neither will be eligible to enter the Yale Younger Poets Competition ever again, I have to admit that both are looking great. “Why don’t we settle this lawyer-style,” I say, “using summary judgment.” “How does that work?” elena asks. “You both give me your version of the facts, and I decide solely on the law.” “Okay,” jean-marie says. “I was into confessional poetry at such a young age I had an Anne Sexton Dream House, with working car running in the garage.” “Hmm,” I hum. “elena?”

Anne Sexton CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 25 “That’s nothing,” the lower-case literata fairly spits back. “When I was a little girl, I had the Sylvia Plath Brown ‘n Serve Toy Oven!” I look at the two, trying to conceal my self-satisfied amusement. “That’s it?” I say. “That’s the best you’ve got?” “Well, yeah,” gotchko says. “I thought that made me -- special.” I can’t help but emit a mirthless little laugh. “Excuse my frankness,” I say, “but give me a break!” Others have started to crowd around now, anxious to hear my decision. “I can beat you both -- I handled Sylvia Plath’s foreclosure sale!”

“Well, she wasn’t,” I begin, “but the site of one of her poems was.” I’ve got them eating out of my hand, and it makes me hungry. “Bring me one of those congo bars, and I’ll tell you the story.”

Hepburn: Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth -- but maybe margarine.

“What?” squawks a forbidding woman with a Katherine Hepburn-Main Line Philadelphia accent, and a haughty attitude to match. It is Professor Natalia Seals-Croft, Head of Women’s Studies at Bryn Mawr. “Sylvia Plath was never foreclosed on!”

“They take away the things you love, the car, the books, the roof above.”

My blood sugar restored, I launch into my tale. “Sylvia had a summer job at Lookout Farm, in the suburbs west of Boston. It was there that she overheard the conversations that she wove into ‘Bitter Strawberries,’ which was published in the Christian Science Monitor. You can find it on http://www. neuroticpoets.com/.” “So?” Seals-Croft asks, one eyebrow making its way up her imposing forehead like a mountain climber with crampons. “In the 1980s,” I begin, “the farm had a new owner. He’d taken on a lot of bank debt to buy the place and was going to try to turn it into a year-round attraction, with llamas the kids could pet and ride, u-pickem apple harvesting, a butterfly exhibit.” “Real estate prices dropped,” I continued, “the bank got nervous, and they started to foreclose. The owner called me up and I put him into Chapter 11.” “Why didn’t you start at the beginning of the book?” gotchko asks. “It’s not that kind of chapter,” I explain.

“It’s a court proceeding in which a company is protected from creditors while it attempts to reorganize.” “There’s a lot of insolvency in Dickens,” benson adds helpfully. “Right,” I say, then continue. “Anyway, the guy didn’t have enough cash flow to pay the bank, and people Lookout Farm: wouldn’t come U-pick-’em. to the farm until he’d fixed it up, and he couldn’t raise money to do it. So the bank got permission to foreclose.” “On the very land that Plath walked on,” gotchko said sadly. “So what did you do?” “Everything goes when the whistle blows,” I said, “unless you can find a ’straw man.’” “That shouldn’t be too hard on a farm,” benson interjected. “Not that kind of straw,” I explained. “Somebody friendly to the owner who’d buy it and maybe sell it back when he could come up with the money. So while the auctioneer’s rattling off the terms of sale, I launched into a desperate plea.” “How’d it go?” the guy behind the counter asked. “I’m glad you asked,” I said. “Here it is.” On Lookout Farm, where Plath did write I rise to tell you of her plight. If no one raises up their hand The bank will shortly own this land.

Where she picked berries, red and blue and where we planned a petting zoo. The room was silent. Finally, a young woman in toreador pants and black glasses spoke. “So -- did anybody come through?” “No,” I had to explain sadly. “My guy lost it. Since then the place has gone through two owners, neither of whom knows Sylvia Plath from a lath.” “What’s a lath?” “A thin, narrow strip of wood used in building lattices,” I replied, becoming emotional. “They’ve got laths all over that place. You’d think they could name one -just one! -- the Sylvia Plath Lath -- but no.” I noticed a few tears running down pale cheeks, and the owner came up to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “Thanks very much for sharing that with us,” she said. “Would you like a complimentary vanilla latte or something?” “No thanks,” I said, after I’d calmed down a bit. “I’ve got promises to keep. And, uh, miles to go before I sleep.” ◆

“You mailed the mortgage check–right?”

(Copyright 2009, Con Chapman. Con Chapman is the author of CannaCorn [Joshua Tree Publishing] and blogs at http://conchapman.wordpress.com.)

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News

Magnet Tribune garners national award

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he Magnet Tribune, the student newspaper of the Vidal M. Trevino School of Communications and Fine Arts, has once again -- for the 13th consecutive year -- captured a First Class Award from the National Scholastic Press Association for newspapers published during the 2008-2009 school year. Under the direction of VMT journalism instructor and newspaper sponsor Mark Weber, the publication earned an overall score of 3,210 points with two marks of distinction by NSPA judges for exemplary work. Judges of the competition use the Mark of Distinction as a measure to recognize outstanding work in a category. The two categories for Marks of Distinction included Coverage and Content and Leadership. The Magnet Tribune received a score of 900 of a possible 1000 for coverage and content and a score of 475 out of 500 in the leadership category. “We were surprised when Laredo got chosen. The bigger cities usually win. It was awesome,” said Amy Perez, Magnet Tribune staff writer. “We did an outstanding job, once again,” she added. The Magnet Tribune received kudos from the judges for the publication’s human-interest stories about individuals such as a physician, new school director, bicycling teacher, as well as a section on fashion. The NSPA publication

critique service also provided students feedback on the strengths of the paper -- the latest technology, photography, and layout design trends to help improve their publication. “All our hard work has paid off,” stated Tanya Salas, Magnet Tribune staff writer. “We want to continue the cycle Mr. Weber has established of producing a great newspaper,” she said. Weber attributes the success of the Magnet Tribune to the work ethic of the students. “They are such a positive group to work with. They are always striving to do their best,” he said of the Tribune’s staff. “This year, we plan to incorporate elements of converging media into the journalism program at VMT. The public will see new and exciting elements to make the Magnet Tribune even better,” said Weber. “We are going to incorporate the Internet. This is the direction in which journalism is evolving, and it is important to keep our students on the leading edge of progress,” he said. The Magnet Tribune will publish six issues this school year, one every six weeks. The paper is currently printed by the Laredo Morning Times, and after October 5, will be printed by the San Antonio Express-News. Copies of the Magnet Tribune can be found at VMT, LISD classrooms, and administrative offices, plus other high schools and colleges around town. ◆

Magnet Tribune, First Class student newspaper VMT journalism instructor Mark Weber and Magnet Tribune staff writers Amy Perez and Tanya Salas were happy to hear that the Magnet Tribune had received a First Class Award with two Marks of Distinction from the National Scholastic Press Association. W W W.LA R EDOS N EW S . CO M

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Courtesy Photo

Tequila fundraiser

Photo by Monica McGettrick

The Laredo-Webb County Bar Association recently held their Spirit of Mexico Tequila Tasting at A Bientot. Former bar president Donato Ramos Jr. and current president Paul Thomson took a break from tasting the various high quality tequilas. Proceeds from the event will be matched by the Fernando A. Salinas Trust and LCC and will go towards scholarships for local students attending Laredo Community College.

A little assistance from Don Tomás Nora Bertani of the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau presents Rick Villarreal of the Republic of the Río Grande Museum, as Laredo founder Don Tomás Sanchez, with a gift as thanks for his assistance in presenting their new media campaign.

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Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Enrique’s Journey author visits Laredo Family fun at MHCS

Photo by Monica McGettrick

The recent Grand Tour walk-and-bike-a-thon at Mary Help of Christians presented a great opportunity for families to enjoy time together. The Muñoz family is pictured in the school gym with MHC K-4 student Salvadore Muñoz, and second grader Miguel Becerra and K-4 student Daniella Becerra are pictured with their grandparents.

Sonia Nazario, author this year’s One City, One Book selection Enrique’s Journey, recently spent an evening at La Posada Hotel answering media questions regarding her experiences writing the book, what impact the story has made on society, and other issues related to the themes of the book. Nazario also addressed students at UISD, LISD, and TAMIU, as well as the public at the Civic Center. The Food for Thought Foundation, the Laredo Public Library, the City of Laredo, TAMIU, LCC, UISD, LISD, and local businesses sponsor one City, One Book.

Down to the river Kayaker Eric Ellman goes with the flow of the Río Grande near Bridge I early one September morning. Ellman was in town to help drum up interest in RíoFest, a Binational Kayak and Canoe River Race to be held this October 16 and 17. Hundreds of kayaks and canoes will race for cash prizes down the historic river. A festival that will include a health fair, a tequila festival, and other events will follow the event. For more information about the race visit www.LaredosRioFest.com.

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Feature

Enrique and Josefina De La Garza: touring on and off the Turquoise Trail -Spanish heritage, Museum of the 19 Tribes, Taos Pueblo, St. Joseph’s Staircase, Rio Grande Gorge, Santuario de Chimayó, Amado Peña By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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ne thing is to go somewhere for a vacation. But it’s quite a different thing to get somewhere. There’s usually something to be said for “getting away from it all,” but to do so and suddenly find yourself “where it’s at” is a lot better. For most enlightened people, the place to feel most alive is a place where there is beauty in abundance, natural and/or man-made. One delightful tourist destination in the American Southwest that contains rewards for the visitor is New Mexico’s Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, as Laredoans Enrique and Josefina De La Garza discovered this August. The De La Garzas are experienced travelers -they seem to have those special instincts that lead the traveler to occasionally depart from the itinerary and improvise on a hunch. This approach has worked marvelously for them on past trips to the East Coast of the United States and southern Mexico, including the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum, the Zapotec city of Monte Alban in Oaxaca, the mysterious ancient city of Teotihuacan near Mexico City, up and down Mexico’s Pacific coast, and over a considerable portion of western and northwestern Mexico. Improvisation in the form of unplanned visits and overnight stays at places of interest that were not necessarily on the itinerary has been the source of many indelible memories -- sights seen, people met, history learned, and adventures experienced -- for the De La Garzas. “We don’t limit ourselves to a certain strict itinerary because we have found that it doesn’t allow us the freedom to enjoy certain places as much as we’d like to by visiting them for a longer time,” Enrique

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De La Garza said, adding, “At the beginning, we used to book onto those guided tours, but we soon found out that they were too confining, so for many years we have been doing it our way, and when we need a guide, we can usually find local guides that many times can provide lots of colorful insights.” That particular approach has yielded enjoyment dividends over the years, and last August it did not disappoint on their weeklong excursion through New Mexico. “We flew from Laredo to Dallas and from Dallas to Albuquerque. There were four of us, my sister-in-law Mary Lou Uribe, our comadre Ana Montalvo, my wife Josefina, and myself,” De La Garza said. “We wanted to enjoy ourselves while visiting beautiful sights, and that’s exactly what we did,” he added. “One of the strongest impressions that you get in New Mexico is that it is quite different from South Texas because the Spanish and Native American cultures predominate,

as opposed to Mexican culture -- the way Spanish is spoken, the customs, and the architectural motifs, even the food,” De La Garza said. Albuquerque marks the southern terminus of the Turquoise Trail, which is a looselydefined name for the 15,000 square miles of historic central Arizona between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico’s capital city. In addition to colorful old mining towns, Indian sights, beautiful desert and mountain scenery, and plenty of small old Spanish sites -- churches, haciendas, and ranchos -- as well as lots of places to view and purchase authentic Native American arts and crafts, interact with Native American citizens, and see picturesque examples of their folkways. The large urban centers, Albuquerque and Santa Fe, also contain multiple research libraries, cultural museums, permanent and temporary exhibits, and colorful plazas, bazaars, and other arts and crafts venues that

attract visitors from all over the world. The De La Garza party particularly enjoyed their visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, where 19 tribes are represented. “They have interesting displays, areas for schoolchildren to take classes on Indian culture, offices, souvenir shops, and places to perform dances and rituals,” De La Garza said. “Another accessible place to learn about Indian culture is the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture on the old Santa Fe Trail in Santa Fe, which also features a museum of anthropology,” he added. The Pueblo Cultural Center is run exclusively by the 19 tribes, while the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is operated by the New Mexico Division of Cultural Affairs. “When we got to Santa Fe, we liked it right off the bat, because we were able to book nice rooms at a beautiful hotel for very reasonable rates -- this is something that is always appreciated by a tourist,” De La Garza said. In addition to spending plenty of time at the Pueblo Cultural Center where they watched some charming live shows of Indian music and dances, the De La Garza party had a fascinating stay in Santa Fe, the oldest capital city in the United States, sightseeing, lingering in the tourist-friendly Spanish-style plazas, and shopping along the intruiguing shaded sidewalks replete with sidewalk vendors displaying hand-made Spanish Colonial-style and Native American wares for sale. “The streets of Santa Fe are safe, clean, and colorful, and the people of Santa Fe are extremely polite, cordial, and obliging -- you could tell that the tourists were truly having a good time.” De La Garza said, adding, “The cafes and the restaurants are kept clean, and the people who work in them are only too

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glad to greet you and wait on you with a smile. Almost all the food on the menu is served spicy.” De la Garza said that he admires the official Green Building Code that went into effect July 21, 2009 in Santa Fe, which is rigorously applied and enforced. De La Garza commented, “Many of the tourists we spoke to said that that they had visited there before or that they would like to visit again -- maybe Laredo can learn something from Santa Fe. We definitely need to work on improving a few things.” Not far from Santa Fe is the centuriesold Taos Indian pueblo, a city that has been inhabited since three or four hundred years before Columbus discovered America. “It is constructed entirely of adobe, and it is completely under Native American control,” De La Garza said, adding, “The tribal government makes all the decisions, not the state government. They have their own tribal governor and their own department of tourism. The shows and seminars they conduct are part of an effort to raise public awareness of the American Indian way of life. The place is very well maintained, and it attracts tourists from all over the world.” The Loretto Chapel on the Old Santa Fe Trail is the home of the Miraculous Staircase of Saint Joseph, a beautiful, winding staircase in pristine condition that is no longer in use for reasons of preservation. It is much visited and much appreciated for its fine workmanship and graceful appearance. De La Garza explained how the staircase came to be considered ‘miraculous.’ “Since the architect of the chapel had suddenly died before the church was completed, the chapel was left unfinished, with no means of access to the raised choir loft. The nuns prayed hard to St. Joseph for divine intercession, and one night a hungry stranger came to the church in the middle of the night and was given food and shelter by the Sisters of Loretto. “The stranger was a carpenter by trade. When he became aware of the nuns’ di-

