Category Archives: Cultura

Need To De-Stress? New Tejano Music Will Help!

There’s upheaval in the world. And we’re still in a pandemic that has caused all sorts of financial and personal stress. I find solace in listening to music and my music of choice is Tejano.

The Tejano music industry, like the rest of the industry, has been hit hard by the pandemic. There’ve been cancellations that have turned into small and big livestream events. I’m glad to see that some of my musician friends are still surviving, even if it is one livestream at a time with studio work thrown in there in between. But it has not been easy.

Other artists haven’t been able to do much in the form of livestreams. Logistically and technically it can be tough. But others have released some live material digitally.

In 2020, the Tejano music world was celebrating the return of icon, Joe Lopez y El Grupo Mazz. The pandemic abruptly stopped the tour bus, but lucky fans are getting to enjoy a live album recorded during Lopez’s recent Freedom Tour. And it’s a well-recorded live album!

Lopez goes through his string of hits seamlessly with the newest rendition of MAZZ, featuring Bam Bam Ramos on Keys/Squeeze, Danny Rodriguez on Bass, Aaron Holler on Drums, Joaquin Cura on guitar, and Alberto Gonzalez on percussion. It’s a keeper and enough to keep fans excited about the post-COVID19 return.

The legendary Little Joe y La Familia also released a new live album, Better Than Ever. It’s one of a string of live albums Little Joe has released throughout his career. Recorded at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi for a LJ birthday celebration, the band goes through a playlist of classics as only La Familia could.

And Bobby Pulido also released Live in Las Vegas. The album was recorded during the Tejano Music Convention and features his dad, Roberto Pulido, and Emilio’s brother, Raulito Navaira as they pay tribute to musicos who have left this world. Those hits, along with the standard Bobby Pulido playlist of hits make for a great live album with strong production values.

So, if you’re in need of live music, there are options. And luckily, some bands have been able to put their live shows on tape.

Even during a pandemic and social upheaval, nuestra cultura y music vive! And it’s keeping many of us going, too.

Just Another Kill For The LE Trophy Case

Whatever the media is showing on your TVs really are not the final words of George Floyd, murdered by law enforcement at the age of 46.

Among George’s last words, as a cop’s knee pressed into his neck for nine minutes, were, “Mama, Mama.”

That was before the sounds coming out of him became agonizing moans. And that was before he was flopped onto a stretcher, his neck snapping before the cop (obviously not an EMT tech) grabbed hold of his head so it would stop flopping around as he was placed on the stretcher before he was placed in the ambulance. (He probably remembered he was on camera.)

George Floyd is another black person in an ever-growing long line of victims of police brutality and state-sanctioned murder. He joins names like Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown. As George is connected to Houston, one should also remember names like John Hernandez and Nicolas Chavez who were killed by local law enforcement.

These cop-lead murders happen so often, that it is easy to become desensitized to them. Even when there is video. One has a choice to become numb to reality or allow emotions to take over. But one doesn’t experience the depths of humanity until you see a person calling out for his mother at the hands of a murderer.

Oh yeah, that kind of thing has been portrayed in romanticized versions of war–the fresh-faced white kid with his guts shot out calling out for his mom. But this is real life. And it’s the “good guys” who are doing the killing.

But it’s the “good guys” who have all the defenses in the world. Whether it’s some puffed up media-savvy police chief, or some loud-mouth, annoying cops union rep, they will defend their  bad apples until they can’t. Until there’s video that is compelling enough to make them do something. Or at the very least, makes them shut their mouths.

But even when the people respond and protest, it is the same cops who allow white supremacists to protest with high-powered weapons at our government buildings who then tear-gas and respond violently to black and brown protesters who are simply petitioning government for a redress of grievances. And their own trade media defends law enforcement and makes them out to be the victims to the delight of racists and law and order types. Because, obviously, it’s the dead who are the bad guys.

