Harold McMillan honored for Advancing Peace The University of Texas Project on Conflict Resolution (UTPCR) has announced one of its 2009 “Bridging Divides Award” recipients will be DiverseArts Culture Works founder Harold McMillan. The award was inaugurated in 2007 with Willie Nelson its first honoree and last year Little Joe Hernandez was presented the prize. Dr. Madeline Maxwell, founder of UTPCR and a professor in the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Communication said the award was inspired by Nelson, “who embodies the kind of peaceful tolerance that can resolve conflicts” and is a noted supporter of peace research efforts of the University. McMillan is being honored “for his efforts to advance peace and understanding among diverse audiences,” said Maxwell. “He is a prime example of the type of collaborative endeavors promoted by the Project on Conflict Resolution.” In response to receiving the award, McMillan stated, “I’m totally surprised and feel greatly honored that folks are paying attention to our work and think it’s deserving of attention. It feels like validation coming from folks I know and respect.” McMillan describes his work serving the Austin arts and music community for the last 20 years as a “broad mission to promote and expand cultural awareness and appreciation of the arts in Austin. DiverseArts addresses the arts, in general, with a view that is multicultural and multidisciplinary in scope. However, the organization’s strongest programming efforts are directed to the traditional music and culture of African Americans.” DiverseArts’ current focus is on documenting and preserving the traditions and culture of the Central East Austin Cultural Heritage District through the Blues Family Tree Project and by bringing music programming to the area. McMillan also oversees DiverseArts’ fine art gallery, the New East Gallery, at 1601 E. 5th, dedicated to showcasing Austin’s emerging and established visual artists. One of DiverseArts’ regularly scheduled events is the East End Jazz Jam, East Austin’s first regularly scheduled jazz jam in years, featuring performances by music students from Huston Tillotson University. It takes place every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at the Historic Victory Grill. With the City’s recent designations of the East Austin Cultural Heritage District and Live Music District, DiverseArts has worked to reestablish East 11th Street as a destination for live jazz, blues, R&B, world music, gospel, and hip-hop through regular music programming at the Victory Grill and the DiverseArts venue, Kenny Dorham’s Backyard. The UTPCR “Bridging Divides Award” will be handed to McMillan and other 2009 recipients at a ceremony and concert at Antone’s on Thursday, October 15.
ALMA Presents Santana-Rama 2009
East Meets West in AACC Workshop
The Austin Latino Music Association is hosting Santana-Rama to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock on Saturday, August 15 from 8 p.m. - 1 a.m. at the Copper Tank on 5th & Trinity. The evening will feature some of the finest musicians in Austin including Vallejo, the Frank Gomez Band and many special guest artists. Newly released footage from the Woodstock film will also be shown. Vallejo will be appearing at the Fifth Annual Austin Batfest on August 22 on the Congress Avenue Ann Richards Bridge. Twenty acts will perform on two stages for $7.
The Asian American Cultural Center still has room for your children in its “East Meets West” Multicultural Summer Camp, which registers weekly and runs through August 21. Topics in August will include the introduction and philosophy of Taichi, learning Feng Shui and living in harmony with nature, and the philosophy of origami. Adults may also register for a Taiji workshop from August 3-7 from 8:30-9:30 a.m., with children’s classes from 9:30-11:00 a.m. The Center is located at 11713 Jollyville Road. For more information call 336-5069.
Vallejo will also headline the 28th Annual Old Pecan Street Fall Festival on September 26 on 6th Street. The dynamic showman Frank Gomez, meanwhile, is in the studio developing his third CD, scheduled for release later this year. Catch him live at Baby Acapulco #5 at 9505 Stonelake on August 1 and 8, and Baby Acapulco #3 at 5610 North IH35 on August 14 and 21.
Harold McMillan named a “Bridging Divides” honoree by UT.
The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is scheduled for Saturday, September 12, from 10 a.m. ‘til mid-afternoon at the Center and will feature Japanese, Hawaiian and Chinese performers, cultural activities, demonstrations and Asian cuisine. Admission is free.
Demystifying Austin is the AAIM Austin Area Interreligious Ministries is currently operating its Summer Refugee Youth Program, which runs through August 6 at Central Presbyterian Church downtown. The program was created to accommodate the children of adult refugees registered in AAIM’s Refugee School, which primarily teaches English as a Second Language at the same church location. AAIM volunteers have worked this summer with a lead teacher to instruct 50 school aged refugee children from ages 6-18, in English, basic math and cultural issues. “The great majority of the children have been in the U.S. a year or less and have come under the Federal Refugee Resettlement program that legally resettles refugees here,” said Lubna Zeidan, coordinator of the program. “These people have been persecuted in their home countries for religious, ethnic or political reasons and have been forced to flee.” In the seven years AAIM has run the Refugee School, it has served adult refugees from 24 different countries. Approximately 800 refugees will resettle in the Austin area this fiscal year, close to double the number of 2008. “It’s hard enough being a teenager today,” said Zeidan. “Imagine how hard it would be to have no idea what school is like, not to know how to dress, how to behave and worse of all, not to know what everyone is saying. Our summer program demystifies the United States, and gives the kids a little boost before school starts in the fall.” The refugees’ countries of origin differ from year to year with the most recent arrivals entering from Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, Cuba, Guatemala, Iraq, Nepal and Somalia.
Teresa Wong will be leading the Taichi course. Wong is a nationally certified wushu/taiji judge and instructor and has competed in both national and international wushu (contemporary Chinese martial arts) competitions.
A.J. Vallejo and band to play Santana-Rama and Batfest.
AACC was founded in 2000 to provide support for members of the community through classes, programs and events that build an environment in which those of different ethnicities can come together and enjoy both the East and the West. AACC’s most visible endeavors are their traditional Asian festivals including the Lunar New Year Festival and the annual Dragon Boat Festival and Races, both of which have become cultural staples on the calendar. TODO Austin Volume I, Number 003 Publisher/Editor - Gavin Lance Garcia Art Director - Dave McClinton www.dmdesigninc.com Production Director - Mark Gates el gato blanco
Fun at AAIM’s Camp Glimmer summer refugee youth camp.
Contributing Writers/Artists - Deborah Alys Carter, Isabel Corona, Kathleen Fitzgerald, Alexandra M. Landeros, Johnny Limon, Paul Minor, Tom Palaima, Maverick Shaw, Kristina Vallejo, Kuetzpalin Vasquez, Dean Windsor, Jill Winters, Lubna Zeidan Advertising Skeeter Amesquita, Lynn de los Santos TODO Austin is published by Spark Awakened Publishing. © 2009 Spark Awakened Publishing. All rights reserved. Unsolicited submissions (including, but not limited to articles, artwork, photographs) are not returned. Contact Us: firstname.lastname@example.org / 512.538.4115
AACC celebrates Asian culture in Austin.