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lemma he asked for, and was granted, three months of total privacy within the chapel. At the end of three months, the nuns reentered the chapel to find the stranger gone. They also found, rising in a graceful spiral from the floor to the choir loft, an incredibly beautiful staircase made of non-native woods and put together entirely with joinery -- no nails were used,” De la Garza said. The investigative television program Unsolved Mysteries explored the idea that the spiral staircase at Loretto was built by German woodworker Johann Hadwiger, a claim made by Hadwiger’s grandson Oscar Hadwiger, who could produce no evidence to substantiate his claim. The chapel, now under private ownership, is a popular wedding venue, and the Miraculous Stairway is billed as the Helix to Heaven. A visit to the Río Grande Gorge is a natural for a band of sightseeing schoolteachers from Old Laredo while in northern New Mexico, and the De la Garza party zipped over in their rented car and got an awesome eyeful of the 800-foot-deep canyon formed

by eons of seismic activity (which continues to this day) known as the Río Grande Gorge. “It’s an impressive sight to see the Río Grande running crystal-clear through that majestic landscape, long before it winds its way down to us in Laredo,” De La Garza said. Yet another site worth visiting in northern New Mexico is the little adobe church of miracles known as the Santuario de Chimayó. Multiple legends about this humble little structure, some dating back centuries to pre-Colonial times, add to its intrigue and have long attracted visitors to the site to see and seek miracles. Early Spanish missionaries commented that the spot in the hillside near the Santa Cruz River where the shrine is now located was an Indian pilgrimage destination even before a chapel was built over it in 1815. It was Good Friday, 1910 when Bernardo Abeyta, a member of the Hermandad de Nuestro Padre Jesús el Nazareno (Penitentes), saw bright lights emanating from the hillside as he walked home. Curious, he climbed up to the light’s source -- a foot-wide hole in

the ground containing a crucifix, which he picked up and carried to the local church. But the crucifix kept mysteriously returning to its native niche in the soil on the hillside. After several repetitions of the round-trip phenomenon, the area residents and the local clergy decided to build a chapel over it where it could be permanently housed. The crucifix as well as the soil at that location are said to possess miraculous healing qualities, and thousands of pilgrims flock to the shrine several times each year. In 1970 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior. “People are allowed to take small quantities of the soil home with them -- yet they say that the soil keeps replenishing itself at the source,” De La Garza said. Before heading south on I25 to Albuquerque to board a jet back to Dallas, the De La Garza party stopped by the studios of Amado Peña in downtown Santa Fe. As most Laredoans know, or certainly should know by now, Amado Peña is Laredo’s most successful and famous artist ever. His Indian and Southwest motifs are instantly recognizable the world over. “We’re old friends -- we went to high school together,” De La Garza said. The two good friends had a lot to talk about as they toured Peña’s multi-roomed studios loaded with a treasure-trove of masterpieces from the master’s hand. “He’s incredibly prolific,” De La Garza said, “and he and I are going to continue to strive to secure a worthy place in Laredo to house some of his paintings in a permanent collection,” De La Garza said. As the De La Garza party discovered first-hand, the string-of-pearls of compelling cultural sites on and all around New Mexico’s Turquoise Trail is in a way like a holy rosary that, if you count its beads, can lead you right back to the deep, beautiful heart of Laredo. ◆

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News

Canoeists and kayakers gear up in anticipation of Laredos Río Fest Courtesy Photo

T How do you spell success? Teamwork made the Mary Help of Christians Grand Tour a great success. Good weather, great attitudes, a cooperative spirit, and the wide-open spaces of the campus added to school’s first Fall event.

Parkinson’s Support Group Meeting

op Texas canoeists Wade Binion of College Station and Fred Mynar of San Marcos practiced on the river for the upcoming Laredos Río Fest. The festival, which will be held October 16 and 16, includes a kayak and canoeing event, as well as a health fair, a mercado, art exhibition, and a food, tequila, and Mexican cultural fest featuring chefs from both sides of the border. The canoeing veterans made landfall beneath International Bridge I after a sixmile practice run. Binion, a 16-year veteran, has run the four-day La Ruta Maya race in Belize and won the 265-mile Texas Water Safari race from San Marcos to Seadrift on the Texas Coast in June 2009, and won the 460-mile Yukon Riv-

er Quest in Alaska. Mynar is a 25-year veteran who has competed all over the state and the country. Both of these competitors said that they’re glad that the Río Grande is finally going to be the venue for a sanctioned competition. The theme of the race is international friendship, and $28,000 in prizes will be awarded. The race will cover race 53 kilometers and is being organized by the Laredo Hotel and Lodging Association. Eric Ellman, director of Los Caminos Del Río, is offering $10 kayak lessons along with Escuela de Canotaje from 9 a.m. to noon every day for the three weeks leading up to the event. For information on the event or kayak lessons call Ellman at (956) 227-2372. ◆

Monday, October 5, 2009 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, first floor, Community Center

call 723-8470 or 285-3126.

Alzheimer’s Support Group Meeting Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 7 p.m. Laredo Medical Center, Tower B, Meeting Room 2

call 723-1707

Wade Binion and Fred Mynar

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Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct. 4-10, 2009 Please join us for these activities that raise awareness for mental health issues in our community. Oct. 1 - NAMI meeting (children’s mental health), 6 p.m., BRMHMR Oct. 5 - Proclamation Signing, 4:30 p.m., City Hall Oct. 14 - Suicide Prevention Training, 9 a.m. to noon, BRMHMR Oct. 20 - Volunteer Services Council Membership Drive, 4 to 6 p.m., BRMHMR Laredo library display and book donation - TBA Consumer Art Exhibit - TBA

Share your talents. Be a volunteer in our circle of giving and receive the satisfying reward of knowing you are part of a greater effort to change lives through advocacy, education, art, music, and exercise.

1500 Pappas Street Laredo, Texas 78041 (956) 794-3240 (The art that borders this page was created by MHMR clients in classes organized and taught by a community volunteer)

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Opinion

Ten horrifying racist attacks on Obama

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he warm months of 1969 came to be known as the “summer of love.” Surely the past months of 2009 will go down in history as the “summer of hate” -- with fearsome crowds of thuggish, and almost entirely white, conservatives railing against Barack Obama’s stimulus package and proposals for health care reform and “cap-and-trade” climate legislation. At least, those are the ostensible targets. But the overheated rhetoric masks a more fundamental complaint about the perceived loss of white America’s tribal power in an era with the first African American president. At this summer’s “tea parties,” town hall meetings, and the recent march on Washington organized by Fox News talker Glenn Beck, signs with Obama portrayed as an African witch doctor, complete with a bone through his nose, and signs claiming Obama is the rightful president only of Kenya, and other thinly disguised racial markers have been commonplace. Clearly, these demonstrations of inchoate rage are about more than public policy. Former President Jimmy Carter stepped into the fray this week, stating the obvious: “intensely demonstrated animosity” toward Obama, the 39th president said, is “based on the fact that he is a black man.” This elicited a torrent of angry denunciations from right-wing media. While Carter might have overstated the degree to which the anger is motivated by racial animus -- saying it was behind “an overwhelming portion” of the criticisms lobbed at Obama -- it’s clear not only from the street protests, but also from the rhetoric employed by the conservative media elite that racism is indeed alive in “postracial America,” and is certainly ratcheting up the temperature of the country’s discourse. We took a tour of that discourse and present 10 recent examples of the kind of racially charged barbs that played a part in Carter’s statement. 1. Oh no! Evil monkeys stole our W W W.LA R EDOS N EW S . CO M

balls! You know who really had their act together? British colonists in India. But oppressing a country of hundreds of millions for more than a century was not without its dangers. For instance, sometimes monkeys descended on the Brits’ golf courses and stole their balls. And that it is how former House Whip Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, chose to illustrate the challenges facing conservatives in the Obama era. Blunt addressed the conservative Values Summit with the following: “... Something they didn’t anticipate was monkeys came running out of the jungle, and they grabbed the golf balls ... and they

might throw the golf ball back at you. ... So for this golf course, and this golf course and this golf course only, they passed a rule, and the rule was, you have to play the ball where the monkey throws it.” The crowd roared with laughter. He went on to say that he recently saw a bumper sticker he liked that read: “Don’t let Obama find out what comes after a trillion.” 2. Rush Limbaugh, worried about future of favorite cookie, blows off steam by making racist joke about Obama In a July broadcast, Rush Limbaugh voiced his displeasure -- nay, outrage -about food-safety advocates potentially “going after” Oreo cookies. Added the

great wit: “Might have to put that off until Obama’s out of office, but they’ll eventually go after Oreos.” Get it? 3. When you weren’t looking, Obama snuck reparations into the health care bill This is why we have to be vigilant. According to Beck and Limbaugh, Obama is using health reform to force reparations for slavery from white America. Beck: “Everything getting pushed through Congress -- including this health care bill -- is transforming America. And it’s all driven by President Obama’s thinking on one idea: reparations. ... He believes in all the ‘universal’ programs because they ‘disproportionately affect’ people of color” (All of whom Obama knows personally, cause…you know…). Not one to be outdone, Limbaugh cast a wider net, saying: “Obama’s entire program is reparations!” 4. Addendum: When you weren’t looking, Obama snuck affirmative action in the health care bill Obama’s plan to make African Americans the white man’s evil overlords doesn’t end with secret reparations: Apparently, the health care bill is also being used to smuggle in affirmative action. “The medical schools will get more federal dollars if they have proven … that they are putting minorities ahead,” according to Beck. 5. Obama responsible for school bullying Last week, a Drudge headline screamed: “White Student Beaten on School Bus; Crowd Cheers.” Drudge is presumably aware that this isn’t the first time school children have engaged in fisticuffs. But in highlighting the item as breaking “news,” the site was clearly trying to tap into the bizarre race paranoia sweeping Wing-Nut Nation. It did not take long for Limbaugh to make Drudge’s implicit race baiting explicit: CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 37 “In Obama’s America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, ‘Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on,’� said Limbaugh, in a very accurate approximation of how black kids talk, of course. 6. Limbaugh comes up with a solution to America’s complex race issues: Separate but equal! Then, Limbaugh used the incident to essentially propose a return to the doctrine of “separate but equal,� saying, “I mean, that’s the lesson we’re being taught here today. Kid shouldn’t have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses -- it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama’s America.� Or, you know, the black kids could just sit in the back of the bus. 7. Our president is angry? Obama comes across as a pretty even-keeled, pleasant person. But maybe it’s all an act, meant to mask his true nature, which, according to Limbaugh, is that of a really common racist archetype: the angry black man. “[T]hey’re finally hearing me. ‘He’s an angry black guy.’ I do believe that about the president. I do believe he’s angry. I think his wife is angry.� Surprisingly, Limbaugh did not add that Michelle Obama was also good at nursing other people’s kids or preparing pancakes. 8. Birther conspiracy A while back, a bunch of people felt kinda weird publicly saying that Obama shouldn’t be president be-

cause he’s black. They came up with this enterprising solution: latch onto an insane conspiracy theory claiming that the president is illegitimate because he’s not a natural-born citizen of the U.S. One of those people was Lou Dobbs, who managed to destroy the last shreds of his reputation and dignity by pushing the birther conspiracy onto prime time on CNN. 9. Half-white president hates whites? Carter’s remarks that many of the attacks against the president are fueled by racism really, really hurt conservatives’ feelings. Beck, for example, sniffed (but didn’t break into wild sobbing, as he often does) that it was wrong to accuse someone of racism without hard evidence. This lesson in etiquette is one Beck must have learned recently, because less than two months ago the shock-jock accused Obama of being a racist with a “deep-seated hatred for white people ‌ and white culture.â€? Beck did not elaborate on what he meant by “white culture.â€? 10. General tea-baggery Conservatives are trying to sell town hall disruptions and the various forms of tea-bagging going on as legitimate protests against the Democrats’ agenda. While that’s certainly true of many people who show up at these events, it’s hard not to be a little wary of the real reason some people take part when we see the signs they bring. (This story first appeared on September 22, 2009 on alternet.com.)

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No. 2 overall DNA (only to 650S) in Oak Creek Farmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2007 Sale No. 1 weight gainer in class for Oak Creek Farmâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2007 Sale W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


Feature

Overdue remembrance -Korean War ceasefire and veterans finally recognized by Congress; Laredoans Ernesto Sánchez and Arnoldo Gutierrez were in the front lines The Punchbowl, the Iron Triangle, Heartbreak Ridge By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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orth and South Korea are technically still at war. The truce that was signed on July 27, 1953 has held up fairly well for 46 years, although tensions still exist. The world has done a lot of spinning since that time, and the Korean War itself has been re-spun and re-written countless times, but the reality of the real Korean War has not been erased from the memories of Laredoans Ernesto Sánchez and Arnoldo Gutierrez. For these two loyal U.S. Army veterans, the reasons for American participation in the war and the sacrifices made by American and United Nations troops are still clearly remembered and very important. The war started when North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, after both sides declared themselves dissatisfied with the election of 1948, which was an unsuccessful attempt at unification. The ultimate geopolitical separation of North and South Korea into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK), respectively, was a superpower-engineered arrangement worked out at the end of World War II by the United States and the Soviet Union after the Japanese had scrambled borders, power structures, and allegiances in Southeast Asia. The pre-Korean War borderline was drawn at the 38th Parallel in 1945. Although both sides are reported to have conducted sporadic raids over the line between 1945 and 1950, open aggression was first taken by the North Korean People’s Army when it crossed over the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea. Nearly all of South Korea fell to the Communist forces of the North by the end of 1950. American and United Nations intervention, however, turned the tables, despite the hostile military involvement of nearly one million Red Chinese soldiers on the side of the DPRK, beginning with the Chinese Winter Offensive of 1950. In all, approximately 1,200,000 soldiers from 17 countries of the world sent troops to Korea to support the South Korean cause. Bloody engagements took place during the Korean War, and soldiers from Laredo participated in many of them. First Sergeant and Troop Leader Ernesto Sánchez fought against North Korean and Chinese soldiers in Russian-made tanks at the Punchbowl near the demilitarized zone, participating in the Battle of No-Name Hill and the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge, and at the Battle of the Iron Triangle in central Korea. His unit was part of the 40th Infantry Division. Sánchez and his crew were an anti-tank unit armed with the M40 recoilless rifle mounted on a tripod that fired a 105mm anti-tank bullet. “Two bullets weighed 87 pounds,” Sánchez said. “Heartbreak Ridge was about 3,000 feet high and surrounded by mountains that were about 6,000 feet high and W W W.LA R EDOS N EW S . CO M

Ernesto Sánchez and Arnoldo Gutierrez were controlled by the Chinese. It was known as the ‘Gate to Seoul,’ Sanchez said, adding, “I was mad and cussing after they called the ceasefire because we had to give back one and a half miles of the ridge which we had won the hard way.” Sánchez said that the Chinese had merely walked over the frozen Yalu River that borders China and North Korea. “Every time we killed one, two more came across to replace him,” Sánchez said. He explained, “Many times, the South Koreans didn’t want to fight the North Koreans, but they didn’t mind fighting the Chinese, except for the time when the Chinese first poured over by the thousands. On that occasion, they abandoned the battlefield and started running, but we stopped them and pushed them back to the front where they had to engage the enemy. By the same token, the North Koreans were re-

luctant to fight the South Koreans, but they enjoyed shooting at Americans.” The ultimate responsibility for training of the South Korean army rested firmly on the shoulders of the 500-man American Korean Military Advisory Group (KMAG) unit, to which Laredoan Arnoldo Gutierrez and four other Laredoans belonged. “We worked under the 8th Army, and we were there to train the South Koreans in the use of modern equipment and to instruct them on the American way of life, including the responsibilities of freedom and democracy,” Gutierrez said. Gutierrez is one of five male siblings, each of whom served in the military. His older brother Hugo Gutierrez served with Patton at the Battle of the Bulge. “KMAG soldiers did it all -- I had five different jobs, and I enjoyed them all. I was glad to serve in any way I could,” Gutierrez said, adding, “We developed the South Korean Army, created them from scratch.” Both Sánchez, who will turn 81 on December 4, 2009, and Gutierrez, who is 78, became career schoolteachers with LISD after the war, and both have remained active in the Korean War Veterans Association (KWVA). Sánchez is the outgoing president of Laredo’s Chapter 209 of the KWVA, having served as president for three years, and Gutierrez will be installed as the new president on the last Wednesday of September. “We left with the idea that we were going to be fighting for our country,” Sanchez said. Gutierrez added, “But when we got over there, and we saw the destruction, the poverty, and the hunger, we realized that we were fighting to stop Communism. Some people doubt this, but I say, ‘How mistaken can they be?’” In all, nearly 40,000 Americans were killed and another 100,000 were either wounded or missing in action. South Korean casualties were approximately 450,000 wounded and 140,000 killed. A political tug-of-war between President Harry Truman and General Douglas MacArthur made for some delay and uncertainty in the execution of a clear-cut American-U.N. strategy, but the North Koreans and the Chinese were eventually driven back north of the 38th Parallel. The newly elected American President Dwight D. Eisenhower immediately launched a ceasefire initiative. An armistice was signed and a demilitarized zone was established on July 27, 1953. On July 21, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed House Resolution 2632, the Korean War Veterans Recognition Act, introduced by Representative Charles Rangel, D-NY, and signed into law by President Barack Obama. The stated purpose of the bill is to encourage the display of the American Flag on National Korean War Veterans Armistice Day, July 27. This is the first piece of legislation that the government has ever passed that relates to Korean War veterans. ◆ L ar eDO S | S EP TE MBE R 2 0 09 |

