"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, November 30, 2008

The Dog next door

The guy next door works at the base, and he has a big german shephard named Duke. I call him Dukie, and I admit it, I've been using my feminine wiles so that I can play with the dog, who never gets out of his little yard, maybe 400 sq. ft. The guy built a wire fence for him, so that Duke can see out, but since the guy's house is in the middle of the block and Duke's area is in the back, he rarely sees anybody, except in the morning when the high school kids pass by, but they don't notice him.

Duke rarely barks. He's very sweet, and when I go over to give him treats from the alley-side, he rolls over for a rubdown, and I do my best over the fence.

I live upstairs so I can see everything that goes on in the next yard, and this is not a good thing, because I worry about Dukie. I've noticed lots of things, for example, that the guy comes back at lunch, but doesn't even pay attention to Duke, check on his water or anything. One time he didn't return on Friday night or Saturday during the day, and when I figured that out, I went to check on Duke, and sure enough, his water bowl was dry and dirty and he didn't have any food. He must weigh over 100 pounds, and I have cats and don't know how much a dog like that eats, but I gave him two big cans of dog food mixed with dry, maybe seven cups. And fresh water. I wanted to let him out, his leash is right there, but want the guy to trust me.

I didn't say anything exactly to the guy -- the next time we ran into each other I mentioned that I'd fed the dog and he seemed pleased. That weekend I asked him if I could take Dukie walking and he let me. I took Dukie to the high school next door and he smelled every tree and blade of grass, I think. We were gone about an hour, and when we returned the guy said anytime.

So I walked him again.

Today I went to get him, and Duke was hyped. The collar around his head was loose, and he ran to the street. Me and the guy chased him, he wasn't far away, we were more scared he'd get hit by a car -- we live on a busy street. Finally, Duke got interested in another dog he saw, and I yelled to that man to just stay there so we could catch Duke

My neighbor the guy caught him alright. He was furious, and he squeezed Duke's neck so hard that he made the dog kneel even as I could see Duke wanted to get away. The giu put the collar on Duke and he pulled on the collar so hard I though he would pull Duke's head off. I tried to be calm, saying things like the dog just wanted to run, I have a friend who knows how to train dogs, etc., but he looked at me like I was crazy.

He said that the dog-walking was finished for the day. He took Duke, who was resisting him, back to his pen.

I didn't say anything more, feeling that if I did I wouldn't get a chance to walk Duke again. I made a special plate of meat and dry food for Dukie and took it to him through the alley like I usually do. He seemed Ok, his collar was loose, and he scarfed-up the food as always.

I think I'm trying to figure out how to save this dog. He's not chained, like the last dog who lived here. Or stuck in a garage for five days and nights. I got beat up for rescuing those dogs, and I don't regret it.

Duke looked so good running, he was so happy. The guy never takes him walking or plays ball with him, why does he have him? Duke doesn't bark, hardly. The guy told me that he saved Duke from a family that had chained him all his life.

This is all Duke knows. I wonder now if that time I took him walking was the first time for him. Could that be?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Trying to give thanks/Dia de gracias 2008

I am trying. I am grateful, I really am. That I'm healthy even though my knees hurt and I miss running. I am trying to give thanks that I have such a bounty of quiet to write and think today, but hope my single friends can rejoice in the aloneness, the solitude that comes from divorces and family members dying and children growing up.

I love this weather, it was in the high sixties today, but I'm worried that it hasn't gotten cold at all and it's the end of November. I wonder if my friends recognize what living the suburbs means for the environment -- the cutting of trees and construction of highways and the gasoline it will take for them to get into the city. I am thankful for my 900 sq ft apartment, the windows and space I have, why is it we always want more, even me? Now I want to live in the country, now I want a bigger house, now I want an acre or two, now I want a vista of greenscape, and what will my dream cost to the environment or what if I just gave that money to the people who are suffering?

There are so many people suffering today. From Mumbai to Mexico, I remember the time I almost adopted that ten-year old in the street who was sleeping in an alcove, and it was raining. I'm worried about the chilren in Iraq who are now orphans, and especially the little girls. What will happen to them? Do I have something to give them, to help them, so they can give thanks too?

I want to give thanks, but I don't think it's enough. I want to understand all that I have so that I can give thanks and mean it, to do that I must see what the rest of the world doesn't have.

I suspect I'm not grateful for what I should be. And what is that? Maybe I have so much, where to begin? What about this gift of writing it down? What if I didn't have this computer or this weather or even the sweet potato fluff I tasted today, what if all I had was a piece of paper and a pen? Would I be grateful then? Maybe I'm grateful for all I can see, but not for what truly matters, myself. Myself. And what will I do with me? Not waste me like I waste food? And I don't mean my in the narcissistic way, but the potential to be more way. Like generous. Generous in giving all that I know to be true.
And what is that?

To do something, say something, write something that matters. That's a sacrifice, that hurts, that risks most of all. What will I risk?

What will I risk today?

That we are complicit in the beauty of the world as we are complicit in its cruelty. That we are giving thanks because others can't, and we must help them be able to give thanks, even if it means we sacrifice something.

What will I sacrifice?

What will you sacrifice?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving in the barrio in San Antonio

It's 57 degrees outside tonight. Hazy moon. I walked home from the HEB groceries. My neighborhood is perfectly quiet, people have cars here or they're watching TV at 10 pm. No one's out except someone walking a dog and the crazy lady only come out on weekends.

