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EDITOR To the reader:

Breakups, make-ups and, as is habit, a pinch of controversy defined and re-defined this year’s Panorama magazine. This issue of the publication is, in my opinion, Panorama’s most daring venture yet. From the get-go we decided that we would be bolder with our design, braver in our storytelling and more holistically unconventional than in past years—we’d chance failure at the opportunity to realize something exceptional. After winning the Pacemaker award—college journalism’s highest honor—in October 2010 our most substantial challenge would be to not become complacent. Often times, when one receives a taste of success, it becomes convenient to remain stagnant in one’s thinking, and at times in the semester, it seemed like we had almost adopted an attitude of entitlement. Fortunately for us, the reality set in that without putting in the time we could not reap the benefits—an important exercise in our journalism careers. What you hold in your hand is the result of opportunity—not to simply repeat what we had already done, but to attempt new things altogether. There were pieces that did not make it into this year’s issue, including a story about in addition to an article about an exotic dancer who is dancing her way through college. And again we were ever so tempted to publish Adam Cantu’s cartoon that didn’t make it into last year’s issue—the one that depicts the Monopoly Man giving it to Uncle Sam in his aft end. In many ways this publication owes itself to editors Daniel Flores and Santa Hernandez. Without their vision that pushed Panorama 2010 into the next decade, this current issue would have remained a vision instead of a palpable work. There are others Panorama owes gratitude, including Dr. Timothy Mottet, who has supported us with unwavering endorsement. To all the readers who have given us their positive feedback, we thank you as well. And perhaps just as equally, we appreciate those who have given us negative feedback as it forces us to become better … as well as gives us a plethora of crude, yet inventive jokes at your expense. Thanks, Kevin M. Stich

Panorama Magazine Letter to the Editor 1201 West University Drive-CAS 170 Edinburg, Texas 78539



// May2011

Staff Senior Editors Daniel Flores Santa Hernandez Kevin Stich Staff Writers Osmar Alanis Madeleine Smither Angela Villanueva Camy Greisel Kevin Stich Contributing Writers Brian Silva Samuel Moreno Isaac Hays Erik De La Garza Stephanie Corte Roxann Garcia Benny Salinas Designers Santa Hernandez Daniel Flores Kevin Stich Contributing Designers Danny Cardenas Carlos Perez Photographers Daniel Flores Alma Hernandez Danny Cardenas Kevin Stich Contributing Photographers Larissa Garza Judy Chavez Ben Briones Sales/Advertising Camy Greisel Adrianna Sarmiento Special Thanks Eric Fantich Melody Garcia Joel Garza Andrew Oteng-Baah Anita Reyes Timothy Mottet Robert Nelsen Dahlia Guerra Advisor Donna Pazdera

Heterophobia: Gay Bullying Reporting Incognito The Last Flight of Discovery Eat It! Addicted to Facebook Spilled Where Your Money Goes Portrait of Dreams From the Forum The President and the Evangelists Beautiful Principles 6th Aisle Predators Climbing the Rock Wall 365 Days: Photography

4 6 10 14 20 24 28 32 34 38 40 46 50 52 56 62 66 70 72 78 82 96 97 98 102 106 108

Table of Contents

Girls, Guys & the Gift of Game

Boyd vs Boyd Antidote to an Open Marriage He Could Posterize You The Orange Blood on the Border Never Say Never: Phototography Albums We Like The Struggles of Building a Band The Scarlet Effect Geocaching Our New Playground: Part II Brujeria with La Santisima Muerte

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Ambrosial perfume rolls off her wrists as she strolls drolly to the thud of heavy beats, arm in arm with tonight’s escort. He is perhaps equally incognizant of the scene around him. The cadence of meaningless chatter, clatter of less-meaningful cheers and the smell of stale beer all are part of typical makeup that is soon to be the morning’s muddled memories. (If you’re not aroused yet, start over.) The ephemeral couple will skip the late night drive-thru tonight—it would only, after all, ruin the mood. The hours progress as expected: the two stumble into a bedroom, take a customary moment to empty themselves of any soluble wastes and then quickly get to work—speed far from being the goal. Fair-weather lovers embrace in the climax of the moment, and then all at once, the sexual caper is exhausted. The morning after is all formalities. Spending the night was optional and usually a preferred convenience if one became overworked—protection usually isn’t. The hookup is assisted masturbation for some—discarded panties and briefs a waving flag to the morning after. The twosome either walks away completely disappointed or completely satisfied. The hookup has gone viral across American college campuses (if you’re having discharge, see a doctor.) Scenes like the one described above have become a trademark of the average college experience now more than ever. According to a USA Today article by Sharon Jayson published in March 2011, casual


A one-night tryst stands the possibility of becoming a fuck buddy based on general proximity to the other person. To wit, encountering the person the next weekend and establishing a routine is more likely based on sexual supply or limited hangout options, whereas in larger cities a one-time porn pilot may be less likely to develop into a highly acclaimed sex series.


// May2011

coitus is on the rise. Stanford University research shows that 72 percent of college students have had at least one “hookup”. (Based on 17,000 surveys across 20 college campuses.) Why? I’m glad you asked …


First and foremost, this seems to be the No. 1 reason people are doing the dirty without committing to a relationship: They simply don’t want to be tied down. I’ve had many friends (girls and guys) sit around and vent about the lack of the opposite-sex’s interest in participating in an exclusive romantic relationship (though, most of these hopeless souls are looking in the wrong places anyway.) Many of these plaintiffs are actually hooking up on a fairly regular basis, too. I guess it stands to reason that if they can’t find a relationship, they certainly don’t want to miss out on the sex. However, if you want to find a dedicated person, the weekend club or bar probably isn’t the place to look. Some college students have become the equivalent of a sexual Sisyphus (not to be confused with Syphilis). These are the individuals who keep pushing the boulder up the incline only to see it not call them ever again. But seriously, an increasing number of people find convenience in not being tied down. That is, they can have sex with whomever, whenever it becomes available. Which leads me to my next point …


Few people disagree that if a man has had many partners, his peers consider him a stud. I once heard it put this way: If you have a lock that can be opened by many keys, that’s not a very good lock. But if you have a key that can open many locks, well, that’s a pretty good key. However, nowadays more and more women wear that badge almost as proudly. As society becomes more sexually liberated (taking our cues from celebrities and media), many people feel more open to explore their sexuality. I know there are a few prudes out there to disagree with me, and I respect that, but sex makes the “lesser” person feel substantial, even if their performance was not…


Let’s face it: Sex feels good and our society is obsessed with feeling good. Pleasure is the ultimate in American culture, whether it be sustainable or not. Pleasure is the reason we drink, smoke, do drugs and eat Chick-fil-A three times a week (or is that just me?). The pill, the condom, dental dam--they all make it easier for us to get that pleasure without the consequence of a child or an STD. It’s too convenient: A night out, money for drinks and voilà you’ve got your fix. Sex is a rollercoaster of satisfaction and the top is the best part of the ride.

THE FRIEND WITH BENEFITS Some friendships are comfortable enough to get physical without having to get serious. There are friends that establish emotional boundaries in the interest of pure sex.

THE ONE NIGHT STAND One night stands are presumably the trendiest flavor of hookup. Quick, dirty, no-strings and often offer the option of getting in touch with your baddest self. One night stands offer all the grease without the fat. Author’s note: Grease is not to be used as lube.

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// May2011






am a survivor of homophobia. Reflecting on recent attention toward those who took their own lives as a result of bullying has led me to assert my own story. It’s nothing short of extraordinary to see this topic even being discussed at all. I cannot help but get a lump in my throat because the teenage me would have never thought it possible for people to acknowledge this terrible suffering. My story is not unique, and it has been too often repeated. Even though I noticed I was different around kindergarten, I didn’t experience substantial bullying until sixth grade. I was in a school with a tough population where some kids were in the early stages of training to be battle-ready for their future gang entry.

After gym one day this kid came up to me and asked if I was gay. He said he didn’t like gays and that if I ever passed by him, I should watch out. A few days later, again after gym, we crossed paths. He shoved me aside and punched me in the stomach repeatedly and told me to not say anything or I’d be hurt even worse. They were the worst bruises I’ve ever seen on my body, but my psyche was damaged even further. Confused and alone, I tried to hide both. Unfortunately, my mom and grandparents noticed the deep bruise, and I tried to pretend it was nothing. I lied to hide the truth. At the time, I didn’t know what gay was. All I knew was that I couldn’t be it, or else people would want to hurt me. As I developed these inner feelings for the same sex, I feared any outward exposure of them, and acting as if they did not exist was my only option. All through middle school and some of high school I wondered how I could live a normal life with these feelings inside me. Living with them exposed meant living in pain, and living in pain wasn’t a life worth living. As we moved to another side of town, I was moved into a school embedded in a socially conservative culture. I did not hear of or observe any openly gay people my freshman year of high school. Amid a strongly anti-gay atmosphere, I did whatever I could to resemble a straight person; meanwhile my heart was being eaten away by the continuous denial of who I was. I began to wonder how I could live in a world where my life was wrong. Living a lie was torturous and exhausting, and I knew I wouldn’t last much longer. The mental torment of being told every day that my inner self was unnatural and the torture of fending off accusations of being gay were unbearable.

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A pivotal moment came when I was in the hallway and someone pushed me as he was walking by. I looked at him, and he said, “Don’t look at me, faggot.” He then punched me in the side, shoved me against a locker, and then punched me twice in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I fell to the floor. “Faggot! I told you not to look at me,” he said. Meanwhile, a teacher looked over, saw what was happening, and just walked into his classroom. He heard the words, yet he chose to do nothing—he did not care enough to do anything. I got up and went on without a word to anyone; I feared people knowing. However, to tell a principal would be pointless. I didn’t think anyone could stop him from hurting me again. I could recover from physical wounds, but being called a faggot by others was like salt on an open wound. I was scared beyond comprehension. I began to realize no matter how hard I tried, I’d never be normal. It was like dying my hair blonde and wishing it’d stay blonde. I was scared. I couldn’t take being told every day that I should be one thing, and then at every one of those moments knowing I’m something else. My life was invalid. My thinking at that time would be unimaginable to most now. I was suffocating from the fear of my true self.










ife does get better. When leaders tell us being gay is not an equally valid “way of life,” it invalidates our existence. It also lets people know it’s OK to bully those who are different. Life would be even better if society would let everyone know from the earliest stages of life that their lives are valid, despite differences from others. I am as gay as my hair is black, my eyes are brown, and my skin is fair. If I must be judged, let it be on my collective identity: my characteristics as a Mexican-American, a child of


// May2011

A few weeks later I observed this guy who was a ballet dancer being harassed. His characteristics were somewhat effeminate, and I’d seen him ridiculed before because of it. I couldn’t stand seeing that happen to him, and I was so deeply angered that I wanted to shout at them to stop. Again I was angered when a new girl came to our school and people had a difficult time recognizing her gender. Students would whisper about her as she walked by or would shout horrifically painful things at her. After that moment, I started to realize I wasn’t alone. Hope came by recognizing someone else’s pain. I did not want to stand idle during such a grotesque injustice. But how could I stand up for anyone if I could not even acknowledge and stand up for myself? I confided my pain to a teacher. She told me that life gets better, and that after I graduated I wouldn’t be worrying about these things. Afterward I knew the only way I’d be happy was if I took the risk of telling my friends about the true me. So, I told a few friends and they accepted me. Then I told more and more until I got to the point to where I didn’t care if people knew. If someone called me a name it really didn’t have an effect on me because I knew my supportive friends were there for me.

a single, teenage mother, a lover of journalism and politics and a man of same-sex orientation. My collective experiences are paradigms of thought toward my perception of the world. Given that people come from firsthand expression, each of a person’s own unique experiences affords us the ability to contribute to understanding. It’s tough to acknowledge a past suffering in life, but expressing my experiences may help empower others. My message will have been a success if a sole act of self-destruction is prevented.

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// May2011



he 9mm Hi-Point pistol fired, leaving a blue-orange muzzle flash, and instantly following it was a thunderous echo that crossed through the enclosed gun range. He carefully squeezed the trigger seven more times emptying his clip, and then cautiously placed the weapon back in its case as he checked his targets. Mr. X or Don Pedro, as he prefers to be called, is a journalist reporting on the drug cartel activities in Mexico, who must write anonymously for his own protection. Not a police officer or army personnel, neither a security specialist nor concerned citizen, Pedro represents an unusual new trend in a career not expected to require security measures. However, because of the border violence, those in this career have had to adapt to the growing need for personal security. This mystery reporter for The Brownsville Herald newspaper, covering awardwinning stories on the drug cartels in Mexico, has purchased a gun, acquired body armor and given up his byline, in exchange for safety and the Herald editor’s peace of mind.

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“I HAVE TAKEN THE PRECAUTION OF GETTING A CONCEALED HANDGUN. I DON’T LIVE IN THE SAME CITY WHERE I WORK, AND I ALWAYS HAVE A WEAPON OR TWO AT HAND IN CASE I HAVE TO DEFEND MYSELF.” “As a reporter, usually most of your stories come out with a byline. You try to make a name for yourself by saying ‘you know what, I am the person that wrote this article.’ Because of this and my ties to Mexico, we stopped doing that. My editors have given me the freedom to write without a name,” Pedro said. A story without a byline is the common sacrifice for most of the reporters choosing to write about the drug war. The Brownsville Herald adopted this position after considering the more than 30 reporters killed as a result of retaliation, stray bullets and random acts of violence perpetrated by the drug cartels toward media representatives across Mexico. In December 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared a war on the drug cartels, reversing the previous administration’s passive approach. Since then, more than 30,000 deaths have ensued. Simply: Mexico has become one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist. Many reporters have been kidnapped or murdered for the stories they have published. Some journalists have sought political asylum in the U.S., some have quit their jobs, and others have continued reporting, just ignoring the cartel stories. Journalists like Luis Carlos Santiago, 21, and Armando Rodriguez, 42, two reporters working for the newspaper El Diario de Juarez, were brutally murdered in a period less than two years apart. Their deaths provoked the paper to print the now famous front-page headline


// May2011

“QUE QUIEREN DE NOSOTROS?”— in English “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM US?” The paper opinion column requested that the drug cartels tell them what they could and could not publish. Pedro faces the same atmosphere as he uncovers stories many officials and media companies in Mexico are reluctant to let out. “Some reporters will put out information that somebody in power is not too happy with, and that is how a lot of those reporters have gotten into trouble,” Pedro said. According to the Herald journalist, the violence in Mexico wasn’t always as bad as it is today. However, in the last year or so it has increased dramatically, forcing him and other reporters off of the Mexican side of the border entirely. “Not being able to go into Mexico has forced me to become very resourceful. I have had to do all of my investigating using a cell phone and street smarts. When you look at Mexico, there are few reporters that are actually reporting the truth and some of those get killed. Others, for personal safety, have been forced not to report what is going on,” Pedro said. “We have gotten calls from people in Mexico telling us, ‘Thank you, because you tell us what is actually going on over here, what our officials will not tell us and what our reporters can’t tell us.’ Sadly enough, Mexico is keeping it quiet. A lot of those reporters that we see every day, they cannot write about it because they’ll be targets.” Targets like the four reporters

kidnapped in Torreon, Coahuila, a state in middle Mexico, for their coverage of a corrupt prison escape or the disappeared and presumed dead Senator Diego Fernandez de Cevallos, for his harsh criticism against cartel violence. According to Pedro, tight lips have become the norm for both Mexican officials and media companies. The public officials are either corrupt, helping the cartels do their business, or too afraid for their own life and that of their families, which have also been targets of kidnapping and murder. The media companies have been targets for their coverage of the drug war, paying a high toll in lives and property damage. For a reporter tracking down a story, tight lips can be frustrating. “Covering the violence that public officials claim is not happening and trying to get information out of them is nearly impossible. They’re too afraid to talk or else end up floating in the river,” he said. “There are not that many jobs in this country that require body armor. Aside from military and police, not too many people ever use it.” Living in the U.S. has given Pedro the freedom to report without the same fear of consequence that a reporter in Mexico must live with, but it is still not easy. According to the Herald journalist, international media correspondents for companies around the world have had to take a security course or two, and on some occasions they have been issued body armor for hot zones like Iraq or Afghanistan. However, five years ago

STORIES BEHIND A TRIGGER nobody would have dreamed of needing it for Matamoros, Mexico. Earlier this year, Pedro purchased a Hi-Point 9mm handgun and began the process of obtaining a concealed and carry license, but this is not the only precaution he has taken for his safety. Pedro has also taken lessons in Brazilian Jujitsu and grappling from defensive trainers, to better be able to protect himself from possible attacks. He even competed in amateur leagues and won the title in his division. He’s won a belt for his amateur fighting and several Associated Press Managing Editors awards for his writing. These are some of the recognitions Pedro has achieved in his career. “I have taken the precaution of getting a concealed handgun. I don’t live in the same city where I work, and I always have a weapon or two at hand in case I have to defend myself,” Pedro said.

The man behind the mask

“I am decent writer, but I have a knack or superhuman ability to get info that most people aren’t able to get. For some reason, people really like me and they just tell me things out of the blue, and at times I just scare myself when I think ‘who did I just talk to? Who am I quoting?’” Pedro mused. He has won the Charles Green Award for investigative journalism, as well as the Star Investigative Journalist of the Year award from the APME, and several other APME awards for stories ranging from the border violence to international corruption scandals. However, Pedro did

not study communications in college. He didn’t even go to a university with a college of communications. Almost anything you would guess about Pedro at first glance would likely be wrong. Although he writes for the Brownsville Herald, his native language is Spanish. He is so skilled at getting around a city and pulling information from hard to get sources, you would think he was born and raised in a bustling metropolis. In reality he was raised on a small farm in the state of Tamaulipas. He graduated from the University of Texas Brownsville with a degree in business management, and read his first Star Wars comic at the age of 22. Pedro is anything but typical. “I started writing for the Collegiate, a UTB student publication. I was looking for a job on campus and they were looking for people that could write in Spanish, so I signed up,” Pedro said. “Eventually I want to write a book and get it published. There is not a lot of money in this career, and I know I won’t be able to put this on my family forever.” It was in college that he met his sweetheart and they got married soon after their graduation. According to Pedro, his greatest support is from his wife, but he knows he can’t do this forever. With many print news corporations in bankruptcy, the future for print media is still uncertain. Journalists like Pedro have either become more passionate and creative to do their work, or have packed their bags and moved on to other jobs. For Pedro, journalism is more than a service--it’s a duty.

