Category Archives: Cultura

Things To Do on Thanksgiving

Stay home!

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.  

Ready Harris

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!

UPDATE on PECAN PIE:

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.

And A NYC Latina Shall Piss Them Off…Again!

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.

Dems and TX Latinos in 2020

Here are my thoughts, mostly based on general chisme gathered from actually speaking to South Texans the last few days. I say it this way because too many experts are either freaking out or pushing things aside. But it’s a conversation that must be had, and not 8 days before the next election.

I was hoping Kuff would have some numbers on what occurred in Latino counties in Texas and Harris County, and he came through. Much like many folks looking at numbers, Kuff doesn’t know what happened with this contraction of Latino Democratic support. Or, in other words, why so many South Texas Mexicans went for El Cheeto.

Like I said, I have no solutions to offer. Plenty of smart people have plenty of ideas, and quite a few of them were raising issues before the election. Might be a good idea to listen to them. All I’m saying is that whatever happened here, it wasn’t what we wanted. If we want to avoid a repeat, we better get to work.

Elsewhere, the Dem experts will now say that, given Miami-Dade County’s result, “Latinos are not a monolith.” Well, duh!

All one has to look at are socioeconomic numbers by individual groups, geography, among other demographics to know that there can’t be one message for Latinos, but it must be one that is as coherent as possible. Every Latino group has its own set of issues, no different than suburban and rural whites. The problem is that consultants will hone in on one particular group in their quest to win a state (Florida) with a message that isn’t believable for whatever reason, while ignoring the other groups in other parts of the country who then become an easy target for disinformation.

In my opinion, Democrats wasted a lot of resources on Florida’s non-Mexican Latinos, trying to convince them that Democrats are not socialist supporters of long-dead Latin American presidents. (The DNC ran radio ads saying as much in 2016, too, and I predicted this would occur again with a Biden candidacy supported by neoliberals and war-mongering republicans.) It wasn’t effective in 2016, either.

Meanwhile, other Latino areas of the country were simply taken for granted, particularly those voters who don’t often vote and may have formed opinions based on disinformation because they haven’t been engaged effectively by Democrats. Latino outreach by community groups may be the difference in Arizona and Georgia and could serve as an example of a possible solution. The work that JOLT and TOP did in Texas made a difference, but it is work that needs more investment to reach more people in Texas.

As JOLT’s Antonio Arellano mentions in the Tweets mentioned by Kuff, 500,000 more Latinos in Texas voted for the first time. Perhaps a good survey of these folks would give us some much needed information for the future.

Taking a look at South Texas Mexicans, we saw a move toward Trump and republicans that many did not expect. The Republican “fracking” attack against Biden (along with the usual republican culture war) worked and it cost Dems an opportunity to win back Congressional District 23 and almost lost State Senate District 19. Campos agrees. Another case of Trump disinformation finding an audience. The argument that Trump was a disaster on COVID-19 was not going to be enough.

Fracking companies (and the local businesses that benefit from fracking) are a big employer (and sponsor of cultural events) in South and West Texas. These workers didn’t care about the effects of fracking on the environment or any coming of green jobs in the future. They cared about their jobs now and were duped into believing that Biden would be the cause of their financial demise.

Fracking and oil and gas drilling has been suffering for a while in South Texas, and local businesses have been hit already with the original contraction, and that had more to do with market conditions than anything else. But for money-grubbing drilling companies, it’s easier to blame the Dems than go into a discussion of their own bad business practices or of how the market works.

On top of this, Trump offered the bigots amongst us the freedom to blame and show their hate toward immigrants, Black Lives Matter, the poor, gays, women, etc. In other words, the freedom to use their screwed up versions of Christianity and their weird fantasy of rugged individualism as a weapon toward others. Trump is no different than the asshole bullies some of us had to deal with growing up. Perhaps this was the “sleeping giant:” Bullies who finally had their say in a world that was too kind to those they have bullied. Just a thought. The culture wars are alive and well in all demographics–just look at the 55% of white people who voted for Trump.

Something to point out is that these South Texas Mexican Trump supporters aren’t as wealthy or even as middle class as the middle to upper-class Latin Americans (Cuban, Venezuelan) in Miami-Dade who continually build wealth and political power and spread it among their own. I grew up with some of these South Texas types and their parents were migrant farm workers and worked at the local cannery, just like mine. Since it was seasonal work, their parents were at the food stamp and government cheese line, just like mine. Some just want to forget from where they came.

Many in this younger generation took jobs in the oil field and in all the businesses that benefit from it. With the oil business doing its own contraction even with Republicans in power, the benefits of NAFTA no longer helping businesses thrive, and even agri-jobs going by the wayside because of cheaper migrant labor, there is a big swath of people whose livelihoods are often threatened and always searching for someone to blame. COVID-19 didn’t help. But, no one is bothering to talk to them or promising something better. You get a loud-mouth playing the blame-game on TV, it’s obvious that people respond to it all over the country. “Divide and Conquer” is still an effective republican messaging tool.

