"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

Friday, December 21, 2007

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 Art's National Heritage Award. Her last public appearance was a tribute,
A Serenata to Lydia Mendoza, for her 90th birthday, presented by the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center at the Plaza Guadalupe in September 2006.

It rained that night, and Lydia Mendoza's illness prevented her from singing for the thousands who came just to show their
respeto to the woman who knew at least a thousand songs about their lives, their loves, their language, and their dreams. She learned the words to those songs when she was a little girl in Monterrey, Mexico, from reading bubble-gum wrappers, then listening in the shadows to the men who sang those songs, then teaching herself to play the mandolin, the guitar, the violin, the piano, the bass fiddle, and any instrument she picked up.

Adios, Lydia. I will remember you because my mother listened to your songs crying for my father who didn't love her. She cried as hard as that rain that last time I saw you at the Plaza, and that's how you always sang. You cried for her, didn't you, for all of us.

The memorial service is tomorrow, December 22, 2007, at the Guadalupe Church. Lydia Mendoza will be buried at San Fernando II afterwards. That's what Radio KEDA, the conjunto station, also known as Radio Jalapeno in San Antonio, has announced, playing her songs continuously since yesterday in tribute.

Muchas Gracias a Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, for writing the autobiography of Lydia Mendoza, Lydia Mendoza's Life in Music, Oxford University Press, 2001.

photo credits: Lydia Mendoza

Thursday, December 20, 2007

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 of witnesses, including Nadine Saliba, an Arab-American activist and Lorinda Carr, a disabled veteran who uses a wheelchair, answered questions from the plaintiff's lawyer, Amy Kastely, regarding the arbitrary and discriminating schema for marching organizers and marchers. Sabila testified regarding the $3000 fee she was quoted for an estimated 200 Arab-American women marching on the streets, and Karr testified about the difficulty of using the city's cracked sidewalks in a wheelchair. Graciela Sanchez, one of the Coalition leaders, stated that an activist planning a March for Darfur was quoted a $12,000-$15,000 user's fee - because the group - consisting of five runners with torches - wanted to be on the streets.

"It's your message, so you should have to pay for it...It's just like renting a house," said Mayor Phil Hardberger in response to the lawsuit, as reported in the San Antonio Express-News on December 20th.

photo credits: Mia Kang, Esperanza Center

Monday, December 10, 2007

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.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


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 procedures.

Pursuant to his responsibilites while at SAHA, Taylor said that "When I went through and found the contracts, I went into the system and couldn’t determine what contracts were in place and the Director told me it (the contracts) was not accurate information." Taylor says there was no information on the contracts based on what was expired. So he’s (Bourcier) probably changing the contracts in the system – not in paper. So it lets him cover up the problem. Ninety percent of that (contract) information was not accurate."

Further, Taylor said there were "alot of contracts coming up for expiration," and they should be extended or renegotiated. And while many contracts are eligible for that, he made a list of "40 -50 contracts that need to be (newly) established." In other words, the contracts need to go out through proscribed governmental bidding procedures.

To get around the contracting slowdown created by incompetence, he said that SAHA is making non-profit procurement contracts via their corporate entities, to get around federal regulations. In other words, SAHA is using for-profit procurement procedures for non-profit procurement contracts.

Besides his professional buyer's certification, Taylor is also a real estate broker, mortgage broker, financial planner, securities representative, and has extensive experience with governmental contracts.

Bourcier's salary is near the range of "six-figures,' according to Taylor's estimation. Taylor also stated that he was writing a letter to SAHA's CEO, Henry Alvarez III, detailing his observations, and recommending that SAHA have two separate departments, each charged with Contract Management and Procurement.

Taylor says that while some people at SAHA wanted him to "shine," he had begun to feel he was hired to protect Bourcier, who has been at SAHA for a dozen years - and to "clean up" the Procurement Office without being given any authority whatsoever.

credits: Mirasol Homes, www.hobb.org/hobbv1/images/stories/Mirasol2.gif

Friday, November 30, 2007

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 citizens by charging marchers who want to protest on the street instead of sidewalks.