People were loading up at the HEB. Whipped cream. Cokes, Dr. Pepper, Big Red. Cases of beer. Sausage. Cheetos. Ham. It was packed, because the store is closed tomorrow.

Somehow I remember the dinner party last night where we talked about the original thirteen colonies, quick, can you name them?

Yes, Georgia was one of them.

The thirteen colonies question is one of the questions asked for the U.S. citizenship interview, along with the Pilgrim question.

My girlfriend said last night that in a roomful of Ph.D's, no one could name all the thirteen colonies.

I'm sorry, but Thanksgiving just doesn't seem real to me. i've been to Plymouth Rock, outside of Boston and to the Charles River on the 4th of July. Something happens there.

I really don't like turkey all that much, and don't want to eat so much food anyway. I've read that the pilgrim's feast was a rare occasion, and that modern Americans get to "feast" often, tha we're not starving anymore like those people did.

I am very thankful to be in San Antonio and to see Thanksgiving. Tomorrow, I'm making pasta and salmon. With jalapenos.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Jose made me a turkey sandwich at 10 pm, are you in college?

Jose is handsome, young, hard-working, and tonight he made me the best Subway sandwich with lots of jalapenos and spicy mustard, just the way I like it. It was almost 10 pm on this Monday night and I always wonder when I see these young people working so late...are you in school, mijito?

No, I'm not.

He smiles, cleaning the counter with ganas. He's got a system to do it just right, he tells the manager.

Did you vote?

No. I don't believe in it.

He keeps scrubbing.

It's all about money.

I give him my spiel about Obama and how there will be more opportunities for him to go to college. He smiles, keeps cleaning. Then I tell him how I did it, with loans and scholarships.

I have his attention now.

Latinos are 20% of the electoral vote in Texas, but we're not voting in high numbers, I tell him. Blacks are 19%, and they voted. That means you could get much more help with a college education if latinos voted more.

I tell him my family story, how I went to college, how my brothers graduated from the University of Texas. How my father didn't finish high school. And my mother only went to the second grade in Mexico.

What is your dream? I ask him.

I don't think anyone has ever asked him this before. He stops what he's doing and smiles, but this smile is hiding a big dream from the rest of us.

Sometimes hope is a job. And someone who explains to you how to go to college even if you don't have money. And sometimes, it's a story that whispers, maybe. Maybe.

Where to start? What my neighbor did to his wife

It happened a year ago. My neighbor Rachel knocked on my door during the holidays. She was scared because her husband, (I will call him Big Panza) twice as big as she is with a voice that booms instead of talks, wanted a divorce.

They have three boys and she had no place to go. Panza has been beating her up, why hadn't I see it? Rachel could barely walk, Panza had beaten her in her pelvic area. And she had bruises on her neck and chest too. Rachel was sexually abused as a child. She drinks, and she's bipolar, and with all the medication she takes, she moves slowly, like she's drunk, but she's not. She weighs maybe a hundred pounds and she says she fights back sometimes when Panza hits her.

Rachel's not a great housekeeper. She feeds my cats, and she's very tender with her boys. They love my cats too, especially Snowball and Floofie, and aren't the type of boys who break windows.

Panza broke her jaw ten years ago, and that's why Rachel is always massaging her slightly crooked self. Panza broke her nose. Panza calls her names, he sits on her, he threatens her.

For months I tried to get Rachel to a lawyer, to a therapist, to a shelter. But she was afraid of Panza. She hoped they would get back together. She cried over losing her boys and had no place to go. Before she finally was released from a psychiatric ward after a two week stay, Panza didn't go pick her up.

Now Rachel lives with her elderly mother in the deep westside. She never sees her boys, and I have seen that look in their eyes of mother-loneliness and hate because she's left them.

I hear Panza yelling at his boys all the time. Their grades are dropping. The other day I heard him call one of the boys a Dummy. With all his yelling, I know he has called them much worse.

When he turns on his boom-box voice, he scares the cats, the birds, and even the leaves tremble.

Rachel called me the other day. She says that Panza goes to see her at her mother's house and that he takes her clothes off and does whatever he wants with her.

She thinks this is the way it has to be.

I wish I could do something. It's like I know the ending to this movie, only I want to leave now. But I can't. Something in me wants to see what will happen even though I don't think it will be happy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This is why Obama won't win Texas -- Si Se Puede

At a brunch with my comadres the other day, my girlfriends confessed that their elderly parents did not want to vote for who they callel negro. Some of them weren't going to vote at all, they said.

"El negro" is a Spanish translation for "Black man." It isn't a negative word at all, but it can be negative, depending on how it's used.

My girlfriends are voting for Obama, but they don't know what to do with their parents.

The tragic history of Texas has ensured that for Latinos and Blacks of the boomer generation and older -- the prejudice, ignorance, hate and scramble for scraps - continues.

Latinos make up 20% of the registered voters in Texas, and Blacks make up 19%. I know we have over 10% progressive White voters, so why can't Obama win Texas?

The past is still with us. Today, I roamed around the San Antonio (majority Latino) barrios today, Southside/Westside/Eastside. Where are the Obama signs?

Because the yard signs cost $7.00.

I don't have $7.00 to spend on yard signs, and neither do many on the Southside, Westside, or Eastside San Antonio, apparently.

But I am an activist and have given thousands of volunteer hours to help the party and written about Obama and Latinos. When I visited the San Antonio Democratic Party headquarters in the King William district, the mansion-rich district of San Antonio, Thomas Rocky Moore said a yard sign would cost me $7.00.

