"Remember El Alma" First On-site Performance Challenging the Alamo, March 2010

"Remember El Alma," First on-site performance
challenging the Alamo
original poem written by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez

Adapted by Virginia Grise; Produced by Bihl Haus Arts, Kellen McIntyre, Ph.D; Performed at Luminaria!
San Antonio, Hemisfair Plaza, San Antonio, Texas, March 13, 2010; 5 Actresses, 1 Musician
A cast of beautiful women, all ages and colors, from
all over San Antonio
; Foto Credit: Joan Frederick @2010

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Why are we afraid of this Virgen in San Antonio, Texas?

In San Antonio, this rendering of La Virgen de Guadalupe by the artist Anna-Marie Lopez was censured - though these days we don't use that word -there's too much terrorism in it - at the Centro Cultural Aztlan, a Kool-Folk Chicana/o institution on the fast-track to mainstream inclusion in this town.

I admire Centro Cultural and all the people connected with it - but - we need this Virgen. Look at her:
She's naked, a serpent wraps her body, she's behind barbed-wire, and her jewelry is a ruby-red human heart. It seems to me that she's a woman of the times, evoking an imprisoned, marginalized, suffering, loving, woman, whose power is seen but not realized.

"They missed the point," says Lopez, who barely gets by on her disability paychecks, and who created this piece after much research especially for the Guadalupana exhibit. "At this time, people are scared of us," she said, referring to the post-9/11 world and subsequent immigrant-bashing. "I'm very proud I did it. I'm gay, I'm Sephardic...if nobody ever buys a painting again, so be it."

Credit: "Virgen," by Anna-Marie Lopez 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

San Antonio and the War: It enriches us, it owns us, it orders us

San Antonio, Texas is the most soulful city in the state, we're a haunted city with the Alamo, the ghosts that wander around it at night, and a river, now over-developed and touristized, but a river nevertheless that haunts the memory of the descendants of the people who have been here since before the Alamo...

So many wars and battles here, the Alamo itself is the centerpiece of its glorification, and the modern-day equivalents are the four bases here. True to San Antonio, and the magical world of paradox we embody, is the irony of how it's been the military that's taken so many latinos into middle-class life. The textbook case is Henry Cisneros, whose late father was a colonel, and Henry himself was in the ROTC at Texas A&M, where he graduated from college.

San Antonio was defined by a war, the Texas Revolution, and continues to serve the interests of the military-industrial complex. The San Antonio Express-News, Hearst-owned, gives us stories every day it seems, about the heroes in Iraq, there is rarely a story about those of us who think differently. The high schools are replete with ROTC programs, and there are politico-military pressures on St. Mary's University, previously known for its social justice focus, to create a "torture law" center.

And of course, la raza, our young people keep getting the poorest education possible, just look at our rankings for the inner-city, we are the meat, the supply-center for soldiers. The MLK March is coming, and the military has now co-opted the day, pushing the city council to allow "fly-overs" in commemoration of the day. Even when T.C. Calvert and other black leaders in the city articulated how MLK was against the Vietnam War.

San Antonio has to support the war. The War feed us, brainwashes us, and tells us how to celebrate.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas in San Antonio

Outside my window this Christmas morning, I see my neighbor's children and grandchildren arrive from the suburbs to share their traditional tamales, everybody bringing bags of presents, smelling of new colognes and soap. One of the daughters-in-law is pregnant, and her new leather coat is wrapped tightly around her pansa.

As usual, I'm just watching, there's probably something wrong with me because I just like to look, admire, and write about Christmas.

Christmas always makes me feel weird. There is nothing sweeter than seeing
las familias coming together like this, and I can feel their love for each other all the way to my upstairs apartment. It reminds me when I was married, and my ex-husband's family had their Christmas-frenzy on, lots of wato and Santa Claus-dressing, a buffet of food, teenagers trading secrets, scrabble boards opening up, football blaring on the television, and children crying because they're overwhelmed, I guess.

One year I tried to get my very middle-class nieces and nephews to go to the INS' Refugee Center, where I had read many Central Americans were being held. Don't ask me why, but I just wanted to hear their stories.

My then-husband's family thought I was crazy, so I talked myself out of it, and went for one of my five-mile walks instead on the beach, and read myself to sleep, as usual.

I regret I didn't go see those people, and regret that I like expensive gifts. I wish I was a better person, and its these two passions, both unfulfilled, that keep me away from Christmas, I guess.

Meanwhile, come see our RiverWalk if you're in the city. There's something about all those lights blazing on our little green river, in our poor city that tries so hard, that isn't poor with all the cultura and Tex-mexing and tacos and generous gente that will call you back to a Christmas that I don't think we're celebrating yet.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ciro Rodriguez Wins: The San Antonio Express-News Loses

In case you didn't read it, the SAEN yesterday endorsed Congressman Henry Bonilla (R) despite having nothing good to say about him. It was weird, and it took the queque for bad editorials among zillions served. The editorial clumsily attempted to find something negative about Ciro Rodriguez (D), a progressive congressman who was a victim of Tom De Lay's redistricting tactics that were overturned by the Supreme Court. And tried to put the fear of God in us by suggesting we'd risk gaining a military medical center, yea right. Like we don't know the difference between good and bad pork. The SAEN never even attempted to closely examine the candidates as people, their ideals, their achievements, their failures, etc. etc. etc. Porque you ask? Because they know Bonilla stinks, but the newspaper, like all the media in San Antonio, wants this war, wants its profits, and to hell with the soldiers dying over there. Keep us poor, keep us fat, keep us ignorant, that's their plan so they can continue to make money off our dreams and patriotism. Acabo the mijitos get their picture in the paper, and the paper calls them heroes when they die, that's good enough, verdad?

Ciro Rodriguez won last night in a landslide victory that was called "stunning." I know La Virgen de Guadalupe had something to do with it.