Amy Kastely, a law professor and attorney for the Esperanza Center, walked alongside free speech proponents toward the Federal Courthouse after the vote to file a lawsuit on behalf of the International Women's Day March & Rally Committee and the Free Speech Coalition.

I know, I walked too. In my high heels, all dressed up for the occasion at City Hall.

According to Kastely, the just-passed ordinance allows for "big groups" listed below to march for free - while other groups have to pay:

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

"This ordinance threatens community marches by requiring groups to pay for the cost of traffic barriers, police officers and clean-up for their events, which can cost up to $15,000 or more," said Mia Kang, a young activist who spoke before City Council.

Today's ordinance "is a violation of the Constitution," says Kastely, as the City Council "is wiling to pick and choose among ideas, willing to balance the city budget off our backs."

The City of San Antonio is one of many cities around the country facing these restrictive ordinances and legal challenges to them. In response, some courts have said that it is not constitutionally permissible for the government to impose such high fees for the use of public streets - and that people
are in effect precluded from using the public streets for marches, parades and the like. Further, courts have clearly held that the First Amendment requires "viewpoint neutrality," which means that if governments waive the costs for some they must waive them for all, without regard to the content of the speech.

According to Kastely, the Council's vote implies that they believe citizens should have to pay to speak out, and that the "costs are so big they interfere with free speech."

You know Mary Alice had to stand up to Henry that night. You go hermana!

credits: March in San Antonio, Texas, www.salon.com


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 been to the countless civil rights advocates who battle to ensure that employees’ women in particular, would not have to endure sexual harassment and then suffer retaliation for reporting it.

I am saddened when I think about what has happened to the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, once considered a model on the national level as a cultural institution. I am saddened when I think about the hopeful young children that have had their violins silenced because the President canceled the Mariachi classes. Gone is the Guadalupe Bookstore which helped promote local and regional authors and artists. Gone are all of the artistic directors that helped breathe life into the Guadalupe all gone except for one and how she survived is beyond me.

We expect a verdict that will send a clear message to those who still believe that females can continue to be treated like second class citizens. We expect to hold the Board of Directors accountable for affirming the actions of the President instead of defending my civil rights when I cried out and rather than protecting me; silenced, humiliated and escorted me out for my own protection.

Dolores Zapata Murff

November 27, 2007

credits:Women Resisting in Oaxaca http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.genderracepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2006

Monday, November 26, 2007

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 former Public 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 action when she brought it to their attention. The following is an excerpt from the formal complaint that will be filed on Tuesday morning: (The web-links are mine)

In July 2005, Defendant R. Bret Ruiz was hired as Executive Director of the Guadalupe Center. At some point in the next several months, Mr. Ruiz requested, and the Board of Directors of the Guadalupe approved, a change in his title to “President” of the Guadalupe Center.

1. Within a month of beginning work, Defendant Ruiz began to direct sexually offensive remarks towards Plaintiff Murff. These included:

a) Describing a young intern’s breasts as “voluptuous” and her clothing as “provocative” and then comparing the young woman’s appearance to Ms. Murff’s, remarking that Ms. Murff was also “voluptuous” and “provocative,” as he looked up and down her body;

b) Daily comments on Ms. Murff’s clothing made in front of other Guadalupe Center staff members, ranging from “very sexy today” to “here comes Dee in her fake Channel;”

c) Calling Ms. Murff while she was on her lunch break to comment on the co-worker with whom she was having lunch: “You’re not having an inappropriate relationship with him are you?”

d) Remarking that Ms. Murff must have “compromised herself” to get the editor of La Prensa newspaper to donate a half-page advertisement to the Guadalupe Center; and

e) Remarking that Ms. Murff “must have given a blow job” to another staff member who had complemented Ms. Murff’s work on a particular project.