In downtown San Antonio, Judy Hall wanted to charge me $5.00.

When I told Judy Hall at the downtown office that I didn't have the money, she just looked at me and smiled. Isn't this shortsighted, I asked? Don't you want to see signs all over San Antonio?

She replied that Obama didn't have the Texas electoral votes.

At the last stop, Bexar County Democratic Party's Main Headquarters on St. Mary's Street run by Carla Vela, the Black and White Democratic Party workers argued with me when I told them I didn't have any money, and that they were being shortsighted by not distributing, by not giving away the signs all over the barrios, they basically threw me out. "Take a sign and get out!" the white guy said. The black guy must've thought about it, because he ran out a little later with two yard signs. He saw me with T.C. Calvert, civil rights activist and president of the Neighborhoods First Alliance, who spent the whole afternoon along with me touring the neighborhoods, worried about the lack of energy and excitement, evidenced by the lack of yard signs and too-quiet campaign offices.

The disrespect I felt and "we need to raise money for the Democratic party" line on the part of the Obama volunteers would have ensured that the swing voters I know wouldn't vote for him or vote at all -- that's how cold it was in there.

No matter that Latinos run some of the Democratic Party offices in Texas, I can see that the Party still doesn't understand the working-class Latino who is vital to making the difference in the Texas electoral votes. Of course elderly Latinos can vote for "el negro" and help secure the 34 electoral votes Obama needs to win the presidency. But we need to include everyone, not just the middle-class and upper-class voters I saw at the offices. If people like me were welcomed more often, we could help them, but I don't feel they want me/us right now.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chicano Renaissance at the Enchilada Library and who cares?

Everything we have is because of them and others like them: Rudi "Flaco" Rodriguez, fifteen years old, went to jail in Del Rio, Texas during the marches. Andrea Velasquez, a college student on scholarship at OLLU, organized Chicano teatro, marched in St. Louis with Cesar Chavez, organized the first Chicana newspaper El Rebozo and went to the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles. Artists David Gonzalez and Jose Esquivel aimed to be the pintores of protest as they wanted America to see that Chicano arte was vital, American, art.

This was the Chicano Movement, and the Central (Enchilada) Library is - delicately and diplomatically - featuring the Chicano Movement for Hispanic Heritage Month titled Chicano Renaissance.
Yesterday at the first panel hosted by San Antonio's most prominent and brilliant Chicana scholar, Antonia Castaneda, maybe 25 people were in attendance.

He who has the power tells the story, verdad? A teacher asked where are the books on the Chicano Movement? There are books about Cesar Chavez and chingos of books about MLK and the Civil Rights Movement, but were are our stories of struggle, resistance, justice, vision?

That's the panel we need to hear - what happened??? Did too many of us go to the suburbs? Did we neglect educating our children in our own history? Or do we not recognize that we are in this together?

Castaneda framed the story that took us where we are today: In 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 that opened the doors for Mexican-American employment at Kelly Air Force Base.
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that school desegregation was illegal in Brown vs. Board of Education, which encouraged so many of our parents to dream of a better education for us.
In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed.
In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed.

Then came La Raza Unida Party, founded by Los Cinco in San Antonio, and running a slate of candidates throughout South Texas in 1971.

Talk about rocking our world.

Because of La Raza Unida, Chican@s with a working-class political agenda campaigned - and won - political office for the first time.

La Raza Unida changed my life. As it did thousands of others, even if they don't know it.

What happened? Flaco Rodriguez, who was a "footsoldier" under Los Cinco (La Raza Unida founders and leaders who included Jose Angel Gutierrez, Willie Velasquez and Mario Compean), explained how they organized young people in South Texas in the late sixties to establish 39 chapters in Texas.

Rodriguez explained how our fear in the name of then Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez -- denounced and destroyed MAYO - fearful of the Chicano Movement. He called them communists.

My own mexicana mother hated the word Chicano.

So La Raza Unida was born. Ramsey Muniz ran for Governor, and got 6% of the vote. Then he went to jail under still-debateable circumstances.

Some of us have made it. We are doctors, lawyers, professors, multi-millionaire advertising Republicans. Impossible prior to The Movement.

But almost 50% of our raza is still dropping out of high school.

What should we do? Our principals and superintendants are Latin@s. We have brown legislators all over the Southwest.

I think we need a new movement. It will not be called "Strategy," "Compromise," "Pick your Battles," or "Pretend and it will go away." Or "I"m ashamed those people fought for me and I would rather pretend I did it all by myself."

This new movement will be called I will not be afraid to love myself so much that I recognize we are all in it together.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Yes, San Antonio is against the War! Here is our protest

With four bases in San Antonio in bed with an archconservative Catholic presence, and a media that makes heroes of our poorest, most naive soldiers so that our young believe that War is right and good, there are plenty of us who say NO.

Gracias to all the writers who participated and submitted.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fox News goes after Bill Moyers and He Fights Back with Grace

At the Media Reform Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week, Fox News pursued Bill Moyers. How do the Fox Journalists sleep at night?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


When I worked with la Vicki Grise at the Esperanza years ago, it was obvious to me she was a star. She had presence, wit, maldiciones and fideo-love. What else do you need? Between her and Irma Mayorga, the Ph.D from Stanford playwright and resident creative genius, they conceived and produced The Panza Monologues. Vicki has now finished her second year at Cal Arts - the nation's top program in the performing arts and Irma teaches theatre at Florida State University, where she is a star tambien.