I am pretty much at the end of my trust threshold when it comes to law enforcement. Even if I do have friends and relatives in law enforcement. Whenever I hear someone running for sheriff or someone wanting to be a leader in government over law enforcement I want to hear about how they are going to change the culture of law enforcement. How they are going to stop the killing for no reason of black and brown people.

And then I want to see them do it. The usual brown-nosing for police union endorsements doesn’t give me much hope at this point. One who wants to lead needs to lead the way for change. It is that simple.

 

 

 

 

Re-Living History

I noticed some Tejano music nighclubs are getting ready to re-open. It’s too damn soon! I even read that Grupo Intocable, one of my favorites, is going to have a “drive-in” concert out in the boonies in Poteet, TX on my birthday. They all say CDC guidelines will be followed, but do you trust people to follow? And what can these places do to enforce them? The federal and state government won’t even enforce it. No, thanks! Stay home.

I saw the lifted tweet-turned-meme below and decided to rewrite it in modern day Vato. Enjoy!


Lots of raza in the club waiting for the Hometown Boys to take the stage. I’m out here in my car watching the scene like I look at the marranitos being made at the panaderia, but chale, I ain’t going in. I can drink a six pack at home and not get the ‘rona. ~ 2020 Rewrite in Vato speak.

Joe Biden and Latinos

credit: Alamy

This last week was not a good one regarding Latino support for Joe Biden–at least in online media. An article in Politico shows various activists calling the Biden campaign out for their lack of outreach, or lack of a game plan to excite the Latino electorate. Even the LA Times had something on Latinos and Biden.

Joe Biden won the primary in spite of, not because of, his efforts to turn out Latinos. Two months later, Hispanic leaders are waiting on his campaign to deliver on its promises to do more.

In interviews, more than 20 Latino political operatives, lawmakers, and activists said they don’t see a game plan from Biden to marshal Hispanic voters effectively in the fall. They said there’s little evidence the campaign is devoting the resources or hiring the staff that task will require — all the more crucial during a pandemic, when reaching and mobilizing Latino voters through in-person canvassing is nearly impossible.

Throughout the Primary season, the Latino political players were backing one of the many in the running. Personally, I began with Julian Castro before jumping back on the Bernie wagon. The players, though, were mostly “anyone but Bernie” even settling on Biden because he wasn’t Bernie.

Anyway, Latino Democratic voters, those with whom the DNC, DCCC, and DSCC are usually out of touch and disconnected, were supporting Bernie in many states. So obvious was this support for Bernie that Biden didn’t even campaign for the Latino vote during the Primary. I mean, if there was a time that Democrats were hoping for low Latino turnout, it seems like it was during this last Primary. It’s not that we Berniestas only like Tio Bernie because he exists, it was that he took the issues that we poll strongest on seriously:  Education, Jobs, Health Care, and immigration and deportation reform. Biden defending the Obama deportation record didn’t help his Primary cause among Latinos who actually pay attention. Of course, he now calls 3,000,000 deportations a “big mistake.” Good move.

Well, we know the result. Joe Biden wins and deals are made to ensure representation of Bernie supporters at the National Convention and on Biden’s campaign. The policy of appeasement was definitely in play so the whole unity thing can be sold to all involved. As an avid voter, I’m fine with those efforts, as long as the rank-and-file stop insulting Bernie supporters over 2016 (still!). But statistics show Latinos are not avid voters and need to be reached out to because they can see right through the bullshit in politics. To the point where half of us stay home during a presidential year.

Of course, a good look at the recently released list of issues advisors to Biden shows most brown people are on the immigration plank, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez as the only brown face on the climate panel. Otherwise, it’s slim pickings, if any at all, when it comes to Latinos. Even I know at least one brown person capable of being on each issues group, so, why aren’t they on these lists?

Again, Biden has made efforts to appease the Latino electorate regarding immigration and economic issues, but if these articles about engagement and outreach are already coming out, then something needs to change. And perhaps it is.