A duty to report

“Public officials in Mexico at the federal level--they are trying to say this is what we are doing, this is what is going on. At a local and state level they’re saying nothing is going on, it’s all lies. And if you don’t live in that area or neighborhood, all you would hear would be a rumor. Somebody told me that my cousin said that there was a firefight and there were a hundred dead. You don’t know what is going on and if the media will not tell you what’s going on, who will? I have close ties to Mexico and the way I see it, it could easily be me living over there, not knowing what’s happening and living in fear. If I could at least help them by telling them, ‘Hey this is what’s happening in your town, I might as well do that … it’s our responsibility … it’s a duty.” In his most recent articles, Pedro has exposed that both the Zetas and the Gulf cartel have begun operating on the American side of the border-facts that many American officials have begrudgingly had to admit. As the stories get larger, at times they come closer, and Pedro admits that it has left him uneasy. “A lot of times when you write those stories as you’re driving home, you look behind you,” he said. “You see if there are any cars following you. Some people might say its paranoia but there are other reporters that have gone missing before you. It’s unlikely, but who is to say that it couldn’t happen in the U.S.?”


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// May2011

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It sat on the pad: dramatic. The machine breathed, stretched, groaned and hissed, all 184 feet of its complex structure ready. The weather was perfect. A slight breeze blew across the bay as some small clouds traversed the deep blue that stretched out before us. This is one of the prime launch viewing sites at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. This is spectacle. This is incredible. This is Discovery. Of the five—the others being Columbia, Atlantis, Challenger and Endeavour—the Discovery space shuttle is the most traveled, the most recognized, the most storied. The plan is to move it to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum in Washington D.C. once it completed its mission, taking the place of the shuttle Enterprise. But Enterprise never saw what Discovery saw. No ship saw what Discovery saw. Discovery was atonement for both the Columbia and Challenger disasters when America lost 14 heroes. It renewed faith an unquantifiable amount of times in a space program where debate over its practicality has been a hallmark of its existence. Three miles away I stood, waiting, hoping that they would get it figured out. They had to, right? I came all this way, through all the climax and buildup, and the launch was going to scrub? It was personal to me. Sure, they would try again the next day, but what if something else went wrong? My dad, Steve Stich, always the logician, stood slightly behind my right shoulder and began turning to the people in his immediate reach to give his version of the they’re-not-going-to-launch look. “Have some faith,” I said, frustrated that I had more hope than the man who celebrated NASA his whole life. He looked at me with another face I’ve come to know well: that you-justwait-and-see face. But I was defiant. “It’s going to go,” I told myself. “I feel it.” The clock held steady at five minutes instead of the usual nine. And that’s


// May2011

when it hit me: If it did launch today, if by some miracle Range managed to figure this out, if all other systems were go, this would be the last flight of Discovery.


I hopped on a plane to meet my dad, who just happens to be a former Flight Dynamics Officer (FDO), Flight Director and Manager of Orbiter Projects. He is currently the Associate Director for Commercial Space flight for the Engineering Directorate at the

The clock held steady at

five minutes instead of the usual nine. And that’s when it hit me: If it did launch today, if by some miracle Range managed to figure this out, if all other

systems were

go, this would be

the last flight

of Discovery.

Johnson Space Center. My relationship with my father has always been strained. We’re alike in so many ways, but our differences are too numerous to list or explain in a period shorter than the average lifespan. See also: divorce. In regards to NASA, I come from a family of left-brained people. Naturally, I’m the black sheep of my nearest and dearest. I suppose I have the gift of understanding math and science, but want to improve on my chances of being jobless and driven to alcoholism. In short: he wanted me to do science, I became a writer. See also: parental aspirations and subliminal rebellion. We arrived in Orlando just after 11 p.m. Baggage claim: midnight. Car rental: 12:30 a.m. Hotel check-in: 1:30 a.m. In bed: 2 a.m. Tuesday morning was spent sleeping in. I woke up just in time to get the finest continental breakfast a Holiday Inn Express can offer. After downing stale poppy seed muffins and gorging on Fruit Loops, all while being introduced to astronauts Terry Wilcutt and Bill McArthur, it was time to get me my very own badge. Badge office. Picture snapped. Text to mom and sister, “Look at how drunk I … look.” I figured if the trip failed I could come back with some goofy anecdote about how I boozed with NASA employees and how they’re all really terrible at beer pong. Scratch that—they’d be excellent at beer pong. I spent the rest of the day slogging around a local golf course and that night shelling down three-dozen rock shrimp, not to mention soup and dessert. See also: bathroom reading material.


An early start Wednesday morning put us just outside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), a massive structure where the shuttle stack is assembled. The building is colossal; the American


They use the building to attach the orbiter to the external tank in a process that is measured in, “Oh my God’s” and pant changes. They tilt that bitch 45 degrees a couple hundred feet in the air and feed it through an opening that was originally designed for the Apollo program. Scary stuff for a crane operator with almost two billion dollars strung up on the end of his job. flag on its southern side is the size of a football field. Walking inside the structure was daunting. Imagine looking up to a roof that stretches 525 feet to the rafters. Lady Liberty would fit in there—easy. I’ve even heard clouds have formed inside up near the roof on more humid days. They use the building to attach the orbiter to the external tank in a process that is measured in, “Oh my God’s” and pant changes. They tilt that bitch 45 degrees a couple hundred feet in the air and feed it through an opening that was originally designed for the Apollo program. Scary stuff for a crane operator with almost two billion dollars strung up on the end of his job. Laura Segarra, an extremely nice and knowledgeable lady who is part of the Commercial Crew Planning office at Kennedy Space Center, would be our tour guide around the site where the shuttle is prepared and assembled for flight. We walked into one of the Orbiter Processing Facilities at KSC (OPF), emptying our pockets and taping our watches to make sure the quartz didn’t

come loose. How that procedure came to be is anyone’s guess. Walking in and craning my neck upward, finding myself under the belly of the ship, I must’ve looked like Dr. Alan Grant seeing a Brachiosaurus for the first time. “You said you’ve got a T-Rex?” We spent the next few hours on a tour that regular tourists couldn’t even imagine. Climbing ladders and steps and even poking my head inside the main hatch at one point quickly became a highlight of my year. Endless amounts of piping, beams and braces surrounded the spacecraft and Segarra was well versed in the lingo. She did, after all, work on the vehicle. I smiled at them from the scaffolding surrounding the shuttle; them, spread out on the ground floor, thrilled to just be there. Tourists. Then again, it’s unfortunate they weren’t able to see what I saw. I felt some sadness for our country. These behemoths of scientific artistry would soon be out of commission, out of order, just … out. After the tour of the OPF and a quick peek inside the VAB we headed

out to the pad for a viewing of the craft. Sitting there it looked surreal, fake. “This is a toy,” I thought. I would know, I used to have one in my toy chest whose lid doubled as a chalkboard—Batman and Superman rode shotgun while a choice villain tried to destroy it from the below. Witnesses might ask themselves— as I did—upon sighting the monstrous marvel, “How in the hell does this thing fly? It must weigh tons.” To which it would reply, challenged, “Two thousand two hundred fifty, actually. I am not lightest, the most efficient, nor the least dangerous, but I assure you, Mr. Skeptic, I can fly.”


With two seconds left in the window before scrubbing the launch—hopes of spectators, crew and Mission Control hanging in the balance—a voice on the loop rang, “Range is go for launch.” The many people invested in the launch, cheered, applauded and grinned. Lucky sons of bitches we were; a mere two seconds is all that stood between us and going home with dashed hopes.

Witnesses might ask themselves—as I did—upon sighting the monstrous marvel, “How in the hell does this thing fly? It must weigh tons.” To which it would reply, challenged, “Two thousand two hundred fifty, actually. I am not lightest, the most efficient, nor the least dangerous, but I assure you, Mr. Skeptic, I can fly.”

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See, at NASA the Range Safety Program is the last word in safety. Literally. Should something go wrong during the launch that puts civilian lives in danger, they’re there to remotely destroy the spacecraft—that’s “blow it up” to you and I. Generally there is a hold at nine minutes to go through a “go/no go” roll call of sorts, but for this launch, Mission Control went all the way down to a fiveminute hold because Range was a “no go” due to some equipment malfunction. But it seemed God might have wanted to see the Discovery launch too. Three miles away I stood, camera in hand, armed and ready to shoot. The countdown resumed. Two minutes: anxiety. One minute: sweat moistened my palms. Thirty seconds: holy shit, I’m slightly trembling. Ten, nine, eight, seven … main engines start and cause the shuttle to “twang” or lean forward slightly. Steam shoots out from under the stack more and more profusely as the tenths of a second pass, urging, pleading, begging, “Let me go!” Three, two, one … “We have SRB ignition,” the intercom announces. All the while, the NASA control teams have been rattling off checklist items, stats and acronyms that even they have trouble recalling at times (I’ve witnessed it). My camera in its continuous shot mode is doing its darndest to keep up. Trails of fire exhale from the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters as a plume of acidic cloud forms behind it. After what seems like a few moments, it shoots off the pad like a … well, like a rocket. The crowd, sharing in a communal euphoria at the event, cheers and claps, ooh’s and aah’s. The shuttle is going toe-to-toe with gravity and winning. The ground shakes as it rises faster and faster into the heavens. The wind seems to have picked up, pressing my clothes tighter against my skin. All eyes are upward watching the craft until it


// May2011

can be seen no more.


Back on the bus, I felt a sort of disappointment wash over me. As my dad, who had been volunteered as a tour guide and was giving his impromptu closing comments, my mind drowned out the chatter. I wasn’t disappointed in the launch. No, that part was awesome. What was disappointing was that there are billions of people that will never see what I saw. Hell, writing this article, I wondered if yet a million people have seen it up close, in the raw. Even a kid who grew up around this his whole life, who grew tired of hearing about the space program and who generally underappreciated

part NASA’s fault, part a society that idolizes the Kardashians. How could something so big mean so little?


I was privileged enough to spend Friday afternoon scoping out Endeavour, which was almost ready to be mated to the external tank. A man named Armando Oliu led us around on a fantastic tour that allowed me to get up close and personal with the external tank and solid rocket boosters. About the only thing I didn’t get to see was the debris from the Columbia disaster—a tragedy that my father witnessed from Mission Control in

Disasters like Columbia and Challenger probably give many opponents of the space program fuel to argue against its functionality, but it reminds me of why America is great. Because almost 40 years ago a few of the world’s brightest invented a machine, the likes of which we had never seen or may never see again. what NASA was all about could marvel at what he had just seen. Sure, the space program hasn’t always been effective or efficient, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a rush to watch them launch giant firecrackers into the sky in the interest of discovery. And that’s the space program’s biggest pitfall: they absolutely suck at media relations. I think most people who work for NASA would agree with that. Astronauts used to be lionized by our nation. Now? They’re vintage, outof-date and generally uninteresting to the American public. They have something that no one else in the world can claim to have: the space shuttle. It’s

Houston. Disasters like Columbia and Challenger probably give many opponents of the space program fuel to argue against its functionality, but it reminds me of why America is great. Because almost 40 years ago, a few of the world’s brightest invented a machine, the likes of which we had never seen or may never see again. As I dawdled to my car, bags in hand, I couldn’t help but feel like I lost something. This wasn’t the kind of lost that one feels when checking a hotel room for the final time to make sure nothing is left behind. This was a genuine disappointment that Discovery would never fly again.

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// May2011





hen I heard the news, it was as if someone was telling me about Santa Claus for the first time. “What?” I said, wanting to bless my disbelieving ears with those sweet words again. “McAllen has its own food competition. Not just one, but two.” Finally, McAllen has joined other cities scattered across this great nation, whose only, yet seldom achieved requirement is a restaurant with a food competition.

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In recent years there has been a rise in food competitions. Not just eating competitions, but cooking also. It’s the reason a separate channel dedicated to food, apart from the Food Network had to be made. The Food Network seems to have gone the route of MTV. MTV used to be a straight-cut music channel and now it shows nothing but reality television. Now the Food Network, which used to be comprised of nothing but how-to shows, has nothing but competition shows filling out its primetime lineup. These food channels also have their variety of extreme foods, but when it comes to outrageous food, the Travel Channel has everyone else beat. With shows like “No Reservations,” “Bizarre Foods” and “Man vs. Food,” people often see things many would never dream of attempting to eat. Regular people have gotten in on the act. Just click over to, and on any given day, in cities across the country, one can find eating contests, ranging from the Peanut-Butter-Pickle-Bacon Burger contest held at Killer Burger in Portland, Or., to the Spinach-Eating Contest in Alma, Ark. In McAllen, we have our options and they’re both at Goombada’s sandwich shop.


My friend Rodrigo Wong and I entered Goombada’s, a small, family-owned restaurant at 6400 N. 10th St. in McAllen that prides itself in having quality, homemade sandwiches. It’s a quaint little shop, owned by John Caine. Caine’s wife stood behind the counter preparing items for closing time, his 11-year-old daughter sat quietly at one of the tables doing her homework, while he kept busy mopping the floor. The shop is simple and homey. A cafeteria-like lunch counter splits the restaurant where they prepare the food. The walls are a canary yellow, and adorned with artwork from local artists. “Rodrigo!,” he cried out, “It’s not Saturday?” Unbeknownst to me, my friend is obviously a regular customer. Caine does have that warmth about him, as if he treats all customers like old friends. Rodrigo introduced us and informed Caine of my interest in the challenges. Caine laughed. “You should have come in earlier. We had two guys just try The Five Knuckle Challenge,” he said. “How’d they do?” I asked. “One guy did fine, the other, well he ran out with blisters around his mouth.” “Are you serious? Is that a common occurrence?” “Yeah, sometimes,” he said, pausing a bit seriously, but with a sly, sadistic smile hiding behind the mop handle. The Five Knuckle Challenge is Goombada’s spicy challenge. Contestants have five minutes to eat five chicken nuggets,


// May2011

smothered in their homemade chili sauce. The sauce’s main ingredient is the Bhut Jalakia Chili (aka the ghost chili). The ghost chili is the hottest chili pepper around with a Scolville Heat Unit of 1,001,304. (The Scolville Scale was developed by Wilbur Scoville, a pharmacologist, to measure the different heat levels of chilies. The test was simple in nature, in that human testers would eat a chili and then determine how hot it was, by the average number of sprays of sugar water it would take for the pain to subside.) Just to compare, most people have eaten a jalapeño, or serrano pepper, or perhaps tasted Tabasco sauce. These peppers rate between 5,000-15,000 Scolville Heat Units. Compared to those chili peppers this makes the Bhut Jalakia pepper about 200 times hotter than the (sun) average Jalapeno. “How’d you come up with the Five Knuckle Challenge?” I asked. “My customers kept requesting something spicy, which I didn’t have at the time because this is an Italian sandwich shop. So I answered back with the hottest chili,” he replied. “Where do you get the ghost chilies from?” “I special order them from California and they are delicious. I like to eat them raw, but they are expensive. One pound will run you $80.” I tried to get my friend to conquer the challenge again, but he’s not going for it. So far, Rodrigo has two eating competition contests under his belt (no pun intended.) The first challenge he tackled was the Four Horsemen Challenge in San Antonio. The Four Horsemen Challenge is a half-pound patty topped with jalapenos, serranos, a habanero sauce, and of course the ghost chili. I wasn’t with Rodrigo the night of, but remember reading his post on Facebook: “Tonight, in the fight of Wong vs. Food: Wong is the winner! I must say that I was stupid enough to take on the Four Horsemen Challenge. I feel like Godzilla decided to lay eggs in my stomach and they just hatched.” His next post, an hour later was: “Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.” Even though he’s already completed the Five Knuckle Challenge he’s not willing to do it again. “This challenge wasn’t as hard as the Four Horsemen, but still I don’t want to go through that again,” Wong said. “How was it different?” I ask my friend. “After eating the Four Horsemen I felt like a drunk girl that just got broken up with by her abusive boyfriend,” Wong recounted. “What?” “Yeah, I was sweating, crying, and I hated myself for allowing me to go through that. I remember being able to feel my intestines.” Caine laughed. “That’s exactly what this kid [who just tried it] said. He said he could feel the food traveling down his throat to his stomach and then his intestines.”