By Johnny Limon
Over the last eight years, one of the things that have hurt our community is cutbacks in funding for several programs that affect people throughout Austin, but especially in East Austin. It is my hope that with the new administration in Washington, we’ll see a real change in how the country remembers the less fortunate. Of course, we’ve yet to see the full restoration of much of the program funding that was taken away by the Bush administration; those included cutbacks in health and housing, two issues that seriously affect our
Obama came in at one of the most difficult periods in our history and it’s going to take time to enact his agenda. We in Austin, likewise, must be patient. The city was galvanized by the last presidential election and now comes the work. How do we sustain the momentum? By participating in meetings with elected officials, in community meetings, town hall gatherings, city council meetings, forums and more importantly, by educating ourselves on the issues. The last Austin City Council election saw such a low turnout that it is possible that
“...we must all play a part in achieving this by working together, listening to opposing arguments and by keeping our priorities intact.” community and are obvious priorities for the working poor. We can talk about change, but change is not going to happen unless we the people get involved. We have to remind our leaders what the issues are in our estimation, not theirs. Our community in particular sometimes needs reminding of why politicians are in office; to carry out the deeds we the American people want done and to turn down the volume of the divisive rhetoric, the bickering and fighting between parties. Not only do we lack unity in Washington, but Austin, too. President
the best qualified person to represent the issues important to you is not in office today. Perhaps they are. But as a community, our voices were not heard. A sea change must take place if we are to form a new identity as an involved electorate; we have to be that voice to guide the people that are going to represent us. I am excited about the new presidency and I believe that the majority of the American people want to see our country go in a different direction. But we must all play a part in achieving this by working together, listening to opposing arguments and by keeping our priorities intact. Texas ranks horribly low
in social services, health and education for the working poor, so though I believe it is a priority; many others obviously do not. Jobs, health, and a good living wage must be achieved or the consequences will be severe. My parents instilled in me a desire to be politically involved, starting in your own neighborhood. Once the individual has built up self-esteem, they could eventually get involved in the wider community at a higher level. But the Limon household overcame barriers as my parents—due to their ethnicity—in a time not so long ago, were kept away from the ballot box. That was one means of keeping the less fortunate from gaining power. Today, even with complete access to voting privileges, we fail to get involved. My parents directed us to register to vote and after five generations in the city, the Limon family continues to pass down this tradition. The rules are simple: a change in administration can affect you personally in your home. Every single vote counts. Add yours to the count. With Obama’s election, I think more people have realized that. Now I can look at that office and say, “This has opened the doors for us Latinos and hopefully someday soon, Hispanics will reside in the White House.” After all, this ethnic population is the majority group of minorities. I worked 30 years for a company and after I retired, I couldn’t afford health insurance for myself. I’m hoping that President Obama looks hard at health care and finds a solution so
that all Americans can enjoy the same level of medical support enjoyed by federal employees. Why can’t we buy into that kind of insurance plan? As the baby boomers get older, we know that Medicare is struggling and prevention of illness is expensive; I’m not arguing for free insurance, just what I can afford. In the end, I believe we’ll see a real change and the less fortunate will have the opportunity to thrive. That is our hope.
Johnny Limon, a member of the renowned Limon family, is an Austin social advocate and serves on numerous community boards.
Live & Uncensored: Southwest Key Examines Eastside Issues Southwest Key is hosting two important programs in its East Austin Summer Speaker Series during August. The first will feature the topic, “Stimulating Jobs to Bring Equality to East Austin” on Tuesday, August 4, and the second concerns “Reducing the Educational Disparity in East Austin” on Tuesday, August 18. Prominent grassroots leaders will gather with citizens to discuss these issues to work toward a stronger East Austin. Both programs will take place at
the East Austin Community Center, located at 6002 Jain Lane near Eastside Memorial High School, and run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. with no entrance fee. The series grew out of the East Austin Leadership Development Program (EALDP), a part of Southwest Key’s ongoing community empowerment initiative. Its purpose is to develop, coordinate and promote a variety of projects to
engage residents of East Austin and those concerned about East Austin in identifying critical issues and advocacy efforts in order to increase the political power, wealth and capacity of the community. Southwest Key’s Layla Fry explains the programs were developed to “expose Austin to the history of East Austin and to issues of concern to the whole community.” For more information contact 462-2181.
If You Ever Go To Austin, Better Walk Right By Gavin Lance Garcia
There has been a great deal of conflict in Austin recently involving issues related to race. In just over two months we have seen a series of high profile incidents, including the shooting in Northeast Austin of a young African American by a Hispanic Austin police officer, a controversial announcement of the closing of Pearce Middle School in Northeast Austin—a school whose students are almost exclusively minorities—the reassignment of an Anglo radio personality at KLBJ-AM radio (located in Northeast Austin) for repeatedly using the ethnic slur, “wetback,” and a brick thrown into the East Austin home of a white woman bearing the message “Keep Eastside Black. Keep Eastside Strong.” In the streets and shops around my home in Northeast Austin, I hear more condescending exchanges between Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals, black, white and yellow neighbors than can be interpreted. The ethnic tensions in our city are at such a boiling point that we must carefully craft our words to avoid appearing derogatory. We are so careful that we are mostly silent. It is a matter of common observation that, good intentions or not, perfunctory reactions to our problems such as community meetings (the response to both the police shooting and Pearce’s closing) and reassigning public offenders
(the outcome of the KLBJ-AM uproar) leave us with a sense of indifference. I fear that when we settle for these conventional “solutions” as a tonic to soothe hurt feelings, the results are not only less than satisfactory but they fail to address a given problem directly. This is a feeling that grows as I attend one tense community meeting after another. The Delco Center assembly gave many angry residents the chance to echo each other’s disillusionment of Austin Police Department practices after the shooting of Nathaniel Sanders on the morning of May 11 at the Walnut Creek Apartments. Chief Art Acevedo and his senior officers were told that they are ill-equipped to interact with racially diverse communities. He, of course, begged to differ, and unperturbed by the glare—always dignified in manner—gave solid, unrehearsed answers to tough questions. Yet, at the end of this and other related meetings, all we were left with was the refrain that a solution—updated technology, more officers on the beat, more immersion programs and mediation training—was not at hand due the City’s tight budget. We would have to “take control of the situation” ourselves. Much like the APD affair, people left Pearce Middle School with more questions than answers after the Austin Independent School District forum on July 15. Attendees were each given a packet of information
and a questionnaire, the results of which will contribute to the Superintendent’s recommendation to the school board on whether the district should argue that Pearce be kept open or follow state orders to close. Our neighborhood will be told of their decision in due course. Similarly, we will be expected to be satisfied, or at least understand, the result because we had our say at a forum. The “wetback” flap concerning radio hosts Don Pryor and Todd Jeffries stirred members of the Hispanic community to action. Apparently, after a threatened boycott of KLBJ’s parent company and its advertisers, “The Todd and Don Show” was cancelled and its co-host Pryor reassigned to off-air duties. Purportedly, that was the agreement reached with local members of the U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association, led by Frank Fuentes, the group’s chairman, who counts some 1,400 members in the area. Then, the USHCA had to apologize days later for a video on its web site which demeaned the gay community. Next, police were called to Barbara Frische’s home on July 24 to investigate a brick thrown through a 4-year-old boy’s bedroom window with an offensive message referring to keeping the Eastside black. The white homeowner has lived at the address for 10 years.
