"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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A lesson for the Guadalupe Cultural Center: Apologize for Bret Ruiz's harrassment

Juan Aguilera, the former Board Chair of the Guadalupe Cultural Center, should apologize to Dee Murff and all the women of the Guadalupe who were summarily fired because of Bret Ruiz, the former and very-flawed director of the Guadalupe.

Murff, the most outspoken of the group and surely the one with the most red-haired attitude - filed a lawsuit against the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center (GCAC) charging sexual discrimination during Ruiz's tenure. The rumors are that the Guadalupe wants to settle the case before the arrival of the new executive director, Patty Ortiz.

Let's be clear: This lawsuit was a last-resort attempt to get the community to pay attention to the problems at the GCAC. Sometimes an organization, like an individual, like a nation, has to face its errors. Confronting guilt can be healing for everyone concerned. We all make mistakes, and Aguilera needs to man-up.

Bret Ruiz was the man hired to be Executive Director in July of 2005, despite a phone call from Mauricio Navarro, who told me he told Aguilera that Ruiz was the worst director the Anita Martinez Ballet Folklorico (Ruiz's former employer in Dallas) had ever seen.

Well, surprise, surprise. According to my sources, Bret Ruiz has continued his negative path, recently departing his position as Managing Director (he was there August-November 08) at the Latino Policy Forum in Chicago. A staff member there, Ruben D. Feliciano, a housing policy analyst and outreach coordinator, has written me, stating: (edited for this blog -- if you want to see the whole email, please contact me at lastruestories@yahoo.com)

"I felt in my spirit that Mr. Ruiz looked down at me on on several occasions also made very sarcastic references about me and my persona..

I see so many parallels in your stories and his conniving ways...I felt deep in my spirit that I represented everything that he despised. I am a strong and openly gay Puerto Rican/Latino man that wore my cultura with pride and honor in my frente, came from the community and is successful at it without having to compromise my values. But I guess I was too "ghetto" for his liking."

A new director has now been hired for La Lupe, Patty Ortiz. I met her last week, and she seems very nice, and is an accomplished visual artist and curator, besides. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Ortiz is going to continue to advise her old center, and she's planning on curating an exhibit in the fall of 2009.

The new Guadalupe Cultural Center Board has stellar members, including civil rights attorney Al Kauffman, labor historian Antonia Castaneda, and Trinity University's Arturo Madrid. Aguilera is still on the GCAC Board.

I trust that the GCAC Board will recognize what the women of La Lupe suffered under Bret Ruiz. A cultural center that doesn't respect the rights of women, la gente del barrio, the artists who are the soul of this city, has lost its mission.

One conjunto festival isn't enough.

photo credits: Joan Frederick, "The Accordion Player"

So did you get laid this week? Sexual harrassment in San Antonio

My girlfriend Cecilia just left her job at Amed Community Hospice where she was a social worker for terminally ill patients. Why did she leave after two years there? Because of a man named Chris Sitton, the Bereavement and Volunteer Coordinator, 40 years old, married with a child.

Cecilia is a serious, 46 year-old woman, who tells me she loved her job, and that it was very difficult for her to say goodbye to her patients and their families. It isn't easy, or professional, to leave patients who are facing death.

But Sitton asked her constantly about her sexual life, she says. He whacked her on her derriere with a newspaper, and asked her things like "So did you get laid this week?" I know what this feels like, and most women I know have encountered sexual harrassment in their lives. But few of us actually fight back.

Cecilia told me Sitton harrasses others, but she refused to accept it to keep her job. She went to EEOC, and filed a complaint. Amed In the meantime, Amed has offered her $500 which she's rejected, along with a a letter of recommendation. But she doesn't want their bribes. She knows Sitton goes drinking with Tim Wagner, one of the executives, and Sitton has in fact been promoted - to Marketing.

Cecilia was only one of two latina social workers in San Antonio, where half of the patients are latino. It's easy to see why she's good at this kind of work -- she listens, she's empathetic, she's generous, the kind of person you'd want to be by your side if you were about to die.

She has a new job that begins on Monday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

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,http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif 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.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My father, Roberto, turns 90 on Inauguration Day

My father called me the other day from the Assisted Living Center where he lives in Corpus Christi. He says he wants to die. This coming Tuesday, he will be 90 years old.

My father is lonely, he's almost deaf, halfway blind, and he has a white manx cat, Blanca. He left us when my brothers were little, and there was so much crying. My parents divorced when I was in graduate school, so I wasn't at home when it happened.

In the years despues, I tried to set a good example for my brothers, but it wasn't enough. My father went to live way out in the country after the divorce, the land he loved, and he never came to visit. Not for graduations, not for weddings, nothing. Still, my brothers made pilgrimages to visit him, and it made him happy.

His anger at my mother was such that when my brother Charlie died suddenly at age 30, he refused to give her the Pesame at the funeral. It was like he pretended she didn't matter, even when I know he could barely walk from the grief.

I have been the most absent of the eight of us, enjoying my solitude, wishing I had my own rancho in the country.

The solitude has been good for me, I'm a writer. But it's made me very poor, and I've struggled to visit him, especially now that he can't drive his like-new truck, sold years ago. Daddy misses his old five dogs rusted with mange on the day he left the country. He misses the good smell of dirt, the whispers of animals feathering, chasing, hiding from each other. He misses the moon that seems to talk to him as if he was the most important man in the world. He always wanted to be, that's for sure.

I think he has regrets about the way he didn't love us very well and what happened because of it. I think he has been afraid of dying. I'm probably going to miss the Inauguration because of his birthday. My father has changed. He's proud that he voted for Barack Obama.

I hope I learn from his life.

photo credits: my nephew dressed up as Obama at Halloween.