EAT IT! “That’s what really freaks you out. You think, ‘Ok, something is wrong. I should stop eating,’” Wong recalled. “The key is to stay calm. That’s why Rodrigo was able to do it. He stayed calm. But if you start freaking out it just makes it so much worse. So, you want to try the challenge?” Caine asked me. “No way. I don’t do spicy foods,” I resisted. “Come on, I’ll bring you a taste of the sauce on a toothpick,” he said, already getting up and walking to the kitchen. I knew I wasn’t going to get out of it. I braced myself as I stared at the sauce glistening at the tip of the toothpick. It was surprisingly tasty. There was a sweet, smoky flavor from the sauce, it was delicious ... and then the pain kicked in. It felt as if fire ants were piercing my tongue. I had only placed a bit of the sauce on my tongue and swallowed but somehow I felt the pain traveling down towards my left cheek. My throat felt raw as if I had just thrown up 10 times and stomach acid had eroded the lining of my esophagus. Still, this was just a small sample of the sauce. I couldn’t imagine how it would feel to have my mouth coated with the stuff. “It’s funny to see the friends of the challenger’s reaction during the competition,” Caine said. “At first they are calling them names if they don’t do it. Then once the they see how much their friend is in pain, they start pleading with them to stop and they genuinely feel bad for having put their friend through this.”

deli ham, turkey pastrami and roast beef. Then they add a half pound of provolone cheese, and half a pound of mozzarella cheese, and topped with the fixings of lettuce, tomatoes, olive salad and Italian dressing. All this between their custommade bread, which weighs two pounds on its own. The sandwich weighs in at seven pounds and must be consumed within one hour in order to win. If you succeed, it’s free and if not, well then you pay $50 and Goombada’s ridicules you on their website. “What made you decide on a seven pound sandwich?” I asked. “It didn’t start off like that,. Originally we set the meat and cheese we wanted to use,

percentages of people in the world that are predisposed to eat large quantities. Most everybody has a signal sent from the stomach to the brain that tells the brain the stomach is full. Well, there are some people that don’t have that signal, or have the sheer will to ignore it. That and if the persons stomach is able to expand, they’ll be able to do it. Still, the chances of one of those people walking through my door is not very likely.” “Are you going to invite Adam Richman from ‘Man vs. Food’?” “Technically we can’t because it would be self-promotion, but many of our customers say they already have. Still, I don’t think Adam would be able to do it. I’ve studied him and what kills him is the carbs. Protein he can take down, but when it comes to bread he has trouble.” “Wow, you studied him?” “Yeah, a lot of thought went into these competitions.” Before anyone can compete in these competitions they must sign a waiver, clearing Goombada’s, the owners, the staff and even the paramedics that may have to be called from being sued in any way by you choosing to take on this competition. “Did you have a lawyer write this for you?” I saw a sense of pride rise in Caine as I said the words. “It reads like one, doesn’t it? All this plays a factor in the competitions, because you start reading and signing the form and it starts your adrenaline pumping and your heart starts beating faster as you get nervous and start having doubts,” he said. “Wow, you did put a lot of thought into these competitions,” I remarked. Caine laughed. “Well I do have two degrees in psychology.”






The science of a sandwich

Goombada’s other challenge is a monstrosity of a sandwich. It has got four pounds of meat, one pound each of turkey,

and it was supposed to be a long sandwich, but the bread we were using couldn’t hold all of it. So, I baked round bread instead to hold all the meat and cheese, and it turned out that the bread weighed two pounds on its own,” he explained. “Have you had anyone complete the challenge?” “Nope. The other day we had three Killer Bee hockey players try to finish one and they still couldn’t do it.” “You think anyone will be able to finish it?” “Maybe. You see, there are small

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Kevin Stich is a 24-year-old insurrectionist whose defunct profile picture would show a better looking, more intriguing version of himself. Kevin Stich does not have a Facebook. Kevin Stich recognizes that his lack of participation in such a social norm is astounding to some, but maintains this absence of convention to be a noteworthy trait. Kevin Stich, a self-important, egotistical writer, prides himself on that fact, so much so that he wrote an article in third-person secretly hoping to discover a remedy to the phenomenon that affects the lives of the many users strung out on social networking. (These are the would-be status updates of Kevin Stich.)


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Crack, cocaine, heroin, cigarettes, Facebook—it’s easy to guess where the thought is going. Addiction is the condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing or activity. The question that gnawed at and harrowed Stich—and one he raised bereft of a status update: Is Facebook truly an addiction? Just as a smoker going cold turkey would have a helluva time making the case that they don’t pine for a smoke, so do many people claim they don’t need Facebook—that they use it by choice and that they could quit anytime they choose. There’s no patch for Facebook … yet. Facebook has more than 500 million active users who spend 700 billion minutes per month on the site. That’s 175 billion minutes per week, 25 billion per day. In one month, users spend the equivalent of 1.3 million years on the site. Per year: Closer to the equivalent 16 million years. Sobering. In his search for answers, Stich ventured to the University of TexasPan American library to stalk—find someone using the virtual vice. An inceptive glance around the second floor and no one, not a single soul could be found using the social networking site, to which he experienced a queer thought: Was his story bullshit? Finally, a stroke of fortune: Natalie Halcomb, an 18-year-old political science major was at the helm of one of UTPA’s many outdated and sluggish Microsoft Windows machines and open among her browser tabs sat her Facebook profile. He didn’t look to see how many friends she had or who she was busy chatting with before he had turned his recorder on and started asking her questions—half trying to dress his questions properly, half trying to keep his voice shallow as to not terrorize the other people in the area and half trying to draw in her answers. Don’t check the math, it doesn’t add up. “Actually, I do [have an addiction],” she admitted without the slightest hint of contriteness or hesitation. “I have it on my phone and I’m constantly checking it, even though my updates go straight to my phone. Just to see what’s on my news feed and if my updates weren’t working.” The young collegian, a wry smile on her face, knew her self-investment in the online community had, at times, reached ludicrous heights. Halcomb even recounted a time in her affair with Facebook where she substituted social networking for face-to-face social interaction. “There was this point where me and my best friend would

not even go out to get-togethers or parties,” she said. “We’d just stay on Facebook all night long. It really is a part of my life. I don’t think I could go without it. If the site shut down I’d have to go to tumblr or twitter or something. I’m really addicted to social networking.”


This article could’ve ended right now with a good case-inpoint, but Stich’s ambition bested him. He distributed a survey to random students around the UTPA campus in the hopes to shed light on a trend that seemed more and more to brim on social dysfunction. The survey was passed out to 63 individuals ranging from age 18 to 50 across the campus. Out of all surveys taken, four individuals (one who wished to remain anonymous) circled “No” when asked if they owned a Facebook. “I personally do not use Facebook, because I’m usually busy with so many things throughout the day. I feel that creating a Facebook and getting on Facebook would be a waste of my time and it would interfere with my daily schedule,” said Brumarky Sanderson (Stich’s pet name for the nameless individual he grew fond of sorting through the surveys). “I also personally believe that there is a lot of drama involved through Facebook and it does not catch my attention.” All of the rebellious audience had their reasons why they didn’t partake in eating the fruit, but “time,” “drama” and “privacy” were words that stood out among users and nonusers alike. “I think Facebook is a useful communication tool,” philosophy major Michael Flannigan said. “However, most people (including myself) lack the self control to use it solely for communication. Thus, it is used for a multitude of time-wasting activities. I would rather remove the temptation and restrict my communications to the more straightforward and personal modes of telephone and e-mail. I waste my time with enough things already.” The survey revealed that 37 percent of those people who use Facebook spent an average two-to-three hours a day on the site. Conversely, almost 36 percent spent less than one hour. Approximately eight percent of the surveyed spent one-to-two hours, while 19 percent spent four or more hours a day on the site. The most intriguing statistic was that 88 percent of the users surveyed said that they agreed that Facebook was addicting to others, while only 32 percent agreed that it was







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FACEBOOK FACTS 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20

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have BROKEN UP via facebook

use facebook to “HOOK UP”

photo TAGS



10 31% of facebookers say they are SINGLE

Facebook gives people an opportunity to express ideas, stay updated on other people’s lives and, at its core, gives the ability to promote oneself. “Everything is there … on Facebook now, everyone knows … it’s there on your homepage whether you want to know or not,” Halcomb said, not shying away from the voyeuristic nature of Facebook. “If I was standing in the middle of a crowd and I felt like screaming something, I personally would. A lot of people wouldn’t. So, that’s why, when they say things on Facebook, it’s like, ‘you wouldn’t say that in person,’ but I would because that’s my personality.” It’s social narcissism at its finest. In an age where people yearn to stay relevant, Facebook is the ultimate fix. A article published in April 2009, said, “a new study suggests that spending time with the online you -- the one with the hundreds of friends, the witty status updates and all the unflattering photos untagged -- might help your self-esteem.” So does ecstasy, temporarily. “On first gloss I would say [it’s] a convenient vehicle for egostroking. We are nearly as physically lazy as we are self-centered and vain, making this the ultimate in utilitarian technologies,” professor of communication Greg Selber chewed over. “Again, [it’s] a nice way to show off without the smell, mess, complication, accountability of real life … On the other side, it does give folks a chance to catch up with old friends who live far away. Of course, to me there is a decidedly egotistical component to that, too. It usually fizzles fast after you realize that 20 years is a universe—you don’t even know the guy anymore.” Kevin Stich doesn’t think people need Facebook to experience addictive narcissism. Kevin Stich just proved a person can do that on their own.


have more POSTS on wall




addicting to themselves. The other percentages (Eight percent and 22 percent, respectively) were “not sure.” Miguel Diaz-Barriga, a professor of anthropology at the University of Texas-Pan American agreed that predicting the propagation of Facebook would’ve been impossible, but that it is not at all surprising considering the nature of the thing. He blames consumerism. “One of the fundamental issues of our culture is the creation of community,” Barriga said. “I think that right now we’re in a highly consumer, market-driven culture that praises and fosters individualism. It puts our ability to consume as one of the highest markers of our personalities and individualities, and ultimately those things are not satisfied ... “It’s part of where our whole culture is going, where all aspects of our social life are being monitored and produced for us. Consumption becomes the main way that we interact with each other. So, I think that’s the larger problem and the Internet feeds into that.” During this particular interview the question wafted in the air: When does the responsibility fall on society to change the norms? “It’s already fallen on us,” he said. “Think about the constant adrenaline rush that teenage boys are getting playing video games. That has to be limited, that has to be moderated … That makes parenting harder. You’ve got to say to the kid, ‘You can’t be on the Internet and the TV combined for more than two hours a day.’”


// May2011


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n April 20, 2010, an explosion sunk British Petroleum’s oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, spilling millions of gallons of oil into the ocean and killing 11 workers. They were the first casualties of what’s being called the most devastating manmade disaster the U.S. has ever experienced. An estimated 260 million gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 long days. The world watched and waited as horrifying images of suffocated wildlife and flaming black waters looped on 24-hour news networks, even as BP attempted to downplay the severity of the situation. Over the next six months, BP changed its story more than once, pointed fingers, circumvented the Environmental Protection Agency and lied in congressional hearings. Our country, our government, trusted that BP had engineered all the equipment to meet the highest standards of safety. This is what was promised. Over the course of the spill

and its aftermath, it came to light that there was much more that BP was obfuscating. BP officials first reported the rate of the oil gush was about 1,000 barrels per day. On April 28, they changed that figure to 5,000 barrels a day. Six days later, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Chairman of Energy and Environment Subcommittee, briefed Congress on the spill. When Rep. Markey asked BP for an estimate of the worst-case-scenario flow rate, officials claimed a maximum estimated flow would be 60,000 barrels a day, with a average estimate of 40,000 barrels a day. Six weeks later, Rep. Markey released documents proving that BP had assumed flow-rate of at least 53,000 barrels a day. No matter what kind of expensive PR it’s painted with, it’s impossible to call that anything but a bald-faced lie. Former CEO Tony Hayward was burned in media effigy, stepping down from his position as facts continued to hammer at his rhetoric. This may have improved BP’s reputation in the short-

“WELL WHAT THEY WOULD DO, IF THEY HAD ANY SENSE, IS TEST THE SEAFOOD FOR A PARTICULAR CHEMICAL, OR DERIVATIVES OF THAT CHEMICAL AND SAY, ‘ALL THESE SHRIMP ARE CONTAMINATED, WE CAN’T EAT THESE.’” term, but it changed nothing for human or animal Gulf residents. BP arrived at their disturbing figure while calculating the ratio of dispersant to apply. Which brings us to the next offense: Corexit9500 is the name of the chemical dispersant BP is using to sink the oil to the bottom of the ocean. Dispersant is, in a way, a misnomer, because the fluid doesn’t decrease the oil—it sinks it. Corexit9500 does technically “disperse” the oil by making it into smaller droplets. But these droplets then sink the ocean floor, and pass through clean-up nets—they no longer float to the surface like oil. So why sink the very oil that so desperately needs cleaning up? BP is fined between $1,100 and $4,300 for every barrel that is recovered. The more expensive fine is for when gross negligence by BP can be proved. Using BP’s figure of 53, 000 barrels leaking per day, for 87 days at $1,100 per barrel over three months, the fine would be more than $5 billion. Is “unintentionally” deflating your calculations in such a way that benefits you and wounds the public considered “negligent?” If so, BP would have to pay $19.8 billion in addition to what they pay in individual claims, and the $20 billion they’ve already set aside to spend on the relief effort. The less


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they find, the better they fare. Dr. Hudson DeYoe, the director for the Center for Subtropical studies at the University of Texas-Pan American, is an ecologist studying environmental concerns in the lower Rio Grande Valley. DeYoe agrees. “If you can’t see it, then you can’t measure it, and you can’t charge us for it.” DeYoe rides a bicycle to school every day, his contribution to lowering America’s carbon footprint. He explains what he would have done, if he’d had the opportunity to help coordinate the Gulf relief effort. “I would have tried the dispersants in a pilot study. A friend of mine--a retired boat captain--volunteered his time to drive one of the skimmers. He said, ‘Well, when the oil was there in its native state without being messed with, the skimmers work pretty well. They pick up big blobs of the stuff, and it works. As soon as you put the dispersants in it, it just passes right through.’ The skimmers are ineffective-- they can’t clean it up.” DeYoe is the quintessential scientist. He is measured in his answers, careful not to sensationalize or theorize what could only be conjecture. The first indication of his frustration with the response is now, when asked what he would do if he had a say in the study of the effects of Corexit9500. He blows out

a breath and grips the arms of his chair. “Well what they would do, if they had any sense, is test the seafood for that particular chemical, or derivatives of that chemical and say, ‘all these shrimp are contaminated, we can’t eat these.’ I don’t know enough about the dispersant to say how it bio-magnifies through the food chain. What usually happens is things get absorbed at the microscopic level, and then the bigger things eat the little things, and it accumulates and increases in concentration. Though I’m not an expert in that field, what I have learned is that the dispersants seem to be as much of a problem as the oil itself. They didn’t use as much of course, but if it’s quite toxic, which it is, the impact could be,” he pauses, then lifts his head, “just as great, but in a different way.” DeYoe is correct, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On May 20, the EPA ordered BP to look for less toxic alternatives to Corexit9500, and later ordered them to stop spraying dispersants altogether, stating concerns about toxicity and long-term environmental damage. BP refused, despite acknowledging that there are five dispersants proven to be less toxic than Corexit9500. BP claimed they couldn’t wait for more dispersants to be made, and could not use other dispersants in their possession because not enough

SPILLED was known about their toxicity. It is valid to note that SeaBrat 4, the other dispersant BP possessed but refused to use, is a competitor’s product. A little over a month later, on June 30, the EPA issued a new study calling Corexit9500 “practically non-toxic.” BP used more dispersant than has ever been poured into U.S. waters, in the hundreds of thousands of gallons. What happened in those 41 days to completely change the EPA’s mind? The EPA, working with the U.S. Coast Guard, claims that it found that Corexit9500 is less toxic and less long-lasting than the oil—though they amended that by saying they couldn’t fully predict the results of using it in such unprecedented volume. Another pressing question is, why can a corporation simply refuse a government agency, and why was nothing done about it? BP and the EPA have remained mum on the subject. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Russian scientists have researched Corexit9500 and determined it is four times as toxic as the oil itself. These scientists also assert that BP’s motive for using Corexit9500 is to, “keep hidden from the American public the full, and tragic, extent of this leak.” Going even further, they report, “When combined with the heating Gulf of Mexico waters, its molecules will be able to ‘phase transition’ from their present liquid to a gaseous state, allowing them to be absorbed into clouds and allowing their release as ‘toxic rain’ upon all of Eastern North America.” These are the foregone conclusions asserted by independent scientists. Yet you would never know that for the optimistic picture BP paints. They have their own hired team of scientists assuring us that what’s been done can be undone, even as countless voices in the academic world say different. Every day we see the commercials ostensibly featuring cleanup officials who “were born and raised here in the Gulf,” and are dedicated to “setting things right.” BP knows that if they wait out this

disaster long enough, publicize the money they pay out and create enough picturesque photo ops, people will begin to forget. We have jobs, families, homework and lives—it’s practically inevitable. But our lives are the very reason we mustn’t forget, according to UTPA’s newest geology professor, Dr. Gwendolyn Rhodes, whose background is in the study of hydrology and the water cycle. She cares for all life, going so far as to say she doesn’t squash a bug so long as it isn’t hurting her. Yet when one expected her to rail against BP, she pointed the finger elsewhere. “The majority of the gas that we use, petroleum that we use, is for cars. So just keeping that one thing in mind, yeah, you can point your finger at big business, and the fact that they didn’t have these things under control,” she said. “But could it be that our demand for this product is so great, and they are doing what they can to get as much out of whatever they can to give us what we want? And in the process, they have failed us. Each one of us is complicit.” Time seemed to stop. Her expression was calm, but direct, intense. The unswayable stare of the scientist. “How dare you?” “UTPA students would never have let this happen.” “WE didn’t decide to use faulty equipment or subpar safety standards.” All these responses threatened to emerge. But her facts are irrefutable. “We, the U.S., represent about 5 percent of the world’s population. Yet we use 30 percent of the world’s resources. If you look at our ecological footprint, it’s one of the biggest that there is…What drives that footprint? The majority of it is the desire for oil… And then you have the corporation that has a system that is broken. Again I say, it is our choices. The choices we make,” she said. When people think of oil, they usually think of its eventual form, gasoline. But oil is in many things we use on an everyday basis. The ubiquitous water bottle, anything plastic, Styrofoam, laundry detergent, dish soap, lipstick,

nail polish, man-made clothing fibers, canned food (food additives come from petrochemicals), CDs and DVDs, to name just a few. So what’s the solution? “To me, the bottom line is lifestyle change. We all need to do it. I walk to school now, but I’m a driver. I think we have to make choices, and we can’t do everything. We have to do some one thing. The situation with oil is something that’s been ongoing, in our face, just a huge complex problem for us since at least the ‘70s. Forty years. And we just continue to do the same thing,” she said. “I think it’s ingrained in the culture that we have to be independent and live in our own little amniotic egg. ‘I don’t want to ride with anyone else, or do carpooling.’ And we put ourselves at a distance from our workplace, and the various conveniences we need. We rely on others to bring us food, to bring us everything…The less we exercise, and use our own energy, the more we create a footprint on this planet that is squishing everything underneath of it.” On Sept. 18, 2010 the well was declared “effectively dead,” nearly five months to the day after the explosion. Naturally, everyone was pleased to hear the spill was stopped, but no one celebrated, because we know that recovery is far from over. It isn’t just the road to cleaning up what we can of our oceans, and saving the remaining lives in that environment. It isn’t even just making sure that Gulf residents are given back what was taken from them. Until we, the U.S., and each one of us as its ambassadors, takes on the responsibility BP so eagerly gives up, these disasters are likely. Even inevitable. To get a better idea of what you are contributing to the problem and the solution, visit, which explains where we get all our ‘stuff’ and how that affects that world as a whole, politically and ecologically. You might change your mind about your bottled water habit, and you might change your world.