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Feature

An amazing zoo, beautiful skies, and friendly folk By LEM LONDOS RAILSBACK

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Courtesy Photo

o celebrate the 40th anniversary of its founding, the National Social Science Association held its 2009 summer seminar in Honolulu at the recently renovated Outrigger Reef Hotel in Waikiki. As usual, the presentations were scholarly, extensive, interactive, and highly interesting. The foods were tasty and multicultural, and the rooms were spacious, airy, and colorful. The employees were helpful and courteous, and the ocean next door, so to speak, was truly majestic. This was my fourth journey to the midpoint of the Pacific. My original jaunt there

occurred several decades ago and was paid in full by the U.S. military. During my second trip, I provided a professional, research-based comparative-contrastive analysis of how schools and houses of ill repute respectively treat their respective clients. (You guessed correctly -- the latter does far more for the individual client.). After my presentation, I jumped over to the big island, Hawaii, to spend a wonderful, interactive week immersed in The Great Teachers Seminar. We stayed in cottages with walls carved from the nearby lava with tin roofs. We held sessions every day, and every evening held celebrations. Since we were staying in the Volcanoes National Park, we took field trips to gape

Ramos announces District Clerk candidacy Jackie L. Ramos, candidate for Webb County District Clerk, announced her candidacy with a reception at the Embassy Suites. She is pictured with Frank and Imelda Allred, Alma Paredes, Griselda Carillo, and Gilbert Paredes.

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at Kilauea Volcano spew lava, to view the world’s largest observatory system on giant Mauna Kea (4,200 meters high), and to smell fresh coffee growing in the fields of Kona. My third trip was a cruise of the major islands onboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America. For this fourth trip, I looked for something new and discovered the Honolulu Zoo. These 300 acres of well-planned, well-managed, and well-populated activity are situated within one of the world’s most densely populated areas on earth. As I wandered for several hours among the exhibits,, it was easy for me to forget the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, just kilometers away. s, I saw so many birds, reptiles, giant turtles, monkeys, crawling creatures, and other animals that I grew really tired d and, consequently, ck decided to head back to the entry gate. I looked around the several paths and took the one that I thought would take me straight out. After I had walked a bit, I noticed a sign that read “African Savannah.” After seeing an elephant, quickly rubbing my eyes, and seeing the same elephant again, I finally realized that I was not going directly to the EXIT but entering yet another section of the enormous zoo. I trudged on.

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Among the exhibits/inhabitants I saw up close at the zoo were the elephant, several meerkats (relatives of the mongoose), komodo dragons, a tiger, a rhino, giant turtles, giant African bullfrogs, peacocks, hyenas, mandrills, toucans, giraffes, lemurs, and orangutans. As I exited, I visited the zoo’s shop and used my own pennies to mint new coins with each of these animals depicted. From the shop, I bought so many gifts that I was awarded a Ho-

nolulu Zoo tote bag. I also began visiting with a volunteer who educates visitors about the zoo’s history, holdings, plans for the future, and organization. She educated me so well that I became a sustaining member of the Honolulu Zoo. If you happen to be in Honolulu soon and decide to visit and enjoy the zoo, you will understand why I joined this wonderful effort. ◆ W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M

color


On the Public Nickel ON THE PUBLIC IC NICKELL

King, We Found Your Throne

I Courtesy Photo

n the northern reaches of UISDlandia there is an office in a trailer with a commode in the middle of it. The walls to the bathroom have been torn down and the toilet sits in exposed expectancy. Requests have been made to build walls around the porcelain centerpiece, but feigning lack of funds the district has made no effort to camo the chamber pot.

A precious gift Elda Rivera, hair stylist at Hair Fashion Express in Mall del Norte, recently cut a 45-inch braid off a customer who wished to donate her tresses to Locks of Love. The organization provides wigs for children suffering from hair loss due to illness. According to Rivera, it was the single largest donation of hair she had ever witnessed.

Ashes to Ashes; Karma Wheel Sped Up And speaking of chamber pots, former HR director Ernesto Guajardo has gotten his just desserts, having been moved from the department of Inhumane Recourses to an assistant principalship in South Laredo. Oh, the careers he ruined in his pompous romp in vindictive administration. Congratulations to Supt. A. Marcus Nelson on this important reassignment. Pedal to the metal, Güero; Don’t think I don’t see you. Apparently the US Border Patrol believes traffic laws don’t apply if the car/ monster truck comes equipped with flashing lights. Border Patrol Supervisor F-250 truck K86013 was spotted at approximately 11:45 a.m. on Sept. 9 careening off the highway and straight down the green embankment Bo Duke-style. Although the driver put his flashers on before going Dukes of Hazzard, he quickly turned them off once he was on San Dario. Perhaps he’d received word of an illegal Jumbo Jack cheeseburger smuggling ring operating out of the nearby Jack in the Box or of fresh donuts hot off the conveyor belt at Krispy Kreme. Well hoodoggy, who’da thunk? A non-robot CBP agent. On Sept. 3 at approximately 3 p.m., CBP Officer DeLeon, occupying a booth on Bridge II, treated three American citizens reentering the United States with respect. These citizens had heretofore been

received negatively and rudely, so all were quite shocked, yet very gratified, by the normal interaction. While he refrained from offering a hearty “Welcome home!” accompanied by a hug, he did inquire as to the reason for their journey and omitted the usual suspicious look when told the trip was for business. He accepted it at face value, checked their information, and sent them on their way with a “Have a good day.” Thank you, Officer DeLeon, for showing everyone that CBP doesn’t entirely consist of automatons. Man with red hair bald If grammarians ran the judicial system, this excerpt from a Laredo Police Department report would be enough to throw out the case. Authored by a PD investigator, the report includes this excerpt, which is repeated on the arrest warrant approval form and the arrest warrant, “One voluntary statement from XXXXXXX indicating that he saw a man with red hair bald on a Sunday with three other man on a tractor from the city of Laredo cut the street to dig a whole.” Guilty as charged! Sentence: read books. Salinas sends regrets to Vice-President Biden VP Biden sends his relief According to an official press release sent down from City Hall, our very own Mayor Salinas will not be visiting the Second-in-Command because he wishes to save taxpayers’ money. Color me skeptical, but it seems more likely he fears a gaffe-off with VP Biden. Or perhaps he thought, “Gee whiz, election year’s right around the corner. Can’t go spending what I usually spend or taxpayers may elect someone else.” Meanwhile, Emily Post rolled around in her grave at the news that Sassy Sal sent a letter to the press before sending one to VP Biden. “Heavens, does no one have any manners these days?” she was heard to ask nobody in particular. ◆

www.laredosnews.com

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Texas A&M International University

40 years: a lifetime of change, a legacy of impact By STEVE HARMON

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hile every anniversary is important, there’s something especially powerful about the 40 th anniversary of a university. The arc of years in a university’s life easily encompasses generations of students and faculty. For Texas A&M International University, the 40-year span of history has propelled South Texas forward and advanced both individual lives and the overall quality of life for the region. From its initial inception in a study carrel at the former Laredo Junior College to a pair of buildings at the West End of Washington St., and the eventual construction of a new cherished campus in northeast Laredo, the University has been in a constant state of change. Location hasn’t been the only change the University has faced. The name has changed from Texas A&I University at Laredo to Laredo State University to Texas A&M International University. The mission of the University has also changed, from a hybrid upper-division university only offering junior, senior, and graduate study to a full four-year university. And then there are the changes that have elevated the University’s role and presence. Now, a mascot cheers on an NCAA Division II Athletics Program with 11 sports teams. Honors programs flourish, and the ’09 entering freshman class includes students from 75 regional high schools and 23 countries. Early Medical School and professional school admissions programs are well established, and students now have access to the University’s first Ph.D. degree in International Business and four other doctoral programs offered in collaboration with other members of the Texas A&M University system. The 40 th anniversary also encompasses some of the University’s struggles and challenges -- efforts to expand programs that bucked the standards of the day; to serve as a voice for South Texas in important funding discussions; and to rally public support when the first drumbeats of possible closure began to sound. At every juncture, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community partners joined hands and strengthened their commitment to a future that would always include Laredo’s university. It’s no mistake that one of the most visible events of the anniversary celebration will be the October presentation of the time-honored classic, Man of La Mancha, in an impressive new theatre that anchors the University’s Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. While no windmills tilt on campus, Don Quixote’s impossible dream has special resonance for a university that has indeed had its challenges but clearly has earned its triumphs. For more information on TAMIU’s 40 th anniversary events, visit www.tamiu.edu/calendar/. W W W.L A R EDOS N EW S . CO M

New theatre bows at TAMIU If all the world’s a stage, then this fall there’s a global addition to TAMIU with the opening of the new Center for the Fine and Performing Arts Theatre this October. The 472-seat theatre takes its bow as a state-of-theart performance venue with a special production of Man of La Mancha, in collaboration with the Laredo Theater Guild International. Performances are scheduled October 15 to 18. Dale Wasserman’s musical adaptation of his nonmusical teleplay is inspired by the 17th century masterpiece Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and details the adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha and his weary “squire,” Sancho Panza. Bede Leyendecker, chair of the College of Arts and Sciences’ department of fine and performing arts, said the new theatre affords a remarkable setting for the University’s drama, musical theatre and dance productions. The cavernous theatre features a three-story fly space, a proscenium-style stage with trap door and a hydraulics-powered descending stage and orchestral pit. A complex lighting system, including over 250 lighting units, provides an impressive array of lighting possibilities and effects. The theatre’s sound system is a state-of-the-art Yamaha Digital System with some of the most advanced technology available in South Texas. For more information on the inaugural performances of “Man of La Mancha,” visit www.tamiu.edu/calendar/. A Long Way Gone is second entry in TAMIU reading initiative This fall, the TAMIU “Reading the Globe” campus-

wide reading initiative shares the harrowing journey of a 12-year-old boy from Sierra Leone who becomes a front-line refugee as civil war injustices shadow his young life. A Long Way Gone is being read by all entering freshmen and the campus community. Its insight will be shared in classes, conversation and during a special visit to TAMIU by its acclaimed author, Ishmael Beah. After a competitive essay contest, a select group of TAMIU freshmen will have an opportunity to travel to Ghana to explore this remarkable part of the world. Last year, the first in the “Reading the Globe” program, the campus read Gerda Weismann Klein’s All But My Life. A group of 15 students traveled to Poland to visit the book’s setting and they documented their experience, which can be found at www.tamiu.edu/spotlight/poland. Travel for the Poland group was made possible through funding from the University’s International Education Fee Scholarship, the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation, and the Rosendo A. and Mary Kathryn Carranco family. The University is actively seeking partners to help support this year’s study travel program. To learn more, contact the University’s Office for Institutional Advancement at 956.326.GIVE, email chein@ tamiu.edu or click on visit www.tamiu.edu/adminis/ vpia/. TAMIU tech push helps students and community connect This semester at Texas A&M International University, students can reach University services through a single doorway, and community members and visitors can be instantly alerted to the riches of the University’s cultural and artistic offerings and even make purchases or donations without ever leaving the comfort of home. Through an aggressive embrace of technology, the University has placed itself shoulder-to-shoulder with the nation’s top universities as all work to effectively increase availability, boost responsiveness and underscore relevance. This technology includes: Uconnect -- The University’s portal entry to University content and services for enrolled students, faculty and staff. Uconnect truly connects the campus community through strategic, targeted messaging, self-tailored content and single-point access to University services. @TAMU -- The University’s online event calendar, it gives visitors a chance to make a date with a robust calendar that can be downloaded to one’s desktop calendar or asked to send email or text alert reminders or provide RSS feeds. MarketPlace -- The University’s online store, it will provide an opportunity for visitors to review and purchase merchandise or make a contribution to the University. So get to your keyboard, click your mouse and bring your University home. ◆ L ar eDO S | S EP TE MBE R 2 0 09 |

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Feature

Cattle, credit, and consumer demand B rought to the New World in the Spanish conquest, cattle soon became an emblematic fixture of Mexican culture. The bullfight, trade fairs, cowboy attire, and national cuisine all embrace the body and image of the cow. After quickly crossing the Río Grande, cattle trails extended from north to south and then south to north. Today, Mexico imports US-raised cattle breeding stock and exports young animals to the US for fattening and slaughter. The two nations participate in binational working groups to prevent animal diseases and to assure sanitary conditions in corrals on both sides of the border. A secure and profitable cattle trade is on the agenda of the free-trade inspired Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. But times are tough in Mexico’s cattle country. High prices for production inputs, low prices for milk, expanding drought, and thirsty, dying cattle all form part of the contemporary ranching landscape. “We are in a difficult situation and I am not exaggerating,” Alejandro Gil Flores, president of the Tamaulipas Regional Ranchers Union, told the Enlineadirecta online news service. “I have never went through anything like this in the 30 years I’ve devoted to ranching,” Flores added. In 2009 the Calderon administration plans to spend a record $5 billion in government subsidies and credits on the countryside, according to Agriculture Secretary Alberto Cardenas. Surviving a tumultuous market was of