2. Defendant Ruiz also repeatedly made racially offensive comments directed at Ms. Murff and other Mexican-Americans:

a) “You need to wear more sunscreen – you are getting too dark” [said to a dark-complexioned Mexican-American woman];

b) “You need to work on your accent because it sounds too Chicano” [said to a Mexican-American man]; and

c) Commenting that people living in the Westside of San Antonio (where the Guadalupe is located) are “very rasquache y feos.”

d) Telling Ms. Murff: “you look like la india Maria!!”

3. In September 2005, Ms. Murff told Mr. Ruiz that his sexual and racial remarks were “offensive” and “abusive.” Soon thereafter, Mr. Ruiz called Ms. Murff to his office and told her that he could not “mentor” her and that he had certain expectations of her as the Public Relations Director. Later, Ms. Murff discovered that Mr. Ruiz had put a letter in her personnel file discussing this “counseling” session. Although this letter is addressed to Ms. Murff, it was never delivered to her.

I've heard latinas complain about sexual harrassment
at the Guadalupe Cultural Center for a long time. Unfortunately, there are still too many men at non-profits who don't understand that justice and equality includes respect for las mujeres. I attended several boardmeetings at the Guadalupe Cultural Center last year, and personally witnessed the contempt the boardmembers showered on the latinas of the Guadalupe, me included. What I noticed was that the boardmembers showed a definite disdain for the working-class, ethnic-apparalled, un-corporate couture of the women who came before them.

A jury could be seated and ready for trial in 9-10 months, Fall 2008.

artistic credit: Guadalupe (Cultural Center) Dancer

Sunday, October 21, 2007

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

Esteban Jordan, 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 Dominguez, the owner of the venerable bar on St. Mary's that specializes in jazzy, twisty, and rocknroll conjunto, is thinking of shutting down because - it's breaking her to keep it open. The sophisticated audience at Salute has included Juan Tejeda, Flaco Jimenez (who used to go hear Esteban play), assorted conjunto freaks, Los Macarturos, labor organizers, and even the anti-polkista Sandra Cisneros back in the day.

"When you go hear Esteban, get on for the ride," says artist Joan Frederick, a twenty-year veterana of Esteban's houevre. She remembers the time that Azeneth brought mariachis into the bar to serenade Esteban for his birthday, and how the mariachis played and played for him, and how Esteban knew the words to all the songs, and made the rancheras even better somehow, different, una locura, infinite.

Esteban, you have my life in your accordion.

photo credit: www.estebanjordan.com

Sunday, September 23, 2007


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 my brother, Jorge Antonio, into a Texas prison, where he is today. He beat me almost daily, and my retarded little brother, Daniel. He couldn't believe Jorge was a genius. He hated the way I challenged him. And Daniel's diaper at six years old embarrassed him.

I love my father, and have tried to forgive him.

The War did not teach my father anything good. He says he fought for democracy, but I never saw him practice it anywhere. The only civil rights he ever wanted was for himself. Because he suffered for this country, I think he believed he would be treated equally by whites.

And that never happened. Sure, he got his medals, his pat on the back, and the false show of respect that so many veterans cling to.

But my father is a defeated man. He believes The War made him a man.

Now that we've proved we Latinos are just as capable of killing others in the name of democracy - a democracy too many men rejected when they returned home after World War II, let's honor them by remembering that War does not make heroes, much less true men.

Heroes stand up for truth and justice. This was not my father.

The Greatest Generation, I hope, is yet to come.

credits: NOAA Black History Month


Saturday, September 22, 2007

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 María, extensively consulted indigenous Zapatista communities (back then, still underground and not public) about the exploitation of women and subsequently penned the Revolutionary Laws of Women. On March 8 of that year, the Revolutionary Laws were passed.