An undergraduate student enrolled in 12 hours at UTPA pays $2,517.23 per semester. This covers a $75 Recreation Center fee, a $30.00 Student Union fee, a $25.10 medical service fee, and a $33 library tech fee. It also covers utilities, student services, IT access, international education and registration fees—the highest of these fees being the $168. student services fee and the lowest being the $1international education fee. In order to understand the direction a student’s money takes, one must first understand how tuition and student fees are divided. STUDENT SERVICES MEDICAL SERVICE STUDENT UNION LIBRARY RECREATION CENTER





12 HRS






The next is the “designated” tuition, which is charged to all students. This tuition is one with a vast history behind it. Starting off as Building Use Fee (BUF), it was later renamed the General Use Fee (GUF) before the legislatures decided that since the fee was general in nature, it should become what is now known as the designated tuition. A considerable part of this tuition goes to the E&G fund group to handle a wide array of fundamental operating costs. The current rate for undergraduate students is $106.09 per semester credit hour. The rate will increase to $115.39 per semester credit hour this coming fall. The rate per semester credit hour for graduates is $4.70 more.


The third is graduate differential tuition. This tuition is a fee to graduate courses at a rate that will not exceed the statutory tuition. “This rate has gone up at UTPA (slower than at other institutions) over the years until it reached the cap so it is now at $50.00 per semester credit hour,” assistant vice president for Business Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez said.


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15 SCH


he list of fees and tuitions is a lengthy one, but they may have no meaning to the students of UTPA when their level of importance is not explained, yet the importance of these fees can vary to each person. “Parking permits goes into a fund that is used to assist the police department and for parking lot expansions,” Gonzalez explained. “One of the major payments made by all students is designated tuition. Designated tuition, along with other funds, go to pay for the core functions of the institution; faculty, academic support, accountants, physical plant personnel, etc.” Students often wonder how an athletics program

such as UTPA’s, that ostensibly lacks the support of a spirited student body, stays alive. Who funds this group of staff and students? “Athletics is funded from Student Service Fees as well as from ticket revenue, fundraising, game guarantees, corporate sponsorships, etc. It also receives a transfer from pledged auxiliaries (bookstore and food services) as well as receiving some of the funding that comes to UTPA from the Coca-Cola beverage contract,” Gonzalez revealed. “Tuition is not used for athletics and there is, as you probably know, no athletics fee.” An area of interest for every student concerns the UTPA bookstore. Every start to the semester brings up questions about the bookstore’s book prices that tend to leave student’s pockets in agonizing pain. Yet













9 SCH most students don’t exactly know where the money they are paying is going and whom it is they are paying it to. “The bookstore building belongs to UTPA but we have outsourced that operation to Follett,” Gonzalez clarified. “UTPA does receive revenue so a portion of the profit goes to Follett and a portion to UTPA.” The Follett Higher Education Group is in charge of managing the UTPA bookstore. According to Follett’s website, they are a proud family-owned business that has served for more than 130 years. They are the “nation’s leading academic retailer” and like to share their knowledge and experience with the public because after all, “[they] didn’t become this successful overnight.”

Leticia Benavides, Director of Auxiliary Services, explained (with the help of a visual aid) where each textbook dollar goes. The textbook wholesale cost, which includes the publisher’s paper, printing, editorial, general and administrative costs take 76.6¢ of each dollar. The college store personnel take 11¢ of each dollar. The college store operations, which are made up of insurance, utilities, maintenance, etc., take 7.3¢ of each dollar. The college store income and freight expense take 4¢ and 1.1¢ respectively.

¢ • 11¢ •



Complaining and questioning is understandable when the subject is money. Some might say it’s completely natural. As students, it is important to try to understand and know who we are giving our money to. It is important to understand just where our money goes. PanoramaMagazine \\






ISTORY TELLS US THAT THE PILGRIMS LANDED IN THE NEW WORLD JUST UNDER 400 YEARS AGO, IN 1620. IN THEIR FIRST-EVER LEGAL DOCUMENT, MAYFLOWER PASSENGERS AGREED TO WORK AS INDENTURED SERVANTS FOR SEVEN YEARS IN ORDER TO ESCAPE THE HORRORS OF ENGLAND’S RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION. WHAT WONDERS WOULD THESE, THE ORIGINAL IMMIGRANTS, CONCEIVE OF TO PROTECT FUTURE GENERATIONS OF DISENFRANCHISED MASSES? AS IT TURNS OUT, NOT A WHOLE LOT. Four hundred years have given their descendants enough time to decide they love their country too much to share it with just anybody. Once they ridded themselves of the natives, their descendants have since worked to create barriers that would prevent another Mayflower from ever arriving again. This was accomplished as over time, new, more complicated laws made it harder and harder to emigrate to the U.S. Though some politicians have spent their lives championing this cause, like Republican Sen. Larry Craig and Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy, the majority shy away from any discussion of immigration reform because it’s a hot-button issue. The most recent attempt at comprehensive reform was the DREAM Act bill being reintroduced in 2009, and reform is still the uphill battle it always was. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics make up nearly 37 percent of Texas’ population, yet the bill has been defeated repeatedly. The DREAM Act--the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act--would create a path for citizenship for any undocumented immigrant who was brought to the U.S. before they were 16. These minors would have to graduate from a U.S. high school, be of “good moral character,” have been here at least five years previous to the bill’s passage, and have no felony record. If they meet these criteria, they can qualify for citizenship by completing two years of higher education, or two years enlisted in military service. They must keep a clear record for six years as conditional residents. After that time, they would able to apply to have those conditions removed, become permanent residents, and continue the legal process for years down the road until they become citizens. Yet Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn both oppose the DREAM Act, even after it’s been amended with the revisions they claimed would make it acceptable, such as that it not increase the deficit. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office recently released a report stating the DREAM Act would actually bring in $2.3 billion in revenues. When President Obama was elected in 2008, it was on a platform touting, among other things, comprehensive immigration reform. 2010 was a rough year for those ideals. In April, Arizona passed what is considered the strictest and most controversial immigration bill in American history. Several of the measures in the bill left immigrants, Latinos, and reform proponents incensed—such as the new police power to detain those they “reasonably suspect” to


// May2011

be undocumented immigrants, which brought outcries of racial profiling. (How else are they deciding who “looks” American?) The bill also makes it mandatory for immigrants to carry their papers at all times—if they do not, they’ll be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. In a time when progressives were told they’d won the election, these policies seem to backpedal to the darkest times in history—specifically, Nazi Germany. But all is not lost, one student proudly proclaims. Jose Alex Garrido is a name you may have heard by now, in local news or on campus. Garrido is a senior at UTPA, and is one of 602 undocumented students at UTPA. He has chosen to use his delicate and dangerous position as an undocumented immigrant to become a microphone for thousands of others in his position.

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“You follow your parents, and you think they’ll make the best decisions for you. Maybe they thought I wasn’t mature enough to know—I don’t know. I was 18 years old.” Garrido is doing everything he can to spread awareness about the DREAM Act, from “coming out” as undocumented, to traveling to schools as a motivational speaker, to founding a non-profit organization that donates food and items to undocumented families living in poverty. This year, Garrido stepped down from his two-year position in the Student Government Association in order to fight for this cause fulltime. Because of its very nature, this issue doesn’t have many champions—people are afraid, and with good reason. The Monitor ran an article about Garrido and his DREAM Act rally, and printed his SGA resignation letter along with it-mistakenly publishing his full e-mail address in the process. The results left him shaken. “I received all kinds of threatening messages. The vast majority of them were along racial lines. ‘You freaking Mexicans. You should all go back to your country. You only make things worse for us, etc.’ But some others ones were, oh my God, things like ‘I know where you live, and I’m going to take care of you if you don’t stop doing what you’re doing.’ That was very shocking, because the guy actually put my address, and it was accurate. I was living in Mission back then. So I moved.” Garrido pauses with an audible sigh—he fingers the Om symbol around his neck—a Hindu symbol that represents the ultimate wholeness and unity of life. “It’s hard, because you don’t believe that these kind of people are able to live here, in a completely Hispanic community, that have so much hate against Hispanics. It’s like, ‘Okay, I think you’re living in the wrong place.’” Here’s a sample of the comments left under the article on page one alone: “So just round them up at the rally and send them back. Solved.” “…The problem with educating criminals is that you get educated criminals who do things like Enron, stock scams, become crooked lawyers, and crooked politicians…” “The Friday morning article should be ‘602 Illegal Aliens arrested at UTPA.’ This is another example of the federal government dropping the ball.” “’they advocate for social change,’ What the *#@!, an illegal alien criminal advocating for change in a country which is not theirs and in which they are in ILLEGALLY and broken our laws, Go home and advocate for change in Mexico where it’s REALLY needed.” The cold water dropped on these arguments is that Garrido was brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was 13 years old—against his wishes. He didn’t want to come to America, having heard many disturbing news reports of the abuses immigrants suffer here. It also meant leaving his school, his friends, family, culture and life. But his parents firmly believed this was the best course they could take, so they hired an attorney to help them make the transition legally. After pouring much of their limited funds into the process, one day they showed up for a meeting with the attorney at her office— Unlimited Solutions—only to find her gone and a For Sale sign in the window. As is the case for so many other immigrants, this attorney was a fraud. With little money and fewer options, Garrido’s family came anyway. Garrido quickly proved that despite not knowing English, he was an excellent student with a lot of drive. “When I came here, the first problem was of course, the


// May2011

language barrier,” he says. “But little by little I was able to move up to high school and I actually got very good. I got the hang of it, graduated top 10 percent of my class at Sharyland High School. I took advantage of AP courses and dual enrollment at STC, which is great considering the language barrier and all the other limitations.” With several college credits already under his belt, Garrido’s teachers were duly impressed, and encouraged him to apply to Ivy League universities. It was only when he began the process of filling out college applications that he discovered he didn’t have a Social Security number, or even know what that was. “So I talked to my parents, and they explained to me my situation, it was a complete disaster for me. I had no idea. When you’re a minor you don’t think about that stuff,” he says. “You follow your parents, and you think they’ll make the best decisions for you. Maybe they thought I wasn’t mature enough to know—I don’t know. I was 18 years old.” After this revelation, things quickly got worse for Garrido. “A few months after that, they deported my dad. Eventually my mom decided to go along. And well, ever since, I’ve been living here by myself, since 2007. It was too hard for [my mom]. Hispanic families are usually very close and she just couldn’t take it. My sister was born here in the U.S.—she’s with my mother. My brother is 13 years old, and he just got deportation orders a few months ago.” When he talks about the DREAM Act, even about the hate and anger it draws from some, Garrido is animated, bubbling over with power and enthusiasm. But when he speaks about his family, a quieter strength comes across. There is a melancholy about him, but his back is ramrod straight. He sighs. “You have to get used to it, because there’s nothing else you can do. You need to resign yourself to the circumstances and accept God’s will. And maybe that’s the way it’s going to be--the way it’s meant to be. In the very beginning, it was incredibly hard. I think it’s still hard, but it’s a different kind of circumstance now. Because I see myself with a very big future here in this country, and my family has resigned themselves to coming back here. My goal is to bring them back someday in the future.” Garrido insists that there is nothing about him that is more special or stronger than anyone else. He is just living by his principles. “I think that,” he pauses and takes a deep breath, “it comes to a point where fear of anything just becomes so pervasive in your mind, so oppressive to your psyche, that you become immune to that. It’s like, OK, I cannot live under this fear anymore. For me, it was a constant state of fear, every time I saw a Border Patrol car, or just the logo was enough to get my heart racing, I’d get dizzy, weird stuff. After so much of that, it came to a point where I thought, that’s it. Life is not about fear. Life is about understanding, acceptance, love, and doing the best you can. So that’s what I’m doing.” Garrido is double majoring in psychology and philosophy. He hopes, if his path to citizenship materializes, to become an immigration attorney and help others in his predicament. Further than that, his greatest aspiration is to work in politics, specifically in the realm of civil rights. “If the circumstances allow it, if I can eventually become a citizen--that is one thing I want to do. Because I


think the best way to contribute to this country is to work in the system, and trying to improve the system from the inside.” Politics would seem to suit him, because Garrido is unfailingly diplomatic. He speaks with measured tones, and pauses to take in every question before offering an answer. He doesn’t come off as an extremist. Often, too much passion can be interpreted as “crazy.” But he’s cultivated a very passionate, yet controlled exterior, which he would need to face the RGV Tea Party—a staunch opponent of the DREAM Act. “We have a Tea Party here in South Texas. I’ve been fortunate enough to talk to some members. And that’s one thing they realized, ‘You’re educated, you’re good with your words. You get your point across without invading my rights.’ “Because I think of course if that is your ideology-- that immigration is such a big issue, and it’s wrong in every sense--I’m not going to change your mind right away. But what I can do is help you see the full spectrum of immigration and you make your own decision. I’m not going to force you to believe anything. I’m not here to convince you that you need to support the DREAM Act. I’m here to tell you why it’s important, what it’s about, and how it will affect 602 students here at UTPA, and probably more in our community.” Garrido is speaking of a silent minority, some of whom he seeks to help with his nonprofit organization, The Peace House Alliance. He, along with other volunteers, brings food and supplies to poverty-stricken areas of the Valley, the colonias, where families struggle to get food on the table every single night. “I’m just here to tell you both sides. From one side, yes, we came here with undocumented status, and that is wrong under many statutes. However, we had no conscious control over it—it was under very specific circumstances—it was a particular instance. It was not a global instance, because we’re not doing this all over the world—it was a very specific circumstance, and we had absolutely no control over that.” Garrido insists that if people understood more about law and about the DREAM Act in particular, they would be in favor of it. He says that remaining in the dark is what breeds more fear toward undocumented immigrants. “I think the biggest problem of society is ignorance. And I think a lot of people who oppose this measure are very ignorant about the DREAM Act, and the circumstances, and the cases. Because how can you blame somebody for coming to the U.S. when they are minors? We had absolutely no say. We grew up here, learned the culture, and became completely assimilated, which is what a lot of people argue: ‘Oh, they’re coming here to change our way of living!’ We’re not! We are as American as any other person who attended the public schools here.” There is never a moment where Garrido loses his temper, or even comes close. But when he speaks about the stereotypes that dictate may people’s views of all undocumented immigrants, one can sense the slightest frustration bleeding through his resolve. “So, a lot of people are ignorant in that sense. They have a demonized idea about what undocumented students are. They call us ‘illegals.’ They say, ‘You committed a crime.’ Not really! I mean, coming here to the U.S. by talking in legal terms, is not a crime. And that’s something a lot of people have a hard time believing…There is criminal law, and there is civil law…you cannot go to prison for violating civil law. That’s why the ultimate punishment is to be sent back to Mexico.” Perhaps if he were a politician, the DREAM Act would have passed long ago. The bill was voted down in 2010 as part of a larger defense bill including a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It was short just four votes. On Nov. 16, President Obama and top Democrats promised that there would be another vote on the DREAM Act before the end of 2010. On Oct. 28, Garrido held another rally for the DREAM Act with a plan to release 602 white, biodegradable balloons—a symbolic ascension of undocumented students’ hopes. All the undocumented speakers except for Garrido pulled out at the last moment after receiving threatening calls and emails. Garrido, true to form, remains their beacon. And while the neopilgrims clutch their country to their chest, and insist “mine,” Garrido will continue to work for the mythical America whose arms are open to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. “These are the hopes and dreams of the 602 students at UTPA that want to contribute to this country,” he says as the crowd holds up their balloons. “Let us send a message to the community.” People of all ages, creeds and colors look on, some with smiles, some with banked fury, and some with tears. “It is not a crime to try your best, and it is not a crime to do whatever is in your reach to help yourself and to help other people.” The crowd releases the balloons with cheers and applause. Garrido watches the balloons rise until they are indistinguishable from stars. After passing in the House in December, 2010, the DREAM Act was defeated in the Senate in January. It was short just five votes that were needed to overcome a Republicanled filibuster. After graduating in December of last year, Garrido sent a message to DREAM Act supporters, informing them that he had no more time left in the U.S. He left them with one last request. “I wanted to inform you that I will be departing from the United States in around six months. I will not be able to continue fighting after that…My time has run out, but you guys still have time, you can still make a difference. Please help our community.”

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// May2011


These [volatile] quotes were taken from comments featured on themonitor. com. These quotes are completely unedited and in most cases are still available for viewing.