I will add that this week’s appointment of Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Cesar’s granddaughter, is a nice gesture. But when the campaign states in the next paragraph that their targets include Florida, all I see coming are a repeat of 2016’s bad and ineffective radio ads comparing Trump to a dead Venezuelan President whose domestic policies were closer to what is in the Democratic platform. It’s no different than the red-baiting of Bernie Sanders during the Primary in Florida because he gave an honest summing up of the Cuban Revolution. It might get you a few votes in Florida, but the rest of Latinodom in the US is going to see right through it, thus, making outreach ineffective. In other words, you better do better than Florida if we want to win state houses and local races across the country.

When the Castro Brothers can be counted among those of us who aren’t excited about Joe Biden, well, that says a lot. I expect a lot of Demsplaining and whitesplaining about this, but maybe the Party should be listening. For a change. Even after the popular brown folk in the Party fall in line.

The pandemic obviously has hurt all campaigns. But it seems that even with the profiteering and willful misconduct occurring at the White House and in republican-led state governments, Democrats and Biden aren’t hitting back as hard as they should. Locally-elected Dems are struggling in these situations and we need a national voice to hit back.

I think voters, Latinos especially, would feel the warm and fuzzies a lot more if our champion actually championed. No, we’re not expecting him to run unmasked into a rally of thousands to cheerlead in the midst (or mist) of a COVID19 cloud. But talk to us. And tell the world what Biden wants to do that is different than what the current orange trainwreck offers America. Simply pointing out what Trump is doing wrong or badly will just be a repeat of 2016–a free ad for Trump. Voters need to hear solutions to the problems Trump has caused. Voters need hope. I know I do!

The results of this pandemic are telling us that Latinos are taking a huge hit–healthwise (COVID19-wise) and economically. Latinos have lost more jobs and the number of uninsured continues to rise in the Latino community (20%). And these numbers don’t even consider the undocumented community, which has its own challenges (made worse by Trump). It’s hard to get someone excited about voting when someone you know or to whom you are related is affected in one way or another by the pandemic and the options are Trump or Not Trump. Again, I’m not talking about voters like me, but the other half who get disinterested really fast.

For some of us, getting rid of Trump may be enough, but a lot more effort is needed to ensure this happens in a big way and that means talking solutions. I’m pretty sure Latinos want to support the Biden way of getting things done. And I guess we just want to hear more about what he wants to get done. Or, Biden could name a Latina, like Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham as the VP nominee and he’d be golden.

Naming Amy Klobuchar, though, would be quite underwhelming.

Christopher Hollins Named Interim County Clerk

Late last night, I got the message that the Harris County Commissioner’s Court appointed local lawyer and Texas Democratic Party Finance Chair Christopher Hollins to serve as interim Harris County Clerk.

The court voted 3-2 along party lines to approve Hollins. Five public speakers urged court members to choose Teneshia Hudspeth, Trautman’s chief deputy. County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said Hollins’ pledge to serve only on an interim basis factored in their decision.

So, it will be up to the Party’s precinct chairs to select someone to be the nominee on the November 2020 ballot. Let the games begin.

Hollins, though, seems like candidate material. He served the Obama administration’s Office of Presidential Personnel as a legal intern before embarking on his career. No doubt, he has some Democratic bonafides considering his current position in the Party.

After navigating the local Party website, I finally found out how to find my precinct chair. Unfortunately, they want all my information before telling me who publicly signed up to run for the office (or got appointed later). Anyway, if you want to lobby your precinct chair, I guess this is how you can start.

 

Should Harris County Have An Independent Elections Administrator?

In case you haven’t heard, our County Clerk Diane Trautman has submitted her resignation effective end of month. The Harris County Commissioner’s Court is about to appoint an interim to serve while each political party’s precinct chairs will decide on a candidate who will run in November, 2020. In fact, the interim appointment is supposedly happening this week.