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deep concern to ranchers who gathered earlier this summer in the central Mexican city of Aguascalientes for the annual meeting of the National Ranchers Confederation. Lack of credit, slow delivery of government assistance, high transportation and energy costs, and depressed commodity prices were among the issues raised by livestock producers from throughout Mexico. In an interview with Frontera NorteSur, a ranchers’ representative from the Yucatan Peninsula blamed scant investment, costly credit, and US beef imports for hampering the futures of thousands of small cattlemen. Luis Alberto Zepeda Cruz, president of the eastern region of the Yucatan Ranchers Union, said 92 percent of small producers are excluded from the credit system, with private banks demanding 10 percent down payments and ranch mortgages on loans that charge 18 to 20 percent annual interest rates; the rate is higher than the 12-14 percent normally charged for other enterprises, according to Zepeda. “These banks have created financial lending institutions that approve credit much faster but at a higher rate which the small producer can’t pay off,” Zepeda said. The rancher spokesman said his group represents 4,500 producers who have about 450,000 head of cattle. Constrained by poor access to credit, Yucatan’s producers are stuck shipping young cattle to feed lots in Tamaulipas at the rate of 2,000 animals per month. No local fattening pens or meat processing plants that would add product value serve his members, Zepe-

da said. “If there were feed lots in Yucatan, we could be supplying Yucatan and the Caribbean zone of Chetumal, Cozumel, and Quintana Roo, where there is a lot of tourism, with a lot of meat,” Zepeda asserted. Overall, the Yucatan cattle industry is mired in a classical colonial situation of producing raw materials for consumption elsewhere, while importing basic commodities. For Zepeda, the result is practically “no integral development of the state of Yucatan.” The “dumping” of US produced beef in Mexico is another big problem keeping Yucatan cattle growers down, Zepeda contended. In recent years, Mexico became the biggest market for US beef exports. According to the US Meat Export Federation, a trade industry group funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, sales of US-produced beef to Mexico accounted for 27 percent of all sector exports in 2007. Two years ago, 359,442 metric tons of beef netted one billion dollars. Exports continued their upward spiral in 2008, topping 400,000 metric tons before declining 19 percent during the recessionplagued months of January through May 2009 in comparison with the same period of time one year earlier. Although the retail sector scooped up 70 percent of all US exports, analysts consider Mexican supermarkets a still largely untapped opportunity. “Long term Mexico should remain a large, growing market for US beef as local production will most likely not be able to keep pace with future demand,” noted the trade industry journal Mexico Beef in October 2008. The Aguascalientes convention came at a time when Mexicos’ federal Secretariat of Agricultural, Livestock, and Fisheries (Sagarpa) unveiled a strategic shift in assistance programs to ranchers and other rural producers. In a presentation to the Aguascalientes gathering, Jeffrey Jones, Sagarpa under-secretary, mapped out a 5-point planning strategy to boost the farm and livestock sector. The central tenets include combining public and private resources with a consumer-driven marketplace. A big difference between the new approach and past ones is that the federal government will shift away from subsidizing individual producers to financing projects like roads that collectively support the industry. A former senator from Chihuahua and onetime president of the Senate’s border affairs commission, Jones conceded that previous policies tended to benefit an organized, priv-

ileged few. Acknowledging that the North American Free Trade Agreement market created distortions that had hurt industry sectors, the federal official urged producers to get better organized, conduct market-driven planning and participate in government decisionmaking. Only one Mexican state, Nuevo Leon across from the Texas border, has a real handle on local market analysis, Jones said. “Public policy should be inclusive, focused, and diversified,” he added. “My role is not to tell you what to do…if a product doesn’t have a market, it is doomed to fail from the beginning.” In response to rancher complaints of dry credit, Jones later told Frontera NorteSur and Ganadero magazine that his department was in touch with private banks and working on the issue a step at a time. He reemphasized Sagarpa’s new message that producers must get organized. “It’s difficult for governments to support unorganized groups and the first thing people have to do is organize,” Jones said. “The real issue is not between rich and poor, but between the organized and unorganized. The organized are rich and the unorganized poor.” Asked about prospects for an alternative livestock industry -- buffalo ranching -- in his home state of Chihuahua, Jones said consumer interest would kindle or extinguish a nascent business. “Everything depends on the market, whether it is buffalo or any other kind of agricultural or livestock product,” asserted the high federal official. “The first thing we want to do in planning is make sure the producers and states have a market mapped out.” During his Aguascalientes speech, Jones also discussed unofficial commodity price projections in the hands of Sagarpa. Although prices for basic grains have declined internationally, Mexican ranchers haven’t benefited because the devaluation of the peso has made imports more expensive, Jones said. Based on expected price trends, dairy producers could see an increase beginning in the middle of next year. Jones said that the price paid for milk to Mexican dairy farmers fell from 4.5 pesos per liter in 2008 to less than 4 pesos by the summer of 2009. This story was compiled by Frontera Nortesur. (Frontera NorteSur (FNS) is an on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico. For a free electronic subscription email fnsnews@ nmsu.edu.) ◆ W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


Book Review

Inside Pat Tillman’s life, and the Bush administration’s cover-up of his death By SARAH SELTZER

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ournalist Jon Krakauer’s is obsessed with people who make unfathomable choices, from a young man wandering in the wilderness in Into the Wild to climbers attempting Everest in Into Thin Air to polygamists hearing a call to violence in Under the Banner of Heaven. The subject of Krakauer’s new book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman is one of these. As we all know, Pat Tillman left the NFL in 2002 to enlist in the army, inspired to do his part in the service of a president he distrusted and later, a war he doubted. When Tillman was killed by friendly fire, the army and government engaged in a cover-up to turn him into a martyred hero. In this book, Krakauer exposes each step of the deception with persistent detail. If Where Men Win Glory is less immediately gripping, less fluid and tense than Krakauer’s previous books, this is partly because the story he’s telling is known and painful. But the theme of our government’s failure colliding with a young man’s sense of duty has a relevance and moral immediacy that’s hard to shake off. Ultimately, Where Men Win Glory leaves you, as does Into the Wild, with a sense of futility and anger over the death of a young man that you knew was coming all along. While Krakauer levels his most scathing insults at the Bush administration and portrays the Army chain of command as a bureaucratic, cover-your-ass nightmare, in this book the fog of war is the real culprit. As Krakauer told the Wall Street Journal, “There is nothing glamorous or romantic about war. It’s mostly about random pointless death and misery. And that’s what [Tillman’s] death tells us. It reminds me that the good aren’t rewarded, there’s no such thing as karma.” War, Krakauer writes, creates a climate that leads panicked men to gun down their brothers in cold blood at a staggeringly high rate in all recorded conflicts, and a climate that obscures mistakes and misdeeds (as is the case not just with friendly fire, but with crimes like the rape,

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brutal beating, and death of PFC LaVena Johnson. It’s a climate that leads commanders to make decisions from behind desks (as happened on the day Tillman died) that those on the ground deem unsafe but are powerless to disobey. Krakauer begins with an account of that day. It begins with Tillman’s lieutenant, David Uthlaut, begging his superiors not to split up his unit or have them travel in the daytime -- both huge risks -- but being denied both requests in order to conform to a pre-ordained timetable. Timetables, Krakauer notes disdainfully, were a particular obsession of Donald Rumsfeld, enabling him to check off boxes on his war on terror. After the first chapter, Where Men Win Glory backtracks, alternating the story of Tillman’s early life and NFL career with the history of Afghanistan and the conflicts it has endured, creating a sense of dread as readers know what will happen when the two threads converge. Tillman’s personality, enigmatic though it was, becomes clearer here -- a young man who struggled to channel his existential angst and occasional aggression into constant self-improvement, a man who was never content being comfortable and continually pushed himself, running marathons and triathlons in the football off-season, taking death-defying cliff-dives, reading and discussing philosophy over drinks, and writing diary entries after bad football games exhorting himself to do better. Consumed with notions of honor, risk, and service, this larger-thanlife man was also a family rock and a devoted husband to his young wife Marie, the bright-burning center of an extremely close-knit group of friends and relatives. Even the picture of Tillman on the back of the book’s jacket -- long haired, intense with a slightly mischievous look in his eyes -- is worth a look, so different is it from the military portrait of Tillman used by the press. At the same time as he illuminates this character, Krakauer sets the political stage for Tillman’s death and its cover-up, describing the brutal Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the role of the CIA and the mujahideen, the forming and reforming alliances that led to the Taliban giving Osama Bin Laden safe haven. On our side, he mentions the disastrous Florida recount, getting in a jab at Scalia and Bush v. Gore, urgent memos about Bin Laden ignored by the Bush administration, and the “selling” and spinning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many readers are aware of this history, but juxtaposing it with a life that will be ended by its trajectory creates a fresh sense of urgency and disbelief. Perhaps the most incredible aspect of the book is its extensive excerpting from Tillman’s diaries, granted to Krakauer by his widow, and stories about his time deployed overseas, where he read The Odyssey and “SelfReliance,” and was shocked by the youth and immaturity of his co-enlistees. Tillman expressed his doubt about the Iraq War from its onset, writing, “It may be very soon that Nub [his brother Kevin] and I will be called upon to take

part in something I see no clear purpose for... I believe we have little or no justification other than our imperial whim.” On another occasion, he called Bush a “cowboy.” His other entries are eerily wise. Of Jessica Lynch, whose staged rescue he and his brother provided support for on their first tour of duty, he wrote, “As awful as I feel for the fear she must face, and admire the courage I’m sure she is showing, I do believe this to be a big public relations stunt...” He had faced an essential truth about the Lynch incident that it would take months for the American media to sort out. Of his brother Kevin in Iraq, he said, “If anything happens to Kevin, and my fears of our intent in this country prove true, I will never forgive the world.” Of course, the inverse ended up being true, with Kevin the surviving, disillusioned sibling. On his own account, Tillman confided in a friend his fear that if he were killed the Army would parade him in the streets. This ended up being the most prescient of all. After being sent to Afghanistan, Tillman was shot in the head by a machine-gunner from his own unit, which had been split up to make time. His shooter thought he was the enemy and his unit sprayed bullets wildly across the slope where Tillman was perched (one of his comrades recalled him yelling “I’m Pat fucking Tillman!” shortly before his death). His uniform and most tragically his notebook, where Krakauer tells us he’d scribbled thoughts on gender in Afghanistan, were put into a trash bag and burned, a blatant violation of protocol. And that was only the beginning of the secrecy. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE

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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 45 Even the book’s less enthusiastic critics agree that with the evidence Krakauer has compiled. There’s no way to deny the most horrible aspects of the cover-up, including orders to Tillman’s comrades to lie to his family at the funeral and another official cruelly explaining away the family’s pursuit of the truth as a folly attributable to their atheism. Krakauer demonstrates that the willful deception went all the way up to the White House, when an email from an Army official exhorted President Bush not to mention the manner of Tillman’s death, lest it prove “embarrassing” should the incident prove to be friendly fire (something the official already knew). This deceit, Krakauer notes, led one Tillman friend to leave the Army and another to go AWOL, losing their faith in the institution they’d signed up for. It may remain puzzling that someone with the streak of wisdom that Tillman clearly possessed chose to chance death anyway, even after a painful family intervention begging him not to enlist. But Krakauer gets it, as a kindred spirit who followed

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in Tillman’s footsteps, like he has done for all his risk-taking subjects. (Tillman in turn was a fan of Krakauer’s work, which is why Marie gave him access to the diaries). Krakauer spent months embedded with the Army in Afghanistan, resulting in an epilogue that paints a grim picture of our current situation there. Until Pakistan stops harboring insurgents, “it will be impossible for the United States and its allies to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban by military force,” he writes. He adds that pulling out is an equally “no-win” prospect. Krakauer is a good person to have on your side. He doggedly pursues the bigger picture, and weaves human stories and investigations together in such a way as to create the kind of gripping, stay-up all night narratives of which most novelists can only dream. Some critics in traditional print media miss Krakauer’s straight adventure tales and find his political and skeptical muckraking less than convincing. But like Tillman, Krakauer’s an iconoclast, distrustful of authorities or false ideals, and thus the perfect person to tell this story. (This story first appeared on alternet. com on September 17, 2009) ◆

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Rotary Club Notes

ROTARYY CLUB NOTES

Tom Addison’s gift to the children

By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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ne or more Nuevo Laredo schools may soon be sporting a brighter, more appealing look thanks to the generosity of Laredo Rotary Club’s Tom Addison, owner of Laredo Paint and Decorating. Addison donated 703 gallons of paint, valued at about $12,000, as the centerpiece of a major international project. The paint has been in storage at Addison’s Laredo and San Antonio warehouses. Addison brought the paint to the attention of Laredo Rotary Club (LRC) president Jim Williams, saying that he thought that it could be placed under the auspices of the club, which in turn could figure out a good way to put it to use for the benefit of the needy. Williams informed the LRC officers, who discussed the possibilities, and before long a plan took shape. Williams and his fellow officers approached LRC member Juanita Lira, chairperson of the International Committee that had recently carried out a comprehensive literacy project in Nuevo Laredo. Lira and her fellow committee members, including Dr. Juan Lira and Sandra Gutierrez, spearheaded a resoundingly successful literacy campaign hand-in-hand with the Club Rotario Nuevo Santander (CRNS), which culminated in the creation of a library for the children of the Lauro Aguirre Elementary School and literacy training for over a hundred parents and teachers. Lira, who had single-handedly carried out the training sessions, suggested that outgoing CRNS

president Rene Angers (Angers owns a warehouse in Laredo) along with new CRNS president Salvador Sánchez Montemayor be consulted as to the ongoing needs of the youth in their service area. “Mr. Angers was very interested, and told us that he could hold the paint at his forwarding agency’s warehouse until the CRNS decided on a specific game plan for the paint’s distribution,” Lira said. In all, six pallets of paint were handed over to the CRNS in a ceremony on the morning of September 1 at the Angers y Salinas Importex warehouse on 9120 San Mateo in the Texas Industrial Park. Laredo Rotary Club representatives present at the ceremony were Tom Addison, who donated the gift of the paint, Williams, Chuck Owens, secretary, and Lira. On hand representing the Club Rotario Nuevo Santander were Angers, Montemayor, Jesus Gonzalez, José Manuel De Leon, and Alfredo M. De Leon. Lira said that since Angers and Montemayor have seen first-hand the need for paint at the Lauro Aguirre Elementary School, some of the paint will be used to finish the painting job at that half-painted school. “I am pretty sure that the remainder of the paint will be used in special target areas where the need is greatest, like orphanages and other schools,” Lira said, adding, “We are extremely pleased with this act of generosity, and with the whole club for supporting the ideas behind this project, which are in line with what Rotary is all about.” ◆

International Paint Project Laredo and Nuevo Laredo Rotarians Jose Manuel De Leon, Jesus Gonzalez, Jim Williams, Tom Addison, Juanita Lira, Chuck Owen, Salvador Sanchez Montemayor, and Rene Angers were on hand to deliver six pallets of paint to Club Rotario Nuevo Santander.

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South Texas Food Bank

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

What is a living will?

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o your spouse or any of your heirs know whether or not you would want to pull the plug on a life support system if you slip into a coma or a vegetative state as a result of an illness or accident? Would you be comfortable with someone performing an autopsy on you to determine the exact cause of your death? Are you okay with cremation after a religious service, or do you prefer burial in the earth? Do you want to be buried in a bronze coffin with an inner spring mattress, a simple pine box, or something in between? Where do you want to be buried -Laredo or your birthplace in the State of New York? How about a nice tombstone with a written characterization? My father-in-law’s living will stated he wanted “Not your average Joe” etched in a four-foot high polished granite tombstone. My BW (beautiful wife) and I always smile when we see those etched words every time we visit him at San Fernando Cemetery in San Antonio because we know that is what he wanted. Do you want to donate all your organs for educational or research purposes or for use to save someone’s life? Maybe donating your kidney or heart is all you want. Who will see to it that your desires are carried out? Who will be an alternate or surrogate if your preferred person is either dead or incapable?