My letter to the Bruce Davidson, at the San Antonio Express-News:

Of all the anemic editorials I've read from you, the absolute prize is your sorry attempt to defend Bonilla. Even my students at Northwest Vista College last year - who don't like reading, especially the newspaper - absolutely hated him. For reasons you well know but didn't write. What struck me about the SAEN's coverage was the lack of it. I know Ciro, and he's what you call - what people say they want -
un buen hombre. Bonilla is something else, and sometimes we'd just rather have a good man who's not the best wheeler-dealer than a supreme playa who is.

I'm gonna save your editorial to use widely as a prime
ejemplo of how not to write editorials - and how to forget about any resemblance of balanced, fair, impartial, coverage of a highly critical story beyond the superficial. Please tell your publisher and the other powers-that-be over there that some of us do read beyond the SAEN. And that they and you can try to shove this war down our throats and have us send our children to a war you surely think is all we're good for, verdad, but we are all not as stupid as you think.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Media Watchate! The San Antonio Express-News loves ClearChannel and won't publish this letter

If you barely listen to our local radio stations anymore, you know it's because of ClearChannel and the media acquisitions that happened after the Republicans took the lid off media regulation - now we have media Deregulation - so much for local ownership and diverse voices. It's all about the money.

We, the people, deserve local radio, television and radio stations that are vitally interested and accountable to us. We get way too much ambulance, sex, and gossip, and all of us lose because there is no place to debate, discuss, get educated about the stories that affect our lives.

That's the way Big Media wants it.

Chuck Robinson is a media advocate and former television intern.
Here is a letter he wrote to the SAEN regarding their anemic reporting of a new, smart, report on How Bigger Media Will Hurt Texas: A Report on Texas Media Markets and the Impact of Newspaper/TV Cross-Ownership Mergers, funded by national media reform organizations and written by Mark Cooper of McGannon Communications Center.

Friday, November 3, 2006

Dear Editor,

You buried and misnamed the study “How Bigger Media will Hurt Texas,” (“Report says diversity lost in media mergers,” Oct. 21). In that story, the well-intentioned Melissa Monroe faced severe editorial discretion—forced not only to conceal facts (in Texas and most of our nation, TV and large local dailies have a duopoly of news, rabidly splitting 65% or more of the market), but to include the unsolicited opinions of a radio baron and editor Bob Rivard. Thankfully, your closest competitor, La Prensa, made the story front page news that Sunday (“Local activists fight cross-media mergers,” Oct. 22). Obviously it was a sensitive topic, because the E-N dressed Monroe as a scarecrow on Halloween ("Express-News also hit by US newspaper slide," Oct. 31) to ironically lament the paper’s loss of circulation; please excuse my lack of sympathy.
Want to beat TV in market share? Help the South, West and East sides get discount internet so they can read stories on mysanantonio.com—turn your writers loose to report news, not bury it—publish front page stories on voting fraud and the oil, development, weaponry and media industries lobbying our candidates. Your endorsements (11/3) of Perry, Dewhurst, Abbott, Combs, Patterson, Staples, Ames Jones, Hutchinson , Bonilla, and Smith clearly show the E-N’s GOP loyalty and tip the hat to corporations, not our community. Sadly, the issue remains unreported: two-thirds of our media (including E-N owner Hearst) are beholden to massive conflicts of interest, and can’t objectively report news, much less speak on behalf of public interest. Stop suppressing news!
Chuck Robinson
San Antonio, Texas

Thursday, November 02, 2006

When a Tejano star is a rapist

Que bueno que Tejano star Joe Lopez, 56, the former lead singer of Grupo Mazz, and now lead singer of the band Joe Lopez y La Nueva Imagen Mazz, got convicted and sentenced to twenty years for raping his then-13 year-old niece.

I know there are men out there - and some women - who will say that this young girl
deserved it, that she must have seduced him, that she wanted money, that she's pura slut, etc. etc. etc.

Bullshit. No woman deserves getting raped, I know so many who have. One of four women is raped - at some time in our lives.

We get raped by our fathers, brothers, cousins. On a first date in high school, or college. Or by a complete stranger walking home from work or school.

And yes, it almost happened to me in college. I fought my date off, a guy I'd been seeing for about a month and trusted.

Understand something. A woman's desire is healthy and vital. It is
not an invitation to be raped, to be touched in any way without her permission. There are women who do stupid things, like getting drunk at a party, or provocatively flaunting their bodies. These are women who are idiotas but innocent about what men will do to them if they get a chance. They don't deserve to get raped, either.

My father used to warn me not to get in a car with boys. And generally, I didn't. But even at eighteen years old, I couldn't figure out
why. We women don't think about hurting men, while many of them need to hurt us. And if our mothers or fathers don't teach us this lesson, we remain naive about what a man - or men - will do to us if given a chance.

And a thirteen year-old girl, no matter how much cuerpo she has, is especially innocent. It doesn't matter whether she's a virgen or not, she doesn't want to be raped by an uncle.

I don't know if Joe Lopez is a pedophile, though raping such a muchachita is awfully borderline, but I've seen the fun musicians have backstage with women of all ages. These women
don't deserve to be raped either.

I blame
los musicos and the groupies equally. These men believe they're desirable because we women are seduced by their power and money and celebrity. Remember: men run the television stations and newspapers and magazines that profit from treating us as pieces.... Ridiculous. One woman has more power in her heart, hands and mente than any disgusting Joe Lopez.

Claim that power, girlfriends. Don't let Joe Lopez take it from you.

And my
aplauso goes to that young girl who told on her uncle Joe Lopez. No matter what happens next, whether or not he appeals, or what people call you - you did the right thing.

Because he's not the only one out there, just the most famous.

Self-Portrait, after Frida, 1990, oil on canvas, copyright 1990 by Pilar Aguero

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Senator Kerry was right: 94 brown Texas soldiers have died so far

From my count, 94 brown Texan soldiers have died in Iraq so far because they were uneducated and ambitious. Let's get real, Senator Kerry was right by botching the joke - if our young people had a chance at a good education and a way to go to college, they wouldn't be in Iraq in the first place.

At least 55 of the 94 are from South Texas.

The recruiters and the mainstream media pay attention to our soldiers - making them believe they're special. And they are special, they have dreams, hope, all they want is a chance. But they're being used for the dreams and ambitions of our leaders who don't send their own children to Iraq. Medals, handshakes, thankyous, a little money - that's alot of cheap reward. If our government really believed in these young people, they'd put the real money in education. But that's too expensive, not when the wealthy in this country are getting more taxbreaks.