While my post about any replacement county clerk was mostly political, the conversation seems to have taken a turn toward the notion of appointing a non-partisan, professional elections administrator. Harris County is among the last large counties in Texas who still have an elected official running elections, while others have hired professionals to serve in this capacity. And it’s mostly worked and it’s taken the politics out of elections–mostly.

Kuff has more on this.

One of the concerns I had at the time was how do you remove an Elections Administrator if one proves to be not up to the task. The answer to that question, at least as articulated in that last link, appears to be “with a four-fifths majority of the election commission”, which concerns me as anything that requires a supermajority does.

Whether one removes the politics from elections, it’s still a government role so it will still reek of politics if it comes down to this kind of situation. Still, giving the role to a professional doesn’t sound like a bad idea. The policy, though, is still made by politicians and bad policy won’t change unless you get rid of bad politicians who do not support access to voting and increased voter education.

Still, nothing wrong with a discussion.

We still have an election in 2020 to replace Diane Trautman–or to appoint someone who will move forward from where Trautman leaves off. Either way, Commissioner’s Court will need to appoint someone who can run elections in a month and in a few months. I’m pretty sure creating a new elections agency will take more than just printing new signage for office doors and courthouse hallways. Maybe, even politics!

 

People Modeling Behavior Of Their Leaders

Some people get it; others do not. And some outright refuse to get it!

Yes, when it comes down to it, protesting not being able to get haircuts, not wearing masks in public, lashing out at government officials who ask groups to practice social distancing, racist comments toward elected officials, hosting parties with large groups of people, all of these can easily be chalked up to being decisions made by irresponsible individuals (and mobs). But to not see elected officials as the source of which this behavior is modeled is short-sighted. Whether we’re in a pandemic or not. But since we are in a pandemic…

Whether it is Trump and Greg Abbott (and other Texas leaders) forcing open the states and businesses and cancelling the requirement of masks, or whether it is Trump playing down the importance of access to COVID-19 testing (access to testing means better contact tracing), or whether it is Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton doing everything they can to stop local elected officials from enforcing rules and stay-at-home orders designed to keep us safe from COVID-19, people see these leaders’ decisions, actions, and behaviors and feel they have permission to do as their leaders do or say. Thankfully, some leaders will fight back.

A hospital in South Texas was denying patients COVID-19 testing, so the local officials have taken over ER operations at the hospital to ensure everyone who needs a test gets one. Apparently, person denied a test was later found to be COVID-19 positive, but only after infecting nine others in the town. So, even hospitals are acting like their elected officials at the top.

But there are more of us who have stayed home these last two months, those who haven’t traveled across the state to visit relatives or have fun, those who wear masks (and gloves) every time they leave the house for needed activities, those that have accepted the danger of being in large groups–even if it means forgoing seeing close family members–and have stayed home or at least played it safe by practicing physical distancing.

We do this to protect everyone else and also our own selves. It’s the responsible thing to do.  And we model our behavior based on the advice of medical experts and the elected officials who take the experts’ advice seriously. And those who risk themselves by volunteering at food drives and PPE giveaways also model their behavior after elected officials who have taken the lead in trying to provide for their communities.

And I’m not naive to think that bad decisions aren’t made at the local level. This move toward outdoor graduations or physically distanced indoor ones could be a disaster in the making, and Dallas is doing the right thing by sticking to virtual graduations. I don’t even like this business of drive-in theaters or the idea of drive-in concerts. The opportunity for stupid decisions is just too huge. But all this is pushed by local leaders who are egged on by state leaders.

So, do not tell me this is not a political thing. Do not tell me that the electoral choices we make nowadays are not a choice between life and death. If the Attorney General, Greg Abbott and Trump want to decrease access to your right to vote during this pandemic, while doing everything to endanger your lives, guess what? It’s political! It’s about power. And it’s as political as buying your love (or silence) for $1200 (of your money) in exchange for corporations and contractors receiving billions of dollars in tax giveaways (of your money).