Anecdotally, a South Texas friend mentioned that some of these drilling-related businesses were helping Trump along by threatening jobs if they didn’t show support for Trump. It wouldn’t surprise me, if true. Farmers and the businesses that benefited from them would force Mexican American employees to vote their way in the days before the Chicano civil rights movement. This crap still happens and it is a lot easier in South Texas.

Another anecdote: A friend sent me a pic of a family I know with a Trump flag waving from their trailer house porch (like the one in the meme) and I remember them being poorer than dirt, on the free lunch program at school when we were younger, but now, they’re republicans. And, then, I remember the days before, during, and after the civil rights movement also had their own rendition of sell-outs and wannabes who didn’t care for anyone but themselves. It happens in all demographics.

Still, Biden was winning many South Texas counties, as Kuff’s data shows, but not at the usually strong rate to which Dems are accustomed and rely on without much effort. In my own area of birth, Biden was averaging in the 60s. Down toward the Rio Grande Valley, it was in the 50s. Zapata County, on the border where some fight Trump’s border wall and the median income is $26K, went 53% for Trump. Some say it was a blip and it won’t happen again, but, I’m not so sure.

Kuff mentioned how base Democratic districts didn’t turnout as well as suburban districts in Harris County. No doubt, work and money has been poured into those formerly bright red districts that went ignored when I first arrived to Houston 20 years ago. Perhaps that’s a solution for the base Dem districts and South Texas?

Still, in places like Harris County, local election numbers guy Hector de Leon reminds us that 66% of Latino voters in Harris County do not reside in traditionally Latino areas. So, the work of effectively targeting Latinos needs to happen everywhere. But the messaging needs to match the needs of specific areas. Too much work? Too expensive? I’ll remember that next time Democrats fund ineffective non-Latino candidates in 60-40 GOP districts.

Anyway, we are still waiting for Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina–states with their own Latino organizing efforts who are definitely a part of the final outcome.

Today is Election Day – Nov 3, 2020

  • IN HARRIS COUNTY, TX
  • Get your sample ballot. (click link)
  • Find your polling location. (click link)
    • County Clerk Chris Hollins announced late last night that only one drive-thru location would be open. Even so, I’d suggest walking in to one of the other 800+ locations unless you have a disability or illness. In case of illness/disability, you can request curbside voting.
    • Anywhere else in America, find it here: https://www.vote.org/polling-place-locator/
  • Take your mask and your photo ID.
  • VOTE FOR EVERY DEMOCRAT FROM TOP to BOTTOM OF THE BALLOT!
  • If you feel your vote needs protection from suppression or other suppressive Republican or polling location behavior, get in contact with the Texas Voter Protection hotline here.
  • Watch the results from the comfort of your own home. Have a few drinks, make some queso, get some chips, and relax. Results will be coming slow, for sure, but that just means more chips and queso.
  • Keep an eye out for election night speeches at the Dem Party Facebook HQ and all throughout social media.

It will be a busy day and evening; however, you can vote at any of the polling locations, and the map on the link will advise you which locations are busy and which are not.

Stay connected and stay vigilant for any crazy Republican happenings out there.

Early Vote Day 1 Was Great!

Over 128,000 Harris Countians showed up and voted on the first day of Early Voting. Add the mail-in ballots and that number is 169,000+. Overall, it was a good voting day.

I showed up at the HCC-Alief campus on Westheimer yesterday morning and spent less than an hour in line with my neighbors. Visual estimates probably had 50 head of me with more folks showing up behind me. By the time I left, the line had gotten longer. Unlike my COVID Primary voting experience, the ID scanner actually worked on my ID and I didn’t have to spend a few minutes being questioned. The folks working the polls were friendly and efficient. Perhaps they needed more machines, but with 122 locations countywide, one could find faster locations checking wait times on the Harris County clerk’s website.

Obviously, it’s not over as Early Voting ends on October 30. And the Republicans are still trying to stop you from voting by filing a frivolous lawsuit to end the convenient drive-thru locations that are being offered by Harris County. All I heard were good things about this innovative way of voting, yet, Republicans want to make voting harder.

During these pandemic days, convenience is preferable to all–no matter theit political affiliation. Republicans, though, cannot stop their love of voter suppression. Whether it is Greg Abbott stopping multiple drop-off locations for mail ballots, or whiny lawsuits to annoy voters, the Republicans do not want you to vote.

Well, yesterday showed that people will show up in spite of Republican voter suppression tactics. And this must continue. In Harris County find your early voting location here, print out a sample ballot here, and spread the word to your friends and family! And don’t forget to thank the hard-working folks at your voting location.