Do you know what it's like to lose someone you love? Of course you don't want to even think of it. Well, think about it, because 94 families, mothers, wives, girlfriends, children, relatives, will never be the same again.

Do you know how many men, women and children these soldiers had to kill before they were killed? What will happen to those widows, children, angry brothers and fathers?

And what is heroism, anyway? Remember MLK or Cesar Chavez or the mothers who raised us at personal great sacrifice? How can soldiers be heroes when they don't understand the context of their sacrifice? When they are too young to believe they are mortal?

Senator Kerry was right, if these soldiers understood the political and economic causes of our invasion of Iraq, most of them wouldn't be there.

These uneducated, brainwashed, soldiers, what do they know about global politics and imperialism? Or American hegemony, and our own history of American state-sponsored terrorism in other countries like Chile when we overthrew their democratically elected government on September 11, 1973?

Can our community afford to lose these young people and their potential? When one of them dies, all of us die a little, even if we don't know it. Can we afford the personal and collective loss to their families and to our country?

If we don't stop this war, then we haven't learned the lesson about war, and these soldiers will have certainly, tragically, died in vain.

Photo: Pfc Kristian Menchaca, who was abducted on June 19, 2006 and brutally killed in Iraq. He was from Houston, Texas.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bob Rivard, Editor of the San Antonio Express-News, threatens the Esperanza Center because of my blog

On Friday, October 6, Bob Rivard, the Executive Editor of the San Antonio
Express-News, the only major newspaper in San Antonio, sent an email to
Graciela Sanchez, the director of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, one
of the most vanguard arts and cultural centers in the country, based in
San Antonio. In this letter, he threatens to deny media coverage to the Center
because of my blog. And while the email has a subject heading titled
"A Private Communication," the CC line includes all the editors
of the newspaper, see below:

CC: "Thacker, Brett"
"Bertling, Terry"
"Thomason, Craig"
"Garcia, Guillermo"
"Davidson, Bruce"

I am not a staffmember of the Esperanza Center, but a consultant. I've
responded to Graciela Sanchez, explaining that with this letter, Rivard
violates all standards of ethical journalism and shows a tyrannical
disrespect for free speech.

Here is the letter from Rivard in its entirety:

Hi Graciela,

We don't believe reporters here are stating that they are prohibited
from writing about controversial issues. We invite you to provide
further details to support that assertion. If anyone here is saying
such things, we would quickly disabuse them of such a wrong-headed claim.
We publish controversial stories all the time.
On a larger subject,
it is hard for us to reconcile the professional
tone of your communication here with the character assassination
offered by Esperanza staff member BRG on her blog. Her only possible sources
for her misstatements of fact and her fantasies are the Esperanza members
who attended the editorial board meeting with you. Do you or any of
the others really believe I was leering at someone's breasts during the
meeting? BRG seems obsessed with her sexual fabulsims involving me.
At least one prominent Latina journalist has confronted her about her
false rumor-mongering in the past. I also am at a loss to understand how
BRG can assert that I undercut Guillermo Garcia in the meeting. Guillermo
and I have been friends and colleagues dating back to our shared days
at the Brownsville Herald nearly 30 years ago. I asked him to account
for his anti-Semitism statement from Rabbi Block and he did so quite
convincingly after consulting his notes, which fully support his
story,which the newspaper stands by.
We have always welcomed you and your colleagues
to the Express-News,and we would like to maintain
a professionalrelationship with you and the
It's unclear to me whether that is
(emphasis mine)


Friday, September 29, 2006

Want Peace? Imagine Grief: Part 2

Watch the video

Carlos Arredondo’s oldest son, LCPL Alexander S. Arredondo, died in Iraq on August 25, 2004. He was twenty years old. Carlos Arredondo has been on a national tour protesting the war. His other son, Brian, is currently being recruited by the Marines.

Listen to his and others’ stories at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center on Saturday, September 30, 2006, at 7pm. The Esperanza is located at 922 San Pedro in San Antonio.
Tel 210.228.0201

Produced by 411 Productions

Music by WillieJ

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Want Peace? Imagine War: Part 1

Watch the video

Kyle Qubrosi lost his father in war. But he doesn’t want revenge. Listen to his and others’ stories at the Esperanza Center on Saturday, September 30, 2006, at 7pm. The Esperanza is located at 922 San Pedro, one-half mile from the downtown library. Admission is free. 210.228.0201

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

His son died in Iraq. Mijito, mijito, mijito...

Imagine the suffering. Imagine the grief. Imagine the heart.

I remember the war in Nicaragua in the 1980s, the contra scandal, the weapons for hostages. Oliver North took the blame for Ronald Reagan. I remember when a bomb blew up in Beirut and kill about 200 Marines. I watch them on the TV, searching for them, carrying the bodies out on stretchers, pieces of them. And what I learned of Vietnam in my country? I never understood what they was fighting for. Costa Rica, it was my home when I was a boy, and we had the same climate, same weather, and I was afraid the United States would someday come to Costa Rica and do the same thing. So, when my son told me at age 17 that he was going to join the service, I said, "Oh, no," and he said, "Don't worry, Dad."

His mother knew the whole time. Then they told me last, I guess because they know how I was feeling. The Marines had an office in the high school and the recruiters know everything, know who comes from divided families, especially when the father's not around. They offer Alex thousands of dollars for signing up and help with college. Though we share custody, one parent can sign. His mother sign the paper. From that moment on, of course, I support my son. I had US Marine bumper stickers on my car, flags in my home, letting people know, even though I didn't want him to go.

excerpt, "War is Personal" from The Nation, May 8, 2006



Carlos Arredondo lost his son in Iraq on August 25, 2004. His younger son, Brian, is being recruited by the Marines. Mr. Arredondo, who lives near Boston, Mass., will be at the Esperanza Center on Saturday, September 30, 2006, at 7:00 pm. The Esperanza Center is located at 922 San Pedro, one-half mile north of the downtown library. 210.228.0201

His appearance is part of the Esperanza's middle east series, examining the people, the culture, the politics, and the history of that region.
On Friday night, September 29, the parents of Rachel Corrie, a peace activist who was tragically killed as she protested the destruction of a Palestinian home, will share their story.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The media today is about selling us junk and talking us into war

From a media discussion about media that matters held at the Esperanza Center on Wednesday, August 16th, 2006. College students, media activists, and media producers were in the audience.


