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Legendary Singer Lydia Mendoza dies in San Antonio, Texas

Lydia Mendoza, born May 21, 1916, died peacefully last night in San Antonio, Texas at the age of 91.

If you don't know who she was, ask your grandmother, who likely remembers her and her twelve-string guitar at the Plaza del Zacate in San Antonio, Texas, with the chili queens in the early 1930s. She sang, literally, for pennies, as part if a struggling musical family following the migrant route to Michigan and back, until she was signed to the Blue Bird label in 1934. One of her songs, Mal Hombre, was an overnight success, when she was just 17 years old.

She emerged as one of the few tejanas to gain national prominence in a time when few women were encouraged to pursue a musical career. Throughout her life, until she suffered a stroke in 1988, she was beloved for singing the songs of the poor, working-class mexicanos she came from, as La cancionera de los pobres and La alondra de la frontera.

In 1982, Lydia Mendoza became the first Texan to receive a National Endowment for the…

In San Antonio, Texas, Free Speech Lawsuit gets its day in Court

In Dallas, Texas, there is no cost for a "political" parade. Or in Austin. Or in Houston - for the first fifteen intersections. Political marchers aren't charged in Los Angeles or in New York City for taking to the streets.
But San Antonio, Texas is different. A new "Parade Ordinance" passed by the City Council on November 29, 2007, requires groups to pay thousands of dollars to march in the public streets. Though the sidewalks, the Ordinance says, are free.

In response, a coalition calling itself The International Woman's Day March Committee and the San Antonio Free Speech Coalition filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance.

The Injunction Hearing was held today in a packed courtroom at the Federal Courthouse by District Judge Xavier Rodriguez. After more than four hours of testimony and cross-examination of the Coalition's witnesses, Judge Rodriguez decided to postpone his ruling until February 8th. The diverse group o…

Free Speech Advocates File Lawsuit Against the City of San Antonio

With a vote of 9-2, the San Antonio City Council passed a new "Parade" Ordinance that denies marching on the street without a substantial "fee." The new "Ordinance" allows selected "groups" to march for free:

1. At least two "Fiesta" Parades
2. The MLK March
3. The Cesar Chavez March
4. Diez y Seis de Septiembre
5. Veterans Day
6. Mardi Gras

The City of San Antonio is one of many cities around the country facing these restrictive ordinances and legal challenges to them. On December 20th, Judge Xavier Rodriguez will hold a hearing on the injunction that would prevent the City of San Antonio from enforcing the Parade Ordinance.

NO WONDER THE MIRASOL SCANDAL HAPPENED: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CONTRACTS AT SAHA

Herman Taylor, the recently-hired Assistant Procurement & Facilities Director at SAHA, has resigned after only two months reporting to Patrick Bourcier, Director of Procurement & Facilities - in shock at the contracting miasma at SAHA. Taylor, who is a professionally-certified public buyer, (know as CPPB), was the only procurement-certified manager at SAHA, says that he was appalled at SAHA's antiquated commodity code system that should have been updated "at least five years ago. "
Because SAHA has neglected using the government's national and efficient coding system for contracting, Taylor explained, the Housing Authority has little room for the many variations and categories of contracts that need to be established, reviewed, and re-configured according to governmental regulations.
SAHA has been under fire for the Mirasol Homes Public Housing Project, a westside community beset with poor construction and health problems linked to SAHA's contractual p…

Mary Alice, wife of Henry Cisneros, finds her voice in San Antonio as women battle for Free Speech in the Streets

She's a delicate bird of a woman, petite and beautifully apparelled. I know her husband, and she looks up to her supremely intelligent, charismatic, but scared of the status-quo husband. I suspect that she became a San Antonio councilwoman as a result of his lanky shadow. No matter. Yesterday, la Mary Alice stood up to the Man along with Councilwoman Lourdes Galvan and voted on the side of the Constitution and women's rights as one of two women on the San Antonio City Council who recognizes that anti-war or anti-immigrant protestors should be able to march on the streets without having to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege. While the city-wide Fiesta! bacchanal takes over the streets for weeks.