Meanwhile, leaders in the community voluntarily avoid discussing racism, poverty and Austin’s dehumanizing social constructs seriously because, as illustrated by history, we are hyper-sensitive to becoming outcasts. In the case of Don Pryor, I was saddened to learn that Pryor—the one man in the KLBJ-AM episode who could have truly made a difference—had been silenced. Here was an opportunity for real, public discourse on race. Lost. Had Pryor been afforded the opportunity to continue, I imagine he would have had something constructive to say about how we treat one another and potentially opened a line of communication between ethnic communities. But Pryor won’t be provided the opportunity to say something meaningful, to inquire into our differences and sameness and the way we interact. Instead, some will debate ever so gingerly “illegals”/ “undocumented workers,” gay rights, WASP agenda, reverse discrimination and cultural bias, but only for a short while. Once we get beyond our personal comfort level in these conversations, we stop. We never go beyond the mountainous obstacles of what’s polite and politically correct. So we mostly say and do nothing. What should be offensive and uncomfortable to us is not the discourse on race, but the continued silence.
participants of a real community. This service continues in Austin year-round through the One Village Project. The One Village youth grow roots of solidarity and friendship, developing understanding and trust as they share their unique cultural and individual perspectives. For many, it is a rare opportunity to find acceptance and a sense of belonging among their peers. One Village gatherings move throughout the year from youth-led discussions about what service is needed in their community to service projects directly addressing these needs. Through service, youth connect to a larger vision of their world and their ability to make a difference. “Sometimes it seems like so much of my life is ‘about me,’ that I am the center of everything,” states Amanda, a 14-year old American citizen who has been affected by her experience. “My experience serving the homeless helped me realize that there are so many others in the world that need help and love.”
Austin’s Global Youth Summit Opens Hearts and Minds Sixty-five thousand of Austin’s youth are refugees and immigrants, often fleeing war, poverty and persecution to seek a better life here in Austin. In a matter of weeks, the children are funneled into Central Texas public school systems, learning the English language, the neighborhood and the culture. It is a process of survival, of learning and forgetting and fitting in. In 2007, the Amala Foundation, an Austin non-profit which offers service programs for youth, created a program called the Global Youth Peace Summit with the intention of giving the diverse youth of Austin an opportunity to do much more than just fit in. A nine-day, overnight event, the Summit creates a “global village” where youth learn about life in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America through first-hand accounts from their peers. This year’s summit takes place August 8 – 16 at the John Knox Ranch in Wimberley. Each year, scholarships are offered to refugee and underserved youth, accounting for half of the youth who attend. A special emphasis is placed upon creating pathways to personal healing, offering support to the youth at the Summit who have experienced trauma in their lives or continue to endure hardships at home. Celebrating culture and individual expression, the Global Youth Peace Summit is a festival
of language, culture, diversity and peace. “Our clients come from a number of countries and have often experienced civil war, displacement and turmoil,” said Lubna Zeidan, Refugee Program Coordinator of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries. “Many of the children have first hand knowledge of terror, death and destruction and have witnessed, first hand, the effects of oppression. The Global Youth Peace Summit is a perfect place for them to speak of their lives, and to find support and healing.” The approach is to encourage youth to communicate in order to find the things they share in common with others, building trust and respect for others, and learning how to be leaders of compassion and peace. “This vision serves as a village for every human being with a willing heart and a yearning for peace, unity and healing,” remarked Vanessa Stone, founder of the Amala Foundation and creator of the Global Youth Peace Summit. “This vision includes those who go unseen, those who have fled out of necessity the communities, villages and cultures that they have known. This vision focuses on the youth of the world, from the American straight-A student to the Congolese refugee to the Iraqi child uncertain about life in America. This vision serves the youth; specifically those who have directly experienced the atrocities of war, poverty, religious persecution, gang violence and the insulation of suburban America. We serve refugee, immigrant, inner city, and underprivileged youth and bring them together as One Village, One Heart.”
Featured highlights of the Summit include morning songs in Swahili, Arabic, Farsi, French, or Spanish, workshops in art activism, poetry and songwriting, environmental stewardship walks through the Hill Country, a Fire Ceremony by representatives of the Indigenous Tribes Institute, dance performances by youth, ropes course activities, and geography and current events classes. Refugees and immigrant youth living in Austin from around the world will join local youth, and international youth from Nigeria, Germany and Colombia will fly in to participate in the event. The Amala Foundation raises money to offer 40 scholarships to youth in need of help to attend. A Year Round Village The Global Youth Peace Summit is a lifechanging experience for many young people, offering an inspiration to serve others as
One Village offers a vehicle for youth to enact change in their community by serving others, including the elderly, the homeless, and young children. Service projects range from Greenbelt Clean Up Days to feeding the homeless at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless to organizing a peace march at Auditorium Shores. It is all about allowing youths to choose to serve where they feel called to respond.
Fact Box: What: Global Youth Peace Summit Where: John Knox Ranch, Wimberley, Texas When: August 8 – 16th, 2009 Who: # of youth: 70 # of volunteers: 50 Countries represented: Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Somalia, Tibet, Burma, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Bhutan, Iran, Guatemala, Burundi, Mexico, India, Nepal, Tibet, South Africa, Thailand, United States, Germany Languages Spoken: English, French, Spanish, German, Swahili, Farsi, Arabic, Somali, Burmese For more info: contact Linda Freiheit at email@example.com or 512.476.8884.