Ramona was a petite, soft-spoken woman charged with significant responsibilities, such as having been entrusted with the military leadership in San Cristóbal during the uprising. In February of 1994, after the Zapatistas called a cease-fire to the twelve-day long uprising in response to mass peace marches, Ramona was the first Zapatista representative to speak during peace talks with the government. Two years later, when the Mexican authorities forbade the Zapatistas from participating in the National Indigenous Congress in Mexico City, the frail and ill-struck Ramona was asked to represent the Zapatistas.

The plan worked as the government conceded to Ramona and she went on to represent the Zapatistas, speaking in front of 100,000 supporters in Mexico City’s Zocalo during the important nation-wide indigenous gathering.

Credit: Text (with my edits from the web) and Photo by Heriberto Rodriguez

Friday, September 21, 2007

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 latinas are interviewed. Sandra Cisneros and Ellen Riojas Clark, Ph.D, contributed essays, and are also two of the women Kathy Sosa Frida Kahloized in her "Huipiles" paintings.

What will young women remember? The essays, the documentary?

Or this?

artistic credit: "Katarina, mi querida amiga, a portrait of Kathy Sosa," by Liz Garza Williams

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

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 $1.2 million dollars on the inaugural extravaganza in April of this year after the Alameda Board approved a half-a-million dollar budget. There are rumors of Henry's extravagant spending, tyranny, prima donis syndrome, and that San Antonio-based corporations, knowing how he spends money, refuse to contribute.

The New York Times blasted the Alameda for its poor artistic quality, making an exception for el Franco Mondini-Ruiz's Botanica installation and John Dyer's Conjunto photographs.

The Museo Alameda purports to tell "stories by the people themselves." Officially, sixty percent of the people in San Antonio are Latina/os. The majority are poor, working-class, without benefit of an education that gives them a context to understand their rich, hybrid experiences. The Museo Alamada considers itself as the "largest latino museum in the country," costing $12 million dollars to renovate on the site of the former Alameda Theatre, built in 1949.

When I look at a photograph like this, it hurts me to the tripas.

The City of San Antonio's Office of Cultural Affairs is due to consider $630,000 to the Museo Alameda for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Over thirty years ago, Chicana/o artists established cultural centers around the country, defiant at the major institution's denial of their work. We raged at the museum's elitism, cultural appropriation, sterilization - and the virtual exclusion - of historical and political context.

Now, look closely. We finally got our own
chingon museum - and look what we've done.

I really doubt that Lionel Sosa and his Republican political family cares very much about
las mujeres who wear huipiles in Mexico or Guatemala. Or the children from el westside of San Antonio who are going to learn that huipiles are for las ricas and las gringas and las gueras.

And I'm sure the reception going on right now is lavish, elegant, and may Lionel Sosa, Kathy Sosa, Christine Sosa Noriega, et al., never see a
huipil soaked in blood and resistance.

photograph, titled "Hot Hot Hot!" of Maria Del Mar Himmelstach byLiz Garza Williams from

Saturday, August 18, 2007

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 camping next to Gaasperplas Lake. I run every morning underneath trees that create ceilings of green that block the sky. I love it here.
I'm writing to let you know that I posted my first report from travels to Rwanda this summer on my blog site: www.vgrise.blogspot.com While I was in Africa I believe I was so overwhelmed by the experience I had a difficult time being on a computer even when I did have access.

The first post is on our first days arrival and Bisisero, the site of Rwandan resistance to the Genocide of 1994. In the following weeks, I will also post notes on:

1. Marambi - a community that refuses to bury their dead so that no one can deny what happened on that land
2. Butare - where Sistah Hailstorm and TIWAEIS (Vanessa) rocked the mike and had the audience on their feet
3. and finally Hope North, Uganda - a site of refuge for children fleeing the war in Uganda.

In Rwanda, we were told again and again - go home and tell people what you have seen here.

credit: photo, Vicki Grise, www.evelynstreet.com, The Panza Monologues, by Vicki Grise and Irma Mayorga

Friday, August 17, 2007


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?

