"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

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This blog is under renovation

Who knows what happened?

I lost my template and the genius of Michael Verdi is trying to get it back from cyberspace. If he can't get it back then I'll have to redesign, well, it's the New Year, that's what it's about, verdad?

p.s. This is me, before the renovation.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Bill Moyers says that Big Media is the New Plantation

Watch the video
At the Media Reform Conference in Memphis, Tennesse, Bill Moyers, the nation's premier journalist, spoke out forcefully about how Big Media has hijacked democracy, and how we have to take it back. Three thousand media advocates from all over the country are organizing, networking, and challenging the power of Big Media. Besides Moyers, the speakers include Jesse Jackson, Danny Glover, Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!, Geena Davis, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, and Jane Fonda, among many others.

Introduction by Nadia Benitez of the 411 Show, San Antonio, Texas

Be Afraid Big Media: In Memphis, at the Media Reform Conference

Thirteen of us from San Antonio, meeting up with Bill Moyers, Jesse Jackson, Phil Donahue, Jennifer Pozner, Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! along with thousands of people from around the country are here in Memphis, Tennesse to challenge the power of Big Media to tell our story.

It's called the National Conference for Media Reform and let me tell you, it's not a typical journalism conference.

There are no corporations here, is that wild or what? No fancy lunches, no corporate freebies. There are only people like us, people from the inner-city, people who write about immigrants, the prison industry, the housing projects, the Katrina evacuees, disabled people, farmworkers, feminists, all media reform advocates.

I heard Danny Glover this morning, Bill Moyers, Jesse Jackson and Phil Donohue. They spoke about democracy and how the corporate-owned media is killing it by censoring opposing voices, denying a truly diverse media, and by monopolizing the true story of America.

"Call it a plantation mentality," said Bill Moyers, calling Big Media the post-modern outcome of our slave-owning past in the most impassioned speech I've ever heard and ever will from a journalist, I'm sure.

"There is a censorship of knowledge," he said. "What we see from the couch is a view from the top
...they [Big Media] have turned a failed escalation into a surge as if it was an electrical current instead of the blood from a ruptured vein."

He got a standing ovation, and I didn't see one television station covering his remarks.

**The catfish is good, the trolleys are bright lollipops, the Mississippi River is close by, and the people on the bus sing the blues if you want.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

In Juarez, Mexico, a Latina is threatened with loss of U.S. citizenship

Aida Marroquin, 56 years old, was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and like many of this generation, she was born at home with an attending midwife.

She's a professional woman, recently married to a mexicano, Jose Luis Padilla, living here in San Antonio, Texas. Aida tried to do the right thing last Friday, January 5th, by visiting the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, across the border from El Paso, seeking legal residency for Jose Luis under the new immigration laws.

Instead, she was forced to leave her husband behind in Juarez, as her own American citizenship was threatened.

What happened to her can happen to all of us. We know the horror stories about families being separated without regard to unification, employment, good standing, doesn't matter - under the post 9/11 immigration laws that use the fear of terrorists to keep Mexicans out of the country.

Aida just didn't believe that the War on Terror could apply to her.

How? After the U.S. Consulate questioned her Mexican-born husband, she was given a form requesting documents that in effect, asked her to prove her citizenship - by the next business day.

They asked her to prove she was born in the U.S. Of course Aida had her birth certificate, but the Consulate wanted the original birth certificate, because a birth at home, they said, could be falsified. They gave her a form with a multitude of boxes that she had to fill out. They wanted to talk to Aida's mother, who is in her eighties and in a wheelchair, they wanted to see her parents' marriage license, all her siblings' birth certificates, baptismal records, school records, proof of everything she accomplished in high school, and they wanted it immediately - by Monday, the next business day.

It didn't matter that Aida has a family history, like many of us, dating back generations before the Texas Revolution, that she comes from people who were born on ranchos, at home, by midwives, as was common practice then.

Lic. Otilia Vargas, Aida's Mexican attorney,
told the couple after hearing their story, "they don't want you - they want your wife." She said that others had been stripped of their citizenship, and referred them to a law firm in El Paso, directing Aida to return to the U.S, because "they wanted to take her rights away."

