Category Archives: Cultura

QEPD: Ramsey Muñiz

I was saddened to hear of the passing of the first Chicano to run for Texas Governor under the banner of La Raza Unida Party, Ramiro (Ramsey) Muñiz. In 1972, he garnered 6% of the vote, almost causing the defeat of right-wing Democrat Dolph Briscoe. He helped change the face of Texas politics, though, the struggle continues.

Charismatic, politically savvy, and quite the motivator, Muñiz was a Baylor-educated Lawyer and Chicano political superstar who headed up a statewide ballot for one of the most locally effective third parties in Texas whose purpose was not only representation, but progressive policies that would benefit Chicanos all over Texas.

In 2018, I posted about his decades as a political prisoner, which came to an end with a compassionate release. I rank him up there with Leonard Peltier (still imprisoned)–an activist not liked by the federal government, no matter who was in charge. Muñiz resided at Leavenworth, a military prison, after multiple drug convictions with which most end up in a lower security prison. Family and friends, though, kept up the fight to achieve his release. Unfortunately, it took major illnesses for him to be released. Thankfully, he lasted another few years, still gave his speeches, still provided advice to activists, and was able to die with dignity and with his family.

For more on Mr. Muñiz, click here.

For a sample of his speeches:

The Latin Grammys Tejano Noms Are Out

The LG Tejano noms release day is always one in which I expect to see bands whose music I’ve never heard. This was not one of those days.

The nominees include a Mexico-based Tejano band, the niece of a legend (Emilio) who has taken control of her career to achieve success, a vocalist originally produced by Abraham Quintanilla who has grown up in the industry to become a powerful singer, a band of professional working musicians who work in various projects but come together for a new album, and the son of a Tejano music legend who is making his way to that status himself.

Some good music was nominated this year in the Tejano music category. I’m glad to see that two talented young women were nominated, too. Both of have taken the reins of their careers and have explored new directions to achieve their creations.

Here are some samples from the nominated albums.

El Plan – Despreciado.

Grupo Alamo – Camino Al Progreso

Isabel Marie – Una Ilusion

Destiny Navaira – Dime Como Se Siente

Bobby Pulido – Para Que Baile Mi Gente

TexTrib: One Last Reunion of La Raza Unida Party

When I heard that there would be another (and maybe final) reunion of La Raza Unida Party in San Antonio, I was saddened that I would not be able to make it. Thanks to Alexa Ura at the Trib, we have a lengthy report on the confab and even some history to remind folks about a liberal third political party that made a difference during the 70s, while pissing off Democrats and making Chicanos a more serious target of GOTV.

They were once deemed radicals on the front lines of the fight for Chicano rights in Texas. On this cloudy Thursday so many decades later, the visitors of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus were mostly septuagenarians. They arrived from South and Central Texas or made the trek from other parts of the country to revisit a brief but significant chapter of Texas history when legions of Latinos and Latinas banded together in pursuit of political empowerment.

Out of the fight against institutionalized racism and injustices came La Raza Unida Party, a regional political apparatus that for a few years grew large enough to offer Texans a third political party. The party won local elections, made political organizers out of marginalized Texans and brought scores of new voters into the electoral fold.

I always like to say that I was born into a Raza Unida family. Yes, my parents were stalwart Democrats who finally had enough of Dem Party shenanigans that kept Chicanos and Chicanas from elected office through racist voter suppression and supported a third party that was successful locally.

Democratic county officials maneuvered to try to keep Raza Unida candidates off the ballots, and issues arose with the ballot petitions the nascent party submitted. Left off the ballot in three of the four targeted counties, organizers decided to run write-in campaigns for some candidates.

Doing so forced them to confront the far reach of the state’s discrimination. Illiteracy rates were high among the area’s Mexican Americans who had not been afforded an education, and some local officials vowed to continue barring interpreters at the polls even though federal courts said they must be allowed.

In Crystal City, organizers gathered with voters in parks to walk them through the process of casting ballots. In English and Spanish, they helped voters inspect sample ballots so they could learn to measure the spaces between entries and know where candidates’ names should be written. Then, they helped them memorize how to write out the names.

