Thanks to all who still visit DosCentavos.net. It’s been a year, that’s for sure. And for DCs 15th year, it’s actually been a good one. So, let’s keep it going to see where we end up as we head into the vaccination part of the COVID-19 season. Here are the Top 10 visited posts of 2020:
Conjunto Album – Los Desperadoz – Calm Before The Storm
Collaboration – Shelly Lares and Ernestine Romero – Estupida
Best New Male Artist – J.R. Gomez
Best New Female Artist – Monica Saldivar
Best New Group – J.R. Gomez & The Conjunto Bandits
Video – Stevie D – El Primer Tonto
The TMAs are usually a fancy affair with red carpet arrivals, live performances, interviews, and all that, but 2020s pandemic forced the usual crowd of Tejano Music fans to watch it from their couches at home. Thanks to the Texas Talent Musicians Association and FIERRO HD Radio, the TMAs went on virtually with live nom and winner announcements from radio personalities Johnny Ramirez, Bo Leo Gonzalez, and Bo Corona, along with pre-recorded performances from performers like Gary Hobbs, Jay Perez, Shelly Lares, Isabel Marie, Monica Saldivar and others.
Along with the celebratory awards, fans were offered a Selena tribute video of one of her Astrodome performances, an amazing rendition of America the Beautiful by various artists, and a heart-wrenching In Memorium to remind us of all those industry greats lost this last year.
All in all, I enjoyed the festivities. I didn’t have to rent a tux, I drank hot cocoa in my jammies, and connected my laptop to the big TV. I’m all for virtual concerts right now and I am in no hurry to run into an unmasked crowd at a club. Kudos to Bino Gaona of TMAs for reminding us to Mask Up, wash hands, and to distance so that we can head back toward some sort of normal.
Congrats to all involved and congrats to all the winners and nominees.
Also, just want to say that I picked Jay, Shelly, JR, and Los Desperadoz in my TMA nominee post. So, I guess I still know my Tejano talent.
The last time I participated in a tamalada was in 2013. It was also the last time our Flo (Mom) was able to participate in one as age and arthritis were taking their toll. So, while Flo supervised, my sisters, brother-in-law, and I went through the process of preparing the meat, the masa, and the hojas, before becoming an assembly line which smeared the masa on the hoja, filled it with meat, and closed the hoja before setting up several dozen of them in a big olla (steamer) for cooking. It was a fun family experience that I’ll always remember because Flo was just so happy.
These last seven years, though, it’s been all about experiencing community, listening to others’ chisme, and seeing other things one sees in the North Side of Houston by standing in line at Alamo Tamales. Sometimes, it was about ordering a few dozen for the season and other times, we’d get into the double digits so we could give out to friends and neighbors. Alamo’s are my favorites–the homestyle ones that are made by an assembly line of ladies in the back and not the machine made ones.
This year, although a lot of businesses are hurting because of the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot more time in my tiny kitchen making my own meals and experimenting. Not trusting COVID-19 protocols (or their customers) at restaurants, I’ve found myself remaining careful and avoiding them. And this year, that includes avoiding standing in line for tamales. Although I do hear Alamo has some sort of protocol to make things safer, I decided a few weeks ago to make my own tamales for my family.
Unfortunately (very), the family-style assembly line would not be possible as distancing and staying quiet while making them is impossible. Too much chisme and politics of which to speak and too many arms crossing to grab spoons and hojas. So, it was up to me and my sister, Sylvia, to get the job done.
The night before, I chopped up a pork loin, along with an onion, a few garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and some low-sodium chicken broth to cook in the crock pot overnight. By 4AM, the aromas emanating from the kitchen were waking me up. After six hours in the pot, I removed the meat and set it aside to shred. Also, the night before, I took a bag of corn husks (hojas) and set them in a huge pot of water so they could soften overnight.