For information on how to make a living will visit www.legalzoom.com. The cost for an excellent living will through legalzoom’s service is $71. For an additional $60 your spouse can also obtain his or her own living will. That’s $131 to spare your heirs the mental anguish and feelings of guilt over wondering whether or not they are fulfilling your personal desires. It is definitely worth your consideration. In other matters, every legal resident of our great country should have access to proper healthcare regardless of their economic status. Barack H. Obama is doing the right thing by bringing this possibility closer to reality, and I applaud him for his effort. However, I find it extremely difficult to believe that this healthcare availability will pay for itself without increasing our national deficit. My take on this healthcare issue is we should do it and pay for it because it is good for all Americans. Mr. Obama has thus far proven that he stretched the truth with his campaign promises and dances around reality and efficiency concerning our domestic financial issues, international relationships, and global trade agreements. He is, in summary, an accomplished longwinded orator who is proving to be grossly unqualified to lead or govern our great country. God help us! ◆

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

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Pantries are key to food bank distribution to the needy

ccording to Elia Solis, agency-pantry coordinator for the food bank, there are 52 distribution sites in an eight-county area with 29 of them in Webb County. From those 52 pantries, 21,714 families received food assistance in July -- more than 12,000 of them in Webb. Solis, a San Ygnacio native and graduate of Zapata High School, said, “All families are referred to these pantries to register and pick up their bag of groceries per month. They must have a local address and meet low-income eligibility to receive food. “In the last couple of months, the Food Bank and its network of pantries have seen a tremendous increase in requests for food assistance. To help alleviate the demand, the food bank is looking for eligible organizations to become part of this pantry network.” Solis continued, “To become part of this network and be eligible to distribute food, non profit organizations, with a 501 (c) (3) certification can submit an application to the STFB for membership. In lieu of the 501 (c) (3) certification, established churches may submit a church qualifier that lists the qualifying characteristics. Applicants must be willing to comply with the rules and guidelines imposed by United States Department of Agriculture and Feeding America.” She added, “From July to August we have seen big increases in the need. Most are reporting a 50 percent increase. One pantry went from 80 families in July to 175 in August. Walk-ins at the STFB went from 88 in July to 159 in August. These are families who are given emergency boxes, meaning that they are hungry now and can’t wait for distribution time.” A pantry is different from an agency in that a pantry distributes food and an agency is on-site feeding. Solis gave the example of Bethany House as both a pantry and an agency. “We partner with Bethany House to distribute food and also as on-site feeding,” Solis said. The 29 Laredo pantries are included in 67 agencies served by the food bank. For additional information on how to apply to become a pantry and information on current pantries contact Solis at (956) 726-3120.

The STFB is currently celebrating 20 years of service, and Executive Director Alfredo “Chawy” Castillo is currently in his 10th year at the post. The food bank receives money from the USDA, the City of Laredo, Webb County, third party funding, Laredo United Way, philanthropic foundations, grants, and donations from the community. The food bank is on its way to setting an all-time Laredo record for food distribution -- more than eight million pounds of product this year. At the August board meeting, Castillo reported a 17 percent increase in clients since March. “We are now serving 55,000 individuals on a monthly basis,“ Castillo said. “We had a record 179 walk-ins last month (up from 95 the month before) pick up emergency boxes -- people who were hungry right now. It means all of our fundraising is going to a good cause.” The monthly report notes the food bank distributed 611,220 pounds of product in August, bringing the 2009 total to 4.8 million million pounds, which is a 17 percent increase from March to now. The food bank is due to exceed eight million pounds for the year. The food bank served 21,967 families in July, including 21,028 children, 34,701 adults and 55,890 meals. The programs include 386 families served in Adopt-a-Family, but with 825 on the waiting list; 6,484 in CSFP(elderly) with 950 on a waiting list; and 10,113 meals served to 770 children at 12 Kid’s Cafés. Close to 97,000 meals have been served this year. The number of clients in the Adopt-aFamily program decreased by 300 because one of the prime sponsors in the colonias dropped out. According to Castillo, “A new hunger census update from Feeding America in the next few days will have some revealing figures.” Also, the food bank signed up 560 families via food stamp outreach in August, representing 708 adults and 841 children. It brings the 2009 food stamp outreach to 2,978 applications this year, assisting 4,011 adults and 3,988 children. The food bank announced a $60,000 grant to buy a new 26,000-pound box truck that will be used for transporting products. ◆

1907 Freight St. Laredo, TX 78041 info@southtexasfoodbank.org

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Kiwanis Club Notes

KIWANIS CLUB NOTES By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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arine Corps veteran, long-time insurance agent, and newspaper columnist Henry D. Kahn recently spoke to Kiwanians about health care reform, one of the most controversial topics of our time. Drawing on his vast experience, wide reading, and extensive communication with elected officials in Washington, Kahn offered a well-presented overview of the whole healthcare scenario in the United States. “Healthcare reform is important because it affects each one of us,” Kahn said. “The government will not take over healthcare -- we will not go to a single server system like they have in England or Canada,” he added. “Furthermore, Medicare will not be touched -- that would be political suicide for whoever voted for it,” Kahn said. “Healthcare in this country is either

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Henri D. Kahn provides healthcare reform perspectives “U.S. healthcare is excellent or horrible, depending on your financial status” excellent or horrible, depending on your financial status, Kahn said, adding, “I’m avoiding any political commentary today, but I personally believe that it is about time we had something so everyone can go and take care of themselves.” He added that there was a lot of talk in Washington about preventive medicine -- it’s in several proposals -- and stated, “It’s going to be good for all of us.” Kahn said that the passage of a comprehensive healthcare package was positively in the cards. “The adoption of a plan is imminent,” he said. “Whatever plan that is adopted in the end will probably have a public option and a private option,” Kahn said, adding that individuals not covered in their employers’ policies or not be able to afford to buy a policy, will have the government option open to them. The reality of it is that the government plan will offer a series of options, and the

private insurers’ plans will offer a series of options which will offer complete equality of coverage,” Kahn said, adding, “No one can be denied coverage -- there will be no limits and no rationing.” According to Kahn, statistics show that 177 million Americans are currently covered by either employee or personal insurance policies. He added that the Urban Institute predicts that 91 percent of these people will keep their current coverage. Another idea that is being discussed for employers is the “pay or play” option, which provides that an employer provide coverage for employees or pay eight percent of total payroll for employees to purchase coverage. “Although the law today states that government services cannot be provided for individuals who are not citizens of the United States, the law is often not enforced,” Kahn said, adding, “but a comprehensive healthcare reform plan will

Henri Kahn include undocumented aliens living in the United States.” Kahn said that a healthcare package will be a good thing because it is “not right” that millions of middle class Americans have no access to good healthcare. ◆

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Dutchman’s utchman’s Gold

A memoir of CBMGC: my father’s grand slam By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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he next golfer on the tee box at No. 12 (355 yards back then) is…Mickey Mantle!” A sudden, rushing, dust-grainy gust rose up behind the tee box headed east-to-west just as the ex-Triple Crown winner swatted the dimpled spheroid with a mighty swing and a grunt of exertion like he was trying to give the people what they always wanted when he swung the lumber in the Big Leagues-- a home run. Mission accomplished. The ball cleared the fence, rather, it flew the green, landing on the other side, much to the pleasure of the handful of local golf aficionados who had braved the scorching summer afternoon heat, hot wind, and dust to view the exhibition. Mantle bogeyed the hole, but he hit one off the tee for the fans that they loved watching and no doubt enjoyed talking about for some time to come. Wind-assisted, but nearly 400 yards on the fly. The missed green, the bogey -- no one even noticed. This was fun. For the Hall of Famer, for the gawkers, for the hosts. Fun in the sun for everyone. The ball had come to a wobbly rest in the caliche desert (not one blade of grass) -- a light-brown hardpan football field-sized expanse of rock-strewn caliche -- between the back of the small, raised No. 12 green and a narrow strip of dog’s-tail-shaped No.14 fairway that lay next to the barbed wire fence that curved along parallel to the road dividing that parched part of the course and the justas-parched stubble-grass shoulder of the LAFB runway, fenced off from the other side of the road by a somewhat higher fence of some other type of wire. Who said golf isn’t a game for masochists? Another day at the office, right? For The Mick, for the Laredo Golf Fan, for the take-no-prisoners Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course (CBMGC). On that day in the early1970s, and on any of the blistering days during our recent heatwave and ongoing sequía, beauty was in the eye of the beholder and in the heart of the true believer. If you want to make a go of it in Laredo, Webb County, Texas; if you love the place, then you don’t whine too much about the Nature of the place, its dryness, its torrid summers -- that’s the way God made it, and if we want more grass, crops,

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A small but sure golfer

and other greenery to grow, then o the we have to put our shoulders to wheel and help Mother Nature out, ut, not stand around and irrigate the dirt clods with our salty tears. The Biblical Land of Milk and Honey y is desert, after all, a desert that man’s ge ingenuity has improved. Range land, cropland, Casa Blanca Municipal Golf Course, your own yard. d. There’s a price to pay in labor, love and money, and the rewards are multiple, if sometimes slow in comming. End of sermon. ink Now for the lecture. If you think that Casa Blanca Municipal Golff Course is a challenging place to play because of the climate con-ditions, you should have walked 18 back in the early and mid 50s when there were no golf carts, or Five-year-old Johnny in the early and mid 60s when Snyder is pictured with Casa Blanca pro sional Roberto “Fr there was a very limited number fesuta” Palacios at the LAFB driving range of them. That was back when the in 1954. caddy shack was the “office” of a lot of young men who didn’t shy away ay from I recall one of them complain about the working. He picked making an honest buck and a quarter the rocks in the rough on some of the holes, up the rudiments of golf when he was staespecially on the front side -- but his play- tioned in Florida during the war. He had a hard way. Golf-savvy and uncomplaining, the ing partner admonished him by saying, persimmon Wilson driver that I eventually caddies were probably the best-mannered “Maybe you ought to keep the ball in the inherited, and he loved to whale it a mile. people on the course at any given time, not fairway.” That little snippet of conversa- Always long. Rarely long and straight. Not this time. My brother and I led off taking anything away from any of the true tion that I overheard at the Old Clubhouse gentlemen golfers like Wayo Longoria, Ro- taught me two valuable survival lessons -- with a couple of worm-burners up the berto Rosenbaum, Fred Bruni, and Billy for the golf course and for the real world middle. Then up stepped Dad. He was a Hall, who were caddy-patrons to a man. -- 1) bad golfing reaps a rough, rocky re- big guy, and his timing and golf mechan(Of course I haven’t forgotten -- Mr. Longo- ward, and 2) crybabies and buck-passers ics were perfect this time, while the wind ria eventually bought his own private golf diminish only themselves when they do at his back locked into the little white ball’s dimples and took it out for launch straight cart -- still at a time when seeing a golf cart what they do. Mickey Mantle was my idol when I was up the middle, setting it down hard on the at CBMGC was almost equivalent to seeing a raspa truck in mid-Sahara.) Several growing up; my father was my hero. Never rock-hard convex apron right in front of CBMGC caddies developed into top-flight more so than one early Saturday morning the green. Slamming it down, rather. The golfers in their own right, and held their sometime in the mid 50s when he took my ball one-bounced over the green and when own with most of the country club brats brother Robbie and me to the golf course and it landed a second time, it headed out to they competed against in regional tourna- this time succumbed to our entreaties for him the Mojave Desert behind the green. Quoth my father, at the top of his voice, ments, faring quite well despite the fact to play with us. He was tired and probably that their work (or their schooling and should have stayed in the rack that morning, “Bull----!” Don’t talk to me about pride -- that’s their work) kept them too busy to play or but like the good father that he was, he drove practice all that much. Maybe that proves us to the course and consented to play nine the proudest I’ve ever been. Robbie, too. It had slipped out; Dad rarely cussed holes with us. They told us to play the back the old adage, “Golf is 90 percent mental.” Another distinct group of golfers (most- nine so that we wouldn’t hold up the regular out loud. He blushed a little and looked around hoping no one had heard him, yet ly good golfers) were the Laredo Air Force foursomes of all-adults. It’s still a precious memory, even though very pleased, I think. Base (LAFB) personnel who hailed from A good 14 or 15 years later, The Mick all around the country. Practiced good golf I don’t remember anything at all about the etiquette. Polite and personable. Amused round -- just one shot -- my father’s drive took his deed in stride. Tape-measure and philosophical about the weather. I on No. 12. My father was an athletic aver- home runs were his stock-in-trade. He never heard a single one of them say that age golfer. He had spent the last 15 to 20 could only smile, as I do now thinking the course wasn’t green enough, although years studying, soldiering, and mostly about my father’s grand slam. ◆ W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


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

Women behaving badly

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here is a well-known slogan by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich that states: “Well behaved women rarely make history.” The saying can be found on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and buttons, among other items, as a rallying cry of sorts for women breaking out of their spheres and entering the world of men. Ulrich was a graduate student at Harvard University when she came up with the slogan, and she later won several prizes in American history before coming back full circle in 2007 to study her earlier assertion about women and behavior. In sum, Ulrich provides a quick examination of the women’s rights movement and arguing that women have long held a role in the liberation of people and the interpretation of the past. In her works, Ulrich never really explored the aspect of Texas women. After all, the Lone Star State is not exactly recognized as the bastion of women’s liberalism, despite the fact that Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson, the state’s first female governor, took office during the 1920s. But close to Laredo, Adina Emilia De Zavala, a woman barely in her 40s, laid the groundwork to commemorate the Alamo as a symbol of the Texas Revolution. The now iconic façade of the Alamo is actually the front of a mission built in the mid 1700s. The Mission San Antonio de Valero was later occupied by the Texas revolutionaries agitating against Mexican rule in 1836. Following the war, Texans generally ignored the symbolic structure, as it was primarily used in the late 1800s for commercial purposes. Adina De Zavala, however, would have none of that. She was the granddaughter of Lorenzo De Zavala, one of the Mexicanborn Texans who fought in the Texas Revolution, and the Republic’s first interim vice president. Clearly history meant a great deal to her. De Zavala’s early career as a teacher in the Alamo City and her insistence on honoring her family legacy soon led her to get involved in the Daughters of the Lone Star Republic (later, Daughters of the Republic of Texas), an organization created for the purpose of commemorating the memory of the early Texans and the Texas Republic. One of De Zavala’s early efforts at the turn of the 20th century led to the purchase of W W W.L A R EDOS N EW S . CO M

Adina De Zavala the Alamo property and DRT custodianship of the hallowed structure. In some ways, the struggles had just begun. De Zavala wanted to control the direction of commemorating the Alamo, and others in the DRT wanted to turn over the keys to Clara Driscoll, the daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur, for her fundraising efforts. De Zavala had her supporters in the DRT, and with Driscoll scheduled to be out of town, De Zavala took possession of the keys and the Alamo. The DRT had to file a formal complaint against her, forcing the Tejana to relinquish her custody of the Alamo to Driscoll in 1906. Driscoll was also forced to establish a second DRT chapter -- the Alamo Mission Chapter -- to challenge De Zavala’s chapter. The two groups jockeyed for position until 1910, when Driscoll and her supporters were legally able to eclipse De Zavala’s influence in the DRT. However, De Zavala garnered national headlines for her efforts to preserve the Alamo and her diligence to the historical record. The rift between the two camps stemmed in part from Driscoll’s efforts to tear down part of the old, dilapidated

Hugo-Schmeltzer Building next to the Alamo mission configuration because she believed it was not part of the original battle site. Driscoll’s allies hoped to destroy the building so they could construct a park and a monument on the property. De Zavala opposed this because she believed that the Hugo-Schmeltzer Building was part of the site’s history, and so it was to preserve to structure that De Zavala and her supporters took possession of the Alamo in 1908. When local authorities came to investigate the matter in February, De Zavala behaved “badly” -- she barricaded herself inside the structure and went on a hunger strike. In the Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, the De Zavala Archives hold a collection of state and national newspaper clippings announcing the bold move. When she left the building, she did so on her own terms as part of a general accommodation made to the Texas governor, Thomas M. Campbell. Events

would later prove De Zavala and her associates correct. While her determination to preserve her vision of the Alamo would lead to her exclusion from the DRT, De Zavala worked tirelessly to maintain what she deemed a proper vision of Texas’ history. She became a writer of Texas history and folklore, a fundraiser, and an advocate for all things Texana. Even in her later years, she remained vigilant that the DRT not change or alter the Alamo grounds in any fashion. For her efforts, the DRT successfully excluded De Zavala from the narrative of saving the Alamo, instead bestowing credit to Driscoll. In a blatant example of selective amnesia, the DRT Library Committee published a pamphlet in 1960, “Women of the Alamo,” that makes no reference to De Zavala. Despite losing a few friends and earning the derision of many for her actions, De Zavala was able and willing to stand up for her principles and face the consequences. After she died in 1955, it took historians a few years to fully recognize her for making the Alamo the modern symbol it has become. And while people may disagree on how to interpret the cultural icon, they can no longer diminish her contributions. And for a woman who behaved “badly” for her time, it remains a remarkable achievement. ◆

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Laredo Community College

LCC shatters fall enrollment records by 14 percent By ROGELIO SANCHEZ JR. AND STEVE TREVIÑO JR.