Since I had just finished my 16th year of teaching, I figured that it wouldn’t be too hard for me, an English teacher, to express myself about diversity in schools. When I sat down and started
Frank, Jannat, and Nisay’s Immigrant Song By Isabel Corona
One of his sisters had been molested by a family member and all of them were going to counseling because of it. Then, in the midst of all that, his parents separated and he had to choose with whom he was going to live. Yet, Frank showed up to school every day. He tried to get his work in on time. (Yes, I did give him extra time.) And he managed to pass his ESOL II course with a low 70. Frank always had a smile and a handshake for me, even when I was not ready to deal with his problems.
writing, I realized I was more than a little upset at the most recent legislature session in which HB3 was voted into law, changing the testing structure of high schools from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS, to end-of-course. I thought, ‘here we go again.’ We’ve tried end-of-course, and moved into the TAKS instead. So I wrote, and all that happened was that I got mad again.
Then I remembered my students in this, my second year teaching true English as a Second Language (ESL) students. I have always had students in my classroom with Spanish as their first language and I could always use my Spanish as an aid to teaching. But this year I had students from Cambodia, Vietnam, Colombia, Portugal, Tibet, Mexico, and Iran to name a few foreign ports. I had a total of 17 different native languages spoken in my room. I could not use my Spanish; it would have excluded too many students. Even with the language issue, or in spite of it, I had some truly wonderful students—let me tell you about them. Francisco, or Frank as I called him (all students’ names have been changed for this article), was from Mexico. He was the oldest boy of four children. He had some trouble with his school work. I thought he was not applying himself to his education. That is the easiest and most common thought teachers have. As I got to know him, I found out that he was holding down two jobs as a busboy to help his family out financially.
Jannat was from Iran. She would tell me, “I’m Persian.” I would tell her, “You’re from Iran; that means you’re Iranian.” We both knew we were correct. She spoke Farsi and we had a hard time. Jannat was a sweet girl—loved to talk to everyone—but was not very dedicated to her school work. She refused to practice her English outside of the classroom and always managed to have a doctor’s appointment when an assignment or test was due. I recommended she attend summer school and try to get her ESOL II credit. I don’t think she will.
The student I am most proud of just finished her second year in the U.S. and remains in school. Her home country is Cambodia and she is turning 18 this month. Nisay came to my room every day prepared: prepared to learn, prepared with homework, and prepared to help her classmates. She would get up every day between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. and go work in the family restaurant until school started, and then she would go to class. Most days, she skipped lunch either to go to tutoring or come into my classroom to complete work for the next day. After school, she would go back to the restaurant and work until 8:00 p.m. When she got home, she helped her family make dinner and took care of her niece. Nisay maintained straight A’s in every class, every six weeks this past year. She was given a scholarship to an SAT Camp to help raise her scores and make her eligible for additional scholarships when she graduates and is ready to attend a university. Everything in educations is recursive. Methods used today will be out the door next year and back in within five years, ten at the most. The method will have a different name, but still be the same nonetheless. Whatever rules and regulations are mandated to us can be tolerated when we, as teachers, are lucky enough to have a student like Nisay. Isabel Corona has been a secondary education teacher for sixteen years.
Coming September 26-27
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Twenty Eight Years of Fun!
by Tom Palaima
“I’m an honorary Texan,” Bob Dylan said recently, while discussing what gives his latest CD “Together Through Life” its clear TexasMexico borderland feel. “It’s no small thing. I take it as a high honor.” Dylan has long felt a connection with our two big parts of Nueva España. His sincere shoutout to Billy Joe Shaver on “Together Through Life’s” “I Feel a Change Comin’ On” is just one sample of the Tex-Mex flavors in his lyrical and musical spice box. In 1972, he played with Doug Sahm and Band on their self-named album, helping to achieve what Dylan scholar Michael Gray calls a “fusion of loose yet sinewy Tex-Mex country-rock music.” At the end of that year, Dylan moved with his wife and five children for three months to Durango, Mexico to act in Sam Peckinpah’s movie “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.” Dylan and Jacques Levy’s 1975 “Romance in Durango” is full of images that Dylan absorbed while, in his own words, “deep in the heart of Mexico”: Aztec ruins, blistering dusty heat, “hoofbeats like castanets on stone,” and places “where our grandfathers stayed / When they rode with Villa into Torreón.” David Hidalgo’s accordion now gives Dylan’s music what Flaco Jiménez gave Dylan and Sahm’s twenty-seven years ago. Seven years earlier, in 1965, one song stood out from the groundbreaking electric music on Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” album. On “Desolation Row” Charlie McCoy and Dylan intertwined what Oliver Trager calls the “stately, Spanish-tinged sound” of two acoustic guitars. Their playing still takes us right down south of the border. In “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” on the same album, Bob sets the scene “in the rain in Juarez.” In 1969, Dylan wrote “Wanted Man” for Johnny Cash, taking the Man in Black to El Paso, Juarez and Abilene, “wonderin’ why the hell I’m wanted / at some town halfway between.” Texas and Mexico have fired Bob Dylan’s creative imagination again and again. His debut album, “Bob Dylan,” recorded in November 1961, struck a powerful Texas chord. The twenty-year-old Dylan covered Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” Before Dylan headed off to New York City, Minnesota folk-music aficionado John Pankake had tuned him into the Texas blues legend’s stark songs and to Austin-born music folklorist Alan Lomax’s “Texas Folk Songs” album. Besides playing the cryptic ‘everyman’
character named ‘Alias’ in “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” Dylan’s films have titles like “Masked and Anonymous,” “Don’t Look Back,” and “I’m Not There.” Small wonder then that he is drawn to songs that capture the lives of men, women and children whose identities and worlds change when they cross the borderline. Many live namelessly or with false identities, fearfully and honestly outside the law. Dylan was drawn to the borderland early on. When he hit New York City in 1961, the ailing Woody Guthrie was his guiding spirit. Guthrie had written a poem “Deportee” or “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportees)” in 1948. On January 28 that year, twenty-eight Mexican migrant workers died in a plane crash while being deported to Mexico, after the working season. Newspapers did not even list their names. Humanly offended, Guthrie wrote: “You won’t have a name / when you ride the big airplane. / All they will call you will be / Deportee.” He called out their names as he bid them farewell: “Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye Rosalita; adiós, mis amigos, Jesús y María.” Guthrie’s words were finally set to music a decade later. Pete Seeger was making “Deportee” popular just when Dylan was using Guthrie as a role model. Dylan’s later concert versions of “Deportee’ with Joan Baez are incandescent. Twenty-five years before going to Houston on “Together Through Life,” Dylan made us see and feel our part of the plantation south through an old bluesman’s sightless vision: “I traveled through east Texas / where many martyrs fell / And I know no one can sing the blues / like Blind Willie McTell.” Across three decades, beginning with a tape recording in the New Jersey home of good friends of Woody Guthrie in 1961 to a concert at West Point in October 1990, Dylan sang his own takes on the 19th-century folk song “Trail of the Buffalo.” In Dylan’s version, the ‘young cowboy’ hero calls Jacksboro, Texas home. And in 1992-93 when Dylan produced two powerful CD’s full of traditional folk and blues songs, one standout classic is a tale of a cowboy who regrets riding his life away in the pay of a miserly, pompous, jaw-wagging herd boss named “Diamond Joe” whose “holdings are in Texas.” The Ry Cooder-John Hiatt-Jim Dickinson classic, “Across the Borderline,” has been covered distinctively by both Flaco Jiménez and Willie Nelson. But Dylan took to the song as soon as he heard it. In 1986, a year before Ry Cooder even released his own version,
Dylan was drawn to the borderland early on. When he hit New York City in 1961, the ailing Woody Guthrie was his guiding spirit. Dylan sang the song many times on his tour with Tom Petty. And when Dylan came down to Austin to celebrate Willie Nelson’s sixtieth birthday in 1993, Willie and he sang together Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” a tale of outlaw heroism and betrayal, helped along by the ‘kindness’ of the Federales and enriched by what myths on both sides of the border mean to songwriters and singers. Dylan has said that his own concert standard “Señor” from “Street Legal” (1978) was inspired by what he saw going on about midnight when he woke up from sleeping on a train in Monterrey, Mexico. An old man, dressed in nothing but a blanket, got on board and sat in
a seat right across from Dylan. “He must have been a hundred and fifty years old...his eyes were on fire and there was smoke coming out of his nostrils. I said, ‘Well, this is the man I want to talk to.’” Sit down and explore Dylan’s borderland music. You’ll say, “Well, this is the man I want to listen to.”