Since I prefer Tamales rojos, I made a red chile paste made of dried guajillo, ancho, and pasilla chiles. I boiled them with garlic, onion, and a little salt, then pureed them in the blender. I kept a third of it to add to the masa, and the rest for the meat. Later, I needed more for the second batch of masa, so, I made some more paste.
Once I shredded the pork meat well, I added the red chile paste to it and cooked it some more in a giant pan, drained any excess fat, and set it aside for the assembly line.
The masa is a whole other experience. After already buying a couple bags of Maseca, I saw that Kroger was actually selling bags of masa. Growing up in Cristal, the only masa we ever used was from El Molino that was behind my childhood barber shop. Since it’s hard to find a molino in West Houston, and after not trusting the masa at the store, I decided that Maseca was the way to go. I unded up using 7 or so cups of Maseca, a 1 lb block of lard, baking powder, salt, and the rest of the chile rojo paste, then added 6 or so cups of warm low sodium chicken broth, making a huge bowl of masa by continuously mixing by hand until it seemed pliable and soft enough to squish out of your hand. If it was soft enough, it would spread easily on the hoja.
By now, you realize that the masa is not only the most important part, but the most challenging part of the process. That’s until you start spreading the masa on the hoja. Memories of my Mom and Pop came up as I tried spreading my first hoja. They made it seem so easy, but it wasn’t. Maybe I just don’t have the talent. So, I went to YouTube and found a Mexicana from the barrio telling me that “it takes years to achieve the talent of spreading masa on an hoja.” Thankfully, this is when my more experienced sister, Sylvia, joined the two-person process. Thankfully, she was faster than me and spread a lot more of the masa than I did.
We like our tamales meaty, so, that’s how we made them. After adding the meat and rolling them up (we didn’t put a hoja ribbon around each–too much work!), it was time for the steamer. I have a huge 24 quart steamer I found at a local market, but I decided to do two different batches (5 dozen total) to allow enough room for the steam to cook the tamales. After adding water to the steamer, to just below the steamer plate, I set up a huge coffee cup wrapped in foil in the middle, then stood up each tamal against the cup and continued placing them around as if forming a teepee of sorts.
We gave each batch two hours to cook. They came out tasty and spicy. Obviously the filling and the chile in the masa are important, but ensuring that the masa is well-cooked is key so that the tamal rolls out of the hoja. After leaving them out to set and cool, we wrapped them up in foil. They were ready to travel, eat, and also to freeze for later.
Sunday morning, I traveled to the ‘burbs to deliver a bunch to my other sister, Toni. We had a good breakfast of tamales and a side of eggs. Brother-in-law made a chile in the molcajete that was hot and that just made you hungrier for more tamales. There seems to be enough for the Christmas weekend and I even kept a dozen in my freezer in case I get the urge.
My first experience making tamales from start to finish was an experience. It’s a process. And if you want them to taste good, you must be meticulous about every part of the process to ensure success. That means it’s time-consuming and work-heavy. Or, as my Pop would say, “es una chinga.” Because after everything is done, you still need to wash everything and put it away for future use. So, don’t complain when someone tries to sell you some expensive tamales!
As my sis and I laughed about some of our mistakes, the lights going out in the middle of the process during the morning storms, and about all the memories with Flo and Pop, we decided that it was all worth it and that it’ll remain a thing we do.
I’m happy with my latest accomplishment en la cocina. And I look forward to a bigger tamalada post-pandemic with the whole family and maybe one-or-two COVID vaccine-inoculated friends, if it is deemed safe. But with Greg Abbott and his followers acting like fools…anyway.
Have a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday. COVID-19 may be at a scary point right now, but if you continue to mask up, distance from those not in your household, and practice good hygiene, your risk will be decreased. And this is worth it, too.
NPR posted an interview with Dr. Joseph Varon, the medical director at United Memorial Medical Center on 12/16/2020. In it, Dr. Varon states that he was told by the Mayor that UMMC would receive their COVID-19 vaccine for their frontline workers sometime next week.