(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 the left-of-center Noriega, investigating, debating, making his nalgitas toast nice and brown on the political comal.

Here in San Antonio, Elaine Wolff disclosed in print this week that her husband, Michael Westheimer, has contributed to the Watts campaign. Hmmmm.
On the Current's new website, it went like this:

What she didn't disclose in the printed version of the San Antonio Current is that her husband is a District 1 Zoning Commissioner and she sure didn't disclose that he gave a whopping $2300 on June 8, 2007. www.campaignmoney.com

This isn't hamburger-money folks. On the Current's website, Wolff discloses her husband's full name, who he is, and that she's independent of him.

But she doesn't disclose how much dinero he gave to Watts.

Personally, even if Wolff swears on the Bible she hasn't done it with her husband in a year, I smell some stinky, sticky, journalism.

If I can't trust the alternative to give me the other side, what then?

As the editor, Wolff is still in charge of writing the political stories. This week she interviewed - you guessed it - Watts. But her husband's contribution was over two months ago.

I don't know if this is related, but Dave Maass, her political writer - has resigned after less than a year at the Current. My sources say he challenged Wolff's veiled attacks on Noriega and her pimpy attempts at supporting el huevo-faced Watts. I still can't figure out what that man stands for, what his platform is.

And Keli Dailey, a black editor and Berkeley grad from San Antonio's eastside who was Maass' boss, (I like the way that sounds) got escorted out last month from the Current offices.

None of this was disclosed either.

photo credit:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

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 chronological order)

1. I got the boot as a monthly columnist in 2001 for writing against revenge after 9/11 and THE WAR.

2. Julio Noboa: another freelance columnist who wrote about the suffering of the Palestinians. He was against THE WAR.

3. Dick Reavis: prize-winning chingon reporter who was known for his ANTI-WAR stance and stories about social and political injustice

4. Enrique Rangel: smart and respected journalist/columnist whose view of US/Mexico politics was moderate and who was also against the WAR

5. Rod Davis: PEN-prized novelist and Travel Editor who was suspended for two weeks for writing a column against THE WAR

6. Jan Jarboe: Texas Monthly writer and biographer and limousine-liberal columnist who was too liberal for the SAEN. She certainly was to the right-of-me, but not right-enough for them.

7. Susan Yerkes: Society columnist who was an out-feminista.

8. Macarena Hernandez: Beautiful, brainy, Berkeley-grad who wanted to weigh in on feature stories and the SAEN inner circle wouldn't let her. (She told me this). So she left for the Dallas Morning News.

Shall I go on? You think San Antonio can lose this talent? Now, tell me again, why are those young men and women dying over there? For our democracy? And how are we supposed to keep what we have without a fair and balanced and free press?

For those journalists in San Antonio who didn't believe it would happen to them, welcome to the real world. You been played.

Just because we don't read newspapers anymore doesn't mean we don't need news. We need your pen more than ever. Use it. Now.

And in this magic-rabbit time of the internet before Murdock buys it all, here is the only news item as reported by Poynter-Online, (the Journalists' Thinktank.)

On Thursday, Romenesko was forwarded this e-mail written by a San Antonio Express-News staffer:

We had a round of layoffs yesterday, which followed some early
retirements. Twenty managers throughout the paper got the ax. Three were assistant managing editors in editorial: news resource (there are four or five people who do nothing but research for reporters and graphics); the graphics art and photo AME and the projects/Sunday AME.

I asked the paper for confirmation. Editor Bob Rivard is off taking his son to college, but Express-News public editor Bob Richter sent this e-mail:

I can confirm the newsroom layoffs only; not sure yet about the total
number paperwide. Here are the newsroom positions lost: Hallie Paul, assistant managing editor/design, graphics and photo; Kathy Foley, assistant managing editor/news research and technology; and Robert Kaiser, assistant managing editor/Sunday and writing coach. Their final day on the payroll is Aug. 31. As an aside, Hallie Paul had planned to retire from the newspaper in the coming year.