Some musings from Vicki on not getting to premiere The Panza Monologues in San Anto this summer:

una notitita (ok its a notitote but not a mitote) we will be filming
the panza monologues in Los Angeles August 2nd. i am of course dissapointed that we werent able to do the filming in ourhome town (ran around woodlawn lake this morning - so glad to be home)but i'm actually not angry. so many people have opened up space for usto do our work with extreme generosity. i remain ever hopeful and
extremely grateful (yes, i have watched the secret since i moved to
california). evelyn street is doing a second printing of the panza
monologues and maybe someone will bring us to san antonio for the
book/DVD release. aver...till then i will be taking a much needed rest
(oh and writing that thing they call a thesis)!

i ran into vincent valdez the other day. he was telling me about
hearing obama talk in san antonio and one of the things he said was
that it was the first time he had ever heard a presedential candidate
talk about the importance of the arts in america, about reinstituting
arts in the schools and supporting artists with living wages, that
creative energy was vital to the future development of this country
and that it was the first time he saw so many people in san antonio
gathered in one site - outside of a concert, basketball game, or

i teach playwrighting in east LA and i see the desperate need and
desire our gente have for the arts. this is cultural survival, pura
neta. and while i do not have much faith in any institution or
canidate to reverse the ramifications of the cultural wars (i am still
an anarchist in spirit) - i do believe people are fighting back/ have
always fought back. i feel that we are at an important crossroads -
our young people want a different future (we all want a different
future) -

power to the panza!

fideo luv -vgrise

Photo Credits: Vicki Grise performing "The Panza Monologues"
The Panza Monologues.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

What kind of performing arts center does San Antonio deserve?

San Antonio has cultura but no place or money to see high-quality theatre. (See my story on the Panza Monologues in the next blog). And very little discussion about WHY this is happening. (See the blog after that)

Intro: This past May 10th, 2008, the City of San Antonio approved a gigantic Bond Package that included 100 million dollars for a Performing Arts Center at the Municipal Auditorium downtown...I've heard the Mayor say he wants Opera (which I love too, but chinelas...) BELOW IS A POST FROM PABLO MARTINEZ, POET AND CULTURAL ACTIVIST (with my edits):

In 2000, I returned to San Antonio after 14 years in New York City, where I worked at the New York Philharmonic and two major arts funding agencies. Not long after my return, I had lunch with a high-ranking city official. As we talked about San Antonio's future, he observed that the city was nearing the threshold of immense change. "We can go in either of two directions," he speculated. "We can become another party town, like New Orleans, or we can go the way of San Francisco." As I read recent accounts of downtown bars buying larger quantities of beer to meet customer demand during the Final Four and Fiesta, the path we've taken became abundantly clear.

The suggestion that the proposed center http://sanantonio.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2008/04/14/story1.htmlwill be self-sustaining -- without any public support -- reveals the planners' naïveté. This country's genuinely great concert halls receive enormous sums of public subsidies from local, state, and federal agencies. What narrow information are San Antonio's leaders relying on when they make these myopic pronouncements?

However, if the building is to live up to its populist name, the Bexar County Performing Arts Center, then its board members, administrators, and funders must do everything in their power to ensure that the Center is accessible to all of Bexar County.

Without public subvention, San Antonio's hall will be denied the validation of funding agencies such as the National Endowment for the Arts. In other words, it would be viewed as non-competitive in the eyes of nationally recognized arts professionals who help determine the NEA's yearly allocations. (Most NEA grants require evidence of diverse community support.)

According to the Managing Director of Fort Worth's Bass Concert Hall, it will take 300 programmed dates a year for San Antonio's hall to be profitable (the use of such language by local leaders suggests a weak grasp of the not-for-profit art sector's standards and practices). Let's see...filling 1,500 seats for 300 events a year comes to a total of 450,000 seats annually. Half-filled houses for the San Antonio Symphony's dozen season concerts do not augur well for a heavily booked house. Does San Antonio have enough deep-pocketed enthusiasts to fill the hall 300 nights a year -- supporters who would also continue to attend other local performances?

There is also the utterly disturbing but distinct possibility that the Center will serve to expand the already wide gulf that exists between San Antonio's haves and have-nots. By erecting a lavish hall that showcases Eurocentric art forms (symphonic music, opera, and ballet), we make a bold statement: we aspire to world-class status, but only when it's defined in entrenched, divisive terms. (Either that, or we're the West, as the new, centrally located museum will suggest to tourists.) The hall will stand as imposing evidence of San Antonio's insistence that we privilege certain cultural expressions over others.

Photo Credits:
"Electricidad," a Teatro Visión production, San Jose, California, directed by Mark Valdez (and written by Luis Alfaro)
(The play was also performed here in San Anto at the San Pedro Playhouse, directed by Marisela Barrera - but I am a fan of Adelina Anthony, (Stanford Ph.D program/activist/playwright/perfectionist) who played Electricidad in San Jose, and she should perform here regularly - besides, she's a native of San Antonio)

Why The Panza Monologues Can't Come to San Antonio

Vicki Grise is from San Antonio, and so is Irma Mayorga. Together, they created The Panza Monologues, which has toured throughout the country, except here.

Why? There is no place to perform. And if there is a place, there is no funding for them. The Guadalupe is recovering from a nightmarish board and directors, and Say Si cancelled at the last moment.

