Category Archives: Cultura

DC Reviews…Chente Barrera ~ Un Nuevo Amor

Grammy award winner Chente Barrera is back with his newest full-length release. This time, he’s also turned into a music mogul of sorts after partnering with fellow Grammy winner Gilbert Velasquez and Jorge Marroquin to form VMB Music Group, which released Chente’s new album, Un Nuevo Amor.

The album is Chente’s 9th album in his 17 year solo career. Previously, he was the long-time drummer and backing vocalist for Jay Perez. In 2007, Chente won the Grammy for Best Tejano Performance for his album, Sigue El Taconazo.

The title track was released in 2015 as part of a VMB compilation featuring their artist line-up and has enjoyed some time on the charts and continues to be a fan favorite. With a horn-driven lead-up to some amazing lyrics, Chente delivers this ranchera as only he can.

The lead-off tune, No Me Vuelvo Enamorar, gives us an indication of the direction of the album–Totally Tejano. Or, as Chente tells, “It’s time to get up and get down!” The following tune should also be a radio and fan favorite as Chente teams up with Raulito Navaira on Los Dos Amantes.

Chente has never disappointed on cumbias and  Te Extraño Tanto and Mi Vaquerita will leave fans satisfied and toe-tapping.

Backed by the introductory strumming of a guitar, some acordeon and a horn section, Chente gives us a drinkin’ song in Nada Mas Te Digo Adios. Delivered with all the emotions a song like this should have, Chente makes this song his.

No doubt, Chente and his backing musicians are apt at delivering the ranchera style of Tejano music–whether it’s keyboard, acordeón-, or horn-driven. Ya No Te Aguanto, Solo, Si Tu Te Vas, and Apenas Te Conozco are prime examples of such songs. Solo is my personal favorite with its smooth guitar strumming (Gilbert V), acordeón solo, and it’s beautiful lyrics.

Of course, we’re also provided a treat with the classic, Aunque Mal Paguen Ellas, sung by Chente and Genaro Aguilar of Los Aguilares. Of course, Los Aguilares recently celebrated their 56th Anniversary in the music business.

DosCentavos gives a tip of the sombrero to Chente for this great album, as well as for the six tunes he penned. Get your copy this weekend at Club Area 45 where Chente will be featured along with Boni Mauricio and Tejano crooner Ram Herrera. You can also find it online at VMB Music.

The Annoyance That Is Democratic Pragmatism

donkey-fightIt’s not a secret. I support Bernie Sanders. I support his platform.

I don’t mind debating actual policy with Hillary fans, and I’ve met one or two who actually debate, rather than just blindly follow.  Most will debate economic issues, or Bernie Sanders’ existence, but other issues, like immigration, are ignored.

I understand. You want to avoid an issue in which Hillary Clinton is terrible. No one wants to admit that Clinton wants to deport children and moms back to violent countries in which they will face even more violence. The simplistic “I support Comprehensive Immigration Reform” line is pretty much ineffective when we have tens of thousands in freezing private prisons and deportations are being stepped up. We want to hear solutions.

As Bernie Sanders steps up his game on issues, especially immigration, the Hillary fans are now coming up with new material:  We can’t afford Bernie’s ideas; We can’t pass it in Congress; We can’t!

In other words, Clinton will work from the middle to the right to convince Republicans, as if this worked for President Obama. The fatalism that has penetrated supposed liberals in defense of their candidate is quite sad.

That I first noticed these chants around the MLK, Jr. holiday makes it even sadder. Martin had a dream, remember? Suppose white allies back then told him he couldn’t get all he was calling for.

Oh, that’s right, they did.

“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action; “who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Now, I won’t dare compare Bernie to MLK, but we can agree that ideas of social and economic justice are quite similar. Recently, even Chicano scholar Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez stated that Bernie Sanders’ platform is similar to that of La Raza Unida Party as he endorsed Sanders. Ideas and pronouncements that brought thousands to Washington, DC and that once empowered and excited Texas Mexican Americans enough to vote in huge numbers are once again being discussed because of Bernie Sanders. Yet, “we can’t”?