University of Texas at Austin Classics professor Tom Palaima taught ‘History of Song as Social Criticism from Homer to Bob Dylan’ in Spring 2009.
Bob Dylan is a master of musical cultural assimilation. Whether it’s the unionrousing anthems of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, the weary blues of Leadbelly and Robert Johnson or the soul-stirring gospel of the Staples, he has taken the most culturally potent music ever delivered and liberally borrowed its most accessible elements to color and flavor his own powerful compositions. What would “Desire” be without that haunting gypsy fiddle, or “Slow Train Coming” without the Muscle Shoals church organ and choir voices? While the choice of Hidalgo’s accordion could merely be as simple as asking a West Coast neighbor to jam, it also brings with it a huge history of Tex-Mex tradition that permeates the songs with an entirely fresh rhythm and texture. The simple squeezebox riffs conjure up the spiciest south Texas dancehall echoes of Esteban Jordan and Augie Meyers. It sounds like a wild Westside San Antonio party with the spirits of Sir Doug and Bobby Blue Bland trading off on the mic. “Together Through Life” proves that the best music uses just three primary colors: black, brown and white. – by Paul Minor
The Bob Dylan Show What: Bob Dylan & His Band, Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp When: 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, August 4 Where: Dell Diamond, Round Rock Tickets: Available at www. ticketmaster.com
Señor Dylan Bridging the Americas By Gavin Lance Garcia
Music critics widely acknowledge that Dylan’s latest CD, “Together Through Life,” finds the bard’s heart in a Texas “border-town”: “Echoes of a Tex-Mex roadhouse” (USA Today), “a Tex-Mex feel” (Associated Press), “a Doug Sahm-like shot of norteño R&B” (Rolling Stone), “a Tejano flavor” (New York Post), “embroidered with Tex-Mex accordion” (Chicago Tribune), “Tex Mex ballads” (The New York Times), “Creole-Latino accordion playing sets the mood” (Los Angeles Times), “a Tex-Mex atmosphere” (The Observer). Here is a sample of Spanish/Latin American references from the Dylan canon. 1963 “Boots of Spanish Leather”: Two lovers are at a crossroads as one sails across the Atlantic for Spain and “the mountains of Madrid” and “coast of Barcelona.” At the end of a dialogue, the forlorn lover left behind realizes his futility and requests a pair of boots to likewise go a-“roamin.’” 1963 “North Country Blues”: This first person narrative (of a woman whose husband has lost his job due to industry outsourcing) includes scrutiny of US economic exploitation in South America, where ore can be had “much cheaper” and “the miners work almost for nothing.”
mural on the side of the hole in the wall music club on guadalupe by austin artist El Federico
1964 “Spanish Harlem Incident”: Dylan has said he has no idea what the song is about, but it appears the narrator’s smitten by a gypsy girl who resides in “the hands of Harlem.” In this West Side story, the gypsy’s feet are on fire as she reads his palms and he marvels at her “pearly eyes” and “flashing diamond teeth.” 1965 “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”: “When you’re lost in the rain in Juárez . . .” Ciudad Juárez is a city in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico directly across from El Paso. The narrator visits the town at “Eastertime,” marking the end of Lent by cavorting with prostitutes along Rue Morgue Avenue. 1965 “Farewell Angelina”: A portrait of a man leaving a woman. By the edge of the sea, somewhere in Argentina (?), the protagonist’s attention turns away from his gal to follow the sound of “the bells of the crown.” “King Kong, little elves, on the rooftops they dance Valentino-type tangos” to the bells as the dead lie below.
Dylan received the key to the City of Austin on February 24, 2002.