I've always wondered why San Antonio doesn't have an established Chicana/o Theatre Program at one of the universities, why we don't have an Equity City Theatre, why we don't have Chicano Chakespeare, why Cherrie Moraga's Media didn't perform here, so many whys and neither Vicki or Irma live here anymore.

And now we have a multi-million City bond package that just passed and very little debate about its merits. (Read what Pablo Martinez has to say about that in next blog).



In Minneapolis this past week, thousands of people gathered to challenge the corporatized bottom-feed media brought to us courtesy of Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Bush - it's called media deregulation.

In a democracy, the media should be free. People like me - and you - should be represented and it shouldn't be about selling ads on the front page of the newspaper or sex ads filling up the alternative paper or mainstream views on public radio. Television news should be local, and not focused on ambulance chasing and violence. We get the media we deserve. Let your Congressman and Senators know how you feel.

Thursday, May 08, 2008



What if you could be a teenager again at the baile and the cutest guy with hazel eyes or the girl with the longest black hair slow-danced with you? Remember how it made you feel, all bubbly and dreamy and how life swirled us in Kool-aid colors, sweet and tangy, how life stained our tongues and white shirts in ways we can’t forget?

That’s how it is when I hear Hector Saldana (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica) singing rock-n-roll in that strawberry milkshake-voice of his with The Krayolas. Now a grown-up baby boomer, he and his brother David Saldana (vocals, percussion and more), are proving that midlife gives you another chance to meet your destiny in the production of their new album “La Conquistadora.” And conquer they do, featuring Augie Meyers, Van Baines (harmony vocals, lead guitar, pedal steel guitar) , Joe Sarli (harmony vocals and electric bass, and The West Side Horns.

Dressed in their sleek, black, retro-Beatles elegance, and looking even better than those other guys ever could - The Krayolas are a new-old force of summer, cruising-to-the beach-with-the-top-down rocknroll - with something more: The wiser, wintry, breezes of la vida grownup without giving up the fun.

Like the danceable, heart-throbby anti-war song, Alex, the first in the album, written by Hector Saldana. A song he says he wrote when he learned that his beloved nephew, Alex, had died tragically from injuries suffered in Iraq.

Or is it the second song, inspired by the album’s title, La Conquistadora (cover art by the local and loco legend who is the visual artist David Zamora Casas, December 12th El Dia de La Virgen de Guadalupe), also written by Saldana and dedicated to the memory of Father Francisco Geronimo, a rock-n-roll romp about the Spanish Conquest and who really got conquered?

Or is it the keyboard brujería if Augie Meyers (The Sir Douglas Quintet, The Texas Tornados) on his Vox organ, who’s contributed three songs for this album porque hey baby, que paso?

Maybe it’s el Max Baca on the bajo sexto on Augie’s song, “Little Fox,” or maybe it’s el chicano soul fonkyiness of Al Gomez’s trumpet and Louis Bustos’ saxophone, quien sabe, pero if you don’t wanna dance when you hear them no wonder she left you without even your chones.

Te acuerdas riding on the back of that motorcycle even though your mother said valemas que no! and remember sleeping in class and falling off your chair and remember when you understood the lie that was Vietnam and remember how many times you’ve fallen in love and you still haven’t learned one goddamn thing?

Then this album’s for you.

Besides, El Chisme on the street says there’s a good chance that the liner notes by native-son genius writer John Phillip Santos and the cover art by David Zamora Casas have a good chance for a Grammy nomination…

Que Viva la Konquista! Kolor me San Antonio!!!!

For more info, check out their website www.thekrayolas.com
photo credit: December 12th, el dia de La Virgen de Guadalupe, by David Zamora Casas
photo credit: cdbaby.com/cd/krayolas


Friday, April 25, 2008

In San Antonio, why are we celebrating Fiesta!!??

It's true, San Anto is puro-party. Someone somewhere tonight is celebrating something, and I'm invited. But this week, I'm not goin no-where. It's Fiesta!, the biggest ten-day pachangalooza you'll ever see, and frankly, I'm tired of dancing on my grave.

Let me explain.

On April 21, 1836, the Texan rebels - led by General Sam Houston, defeated the Mexicans at the Battle of San Jacinto. It was a massacre. (Sweet revenge for the preceeding Anglo deaths at the Alamo and Goliad).

And of course, there was a woman involved. There is a legend about a Yellow Rose - whom my friend Denise McVea has researched extensively, and it's a wet-dream myth about a mulatta whore in Mexican General Santa Anna's bed seducing and betraying him for the Anglo Texans - and she's discovered the origin of this myth. I've always been repulsed by this story, as have most women...

But it's party-time now, and the past is pasado, right?

Yes. And no. I think, as Carlos Fuentes says, we've won the cultural war. People come from all over the world to sip our margaritas and munch down on our tacos. The City of San Antonio makes zillions of pesos from the cultural value of Fiesta! You think people come miles and miles to see the city's moneyed elite displaying their "royal court" finery?

Please. The women's Marie Antoniette look-alikes cost over $50,000 alone. If you want to see good-looking women, pos aqui 'stamos en $20 sundresses.

Listen, the people come here to eat. And dance. To hang out at the river. To walk downtown and see other people amidst Spanish colonial and Tejano architecture, even if so much of it has been demolished. They come to flirt. Fall in love. Make love if they're lucky.

But where does the money go from celebrating our defeat with our own cultura?

We're getting defeated all over again. Example: Six historic inner-city schools are being closed after the school year ends, and inner-city children will now have to go to much bigger schools miles away from their neighborhoods.

What's my point?

