"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

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