And, vote for the Democrats!

DC Reviews: The Mavericks – En Español

For tried and true fans of The Mavericks, En Español has been a long-awaited work. Since their founding, The Mavericks have offered up some Spanish tunes belted out by their leader, Raul Malo, at their performances. More than a few times, fans have asked them when a Spanish-language album would be released. Well, it’s here and it doesn’t disappoint.

Their live playlist is so diverse that they are considered multi-genre (and Americana) with performances sprinkled with country, tex-mex, cuban, rock, jazz, and other rhythms, which says a lot about their collective musicianship. Whether it’s the dueling guitars of Malo and LA-born guitarist Eddie Perez, the tickled ivories of Jerry Dale McFadden, or the diverse drumming of Paul Deakin, or their sidemen, they can play anything–sometimes, at a moment’s notice.

En Español is an eclectic mix of Latin rhythms and American sounds that only The Mavericks could put together in an honest and sincere fashion. Songs of love and heartbreak abound on this collection, as well as Cuban folk and classic ones from another time.

Classic songs, such as La Sitiera, Sombras, Mujer, and Sabor A Mi are already well-known at their concerts and previous Raul Malo solo works. Yet, they’re given a new and bold flavor that fills ones ears and hearts.

The first single, Poder Vivir, a ska-ish-tinged song backed by the sweet accordion sound of Michael Guerra, has already been making the rounds on radio and various other platforms. In fact, it’s already reached the top of some Tejano music charts, which shows their ability to penetrate markets beyond their usual audience. Recuerdos features that signature Mavericks sound that has fans swaying at their concerts.

Another favorite tune is the danceable (for us Tex-Mex folk)  Julia Iglesias tune, Me Olvide de Vivir, along with the mariachiesque No Vale La Pena, made famous by Juan Gabriel and given quite the squeezebox assist by the legendary Flaco Jimenez and the trumpets of Julio Diaz and Lorenzo Molina. Another cover is a Spanish-version of Englebert Humperdink’s Man Without Love, Cuando Me Enamoro.

But it’s the haunting and heart-wrenching Pensando En Ti, backed by the requinto and the accordion, that will have one thinking about love lost and searching for a drink. Finally, they offer up some Cuban folk music with the Celia Cruz tune, Pinar del Rio, in case you haven’t danced enough.

NPR has a great article on some Mavericks history and the process of making this album, as does TejanoNation. My FB friend Hector Saldaña at the Express-News delves into it, too.

En Español is available on all platforms, but, since bands aren’t touring, drop them a few bucks and buy the album and their merch at their website.

Also, The Mavericks will be performing a live, pay-per-view concert at Nugs.tv on Saturday, August 22, featuring the new material from En Español. As I’ve always said, any Mavs performance is an experience, even from the comfort of your own couch.

Reviewing the DNCC – Day 2

Well, Day 2 was a lot more palatable.

It was good seeing Texas folks in some of the coverage, including Congresswoman Veronica Escobar of El Paso and State Rep. Victoria Neave of the Dallas area–both early Biden endorsers.

Although I wish Stacey Abrams had spoken longer, I liked Senator Chuck Schumer’s speech as it highlighted what Joe Biden is offering the people, which I think needs to be pounded into the brain of voters. Bill Clinton delivered some good lines that stabbed at the failure that is Trump. The heartstrings were pulled with Jimmy and Roselynn Carter’s speech, perhaps because of my own family memories of watching the DNCC, or the fact that they are up in years, now.

I was not too thrilled with the “empire” portion of the show. Bringing out military and intelligence folks to buttress the US’s drive for world domination, but in a kinder, gentler way, is not my thing.

Much like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez stated in her nominating speech of Bernie Sanders, I, too, was hoping for a different kind of foreign policy in 2020 that only Senator Bernie Sanders offered. Unfortunately, Democrats have this need to prove toughness during convention time, rather than promote peace between nations that should be our allies, if the poor and indigenous were not looked down upon by US interests backed up by the US military. These policies pushed by both parties, which are anti-democratic and labor-exploitive must end, or else, the challenges of violence-based, climate-based and economic-based migration will continue.

Joe Biden will keep the US war machine well-oiled and funded when our priorities should be elsewhere during this pandemic, or else the Lincoln Project wouldn’t be so supportive. And he will likely continue US-Latin America policy that has been detrimental to the poor and indigenous of those nations, while supporting right-wing regimes who allow foreign corporations to exploit their natural resources and workers. I mean, ask anyone which Latin American countries have the most mass graves, missing and dead climate and political activists and it will be nations led by right-wing monsters supported by the US.

Thankfully, Dr. Jill Biden saved the day with her presentation. It’s obvious that she would be a first lady who would be proactive and kind, rather than dead inside. No doubt the story of Joe and Jill Biden offers some humanity, rather than the current “blooper reel.”