Frankly, the oft-stated “she can get things done” quote that Hillary fans are selling is also pretty annoying. It’s a reminder of the last eight years in which the Obama administration gave away the store to the Republicans prior to beginning negotiations on any given issue. Immigration reform is a great example as President Obama stepped up deportations (numbering 2.5 million) as a means of convincing Republicans that Democrats were “tough” so they would pass reform. Watered down legalization was discussed over citizenship. Instead, a co-opted immigration reform movement looked weak, and Democrats even weaker and inhumane when they didn’t call out the administration for the deportations and human warehousing of children and mothers in private prisons. And all efforts failed. Meanwhile, we’re left begging the Supreme Court for deportation relief for a few without any real rights for the migrants who might benefit. I’m sure Hillacrats are secretly mortified that the Supreme Court may side with the administration and “hurt Hillary’s chance.”

Now, all of us who want justice are being told to wait our turn, and to elect someone who can supposedly pass (watered down) legislation. If it’s in the same way as President Obama, then we’re sure not building an excited progressive base for 2016. Let’s recall that we had an excited base in 2008 only to return to failed Democratic pragmatism, thus demoralizing said base (I give you the 2010 midterms as an example of what happened). If you want to excite voters, then you must call for what is needed, not for what we can maybe, sorta get, if even that. Let’s excite the electorate and win big, then we can negotiate later with the backing of a committed base. But we need start with what we want.

Instead, Bernie Sanders’ opposition seems to want more of the same. And this needs to change. Because “We can’t!” should not be in our political vocabulary as Democrats. If that’s the response to Bernie Sanders, then, spare me.

TPA Round-Up; Back on the Horse

flomeIt’s been a pretty emotional couple of weeks.

After spending an enjoyable Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Day after Christmas, my mom (Mama Flo Medellin) fell ill on the 27th, spent a few days in the ICU, then spent a couple of weeks in hospice until she passed on peacefully surrounded by her children, grandson, and son-in-law. We appreciate all of the messages, calls, texts, and personal visits from family and friends from all over, including some of our local elected officials and candidates. Special thanks to State Rep. Gene Wu and his awesome personnel who offered a Texas House resolution honoring my mom. Particular thanks go to my buds in the Texas Progressive Alliance who attended mom’s memorial service and offered the kindest words. I’m grateful.

And, now, it’s back on the horse time. Here’s this week’s TPA Round-up, which includes a link to Mom’s “Flobituary.”

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes that Alan Rickman is attending a David Bowie concert in heaven as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff describes the qualities he wants in a County Commissioner to succeed the late El Franco Lee.

Libby Shaw contributing to Daily Kos continues her series on the state’s top three leaders, their hopeless pandering and lack of vision. The Texas Blues: Living in a place run by the Three Stooges of Bigotry, Snake Oil and Malfeasance.

SocraticGadfly, anticipating last Sunday’s Democratic Debate, took a cold look at the new heat, primarily on Hillary Cinton’s side, between her and Sanders, on single-payer health care vs. gun nuttery.

Before the last GOP debate, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs sensed desperation in the air. After it, the smell of fear lingered like… well, you-know-what.

CoudBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad that there are regulations to keep our food, air, water, pharmaceuticals, workers, and consumer products safe. We need more and better, not worse and less.

Neil at All People Have Value noted the passing of baseball Hall of Famer and Negro League star Monte Irvin. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

The TPA is greatly saddened by the passing of Florencia “Flora” Medellin, and extends its deepest sympathies to her family and many friends.

=======================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits for Breakfast pinpoints the underlying legislative problem that proponents of police body cameras will have to solve to achieve real transparency.

Better Texas Blog reviews the changes in penalties for not having health insurance.

Tamara Tabo laments how little we all know about our rights when we are pulled over by a police officer.

The Great God Pan Is Dead selects his favorite art books from 2015.

Paradise in Hell ponders Greg Abbott’s constitutional tantrum.

Juanita revels in the latest Ken Paxton revelations.