There's no money to support the schools, according to the corporations that advise the San Antonio Independent School District. No money? Whose fault is that? The real estate developers control our city government, and have convinced and connived to get people to buy brand-new shiny suburban homes far away from downtown.

Leaving behind the oldest, largest, re-gentrifiable housing stock in the whole chingon state.

That's why there's no money for the inner-city's property taxes. Or schools. But there will be money for the corporations and developers who want our beautiful, decaying, city. Who want to turn it into a kind of Tacolandia without the people whose tacos, colors, music, and traditions they desire - who won't be invited downtown. Who won't be able to afford to visit their own city.

San Antonio is poor and all that goes with it. The people, my people, are generous, kind, and trusting, believing that their neighborhoods and this city belongs to them. They love our tacos! They love our pinatas! So they must love us - all of us.

Wrong. The Anglo Texans wanted the land, their slaves, their individual property rights. This is the prevailing truth in Texas. It's the reason our air is polluted, that we've built developments even over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, it's the reason we have a quarter of a million prisoners, it's the reason the Gulf is so dirty, it's the reason that we don't have efficient mass transportation in San Antonio and I could go on and on.

And if you don't like it? Pretend everything is ok. I just can't anymore.

We've even lost the right to speak.

In San Antonio, the City Council passed an ordinance last year denying us the right to march in the streets for free. You want to protest the war? It will cost you plenty if you want to take it to the streets. Fiesta! was exempted.

So los tacos won, but la justicia lost. My people are too poor, too uneducated, too vulnerable because of the past. We have no power, except in our culture, so that's where we have to begin to fight back.

Fiesta me molesta.

photo credits: The Anti-Fiesta Protesta, by David Zamora Casas, outdoor installation at the Esperanza Center in San Antonio, Texas

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Media Pretends to Pay Attention as Six Inner-city Schools Close To Appease Corporate Interests

Last week, Michelle Jimenez Reyes, mother of a Travis Elementary School student in San Antonio’s inner-city schools, discovered that her daughter’s school library was closed with eight weeks to go before the end of the schoolyear.

It was only the latest shocker since the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) announced they were shuttering six inner-city schools – citing decreasing enrollment. The city of San Antonio is one of the largest cities in Texas, and with over a million residents, is not losing population. It's building new schools – in the farthest reaches of its spidery suburbs as its citizens move out in search of jobs and cheap housing, leaving behind the oldest and most valuable inner-city housing stock remaining in Texas.

Since the surprising announcement from the SAISD in February, Jimenez Reyes has organized a concerted protest of parents and activists, called Keep Travis Open (www.keeptravisopen.com), a defiant, grassroots, challenge to the closing of historic, blue mosaic-tiled schools with old-growth pecan, huisache, and pink bougainvillea shading the neighborhoods of a much earlier Texas. While the smell of tortillas and pinto beans compete with the racing Tex-Mex of children on bicycles, leaving a distinct echo on the streets.

The story of thousands of schoolchildren without a library and books should be front-page news. The story of established neighborhood schools – with acceptable school rankings – closing their doors for lack of enrollment should be a reason for investigative stories by the media. The community should be outraged, right?

Not in San Antonio. Who's going to tell this story? Here, one Hearst chain newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News is blitzing its ads on the front page as it seeks even more profits. Corporations, according to Jimenez Reyes, are the real power behind the closing of the six schools in a balance-the-budget bottom-line mentality as the developers seek prime inner-city real estate.

Accordingly, the newspaper’s editorial legitimized the SAISD’s budget-tightening decision as a positive move toward staunching the city’s high dropout rate.

On the other side of the street, the alternative paper, the also-corporatized San Antonio Current, stuffed with sex ads, has the interest but not the time to follow the story.

As the television stations cover the story in their usual spurts and spins, sentimental entertainment for the masses in a city that is one of the poorest, diabetic, and least educated in the country.

While the SAISD superintendent, Roberto Durón lives in the
King William, a historically-zoned district outside the public schools he manages.

While the dropout rate remains at 50%.

photo credits: Travis Elementary School library, by Michelle Jimenez Reyes


Monday, April 21, 2008


On April 21st, 1836, the Anglo Texans, after the Alamo and Goliad massacres, overwhelmed the Mexican forces led by General Santa Anna at the battlefield of San Jacinto. The Republic of Texas was established, and the rest is history.

But in San Antonio, the defeat of the Mexicans is celebrated as Fiesta!, a ten-day bacchanalia that brings millions of dollars to this tourist-dependant city known for its margaritas and mariachis.

A city comprised of a majority-minority population of brown and black people who still suffer the ramifications of San Jacinto and Anglo dominance in finance, education, city government and every other index you can think of.

La gente de San Antonio save their few dollars and spend their cash on the rides, the beer, and the music of Fiesta! Even though they lost the War, their cultura is the reason the city is enriched by them as its leaders continue to impoverish them. San Antonio is one of the poorest cities in the country, one of the most polluted, with a regressive tax structure, and unchecked development. We have four military bases and an Archbishop that comes from an Opus Dei tradition.

But we have Fiesta!