In San Antonio, Texas, a controversial art exhibit

Watch the video
Because of this art exhibit, the Esperanza Center was labelled as "anti-semitic" by the San Antonio Express-News.  The Center is hosting a series of programs examining the art, culture, history and people of the middle east, with a special look at the occupation of Palestine. 

Friday, September 01, 2006

The San Antonio Express-News uses the anti-semitism word to sell its newspapers at the cost of peace in the middle east

You know this man in the pic? Yep, this is Robert "Bob" Rivard, Executive Editor of the San Antonio Express-News, presiding like some patron over what remains - of a newspaper.

Yesterday, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center - all feministas - met with him and the editorial board - all white men and one latina editorial writer - to challenge the SAEN's biased coverage of the Esperanza Center's middle east series. The Esperanza Center has been hosting a packed-audience series examining the middle east story - featuring the voices of people you just don't read or hear about in the media. The discussions examine the history, culture, and marginalized peoples of the middle east - including the plight of the Palestinians, who are living under seige.

On August 17, 2006, the SAEN published a front-page story using the word anti-semitism in the headlines, "Claims of Anti-Semitism Fuel City Arts Fund."
The reporter Guillermo X. Garcia quoted Rabbi Block a couple of times saying the Esperanza Center was anti-semitic. That's a loaded word, and one that represents everything the Esperanza is against: prejudice/hate/injustice.

In a column following this story by the conservative and simplistic Roddy Stinson, who quoted Rabbi Block as well in his column on August 20, 2006: "They (Esperanza Peace and Justice Center) stand for neither peace nor justice, and I am finding very little of their program has anything to do with the arts," said Block, who sees Esperanza's anti-Israel programming as a pernicious form of anti-Semitism."

DeAnne Cuellar, the media reform advocate at the Esperanza Center, reported that Bob Rivard acted like a patron at the SAEN's editorial boardmeeting with the women of the Esperanza Center:

1. Attack the Esperanza, using scraps of anything he could find to diminish and deride the women.
2. Attack his reporter, Guillermo X. Garcia, when the Esperanza shared an email they from Rabbi Block where he denies using the term "anti-semitic" when talking about the Esperanza (I'm looking at this email right now)
3. And as he's known for, Rivard looked at Deanne's
chichis the rest of the time. This is what Rivard does when it comes to women, latinas, and how he respects anyone who's grappling with real issues.

The Esperanza women included some of the most formidable talent in San Antonio: Amy Kastely, the attorney who led and won the Esperanza vs. City of San Antonio lawsuit in federal court in 2001. Nadine Saliba, a brainy and compassionate Lebanese-born political thinker; Gloria Ramirez, editor of La Voz, the Esperanza Center's monthly newsletter; Salwa Arnous, a Palestinian-born artist who's had 40 art exhibits and whose work is up at the Esperanza Center; Dianne Monroe, a progressive Jewish writer and playwright; Judith Norman, Ph.D, a progressive Jewish activist and professor at Trinity University. And of course, Deanne Cuellar, the media activist.

Why did the San Antonio Express-News use the word "anti-semitism" in the headlines and in the story?
Why did Stinson use it?

What kind of journalism or editors do we have in this town?
Are they hyping hate? Why has Rabbi Block written an email denying he said it?

In a city that's 60% brown and becoming more so every day, as thousands of people die in a war when peace is possible in the middle east - you see what kind of newspaper editors and journalism we have to endure. It begins at home, doesn't it? I can barely read the San Antonio Express-News anymore.

Excerpt from the SAEN Story on August 17, 2006 by Guillermo X. Garcia:

As the city begins the process of allocating almost $4 million in arts funding, officials are facing a budding dispute between next-door neighbors that has led to accusations of cultural racism and counter charges of attempts to stifle artistic freedom. At the heart of the dispute is the criticism by a prominent Jewish religious leader of the political undertones in an Esperanza Peace and Justice Center cultural program about the Middle East conflict.
Rabbi Barry Block of Temple Beth-El questions whether city funds are being used in a program on the Middle East by the center that he says promotes anti-Semitism. City cultural officials defended the center and note several of its community, women's and cultural programs have been nationally recognized. The center's director angrily denied the group opposes the Jewish viewpoint and says the center counts on support and input from Jewish members. "They stand for neither peace nor justice, and I am finding that very little of their program has anything to do with the arts," Block said. Head of the city's largest temple, Block said it would be inappropriate for city funds to be used by the Esperanza center to put on a controversial series of ongoing presentations, discussion groups and films that present the Palestinian perspective, which he categorizes as virulently anti-Semitic.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Don't let the San Antonio Express-News lie to you about the War

The San Antonio Express-News, like other newspapers and media outlets around the country, is in lock-step with the public relations campaign of the Pro-Israeli lobby, which has silenced and biased our understanding of Palestine. Why? So that we won't understand that we don't have to be at war in the middle east. So that we won't understand the history, the culture, the humanity of the middle east. So that we won't understand Jews have many voices, not just one - for war.

Why is the media so biased? Because it's the governments - not the people - of Israel and the United States - that want war in the middle east, no matter the cost.

Because peace is possible.

Peace, Propaganda & The Promised Land - Google Video

Artistic credit: Pachuco, by Adan Hernandez

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jerry Pittman: The Worst Cop, but there's more in San Antonio

Part II of the Pittman Story

(click here for Part I of the story of San Antonio's badddddest cop)

But let’s go back to the beginning of Pittman’s triumphant arc as a black role model, endorsed by white leaders and officially commended by the state’s black legislators. If you were a black nobody cop in the seventies, well, what would it take for you to get promoted? You’d have to be Superman, wouldn’t you? And in a city that sells itself on a myth of cultural fusion, then who would you arrest if you wanted a chance at getting promoted? Hmmmmm?