1967 “Goin’ to Acapulco”: The setting of the seaport town of Acapulco de Juárez, known as “the paradise of the Americas,” is where the song’s protagonist finds himself yearning for the attention of “Rose Marie.” Double entendres abound. 1967 “Lo and Behold!”: Dylan pulls out of “San Anton’” with his first breath in this title, “never felt so good.” Marianne Faithfull once said Dylan was “talking almost in sort of ancient tongues” during this recording with the Band, whose title is taken from the Old Testament in the King James Bible. 1969 “Wanted Man”: A song about being on the run, recorded by Johnny Cash. Among the itinerary of the outlaw hero? El Paso, where the protagonist “stopped to get myself a map / Went the wrong way into Juarez with Juanita on my lap.” 1973 “Something There Is About You”: A sentimental journey to the bard’s birthplace in Minnesota, where
the recollection of “the hills of old Duluth” bring to mind, among other memories, “Danny Lopez.” Dylan’s association of life’s early stages to a Hispanic companion underscores a life-long love of the Latin. 1974 “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”: NPR’s Tim Riley calls this “an intricately evasive allegory about romantic façades that hide criminal motives.” Big Jim spies his rival Jack in a cabaret and believes he has seen him before “down in Mexico.” 1975 “Romance in Durango”: Michael Gray states this song “raised the pop song onto an undreamt-of high plane.” A tale of an outlaw and his sweetheart, Magdalena, on the run in Mexico, this is the archetypal Tex-Mex tune. “No llores, mi querida / Dios nos vigila / Soon the horse will take us to Durango. / Agarrame, mi vida / Soon the desert will be gone . . .,” sings Dylan as he rides “past the Aztec ruins and the ghosts of our people.” 1975 “Abandoned Love”: Written, ostensibly, during a period of marital discord, the narrator locates romance where “The Spanish moon is rising on the hill / But my heart is a-tellin’ me I love ya still.” 1978 “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)”: Bob as Simón Bolívar, Che, Don Quixote? However interpreted, Dylan characters find themselves south of the border again. “The last thing I remember before I stripped and kneeled / Was that trainload of fools . . . their hearts is as hard as leather” has been decoded as a critique of US intervention in Latin America. Or a criticism of false Western values. Or . . . 1981 “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar”: A woman addressed as Claudette haunts the narrator who remarks, “She could be respectably married or running a whorehouse in Buenos Aires.” Dylan sings of a theological rift that eventually separates the protagonist from his heart’s desire. 1981 “Caribbean Wind”: “And them Caribbean winds still blow from Nassau to Mexico / Fanning the flames in the furnace of desire.” Clinton Heylin states, here is Dylan “disaffected with love and on the run from the end times.” 1981 “Angelina”: A man returns to an old flame in a song full of mystery, political and Biblical allusions written during Dylan’s “born again” period. Watching “a black Mercedes rollin’ through the combat zone,” he asks some “tall men” whether they’d like to be “overthrown maybe down in Jerusalem or Argentina?” 1983 “Union Sundown”: A recurring motif in Dylan’s canon is America’s corporate greed and here he points a finger at the evils of imported consumer goods. The singer exclaims, “Well the job that you used to have / They gave it to somebody down in El Salvador,” and “The car I drive is a Chevrolet / It was put together in Argentina / By a guy makin’ thirty cents a day.” 1986 “Brownsville Girl”: Here’s one about the girl along the Rio Grande that got away. The narrator reflects on what was, though he’s clearly moved along. “We drove that car all night into San Anton’ / And we slept near the Alamo, your skin was so tender and soft. / Way down in Mexico you went out to find a doctor and you never came back.”
Villa’s Music Garden 4406 South Congress Ave. Austin Texas • 444.5551
Live in Concert
Little Joe y La Familia Celebrating 50 years of trailblazing tejano musiC saturday, august 8, doors open at 7 p.m.
Villa’s A-1 Auto Body Taco Shack & Electric 4406 South Congress Ave. Breakfast served all day Dine-in or call for pick up Open: Monday - Sunday 6:00 a.m. — 10:00 p.m. 383-9738
4408 South Congress Ave. Insurance Claims, 24 hr Towing Alternators, Starters electrical Shorts Marine, and Rewiring 444-5551 or 443-3280
Family Owned and Operated
Ballet Fête On the 10th Floor Taking expectations to new heights atop the near-completed Austonian building on Congress Avenue, Ballet Austin is inviting the city to rub elbows and spread their wings at Fête*ish - a bawdy social affair featuring unique entertainment and the dream-inspired Fête*ish salons, with surprises around every corner. The Saturday, September 12 event will take guests to the 10th floor of the Austonian for sassy, sultry, and a little bit of naughty entertainment. Fête*ish will evoke Cabaret and Moulin Rouge from chocolate decadence to a closet full of shoes, from the perfect martini to one’s most treasured jewels. Tickets are $125 and can be purchased at 476-9151 ext. 134, or email email@example.com
AppearAccents By Kathleen Fitzgerald
Montoya’s Exhibition at the MACC
Austin Symphony Lifts-Off 99th Maestro Peter Bay and the Austin Symphony Orchestra open their 99th season with performances of works by Ravel and Mozart, featuring pianists Leon Fleisher and Katherine Jacobson Fleisher on Friday and Saturday, September 18th & 19th at the Long Center for the Performing Arts’ Dell Hall. Recipient of the 2007 Kennedy Center Honors and subject of the 2006 Oscarnominated short documentary “Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story,” legendary pianist Leon Fleisher is celebrating his 80th year with leading musical organizations around the world. Tickets range from $19-$48 with
student rush tickets available 20 minutes prior to performance for $5 cash with a current student ID. For ticket info: www. austinsymphony.org, or ASO Box Office, 11th and Red River, or call 476-6064 or 1-888-4MAESTRO (toll-free).
Leon Fleisher & Katherine Jacobson Fleisher
The Mexican American Cultural Center is currently hosting the exhibition “Malaquias and Maceo Montoya: Dos Vistas un Camino al Rumbo de la Humanidad” through August 29. A closing reception, lecture and book signing for the California-based artists Malaquias and Maceo Montoya will be held August 20 from 7 – 9 pm. Malaquias Montoya, a California-raised Chicano artist will be showcasing his newest body of work that highlights the detrimental effects of globalization and war on national communities and their cultures. Malaquias’ paintings, drawings and prints convey the universal story of the consequences of power and war. This exhibition allows the viewer to peek into the lives of those whose culture and daily life have been depleted or destroyed by corporate globalization and tragedies of war. Maceo Montoya’s approach is more intimate, and includes striking portraits of Mexican immigrants of Northern California that reveal highly personal immigrant experiences. His acrylic paintings are meditations on their quiet day-to-day struggles. His images of men and women immersed in the vast landscapes of the agriculture valley depict solitude and loneliness but also a determined
and spiritual fortitude. Also on exhibit in the Community Gallery are the El Perfil works of Carlos Brondo, an Austin artist who works with various media, focusing on painting, illustration, and graphic design. This collection unites the inspiration of Mayan hieroglyphs with the modern stylization of the 21st century. The MACC is located at 600 River Street. For info call 478-6222. Maceo Montoya
Little Joe Hernandez is bonafide American royalty. In the Hispanic community, the overwhelming consensus is that his sound is the definition of great music, period. For more than half a century the preeminent pioneer of “Tejano” music has circulated 50 stellar albums while seeing trends in music ebb and flow. f Now 68, Hernandez made his recording debut in 1958 as a guitarist for Terro Records and soon formed Little Joe & the Latinaires, an outfit which evolved into Little Joe y La Familia. The band has gone on to inspire three generations of fans and admirers. f A compassionate man with boundless enthusiasm, Hernandez has thrown his weight behind major Latino political issues, from support of the United Farm Workers to efforts to set inequities right in the recording industry. His anthem, “Las Nubes,” became a symbol of Chicano Americanism and is one of numerous titles which have broken down cultural and musical barriers. f Championing the rights and dignity of the common people, no matter their ethnic background, his legend has grown as he continues to tour the world. “The King of the Brown Sound,” Hernandez has received most every honor in the recording industry, including the 2008 Grammy Award for Tejano Album of the Year. Wherever he travels, he continues to leave a deep sense of awe and mystery. This is the first of a two part interview.