I think the favorite part was the roll call of states who announced their delegate totals. My favorites were North Dakota and New Mexico, which featured Natives and Chicanos. Somos Indios, cabrones!

And for those that freaked out over Sanders being nominated, that’s all part of the rules and convention process. Those of us who voted for Sanders gave him enough delegates to qualify for nomination, thus, AOC and the UAW guy were asked to give the nominating speeches. Don’t worry, I blame those at the DNC who fail to explain the process for those watching because they think you’re ordinary voters who won’t bother to watch democracy in action.

By the way, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the nominees, officially.

Anyway, let’s see what Day 3 offers.

Reviewing the DNCC – Day 1

I think the only part of the Democratic National Convention (Day 1) in which I got teary-eyed was during the singing of the National Anthem and “America,” because I was hoping beyond hope that these tunes would actually mean something, again, in the future. Otherwise…

This first day seemed to be all about appeasing the middle, the right, and the white. That tried and true strategy that never works. Devoting 5 or so minutes to Republicans for Biden who basically stated that Joe Biden was not the big bad leftist portrayed by Trump didn’t leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. If anything, it makes me think that they’ll be quite comfy with the status quo that still enriched them during Dem administrations. The fact that Dems think that this is a workable strategy to gain white Republican votes still leaves me dumbfounded.

The use of Meg Whitman reminded me of her 2010 run for CA guv when she was considered the “cool republican” who suddenly turned on immigrants to the point where she supported the deportation of her undocumented housekeeper if republinuts gave her the nomination. All I saw was a reminder of bigotry and hypocrisy; but, that’s the kind of thing I look for in these kind of events. Let’s face it, after all of these years of immigrants being used as a political piñata by republicans, the Dems using them for votes leaves me disappointed. But, Dems refuse to learn.

Even more embarrassing was the use of Art Acevedo, the HPD head cop, in a racial justice discussion. He still hasn’t answered for HPDs killing of Nicolas Chavez, he refused to release bodycam footage of the killing, yet, the Democrats seem to think he’s part of the “racial justice” solution. What’s his answer? Crocodile tears and high-fiving protesters before gassing them and wrongly arresting them? I’m not the only one who was perturbed by this. Hell, Julian Castro has been doing some great work regarding police reform; why wasn’t he in this discussion?

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto and Senator Bernie Sanders were exceptional in pointing out the Biden agenda (which is what we all need to hear), especially Bernie. Bernie even did a better job on the issue of immigration and hate in his few minutes of speaking. And I’ll be the first to agree that a guy that looks like Bernie Sanders (old and white) should be stating these positions and not just brown folk. I hope Biden states them so eloquently.

Michelle Obama gave a great speech, as always, but I know I wouldn’t be able to say that being President reveals who you really are knowing my spouse deported 3 million immigrants and warehoused hundreds of thousands more (kids included). Of course, when it comes to remembering the “good ol’ days” of the Obama administration, I’m pretty much dead inside. Still, good speech.

Anyway, we’re all trying our damnest to be good soldiers despite the things that piss us off about those in charge of the Democratic Party. As Bernie reminded us, some of the issues we have fought for are now part of mainstream messaging (if not thinking) in the Party. It’s our job to keep those we elect accountable is what we’re told about democracy. Therefore, expecting better candidates does not end when the ticket is decided, either.

On to Day 2.

 

Local Dem Ballot Finally Done

The Harris County Democratic Party’s precinct chairs met this past weekend to discuss and approve the final two candidates to be placed on the ballot:  County Clerk and Harris Co Dept of Education Trustee.

Precinct Chair-slash-Blogger, Charles Kuffner, provided us an inside look to the happenings.

As I expected, Teneshia Hudspeth was unanimously approved and without any opposition. In the race for HCDE Trustee, though, there was some competition among the three candidates. According to Kuff:

Three candidates were nominated for this position: David BrownObes Nwabara, and Jose Rivera, as was expected. Brown led the voting with 38%, followed by Nwabara with 35% and Rivera with 27%. The rules say that a majority is needed, so we went to a runoff, and there Brown prevailed with a 53-47 vote. The closeness of the vote was appropriate for a tough choice, as all three candidates were excellent and well-qualified.

I was rootin’ for my friend, Jose, but he was a good Democratic sport about the result.

My work and passion for community will continue and I support 100% David Brown for HCDE Trustee for the Fall election. I would also like to congratulate Obes Nwabara on a spirited and great race as well. I am excited to see the energy and momentum of a new generation of leadership that is ready to work to ensure our community is equitable and accessible for all.

I’m pretty sure that Jose is not done and that someone with his deep history and connection to Democratic causes will be on the ballot (or for consideration to some sort of appointment) in the future.

That said, looks like the Democratic ballot is done. A comprehensive and Democratic list of candidates is available here.