Aida was told by the Consulate's office that if a person has an American birth certificate - indicating they were born at home or in a [non-existent] clinic - that birth certificate could be fraudulent.

And that is identity theft.

As Aida was questioned, and given a checklist of all the paperwork she was to submit the next day, there were easily two hundred other people in the room, many of them facing the same form.

"You're not going to question the descendants of Washington & Jefferson," says Lisa de la Portilla, Ph.D, her younger sister, who has roots in Texas that go back hundreds of years, who described her sister's experience as a living nightmare, Orwellian, calling all of us to understand what's at stake under today's current and ruthless immigration policies.

Aida's lawyer, Elaine Rosenbloom, is going to file a brief in federal court challenging the U.S. Consulate's demand for Aida's documents.

photocredit: www.firecoalition.com (an anti-immigrant website)

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Naked Virgen arrives in San Antonio and is Censured

Centro Cultural Aztlan is in my neighborhood of San Antonio, led by Malena Gonzalez-Cid, who is from the barrio, dances a mean polka, known as an advocate for all things Chicana/o.

So why did she censure this painting by Anna-marie Lopez for their recent Guadalupana show? And why am I, a Chicana, questioning her decision?

Because if we are ever going to take over this country, and one day we will, then we have to lead by inclusion, practicing the rights denied us for so long. I'm talking about the First Amendment. Yes, they have more money and the big museums and everything else. And yes, the alternative, The San Antonio Current, broke this story, and sensationalizes, panders, snubs, etc.etc.etc. There are no Latinas/Chicanas who are running the newspaper, public radio, public television, the Current, you get the picture, in a city that has more brown women than anyone else.

They're afraid of us. We know that. But we have La Virgen the Guadalupe. And everytime she's painted without her clothes on, there's controversy.
Y que?

She is a dignified woman, a solace, forgiving, healing our wounds. Her humility has been misunderstood, it is not a simple humility, but one that burns with justice - for all. She's like the Statue of Liberty and Divine Love. Otherwise, why did she make me this way? And surely, she graced the hands of the artist Anna-marie Lopez, a poor lesbian artist in Austin who created the painting you see here.

Anna-marie painted me - and all the mujeres I know. Of course the men don't like it, of course our abuelitas are horrified. But I know this is exactly who I am.

Centro Cultural Aztlan censured this painting in their recent Guadalupana show. But "Centro" is not a Church - it is a public institution. Read the excerpt of the letter below addressed to Gonzalez-Cid, from
Svetlana Mintcheva of the National Coalition Against Censorship, an alliance of 50 national non-profit organizations:

"Even though some people might call for its removal, art expressing unpopular viewpoints remains constitutionally protected expression. As the director of an art center, which receives public funding, you are obliged to follow First Amendment principles, which prohibit government officials from discriminating against ideas on the basis of the viewpoint expressed in them.

We strongly urge to include the work in the show for the remainder of its duration - however short it might be. This will help you avoid further negative publicity. We also urge you adopt a respect for free expression statement, which can be used in case of community members' objection to this or another piece exhibited in the Centro. We will be available to assist you in developing guidelines which would guarantee the viewpoint-neutral selection of work and establish a process for responding to potential complaints."

Vivan las mujeres fuertes! For the New Year! Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva el First Amendment!

artist credit: Anna-marie Lopez, "Virgen," 2006

Monday, January 01, 2007

My New Year's Resolutions for San Antonio: Dare I?

Ok, so it's January 1st and I'm inspired by the powerful Virgen painting (previous blog), and who am I to disobey her...

I believe in New Year's Resolutions, they work if you aim deep, not high. So, without miedo or mierda, here they are:

1. Find the words to write about how fat San Antonio is in a way that doesn't get people defensive. I'm lucky, my father raised me to be athletic and discouraged me from finishing my plate. My ex-husband studied nutrition, and explained how to beat-back fat and sugar addictions, how much more we have to exercise as we get older, and how to eat lots and lots of fresh vegetables. But this is easy to say, hard to do. The first thing people tell me when they visit here from out-of-town or out of the country is why is everybody so fat? It hurts so much because I know how spiritually, culturally and physically beautiful we really are.