If you don't believe me, read my next blog. Or the previous one....

photo credits:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

According to a new book by Denise McVea, the mother of Texas was a Mulatta

Denise McVea is a black woman from San Antonio, Texas, who speaks better Spanish than me. I used to read her stories in the alternative press in Dallas, where she was highly regarded. However, nothing prepared me for the stunning revelation - a decade-long investigation - into the story behind the Yellow Rose of Texas - the legendary mulatta whose seduction and betrayal of the Mexican General Santa Anna changed the course of history by allowing the Texan rebels the opportunity to defeat the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

According to McVea's painstaking research in Texas, Mexico, New York, and France, the mulatta was Emily West de Zavala. She was the legal wife of Lorenzo de Zavala, a prominent liberal Mexican politician who fled from Mexico, traveling through New Orleans, New York, and finally making a home in Texas after becoming the ideological enemy of Santa Anna.

The Yellow Rose is a myth. But Emily West de Zavala was real, and according to McVea's research, she was the mulatta-wife of Lorenzo de Zavala. A quadroon beauty from New Orleans who Zavala married in New York on November 12, 1831.

Lorenzo de Zavala was the interim vice-president of the Texas Republic, and was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence - a document almost as holy as the Bible and more revered. Zavala is a certified Texas hero - in the same league with Sam Houston - and yet, very little is known of his wife, Emily.

And it is the silence about her that speaks loudly to her race, asserts McVea. From her descendants, from the destroyed files, from the historians. Though McVea doesn't prove that Emily West de Zavala was a black woman, she finds clues that a white male researcher would miss. And then she lets you make your own conclusions. Remember, the founders of the Republic of Texas wanted to keep their slaves - contrary to Mexican law which prohibited slavery in 1829. Intermarriage was illegal in the Republic of Texas, and Lorenzo de Zavala was a white Mexican man. Mexican high society - to which Zavala belonged - disapproved of such unions.

McVea told me that the University of Texas Press was interested in publishing her book - but there was unusual, high-level interference. In the last chapter of her book, McVea publishes the entire email conversations between herself and a noted Texan historian and reviewer for her manuscript who obviously didn't want to see McVea's story published. Instead, McVea self-published her manuscript, and the email conversations are included in a just-released Author's Special Edition of Making Myth of Emily by the Auris Project (2005). Making Myth of Emily has just been published for the public, 2008.

I'm not surprised it has taken Denise McVea this long to release her book to the public. This is Texas, after all. Where do I begin to tell you what it's like here? When will it end?

It ends today, April 21st, 2008. As a tejana with my own mulatta great-great grandmother, I am finally, proudly, free.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama is in San Antonio today and this I know

I'm for Obama, but all my girlfriends are for Hillary. As a born and bred Tejana with absolutely no polling experience, I predict that Clinton will take Texas - but not by much.

My beloved state of Texas has a history of racial segregation between whites and blacks, whites and browns - and browns and blacks. I'm from the baby boomer generation, and my peers carry the prejudiced baggage of our parents.
Not all - but many. They will never admit it, but it's there in what they don't say and the murmurs...you don't want to hear those words.

My generation of people in the fifties and forties has led separate lives from Blacks.
At the MLK March we have every year here, billed as the largest in Texas, latinos and whites were maybe 20% of the thousands of black marchers on the city's eastside - now turning browner with immigrants and middle-class blacks leaving for the suburbs. Remember, latinos are easily 60% of the city's population, and I think blacks constitute approximately 7%. You call this togetherness? I call it the Alamo.

Rudy Rosales, Ph.D, a professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) told me months ago that "this country would never elect a black man." Rosales considers himself a progressive, and his wife, Rosa Rosales, is the national director of LULAC, who has substantial ties and much to gain from Hillary's political machine. That's not a bad thing, it's just our history - so far.

I want Obama to win. And this is something that's been bothering me because I've always admired
La Hillary. Why do I want a black man to win over Hillary? Why do I feel more at home with him than the white woman? My first childhood friends were black, is that it? Did the name-calling I endured make me sensitive to what my black girlfriend Freda suffered after desegregation? Even after all the sexual harrassment I've felt from the latinos and white men, and even black men in the past?

As the young people say, it's twisted.

I think Obama has more conciencia, though I fear it will be lost as he's influenced by the powers. I'm an idealist, anyone who stood up to the War publicly in 2002 gives me hope. No one in public office I know from Texas stood up so boldly and challenged the War, not with all the military bases we have.

If Obama wants to win Texas, I have this advice - and it comes from all the arguments I've had with las girlfriends about him.

He needs to include Brown in his Black/White dichotomy. And he needs to say it on the national stage, and especially in the debate next week in Austin, Texas. He needs to say it often, loud - and proud. I suspect he means the blackness in brown, but my people here haven't come to that realization yet. My generation in general doesn't trust black leaders, having been forced to fight for a slice of pecan pie that wasn't very good to begin with. We weren't enslaved, it was worse. They married some of us. Then they enslaved us.

Brown is what we cling to, it's what we remember, it's what defines us, even as the definition of white/black/brown continues its melting inside us.

Maybe that's it, I see Obama as a brown woman because he's mixed like me, and he's emotional, like me. He lets his heart do the talking. He's the feminine, while Hillary is trying to be the

Either way, it's history. And I never dreamed this would happen. Not in the Texas I grew up in. And we're planning pillow fights after the debate next week.

credits: Virgen de Guadalupe Velorio, next door to Obama's speech at the Guadalupe Plaza today

I picked a fight with the Girls Scouts over their fat cookies

Yes, it's true, I was a Brownie a long time ago, and learned how to toast marshmellows and make rag-rugs, and I sold cookies then too.

But people weren't so - ummm - deliciously smitten with cookies and cakes and candies and pizza and hamburgers and tamales and barbacoa. We weren't so gorditas and gorditos then, ok?