With a vote of 9-2, the San Antonio City Council overwhelmingly voted to pass a new "Parade" Ordinance yesterday despite the organized protest of free speech advocates - mostly women - who believe that the City Council is violating the First Amendment of its citize…

STATEMENT FROM DEE MURFF WHO FILED DISCRIMINATION CHARGES AGAINST THE GUADALUPE CULTURAL ARTS CENTER THIS WEEK

I've taken the liberty of editing the complete statement because of length, but I'm impressed with Dee's courage and coraje. May you too fight back, it's the only way.

This lawsuit represents more than the damages/injuries inflicted upon me. What I want people to remember is that there are 12 women and 2 men who were also displaced. The Chairman of the Board, Vice Chairman, and the rest of the Board failed to act responsibly; choosing instead to justify the illegal behavior of the President of the organization. The Board of Directors deliberately retaliated against me instead of protecting me and my civil rights. In fact my complaints were ignored because I am brown and I am a woman. The tax payers and citizens who have provided support to the GCAC for over 25 years have also been robbed of classes, performances and events that enrich our community and preserve our Chicano/a culture. The loss during this period is immeasurable.
The greatest injury however has …

Are we ashamed of La Lupe? The Guadalupe Cultural Center gets sued for Sexual Discrimination by a Brown Woman

Well, it's official. Tragic. And necessary.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, once a history-making cultural fuerza and fountain of all things Chican@, is getting sued by one brown woman - and is about to make history again. On Tuesday, November 27th, 2007, at 10 am, Amy Kastely, lawyer with de la Riva & Associates who is representing the plaintiff, Dee (Dolores) Zapata Murff, will file a lawsuit in Federal District Court in San Antonio, Texas, alleging sexual discrimination.

Specifically, the charges include: Sexual Harrassment; Harrassment based on race, color and national origin (the plaintiff called herself a Chicana); Retaliation; Constructive Discharge, and Negligent Supervision.

In the lawsuit, Dee Zapata Murff, the GCAC's formerPublic Relations and Marketing Manager, alleges that R. Bret Ruiz, who was hired by Juan F. Aguilera, the Center's Board Chairman in the summer of 2006, discriminated against her as the Guadalupe Cultural Center Board failed to take act…

The greatest accordionist in the world, Esteban Jordan, has one more song to play for you

EstebanJordan, 67, "El Parche," who many call the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion, who plays what is simply impossible on the accordion, esta muy enfermo.

The last time I heard him play, he played a shorter set, and without the electric thunder of the past.

If you've ever heard him play, you will never forget it. The grammy-nominated master accordionist is our Paco D'Lucia, Hendrix, and Astor Piazzolla: Fire, cantina, and the grace of hell reside in his hands, and in those blinded eyes that have seen too much.

Esteban, born in the South Texas Valley and a son of a migrant family who didn't get an education, is notoriously difficult and protective of his music and image. It's the reason you may not know who he is, but now you do.

The only place to hear him in San Antonio is at Salute on Friday nights, accompanied by two of his accomplished sons and the prodigy Juanito on the drums. Lately, he's been playing less sets with longer intermissions. Azeneth Domi…

LATINOS, WORLD WAR II, AND THE VIOLENCE OF MY FATHER

My father, Robert Renaud, who's now 87, served in World War II for three years. Thank you, Maggie Rivas, Ph.D, for forcing Ken Burns to include men like my father.

Now let's talk about ending The War once and for all.

To do that, we have to remember the lessons.

My father returned to San Perlita, Texas ready to fight anyone who crossed him. He believed himself a better man than those who did not go to la guerra. To this day, he remembers his first days in the Army, his buddies, his uniform, how to salute, and the bone-breaking explosion of cannon from his driver's seat in the tank.

Daddy used to humiliate my mother because she was mexicana, and didn't speak good English like him. He thought we should bomb Vietnam into a democracy. He scoffed at Martin Luther King, Jr., as a man who "started trouble."

World War II taught my father he belonged. He took on the views of the priviliged, even though he wasn't. But ay, how he wanted to be.