Now is not the time to be blissful in ones willful ignorance.

New Experiences in Cooking – Wings!

Well, after being suspicious of air fryers since their popularity came into our line of sight, I finally broke down and purchased one. Here I thought I was the last one to buy one, but I’m still seeing folks who have yet to jump into the pool.

I didn’t go fancy. Some of my friends show off their Ninja Foodis or their Cuisinart [insert model here]. I took the alternate route and bought a Gourmia air fryer, but it was the 7 quart one, which is bigger than the usual less than 6 quart one. I figured, if I didn’t like it, then, I wouldn’t feel so bad for spending 3 figures on what may be a fad. Well, thus far, it’s going quite well and it’s been worth the $75 (after coupon).

First of all, I must say to owners and not owners thinking of buying that YouTube is your friend. Well, any Google search result for “air fryer recipes” can be your friend. And you can either follow them or make changes to your liking along the way. The key is to get a good idea about temperature and time to cook. The rest is all about prepping to your liking.

My first trek was a batch of wings I had been dreaming of since I’ve been avoiding restaurants. After buying and nuking and eating the pre-flavored, over-salted and over-sugared frozen hot wings for so long, I was in the mood for something closer to my favorite wings place. Unfortunately, my grocery store only had the huge bag of frozen wings and not fresh ones. So, I settled for the frozen ones. The result was pretty awesome.

Tacho’s Come Fly With Me Hot Wings

  • Thaw the wings (I made 12)
    • Wash and pat dry the wings
  • Prepare the seasoning
    • Salt/Pepper
    • Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning
    • Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute (any multi-seasoning)
  • Combine wings and seasoning ensuring wings are fully covered
    • Let the seasoned wings rest in fridge for an hour
  • Spray air fryer pan/crisper with canola oil
  • Pre-heat air fryer at 390 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Spray the wings with canola oil (helps them crisp on the outside).
  • Place wings in the air fryer–leave space in between them to ensure air circulates around them.
  • Set at 400 degrees and cook for 15 minutes.
    • At 10 minutes, using silicone tongs, turn them over
    • After the next 5 minutes, check the temperature with a meat thermometer which should be at 165 degrees. If not, a little more time will do.
    • Are they crispy enough? If not, another 2 to 3 minutes will do the trick for that.

Of course, naked wings can be boring. So, I put together a hot sauce that you can use as a dip or to make an entire batch of hot wings.

  • In a ramekin or saucepan, melt some butter (a pat or two, respectively).
  • Add your favorite hot sauce, generously
  • Salt/Tony Chachere’s to taste
  • Mix It!
  • Nuke it for 30 seconds to a minute or heat in sauce pan
  • Use as a dip or slather the wings in it–your choice
    • Others slather then put them back in the fryer for a few minutes. Your choice!

Side Dish:  Slice a Russet potato (chip slices). Put them in water and drain to clean off starch. Season with TJs 21-Seasoning Salute, Salt/Pepper. Spray air fryer pan with canola oil. Spray potatoes with canola oil. Place potatoes in the air fryer. 400 degrees for 5 minutes, then shake the pan or flip the chips on the other side and fry for another 3 to 5 minutes. A mix of crispy outside, soft inside chips that you can also dip in the wing sauce! Or ketchup. Or ketchup mixed with hot sauce.

That’s my quick recipe for wings.  They go great with reruns of NBA and MLB on ESPN.

 

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

This installment of the weekly Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup has been done entirely by murder hornets.

Off the Kuff adds Rep. Chip Roy to the active roster of death squad enthusiasts.

Dos Centavos tells us about his hometown’s battle with COVID-19, and whose experience with Greg Abbott isn’t much different than that of Big City leaders.

Socratic Gadfly has, over the last 10 days or so, written twice about the Jesse Ventura for Green Party presidential nominee nuttery. He first talks about how this shows how much Jesse is Just.Another.Politician.™ In a follow-up, he said he wants to see exactly what was in the “letter of interest” Jesse’s minions sent to the Green Party and who signed it, as the Green Party currently risks looking like Just.Another.Political.Party™.