San Antonio, Texas, has a reputation for great Tex-Mex food. But if you live here, it's hard to be slender. And the only slender thing about San Antonio is the river. We are one of the poorest cities in the country, deliberately so, making my community vulnerable to commercials and the flour-tortilla temptations of our working-class history. In my part of the city, there should be a law against all the fast-food joints on one block. Cheap, fast, filling food that working and middle-class people eat all the time. Have to eat, or else they'll starve.

This is why I picked a fight with the Girls Scouts selling their make-me-fat cookies outside the stores this weekend. It seems like ninety percent of the people here are overweight, many are very obese. When my out-of-town friends come to visit me, this is the first thing they notice... How dare the Girls Scouts take advantage of us this way?

But of course, they can. Everybody else does. We don't have a good mass transit system, and the middle-class won't take the buses, that's what poor people use in Texas. So hardly anyone walks. It's just too easy to gain weight in San Antonio, we have a generous table of friendship and food, it's all offered in love. Only the food we're eating right now is all wrong for us. Being gordita or gordita is normal for this city. I'm not kidding.

Our diabetes rate is skyrocketing-high, and it's like those who don't have the sugar have high blood pressure or borderline or are having heart attacks. We are a breathtakingly beautiful people, if you could only see us as I knew us when I was growing up. When we were skinny.

I told the Girls Scouts leaders at the table they needed to come up with another product - how they were killing us with every cookie they sold us. Of course the flaca Junior League-types got pissed, so much for the good-girl credo they're supposed to follow. It's about the money, honey.

No, I didn't buy the cookies. (I'm sure someone will let me have some at the office). And I hope you don't either. Ya basta! Health is a civil right, too.

credits: www.nataleedee.com

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rachel, The Battered Woman from the Pink House Next Door

The reason I haven’t written is because of Rachel. I live in the barrio, well, San Antonio is one eternal barrio, a heaven and hell mix of fix-your-flat-tire repair shops, tortillerias, taquerias, pitbull puppies for sale around the corner. There are no bookstores here, no kiosks, and the only place to buy the New York Times is at the Starbucks off the freeway. My street is working-class, on the poor side of Jefferson High School, away from the big homes of the Monticello district.

I like living in the barrio, it’s real. But I also know why people don’t like living here, it’s too hard. People here have problems that my family surmounted years ago, my parents made sacrifices so that I wouldn’t see what I have in the almost-three years I’ve been here. And I know there must be something wrong with me – because I want to see it. I want to help, but I'm not able to help. Like for example,

Rachel. I haven’t been able to write because of her, my next-door neighbor. Right after New Year’s, she knocked on my back door late at night and told me she was scared because her husband, Jim, had just taken their three kids to his parents and wanted a divorce. That she was to leave immediately, and she has no job because she's a stay-at-home mother, a good one from what I've seen. I tend to stay away from her because she’s bipolar – that’s another long story – but this time I really looked at her delicate cuerpecito and noticed again the lump in her jaw, only she also had a purple skid-mark bruise on her forehead and she did that funny shuffle she always does, as I walked with her back to her house.

Why did it take me so long to realize she's a battered woman? And that Jim, her husband at 250 pounds-plus, has been beating her every week since I’ve lived here? Didn't I hear her screaming? Was that what it was? It seems that he’s lost his job at USAA and wants her out of the dilapidated pink house next door. He’s taken their three young sons, and though they’ve been married ten years, he wants her out of the house as soon as possible. He wants her to go live with her mother, and he's told her he won't ask for child support until she gets a job.

Of course I called the police, and the domestic violence specialist came right over and I heard all the gory details of how Jim has sat on her, beat her head with the phone when she's tried to call for help, kicked her, and how he broke her jaw years ago, that’s why she has that funny lump she’s always massaging. Jim wouldn’t let her go to the doctor, and so she let it heal itself. The police officer sent for the Evidence Team, and they came over and took photos of Rachel’s injuries, which included bruised ribs, a bloody tear in her scalp, and more in her pelvic area.

Then Rachel began telling me about her past. She’s from the Westside, and the story begins with her father who brutalized her, and her brothers who followed his lead. She’s been telling me the story in bits and pieces as I’ve driven her to a lawyer, to a counselor, who have advised her to go to the Battered Women’s Shelter.

“I’m scared.” She cries, trembling from the beatings that Jim gives her when he comes around, threatening her, watching her, telling her she has to have sex with him if he wants to see the kids.

“I’m scared, I’m so scared.” That’s all she says when she hears that under Texas law, she has rights, that she can fight for her kids, that she can get spousal assistance to help her get a good job. She has a high school degree, and a nursing assistant certification. She cries for her children night and day. She drinks. She takes her medication and plays with my cats, and my abandoned barrio-gatitos follow her into the pink house and keep her company.

She’s got Marilyn Monroe-blond hair, but the bleach-job compliments her, she's very guerita, and wears tight jeans well because she weighs maybe 100 pounds. Her husband is a beast compared to her. Her children are gentle with my cats, and I remember how Jim yelled at them all the time. When I tell her this, she gets quiet. "Why does he want to divorce me?" Then she says, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to bother you, thank you for everything.”

The counselor from the Domestic Violence Unit warned Rachel that Jim might try to kill her or the kids. I've offered several times to take her anywhere, encouraged her to get help from the Battered Women's Shelter.

The other day she cried again.

“I’m so scared of being alone.”

To Be Continued

artistic credit: "Carmen," Ana Montoya, www.anartegallery.com