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// May2011





n infinite number of numbers + an infinite number of applications = endless possibilities. Professor Sean Lawton, 34, specializes in geometry and topology and has made an organization open to students for these subjects. The Experimental Algebra & Geometry Lab (EAGL) started in Maryland from where Lawton graduated. Last year, he brought it to the University of Texas-Pan American by making the lab for experimental algebra and geometry. “One component of that lab is outreach and what I hope to do is help inspire students early in time, students in high school, maybe middle school but also our students to take a second look at mathematics and try to see something that’s there, that maybe they don’t know exists,” said Lawton. Lawton wants to convey math in a new perspective to make students interested. “In particular, the artistic side of the subject, the creative side of it. I think that’s very much not emphasized in the curriculum. “When I was an undergraduate, I was actually a little more interested in physics and philosophy, but I thought physics was too hard and philosophy was too easy,” said Lawton. “I thought math was right in the middle.” His first job after graduation was helping out in the Academic Achievement Program. “[The program is] students that are elite, not accepted in other universities,” he explained. “They have to get good grades and go through the whole program and then they can get admitted to a university.” Lawton hopes to involve his organization in high schools by giving assemblies that will make the students interested in this subject. The details of the organization aren’t fully developed yet, as he said they’re waiting for finals to be over to start talking to high schools about it. He’s also still awaiting approval to be able to get started with it. He not only wants to convey the subject in high schools, he wants to spread his organization to other universities as well. Lawton tells people mathematics is beauty and truth. “It’s about ideas and many of these ideas can be expressed, at least heuristically, in alternative media,” he mused. “So the traditional way to express it in the most precise way—to really ascertain what’s true and what’s false—is through written or oral language.” Geometry and topology--the types of math that he is

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currently teaching--is the study of objects, what’s true and false with what you can draw on a piece of paper. With geometry, one can draw the shapes on a piece of paper and name it what the shape is. With topology, the shapes cannot be drawn because it consists of “the study of those properties of geometric forms that remain invariant under certain transformations, as bending or stretching,” according to Lawton’s definition of topology is, “the subject where we can consider figures the same—if they’re related to each other— by squishing them. Geometric figures are the same if we’re allowed to squish them. That’s why it’s squishy geometry but they’re not the same if one tears them or poke holes in them.” It’s only topology if the object is connected.

topology anymore because the object wasn’t connected. He touched the table and said it was flat, which is a geometrical rectangle; afterward he touched a globe, which is a geometrical sphere. He said that if one was to put an ant on the flat and spherical object, it could only go one way or the other (up and down or side to side), but with the clay and the sown yarn the ant can go any way it wants as long as the object stays connected, because the object is squishy and flexible. “Once one figures out what’s there, what’s true and false, one can come up with alternative molds to express these ideas that are more accessible and that’s what part of the goal is, to take some beautiful ideas in mathematics and represent them in ways that are accessible and more immediate,” said Lawton.

the wrong way. Such as “a square is a rectangle but not every rectangle is a square,” if this isn’t understood or it’s mentioned the wrong way he’s the man to explain it. Topology may be a hard subject to understand because of the small hidden rules, such as the squishy part but he does a good job in demonstrating what it means with his clay and yarn. He says anybody is welcome to join the organization, even if the subject is not of interest. The whole point of his organization is to try and make people interested in the subject; he is the recruiter for the organization and tries to advertise it in any way possible. As soon as his organization is completely approved he is going to start trying to recruit high school students mainly in the McAllen and Edinburg area.

“ONCE ONE FIGURES OUT WHAT’S THERE, WHAT’S TRUE AND FALSE, ONE CAN COME UP WITH ALTERNATIVE MOLDS TO EXPRESS THESE IDEAS THAT ARE MORE ACCESSIBLE AND THAT’S WHAT PART OF THE GOAL IS, TO TAKE SOME BEAUTIFUL IDEAS IN MATHEMATICS AND REPRESENT THEM IN WAYS THAT ARE ACCESSIBLE AND MORE IMMEDIATE.” Topology is a hard topic to understand, so when he was trying to explain and nothing was going through, he said maybe it’d be better going to the lab itself where he could demonstrate what he meant. Some examples that Lawton gave on topology were Play-Doh and squishy objects made of yarn. He stretched and bended the clay making it into anything that consisted of a shape but could easily be destroyed being as it is squishy material he was using for topology. He molded a donut with the clay and then made a single cut on it, claiming it wasn’t


// May2011

The only thing the organization has been approved for so far is for the lab across his office where they meet every Tuesday and Thursday between 4:15 and 5:30 p.m. or by appointment. His office is located in room 2.324 in the math building. There he meets with any student that wants to learn about the subject and has his sown yarn and clay to demonstrate what he means by topology. Lawton seems very passionate about the subjects he teaches; he will go straight into explanation about something that consists in this subject when mentioned

Lawton wants students from UTPA that are really interested in the subject to join him in the assemblies he is going to be doing. For now, he is just trying to recruit people to go to the lab on their meeting days to hear what he has to say about topology and the organization. “Mathematics needs being promoted as a weak spot in our society and I think part of it is that, I don’t think there’s enough inspiration—I don’t think students see the beauty in it early enough, if ever, and that’s what I’m trying to help students in with this organization.”

Irregularly good. PanoramaMagazine \\

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// May2011



roamed the enclosure: 1,200 pounds between them. Stripes sauntered fluidly across their bodies, swaying as they stalked. Two males, four females, their prowess in full bloom. Hungry. Nameless. “They’re not babies anymore,” the keeper said, staring poker-faced into the paddock. The promise of raw meat had inebriated the animals with hunger, sending them into a frenzy—they focused on nothing else. A few stood by the door, jumping, batting at the cage that separates them from their meal. The scene is Gladys Porter Zoo. These are their tigers. The solemn creatures were confiscated in June 2008 from a woman who was trying to sell the few-week-old cubs outside of a McAllen Wal-Mart. It’s rumored that the woman had permission to breed, not sell the tigers. It’s anyone’s guess how the woman came by the young felines, but for $4,000 to $6,000 apiece, it’s easy to guess her motive. Their enclosure is simple, sparse with grass, a pool that has seen better days and a few choice rocks that the giant cats can be caught licking affectionately on occasion—it’s the minerals. A couple of inches of glass are all that separate the prey and hunters from a meeting that has heavy odds in favor of the beast. Each of the big boys (and girls) will weigh more than 300 pounds before it’s all said and done. One can’t help but feel that a playful paw to the side of the head and it’d be over quickly—a round one knockout to be certain.

There are probably a good number of people out there, musing as they read this, “I’d get up close and personal with a tiger.” Those of us that say such things can’t claim bravery, nor brashness. For Joe Olmeda, he’s got to be bold every day, as he handles gorillas, big cats, hunting dogs and bears in addition to the tigers. That’s how he makes his living: Caring for the world’s most dangerous. For the rest of us, well, maybe we’re just stupid. A wide-eyed, dark complexioned and sturdy individual, Olmeda understands the consequences of handling one of the world’s most voracious hunters. One slip up often leads to the hefty payment of one’s life. “These are dangerous animals,” he said. “Every time you come out here, you’ve got to be real aware of where they’re at. That’s why every time I come here in the mornings I double check before I come out here [in the enclosure]. Every time, I count them out, I come back in to [prepare] go out in the area, then I go back and count them again. I don’t want to get messed up by one of these tigers.” Olmeda started as a groundskeeper, then applied for the tiger gig and after a three-month evaluation where the zoo observed how the brave handled the animals and himself while in the enclosure, he had the job. To him, the tigers are like family. “I take care of them. They’re my pets. I consider them my pets because I watch over them,” he said. “When they get sick, I gotta call the vets … It’s the same thing with all the animals here. Everyone cares about their animals.” Each tiger eats about 20-25 pounds of a chunk of meat coined a “Nebraska” every day in two separate feedings. And with each of them currently weighing in at just under 250 pounds, their hunger won’t struggle to keep up with the amount of food they’re served. Olmeda gets to see a different side to the giant cats—one the public doesn’t—especially when it comes to their meals. “[People] don’t know how the tiger’s act,” Olmeda said, gesturing toward the door inside the enclosure. “I know when they’re mad, when they’re not mad, when they’re just playing around. Out here they’re just playing around, but in there they get pissed.” Cynthia Caballero, public relations coordinator for the zoo, said there is no lack of awe when it comes to one of Gladys Porter’s premiere attractions. “I think that since they are so complex, and since they can be aggressive in the wild, when you come out and see them at the zoo they’re so up close and personal,” she said. “I think that any animal that you find out in the wild that’s on the verge of being extinct is always going to be a big attraction at any zoo.” Unfortunately, these tigers will not pass on their bloodline as the zoo neutered them due to their uncertain origins. As the six approach their third birthday, the community of keepers and patrons seemed to have embraced the streak of cats. Though they remain unnamed, they’ve found an identity and have come a long way from their days in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

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WRITTEN BY ERIK DE LA GARZA • SPECIAL TO PANORAMA fter strapping a harness on me, she hands me a helmet. “What’s this for,” I ask, half sarcastically, half not wanting to make her mad. “Don’t be a little girl,” Elena Salvatore, my belayer, shouted back to me. “People are watching.” As I lift my head up toward the soaring behemoth that towers above me, I realize I am literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“Use your legs!” Salvatore reminds me. I begin to pull myself up, right hand first and then left foot up, tightly grasping each tiny crevice along the so-called “easy” route. Climbing a rock wall is a daunting task to undertake without much training (a quick Google search on ‘how to climb a rock wall’ didn’t offer much help.) It is at this point, just near the 10-foot mark, that I begin to wonder exactly why seemingly sane people do this for fun. As the extreme sport of rock climbing has grown in popularity, the creation of rock walls have sprouted up in communities across the country. This is not a sport for the feint of heart to pursue, or little girls for that matter. Rising 35 feet above the ground, the rock wall at the University of Texas–Pan American inside the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex, is a Mecca for enthusiasts of the sport. It has also taken on an aura of mystique, as folklore surrounding a student injured after a 33-foot freefall, and the aftermath that followed, continue to swirl around campus more than a year later.

The Beginning

In March 2005, inside a stuffy committee room at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, a small delegation of student and university leaders from UTPA convened. The group was due to testify before the House Committee on Higher Education after 86 percent of the student body supported the idea of a Wellness and Recreation facility to be built at UTPA in a referendum election. The allocation of an estimated $26 million needed to fund the state-of-the art facility was in the hands of nine state representatives. “Any sort of fee increase is a big deal, but the students really showed that they wanted it,” Rep. Aaron Pena said to the committee on that spring day. The bill brought to the committee won passage, effectively spiking student service fees by an additional $75 per semester to fund the fitness complex. The goal at the preliminary design state was to make it a student-first facility, according to Nathan Schwarz, who served as President of the Student Government Association (SGA) from 2004-2005. “We wanted something big that would change student life at the university,” Schwarz recalled. After Schwarz and other members of SGA toured college campuses across the state, they began to formulate a design that would fit the needs of UTPA students and the surrounding community. Apart from the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, which is off limits to the general public, the nearest rock wall was located at the University of Texas at San Antonio. It was then decided that included in the 85,000 square foot facility would be a climbing rock wall. The idea behind the rock wall was to expose students to a unique sport not offered anyway else in the Rio Grande Valley, while challenging the physical and mental endurance of those brave enough to take on such a challenge. The sport of rock climbing, once seen only as an extreme sport on media such as the National Geographic channel, has exploded in popularity over the last decade. With over 80,000 climbs to date at the UTPA rock wall, the inherent risk associated with defying gravity up a 35-foot structure does not go unnoticed. Before suiting up, the rec center requires climbers to sign a lengthy waiver and release of liability from


// May2011

the university. After initialing and signing on the dotted line nine times, each participant agrees to release the university from “any cause of action, claims, or demands of any nature whatsoever, including but not limited to a claim of negligence on account of personal injury, property damage, death or accident of any kind.”

The Incident

Sept. 29, 2009 began as any ordinary day. With five harnesses laid out on the ground and the same number of helmets ready to be used, the routine of just another day at the office was upon Lamar De La Garza (no relation to the author), a two-year employee stationed at the rock wall. De La Garza remembers talking with a customer when she heard a scream from behind her. “When I first heard that scream, I thought a rope had broken, but they hold 25,000 pounds of force,” De La Garza said. “That didn’t seem right,” she insisted. “When I got closer, the climber was laying on the ground gasping for air because the air was knocked out of him,” De La Garza continued. That’s when De La Garza says she told her manager to call 911 and then placed her own call to her boss, Carlos Caceres. De La Garza then went back to the scene to determine what had happened. “The rope was intact. The anchor was fine,” De La Garza. “The ‘figure-eight,’ the knot climbers are tied in by, seemed to be at the start of the knot.” De La Garza told UTPA officers in the original police report, “It was either not tied properly, or was not tied at all.” The climber, Rolando Benavidez, then 21 and a Kingsville native, fell 33 feet after he successfully reached the top of the wall. Benavidez’s climber’s attendant, also known as a belayer, Eduardo Regalado, told responding UTPA officers that when Benavidez reached the top, he instructed him to let go. “He let go and came straight down,” Regalado says in the police report, “I looked down at my hand to see if I had let go, and it was still in my hand,” he stated. According to published reports in the Pan American newspaper, Benavidez was treated at the scene by paramedics


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and taken to the emergency room at McAllen Medical Center. He eventually spent 10 days at McAllen Medical before his family paid to have him transferred to the San Antonio Orthopedic Group Center, which specializes in injuries to the human body. Benavidez suffered a broken talus bone, a critical bone of the ankle joint that connects the leg and the foot. He underwent surgery to repair his ankle and other broken bones, requiring the use of rods and pins to hold the bones in place on his ankle. After taking a medical withdrawal from UTPA to recover from his injuries, with physical therapy taking center stage in his life for the past six months, Benavidez returned to UTPA. Although he signed a waiver as is university policy before his ill-fated climb, the apparent negligence on the part of his belayer, allowed Benavidez to pursue an out-of-court settlement. He ended up receiving the maximum amount of financial compensation the University of Texas system can award a plaintiff without going to court.

The Aftermath (Lessons Learned)

The day after the fall the rock wall stood silently, closed for business. There were no willing climbers or ready belayers beneath it. No helmets or harnesses set out. Instead, with questions still lingering regarding who or what was to blame, the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex launched an internal investigation of day-to-day policies. UTPA’s Environmental Health and Safety Department became involved, shutting down the rock wall for two days as operational procedures were reassessed and employees retrained. After consulting with other facilities on proper safety measures, a comprehensive restructuring of the belayer system was put into place. The changes needed to be implemented before the Environmental Health and Safety Department deemed the rock wall safe enough to reopen “They made a big deal, saying at least three people needed to be working at a time,” complained De La Garza, referring to one of the first measurements to be initiated. Since the figure-eight knot was at the center of the incident, the Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex required that at the very minimum, three employees must be scheduled to work at the same time. This would provide a sort of checks and balance system for the belayers, thought necessary to prevent human error. Now, after fastening a harness on a climber and tying the figure-eight knot, a second employee must then recheck the knot to ensure that, in fact, it is fastened correctly. Lining the floor is a thick material known as crash pad. A


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crash pad is used in the bouldering community to lower the risk of injury in the event of a fall, while raising the sense of security for the climber. It is layered with foam on the inside and covered by a nylon outer cover. The crash pad remained after the accident, but was covered by new blue mats, similar to those used for gymnastic exercises. The blue mats were placed directly under the landing of climbers, providing extra cushion (just in case.) Also added as a precaution, was the inclusion of daily logs that must be filled out, initialed and signed, by opening

“When I got closer, the climber was laying on the ground gasping for air because the air was knocked out of him.” as well as closing staff. The idea behind the new checklist was to provide specifications on inspections and observations required to take place. The detailed to-do list consists of everything from visually inspecting the wall and setting up top ropes, to cleaning crash pad area and even keeping the desk organized. Discussing the incident more than a year later, at the exact spot of the accident, De La Garza and Salvatore are both in agreement on the mistakes of that September day. When securing the rope and knot, they say Regalado claimed he had noticed Benavidez’ harness was too low, and needed some readjusting. He then went to loosen it in order to raise it above the climber’s waist. “That’s when he either lost his train of thought or forgot what he was doing and allowed the climber to go ahead and begin his climb, without securing the figure-eight knot,” Salvatore said.

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May 22, 2010 Harvey Milk Rally in front of the capitol building in Austin.

365 DAYS The “365 Days Project” is simply the idea of taking a photograph every day for an entire year. The following photos are from photographer Alma E. Hernandez’s personal portfolio.

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365 DAYS

[Right] March 15, 2011 Reflection in lens [Below] August 23, 2010 Brooklyn Bridge Park [Next Page] March 13, 2011 Street musician in Jackson Square.


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March 14, 2011 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, La.

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oyd Thomas has two lives. In the first one, he is a 25-year-old graphic design major at UTPA, enjoys drinking, spending time with his girlfriend and hanging out with his friends. His other life is a more exciting existence: Boyd Seth is a celebrity. He has run from pimps, been instructed in getting away with murder and has his face tattooed on a Russian man’s back. Boyd Seth is a competitive yo-yo player. “I did have a goal to set out with: I want to be known. I want to be famous, infamous, whichever it is.” The tale of two Boyds begins in 1998, when Thomas got his first yo-yo in eighth grade. The Hermiston, Ore. native lost it, then found it years later as a senior in high school. He learned simple tricks like Around the World and Walk the Dog – stuff that those of us who can’t yo-yo find impressive, but at which competitive players scoff. Then in 2003, a friend was shipped off to the war in Iraq. “I just thought there’s nothing to do there. Just sand. So here’s a yo-yo. Then later, I was like, ‘Man, I really miss that yoyo. I should look for one.’ So I looked it up online. I remember seeing yo-yos for $40 or $50. I didn’t understand it. So I’d look around my town up there, and couldn’t find anything. Researched online, no luck. So I walk into this toy shop one day, and they told me, ‘There’s this guy who keeps coming in here trying to sell us yo-yos—here’s his number.’ So I called the guy, John Bozung, and he told me he had a club at a store with like three or four kids, and I saw him do this trick I’d never seen before called Boingy Boingy, and I was just hooked.”


