"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, 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 DurĂ³n 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.