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The Persecution of Bambi Cardenas/Todas Somos Lobas

Blandina Ramirez (Bambi) Cardenas, the first latina college president of the University of Texas system, is retiring from my alma mater, the University of Texas at Pan American, in Edinburg, Texas. Edinburg is about ten miles from the Texas border, across from Reynosa, Mexico, state of Tamaulipas.

Presumably, it's because of a heart attack. But I believe it's because of a spurious, "anonymous" campaign targeting her because of whatshe symbolizes -- educational progress, and the best of latin@ leaders. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1974.

This is bullshit.

I believe this campaign seeks to undermine and destroy her reputation: How DARE she dedicate her life to educational achievement, cultural pride, and civil rights? How dare she not be a good ol boy? Como se atreve? She's dangerous.

You betcha she is.

I say all this because I know Pan Am: We called it "Taco Tech," when I was there, and it is easily 95% brown. Pura raza. And because it is brown, students assume that everything is good in the world, when in fact powerful forces have deliberately denied latinos a superior education. When I was there, the guys drank beer in the library...I loved the place with its arches and fountains and tamale-eating contests, as I despaired at the illiteracy. Danos break, Sir! I wrote a long letter to then-President Miguel A. Nevarez while at the University of Michigan, explaining why a 50% dropout rate among college freshmen was not a good thing for la raza.

Apparently, Bambi agrees with me, and did something about it. This is why she is known as a heroine of public education in Texas.

Early on in my professional life, Bambi gave me hope as then-President Carter appointed her to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, then to the Civil Rights Commission, where she fought for years on behalf of affirmative action.

I remember how she told me in an interview how she would come home after daily confrontations with the Reagan-appointed conservatives and just throw up [from their veiled hate of us].

Bambi isn't like her name, exactly. She's gentle, but she can run with the wolves intellectually. My girlfriend Terry Ybanez painted her face on a mural in San Antonio, alongside labor leader Emma Tenayuca and political and spiritual leader Maria Antonietta Berriozabal,among others. There is a good reason Terry spent a whole summer in the very hot sun painting these women's faces and names on a wall, the first mural in the country to extoll these women so publicly and beautifully.

I'm sure Bambi isn't perfect, (though she's awfully close).
There is no way she deserves leaving the stage in disgrace, which is what has happened.

It's persecution. It's harrassment, it's unethical, it's unconscionable.

My promise to those who orchestrated this nasty campaign: There are more Bambis out there, and you will not stop us from taking our rightful place in Texas.

Like it or not babydoll, your children and grandchildren will have to apologize for what you've done some day. And we will forgive them, but you will be forgotten.

While Bambi will stay in the history books.


Leo said…
During my sophomore year at Pan Am I was invited to a formal reception at the President's home. There, a visiting big-shot asked me about the meaning of the school's logo, "Pan American College, Where Two Cultures Meet." To naive to be diplomatic, I blurted out, "Mexican and Anti-Mexican." I was asked to leave. The more things change.......

You're not alone in your thoughts about Barbie.
Best regards,
Leo in S.A.
TexasX said…
I have never met Dr. Cardenas but, of course, have heard of her for a long time. She is a role model for her success. But wasn't there allegations of misuse of funds and plagiarism regarding her PhD dissertation? I guess the UT system cut a deal to stop the investigations (which they did) in exchange for her "retirement". Anyway, she did many good things during her career and is certainly worthy of the good memories that many people have of her.

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