When Happy Holidays Wasn’t Offensive

mexmasWhen I was 19, I used to work for a company owned by a dude who was a Jehova’s Witness. Among his clients back in the early 90s were a major call center run by the state Republicans and one call center owned by a certain Bush consultant we all love to hate and blame. Now, I’m not sure the CEO voted or not as he was very conservative when it came to his religion. But he was a huge supporter of Republicans in one way or another. (I still remember the scowl on his face the day Ann Richards had her inaugural parade right outside 111 Congress and I had to control my huge smile as I delivered the company mail.)

During the Christmas holidays, he wouldn’t allow employees to have Christmas stuff decorating their desks because of his religion, and when we’d leave for the long holiday weekend which included Christmas, all we could say was “Have a nice holiday.” (We were instructed by our supervisors to ensure we didn’t offend him.)

So, when I hear Fox News and right-wingers and born-agains complaining about red cups and the War on Christmas, I always remember my old conservative boss whom I had no choice but to comply with. Luckily, I was a big liberal then and had no problem respecting his wishes and his religious freedom, while my co-workers complained in the breakroom.

Funny how the state Republican party and the big right-wing consultants who used his service never complained about him, but cause a huge ruckus about the “war” on Christmas that us lib’ruls are supposedly waging. And don’t get me started on the idiotic “politically incorrect” signage that some businesses put up, as if it makes them any more Christian or patriotic than anyone else.

Anyway, Happy Holidays, One and All!

Harris Dems Will Get Some Contested Races

donkey-fightAs I mentioned in yesterday’s post, contested races are what democracy is all about, and the final filings show quite a few contested races in which local Dems can choose. And in Harris County, it doesn’t matter what part of the county you live in, your Democratic vote matters in the Primary!

What may be a hotly contested race is that of County Chair in which the incumbent, Lane Lewis, is being challenged by recent candidate for City Council AL-5, Philippe Nassif. Any search will show that I’ve said nice things about both of these candidates. As I’ve told some folks, Party Chair is one of the most thankless jobs in the county which requires the ability to herd various groups and keep them happy, piss off certain people as a means of keeping said groups happy, and then, there’s also the requirement of raising money and winning elections. I still can’t tell which is more important, though. I’m noticing who’s involved in either camp and that’s all I’m saying, for now.

Adrian Garcia seems to have surprised some folks and filed to run for Congressional District 29 against long-time incumbent Gene Green. I’m not surprised, since Garcia is fresh off a campaign, probably still has an infrastructure he can implement, and it’s a great way to avoid a free-for-all that would occur if/when Green would retire with other familiar Latin@ faces who are probably ready for their next move. Garcia says he was moved to run by Donald Trump’s vitriol and the need to wake up the Hispanic electorate. With a 70% Latino population, and Latinos being forced to wait for a court to decide if there will ever be a second Latino district in Houston, Garcia seems to be in at the right time. We’ll keep an eye on this race.

Texas House District 126 has a contested race as Cris Hernandez and Joy Dawson-Thomas face off for the nomination to take on a right-winger to replace another right-winger. I haven’t read up on the demographics of the district, but it is pretty diverse. Perhaps an opportunity? We shall see.

My own State Rep. Gene Wu has a challenger in HD137. Hopefully, it’s a negligible challenger, but I’m pretty sure Wu and his folks aren’t taking this district for granted no matter the kind of challenge.

Texas House District 144 has a three-way race to hopefully kick out the GOP incumbent in a mostly Latino, yet low-propensity voter district. Mary Ann Perez is a familiar face, and Cody Ray Wheeler, a Pasadena Council Member, has been campaigning for a while. Another name is Bernie Aldape, III whom a few friends of mine seem to support and have put on my radar. This one is a race to watch.

The 11th District Court has a three-way race, too, with Kristen Hawkins, Rabeea Collier, and Jim Lewis. I’ve known Rabeea for a while from my days in Kingwood. In fact, back in ’08, she was a fierce advocate for then-candidate Obama, while I argued for more Clinton delegates to the State Convention during our district convention. We remain friends, though.