His name was Big House. Real name, Willis Sterling, and he was one of those benevolent drug-dealer types, who’d get arrested, make bond, then go home to the Eastside in the 1980s. A non-violent man. “He was like a modern-day Robin Hood,” says T.C. Calvert, a well-known community activist who doesn’t do drugs himself, only hamburgers. He was so well-liked, say my elder sources, that all sorts of politicians liked hanging out at his place, a two-story joint off Sherman Street, near the railroad tracks. Well, one night, in 1986, the police raided it, quien sabe porqúe.

Translation: Who knows what game done gone bad, what deal went sour.

Somehow, then-Sargeant Pittman, in the heat and chaos of the night - was shot three – or four – times in that raid, depending on the story you read. He emerged as a force for good, an avenging angel willing to put away the bad guys, meaning Blacks, because as we all know they’re the criminals we have to fear, right? The thing is, Pittman got a Purple Heart out of it. And Big House got killed.

Only Pittman, my elder sources say, was shot by his own cops. Nobody ever tells you who shot him in the media stories, do they? All we have to go by is the police report, hmmmm. Pittman, my sources say, sued the city - and months later Pittman emerged as a Lieutenant in charge of Vice.

Other sources tell me, and this is pure chisme, but given Pittman's ethical breakdowns, there may be some truth to it: The story is the prostitutes were scared of him, because he would demand some for himself - or his buddies - or they'd go to jail.

It's funny how people are talking now, especially women with stories about abuse at the hands of the police, with the proverbial wolf guarding the chickenhouse.

By the way - Big House’s autopsy revealed no drugs or alcohol abuse in his system.

There’s more. The “Nasty” situation in 1990 when Pittman, acting against the advice of the District Attorney’s office, told more than 80 record stores to remove the 2 Live Crew album from their shelves or face obscenity charges. He made lots of headlines for his moral crusade, and I’m certainly no fan of booty rap, but there is a first amendment, and “Nasty” kept selling records in San Antonio.

In September 1997, Pittman was in a fender-bender while driving a city vehicle, and the patrolman reported smelling alcohol on Pittman’s breath, though he didn’t administer a sobriety test. At the time, Pittman oversaw the Drug Abuse program for the City. Pittman wasn’t ticketed, receiving “counseling” instead.

“In a phone bank survey of 3500 voters in San Antonio from all 10 districts, 99% loved the police,” says Patricia Castillo, the Director of the Peace Initiative, a well-known advocate on behalf of women’s rights in domestic violence cases, and a familiar face to the police. She explained this to me last year, when I was researching Marci Bennett’s rape allegations against Pittman.

According to the phone bank survey, Castillo said, people “think our police are the greatest, they need all the support they can get.”

Except for one thing, she added. When we ask them have you called them?

The answer is clear. “No. They’ve never had a need to interact with the police.”

According to Amnesty International, Antonio is one of twelve cities in the country, maybe the last great one, without a Police Review Board, also known as a Civilian Review Board. If we had one of these, which involves the police getting policed by the people, ordinary voters like you and me with subpoena power, who pay their salaries, then a Jerry Pittman might not have become.

Back in 1981, when María Antonietta Berriozábal was running for City Council, she was challenged by Al Peeler, President of the Police Officer’s Association. One of her planks was a Police Review Board, coming on the heels of a police brutality case named Santos Coy. She won, but couldn’t get the votes necessary on the City Council to pass the resolution. She says today that if Mayor “Henry Cisneros wanted something, he could’ve gotten it.”

When Marci Bennett accused Chief Pittman of raping her, there was no independent investigation. The police and the District Attorney’s Office, colluding as they must when they have to prosecute bad guys, organized a witchhunt, with Bennett emerging as the bad girl, ultimately charged with perjury, a Class A misdemeanor, by District Attorney Susan D. Reed for making false sexual assault allegations.

I’m not saying Pittman raped Marci Bennett. But emotional trauma accompanies rape, and a woman deserves an unbiased review of her case, especially when she’s accusing the moral law of the land, named Jerry Pittman. But she didn’t get it.

“If she says he did it, he did it,” one prominent Black woman told me, as did others, all off-the-record, all warning me to be careful. White women leaders told me they liked Pittman, that he was a “good man,” and didn’t want to hear about Marci Bennett.

At that press conference in March where I first saw Pittman, this is how he began his scripted remarks, never deviating from the page: “I want to thank my wife, my daughter, my family…I want to thank people who offered their support…and prayers. Thanks to Chief Ortiz…Thanks to Susan Reed.”

I asked him why he never hired a lawyer, hiring instead a fancy public relations firm. “Aren’t you worried of the perception of power?” That’s when he shot me that brown-ice glance, answering that Connally’s work was pro-bono, free.

Blacks make up 6.82% of the population in Bexar Country, according to the 2000 Census, and 141 officers out of a 2000-member force, from the city’s website. But our crime index is higher than other cities, near double what comparable cities have. I suspect it’s because we’re a poor city, and uneducated. I have a brother in prison, I understand the circumstances, familial and societal, that push young men into prison. I also know how violent prison is, how we warehouse Black and Brown men as if they were trash. At the same time, Black men are like Denzel or T.O., sexy, desired, worshipped, paid to be a little bad.

We sure have complicated feelings about Black men, don’t we.

For all the talk about Pittman, this whole story isn’t about him. He’s just the symbol of what’s wrong with this city, we’re a macho city, a militarized, over-Catholicized city, with a racist history desperately trying to prove it’s not. The powers-that-be needed Pittman to prove we are the world.

Pittman’s not the only bad cop, he’s not the only po-po who’s aggressive because that’s what we like, hoping he’ll control himself when we stay stop. We want our cops to be smart, to be prudent and we don’t want them to beat up their wives, as many do, and get away with it. Just ask Lynne Blanco of the Rape Crisis Center, who told me that after Bennett made her allegations, policewomen called in complaining about abuse from their peers on the force.

All the more reason why, in the wake of Pittman, we should demand that this City Council give us the power to police the police.