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or the first time in Laredo Community College history, student enrollment for the fall 2009 semester reached an all-time high of 9,353. The previous record of 9,032 students ocurred during the 2004 fall semester. As of Sept. 14, 1,158 more students enrolled this semester compared to last year’s fall semester; an increase of 14.13 percent, according to Felix Gamez, LCC Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Management. “We are extremely excited,” Gamez said. “We believe that the more educated the community is, the better it is for everybody.” The LCC South Campus also saw an increase of about 500 students, a trend that may lead to the campus reaching full capacity within several years, added Gamez. Several factors led to the record-breaking enrollment numbers. “We came into an agreement with both United and Laredo independent school districts to help their high school students enroll in the dual enrollment programs,” Gamez said. This fall semester, LISD broke their own record by enrolling 162 students in the district’s dual-enrollment program, compared to last fall’s 45 students -- almost quadruple the amount. “We’ve had good success and LCC has been very accommodating with our

needs,” said Dr. Jerry Cruz, LISD’s director of secondary education. “We have a strong partnership (with LCC) and are thankful because our high school students get an opportunity to taste college life and understand the importance of it.” Other factors that contributed to the enrollment increase were that LCC was able to increase its presence in the community as far as marketing efforts are concerned, and the economy played a role as well. Students are getting retrained and pursuing a career. “One of our goals is to grow,” Gamez said, adding, “With growth, LCC becomes an economic resource for the city because its resources triplicate and go back to Laredo. We will continue to provide a service and benefit to our community.” Rev it up at LCC Learn how to keep your vehicle’s performance in top shape and maintenance costs down by enrolling in a new four-day class to be offered at the LCC South Campus. The Continuing Education Department is enrolling students for the next section of the Automotive Maintenance course, which will meet for four consecutive Saturdays -- Oct. 31 and Nov. 7, 14, and 21 -from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Raquel Gonzalez Automotive Technology Center. LCC automotive instructor Francisco Ramirez will teach the course, which is open to the general public.

“It’s important to know that there are several preventative measures vehicle owners can follow to avoid costly repair bills,” Ramirez said. “You don’t need to be a mechanic to perform your own oil and filter changes on your vehicle. In this course, you’ll learn how to check your vehicle’s fluid levels, inspect the condition of your vehicle’s belts and hoses, and even service your vehicle’s engine cooling system.” The course fee is $70 per student. To register for the course, visit the LCC Admissions and Registration Center at the Fort McIntosh or South Campuses. For more information, go online to www.laredo.edu/ce or call the LCC Continuing Education Department at 721-5374 or 794-4520. Día del Río to Vehicle maintenance classes at LCC benefit Paso del Indio Oct. 17 LCC automotive instructor Francisco Ramirez shows Take out your garMelissa Dominguez how to check the engine oil den tools and help level of her vehicle. Ramirez will teach a short-term make a difference by automotive maintenance course to the general pubjoining Laredo Comlic this fall. munity College at the annual Día del Río on Saturday, Oct. 17. Volunteers should report at 7:30 a.m. to During this bi-national observance, register for the event and receive a T-shirt communities along the United States and and lunch at the end of the workday. Work Mexico border lead a massive volunteer on the trail will be from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. effort to improve the quality of the Río There also will be an opportunity to watch Grande/Río Bravo and its environmental the kayak racers participating in the firstsurroundings. ever Laredos RíoFest. Locally, volunteers are needed to help The LCC Lamar Bruni Vergara Environspruce up the City’s oldest nature trail, mental Science Center, the City of Laredo, Paso del Indio, located on the north side of Keep Laredo Beautiful, and the Rio Grande the LCC Fort McIntosh Campus behind the International Study Center are sponsoring LCC Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental the event. For more information about Día Science Center. del Río, call 764-5701. ◆

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The Mystery Customer BY THE MYSTERY CUSTOMER

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Smashed peaches and random acts of kindness

are is the HEB sacker who does not smash your peaches, jostle your huevos, disfigure your bread, or pack all six of your half gallon juices (4 pounds each) in one sack. Who trains these boys and girls? We’d like to help. No, really. The service at Rudy’s is always quite good. They get the sound business practice of doing all possible to keeping customer traffic from backing up. The MC has really enjoyed Ravi’s on Market Street. The food and service are great, as they are at the San Bernardo location, but what’s discernibly different is the lack of noisy, unruly children and the parents that can’t control them. One ticket vendor, one snack vendor made for a very slow time getting to the MC’s movie at Cinemark Mall del Norte The manager alluded to some kind of a problem, but the problem for those in the long line was the delay due, no doubt, to austerity measures. If for some reason you enjoy hell, head on over to Kirklands at Mall del Norte. The MC recently made the mistake of entering that migraine-inducing, smelly, and ridiculously overcrowded store in an attempt to purchase two items. While she waited in line behind a woman with a massive stroller that almost completely blocked one of the only access points, and who wanted several items that appeared to be out of stock, the MC tried to refrain from pulling her hair out as the employee on register ran around the store like a lunatic trying to unearth some ridiculously ugly candlesticks. Instead of asking one of her fellow employees to search while she continued ringing up customers who had formed a line behind the inconsiderate shopper, the woman disappeared into the backroom repeatedly, as the customer insisted those weren’t the particular hideous candlesticks she wanted. She wanted the other ugly ones. Meanwhile, a nearby employee, who the MC asked if it was possible to locate another employee capable of using a cash register (there wasn’t), wandered off to parts unseen. The MC had enough. She replaced her purchases, stormed out of the store, and will never return again. The MC recently witnessed a rare act of kindness. On Friday, September 11, as the MC crossed Saunders on Arkansas, she noticed the truck in front of her had stalled. Stuck between the truck and the cars behind her, which had backed up onto Saunders, W W W.L A R EDOS N EW S . CO M

she was unsure of what to do. The truck was very obviously dead. As the cars behind her began to honk furiously, a young man from Popeyes ran out from the restaurant and began to push the truck into the Valero parking lot. He moved so quickly the driver of the truck was still processing what had happened. Check-out clerk Dorita (Saturday, Sept. 19, 3 p.m.) at WalMart Zapata Hwy. needs to go back to sacking school and vegetable identification school. The fragrant baby powder she tossed in the bag with the fajitas was an unappetizing touch to complement a checkout experience that lasted twice the time this MC spent in the store. It took another clerk and a supervisor and a lot of discussion to help Dorita correctly ID a pumpkin, all the while the growing checkout line in a pile-up directly related to Dorita and the customer before the MC who made three different purchases by three different means of payment and then Dorita made an error that was beyond the scope of her abilities. Yo, Dorita, hope you enjoyed the Mickleberry ham on special that you charged me for and failed to put in my bags, discovery of which was made when this MC unpacked groceries at her home 30 miles away. This MC used to a huge fan of American Airlines (AA). It didn’t matter where she was traveling; they were the airline for her. She was ecstatic when Laredo International Airport (LIA) started offering jet service in place of those horrifying little American Eagle planelettes that would shudder at any gust of wind. Although the MC isn’t particularly tall, she loved the extra legroom and full can of soda (she loathes when they pour her one of those tiny glasses). Imagine her surprise when she recently had to book several flights on Continental (AA’s only flaw is that it can be tricky buying a ticket to Houston from Laredo, unless of course you don’t mind first flying to Dallas, then Chicago, and then back to Houston) and she learned that they too have exceptional service! The planes were fairly new and beverage and food service were still available -- free of charge. The movies were up to date (some are even still in the theatre -- at least in Laredo), and the bathrooms were spotless. The staff was friendly and helpful, including the folks at LIA Continental counter. The next time the MC flies out of town, she may just forgo the extra legroom. However, the MC finds it irritating that

every airport seems to have a different set of standards for searching passengers’ bags. The MC was sent off for secondary inspections, and in one case a tertiary inspection, at several other airports for having forgotten to remove several liquids in her bag. Needless to say, these same liquids had been in her bag since she left LIA, whose TSA inspectors waved her through without commenting on the contact solution, lip glosses, hand sanitizer, or hand lotion. So, either Laredo is extraordinarily lax or the rest of the world is extremely paranoid. A quick note to the workers at Chik-filA on Loop 20 -- yes, being friendly is key to keeping customers happy, but there is such thing as being too friendly. When every employee’s voice drips with saccharine platitudes, customers may end up a little sick. Next time just try, in your normal everyday voice, “Hello, welcome to Chikfil-A” instead of saying in a high-pitched

falsetto, “It’s a wonderful day here at Chikfil-A. How may we serve you today?” Way too creepy. Being disgustingly nice while messing up the order, as you so often do, only upsets the MC. While the novelty of clean carpets, nice employees, and organization will no doubt disappear after the holiday rush, Best Buy on Loop 20 is, at the moment, a good place to go if you’re in need of electronics and answers. The MC recently visited the store in order to buy a fairly large electronic item, and employee Danny was helpful, courteous, and patient. When the MC reported that she found the same item for a considerably cheaper price elsewhere, Danny checked if he could give it to her at the same price. In the end, the MC was satisfied with her purchase, and Danny and another employee helped her load the large item into a very small space without damaging to her vehicle. ◆

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Serving Sentences BY RANDY KOCH Randy Koch earned his MFA at the University of Wyoming and teaches writing at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

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ne of the least appreciated and oft-ignored aspects of poetry (and, to a lesser extent, prose) is the role of white space, which, if we think of it at all, we see only as the meaningless blank sheet and, therefore, of no consequence beyond its naked utility, its service in distinguishing characters and making text visible. However, an important function of text and particularly of its arrangement is to assemble the space surrounding and penetrating it, for space -- like an ineffable sexual tension -- also has form and intent and, therefore, both injects and contorts meaning. Obviously, space between two bodies or, in the case of text, two words gives them autonomy, and the greater the distance, the more evident their individual identities. However, using a hyphen

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Margin of air to close that distance and conjoin two words implies more dependence, more intimacy between the merging entities and generates a meaning different from that conveyed by each word individually. Take, for example, “the oboe-throated geese” from Malachi Black’s “Insomnia & So On” or this excerpt from Jaamil Olawale Kosoko’s recent poem “Dogfight”: “I could hear the crowds’ / dumb voices, their / fang-flung poisons.” “Fang” is, of course, a relevant detail in a dogfight poem, and “flung” by itself echoes “dumb” while describing how the “voices” are cast maliciously about. But hyphenating the two words into “fangflung” or to characterize Black’s “geese” as “oboe-throated” rushes us across the distance between their similar sounds -the “f” and “-ng” in the former, the long o’s in the latter -- while their meaning

is both changed and compressed, now working together as a single adjective. The hyphen doesn’t obliterate the space but, instead, bridges it overtly, brazenly announcing the willful invasion of each other’s linguistic terrain like two teenagers stealing a kiss or a feel under a moth-orbited porch light. The coy hyphen restrains the intimacy and keeps them apart like a poetic prophylactic. However, if we eliminate the hyphen and bang two words together, such as “threadsource” or “gullswings” from Dan Beachy-Quick’s Mulberry or “flukeprint” from Brenda Shaughnessy’s Human Dark with Sugar, we eliminate the space between the parts in a copulative coining of a new compound. This makes the meaning contained in one part -“thread” or “gulls” or “fluke” -- inherent to and a fundamental part of the other--“source” or “wings” or “print,” respectively, just as love reduces the distance between a man and a woman until they merge and become both less and more than each was alone. When the space between the words is compressed, meaning, like the sweat of two pulsing bodies, gets smeared across the combined elements. Maybe more evident is the gain and loss of meaning when commonly used words are compressed, such as “your self” into the non-possessive but self-referential “yourself,” “no thing” into the less emphatic “nothing,” “never the less” into the time-ignorant “nevertheless,” and “for ever more” into the eternal generosity of “forever more” or the prepositional “for evermore” or the adverbial permanence of “forevermore.” Conversely, putting an unusual

amount of space between words on the same line makes its presence felt even before we read the poem. The vacancy draws the eye, stretches the line, and, as we read, demands that we slow breathe wait as we cross the expanse to the next word. Often this added space reflects the line’s meaning, as in the opening of Anne Waldman’s “Assignment”: “Study the density of the universe / its rate of expansion.” Here spreading out lines first points ironically to the idea of “density” and then mimics the slow expansion of the universe. Similarly, in this next example from “clutter,” Evie Shockley also uses space to reflect meaning: “the party deflated, shrinking to nine or ten who’d / be sleeping in the cluttered rooms above.” First she lets the air out of the line and then makes the “rooms above” even more remote. Of course, space also plays other roles in poems: at the end of a line, it stands enticingly, like a Siren on a street corner, luring us first into the left margin and then pushes us onto the next line. Or, like the strict dominatrix, imposes the firm discipline of starts and stops between stanzas; or, like twin acrobats, balance off each end of preciously centered lines; and, if exhausted, collapses with an empty sigh when the poem finishes. Space is the confine of anticipation, of tension, of silence. The demilitarized zone between writer and reader. The border across which meaning claims and changes its identity. The margin of air where the line exhales and the mind, springing across the river of the poem on stone words, inhales. ◆

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Reflections of a New Texan BY DENISE FERGUSON Denise Ferguson is newly arrived in Laredo. A Rhode Islander by birth, she and her husband retired to Laredo to be near their family. She can be reached by email at denise291.1@juno.com.