TODO: Hispanic Americans are very proud of you and teach their children about their heritage using your life as an example. How does this experience as a role model affect you? Hernandez: They don’t know me (laughing). I’m impressed and honored but I don’t intend to be—but people can think of me as they want. But I do take pride in what I do. You can say I’m a proud person. We all have a little ego to deal with. I’m proud of the people. Of my fellow Mexican Americans, because I know we’ve made lots of contributions to our country, especially in the military. It’s unfortunate that history doesn’t document it that way. In Texas history they don’t depict the Mexican American as the force behind a lot of change in the good—a lot of things that make this state great. Defenders of the Alamo. Chicanos gave their lives like the rest at the Alamo. We need to teach the world, not just our state. People who have touched my life? Jesse Jackson, Willie Nelson and Cesar Chavez. Really touched my life. Different, but the same. People that I got to be real close to. I’ve been real fortunate. I take pride in all that.
TODO: What was it like when you got started in music? Hernandez: We were playing and I didn’t know what a monitor was. And when I first recorded it was on one track, do or die. When I heard of two tracks, I freaked out. My favorite way of recording is getting the whole band in the studio and doing it right or wrong. We’d go in the studio and rehearse it one day, cut it in one day, produce the next and we’re done. TODO: You’ve spent more than four decades in the music business, cut some 50 albums and been involved in arranging session fees for many musicians, especially when running your own label, Buena Suerte. How did you find the time to do it all? Hernandez: It might be over 60 albums. We started Little Joe and Latinaires in ’60. Buena Suerte was my first label in ’68. The reason for the first company was that pretty much all Spanish language music was imported— no real opportunities for us to record our music—especially music of the Chicano from the southwest. I started out with my own company to produce and promote friends with bands. It worked out really well.
I found out, also, that we have a special live market and I had a hard time convincing CBS/Columbia that there was a market. I was selling 100,000 copies on my own, some albums. Of course they did not believe that. They said, “Well if you sell 15,000 copies that would be successful.” I joined majors to have at least national distribution if not worldwide. When we sold 50,000, they were surprised. We can find time to do it all if we get down to the nitty gritty and work. But, you know, I would record a couple albums a year. Last year I produced two albums. We can do these things. I’ve been fortunate to be touring all the time. I didn’t intend to live that long to be an old man of 68—but if you’re having fun and life is good to you. . . . I’m just wondering what changed. I just started out wanting to record one single record. I’ve been blessed with a lot of great friendships that have helped. My family is supportive, and I’ve had good health. Like Augie Meyers said, “If I knew how long I was going to live, I would’ve taken better care of my pick up truck.” I say what I believe and I believe everyday struggles of everyday people. Rich get richer and poor get poorer.
TODO: Would you talk about the choices you make about the use of Spanish and English in your music? Hernandez: Sometimes I write in English first, then translate. For me it’s that some lyrics and some melodies lend themselves to that—what direction the song might be. It’s not like I think I’m gonna write this in English. I might write a couple verses in English and then some in Spanish. TODO: What are you working on now? Hernandez: I’m recording a live album—the fifth—live in El Paso at the Plaza Theatre, a beautiful venue. First time anyone’s recorded live from that theatre. It’s my fourth show there. Real fortunate there. Sold out each time I’ve played. It’s a fundraiser for farm workers in El Paso. The theatre was just renovated and we’ve been the first Chicano group to play there. My first live recording was June 1979—30 years ago. Later, I get to do another. My first live album was in Corpus with Ramiro Guzman, a promoter—he’s involved in this live album as promoter, too.
music Pan-Am Summer Hillside Series This is going to be a concert for the millennium. Enjoy a quintessential Eastside music experience on Tuesday, August 4 at the Pan American Hillside Theater (located at 2100 E. 3rd Street) when two titans of Austin Tejano perform for free under the stars in the Summer Hillside Concert Series. The series is a Chicano tradition whose roots go back to the construction of the venue in the summer of 1958. Adding to the magic will be the double bill of Ruben Ramos and the Mexican Revolution and Los Texas Wranglers who will perform from 7:00 until 10:00 p.m. “It being a free show, we’re expecting to have at least 2,000 people there,” said Julian L. Fernandez of the Wranglers. “It’s been a tradition for over forty years and it just doesn’t get any better for the performers or the audience. When I was a little kid, I saw shows there that changed my
which will be coming out in September with new and original music and some of the great old Tex Mex hits.” Wailers to Stir Up Batfest The legendary Wailers will satisfy the soul at the Fifth Annual Austin Batfest, taking place August 22 on the Congress Avenue Ann Richards Bridge. The entrance fee for the 20 band roster is $7. The one day event will also feature Vallejo, Bob Schneider, One Eyed Doll, Girl in a Coma, the Gourds and several others on two stages. The current edition of the Wailers features the supernatural talent of bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett, one of three living members from the band’s apex. The Wailers, formed in Jamaica in 1963, were led by Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, who were joined in the early 1970s by “Family Man” Barrett and his brother Carlton (Carlie) Barrett, who
Overlord It comes as no surprise that the man making one of the hottest summers on record a lot cooler is MC Overlord, who goes the distance every Thursday at The Dirty Dog (6th & Neches). Austin’s award winning MC’s “Dirty Thursdays” series shows Overlord’s ever evolving vocal dexterity in a full set of live Hip Hop featuring material from his latest release “Last Call.” An A-list of some of Austin’s top musicians support the frontman and have visibly pushed him in a direction that truly sets the durable wordsmith wonder apart. The shows are free, to boot. Check out the new Overlord video for his current single “The Flow,” featuring Mike Dill at www.overlordmusic.com, and if you haven’t yet, pick up “Last Call” on sale at Waterloo Records, iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby.com. Point and Click for Todd V. Todd V. Wolfson, an award-winning Austin photographer known for his 30 years of support of artists of every ethnic and musical stripe, is in need of our kind attention. Wolfson, who has devoted thousands of hours to numerous charitable causes and has tirelessly made a positive contribution to our community, is on a forced hiatus due to a career-threatening accident. While riding