My understanding is there was not a memo or written notice from corporate. Bob Rivard made an announcement to editors at the news budget meeting Wednesday afternoon, and asked them to pass along the word to the rest of the staff.

credits: Dog Poster,

Thursday, August 02, 2007

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 wasn't a nice guy. My very good sources have told me about his violent past with women - and when I interviewed Gina on the issue of absolute police power over women in this city- she appeared to be a textbook case for a battered woman. She loved them. He hated them. She was loyal. She cried.

I was reminded of this impression when I watched her question then-Deputy Police Chief Jerry Pittman in 2006, who was also exonerated by a grand jury - for raping his step-niece - another man who women have warned me not to confront. Gina, the police reporter, didn't interview Pittman that day - she simpered, cooed and genuflected at his expensively-packaged speech. Pittman just glared at me . See: Thursday, August 24, 2006 Jerry Pittman: The Worst Cop, but there's more in San Antonio

So much for tough police reporting in this city. There are other stories out there about Gina, about her passion for the men in blue. Quien sabe. If she was abused as a child as too many of us are, then it would make sense for her to believe that men are the ones who are always right, and that she isn't worthy unless she has one besides her.

I would like to believe that this time she stood up and let him have it.

And then she got fired.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

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 need raindrops falling on our skin.

To me, they are a sign. They are the canaries of the city.

And we don't want to listen to their sad story.

Photo Credit: Me! I took this photo of Manito and Zarita, two stray kittens, wrestling in my house.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

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.

, 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 other local museums I've visited since arriving last weekend, there were no crowds waiting to get into the galleries. And that is the problem. This is the one exhibition we all should see.
The photographer, Anna Papoulias, took portraits of about 50 children, all standing in front of familiar sites in Baghdad: at the copper market, at an orphanage, at a tea house, at an amusement park, outside a mosque, on the banks of the Tigris. Some appear to be well-off, but most are obviously living on the margins. This is especially apparent in the case of the orphans Papoulias photographed.

And while all the portraits are memorable, I kept going back to one that depicts two young orphan girls. They are wearing hand-me-downs. The younger one, her feet falling out of worn out sandals, clasps the hand of the taller girl. She clasps tightly, for dear life.
I didn't read the introductory label before walking through the gallery. (Often I leave that for the end -- I am too easily influenced by the curator's interpretive language.)

I cried when I read what the photographer wrote at the end of the wall text: "I don't know how many of these children are still alive today."
Even if the gallery had been packed -- how I wish it had been -- I would have cried as I did when I went back to that image of those two little girls.
I pray that we all remain safe, and ever mindful of those who cannot be be so.
I send you my best love.

credit: image from "Children of Baghdad," by Anna Papoulis http://www.medelhavsmuseet.se/smvk/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=220
James Hillman is a Jungian psychologist and writer http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hillman

Sunday, June 24, 2007

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 post). Her book is The Ages of Lulu - the kind of story a woman understands, and I'm warning you, it's not for the meek, this isn't entertainment. It's a shocking book, I'm reeling from it, not my usual Sunday afternoon. Nothing like I write, but I'm impressed with the borders she crossed on the page. Brava.

I'm dizzy with stories to tell you. And hopefully soon you'll see my new design - Michelle Villagomez, a techno-whiz is going to help me from NYC! She's from San Anto, claro, and juntas we're gonna do something you won't forget, either.

Artistic Credit: Don't you know? "Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe," Yolanda Lopez, 1978.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

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?"
"Well, then how come he has them, do you have to lose everything?"
Where, what, why? How how how how? I wanted to faint.

The man just stood there, waiting.

"Get them, idiota." Raquel said.

I gingerly took them, wondering what was done with them.

As we walked up the stairs to the street, I started shaking. You know that laughing and crying you do because it just rained and you're going to the concert of your life and you look like a drowned rat? And the bus just covered you with mud? You know that feeling? It was worse than that.