INSKEEP: Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday on the program that maybe caseloads will start to go down significantly when half the population is vaccinated, which is something that is a good number of months away. Let me ask about your hospital specifically, though. The first people getting vaccinated have been, in many cases, health care workers. Do you know when your staff will get vaccinated?
VARON: I was told by the mayor just a couple of days ago that we’re going to be getting our vaccine next week.
INSKEEP: Next week.
VARON: Yes, sir.
INSKEEP: What do the staff have to say about that?
VARON: Oh, they were very happy because they – you know, they were actually kind of annoyed that we didn’t make the first round of vaccination. But apparently, that was done on the basis of how big the hospitals are. Our hospital is a small community hospital that has less than a thousand employees, and therefore it was not chosen to receive the vaccine on the first round.
INSKEEP: We’ve heard about health care workers, along with people in the population at large, who are skeptical about the vaccine. Do you have anybody on your staff who’s pushing back?
VARON: Well, gosh. Yesterday, I had a – not a fight, but, you know, I had a friendly argument with more than 50% of my nurses in my unit telling me that they will not get the vaccine. And, you know, of course, I pushed the concept that people should get vaccinated. And I asked, why not? And, you know, at the end of the day, like I have said before, coronavirus has become a political toy, and most of the reasons why most of my people don’t want to get the vaccine are politically motivated.
INSKEEP: Do you trust the science when it comes to this vaccine?
VARON: Absolutely. Absolutely.
When half of his nursing staff is making the decision to not take the vaccine based on Trump politics, ones hope for the future sort of wanes. But it’s just not hospital staffers.
Kuff touched on how tough it will be to get everyone effectively vaccinated. Just within my own friends list, there have been a few who question everything about the vaccine. Some of it based on crap one reads on the internet, but also some based on US History of testing on people of color. There is a lot of mistrust and misinformation; most of it, because of the orange buffoon that is still in the White House who didn’t really care to carry the ball on fighting the pandemic. But US History is not kind to black and brown folks, either.
That said, I agree with Dr. Varon when he states that the current state of the vaccine does not help matters at the moment. A few thousand frontline workers and some elderly folks being inoculated is not going to help the current state of test positivity, hospitalizations and ICU admits. Americans must continue to practice COVID-19 measures–masks, wash hands, stay away from gatherings, etc.
It’s good to know that UMMC staffers will have access to the vaccine, though. The excuse they were given (having a lower number of employees) for not being amongst the first to get it was pretty weak.
Posted onDecember 15, 2020|Comments Off on UMMC Skipped Over in COVID Vax Distribution
United Memorial Medical Center, the hospital on the north side of Houston which has served mostly Black and Brown COVID-19 patients, has been skipped over by the feds in the initial distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine for health care workers, according to a report at ABC13.
“Initially, I was told it was because of the number of employees UMMC has, which is less than a thousand,” Medical Director Dr. Joseph Varon said.
He also said they have tested more than 300,000 people among all of its testing sites and even taken in some patients from other places such as El Paso, but it was not enough for the small hospital to stand out among the rest. His staff is baffled and upset.
“Every day [I get asked], ‘Dr. Varon, are you getting us the vaccine?’ You can imagine how impotent I feel,” he said. “My staff is getting sick. I had a nurse that got sick twice that just didn’t sound right.”
In an interview with Univision, Dr. Varon also stated that he hopes that UMMC receives it in the second round of distribution. Obviously, word needs to get to Congressional leaders to speak up about this.
It is pretty classist that hospitals in the medical center, where health insurance (and international cash) is king, are on the priority list, but a small hospital which has served minority populations during the pandemic–with or without insurance, isn’t even on the fed’s radar. I only wonder how rural hospitals are being treated.
Call your members of Congress and demand equity in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Posted onDecember 5, 2020|Comments Off on Varon, FLCCC: A COVID-19 Treatment That Must Be Approved Now
Dr. Joseph Varon, of Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center, and a team of researchers/physicians/ICU Specialists who have been working on COVID-19 patients, held a press conference last week regarding the treatment and even prevention of COVID-19 through a protocol developed through their own research.