Daddy beat m…

This is the Huipil you won't see at the Museo Alameda's "Huipiles: A Celebration:"

This is the kind of woman you're not going to see this in the Huipiles: A Celebration, at the Museo Alameda Smithsonian.

So I'm showing it to you.

Comandanta Ramona, 1959-2006

The world has lost one of those women it requires. Mexico has lost one of the combative women it needs and we, we have lost a piece of our heart,” said sub-comandante Marcos at the time of her death.

An advocate for women’s rights and artisanship, Ramona was the first member of the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary Committee (CGRI), the leadership body of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), to have died since their uprising in 1994.

In 1993, Comandanta Ramona, together with Major Ana MarĂ­a, extensively consulted indigenous Zapatista communities (back then, still underground and not public) about the exploitation of women and subsequently penned theRevolutionary Laws of Women. On March 8 of that year, the Revolutionary Laws were passed.

Ramona was a petite, soft-spoken woman charged with signif…

Huipiles at the Museo Alameda: There is nothing to celebrate

So some young latinas asked me yesterday about the "Huipiles" at the Museo Alameda. They were confused about the Exhibit. The photo below is by a commercial artist, Liz Garza Williams, one of the artists in the Huipiles Exhibit, and this is her photo of the featured artist, Kathy Sosa, wife of Republican party advertising-mogul Lionel Sosa, who is also in the show.You know what this visual says to young latinas, who comprise the majority population in this region? This photo, indicative of the quality and imagery in this Huipiles exhibit, says "See how I own your past? Do you see how beautiful I am wearing what you don't even know about? You can't even afford your own history, because only a rich woman like me is good enough and beautiful enough to wear it."

Now the Museo Alameda has asked latina scholars to contribute to "panels," to discuss "huipiles." There is a documentary that accompanies the show where some huipil-dressed l…

What's wrong with this picture? The Museo Alameda in San Antonio

You're looking at one of the photographs taken by Liz Garza Williams, whose work is currently being exhibited at the Museo Alameda in a new exhibit titled Huipiles: A Celebration.

Other artists included in this exhibit are Kathy Sosa (Republican-party advertising mogul Lionel Sosa's wife), Cristina Sosa Noriega (Lionel's daughter of the HEB Loteria dinnerware line), Jacinto Guevara, artist, Veronica Prida, and Lionel Sosa himself.

I'm not a certified art critic, just a Chicana who's travelled all over Mexico and who spent time in Guatemala during their civil war. The women who wear huipiles there look like Rigoberta Menchu - they are indigenous, brown, impoverished, marginalized, and supremely despised by the status quo. They look like me. The Zapatista women wear them too.

Henry R. Munoz III, the founder of the Smithsonian-affiliated Museo Alameda in downtown San Antonio, is also the Vice-Chairman of the Smithsonian Board. According to trusted sources, he spent $1…

TRUE STORY: What's a Chicana from San Antonio doing in Rwanda?

La Vicki Grise is 30 years old, a hometown girl and performance artist who's in her second year of graduate school in the Performing Arts en Los Angeles.

You may know her for The Panza Monologues, produced by Irma Mayorga.

Vicki is the future of theatre. When you turn off the television after a long hoping of some truth, confused because it leaves you feeling not pretty enough, not rich enough, remember, remember, that people used to gather around and tell each other stories. And there was always that one woman who could make you laugh - and cry.

She told your story, and made you see how yes, you were necessary to the world.

Postcard from Vicki Grise

I am in Amsterdam now at my new office - the open bare biblioteek. The city is laid out in a series of cocentric circles with canals and bridges cutting across them on every block. The old buildings, lined right up against the other, lean forward and they look as if they are supporting each other. Everyone rides a bike and I am c…

MEDIA WATCHATE!! THE SAN ANTONIO CURRENT GIVES IT UP TO SENATE WANNABE MIKAL WATTS AND YOU CALL THIS AN ALTERNATIVE PAPER?

Well, its official.