The 61st District Court provides another 3-way race, featuring Julie Countiss, Dion Ramos, and Fredericka Phillips. Of course, Ramos served the 55th District Court previously, and Phillips has served as Vice-Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. Countiss is a teacher-turned-attorney and is currently an Assistant County Attorney.

The 165th Court will be a hot race featuring former 165th Judge Josefina Rendon and Municipal Court Judge Ursula Hall. I know both quite well and I’m looking forward to watching this race.

The race for Harris County District Attorney offers up a previous candidate Kim Ogg, a perennial annoyance in Lloyd Oliver, and the first African-American elected statewide to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Morris Overstreet. Should be fun to watch.

The race for Sheriff has current Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez and a few other unknowns–at least in my eyes. I think one can tell whom I support.

In the race for Tax Assessor Collector, we’ll have a hotly contested race featuring Ann Harris Bennett, who has run previously and came very close to victory, as well as Texas Senate staffer Brandon Dudley. It’s a race to watch, for sure.

There are other contested races, but these immediately caught my eyes.

Look over the list of races, learn about the candidates (google them!), and make an educated choice. And keep an eye out for Kuff’s interviews.

Update:  Kuff has more on statewide and regional judicial races.

Update #2:  Since it was brought up to me, one of our favorite elected bigots, HCC’s Dave Wilson (the white guy that ran as a black guy for an HCC district), filed to challenge State Rep. Jessica Farrar in HD148. As I’ve told a few Dems, I’m hoping such a progressive Democratic Primary would re-elect its incumbent state rep. without much of a problem. It’s not the HCC district to which he got elected, and Farrar has served her district well-enough that Democrats should know better.

Ed Gonzalez Files for Harris County Sheriff

cafeed2Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Gonzalez announced through Facebook that he had filed to seek the Dem nomination for Harris County Sheriff.

This afternoon I officially filed for a place on the ballot to serve as your next Harris County Sheriff!

I’m a proud life-long Houstonian and have spent the last 24 years as a public servant. As our city’s Mayor Pro-Tem and as an 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, I’ve dedicated my career to: crafting innovative and effective solutions to modern-day crime issues, transforming government through the use of innovation and technology, improving mobility and infrastructure, and ensuring that our city’s future leaders have access to world-class educational opportunities.

As your next Sheriff, I’ll keep our families safe, the budget balanced, and criminals off our streets. I’ll ensure that the Harris County Sheriff’s Office is transparent, efficient, and responsive to the needs of every neighborhood. Thank you for your support as we embark on this campaign!

With Gonzalez’s entry into the 2016 political scene, we have an exciting candidate with a record of effective service to the community. As Mayor Pro-Tem, his reach has gone beyond the District H he serves. And, as he finishes his third term, he’s kept on working hard for Houston as was noticed this past weekend with the opening of CafeCollege Houston–a service for all Houstonians who want to go to college or find information on how to change careers and earn workforce certifications in which Gonzalez played a major role in developing. Obviously, his service as a local police officer gives him an edge in regards to political viability and the ability to manage HCSO.

I couldn’t think of anyone better to lead our countywide slate in 2016.

 

Turner Earns Major Latino Nods

turnerToday is Early Vote Saturday for the 2015 Mayoral election, and according to some of my friends in the know, Latinos made up 8% of the total vote cast, thus far. No doubt, this is dismal, and if Latinos expect to play an influential part in this election, Latino turnout must increase–and in favor of Sylvester Turner, Chris Brown, Amanda Edwards, David Robinson, Richard Nguyen, Mike Laster, and Jason Cisneroz.

On Friday, Mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner earned the endorsement of Congressman Joaquin Castro, who served in the Texas Lege with Turner.

“…I saw firsthand his commitment to working on the issues that matter to Houston’s middle class families; jobs, education and opportunity for all. Sylvester will unite the people of Houston and move the city forward.”

Former Mayoral candidate Adrian Garcia held a press conference outside of Moody Park to urge Latinos to come out and vote and support Sylvester Turner.

“Houston’s future is too critical for our city to be allowed to go back to basics,” said Garcia.  “If you don’t vote, we risk setting our city on a backwards course.  Everyone, especially Hispanics, should vote for Sylvester Turner for mayor.”