According to Varon, one medication that has been effective in treating COVID-19 is Ivermectin. This drug has been around for over 40 years to treat parasitic infections and it’s affordable. Varon states that Ivermectin has been used as part of the I-MASK protocol to treat patients who are post-exposure, early stage, and even late stage, with some success and safety. A major find is that the drug is also preventative. The drug is not only anti-viral, but also anti-inflammatory.
The press conference was more of a call to action to request medical authorities at the federal and global level to study and authorize this treatment, and to update protocols of treatment, which has not occurred since August, 2020. In fact, it was in August that the FDA authorized Ivermectin for clinical trials. With the data already collected, they feel it is time to update the treatment protocols.
According to Dr. Pierre Kory of St. Luke’s in Wisconsin, multiple studies have shown decreases in mortality and positive treatment outcomes. As a prophylactic, it has been successful in preventing COVID-19. He states that lives are being saved.
Dr. Varon stated at various points that the group of physicians are in no way affiliated with the drug companies and that they have no conflicts of interest in supporting this method of treating and preventing COVID-19.
Professor of Medicine Dr. Paul Marik offered a global call to action for health authorities to look at the clinical trial data on Ivermectin, validate the data, and push for its use as we reach a critical point in the pandemic in which better treatments are needed. Marik stated quite emotively, “We must act now, we must act with conviction, and we must act with compassion.” Federal leadership has so far ignored the request.
Dr. Marik also pointed to clinical outcomes and benefits of various medications utilized and debated about, including Hydrocloroquine, Remdesivir, and others. They found that only Ivermectin had benefits for pre-exposure, post-exposure, and pulmonary/inflammatory/hospitalization phases of COVID-19.
Dr. Varon added that medical providers are tired of the death and destruction by COVID-19 and they have developed this treatment to not only help patients, but to help medical providers. When asked regarding competition with the billions of dollars already invested in vaccine development, Varon offered a dose of reality: 60% of the world will need to be vaccinated to reach some level of immunity and he has heard from his own patients and others that they are not willing or trusting of the vaccine enough to take it. What FLCCC offers is an alternative, as well as a way proven through their own research, to address COVID-19 now to compliment the vaccination process. As Dr, Marik put it, “It’s not a competition.”
Watch the press conference here, which includes Q&A with media for more information. One can also go to the FLCCC website to read the studies and other pertinent information. Here is the press kit that was also provided.
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Posted onDecember 3, 2020|Comments Off on QEPD – Maria Jimenez, Leader and Activist
I was saddened by the news that local civil and human rights activist, Maria Jimenez, had passed away after a battle with cancer.
This bio on Chicana Por Mi Raza points to some of the history Maria made. No doubt, it was her stories about the Houston side of La Raza Unida Party that put a lot of the history in perspective. It wasn’t just about the local Cristal stories that I grew up hearing from my parents, but about something bigger. The best advice she ever gave me, based on my political campaign work at the time, was to never forget that the work is about addressing the issues and keeping the personalities involved accountable.
Throughout my twenty-two years in Houston, I’ve known many young activists and leaders of all walks of life who proudly point to Maria Jimenez as having been their mentor, shero, and supporter. It is the work of these newer organizers today that proves the impact Maria had at so many levels.
My heartfelt condolences go out to Carlos, Stalina, and Maria’s family–actual and causa-related. May we all gain strength from the memory and results of her good works.
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Seriously, we should all stay home with those that reside within our household and be thankful that we’re still here. Call (or Zoom) those relatives you aren’t able to visit. Be safe.
According to Ready Harris, we’re still at Level 1 – Stay Home.
Level one signifies a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning outbreaks are present and worsening and that testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded. At this level, residents take action to minimize contacts with others wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine.
Take it seriously, please.