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Seth stands up and pulls a hot pink yo-yo out of his pocket. With a simple, “Like this,” he deftly throws the yo-yo down and out, then flips it up over his arm, catching a loop, bouncing the yo-yo back and forth between the strings. To someone who was never quite able to even get the yo-yo back up off the ground, this is extraordinary. “He taught me how to do the sport ladder for competition. There’s freestyle and there’s sport ladder. There’s a list of 25 tricks. It starts with a Sleeper, a Breakaway, and goes all the way to more advanced tricks. You hit the first trick, you move on to the next. And I did that for a bit; I was pretty good at it. I thought, ‘I should just learn how to freestyle.’ So at that point, I started teaching myself. I didn’t want to watch videos, because, well, I had dial-up for one, but also I didn’t like the idea because I’d be learning their tricks, not my tricks.” Without realizing it, Thomas had found his mentor. Throughout the year, Thomas practiced up to eight hours a day. He met Bozung in 2003, and by 2004, he was tagging along on Bozung’s trip to Nationals. “He was going to Nationals, and he was going to win. So he was just like, ‘Hey, you couple of kids,’—‘cause he’s like 50 or 60--he said, ‘do you guys want to come along and have some fun?’ I think he felt, ‘Hey, I drove you down here, you should give it a chance to compete.’ But it was my first contest— I’d really only practiced a couple of months. I couldn’t even do all the tricks at that point.” Thomas competed in the sport ladder division, and got 12th place in his age group after only one year of practice. But he felt this wasn’t enough of an accomplishment. This is when Boyd Thomas became Boyd Seth. “Sport ladder just wasn’t really respected— you still suck because you’re not doing freestyle. After that, I started competing in ’05. I went to a bunch of contests, probably six or seven. And in ’06, there was a new company starting up that wanted me to test out their yo-yos. So I gave them some advice to make it better, and then I was put on the team--the first person on their team, and I’ve helped that company grow, and I’ve been growing with that company. Caribou Lodge Yo-yo Works (CLYW.)” Since 2005, Seth has placed in many competitions. To name a few: he placed first ’05 at the Idaho State Contest, was first in the Inland Empire Challenge in ’05 and ’06, took second and first place in ’07 at the Pacific Northwest regional and Pacific Northwest contests respectively, and took first again in Texas States Competition in ’06 and ’08. On Team CLYW (pronounced “clue,”) Seth hasn’t just won contests. He was also commissioned to design and build his own limited edition, signature yo-yo. He named it Bear vs. Man. “Names used to be like, ‘The Hit Man,’ ‘The Dark Magic,’ ‘The Shockwave,’ and I didn’t want any of that. So Bear vs.

Man, ‘cause they didn’t want to go with ‘Bitch Slayer’ or ‘The Last Cup of Absinthe.’ That happened in January ’07, I think. I got five bucks a yo-yo for every one they sold, which is pretty cool.” His yo-yos sold out quickly. He also starred in a DVD called “Boyd vs. Augie,” featuring the two competitors wandering the streets, using their surroundings to outdo one another at tricks. This is the parkour of yo-yoing. You can find clips on “It paid the rent for a few months! I hit another one of my goals too—my face became the logo for they yo-yo company for a bit. There was a big contest in New York City, and my face was on this billboard, like 20 feet by 20 feet, and I was just like, ‘wow.’” His girlfriend Katelyn Rose Garcia, another competitive yo-yoer interjects, “Someone in Russia got his face tattooed on his back.” Seth interjects to fill in the details. “It was funny, because my friend sent me the link to the picture, and I was on Dallas transit with my friend Yuki Spencer, multiple world and national champion, and my friend Miguel Correo, four-time national champion. Great players—I’m not as good as they are. They put in a lot of effort and time. They’ve been yoyoing for like 14 or 15 years. But I just held up my cell phone and said, ‘Yeah, but do you have your face tattooed on anyone? We’re even.’ Seth didn’t get his sponsorships just because of his yo-yo skills. His style and personality play a big role. Before he was sponsored, he took Greyhound buses to every competition, traveling for hours or even days. At one competition, he remembers having only $60 in his pocket; he slept under the stage because he couldn’t afford a motel room. But he wouldn’t give up those days because they are the reason for some of his favorite adventures. His girlfriend shared many of those escapades with Seth traveling to and from competitions. “Well, I graduated in May, and he came up to Phoenix, and we were going to drive down here so I could live with Boyd. And I had just gotten a new car like a month before, and it was supposed to be an 18-hour drive. It took a week because my car kept breaking down.” “Every three or four hours!” “The first place was this creepy, old town,” Garcia begins ominously. “In the middle of the night!” Seth interjects. “Yeah, it was really scary.” “Yeah, the hotel was pretty fucking scary,” Seth agrees. “The window had this big crack in it covered with,” “Duct tape!” They shout together. “And the bed was HUGE, like four king-sized beds put together,” Garcia continues. “I guess it was one of those middle-of-nowhere town orgy






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YO-YOS beds,” Seth muses. “Everything in the town was broken down, except for the hotel, the auto store and a truck stop.” “But,” Seth points out optimistically, “there was an Arby’s.” “A couple days later, when we were back on the road, it broke down again, and we got towed. And this crazy, crazy tow truck driver was just telling us how to do cocaine, how to do it right, how to kill people!” Garcia is still visibly disturbed by the event, though she’s laughing. Seth amends, “No it was how to smuggle drugs. How to smuggle drugs and how to kill people and get away with it…” “How to rob a bank! He told us how he and his friend robbed a bank, and how he got shot. He had this big coke nail, and it was gross.” “I don’t remember if he showed us his gun, but he had a gun in the car. I think his name was Terry. Terry the drug smuggling, bank robbing, murderer.” Seth recalls amiably. On another occasion, Seth decided it would be fun to tease a pimp, which resulted in a chase ending with Seth narrowly escaping. Soon after, he attempted to bring down a Storm Trooper. “Last August I got really drunk and rowdy, and at World Contest there was a Star Wars Convention across the street, and a couple of them were staying at our hotel. And I saw this drunken storm trooper, dressed EXACTLY like the movie. And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a storm trooper! …Should I go fuck him up?’ So I run at him, jump in the air to elbow-drop

him—and he passes out drunk right before I get to him. So it throws me off and I land on my ankle. I sprained it really badly and didn’t go to the hospital ‘til about two weeks later, and it didn’t start to feel normal until about a month ago. It was stupid. But come on, when are you going to get a chance to do that? There’s a picture of it somewhere…” This tale pretty much sums up the way Seth approaches life. His endgame is always adventure, an experience, rather than a medal, though he’s had plenty of both, having placed first and second multiple times at many contests. This year, his team is slated for a tour of Europe and Russia (whether he’ll meet the tattooed fan is anyone’s guess.) He also hopes to compete contests in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis. “I’m a rabble rouser. It could be ‘cause I’m bored, it could be like half yo-yo personality. There was a time when I was really fucked up all the time, and I was thinking about myself and thought, ‘I’m losing control.’ I’m more cohesive now, but there was a time when I’d be at home just bored and introverted, then I’d go out to a contest and be rowdy and loud. There were two years where I was just bad.” Since then, Seth has continued competing with bravado, but he’s not taking on as many pimps and murderers as he used to. Dare we ask if he is…slowing down? “It’s better now. I hate it though, when Katelyn or other people say, ‘Oh Boyd, you’ve chilled out a lot.’ When I hear that, it makes me want to be rowdier, like ‘No I’m not! Where’s a 40 and a burrito?’”

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eople worry too much about other people’s lives and forget about their own. I like living my life to the fullest. I don’t worry about who’s doing what or what people are saying about me--I only care about being happy and living my life. It all started when I stayed with my cousin during Christmas vacation. It was my first vacation without my parents. I didn’t want to stay at their place so I asked my cousin to let me stay over at his apartment for a month and he agreed. Across from his apartment lived a married couple with kids. One time when I went out to throw away the trash, they were lounging outside, having a BBQ and drinking with some friends. They called out and asked me if I wanted a beer. I said sure, and the talking, laughing and familiarizing began. After that, they kept calling me over to their place to play poker with them and some friends. I went several times. Then I got a call late (or early, however you prefer) around two or three in the morning. They had gone out to a strip club

case, I am bisexual and like having sex with girls. My husband gave me the liberty of having sex with women and I gave him the liberty of joining us whenever he pleased. Some people may think this isn’t monogamy--that’s why they wouldn’t like the sound of “open marriage.” This is monogamy; we practice our regular marriage too, but whenever we have a chance to get a pretty girl, we take it. I came out of the closet when I was 15 years old, around the same time a male cousin of mine did too. We both claimed to be bisexual for a while until he said he didn’t enjoy being with women that much, so his new sexual orientation was now gay. I liked being with both; I couldn’t decide. Some people were saying there is no such thing as bisexuality--you have to go either way. I contradict that very much. I am bisexual, therefore, there is such a thing. I was getting hurt too much by men, so the alternative was to bat for the other team. Plus, women’s figures had always attracted me. It’s incredible how we can grow breasts and men


OF JOINING US WHENEVER HE PLEASED. and came back drunk. I headed over because I was awake and two or three wasn’t really that late for me anyway. I had my first threesome with them: a married couple. They seemed to be handling the whole thing well because they mentioned having done it many times before with strippers and they were still together after many years of marriage. So, the idea of doing the same thing came to me. I wanted to marry a man because I want to have kids one day, but I also like being with women sexually. I am a liberal. I like practicing an open marriage with my husband. An open marriage is when either or of the spouses, or both, have sex with people outside the matrimony. In our


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can’t … unless they have a lot of blubber underneath to go with them. My preference has always been petite girls, maybe because of how big and masculine I look… it’s the broad shoulders. I dress feminine, but I act sort of mannish most of the time. Of course, I was always the man in the relationships with girls because of my mannish character. I was a sweetheart to them. I was being the way I’d hoped guys would be with me. I liked those relationships, there was a lot of respect and communication; but I started thinking, I want to have a family, I want to get married, do I really want to stay with a girl? I soon realized that my relationships with women were just flings. I was being a sweetheart to them, I would buy them what they



wanted, and I was usually the one receiving head. I was just having fun with them; I needed time away from men for a while, so I took refuge in girls who had experienced the same anguish as me. I’m sure they didn’t complain. When I told my husband that I was bisexual his reaction was, “Oh, I’ve had a girlfriend who was bisexual before.” He obviously didn’t seem to mind. Surprisingly, some men do. Later on in the relationship, I suggested a threesome and of course he was all for it. We had been invited to a friend’s birthday party around the same time and that’s when we had our first “messing around” with a girl together. It didn’t continue to sex unfortunately, she said something about betraying her boyfriend--who knew she was taken? She didn’t seem to mind accompanying us to our car. Our first real threesome was when we were legally married—a friend of ours, actually. It happened twice. She had a girlfriend of her own so the fling didn’t go on forever. We tried finding other girls who were into threesomes with married couples, but there don’t seem to be many. We even tried making a Myspace. com account especially for that: getting girls—and we did get a few of them who would

trade pictures, but never anything more. Some gave us their email addresses, others their cell phone numbers. We tried seducing the girls in a comfortable manner to make them accept the invitation of coming over, but they all always had excuses. So, we’ve only gotten lucky a few times, but we’re hoping there will still be more. We don’t have any kids right now, so we’re enjoying every bit of our marriage while it’s still just us. We might have enough fun during all this time with our open marriage, but if the kids do come along and we still have chances to get pretty, petite girls, we’re taking them. The kids don’t have to find out-we’ll be decent enough to rent a motel room and it’ll be like it never happened for them. In the case of the married couple I was involved with before I was married, their kids were sleeping at 2 a.m., so it was okay for them to bring a girl in. I’m sure there are many people who may think that an open marriage is a poisoned marriage, so here is the antidote to open matrimony: trust. The one true remedy for this ordeal. We never talk to anyone else in any kind of flirty or sexual way. We are faithful to each other and only have sex with girls together. It’s not cheating if we both agree to do it. In all of the encounters we’ve had so far, we were intoxicated with something. We just do it for fun and for pleasure. This is spicing up our marriage to us. We know we’re never going to see those girls again, even the “friend” we had. She wasn’t really a friend, just someone we’d hang out with sometimes. We never really saw her again after her girlfriend came back from her trip, unless you count the distance “seeing” since we live in the same apartment complex. Our marriage is still as alive as it was the first two weeks of our relationship. We rarely argue and if we do we reconcile five minutes later—true story. We can’t be away from each other for more than five minutes--the time that he’s at work and I’m at school, we live in agony. I like the relationship we have; we actually have a lot of respect for each other and we communicate very well too. I may be mannish, but he’s got a little femininity in him—that’s where the respect and communication comes from. We fit very well for each other: I’m a mannish woman and he’s a feminine man. We have a superb connection, and no matter how many girls we may have sex with together, they’re just flings and the only people we want to spend the rest of our lives with is each other.

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he’s played in the NBA, and so everything he tells us I try to

When Rodrick Rhodes was a young basketball player, he preferred the coaches who were positive toward him, rather than punitive. Rhodes, 37, a former NBA player who marked his second year as UTPA men’s assistant basketball coach, said that as a mentor to the players he must maintain an encouraging disposition. “I’m not only in this for coaching,” he explained. “I want to be a teacher of life to these young guys. I want to give them my stories, try to stop them from going down the wrong path, try to enlighten them.” And while the Broncs finished with a 6-25 season, the players display confidence in Rhodes’ coaching techniques and express that they can go to him for player-to-player advice. “He was a player in the NBA, so I have a lot of respect for him, not only as a player, but as a coach,” said Ruben Cabrera, forward on the UTPA men’s basketball team and sophomore biology major. “He’s been there. He’s played with great teams,

Post-injury, he played with the Dallas Mavericks in 1999 for two 10day contracts, which he describes as the “beginning of the end” of his career. After the Mavericks, Rhodes began playing overseas, first in Greece and then with the Philippines Basketball Association. Rhodes said that the change was detrimental and began to rethink his decision. “I went from the NBA to the PBA. I think I’m going backwards here,” recollected Rhodes. “I decided once I played in the Philippines that it was time for me to give it up and start a different career.” After leaving the PBA, Rhodes made the decision to continue his career in basketball, not as a player, but as a coach. His first coaching gig came in 2003 at St. Edward’s University as a men’s basketball volunteer coach under the guise of head coach Ryan Marks. Marks made a deal with Rhodes that

use to my advantage.” After graduating from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in history, Rhodes was 24th pick in the first round of the 1997 NBA draft for the Houston Rockets. “It was something I pursued my whole life once I picked up a basketball,” Rhodes, a native of Jersey City, NJ, said. “It was a moment that I’ll never forget. Hard work does pay off and dreams do come true.” As Rhodes recollected his memories of his first game with the Houston Rockets, a huge smile stretched across his face. “I was very scared,” Rhodes said with a laugh, recalling his first night on a professional court, “nervous and excited! I felt like ‘I’m here!’ and I want to put my talent against the best talent in the world and that’s what the NBA gives you the opportunity to do. I was nervous, but eager to see how my talent matched up with everyone else in the NBA.” Rhodes continued to elaborate on some of the high points in his NBA career and shared his “Michael Jordan story.” “It was my first game ever against Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls and the night before I’m just a nervous wreck. I can’t eat, can’t sleep, because I’m worried about Michael Jordan,” recollected Rhodes with excitement in his voice. “I get to the game and I have my best scoring game in the NBA against Michael Jordan. I had 16 points.” Rhodes recalled that during a post-game interview, he was asked about how he felt about his first game against Michael Jordan. “And I said this with a serious face, ‘I thought I did well … He’s an excellent player. I thought I played him well.’ “’Interesting. Rodrick, did you know that he was five points away from 50 points tonight?’ “‘What? He had 45 points against me?’ It goes to show you the greatness of Michael Jordan,” Rhodes said. A training injury sidelined Rhodes for more than eight months, and after he got back in the game, Rhodes was traded to the Vancouver Grizzlies (now the Memphis Grizzlies) for a year in 1998, and then was traded to the Orlando Magic where he was bought out of his contract and became a free agent.

if he volunteered on his team, he’d make sure to find him a job somewhere as a Division I basketball coach. After a year, Marks kept his word and Rhodes moved on to become an assistant coach at Idaho State University. After a year, he made his way to the University of Massachusetts as an administrative assistant; he then continued that title with Seton Hall University in 2008. In 2009, Marks became head coach for the UTPA men’s basketball team and gave Rhodes a call and offered him a full-time position as an assistant coach. “I was fortunate that when I was hired here, I had the opportunity to hire Coach Rhodes because we had worked together before, actually, when he was kind of making the transition from his playing career into coaching,” Marks recalled. “For me particularly, to be able to bring someone on of his caliber that had a knowledge of how I wanted to coach and how I wanted to build a

program was very fortunate.” Rhodes agreed without hesitation and reunited with Marks. “I enjoyed working for Coach Marks. He’s a great guy on and off the court, so for me it was a no brainer. I said ‘absolutely,’” Rhodes yelled from across his office into Marks’. Rhodes explained that after his injury and the decline of his NBA career, he came to the realization that “it’s over.” “That’s hard for any athlete to ever say,” he noted. “Your whole life, you’ve been identified as a basketball player and now that no longer exists.” Although he often found himself wondering, “what could’ve been,” he conveyed his acceptance of the situation that changed his future and the contentment he feels for where he is now. “You come to this crossroad in your life when you realize that your dream is over, your career is over, and now it’s just time to move on,” he said.