HISD Trustee Juliet Stipeche also added her support for Turner.

“Sylvester will build bridges and collaborate with our schools,” Stipeche said.  “Every child deserves a bright future.  I urge everyone to vote for Sylvester Turner, a leader who believes in that bright future.”

Turner has long been a supporter of Latino issues, while also defending against some of the worst policies offered by Republicans (who support Bill King).

  • Voted NO on anti-Latino “Sanctuary Cities” bill
  • Voted NO on Voter ID that limited Latino voting opportunities
  • Voted NO on Redistricting maps that diluted Latino voting strength
  • Supports expanding Medicaid and affordable health insurance

Turner also offers the best and workable solutions to Houston’s challenges, whether it increasing public safety, fixing our streets, or expanding economic opportunity for all–and through fiscally responsible methods.

I urge Latinos in Houston to vote Sylvester Turner. Today (Saturday, 12/5/2015) is a gorgeous day. There is no excuse to not show up at the polls. VOTE TODAY!

IF WE DON’T VOTE – WE WON’T MATTER

RIP Sheriff Jose Serna, Zavala County

serna2Believe it or not, at one point in our state’s young history, there was a political revolution of sorts in South Texas. Yes, Mexican Americans were voting…a lot. They had a good reason to vote:  Candidates with which they could identify; a liberal political platform which served regular working people; and a collective hope to effect meaningful social change after years of what could only be described as an apartheid in our own country and state. And a lot of this happened in my hometown during the days of La Raza Unida Party, a political party fed up with the racist and elitist ways of the Democratic Party of the day.

sernacampIn 1972, my Uncle Jose Serna was elected the first Chicano Sheriff of Zavala County. Prior to that, he, along with his wife, Olivia, had organized farm and seasonal workers to stand up to employers for fair wages and better working conditions. They organized fellow Crystal Citians to demand their rights to vote, to get educated, and to have a prosperous life. Their daughter Diana, played a central role in the Crystal City school walkouts as one of the banned Chicana cheerleaders and student organizers. Later on, Olivia would be elected to the Crystal City City Council, then chosen by her peers to serve as Mayor, becoming the first woman in that role. All of this under the banner of La Raza Unida. After Tio Joe ended his terms as Sheriff and took a well-deserved break, he became interested again in 1988, and won again after a contentious Democratic Primary.   His calling was about more than protecting and serving, but about making sure his community’s needs were met.

Tio Joe passed away on November 17, 2015, after a short illness, having lived just short of 86 years. He was my mom, Flora’s,  brother. He leaves to celebrate his life his daughters Diana and Olivia, as well as sons Joe, Jr., Roberto, Jose, Jr., Mario Alberto, and Eduardo–all successful kids in their own right. Roberto and Eduardo continued the political legacy, Roberto as the District Attorney of the 293rd District and Eduardo as Zavala County Attorney; however, all have served their communities well in the fields of law, education, and business.

Of course, my memories began quite early as a five-year old kid who experienced his first political rallies at La Placita in the Mexico Chico neighborhood of Crystal City. My towering Uncle Joe was a commanding presence with his trademark mustache, western bow ties, and that shiny badge. He always gave me “deputy” badges to wear, which meant I had to be the Sheriff when I played cops and robbers with my friends. As a grown-up, I made several trips back to Cristal and I made sure to visit him. Our talks were about politics, especially in 2007, when we were both rooting for Hillary, although that young guy Obama probably had a good shot. We agreed that if Obama won, we’d support him and I’d send him stickers I’d procure from the local Party office.

If I sound like a little kid going through some hero worship it’s because I am. I grew up in a politically charged town that impacted Texas History so much, even Dolph Briscoe called us Little Havana. My parents instilled in me a love and drive for political involvement in a town where we had local heroes that went beyond the high school football field. It was a time of Chicano governance; it was something to continue striving for beyond Crystal City, too.

Lately, I’ve felt a bit disillusioned with politics. The ugly head of hate and fear seems to be growing–even among so-called Democrats–and now is the time for a new crop of heroes that will fight for what is right. Perhaps I’ll increase my involvement in things political, but one thing is for sure, my Uncle’s passing has been a reminder that the work is not done and that the struggle continues.