Police need to be subpoenaed, questioned, and judged, especially in sensitive cases. And sent to the Grand Jury, if necessary. Let them scream and holler about this idea, but a Civilian/Police Review Board can protect them when cops have to make split-hair decisions in the line of fire, as well as recommending they charged with a criminal offense when s…t happens.

Adiós, Pittman. I hope you’re the end of an era, but I doubt it. I pray for you. But I also pray with all my heart for Marci Bennett.

For a hard copy of this story, check out The San Antonio Observer on the newstands or call 355.8686

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


August 21, 2006

Juan Aguilera, Chair
Board of Directors
Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

1300 Guadalupe Street

San Antonio, TX 78207

Dear Mr. Aguilera and Board
of the Guadalupe Cultural
Arts Center:

The San Antonio chapter of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS), an organization comprised of women form the San Antonio community who care about what happens in our city, our state, our nation and our world, present to the Board of The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and to interested parties, our concern over the recent termination of employment of over 10 women from the Guadalupe Center. MALCS is a national association comprised of Chicanas, Latinas and Native American women who advocate and support women’s issues and concerns at all levels, from grassroots community venues to academic scholarly ones.

As long-time supporters of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, we are dismayed at the lack of procedural and civil processes by the women were treated. Because we care deeply about what happens to women at their places of work and because we also care deeply about the arts and culture of our city and the best that the Guadalupe represents for Chicanas, we ask the Board to take the following actions:

*To insure that all board actions reflect the procedures under which the GCAC operates, namely the bylaws of the organization.

*Offer an accounting of how and why the women employees were terminated and under what conditions they had to work.

*Evaluate the recently hired director of the Center taking into account all his dealings with mujeres at the institution and his treatment of same.

We respectfully submit this request and expect that these issues will be discussed at the next board meeting. We ask that the board then respond to our request in writing and with an explanation of what has transpired to bring the Center to such a predicament as well as what steps have been taken to resolve it. We are, of course, pleased to attend a Board meeting to discuss our concerns and are prepared to do so.


Mujeres Activas en Letras Social in San Antonio

Photocredit: J. Michael Walker, La Virgen de Guadalupe. He's married to a Tarahumara woman.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Why the San Antonio Express-News wants to sell you the war

Newspapers are about making money these days, punto. And they are paying dearly for it, as la raza stops reading them because we see through the bias, the patronizing (16 de septiembre!) and the lack of respect for our community.

At the Dallas Morning News, reporters are being asked to leave in droves because of the decline in readership. A readership the newspapers caused by not educating the city. I maintain that If they had gone the way of fair and balanced journalism - critical to educating us about poverty, crime, the schools, health, etc., the audience they so desperately need now would be able I trto read the paper. I used to tell them this when I was there - and all I getting my butt kicked out of the editorial boardroom.

It's going to happen here in San Antonio, and if you try to read the paper, you know how weak it is, and I"m being nice. There is so much to report in this city, and it doesn't happen.

Yesterday, the Sunday San Antonio Express-News ran a column by Mr. Nickel and Dime Roddy Stinson, (not gonna link it - doesn't matter), a man who gets a nice fat check for his conservative columns and who's known for catching the donut-eating city employees sleeping on the job. While he lets the real estate developers and the polluters and the abuse of big power take the whole donut box.

This time he attacked the Esperanza Center, one of the country's most vanguard arts and cultural organizations. Roddy doesn't like them because of their politics - and though he attacked them some years ago in a virulent column about their "homosexual agenda," and the use of city funds, the Esperanza sued the city, winning in federal court - and in the process became nationally-known and recognized.

I helped the organization at that time, when people were working around the clock for years - that's what it takes to fight back prejudice and hate. Five female lawyers, led by Amy Kastely gave their time pro bono, and later, Judge Orlando Garcia himself told me that Kastely was brilliant. The Esperanza won on all four counts - first amendment and protected speech.

Now the Esperanza, approaching its 20th anniversary, has embarked on a middle east series - examining the conflicts in that part of that world as they seek to understand the war, terrorism, and what it takes to make lasting peace.

This is too much for the San Antonio Express-News. Though they were treated to every sort of invitation and information regarding the middle east series, they could not or would not convey the series to you, its readers. And, in the most flagrant abuse of journalism I've ever seen, the SAEN allowed Stinson to rant and rave - without context, balance, perspective, or giving the Esperanza equal time and coverage, a chance to respond.

The San Antonio Express-News wants to cram this war down our throat. If you polled the executive's children, I doubt any of them are in Iraq. I suspect that finally the SAEN doesn't care if we don't read the paper, as long as we look at the ads. And shop. And send our children to war to safeguard the oilfields, keep on eye on the stability of that oil via Israel, and keep us in fear of "others" so that we vote to keep the rich, richer, believing their lies.

I think that the SAEN hopes that if they publish enough stories about soldiers as heroes, soldiers getting medals, brave soldiers whose high schools have framed their photos in a wall of honor, then we will keep sending our most innocent men (warning: tragic and explicit material) and women to a war that has no ending. Because Roddy Stinson and the powerful interests behind the SAEN don't want us to know the beginning.

Even if their children and grandchildren will suffer from a world at war, a hot planet, and the inevitable fall of an empire that used to be a democracy.

True Story: Los Kittens on Calavera Street

On Buena Vista and Calavera Street on San Antonio's Westside, there is a house.

It's a casa arreglada from the outside, those candy-colors we love, Christmas and Easter decorations all-year round.
In that yard, surrounded by a fence, there are kittens.

Last year, a kitten was hit by a car, and dragged itself around for three months. Another was so infested with fleas and parasites that an eye was falling out.

When I told la senora, says Maria Ramirez who is a housekeeper by day and santa gatera by night, she said
"que bueno que se muera."

Maria says that la senora isn't interested in getting the cats fixed or feeding them. She called me last Wednesday night, emergency, she said. Did I have room for two kittens? She found them in the street, somehow escaping from the pretty house with the painted fence.