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Hey, it Ryhmes with ‘The Orange’


Lesser-known critics call Panorama magazine ‘unsophisticated’; renowned critics say the exact same shit



n what has not been marked as the scandal of 2011, recent Pacemaker award winners Panorama magazine have come under harsh scrutiny after everyone realized at the exact same moment that the publication—a magazine the group put their heart and souls into—sucks. The University of Texas-Pan American student-magazine editors Daniel Flores, Joshua Garza, Santa Hernandez and Kevin Stich, are said to have violated several university policies including “suckage,” “not owning,” “excessive suckage,” and “stupid-headiness.” After receiving some initial buzz and daresay “acclaim” the magazine fell short of expectations after it won the country’s most prestigious collegiate journalism award and placed fifth best in show at the Associated Collegiate Press convention in Louisville, Ky. A female faculty member close to UTPA president Robert Nelsen, who wished to remain anonymous, had much to say on the issue. “Shit sucks; shit’s weak,” she said, flipping through the pages of the book. “Shiiiiit’s weak… It sucks.” She then proceeded to throw the magazine on the ground, faking it out several times, then fist pounding her chest, followed by several orated explosion sounds, as well as hand gestures supplementing the explosion sounds

and finally yelled, “THIS IS MY HOUSE! MY HOUSE, MOTHERFUCKER! FINISHER!” while stomping it into oblivion. Others around campus, those lesser known and lower on the totem, had similar opinions, criticizing the overall content, photography and design layout of the magazine. “Is this—is this crayon? This is crayon, isn’t it?” said Cameron Shootingstarry pulling out a knife and cutting a small slit in the cover. “This is crayon—(tasting his finger)—not even Crayola. This is low quality stuff… Yeah no, this—this sucks.” However, there is a positive side to this recent realization as many activist groups (one) have sprung to the aid of the student publication, offering more than criticism. “In a situation like this—that is, when you have people who are this mentally handicapped—you have to show all the compassion you can. They’re stupid, they can’t help it,” said Gus Gahootensteinschmidt, the recently appointed chairman of the Stupid for Stupids Foundation. “Take that one over there (pointing to Garza), that boy is just simple— special if you will. He’ll be the first one we look after.” Gahootenschmidt then shot the young female with a water buffalo tranquilizer and sprinted after the rest of the fleeing group. 72

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The Orange | 2011

JESUS CHRIST: ALL-TIME QB Ancient scrolls lead researchers to believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth was all-time quarterback among his apostles BY_MAD DESPERADO

Son of a virgin, washboard abs, mad head of hair. Died for our sins, gun for an arm, calm in the pocket. Tom Brady? One might think so, however, these descriptions actually describe a lesser-known fellow who went by the name of Jesus Christ some time just over 2,000 years ago. In January 2010, scrolls were discovered in a cave 20 miles east of the Dead Sea that researchers now believe to be indicative that Christ was indeed a superb quarterback. The scrolls proclaim that the Nazarene native was in fact all-time quarterback during pick-up games of foot-

ball—or as the ancient Jews called it: Football. New evidence suggests that Christ could have hurled ancient footballs 60 yards—on the run, according to scouting reports. The scrolls have consequently caused researchers to call into question many other formerly interpreted scriptures. Gary Furreal of the Researchers of Old Scrolls and Shit Organization now believes that INRI does not read “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” but instead reads, “Jesus the Nazarene, Pocket Passer.” Thrilling. NOTE: Christ’s 40-time was unoficially 4.68.

PIE GRAPH TIME: ACTIN’ LIKE A DAMN TRICK Recent survey reveals 62 percent of best friends seriously acted like a total bitch last night, dude 74

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BAR GRAPH TIME: UTPA FINANCES Broken down We did things to get our hands on this graph. Naughty things. Enjoy.


BY_ANGEL SPOUT University of Texas-Pan American athletic director Chris King will now play every position, in every sport according to a press release Friday by the university’s athletic department. “Mr. King brings his talents from the office to the courts, fields, diamond, course and track,” the statement said. “It is in our best interest to let him compete in all sports and own up anyone who dares to challenge The King.”

This decision comes after the entire student-athlete body decided to take time off to “focus on academics.” King expects fan attendance to go up 87 percent during his time a the country’s only all-sport, all-position athlete. King has been seen donning a Bronc letterman around campus as he acts like he’s shooting a basketball while fading away, then subsequently acts like he’s hitting a baseball, following it by pretending he’s throwing a football. 76

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The Orange | 2011

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the border


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ullets penetrated the otherwise ordinary ambiance of a soccer game between Our Lady of the Lake and Huston Tillotson on the afternoon of Nov. 5 at the University of Texas Brownsville. The sounds came from what became a daylong gun battle between the Mexican army and its military. The UTB campus is a block away. Twenty-five people were killed on the Mexican side, including a cartel leader. No done was injured at UTB, but the campus was closed for two days as a precaution. Clarissa Gomez, a UTB/TSC dual enrollment student, worries about what could happen if the cartel violence spilled onto the campus. “I was talking about it with my mom in the car. She fears that maybe one day that all the things that are happening in Mexico, that the border patrol and the Mexicans, that their support system won’t be able to hold them. And they’re just going to come over here- and since we’re not even three minutes away, she fears that that they’re just going to come over here and we’ll be the first ones,” said Gomez. “[The university] hasn’t made an initiative to prepare us just in case something like this was to happen. I guess the university doesn’t think that it would happen.” Dr. Tony Zavaleta is the director of the Texas Center for Border and Transnational Studies at UTB/TSC and has presented his findings on border violence and its effects on South Texas at several conferences. Zavaleta defines a spillover as any effect on both Mexico and the United States that results from the violent related activities or events from Mexico. Zavaleta said that the national, international, and local media outlets misuse the term. “For them spillover is violence. And the point I’m trying to make is that that’s not the case at all—that spillover means many, many more things,” Zavaleta said. “For example, if Mexican nationals flee from Monterrey, which they are, and they are investing their money in McAllen, which they are, and buying cars, and warehouses, and establishing businesses and properties, that’s spillover.” The university may not base its security policy on the prospect that a violent spillover would occur on campus, but the university does show a concern for the safety of its students amidst the rise in violence across the border. In an article published in the Valley Morning Star, UTB/TSC police chief John Cardoza said that the campus police department is “always on high alert” and their priority is “to keep our students safe.” UTB/TSC has taken measures to keep students safe including a personal-safety training that was organized in September. The university encouraged resident assistants and


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employees to attend, though the training was not open to the general student population. “They should make it mandatory for students to go to at least one drill so that they can have an idea of what to do just in case something like that were to happen. I would go to a [safety] workshop or something—I would benefit from that,” Gomez said. A survey conducted by Panorama magazine showed that 45 percent of UTB/TSC students feel safe from border violence on campus and 41 percent agreed that law enforcement is doing an adequate job protecting Americans from cartel violence. The campus is only a block away from the Gateway International Bridge, which leads to Matamoros, but this bridge does not go unprotected. Not everyone on campus worries about violence from Mexico. Ainslie Brodie, 18, is a UTB/TSC women’s soccer player and dorm resident from Ontario, Canada. “There’s cops and Border Patrol everywhere. Every time I go outside I see at least one going up and down the border line or going around campus,” Brodie said. Emily Michna, a goalkeeper for the Scorpions soccer team agreed with her teammate. “The other night when one of the really bad ones [shootings in Matamoros] happened there were like 20 cop cars in our [dorm] parking lot alone. They know where to protect,” said Michna. Prior to the November shootout, students, faculty and staff were notified of campus emergencies with phone calls, e-mails and pop-up computer messages. Since then, the university has added text messaging to the alert system. Zavaleta said the implementation of the information systems and training at UTB/TSC has prepared students, staff, and faculty; although he points out that preparing the campus population is an ongoing task. “We’re located so close to the border, and since we’ve had a number of different incidents occur right across the border, with bullets flying to our campus. [Training is] ongoing, the training of students is not a one time thing because in the spring semester many of the students will be different; there’ll be different and new students who have got to be reminded of what to do. So we have a system that alerts, our cell phones, our computers, our desktops,” Zavaleta said. “And we have a huge loudspeaker system, and believe me, it is loud, and you can hear it. I questioned it- and when it came on inside my building from my desk I could hear it clearly, that it was a test. So I think that in the last year, during the beginning of last spring up until today, there’s been an awful lot of training at UTB and that continues.” The university has also published tips to stay safe and has stopped student travel to Mexico, but their message may be


hard to hear beyond campus. A 19 year-old education major at UTB/TSC, Magaly Gutierrez, said she and her family still travel to Mexico to visit family though they take precautions when they travel and advise their loved ones to take extra measures as well. “We tell my brother to try not to use really nice trucks— they take those right away—like when my family and I travel to Monterrey to visit my brother we normally take a small car,” Gutierrez said. “You have to be really careful and know what you’re doing once you’re over there.” UTB/TSC student Jonathon William Torres Cazares, who

“If ‘x’ were to happen, what happens to us? What do we do? Are you going to train us? Are you going to provide us with information on how to survive a violent spillover? I think those questions have not been asked enough. What happens if the violence occurs? We get into the blame game and the finger pointing and I would prefer that not happen,” Zavaleta said. At the time, 2010 looked bleak. But reports on Mexico’s war on drugs have changed their tone. Mexico has reported that their efforts to gain control of the violence seemed to work toward the end of the year. National security spokesman for Mexico, Alejandro Poire, told CNN that the overall death toll

“we can get a hold of this violence. we have shown it in other parts of the country and we will do it because we

have a comprehensive strategy to address

crime and violence.” graduated from a high school in Matamoros, took a bus to visit his family. The 18-year-old student was visiting relatives in Mexico when alleged cartel members hijacked the passenger bus he was on. Torres was shot and killed near Ciudad Mantes at the end of September. His death was a shocking confirmation of the violence south of the border. In March 2009 Brownsville mayor Pat M. Ahumada testified against the border wall in an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, an online newspaper. Ahumada expressed concern that the perceptions of the violence in border cities were “misleading” and that these perceptions were hurting the economies on both sides of the border. When surveyed in October by Panorama magazine, UTB/TSC students felt similarly: 44 percent of UTB/TSC students said that they felt that the border violence is exaggerated while only 25 percent of UTPA students agreed with this statement. About a year after his testimony, a three and a half hour shooting in Matamoros caused Ahumada to change his stand on traveling to Matamoros. Ahumada told the Brownsville Herald that he once felt that traveling to Matamoros was safe then advised travelers, “If you don’t have to go, don’t go.” Zavaleta said that students and residents of the Valley need to question elected officials such as county commissioners and county judges so that someone may be held accountable in the event of a violent spillover.

in Mexico decreased in the last trimester of the year and that Mexico’s comprehensive strategy has shown success. “We can get a hold of this violence. We have shown it in other parts of the country and we will do it because we have a comprehensive strategy to address crime and violence,” said Poire. Mexican authorities’ optimism is reassuring, but after four years and over 34,000 drug-related deaths, perhaps relying on information from such a small sample of time is rash. “I think that if you’re reporting numbers from one quarter to the next, I’m not sure what that serves; what good that serves. Seems to me that you have to look at the numbers at least year to year. If you’re going to look at numbers, and once again, I have to be cautious of what I say, over the course from one quarter to the next, and say well we had a good quarter and then those numbers are declining, and that maybe true, but what does that really show? The next quarter it might be way up again.” President Calderon plans on winning the war on drugs in Mexico by the end of his term in 2012. Fifty percent of Mexico’s drug-related violence is concentrated in three of Mexico’s states, one of which is Tamaulipas, home to both Reynosa and Matamoros. The decline at the end of 2010 offers some hope that the drug war and its related violence diminish, but until then, it may be in our best interest to become and remain informed and vigilant of activities that surround our region.

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t’s the end of 2004 and there’s a different feel in the air. Edinburg’s a little smaller and the long line of fast food joints on 107 doesn’t stretch past Jackson Road. The traffic is still bad, but it’s due mostly to construction. The Ristretto wasn’t just an Italian restaurant then. The cozy spot next to El Pato was a humble coffee shop with a big enough stage to house more than your average two-man acoustic act. Emo wasn’t too big of a joke then and the culture surrounding it wasn’t completely ridiculous. The kids congregating around the entrance for tonight’s show wouldn’t have been the butt of too many jokes at least. Tonight’s lineup was a diverse one, but aside from a few devoted fans and girlfriends, the bulk of people were here for one reason. The December Drive (or thedecember drive, around this time no one was really sure) was set to do what they usually do: provide loud, emotional and technically proficient rock to a slowly growing but devoted following. At the end of their set, as the last of the feedback of “& Regret” began to fade out, David Cortez hunched over his pedal board and played one last distorted guitar line and set it to loop. The simple repeating line filled the venue with one over arching thought: This is what valley indie rock should be able to do every time. Though the band wouldn’t officially break up for another four years, the dominoes were already set up for its demise. Half of the founding members were gone and the momentum that had carried the band to a deal with American Jealousy was slowly winding down. Life was intervening and the shows became less frequent. The follow up to “handslikegunsandcrashingsounds” just never came. It was an all too familiar story for Valley music. A band filled with promise and potential, succumbs to the weight of life, a seemingly stagnant Valley scene and interpersonal conflicts. “Being in a band is sort like being in a relationship,” said Armando Ibarra, guitarist for Brownsville band Ideophonic. “Things change on you in

a band sometimes. We definitely went through a rough patch.” The band took off in early 2007 but wouldn’t make it on its feet for another six months. “We tried to be really organized about members,” Ibarra said. “Joey, our bassist and singer, started off with a more hardcore style so we had to sort of push him in the direction we wanted.” Ibarra calls the band a pretty straightforward indie rock, though it wasn’t always that way. The band started off with a more garage rock sound. “We try to make music we like and want to listen to,” Ibarra said. “We all have to agree with the music. Our music comes out of just fighting with each other.” Despite this push toward unanimous music making, there were tensions and frustrations of working with four other individuals. Ibarra compares it to being in a relationship with four other men. That tension, however, did not remain purely musical. “It started musically but before we knew it things started getting personal,” Ibarra said. “There was just a bunch of little arguments that started piling on.” The problems were compounded by the fact that the band was beginning to feel stagnant. Despite a push from concert promoter Dontgetemo and a spot on 2009’s Never Say Never Music Festival the band did not feel established in any way and by mid-2010 was nearing its breaking point. This is where the van came in. “When we decided to buy the van it was sort of like that point in a relationship where you’re about to break up and then she tells you that she’s pregnant,” Ibarra said. “At that point we realized that we were in it for the long haul.” The band looks at 2011 as a new start. They hope to start touring through Texas and beyond and establish themselves as the exception to Valley bands. The story isn’t always as optimistic though. By 2010 one of the most respected and creatively potent bands in recent Valley history found themselves whittled down to three members from their original six and in a new city without a definitive place to go. They

Mean Us, fresh from the release of their second EP “For the Stereo Impaired,” had lost their violinist, cellist and most recent bassist to business and school endeavors. “I experienced what most would consider heart break,” said guitarist and creative leader Micajah Nye. “Which made me somewhat irrational and want to run as far away from my problems as possible.” Despite originally wanting to move to Raleigh, N.C. or Minneapolis, Minn., drummer Hector Perez and guitarist Boy Recio wanted to continue making music with Nye but were unable to move as far away. They settled in New Braunfels, Texas, hoping to find a new bass player and continue as a four-piece. “I thought the best place for me and the music would be in a town that had close access to multiple cities and venues but didn’t have the pressure and population of a major city,” Nye said. “Because of my impatience my decision prematurely landed in New Braunfels.” The decision to continue making music wasn’t really much of a decision, though. “The music is special to me because I pour as much of my being, that I have at the given time, into it,” Nye said. “It becomes a musical representation of how my brain and emotions work. Both of which can be quite erratic at times.” Despite his original intentions of continuing work with the instrumental outfit (a process of writing music alone and having the rest of the band add in their parts at a later time) Nye announced in March that he was stepping down “from the captain’s chair” of the band and focusing on his solo work, a project titled “Castles in Air.” With this announcement the future of band looked, and continues to look, uncertain. The unfortunate and in some ways almost inevitable story is a microcosm of a valley scene plagued by obscurity and geography. However, therein lies the promise of valley music. “All things considered, it has never been, and probably never will be easy for me,” Nye said. “But that is the way I prefer it to be. I like making myself a little crazy from time to time. It makes me feel more human.”

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e all whisper things to ourselves in the dark, where we know absolutely no one can hear us. We all fantasize about doing or being something that seems completely out of reach. These are usually the dreams that form when we’re children, before we grow too cynical to believe they’re possible--dreams about being in movies or on TV, or a star athlete. Mine was born when I saw Jem and the Holograms on Saturday morning cartoons. I dreamed about being in a band.

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got my first guitar for Christmas when I was 14. I learned some chords, played a few songs, and put it down again. I would pull it out now and again for a jam session, but playing in a room alone--while fun--is hitting the proverbial tennis ball against the wall. Every time I’d slip on my headphones to walk to class, tune people out on the bus, or drown out my singing father, I’d imagine what it would feel like to get on stage and play my own music. A few years later, I met Meagan Hofstetter when we were acting in a play together here at UTPA. I was spending the night at her apartment one night--we were having drinks and having one of those talks. Where you pull out your heart and lay it on the table in front of you for the other person

“I drum,” she answered, and whipped two drum sticks out of her back pocket. I’m not kidding. “Why not!” I said. “Let’s do it. What’s your name?” “I’m Carmen Castillo. Nice to meet you.” We went to the ladies’ room to get a little quiet. Like a little twist of fate, a red, velvet couch sat in the corner, the perfect size for the three of us to lean in close and try to hear over the pounding music. I played guitar and Meagan sang while Carmen tapped a beat on the wall with her sticks. After one run through the songs, we were up. We smiled, and dove in. From that night on, we started getting together often, jamming and talking about the music we liked. Without really realizing it, we became a band. All we needed was a name. We wanted something evocative, something that spoke about music, art, passion, intuition, the essence of being female and

Meagan crouched next to her, pulled the mic close and shouted,

“Suck my titties , bitch!” Annie gave us some drum clicks and we

launched into a song as if that was a regular cue for us. to see. It turned out that we shared the same dream. I pulled out my dusty guitar, and from then on, it became a ritual to spend Saturdays there, making music together. Eventually, we grew some ovaries and took our act to Cine El Rey for our first-ever open mic. When we got there, the owner’s band was bringing down the house. He strutted through the throng of people, danced with women under the smoke and lights, bubbling over with confidence and charisma. The crowd was on its feet, dancing and clapping. Meagan and I sat nervously, waiting to be called up once the band felt like taking a break. We got stares from the bar flies. From our faces, to my guitar, down our bodies, and back up. Assessed and dismissed. As we waited, a tiny, adorable girl with long, dark hair approached us frankly. “Hey, you guys wanna join forces?” I liked her instantly. Meagan looked at me askance, asking without words if we should just politely refuse. She read my face and asked, “What do you do?”