Jose Angel Gutierrez wrote in The Making of a Chicano Militant: After Judge Gutierrez swore in all of the newly elected Raza Unida officeholders who had swept out the bigoted incumbents, “I was presented with the keys to the office suite and with a can of Lysol by Sheriff Jose Serna, who stated in Spanish, ‘Go spray the county judge’s office, the commissioner’s courtroom, and the district judge’s courtroom to disinfect any redneck germs that may remain.'”

 

The Jorge Ramos Thing

Ramos Crosses the Borderline

Talk about shock value!

Jorge Ramos did the unthinkable at a press conference:  He started asking questions without being recognized by the guy giving the press conference, thus, pushing the level of Trump assholability to all new highs. “Go back to Univision,” gave many of us flashbacks of being told by bigots to “Go back to Mexico.”

The shocker was that Trump had security escort Ramos out the door as Ramos became relentless and just wouldn’t wait his turn–if a turn was even going to happen. But I think the whole affair lost its shock-value when Ramos was let back in and allowed to ask all the questions he wanted only to get the same ol’ Trump answers. While Trump may have ultimately gotten his way, he went the route of pissing off an entire group of people…again!

For Latinos, mistreating a media icon like Jorge Ramos was the ultimate insult. Some think of Ramos as the “Latino Walter Kronkite,” while others think of him as just a good news-man who does what he does to get to some truths that people may not want to hear. Right-wing politicians (and perhaps President Obama at various points of his career) have probably thought of Ramos as annoyingly relentless, especially on the topic of immigration reform.

Three-quarters of Latinos are not supporting Trump, while a few self-haters love the guy. Ramos attempting more “gotcha” moments will probably not change those few mindless Latinos. But it made for great social media political drama.

For me, what bothered me the most was Trump’s ability to sound like his white supremacist supporters– “Go back…”

 

 

 

DC Review: Ram Herrera ~ Mucho Mas Que Amor

ramherrera-muchomasqueamor1I’ve got to admit:  When I read the announcement that Grammy winning producer Gilbert Velasquez and Tejano great Chente Barrera partnered up to form VMB Music Group, I expected them to produce some amazing material, but Ram Herrera’s Mucho Mas Que Amor is one of those productions that has staying power.

What do I mean by staying power? Well, in the case of Ram Herrera, it brings back memories of his ’84 Dancebuster album and some of his 90s hey day productions–tunes that are still popular and make much of the crooner’s repertoire. The Tejano artist who got his start as the frontman for David Lee Garza y Los Musicales and made famous Cuatro Caminos still has the voice decades after hitting it big.

After being on big labels during the 90s hey day, he went through a few indie labels and finally arrived at VBM Music Group. I must say that this new production is among his best–from Track 1 on through to 11.

Kicking off with Eres Mi Todo, a standard ranchera, Herrera sets a foundation for the album–all Tejano. The acordeon-heavy Donde Estara will get one on the dance floor. The first single (and videoDC ) is Dime Si Estoy Loco, with a familiar Ram Herrera cumbia sound and with a pretty awesome guitar break.

With these tunes, the groove for the album is set, and the addition of a ballad (Yo Te Amo), another cumbia (Alejate), a country tune (I Wonder If She’s Still in San Antone), and some pretty powerful rancheras (Los Años being my personal favorite), and Herrera and his musicians knock it out of the park. With the help of some great acordeon and some powerful guitar breaks, Herrera’s latest should be a contender for a Grammy. That said, kudos must go to Grammy winning producer Gilbert Velasquez and VMB.

Yo Te Amo, with its trio style, backed by horns, is a beautiful ballad, while one particular ranchera made famous by Selena Amame Quiereme, was made available to Herrera who makes it his own. Rounding out the tunes are Te Necesito, Angel De Mi Querer, and Porque Dios Mio.

Already in demand, VMB released the album for digital download (I went to CDBaby.com), but it will be available for hard-copy orders on Tuesday, July 14. Get yours today! You will not be disappointed.