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It’s a tech’s life

t is propitious when one’s gifts can be parlayed into a variety of vocational and avocational opportunities, and David Blumberg, a teacher at the Vidal M. Treviño School of Communication and Fine Arts (VMT), seems to be so blessed. His late father, Richard, an estimator for a general contracting business, may have sown the seeds of technical skills in his children. Said Blumberg, “I had a natural ability in art.” His sister, Dr. Carol Blumberg, works for the U.S. Department of Energy where she tracks gas prices and makes predictions for what is going to happen based on statistical information. Blumberg’s family includes his mother, Alice, who became a Laredo resident about three years ago. Not to minimize the importance of one’s environment, Blumberg expounded, “I grew up in a Detroit suburb which provided me with exposure to the arts. There was no question of whether to go to college, but what college to go to.” Blumberg received a bachelor’s degree in industrial education from Eastern Michigan University and a master’s degree in administration from TAMIU. It may have been the U.S. Postal Service that determined Blumberg’s specific destiny about 25 years ago. He had been teaching industrial education in Georgia for two years. During a transitional period after leaving Georgia, Blumberg sent out applications to several potential job sources. “The only response I received to my applications was the one from Laredo Independent School District.” He agreed to travel here for an interview and was accepted. “After I returned to my transitional address, I found several other responses to my application,” said Blumberg. Was it meant to be? In any event, Blumberg had been offered the opportunity to teach crafts at Christen Middle School, which was exactly the type of position he sought. After the crafts program was eliminated by LISD, Blumberg taught computer education. “Much of my computer knowledge developed through my expertise in drawing graphics.” He taught computer education for nine years at Cigarroa High School. In 1993 LISD opened its first magnet school, the VMT School of Communication and Fine Arts. “I wanted to teach graphW W W.LA R EDOS N EW S . CO M

ics there but ended up teaching computer,” said Blumberg. Part of the day he spent teaching Martin HS students and the other teaching Nixon and Cigarroa students. Some of the classes offered at VMT are music, dance, theater, visual arts, and communication. Students take one academic and one arts course, and while Blumberg’s current area is computer, he looks forward to adding art history to his repertoire, which puts him under visual arts program. “Students become eligible for the magnet program by applying and going through an interview,” said Blumberg. “Acceptance depends on the number of opening slots in each area. We have little discipline problems in the magnet program. Students choose to be there, and our TAKS tests score above the State average,” he added. The program takes all students, including those with physical or mental disabilities. “There is a girl with autism in the dance program,” said Blumberg. VMT features a college campus type atmosphere, comprised of about 10 buildings on Houston and Victoria streets. In addition, the computer classes offer college credit from LCC through the technical program. Some of the teachers are from LISD and from LCC. Students have it both ways -- college and technical expertise. The program can provide students with opportunities to interrelate with other venues in the community. For example, the recent production of The Wiz by the Laredo Musical International Theatre was a joint effort with the school. “On completion of their studies, students are certified in their subject matter -- be it dance or music,” said Blumberg. Blumberg has employed his talents in the community as well. For instance, in the 90s Blumberg provided the artwork for the “Laredo Proud” promotional bumper stickers. He also developed jumbotron graphics, including the motivational “Go Bucks Go.” Prior to that he worked with the Mexican League Tecolotes baseball team. “I do this work because I enjoy it,” said Blumberg. In other service to the community, Blumberg volunteers his time as a board member for Laredo Crime Stoppers, and he serves as a campus sponsor for Campus Crime Stoppers where kids can report criminal activity anonymously. ◆ L ar eDO S | S EP TE MBE R 2 0 09 |

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Literary Classics

An iron-clad ghoul gets married in Germany, and American literature is born. Washington Irving’s “The Spectre Bridegroom” from The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. By JOHN ANDREW SNYDER

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here has been no greater writer in America than Washington Irving, nor could the United States assign the title of “Father” of its literature to a more worthy personage. The man could flat-out write -- effortlessly, intelligently, entertainingly; with magical linguistic skills and with the sophistication and urbanity that may have set the standard for cosmopolitan and gentleman-farmer New York men of letters for the next couple of centuries. Washington Irving, in short, is a classic American writer, a wonderful American writer -- the first one to come down the pike. If there was a pike. He pretty much invented American literature -three kinds -- (1) the kind that was European in origin and general appeal, like his gothic stories, of which “The Spectre Bridegroom” is one; (2) the kind that had American settings and typical American characters; and (3) the kind that had universal appeal and demonstrated a cosmopolitan style -- like his travel stories and his three-volume biography of George Washington. Irving’s volume titled The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., arguably the first

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work of top-flight American fiction, contains samplings from all three areas of this author’s repertoire. It is a volume incredibly rich in variety, infinitely compelling and readable by Americans and Europeans, old, middle-aged, and young. The volume’s most popular and famous story is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a tale about an ungainly young schoolmaster gone a-wooing in old-time Dutch New York. It is a tale whose adroit rendition by Irving’s pen became almost instantaneously an indelible watermark in the pages of American lore and a benchmark by which “legends” in American fiction are measured. The fact that Sleepy Hollow is a real place on the map of America, made it a credible locale for an American story when few stories of this ilk had ever been written, and this helped put America “on the map” of world literature. And deservedly so. It also didn’t hurt that the story about the colorful characters Ichabod Crane, Katrina Van Tassel, Brom Bones,

noying or reprehensible. The tone of both stories is lightly satirical and nowhere critical or chiding. The gothic fad sweeping across Europe and across the Atlantic to America during the early Romantic era probably accounts for the supernatural element in these two Irving tales (Irving contemporaries Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Poe dabbled and sometimes wallowed in the gothic elements of darkness, death, and decay.) There is indeed darkness, death, and decay in “The Spectre Bridegroom,” as well as a fascination with the supernatural -- the title itself obviates this -- but it is not a gloomy fascination as in Byron or Keats, nor a macabre fascination as in Poe. The gothic features are there for sheer literary effect as plot-drivers and atmosphere-providers. The author’s patient, retrospective tolerance of Washington Irving the titles, castle-class narcissism, and ritualistic ridiculousness of the medieval scene give the narrative an ironic undercurrent that and the Headless Horseman was full of makes it easier for the reader to indulge tense relationships, funny flirtation, and in the “willing suspension of disbelief” supernatural elements. In a word, the that Coleridge said was required for the story was an instant hit in America and appreciation of fantastic literature. abroad, and still is -- in fact, it’s a “must The marriage of the beautiful descenread” for American schoolchildren. This dant of the Katzenellenbogen (Cat’s elgreat story can be read on so many lev- bow) clan with a corpse who is a spectre els, and you don’t have to be a child or bridegroom is an exciting literary event a scholar to love it for multiple reasons that is laid out as a banquet for our imag-- for its quaint setting, its zippy pace, its inations by Washington Irving, the Fagreat plot, unforgettable characters, and ther of Our Country’s Literature. challenging theme(s). I like it for all these In an essay titled “English Writers on reasons and more. America” another of the 32 pieces in The One of the companion pieces of “The Sketchbook, Irving wrote, “It is with feelLegend of Sleepy Hollow” is “The Spec- ings of deep regret that I observe the litertre Bridegroom,” which is also a gothic ary animosity daily growing up between tale with undercurrents of humor, pseu- England and America.” In the same essay do-history, and social satire. The tale he observed, “The world at large is the has not risen to required reading status arbiter of a nation’s fame; with its thouworldwide perhaps because its setting sand eyes it witnesses a nation’s deeds, is the Old World (deep in the forests and and from their collective testimony is knightly castles of medieval Germany) national glory or national disgrace estaband not new, vibrant America where lished.” Irving himself, however, despite exotic and somewhat bizarre common these remarks, took the slurs against his people dwell. Both stories are rendered nation to heart, and gave English literary with playful good-humor, and the silli- critics a reason to eat their words when ness of overall human behavior is found he published The Sketchbook of Geoffrey amusing by the author, as opposed to an- Crayon, Gent. in 1819. ◆ W W W.L A R ED OS N EW S .C O M


Maverick Ranch Notes

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future habitat for the endangered species is set aside as mitigation through purchase of development rights when land with the species is to be developed. Until now it’s been “Katy, bar the door” with dynamited caves and hills stripped and their tops made into gravel. Bexar County has lost so much habitat it’s almost apparent to the least skilled eye. People are asking, “When will the rape of the hills stop?” Because this destruction means Edwards Aquifer damage for certain, warnings are coming in from all sides, not to mention that a “taking” of endangered species is against federal law. Time for change and wiser heads to weigh in has hopefully arrived. We shall see. BEBE FENSTERMAKER Once upon a time there was a little pink house in New London, Connecticut, that became the court case that roared across this country coastto-coast and border-to-border. The story is told in riveting detail by author Jeff Benedict in his book Little Pink House -- A True Story of Defiance and Courage, Grand Central Publishing, Hachette Book Group, New York, 2009, 397pp. The story is one of outrageous use of eminent domain on both state and local levels, condemning peoples’ homes to construct new buildings that would create a higher tax base. The cast of characters is fascinating. One tenacious woman, Susette Kelo, becomes a lightening rod for her neighbors who band together until there is a ground swell of support that spills over into other communities in Connecticut and throughout the country. The battle ends up in court and makes its way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The majority of justices rule in favor of taking peoples’ homes to give to a private developer. Clearly they did not look down the line as to what their decision would do in the future. In her dissent, Justice O’Connor wrote, “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded.” Private property owners in particular should put this book at the top of their reading list. And when they have finished it their next move should be to find out what their state’s eminent domain laws say. Some states have already ruled against such takings by eminent domain. I regret to say Texas is not among them. SISSY FENSTERMAKER

Courtesy Photo

August was an exciting month. The drought continued with no rain and temperatures over 100° every single day (55 days straight, shattering a record). I remember sitting outside in Nuevo Laredo in the late 1960s with a bunch of friends on a 104° day, commenting that was the hottest I’d ever been and wondering what possessed me to do that. Friendship, I guess. Surely it wasn’t the Tecate and lime. Now what’s my excuse on afternoons of over 104° here in the house? Lots of others do it, all over the world. So can I. This produces homemade atta-girl style theories. Sweating is healthy for one thing. For another, it’s getting a head start on acclimatizing to the new “natural.” With windows and doors open I hear everything. It’s a great way to take a nap at siesta time -- you just pass out. It makes the body slow down at the correct time of day. It’s stress of a more natural kind. It guarantees reality and eliminates the unreasonable. One of the down sides is going to meetings in highly air-conditioned places. I have to take an over shirt or light jacket. A friend of ours who also lives this way thought she was suffering from hypothermia a couple of weeks ago. She had to turn on her air conditioner because she was expecting guests from Vermont. She was frozen out of her 82° house each night and slept on her patio. Now she’s addicted to it and can really imitate a coyote howl. The almost triple winners of the coldest rooms in San Antonio are the Bexar County Commissioners Court, the S.A. Home Builders auditorium, and VIA buses. It’s pretty hard to address the commissioners through chattering teeth, but we’ve done it. Taking the bus downtown is likely to produce frostbite, but waiting in the sun balances it. Just when I can’t stand the heat the bus comes, and by the time we’re downtown I’m ready to get out and walk. However, the Home Builders win the award overall for combining 50° weather with the worst acoustics in that city. And what were we doing in the Home Builders auditorium? We were attending the Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan kickoff meeting. This initiative has the potential to preserve the last endangered birds and cave invertebrates in this county and the counties next door if the developers don’t rush to grandfather their property before the plan is developed. This time there is money on the table. Like the plans in Travis and Williamson Counties, land that is habitat or potential

Magnet student attends prestigious summer journalism program Valerie Briseño, a senior at the Vidal M. Trevino School of Communications and Fine Arts and Martin High School, participated the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program (PSJP). Briseño was among 23 high school students from across the country who participated in the 10-day seminar Princeton University campus. Students wrote, edited, and designed their own newspaper, The Princeton Summer Journal.

Courtesy Photo

BY BEBE & SISSY FENSTERMAKER

Navigating the hot and cold of August

Catching up Mary Help of Christians third grader Tai Coleman took a moment to catch up with her mother vice-principal Sherrell Coleman at the school’s recent Grand Tour 2009 event. L ar eDO S | S EP TE MBE R 2 0 09 |

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

CNN’s Latinos in America documentary in October

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rom the US Census we know that as of about two years ago, the world population is nearing seven billion, and the US population is around 307 million. According to CNN’s Latino in America documentary, the Latino population in the US is now America’s largest minority and is set to nearly triple by 2050 -- with the largest Latino population after Mexico. The staggering numbers are shaking up America, and giving new shape to schools, churches, neighborhoods, and forcing a nation of immigrants to rediscover what it means to be an American. CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien will take us on a two-night journey into the homes of a group destined to change America. According to the US Census Bureau, the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” refer to persons who trace their origin or descent to persons who trace their origin or descent to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spanish-speaking Cen-

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tral and South America countries, and other Spanish cultures. People who identify their origin as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. But why does the Census Bureau collect information on citizens’ Hispanic origin? The 1970 decennial census was the first to have a question on Hispanic origin on the sample or “long” census form. Since 1980, this question has appeared on the 100 percent or “short” form. Hispanic origin data is needed so that a number of federal statues may be implemented. These include enforcement of bilingual election rules under the voting Rights Act and the monitoring and enforcement of equal employment opportunities under the Civil Rights Act. Also, information on people of Hispanic origin is needed by local governments to run programs and meet legislative requirements at the community level. These data, for example, are used to help identify segments of the population

who may not be receiving medical services under the Public Health Act or to evaluate whether financial institutions are meeting credit needs of minority populations under the Community Reinvestment Act. Princeton University professor Marta Tienda headed a study panel that analyzed the impact of the nation’s 41 million Hispanics. According to the study, released by the nonprofit National Research Council, education is the bottom line. About 25 percent of white Americans will be at retirement age or older by 2030, compared to 10 percent of Hispanics. Many Hispanics have reached middle class status, however, and the report tells us they continue to lag economically as a group because of a continued influx of low-skilled immigrants. Simultaneously, need and demand is rising for a bettereducated US workforce. Sadly, Hispanics have the highest high school dropout rate of any ethnic or racial group in our country. The national report lists low enrollment rates in four-year colleges and poor English skills. Because of these trends, failure to close the gap between education and language compromises their ability to both contribute to and share in national prosperity. The alarms are being set off, calling for investment in education and social programs.