Back in the day, alternative newspapers were really that. Now of course it's sex ads and restaurant reviews and the publisher is livin large. Ok, I'll swallow that if you give me the news I can't find in the mainstream.

Here in San Antonio, we got the Editor of the San Antonio Current, Elaine Wolff, using her position to promote (D) Mikal Watts and his Senatorial campaign, whose claim to fame is that he's a very rich trial lawyer and anti-U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R).

Have I mentioned that Rick Noriega (D), a Texas legislator who served in Iraq is also considering entering the race? Have I mentioned that he's not rich?
http://halfempth.blogspot.com/2007/07/watts-v-noriega-in-blogosphere.html

(My disclosure: I'm no fan of war heroes, they tend to be conflicted about taking on the status quo, fearful of being called Mexicans instead of Hispanic and sent back to la madre patria. )

Back in the day, the alternatives would be all over th…

MEDIA WATCHATE! Twenty layoffs at the San Antonio paper: Does anybody read the newspaper anymore (besides the New York Times)?

I read the local paper, the San Antonio Express-News, searching for a nugget about political officials, corruption, the Edwards Aquifer and the golf resort that's threatening it, why the streets are flooding with all the rains, etc. But we get stories about Eva Longoria and Tony Parker, football, and praise for our military heroes. (Remember, we have four bases here).

Nobody under thirty years old I know reads the paper. If they're halfway educated, they scan it online, otherwise, they buy it on Fridays for the Weekend Guide and on Sundays for the coupons and the Sports Section. That's it.

I heard last night from a good source that twenty people were laid off in the latest round, I say that because about half-a-dozen people got their pink slips a month ago or so.

In reading the paper today, there was no mention of the layoffs. Who cares?

I do. Before you read who got the shove, let me remind you who's been kicked out already one way or the other: (These are not in …

A battered woman from San Antonio loses her reporting job

Gina Galaviz, 43, KSAT-TV's I-love-the-police reporter, "has been fired" from the television station , according to the San Antonio Express-News, and I'm quoting verbatim here from Jeanne Jakle's byline, "after she was charged with assault following a fight with her boyfriend," Ronald Aguillen, 46.

Ok, so we in San Antonio know about the time in 2004 when Gina filed charges against another boyfriend, the former SWAT cop, who was a councilman at-the-time, Ron Segovia .
There were allegations of an apple being thrown at her nalgas, which humiliated her, and that he also pointed a gun at her. It was not the first time, she told me.

Tough-guy Segovia got off - I think he had three attorneys representing him if I remember correctly, and in this city, like too many, the cops are in bed with the grand jury - they need and depend on each other, and this grand jury decided there "wasn't enough evidence to pursue a criminal case against him."

Segovia wa…

True Story: Maria, la santa de los cats in San Antonio

In San Antonio, it's been raining cats.

Forget the biblical lluvia that's turned our city into an Eden in August. Los gatos , calicos, Cary Grant-tuxedoes, marigold tabbys, long-hair, short-hair, and witchy black ones with motor-purrs. They are raining down to tell us something.

And Maria has seen them in the alleys and streets of el Westside of San Antonio as charcoal bits - burned beyond recognition. She's seen gangmembers run over them in joyrides, so their little tripitas make them laugh. She's seen them poisoned with anti-freeze, and she's found them mewing from trashcans on Zarzamora Street.

Maria, a housekeeper, has rescued more than sixty of them. With her money, and sometimes threatened with rape - or death - for her compassion.

San Antonio has a problem. There are too many of them, the animal shelter is full, and too many waiting for adoption. We are a very poor city. But in this city, the cats are lost, abandoned, as if we don't ne…

Chicano in Stockholm sees what war does to children

The writer James Hillman, in Our Terrible Love of War, says that peace isn't the absence of war, it's the abscence of remembering. But if we don't want war we have to remember. We have to know what war does to soldiers, to the familes, to the women, to the children.

With that in mind, here's a postcard from Pablo Martinez, poeta, university professor and activista, who's been in Stockholm doing quien-sabe-que.