Both gatitos were white, tiny, barely mewing. The smallest one almost fainted when Maria tried to give it some milk. The bigger one was gurgling for air, and both wore fleas as Paris Hilton wears jewels. Like most gatitos born in the barrio, pus was dripping from their eyes, worms in their pansitas and maybe leukemia.

After playing with the kittens yesterday, I felt like listening to Willie Jaye with his jumping, rock-spiced blues on the Eastside, if the blues had wings, I swear I'd fly away.

A Black friend of mine, 'Lonzo, once told me he only listens to the blues when he feels happy, because that's when he can take the pain. And that reminds me of the man on the bus who tells me he won't read the paper because there's too much dying.

In his book of poetry, Dreaming the End of War, the poet Benjamin Alire Saenz writes:

The curanderos say/the animals will save us/in the end/Be good to animals./Esos inocentes son la salvacion/del mundo./They will be waiting/when you die...

I named the baby kitten, Marshmellow, who eats from the big cat's bowl with his whole body. The older one, scratching, thriving, turning his head like a sigh, like that second before we wake up? I call him Hercules.

Artistic credit: Pachuco races on the overpass, by my amigo Adan Hernandez. From his book, Los Vryosos. Check it out.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

True Story: Censorship at the San Antonio Public Library

Some of you may know John Stanford, an elder who has a Supreme Court Case named after him - fighting censorship in the sixties. Last week, Mr. Stanford, as usual, went to the San Antonio Public Library downtown to distribute the People's Weekly World, a communist newspaper.

This time, Elizabeth Bermel, the Central Library Administrator, sent him an email on Tuesday, August 15th, from the Library's server, denying the publication's distribution at the library. Here's what she said:

"Multiple copies of your newspaper, People's Weekly World, have been appearing at the Central Library of the San Antonio Public Library. As the Central Library Adminstrator, I am responsible for approving all materials for free distribution at the Central Library, and People's Weekly World does not meet the Library's criteria."

I guess she's been taking notes from the Incarnate Word University's Librarian recently, who banned the New York Times because he didn't like what they reported and made national headlines...I think we need to talk to Ramiro Salazar, the Library's Director, and remind him what libraries are about. Pobrecitos.

Photocredit: "Free Speech for Me but not for Thee," http://techcentralstation.com/0311056.html

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bloody Towels & Jerry Joe Pittman, Asst. Police Chief of San Antonio

Assistant Chief Jerry Pittman has called the San Antonio Observer, San Antonio's leading Black newspaper, to say that he's human, that he's made a mistake. But I suspect he's thinking twice about retiring, because he needs another year to get his full pension.

He’s scary

When I first saw Asst. Chief Jerry Pittman en persona, San Antonio’s highest-ranking black cop, and certainly most-controversial, my gut talked to me. I was at Pittman’s press conference downtown, orchestrated by the most expensive public relations firm in town, Connolly & Company, on March 11, 05, where he announced his exoneration from rape allegations brought by his step-niece, a 39 year-old working-class, black, woman.

Chief Pittman, a 6’5” blue-black brother, with bullets instead of eyes, would’ve shot me if he could that day because of my questions, while the rest of the media kissed his grits. Look, I’m a middle-aged woman who trusts her intuition about men, and I know what I feel. But - I’m also a journalist, independent and ornery - and don’t have to put up with media bosses servile to the police in this town. I can speak the truth, and you deserve to hear it, so here goes. For the record.

Pittman, as everybody knows comes from country, a place according to media reports called Kosciusko, Mississippi. He’s been with the SAPD since 1974, and is on the verge of an early retirement, effective at the end of August – after bloody towels and sheets were discovered at a La Quinta hotel room on I-35 and Rittiman Road that he shared with an unnamed woman. In the story reported this week by Vianna Davila for the San Antonio Express-News, Pittman was a “regular” customer, a hotel clerk told the police, who determined that the couple had “consensual sex.”

One thing about my ambition,” Pittman said to the SAEN in a story on February 13, 2005, examining his background to become the city’s next San Antonio’s Police Chief, “is that it has never been absent of character, has never been absent of integrity, has never been absent of morality.” [italics mine] He wasn’t chosen, gracias a Dios, and until his retirement he remains the Assistant Police Chief of Operations, whose responsibilities include Investigation, Patrol, and Technical Services.

The reason I rehash what you already know is that those bloody towels remind me of a story the therapist/friend (I’ll call her Ms. Kind) of Marci Bennett, Pittman’s step-niece, confided to her. Bennett accused Pittman of raping her on February 6 of last year, and the attorney Rosie Gonzalez (no relation to me), who specializes in family law, was contracted by Ms. Kind because she was that afraid of the police.

Ms. Kind told Gonzalez in her sworn statement that Bennett was sexually abused by her stepfather when she began her first menstruation, and then was passed on to Pittman.

I’m an MSW, a professional social worker in my past life, and I’ve seen raped young girls. I’ve seen them with bruised and ripped vaginas and souls, and if I’m offending you, I’m sorry. But these girls deserve a witness. And yes, it happens in families. Some girls survive it, and others, just don’t. Gonzalez has impressed upon me that Ms. Kind contracted her out of fear, “to keep the police at bay, to stop them from harassing her.” Mind you, Pittman’s job was over the sexual crimes division. Though Pittman was “exonerated,” from the rape allegations after the most yellow-bellied journalism I’ve ever seen by the San Antonio Express-News, Gonzalez reminds me that the DA’s Office cited the lack of “enough evidence.” That doesn’t mean there wasn’t evidence, she says, or “enough evidence to indict him.”

In fact, says Gonzalez, the whole statement was “very prejudicial to Pittman.”

TO BE CONTINUED. To read more, please see the San Antonio Observer this week with a cover photo of Pittman in his trademark sunglasses, "You've been a BAD BOY," August 16 - August 22, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Guadalupe Cultural Center/The Chisme-mill says Cachetadas happened, what do you think?

According to sources who ask to remain confidential, there is speculation that Cynthia Langston, the Guadalupe Center's Development Director, may have left her position as a result of an altercation there last week with a TCA Offical. Ms. Gage McElwain, Director of Marketing for the TCA, denies that any altercation or slapping occurred on their site visit last Wednesday.