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experiencing femininity. One night, as we grew more and more delirious with lack of sleep, Carmen mumbled out, “The Scarlet Effect.” It just fit. (We also just really wanted to go to sleep.) Either way, now it was official. We had disasters. Popped straps, crashing guitars, botched sound, the occasional boo or disgruntled guy saying something really erudite like, “Show us your tits!” We practiced a lot, split our fingers open, played in public as much as we could, and got better. We started getting asked to play, instead of asking. It was more success than I’d expected; I was thrilled to just be living my private dream in the haunts where we became a fixture. In November, we got invited to play in Austin at the Valley Rally Rock Show—a college radio station-sponsored concert on a rooftop—after one of the organizers heard us play. They even asked us to record one of our songs so they could play it on their station. I was delirious. I thought, okay, now it can’t get any better. In December, a friend of Meagan’s called, saying she had found us a drummer. She gave us the number of a friend of hers named Annie King, a data analyst for IDEA Public Schools.

THE SCARLET EFFECT Meagan called and discovered that Annie had been looking for a drum set, not a band, as their mutual friend had understood. But she was thrilled to hear about an all-female band in the Valley, and asked if she could go ahead and jam with us and see what came of it. She was only planning to come by for an hour or two and test the waters. We played hours into the night. We all felt it--the band was complete. From then on, we were always together, practicing hard, playing gigs and growing closer. Soon, all of our practice came to fruition. We were invited by an awesome, local all-female, punk group, Angela and the X’s, to help them open up for a Texas, all-girl trio, Girl in a Coma at Smokin’ Aces. (If you haven’t heard of them, look them up— they’re amazing. They’ve been fixtures at major music festivals like Austin’s South by Southwest for years, and they were a group we had watched on Youtube during rehearsals, musing about how cool it would be to open for them. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that could happen, least of all during our first year as a band.) We probably spent a solid two minutes just bouncing around the room shrieking before we even answered. Our hearts pounded as the manager introduced us to the sold-out crowd, who stirred, waiting anxiously for the main event. Smoke poured out from behind us—the lights danced on our faces and instruments. We were plugged into massive stacks. This was the moment. This was legitimate. I can’t explain what it felt like to end the set, and have the crowd explode with cheers--to know that Girl in a Coma was in the next room, listening to us play. We were just high, all of us, by the end of our set. We floated off the stage to watch Angela and the X’s get the room jumping, and finally see Girl in a Coma tear the place down. It was an amazing experience. After the show, the owner of Smokin’ Aces approached us to open for the renowned Sublime tribute band, 40 oz to Freedom, just two weeks later. It was a sold-out show as well. The audience was amped, moshing and shouting to the music. All the bands were plagued with sound issues that night, including the headliners. It was a comedy of errors that ended with Meagan screaming out the lyrics to our final song, rather than rely on the temperamental microphone. A female heckler made her way to the edge of the stage to shout, “You guys suck! Show us your tits!” Meagan crouched next to her, pulled the mic close and shouted, “Suck my titties, bitch!” Annie gave us some drum clicks and we launched into a song as if that was a regular cue for us. Despite the hiccups, the crowd embraced us, cheering and threatening violent death to the sound engineer. And finally, in March, The Scarlet Effect decided to take on SXSW—we weren’t booked for a venue, we just wanted to play on the street. We drove up armed with guitars, portable amps, a bag of batteries, a mic and a pair of bongos. I wrecked my car, Carmen and Meagan got stranded and Annie slept maybe four hours the day she arrived--but we made it. We claimed a spot on the sidewalk on Sixth Street and played for the passerby.

A man walked up to Meagan as she was trying to start a song, giving her advice, even as she asked him politely to move over so we could begin. He blithely refused, and gave her a pat on the

She looked squarely into the camera filming this event, laid her hand on the man’s face, pushing him slowly away, and started singing. He fell backward, catching himself on a stair. Meagan paused to say, “I have Jesus powers,” before continuing with the song.

ass. She looked squarely into the camera filming this event, laid her hand on the man’s face, pushing him slowly away, and started singing. He fell backward, catching himself on a stair. Meagan paused to say, “I have Jesus powers,” before continuing with the song. Youtube it. I don’t know what’s ahead for us. I don’t have any illusions about seeing our name in lights, but the journey’s been exhilarating, and I have no idea what’s coming around the bend. What I do know, what I’ve learned through this experience, is that living a dream, whether it’s a humble or daring one, is fulfilling in a fundamental way that shifts something inside of you. “I did that.” I learned that whatever your dream is, whether you want to be an astronaut or a Hologram, it’s worth a shot. You might get a lucky one.

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It’s in here. Turn left here.” Josh said. I quickly hit my blinker and turned sharply into Sharyland Park. Josh led the way by pointing his finger in the general direction, his eyes never leaving the screen on my phone. I put my Jeep in park and the three of us jumped out and started heading to where Josh had been pointing. “Wait, don’t start looking yet. Pretend we are just going to go sit at the picnic table.” “Why?” I asked. “Because there are too many muggles around.” “What?” “Muggles.” “What are muggles?” “Everyone else in the world that doesn’t geocache. Geocaching is The Goonies, meets National Treasure, meets Raiders of the Lost Ark, minus the possibility of getting

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laid. Players, or geocachers, use Global Positioning Satellites to find objects or places by using coordinates. In a nutshell, it’s a treasure hunt using modern technology. The treasure map has been replaced by a touch screen, the ‘X’ a small blinking blip, and the treasure replaced by a small piece of paper you initial. Geocaching seems to be a really big secret for those who play. I don’t know what it is. It’s just something you don’t want to share with others you know. My friend John was going through my phone the other night seeing what apps I had, and he stumbled upon my geocaching app. “Geocaching?” The word took me by surprise and invoked in me a bit of shame. “Uhh…yeah.” I said as my head sunk slightly. “You, geocache?” “No, man I was just curious about it. Wanted to see what

TREASURE HUNTING it was about.” “Dude, I’ve always wanted to try that. My engineering friends would always talk about it, and try to get me to go with them, but it just felt too geeky with them.” I was having dinner with a couple of friends, Josh and Michelle, a few weeks ago and we were discussing how we should spend the rest of our evening. I kind of hesitantly threw out geocaching to them as an idea, but made it sound more like a joke. The way a guy hanging out with one of his female friends, bored and looking for something to do suggests sex as a way to pass the time. You know, you throw it out jokingly just to try and gauge their reaction, so if you get rejected you could toss it aside as if you were only kidding, but if they accept, well then. Game on!

They looked at each other quizzically then back to me wideeyed and smiling, and I knew I had at least a threesome going. “You geocache? My brother and I back in Florida used to do that all the time. Michelle and I were actually talking about doing that a few weeks ago. We didn’t know that you were into that. We thought it’s a little...” “Geeky?” “Yeah. Didn’t think you’d want to.” “I know what you mean.” A few weeks ago my friend John and I had just finished running an errand, when we remembered our discussion about geocaching and decided to go for it. It took us a few minutes to figure out how to use the geocache app on our mobile devices, but we finally settled on one cache called “Little Black Box.”

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The app gave us the details of the cache through coordinates and hints. The hint was that it was “one box in another.” The geeky feeling of the game started to creep up on me as we got closer, and was only heightened when I read the name of person who had hidden this cache, “singleguy.” We know we must have looked foolish as we walked around, head buried into the screen on our phones trying to pinpoint where this cache was hidden. It took us a few minutes but we both kept coming to the same light post on a grassy island near the parking lot. We looked all around the bushes, around the base of the light post, even in empty lot field next to the light post, because we figured maybe the GPS coordinates were not that accurate. I finally remembered the hint and tried lifting the small, metal casing around the base of post and to my surprise, it actually lifted. There she laid a little, black tin. Inside, we found a list of the previous finders dating back to 2007. This year marked the ten-year anniversary of geocaching. On May 1, 2000 the highest quality GPS signal, which was originally reserved for military use, was released to the general public. Two days later, Dave Ulmer placed the first geocache and posted the coordinates, 45°17.460’N 122°24.800’W on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav. Four days after that, the cache had been found twice, and the game was born. The site now carries a plaque to designate where the first geocache was placed. Since that day the game has grown exponentially. According to there are currently 1,233,975 active geocache locations in over 100 countries around the world. Five hundred and eighty of those active sites are located within a twenty-five mile radius of the northern McAllen area. A few of those sites are located at the University of Texas-Pan American. The game is out there being played all around us, without us even knowing. “Why muggles?” “It comes from Harry Potter. Muggles are what they call the people that don’t use magic.” Josh said. We nonchalantly walked over to the picnic table that seemed to be where the blip on my phone and the clues were leading us to and sat down. “What other terms are there?” “I don’t know. There are a lot of abbreviations but I don’t know a lot of them. BYOP means…?” “Bring Your Own Pen. Yeah I found that out the hard way on my first cache.” Geocachers definitely have their own lingo, so much so that there is an app for 99 cents that can define the entire geocache lingo for you. Yes, there is an app for that. I wish I had known about the lingo before my first cache. I would have found it a lot faster if I knew LPC stood for Light Post Cache. In fact Light Post Cache make up for a large part of the geocache locations in the Valley at least in my brief geocaching experience. Some caches are very ingeniously hidden. Videos on show fake drainage pipes, fake rocks, and even a fake brick wall water faucet that could be removed to show a hidden area. I haven’t run into many cleverly hidden geocache sites in the Valley, but there have been some mind benders. “There above us. I bet you it’s up there. Other geocachers said it would be hard to reach.” I hoisted Josh up and sure enough, he found the cache. “This is why we can’t let muggles see us, huh?” I said as I brought him down. “Yeah,” he said with a chuckle. “That and sometimes if they find the cache, without knowing what it is, they will toss it.” A few days ago, on November 3, 2010 in Ashwaubenon Wisconsin, a bomb squad used a controlled blast to dispose of a suspicious item that had been placed near a school. A neighbor had seen a man place a container by the school and

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Geocaching is The Goonies, meets National Treasure, meets Raiders of the Lost Ark, minus the possibility of getting laid. called the authorities. It was later revealed to be a film canister used as a geocaching container. On one geocache hunt, I had convinced my cousins Celina and Elisa and my friend Brenda to come along, because if I have girls with me it wouldn’t seem as…geeky. We were seeking a cache near a popular country bar in north McAllen one late Saturday night (Night time makes it more fun and there are fewer muggles to ridicule us.) We were alongside the short shopping center going after a cache titled ‘Wing-nut.’ We were trying very carefully not to be seen as we scavenged the area, hoping to find at least one cache that night after failed attempts earlier. It was taking us a bit to realize that the clue was in the name. Attached to the building was a wire coming from out of the ground. It looked like it was part of the building’s wiring, but at the end of the wire casing was a small electrical looking box sealed with wing-nuts. We were amazed at the geocacher’s ingenuity and were logging our names when the McAllen PD rolled by. “Shit. It’s a cop.” I said, “He’s going to think we’re dealing drugs.” And it would be merited, the way we were all huddled around trying to sign the log in the dark, surely it looked as if I was soliciting something. But, nope, he just rolled on by slowly eyeing us as we waited for his lights to start flashing. Either our suspicious behavior wasn’t suspicious enough or he had run into geocachers at this site before. “Fucking muggles.”

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t’s been more than 83 years since Elisa Gonzalez moved into the McAllen entertainment district, otherwise known as 17th Street, with her family of seven: her parents, three brothers and the two girls. She was only five then, but now at 88, the retired city employee spends much of her time doing nothing. “I do nothing and then I sleep,” she said with a laugh as she sat outside the home her father, a carpenter from Mexico, purchased in 1911.

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She wore a long gown decorated with stripes and flowers while she combed her grey and white-laced hair out of her face. She sat in front of a yellow home accented with green trim on a green bench regarding the scene before her. According to the “old timer,” as she referred to herself, the entire area from Bicentennial down to 10th Street was all commercial and sparsely residential when she first moved in. “The people who owned their business lived right behind them: the Guerras, Lozanos and Penas. You name it,” she said.

DOWNTOWN Back in those days the choices on where to relax after work or get hammered, like today’s crowd, were limited. Most of the bars were located on the next street over: Bicentennial. But today 17th Street is lit up with bar lights and glitzy partygoers as they make their way from the north end at Mezzanine or Kai (two of the local bars) on down toward Alhambra, another late night favorite located on Fresno Street. The cheap prices and dance beats leaping from the clubs onto the street is inviting to anyone who’s interested into their establishment. Bouncers stand outside guarding the entrances while trying to hustle attractive girls passing by to take a look inside. Girls are known to be bribed with a shot or two. The variety of music and atmosphere at each bar or nightclub has literally made this district the place to be on weekend nights. The district stretching down 17th is what Sixth Street is to Austin. Only further toward the end of the street are a few homes, which also receive attention from the nightlife. For some, it’s unwanted while others use the musical tunes drifting their way to put themselves to sleep. Serano Tomasa has lived in her home for 24 years. The two-story yellow house with a red trim lies across the street from the Alhambra nightclub. Along her front yard is a pink brick foundation with a white gate that opens into her front yard. The Texas native spent most of her younger years on the east coast after marrying her husband.

property. “But if it’s during the day and I’m waiting for my niece they better move! That spot is taken!’” Serano sits back in her comfy sofa decorated with stuff animals and stitched throw blankets or tejidos de stambres. The couch is covered in an old Spanish print of flowers and a paisley—typical of the average Valley grandmother. “I’m already use to it all and now if there isn’t music playing, I can’t sleep and I’m uneasy,” she said as she points to get several feet over. Other residents are not too keen about the entertainment value 17th has to offer. One homeowner who wishes to remain anonymous hates the “racket and the kinds of people” it brings to the area. Since he asked to remain anonymous he will be referred to as Jose. “You really want to know the truth?” he asked with raised eyebrows. “It’s all political around here. The residents never voted for all this to be here.” Jose has spent more than 20 years on this street day in and day out keeping an eye on all the action that unfolds. It’s safe to say he’s filled to the brim with stories of negotiations and run-ins with “business men” offering to purchase the homes on 17th. “Once, a man walked up the walkway and approached another neighbor about her home,” he recalled. “Offering her ‘twice the amount’ of her home and even ‘buy her a new one afterward!’”

Girls are known to be bribed with a shot or two. The variety of music and atmosphere at each bar

or nightclub has literally made this district the place to

be on weekend nights. The district stretching

down 17th is what Sixth Street is to Austin. “I’ve seen this place grow rapidly since I first arrived from Massachusetts in the late 1980s after my husband passed,” she said in Spanish with a smile. She wasn’t “too sure” of her age, only that she’s somewhere in the 70-75 range. “I know that it will only continue to grow because more and more people show up at night.” Around 10 p.m. on Fridays, the spaces fill up with partygoers as they slip out of their vehicles in heels, boots, sneakers or sandals. You name it. This street attracts a variety of people ready to dance or simply have a drink. “Sometimes they park in my spot,” Elisa said, shooting a finger toward the parking space directly in front of her

While no one has offered to buy her house, Gonzalez suspects she’ll stick with her home until the very end. “I don’t plan to go anywhere right now,” she said, her brown eyes seemingly looking into the future. “I’ve got my health, thank God. But when it’s time for me to go, this will all go to my nieces.” Serrano believes it’s only a matter of time before more nightclubs reach her end of the street like Alhambra. However, the 17th street resident doesn’t feel this is a problem. “I’m happy with my home but if they’ll offer my asking price of a million dollars then I have no problem in selling my house,” she jokingly exclaimed. “Otherwise I’m fine where I’m at.”

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WRITTEN BY ANGELA VILLANUEVA • STAFF WRITER PANORAMA t all started with a childhood curiosity about tarot cards. Yajaira Meza and her friend, both 11, set up special candles and created a star with salt. Then, they pulled out a deck of tarot cards and made predictions about the future. The spooky thing was: everything they said came true within days of their sorcerous experimentations. All one needs to do is believe. Believe and have a few lines of rituals or prayers along with candles and salt, to do brujeria—witchcraft that is. But no matter what type of ritual a witchcraft practitioner may do, if they are Mexican and with superstitions, they are bound to use the image of La Santisima Muerte—an image of death that is—for their brujeria as their guide and idol to ask favors from. Meza, now 27, said after that first reading, the word spread fast in her town of La Cañada in Mexico. When she was 15, a woman knocked at her house asking for “the woman who can read the tarot cards and do witchcraft.” She responded, “Well, it’s not a woman that does it, it’s me.” The visitor was taken aback, but requested her services nonetheless. During the reading, Meza discovered that the man the visitor was dating was married and that she wanted help getting rid of the wife. “I couldn’t break up a family; the woman had said that the guy had already told her he wasn’t going to leave his wife and kids but she went to me either way to break it up for her,” said Meza. “I instead told her how to do it, because I didn’t want to do it myself.” The ritual that Meza gave to the woman worked—the man

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left his family for her. Ten years later Meza bumped into the woman who told her that she was still with the man. Meza has used her powers to keep her mate. Her husband used to go out a lot with a certain male friend and she hated him for taking her husband away so much. She decided to do witchcraft one day by using 12 black candles without glass, made a six-point star with all of them and added salt and other powdered ingredients, such as saw dust. She sneaked into the man’s car one day when he was visiting her husband, and took out a sweaty, old, dirty shirt that was lying around in his back seat and dipped it in cooking oil. She wrapped the shirt around a doll and put it in the middle of the star, then prayed until the candles burned out; it took around 30 minutes. Three days later, there was a big storm that caused the roof of the man’s house to blow off. Though no one was injured, the man and his family moved away because of the incident. “The prayer that I’d use the most was the one to bring a partner back; in my case: my husband. He’d always be leaving at night to bars and stuff and I would always be doing prayers to make sure he didn’t leave for good,” said Meza. “Most of the time when he came back he’d mention that he had felt someone pulling him back toward home.” She also said that when she’d do her prayers crying and desperate they wouldn’t work, but when she’d do them while angry, he’d call within two minutes saying he was on his way. Nowadays, Meza has given up practicing prayers and creating rituals to her Santisima. “I want to be closer to God now,” said Meza. “I had my fun. I did many good things for me and for other people as I did bad things for my benefit, but I think it’s time to dedicate myself to God now instead.”



Panorama 2011  
Panorama 2011  

Panorama Magazine 2011 Publication