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

Scott Braddock chronicles Greg Abbott’s various power moves during the crisis.

Lisa Gray interviewed Braddock about the “full-on culture war” that Abbott and others are leading over COVID-19.

Paradise in Hell brings us an important butt-shaking legal update.

Dan Solomon hands out some awards for coronavirus performance.

Paul Basaldua shows how recovered COVID-19 patients can help others by donating their plasma.

Beyond Bones would like to put your mind at ease about those murder hornets.

County Clerk Diane Trautman To Resign

I’m saddened to read that our Harris County Clerk Diane Trautman has submitted her resignation effective end of May. She cites health concerns, her age, and how COVID-19 could threaten her and her family’s health in this regard.

Dr. Trautman has changed the way elections are run in Harris County. She has opened up access to voters. She has worked to make voting easier. And she finally started the process of replacing those outdated E-slates that should have been long-replaced during the republican years. Recently, she even stood up to the Attorney General to make the COVID-19 epidemic a good enough reason to order a ballot by mail in order to avoid election day crowds and the COVID spit clouds within them. She thought of making changes for the benefit of the people before she resigned for her own health. That counts for a lot.

I met Diane in 2004. I and my sister had opened up our Democratic Primary election day polling location in our neighborhood school. It still wasn’t cool for Democrats to challenge each other, or even stand up and run for a chance to take on the local republicans. So, it wasn’t all that busy in our republican Kingwood precinct. Out of nowhere, Diane shows up to volunteer for a few hours. While waiting for voters to trickle in, we talked process, resumes, and Democratic politics. I thought, this woman wants to run for something. Obviously, that was a good thing.

Soon, she’d make a run against Joe Crabb, the long-time right-wing state representative. Given her suburban living and suburban teaching and education administration experience, she had a lot of cross-party friends who supported her. Still, it’s tough to take on a republican in a republican district. It was a learning experience for Diane, but also for the rest of us who were trying to organize suburban Democrats–even if it was to provide a bottom line to our countywide numbers.

Diane did get elected to the Harris County Dept of Education Board, though. Because of her, many of us learned more about this taxing entity and how it helped school districts around the county, as well as students in need of specialized programs. And she fought valiantly against efforts by republicans to do away with the agency. It earned her more visibility to challenge a republican incumbent for County Clerk. And she won! And she worked.

Thanks, Dr. Trautman, for your service and friendship.

Back to central casting. The process calls for the County Commissioner’s court to name an interim County Clerk, and then the precinct chairs of each party will pick a candidate to run in November, 2020 with the winner completing the term and having to run for re-election in 2022.

I’m of the opinion that the Democratic majority on the Commissioner’s Court should make a strong appointment of someone who will be the incumbent, making it clear that there is no need for a possible free-for-all at the precinct chair level.

We elected our County Judge and our Commissioners, while most of us cannot even find a link on the Party website to find our own precinct chair so that we can lobby for whom we want them to vote. Either process is hardly democratic as the voters are left out of the process. I’d rather go with whom our top leaders choose and have the precinct chairs basically ratify it so we can move forward. Wishful thinking? Maybe.

Some may opine that appointing as interim one of the professionals already in the County Clerk’s office to run the 2020 election and be a placeholder while allowing a candidate chosen by the precinct chairs to run full-time is the solution. And that’s a good argument. But I think we should have a candidate who can show that they can do the professional and the political work, simultaneously. I think it’s more of a confidence builder for us voters when we see that our candidates can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Either way, we’ll see what happens. I already see suggestions on my Facebook feeds about who should run and about diversity on the ballot. There’s nothing wrong with healthy debate, but these things can take a turn for the ugly real quick. And that’s another reason why I’d like to see the Judge and Commissioners lead on this one.