With the black chones in my hand, I remembered that the fleecy Chinatown chaleco I bought the day before, and laid on my suitcase before I went to sleep could have, might have, OhmyGod, magnetized my panties so I was roaming all over Brooklyn and the N Train with a pair of panties as decoration.

Well, so much for trying to be glamorous or even funky in New York. Que rasquache, como decimos en San Antonio.
As Raquel says, I won the prize. But I got my panties back.

Thank you, New York.

Friday, April 20, 2007

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 artificial world. My guess from the beginning was that Henry would silence Franco and Ramos, two talented artists who likely perceive they have much to gain by siding with Henry. We shall soon find out if they can choose between la verdad and el miedo. Maybe Ramos needs to include these cards in his loteria-arte.

If Henry's familia doesn't, that's his problem, but he needs to be a caballero, and set a good example.

I hope the artistas will tell the truth.

Now Henry's side has filed a police report alleging that it was Rina who assaulted one of Henry's grandnieces, una hijita de Meredith and Peter Falcon. Falcon, who I've heard expound on zen budhism exquisitely, is the one who Rina states punched her. Like I've said before, I've also heard that Falcon has a predisposition for violence.

You can find the police reports at the downtown courthouse. I have to go out-of-town and won't be here for ten days, so don't have time to review them or talk to anyone.

Why am I airing our dirty calzones here in front of everybody?

Because if we get tribal about this, then we won't help each other become better people. And that's what I want for myself, and for all. Henry isn't perfect, and I've thrown some rocks, believe me. But if we don't examine what happened outside the museum on that first noche, then how can we truly honor what he's created and all it's supposed to stand for?

Or does the Alameda stand for orgullo at a woman's expense, corporate perceptions and patronismo?

Didn't our mothers teach us that un hombre doesn't hit a women? Rina is a mother of three.
No woman deserves to get a beating, it's called respeto - even if that woman says a few bad words, that's not a reason to get chingazos. No way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

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!" after fijandose that everyone else had one. That's when a man, turns out it was Peter Falcon, admonished her about her palabras, saying that [his] children could hear her. Up to this point, Rina says she didn't know Falcon.

To this, Rina, a mother of three, retorted "Shouldn't they be in bed?"

That's when the chingazos started. According to Rina's side, Falcon punched her in the face.

Tony! Tony! Tony!

Rina started yelling for Cruz to help her (that's what his family calls him). Cruz ran to her, and saw a man taking his wife down to the ground, punching and punching her, while a woman was sitting on Rina's head. It seems that another woman who was standing by abetted the punching, likely, Emily Buche, Henry Munoz's sister who was calling out from the sidelines.

Henry's relatives let Rina have it. Whore! Whore!

Cruz Ortiz pushed Falcon off his wife and wrapped his arm around his neck, just in time for the police to arrive and handcuff Ortiz.

It seems that Henry Munoz walked by during the commotion carrying one of his by-now screaming grandnieces. He did not stop to intervene in any way.

Since Rina and Cruz needed to return home to their own children, they decided to file police charges later. Rina ended up going to the University Hospital for her injuries.

I asked Rina's family if Henry Munoz had called to apologize. No, they said. Munoz has purchased Cruz's work in the past for his private collection. Good sources have told me that Falcon has a temper, and we know what happens next.

All this for a gift bag? See the problem with extreme-marketing of our cultura? I know all of them (un poquito) Peter Falcon, Meredith, Rina, and of course, Cruz. This shouldn't have happened. Did people drink too much? Is that an excuse? Are we that hungry for recognition que the Alameda Museo's arrival is turning one against the other?

What was in the gift bag, anyway?

Artistic Credit: Una mesa para la gente, lead artist Cruz Ortiz and Lisa Vera Cruz, mural on North Zarzamora and Salinas Street in San Antonio, Texas