2. Find the words to write about how our cultura, like the Fiesta one in the photo, which proves we won the pop-culture wars, but haven't figured out how to use our tamales and tacos to gain social justice. Seventeen white men run this city, according to Maria Antonietta Berriozabal, a former city councilwoman who came within a half-second of winning the mayorality in the 90s - and men like UTSA President Ricardo Romo (a homeboy who once was a major track star) are the puppets of the powerful. Romo was photographed by the San Antonio Express-News in late 2006 waiting at the tarmac to greet Vice-President Dick Cheney. By all accounts, he's a nice man - but what can he or will he do for the barrio that spawned him?

3. Find a way to write about the Spurs so I don't get killed. They are immensely popular here, another reason we're poor - all those tax dollars that went to build their fancy arena - but the media hype is so overwhelming that it's like if you don't watch them you need to leave the country or something. I once shouted to a crowd of men at the HEB supermarket right before a game why a city of men who on average are barely my height of 5'7" support a team of super-tall basketball players. "That's why!" the chaparrito answered.

The Black thing I'll reserve for next year's resolutions, don't ask for that now, I have my plate full, for once.

4. And, speaking of the HEB, everytime you buy something at my inner-city store, they offer you a deal of three candybars for $1.00! What a deal, huh? Get your diabetes on! HEB is of course, owned by a former classmate of mine from Corpus Christi, the scion of the Howard E. Butts family, and on Spurs-nights, the stores sell two six-packs of beer for $10.00! So this is another resolution - how do I write about HEB as the monopoly they are - the only supermarket chain in town and their irresponsible, vampire marketing tactics? HEB buys big ads in the San Antonio Express-News, they support the Spurs ad-infinitum, you get the picture. Plus their tamales are awful.

5. Finally, I have to find a way to tell very nice, middle-class people who live in the suburbs or in Alamo Heights (a zoned-in neighborhood) how they are one major key to the reason this city is so poor, badly- educated and - vulnerable to obesity. The middle-class complains alot to me about how poor the people are here, how fat, how provincial. In Texas, property taxes pay for public education, and in a complex formula of rich vs. poor, the raza left behind in the city gets the overflowing classrooms, the over-stressed teachers, the overworked single mothers, more gangs, etc. etc. etc. As soon as they can, they also leave the city for the suburbs, and the cycle continues. While the suburbs are constructed by destroying trees and risking the Edwards Aquifer, the second-largest aquifer in the world.... This is going to be a very hard resolution, I can tell already.

6. Last fall, some of the neighborhood kids came to my door selling candy for some school project. They were overweight, of course, and I sent them off with a note to the principal about the merits of using junkfood as a fundraiser. A teacher called me about my letter, and got all huffy and - defensive. Which takes me back to Resolution # 1.

7. Find the words to write about how beautiful the people of San Antonio are - not in-the-mirror kind, please, there are ten women far more beautiful than Eva Longoria at my nearby high school. Our cuisine, our music, our architecture and traditions are the reason the tourists come - but we don't hold the copyright, the powerful men in this city have taken that away from us. And we have to get it back. We need more museums, libraries, cultural events. Why can't we transform the militarized Alamo to a Wall of Peace; why can't we have museums about Las Mujeres Fuertes; Tejano Culture; The Westside. And that's just the beginning. When we know who we really are, we won't let television or the HEB or this Fiesta Bullshit tell us who we are, what to eat, and definitely, to shut up if we don't like it.

8. Last resolution. Try not to get in trouble. But then I can't do the others. I'm doomed.

And now some music that my friend Michelle Garcia, a journalist doing a fellowship in El Salvador, sent me. I know this song well, and despite all the struggles, I give thanks for living in San Anto...the most beautiful place on earth, my home.

photo credit:  www.utsa.edu/today/2006/04/