Stockholm, 24 July 2007 It's been wonderfully cool here the past two days. But I'm not writing to issue a weather report -- that's the job of the Weather Channel. Today I visited the Medelhavs Museet, the Museum of Middle Eastern art and culture. Unlike the other museums I've visited, this one was quiet -- eerily quiet. I was there to see an exhibition of photographs; the show is titled Children of Baghdad in 1999.

A fairly pedestrian title, until you consider that in 1999 , Iraq was not anywhere in our collective consciousness. Unlike the ot…

Las True Stories is gonna have a new look and sabor

Bueno, so I haven't been writing because I've just finished two manuscripts, and cross-your-fingers, parece que I have a good chance of getting them published with UT Press. There were agents interested in my Golondrina (a love story about a woman who falls in love with the man who helps her cross the border), pero a dream I had told me to let the money-thing go.

I want a beautiful book, a forever-book, and UT Press understands me. That doesn't mean I'll get it, it just means our stories deserve the editors, artists and publishing houses that turn our books into the jewels they were when our grandmothers left them to us.

So. It's time, maybe by this time next year I 'll have two books to tell you about. Speaking of books, my favorite subject, even before politics, I've just finished a novela by Almudena Grandes, a Spanish writer I discovered at the Intl PEN Festival of World Literature in NYC in April (when I lost my panties in the subway, see previous po…

TRUE STORY: Los Panties en New York City

I"m in New York City this week for the PEN World Voices Festival, an annual gathering of writers from around the world, no Chicana/o writers hanging out here, just me and la colombiana Raquel...
Anyway, been staying with the journalist Roberto Lovato in Brooklyn, and as I left the N Train on 14th Street yesterday, a man rushed to reach me, saying "Excuse me, I think these are yours."
Raquel and I turned around. Nobody hardly talks to anyone on the subway.
He was a big, white, professional-looking man. In a pin-stripe suit, pa' acabar. With my black Victoria's Secret panties in his hands.
If you know me, I always have something to say. This time, I was frozen, stunned with verguenza, what would my mother say? Why does this always happen to me?
Raquel turned to me as he came forward clutching my french-cut calzones with the pretty pink rosettes. She was accusing. "Did you forget to wear your calzones?" "No." "Well, then how come he has them, …

What the Henry Munoz Spin Machine is saying

I got a pretty nasty email from Nikki (?) about my Chingazos postings, relating to FightNight outside the Museo Alameda Smithsonian during the VIP Gala (see previous posts). Don't have time to interview the other side, but here's what I do know.

Artista Franco Mondini, dicen different sources, saw the fight. According to Rina Moreno, who was assaulted by Henry Munoz' family members, Juan Ramos, another well-known artista, talked to Cruz after the chingazos and repeated her depiction of events, telling Cruz that Franco had told him what happened just as Rina alleges.

You know what happens next, doncha? The right thing to do is for Henry Munoz to apologize, he's buena gente, que no? But it won't happen.

Political people, trust me, Munoz is one, don't think in terms of what's right. They think in terms of advantage, appearance, deals, money. They don't listen to their soul, they listen to their ego, which is richly rewarded in this material and arti…

THE CHISME CONTINUES: The fight at the Museo Alameda on Opening Night

Ok, so I got a call from a relative of Rina's, the woman who was beat up outside the Museo Alameda on Thursday, April 12th, during the VIP Gala in downtown San Antonio. Los chingazos were apparently given by relatives of Henry Munoz, the Museo Alameda Smithsonian's empresario, the Alameda Museum's founder, and resident star-maker.

Rina Moreno, the social worker wife of Cruz Ortiz, artista, has filed a police report and intends to press assault charges against Peter Falcon, an actor. Falcon is married to Meredith, Henry Munoz's niece, and they brought their two young daughters to the Alameda VIP pachanga. Here's what happened according to Rina's familia:

It was about 12:30 am on Thursday night, and Cruz was helping put an easel away a few feet outside the museum. While he worked on this, Rina decided to return to the dancing which was still rockeando the museum. On the way there, she wished outloud to no one "Goddammit, I want a fucking giftbag!" a…