If you’re in need of a good pie recipe, check out the Karo Corn Syrup recipe. It’s so easy, it’ll mix in 5 minutes. Add a simple 9 inch pie crust from the store and you’re on your way to scarfing down your food plate just to get to dessert. (I add a splash of Maker’s Mark Whiskey to ther recipe just to make things interesting.)
I’m off to make the green bean casserole, cornbread dressing, and a pie. Happy Thanksgiving!
Posted onNovember 16, 2020|Comments Off on Dr. Varon: Next Six Weeks Will Be A Dark Period
Dr. Joseph Varon of the United Memorial Medical Center, who has done a lot of good work hunting and fighting COVID-19 in underinsured and ethnic communities of Houston, stated in a recent interview with TVV in Miami that the next six weeks may be a dark period in Texas’ big cities.
Citing what is called “covid fatigue,” Varon states that people are letting down their guard as they tire of hearing about the disease, which is the reason for the uptick in infections. Varon points out that while people ignore the disease in order to have their fun, the disease is not ignoring the people.
Varon also states that if the people do not change their ways of visiting restaurants, going to concerts and gatherings, etc., it is expected that by February, 2021, there will be over 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Over 20,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Texas, thus far.
The doctor states that a big challenge in fighting COVID-19 is the information and disinformation that people get from various sources, which has led to confusion. I’ll add that certainly the outgoing occupant of the White House has made the fight more difficult. Varon adds that Texans seem to think that they are above COVID-19 and any restrictions and shut-downs because, well, we’re Texas and we prefer freedom over safety and wellness. He’s not wrong about some of these freedom-promoting idiots, which unfortunately include Texas’ governor and lt. governor.
Anyway, we must listen to the experts, like Dr. Varon, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Hotez, and the CDC. We must continue to mask-up, stay away from large gatherings, wash hands, and stay put!
IN OTHER NEWS…
Since, I’m a huge Tejano music fan, I follow a lot of the bands and happenings in the genre. Recently, I’ve noticed more concerts occurring around the state. I’ve also noticed some legendary musicians and performers announcing they’ve contracted COVID-19 while exposing other musicians. Who knows what’s happening within the crowds as there is no physical distancing and very few masks in the photos I’ve seen. The concerts need to stop. I know the livelihood of performers has been threatened and affected, but thumbing one’s nose at reality is not a long-term solution.
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Well, you have to hand it to the Democratic Party. They’ll hand-pick their candidates, helicopter in operatives who have no understanding of the areas in which they campaign, spend millions of dollars on a mediocre message and advertising (and media consultants), lose, and then blame Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for losing.
The insult-fest I’ve seen on social media from people who think of themselves as “progressive” toward AOC is no different than the original one from 2018 when she first won and gained more media attention because of her positions than the same old boring Dems to which we’ve grown accustomed to losing. It’s pretty annoying, actually.
If the Party’s fave hand-picked Democrats went down in flames, the Party needs to look inward to find blame and not toward representatives who have shot some energy into the Party nationally. Senator Bernie Sanders reminded us of some progressive efforts that were quite victorious across the country.
Does all of this progressivism count as a national wave? Of course not. But AOC or Bernie do not deserve the blame for those who lost if progressive change is coming to other parts of the country. These individual issues, though, had support–even bipartisan support. Ultimately, if candidates lost, it was probably their individual messaging and weak positions that didn’t catch on. Or, maybe it was that some of these districts liked a balance between sanity and insanity and they split their votes.
Kuff pointed out how Joe Biden carried districts in Harris County that Democratic candidates lost. No doubt, this will be something that will be studied–especially as redistricting happens during 2021 for the 2022 election. But seeking the easiest target for blame gets us nowhere as a Party.
For now, keep celebrating that a flailing coalition that was kept together with scotch tape still got a win. Commit to pushing for progressive change in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration. And stop trying to save the Republican Party by trying to become Republican Lite, again.
In other words, keep building and buy stickier tape for the coalition.