My reliable sources say that governmental agencies are intensely private about sensitive issues like this, insisting that something did happen. More on this later.

Monday, August 14, 2006

What will you be at 96 years old? Will it rain?

The following is a true story from Maria Antonietta Berriozabal, a former city councilwoman in San Antonio, Texas, highly respected for her integrity, dignity, and spirituality.

On Sunday, August 6th, 2006, she wrote:

Today was my mother's 96th birthday. At lunch I asked her how it felt being 96. For the past few days we had to remind her every day that her birthday was coming and she asked how old she was. Today in response she quickly replied: "No me gusta porque no llueve." And she said no more.

We thought that was quite a response. Who knows where those thoughts came from. However, at about 5 today it started to rain.

When you know my mom's story it makes a lot of sense.

She was raised in the country and worked in the fields for most of her youth. Because of her interest in reading the sky and what messages it gave her she became a really good meteorologist. We could always depend on my mom on whether to take a coat a sweater or a raincoat as we left in the morning because she was always right on target. And when we did not heed her advice we bore the revenge of nature. My mom had learned to read the clouds. But because as a child she experienced terrible tornados and storms that would devastate the little houses where the medieros lived, most of her adult life was spent with a great fear of rain and storms.

These days she hardly goes out. It is so hot. Her mind wanders on and off all day long. She gets confused and, well, you know about those things. Her environment is mostly inside a cool house. But today in addition to lots of loving relatives, flowers, gifts and song she got rain. To me it was a miracle.

A Chicana understands Palestine, and the wars that follow

My family's 20,000 acres were stolen from us after the U.S. Mexican War.

And before that, we had taken it from someone else - the Native Americans. As my mexicana mother always said, the land is to be shared. Otherwise, you have war.

Today, the Palestinian people are under seige, as Israel forgets the lessons of suffering. The lessons of loss.

Israel refuses to share, fearing the other. Believing that the only way to live is for one to dominate over the other.

Sound familiar?


Photo Credit: Windows, by Carly Garza, Say Si Students, San Antonio, Texas

Friday, July 28, 2006

I am Lebanese-American/The Story of Nadine Saliba

I am Lebanese-American. I am part of what is known in Lebanon a the war generation - because we were born with the outbreak of the war and we came of age during its fifteen long years. Growing up, we did not know our country except at war. We did not get to enjoy its beauty and prosperity during its more peaceful days. Needless to say, this experience shaped me in many ways. I was politicized from an early age and so were most people around me. War and politics served as the ever-present background to our lives, its imprint on our consciousness undeniable.

We talked politics, we thought politics. Our childhood and innocence were stolen from us. War and the news of war haunted our daily existence.

To Be Continued

Nadine Saliba, born and raised in Lebanon, attended the University of Beirut. She immigrated to San Antonio, Texas in 1993, receiving a B.A. in Political Science from UTSA (University of Texas at San Antonio), and an MA from the University of Massacusetts at Amherst in Political Science.

Nadine's story was first published as Dardasha in La Voz de Esperanza, July/August 2006.

Photo Credit: by Mia Kang. Arab-Americans Protest the Invastion of Lebanon at the Federal Bldg in San Antonio, today, July 28, 2006 in 101 degree-calor

On the hottest day in San Antonio, the Arab community protests U.S. /Israel Oppression

As a Chicana who's family lost their land in Texas after the U.S./Mexican War, I've always sympathized with the Palestinians whose land was taken from them in order to create the nation of Israel, as refugees of the holocaust after World War II. But I'd never understood how the Israeli government, with billions of dollars in U.S. funding and support, is at the "center" of the middle east crisis, the tragedy of the Palestinian people, and ultimately, the unraveling of anger, protest and resistance that is the prelude to terrorism.

The story of the middle east deserves to be understood if we are to understand why the U.S. government invaded Iraq, after embarking on its empire-loaded revenge against Afghanistan for 9/11.

In San Antonio, Texas, the media is not telling the true story of the middle east. Today, in the afternoon of the hottest day of the summer, 101 degrees, about 200 people, representing the diversity of the Arab-American community, protested the invasion of Lebanon by Israel at the city's Federal Building in the middle of the afternoon. Many of the Lebanese people are in fact originally from Palestine, having lost their homes after the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.

Photo Credit: Mia Kang, 15 years old, courtesy of the Esperanza Center

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mijito: You are not a Hero if you go to War

While the news media in San Antonio, Texas - surrounded by four military bases and a complacent, right-wing Catholic Church - continues to dance to the drums of war - it is time for us who lived through Vietnam to tell our mijitas and mijitas that heroism isn't the ability to follow orders and kill people. A hero is someone who has the courage to stand up and confront the monstrous culture of war in this country.

I should have written this story a long time ago, and I'm sorry I didn't. I thought my friends in the media would surely report the protests against the war, interview those of us who question it loudly, survey the leaders who hypocritically support the war while their own children are safely going to college here, report on the way that the military is invading the public schools and last year's national LULAC conference - looking for fresh meat. And I've been searching for the personal, intimate, stories of suffering, whether it's in Iraq, Afghanistan, the occupied territories of Palestine or Lebanon. If the media did this, we would have the freedom, the democracy, those innocent soldiers in Iraq are supposedly dying for.

And you know what? It's not gonna happen. The media in San Antonio is owned by mega-corporations with a big stake in this war, and trust me - their own children are not over there, so the complexity of stories we deserve aren't getting told. The stories we are seeing and reading are to manipulate and silence us so we will continue to deliver our poor and young to this war. The reporters and columnists get to keep their jobs if they remain silent. The businessmen get new federal contracts and the conservative politicians get the most funding to run for office. And the Church? They get crisp soldier's dollars in return for invoking God's blessings to war.

So let me say this loud, proud and brown: We are no better than the terrorists of 9/11 in our fever for war, by causing the sufrimiento, the deaths, and needless trauma of thousands and thousands of innocent people in the middle east. If you want a democracy like I do, tell mijito and mijita that NO, you're not going to war in the name of this empire that devours its jovenes.

Photo Credit: Semblances, by Mark Martinez, Say Si Students, San Antonio, Texas