The Wailers headline Bat Fest Janette Beckman
Los Texas Wranglers opened Villa’s Music Garden last month. Leonard Davila
life and probably drove me into performing. We’re excited about what should be a special event that people will be talking about for a long time.” So You Think You Can Dance, Julian? Austin’s preeminent conjunto band, Los Texas Wranglers is currently working on the set of a motion picture being filmed in Freeport and Austin, called “Freeport.” The group has been keeping the news to themselves but Julian L. Fernandez calls the experience “euphoric.” “We’re both acting and performing in the film, so we’re debuting in two areas we’ve never experienced before,” admits Fernandez. “One of us is cast as a bar maid, one a janitor. We share a big scene in a grocery store. It was awesome.” “Freeport” is due out next summer according to Fernandez, whose composition “Un Poquito de Carino” will be the movie’s theme song. “The band will perform the song in the film. It was totally a different feel, nothing like being live on stage. In addition to the Pan Am Hillside date, the Wranglers will be performing August 9 for Tardeada at the Moose Lodge. If that’s not enough to keep the band busy, they’re readying “our new CD,
became the Wailers Band. Throughout various incarnations of the group, “Family Man” Barrett’s distinct bass sound has continued to define contemporary reggae. Sometimes referred to as the “leader” of the backing band, “Family Man” created the mystical bottom end of many of Marley’s signature songs while participating in co-producing Marley’s albums and song arrangements. In addition to music, Batfest will provide 150 booths featuring arts, crafts, food, children’s activities and educational displays. Producers expect a crowd of around 40,000, not counting the 1.5 million Mexican Free Tail Bats. Ruben Ramos Grammy Celebration The Austin Tejano Music Coalition is hoping to schedule a date in August for a celebration of Ruben Ramos on his recent Grammy award. The event will be hosted by Nuevo Leon, where the coalition meets bi-weekly. “We’re honoring a friend for not only his recent Grammy win but a lifetime of work that has made us proud,” said Leonard Davila, a Tejano musician and founding member of the coalition. For further information including details of the event, go to http://www.austintejanomusic.com.
his bike on July 11th, Wolfson hit a patch of defective pavement and was thrown from his seat. He suffered a head injury, elbow damage and compound fractures in his arm, plus numerous internal injuries. Wolfson will spend several months in healing and physical therapy to enable him to work again, but until he’s recovered he will face expensive medical and rehabilitation bills. That’s where we come in. Please join us in supporting Todd in whatever way you can. A benefit concert is planned for September 9 at Antone’s nightclub with a stellar lineup befitting the much loved music scene icon. Those who can’t attend can contribute through donations large and small at http:// sparrowheart.net/todd/
2009/10 Season Season Opener ~ Oct 2-4, 2009 SWAN LAKE (ACT II) / THE FIREBIRD (World Premiere) The 47th Annual Production of
The Nutcracker ~ Dec 5-23, 2009 The Bach Project ~ Feb 12-14, 2010 New American Talent / Dance ~ Mar 25 – Apr 4, 2010 Coppélia ~ May 7-9, 2010
Visit www.balletaustin.org or call 512.476.2163 Season Underwriter
Chronicles of Undercover Mexican Girl By Alexandra M. Landeros
Welcome to my adventures. I really am a Mexican, but often confused for a Greek, Armenian, or just a plain ‘ole white girl. By way of being ethnically undercover, I have a knack for finding other undercover people, places, and things. I hope you will follow my adventures, as I share observations about life as an “undercover Mexican” in the United States. Maybe we’ll meet one day, where you least expect to find me. I was born in the U.S.A. When I was four, my parents moved back to Mexico where I first learned to read by asking my grandparents to teach me the meaning of the neon signs along the streets of downtown Aguascalientes: Nescafé, Fanta, Bimbo. My parents returned to California only a couple of months prior to me starting the first grade. To help me learn English more rapidly, they placed me in summer school where I befriended, exclusively, the only other Spanish speaker. Throughout elementary school, I was a shy child looking forward to spending entire summers in Mexico. In the sixth grade, I voluntarily left my mom and dad because I was convinced I was a Mexican national at heart—so I went to live in San Luis Potosí for a half year with my aunt and uncle. When I returned to California, I became even more alienated from my Mexican American peers; while they listened to Madonna and Michael Jackson, I listened to Timbiriche and Flans and wrote in Spanish in my private journal.
Then I moved an hour away to attend a college prep boarding school where my best friends were a Sri Lankan girl with a British accent who had grown up in Hong Kong and a half Chinese/half Indian girl who introduced me to They Might Be Giants and Dadaism. After spending my childhood longing to be in Mexico, it had finally occurred to me that I was simply longing for culture. In fact, many different cultures. Throughout my teenage years, I wore a Jewish Chai, read Russian literature, watched French films, and admired Moroccan architecture. In the 11th grade, I transferred to a high school closer to my parents, where my Mexican American friends teased me for acting “white.” Since moving to Austin more than ten years ago, people have made anti-Mexican remarks in my presence, not knowing I was a Mexican. And if they happened to find out, they would say, “But, you’re a different kind of Mexican.” Even though I am light-skinned and I don’t wave the flag, I am highly critical of the proper use of the Spanish language and Mexican food that falsely claims to be authentic or from the interior. So, five years ago, when trying to explain my hybrid cultural experiences to a friend, I conceived of my alter ego: Undercover Mexican Girl. Stay tuned, amigos and friends, for more adventures and undercover tips. UMG’s culture mash recommendation of the month: Take a drink to the sounds of Shand Walton and the All Amigos Club at Lovejoy’s on August 13, and at The Amsterdam on August 15. The All Amigos Club—fusing mariachi, rock, Irish, folk, and blues—are highly influenced by the Latin music of Ruben Rodriguez and his Guadalajara Kings, Noche Los Tres, and Trini Lopez, the Irish blues rock of Rory Gallagher, and the British folk guitar of Davey Graham (of Guyanese and Scottish descent.) Follow Alexandra at twitter.com/UndercoverMG
Fifth Annual Austin Batfest
Saturday, August 22 on the Congress Avenue Ann Richards Bridge 2 PM until Midnight $7 entrance
The Wailers Bob Schneider The Gourds Vallejo
Girl in a Coma Alpha Rev One Eyed Doll and many others
The East End businesses on 11th St, from Branch to Angelina, offer a cultural heritage unlike anywhere else in Austin.
Published on Jul 14, 2009
TODO Austin is a free-distribution, full-color, monthly newspaper that focuses on Austin's multicultural community. TODO Austin is published...