The situation is complicated, though, over whether undocumented immigrants should be granted certain rights, including temporary work visas, driver’s licenses, and instate tuition breaks. Some critics point out that in Los Angeles, it is difficult to advance the prospects of a poorly educated student body since it’s constantly expanding with people from all over the world. On the other side, activists like Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, argues that stopping immigration won’t reduce the number of Hispanics already here. Regardless of immigration flow, we are faced with a huge second generation of Latinos. The challenge, added Suro, is getting mostly white voters “to invest in the education of another group.” Rest assured that whatever happens or doesn’t happen in regards to Latinos in the US, how they do academically will shape the nation’s future. That shape can only be assured if Latinos, as every other minority and majority, are well-educated and are provided with the tools they need to contribute to a world that is becoming more and more difficult to manage each day. Be sure and watch CNN’s Latinos in America in October! And on that note, it’s time for -- as Norma Adamo says: TAN TAN! ◆

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Book Review

Shame on you Dan Brown -were you never taught to learn from your mistakes? By MONICA MCGETTRICK

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fter reading Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol, I was instantly transported back to college. In both my undergraduate and graduate writing classes, there was always an ongoing debate over whether it was more important to be a writer like Fitzgerald or Hemingway (authors with complete mastery of the craft but who were entirely self-obsessed with their subjects) or a writer like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling (whose craft often means intricate plots and masterful storytelling). Fitzgerald and Hemingway were not necessarily writers who invited others into their books, but King and Rowling (two popular writers who get loads of flack for their popular appeal) seem to live solely for inviting readers in. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to pull yourself out of their books (ever read The Shining or The Stand?). Some students, like myy self, argued that neither was mutually exclusive. One may find Hemingway to be an offensively self-obsessed d bore, and one may find Ste-ve phen King to be repetitive and simplistic (his writing,, certainly not his storytell-ing), but, at the end of thee se day, both men have immense followings. And even the av-penguins of Antarctica having probably read the Harry rry Potter series. Popular fiction on has been an intrinsic part of human society since the firs firstt man (or woman) sat down by an-an a fire to tell a story. So, semanes tics aside, what really makes a writer good? Is it how many ny books he or she sells? Get to the point, I hear you urge. Allow me to preface the he following by admitting that hat I like like Dan Brown. He seems like a nice person in real life. And dI enjoyed both The Da Vinci Code Code A&D and Angels and Demons (A&D t he fractionally better). I likee the protagonist Robert Langdon, on, who, for the most part, com comes es own across as intelligent as Brown wants us to believe. He is also o ini credibly open-minded. So why, I

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asked myself, did Brown do him such a disservice in his latest novel? I warn you now. If, for some reason, you haven’t read any of his books but really, really, want to, stop now. Spoilers lie ahead. Apparently, there was quite a bit of hoopla surrounding the release of this book, with booksellers across the country looking forward to its release after losing the pop fiction cash cow known as Harry Potter. Brown (or his editor) declined to release the novel to critics beforehand, which is not entirely surprising. If it bombed with major critics, your publisher is forced to use quotes from less than reputable news sites. Of course, the negative reviews would hardly make a dent in profits, despite whatever power critics like to pretend they wield (unless you happen to be Oprah). In any case, it appears Brown is a better businessman than writer. Why? Because the novel is a complete

turd. That’s right. I wrote it. A turd. As a fan of popular fiction, I find it offensive that after several novels, Brown has learned absolutely nothing. It is as though he washed his hands of all effort after inventing a likable character and absolutely refused to do anything more. In the first two Langdon books we joined him as he took on mythology (or religion, depending on your perspective) and the Catholic Church. He fought off a crazed albino who was entirely over-invested in the “teachings” of Opus Dei and a crazed Catholic priest with a giant chip on his shoulder. Perhaps Brown felt the heat emanating from Rome because this time around Langdon takes on the Masons. Or does he? It’s so hard to tell because Brown seems to have taken for granted that since he already earned his readers’ trust he didn’t really have to work to keep our appreciation. No doubt his editor felt the same way. Why else would he or she let him get away with such slo sloppy, sloppy work? What was a huge flaw in his first two books is as everpresent in The Lost Symbol. The pre nov novel lacks any discernible suspense, and some chapters sus are impossibly short. I’ve wri written longer phone messages. In each chapter he sag tea teases you with hints of the kind of suspense that causes kin you to clinch your teeth as you hope, no beg to get your mind blown. Only instead min of leaving your mind blown, the mystery, if it exists, is so abo abominably simple your min shot right past it and mind began to make a grocery list. Perhaps Brown is regressing. His first Langdon novel, A&D, holds his best writing (I will always love the Camerlengo’s speech on science and religion), but then again, it’s hard to not be inspired by the majesty and mystery of The Eternal City. If anything, it serves as an accessible guide to Rome (just don’t forget your Rick Steves). Brown also hasn’t learned to treat his char-

acters with respect. He hasn’t learned that repetition drives a reader insane. I think Langdon expresses his skepticism over the function of the silly little pyramid more than a dozen times, yet in the two previous novels he was jumping to far more astonishing conclusions. Now we’re supposed to believe he’s a doubting Thomas. A crusty academic in tweed who can’t suspend his disbelief. Maybe even he can’t quite buy into the Masonic conspiracy. Think of evil conspiracies next time you see those wonderful Shriner men who raise money for children while wearing goofy hats and riding a tiny car or bicycle. It’s a difficult pill to swallow. The novelty behind using the Illuminati and Opus Dei as villains is that they aren’t quite as common in real life or fiction. A self-flagellating albino who wears a cassock is terrifying. A priest who suspects he’s a Papal lovechild being driven over the edge by that fact is understandable. But a tattooed, crazy, spoiled rich kid who likes to admire his penis in the mirror at every opportunity because it symbolizes his perfection and mastery over himself and who has no real reason for hating his father and therefore torturing him, his aunt, and Langdon aside from the fact that Daddy is a Mason who wants him to learn to be a man? Really, Dan Brown? You’re going to feed us that? There is such thing as too over the top. I’m surprised he didn’t have a handy moustache to twirl every so often. I’m so very disappointed in you. I will give Brown credit for one thing, if only one thing. He isn’t afraid of intelligent women. All three of Langdon’s crime-solving buddies have been women and smart ones at that -- a cryptographer (who also happens to be the Holy Grail, a.k.a. Jesus’ descendant), a physicist, and a scientist. I also appreciated that The Lost Symbol’s Katherine is a smart, sophisticated, highly educated older woman. She’d be a worthy match for the Langdon we met in A&D. Maybe it’s time to retire Langdon and give Katherine her own book. Her work with Noetic science would be fascinating to read about, and I’m sure there are plenty of mad scientists ready to be plucked from the Well of Lost Plots. But perhaps before pressing forward, Brown, you may want to ask yourself what makes a writer great. ◆ L ar eDO S | S EP TE MBE R 2 0 09 |

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Movie Review

9: An Allegory in Nine Faces By CORDELIA BARRERA

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is a Tim Burton production directed by Shane Acker, the visual effects animator who created the creepy 2005 Academy Award nominated short film of the same title. The latest animated production to be distributed by Focus Features, the art house arm of Universal Pictures, 9 explores some pretty hefty themes, including fear as a tool of oppression and conformity, and the moral nature of human beings. The most impressive aspect of 9 is that we witness the consequences of humanity’s relentless pursuit of technology through the eyes of exquisitely detailed humanoid ragdolls called “Stitchpunks.” The Stitchpunks are much more than ragdolls; they are the essence of a divinity that contains the seeds of our humanity. 9 begins in a dark landscape devoid of human life. A small creature made of burlap, zippers, and buttons opens his binocular eyes and awakens in a ruined laboratory. This is No. 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), the youngest of the “Stitchpunks.” Although he does not yet realize it, there are 8 other Stitchpunks hiding amidst the ruined world. By instinct, before No. 9 ventures out of the lab, he takes a small round object, later referred to as the Talisman. Outside the lab, No. 9 discovers a terrifying world where one-eyed Beasts, transformer-like machines seemingly made of bones, assail his every move. No. 9 first finds No. 2, the old inventor (voiced by Martin Landau), and although No. 9 escapes a feral Cat-Beast with a glowing red eye, No. 2, is captured. In seeking to find help for No. 2, No. 9 locates the other Stitchpunks, who are hiding in fear. After some debate -- especially between No. 1, the cunning and self-proclaimed leader, and No. 8, his brutish bodyguard -- No. 5, a mechanic (voiced by John C. Reilly) decides to help. The two save No. 2 from the Cat-Beast with the help of No. 7, who decapitates the Cat-Beast. Out of curiosity, No. 9 then inserts the Talisman into a round socket on the Cat-Beast; the socket has the same markings

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as the Talisman. Immediately, the CatBeast re-animates and No. 2’s soul is “absorbed,” leaving his body lifeless. No. 9’s action has reactivated the Fabrication Machine, a device capable of creating other machines. This is is not not a future f utu futu uture re post-apocalyptic post-a pos t-apoc t-a pocaly poc alypti aly pticc pti This

niscent of the 1940s reports on a devastating global war provoked by an egomaniacal dictator who resembles Adolf Hitler. This is the Chancellor, who we learn confiscated the unnamed Scientist’s invention, the B.R.A.I.N. (Binary nar y Reactive Reac Reac eactiv tivee Artificially tiv Arti Arti rtifici ficiall fici ally all y Intelligent Inte Inte ntelli lligen lli gent gen

world. The The devastated devasta deva stated ted re remna mnants nts and d remnants debris th he desola ld that for form the desolate world where No. 9 and the other Stitchpunks roam show outdated motorcars with rounded headlights and hand cranks, and a black and white newsreel remi-

Neuroc Neu rocirc ircuit irc uit), uit ), an artificial artific art ificial ific ial in intel tellig tel ligence, Neurocircuit), intelligence, and pl d it inside the Fabrication Fabri ion Ma placed Machine. Through newsreel flashbacks, we understand that the Fabrication Machine was capable of creating other machines, which soon ravaged the planet

and ostensibly wiped humanity from the face of the Earth. The Stitchpunks reveal a humanity that forces the audience to question their existence. What are these sentient creatures, and why did the Scientist cre create them? The Stitchpunks are eerily hum human, and each is so dissimilar that we wonder if they are perhaps parts of l a larger whole (they are). No. 1 is old and sly; No. 2 is kind and delicate; No.s 3 & 4 look like garden gloves and their eye flicker and turn into film projeceyes tor No. 5 is a healer; No. 6 is a prophet; tors; No. 7 is a warrior; No. 8 is a brute; No. 9 is a leader who seeks answers. The CGI in 9 is stunning, and altho though the plot and the dialogue often fal flat, the ominous overtones of cofall erc ercion, fear, and power that illuminate hum humanity’s often-imprudent love affair wit technology are hard to miss. At its with cor beyond the mesmerizing vision, 9 core, is a masterful evocation of the details of one man’s hope. The unnamed Scient entist, a former toymaker, is the only lig in this brave new world of apocalight lyp disquiet. Yet he is dead, so how lyptic can this be? What’s more, in a world dev devoid of human beings, can there yet lur a touch of the divine? The diminulurk tiv Stitchpunks, made of textiles and tive rem remnants, hold the answers to some pre pretty big questions. 9 is an action-packed fable that emb embraces the hope that one human sou can make a difference in world soul of chaos and fear. Machines obviously hav no soul, but when human behave ing place so much trust and time into ings the them, we must consider the fact that the products of our vast knowledge pos possibly come at great cost. In 9, the col collapse of our world seems secondary to the collapse of humanity. The film is ingeniously rendered, and its dark, stu stunningly conceived allegory carries ap profound message that obliges us to rec reckon with the uneasy precariousness of the human form. I only hope that the mes message doesn’t get lost in the incredibl ible animation. (Native Laredoan Cordy Barrera holds a PhD in English and teaches Literature at The University of Texas at San Antonio.) ◆

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Otro Punto de Vista

The thin line between knowing and understanding By MARĂ?A EUGENIA CALDERON

T

he difference between knowing and understanding creates blurry boundaries that often result in confusion and disappointment. By collective agreement as a human group we know that certain activities and functions have consequences, we know that there is a cause and effect to our decisions, and most importantly that our words often carry the weight of an authority that is not ours. We know this; we can measure ourselves against this knowing and we propose to leverage our decisions, our directions within the boundaries of what we know. We propose to know and accentuate our knowledge with databanks brimming with the intention of knowing. If queried, we would sincerely reply we know. The knowing becomes the end itself with no responsibility to understanding. We assume the process of knowing is completed without reflection on the responsibility knowing brings. Understanding is born from knowing, but for this birth to occur, we need to agree to engage in this more intimate process. Most of the time we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t, we are just satisfied with knowing. Understanding is a more complex process, more personal. If the understanding is not measurable by our life experiences, then we reject it. We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t accept anything contrary to our culture. Our collective mind has decided that if the knowing is not correlated to what we consider usual and common, it is not worthy of consideration and must therefore be rejected. We do this, so easily, so simply, so unconsciously, that our minds process the experience of understanding only within the boundaries of the collective measurable. We often take it further than subconscious rejection. We voice, with authority, what we propose should be

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ignored. We decide to cancel any understanding of the data collected by knowing. To understand implies personal involvement, and our collective culture in its most dysfunctional state overrides this location. To become personal has become an aberration, to feel what the other feels is lost in a myriad of delusional rationales. To develop compassion becomes secondary or perhaps does not even merit a place in the waiting line of proposed perspectives. Compassion implies interaction and some personal engagement at least from a location of intention. None of these locations bear interest, or create cash flow, much less a nice profit margin. In the development of corporate America a new language has evolved, and it does not include compassion. When â&#x20AC;&#x153;we the peopleâ&#x20AC;? chose to become the champions of capitalism, we forgot that one day we might not always be the economic icons of prosperity and our personal worlds feel the impact. Words were changed, greed became focused ambition, insensitivity became the bottom line, data management became a tool of demolition, not reconstruction, and statistics became the measurement by which you tower over a decision of who is acceptable and who is not. Somewhere the knowing, standing alone without its counterpart understanding, decided to forget. If understanding is not correlated to its development, no one out there would support us with compassion. Our cutting edge technology only served to cut into ourselves. Compassion as a word was replaced with obsolescence. Knowing forgot the consequences of not understanding, and in our collective theory, it is self evident that equality will also become extinct. Look around for applications of understanding, of what we have come to know, and how well we have understood. Our dysfunction is evident. â&#x2014;&#x2020;

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BRUNI MEANS BUSINESS Prosperity is good for everyone Businessman/Rancher LOUIS H. BRUNI for COUNTY JUDGE xcuse Alibis are ann eexcuse f i for not performing The incumbent says he inherited the disaster he has created. But the truth is: UĂ&#x160;Ă&#x2022;`}iĂ&#x160; Ă&#x20AC;Ă&#x2022;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x160;Â?ivĂ&#x152;Ă&#x160;>Ă&#x160;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x20AC;Â&#x153;Â&#x2DC;}Ă&#x160;vÂ&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;>Â&#x2DC;VÂ&#x2C6;>Â?Ă&#x160;Â?i}>VĂ&#x17E; UĂ&#x160;/Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;VĂ&#x2022;Â&#x201C;LiÂ&#x2DC;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2026;>Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2DC;Â&#x153;Ă&#x160;LĂ&#x2022;Ă&#x192;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;iĂ&#x192;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;iĂ?ÂŤiĂ&#x20AC;Â&#x2C6;iÂ&#x2DC;ViĂ&#x160; and is lost in the management process UĂ&#x160;/Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;VĂ&#x2022;Â&#x201C;LiÂ&#x2DC;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;Â&#x153;Â&#x2DC;Â?Ă&#x17E;Ă&#x160;ÂŤiĂ&#x20AC;Ă&#x192;Â&#x153;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x152;Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160; world who was surprised by the energy crisis UĂ&#x160;/Â&#x2026;iĂ&#x160;7iLLĂ&#x160; Â&#x153;Ă&#x2022;Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x152;Ă&#x17E;Ă&#x160;Ă&#x192;Â&#x2026;Â&#x2C6;ÂŤĂ&#x160;Â&#x2DC;ii`Ă&#x192;Ă&#x160;>Ă&#x160;Â&#x2DC;iĂ&#x153;Ă&#x160;V>ÂŤĂ&#x152;>Â&#x2C6;Â&#x2DC;

Webb County Countty isis not not going going to drift driift into solvencyy Webb

IIt takes k courage andd know-how k h to run an important Texas county Judge Bruni brought us prosperity The incumbent has brought Webb County to its knees

BRING BACK BRUNI!

LEADERSHIP FOR WEBB COUNTY POLITICAL ADVERTISING PAID FOR BY SANDRA M. BRUNI, TREASURER, POST OFFICE BOX 1810, LAREDO, TX, 78044

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LaredosNews September 2009  

Laredos Newspaper - A Journal of the Borderlands

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