When voters arrived at the polls, they faced intimidation, illegal literacy tests and ballots intentionally printed with races in a different order. Some ballots were tossed based on misspellings even though state law allowed election workers to use their best judgment to accept a voter’s intentions.

Just one of the party’s 16 candidates won. Still, they amassed on average nearly 40% of the vote, according to the retelling in “United We Win.”

In fact, my Mom’s brother, Jose Serna was among the first Chicanos elected under RUP as Zavala County Sheriff after having organized farm workers and townspeople along with his wife, Olivia. Sheriff Serna was also one of the candidates who earned a majority of votes as a write-in candidate, but was disqualified because of different spellings of his name. When Democrats took over later, he was re-elected as a Democrat.

In the 1960s, Black and Latino people walked a tightrope between oppression and possibility.

Some were coming of age after a lifetime in segregated schools. The social mobility education could offer was mired in everyday inequities. In Texas, racist teachers regularly insulted Mexican American students relegated to rundown schools that often lacked air conditioning. Students were shunned, or even abused, for speaking Spanish. Too many did not graduate high school. Too few made it to college, and the cycles repeated year after year.

Politically, Latino Texans battled for even a sliver of power. It hadn’t been that long since Mexican Americans attempting to vote faced violence and brutality often carried out by the Texas Rangers or were shut out by “white primaries.” Hispanic veterans returning from the Vietnam War found the state’s white power structure marginalizing them by instituting poll taxes and banning interpreters who could help Spanish-speaking or illiterate voters cast ballots.

Some Mexican Americans were from families that had been in Texas longer than it had been a state; others were the children of migrant farmworkers eager to form part of their communities. All were consigned to second-class citizenship.

As Greg Abbott and Republicans nationally continue their bigoted attitudes and practices toward brown people, that feeling of second-class citizenship is still in effect, unfortunately. It gets worse when Democrats, even when they have a majority in Washington, DC, fail to do anything about it.

Still, ingrained in many of us who grew up in the time, is the feeling that the fight must continue, “La Lucha Sigue.” But for so many in Democratic circles, this is a history they try to avoid while pretending to be “woke” about Chicanos and trying to earn their vote. Ultimately, if a political party sells the right message to the voters, they will respond. But it better be done with the same “ganas” that brought out voters during this historic time of empowerment and agitation.

“It was women and families that brought the agenda into the party,” said Martha Cotera, a librarian by trade who moved to Crystal City with her husband so they could moonlight as organizers. “The issues of the platform and the values are all reflective of the needs of a multigenerational group of people because if you bring the whole family in, you’re going to bring in several generations.”

NSF Grant to TXST Will Count Border Bodies

Since I’m an SWT alum, what happens at my alma mater interests me. Having a sibling who graduated with a degree from their Anthropology department adds to the interest. So, when I saw that the National Science Foundation gave a $1 Million to TXST Anthro and other departments it was good news to hear.

A large, but unknown number of migrants die every year trying to enter the United States along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is no accurate count because there are no central databases documenting migrant deaths. As a result, national authorities, policymakers, and public health officials don’t know how many migrants are dying or how policies can curb migrant mortality.

Texas State University recently received a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help document and share this important data and fill the gap.

Dr. Alberto Giordano and Dr. Nick Herrmann are co-leading the project entitled Migrant Mortality Mapping Portal Project (M3P2). Giordano is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies whose prior work on historical geographic information systems (GIS) includes studies on the Holocaust and other genocides. Herrmann is a professor in the Department of Anthropology whose prior work in forensic anthropology and geospatial studied eastern Mediterranean bioarcheology.

The three-year NSF project has two parts. First, the team will collect and organize big data on migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border from various sources—from law enforcement reports to newspaper articles. Then, the team will develop a publicly accessible website where the data can be downloaded and explored with tools that the team will develop for exploring the data. Students will have opportunities to participate as research assistants in both areas. A post-doctoral researcher and doctoral and graduate research assistants will help the team with collecting and standardizing the data and designing and maintaining the database and tool.

No doubt, SWT’s work in body ID and the growth of their body farm research put them on the map to earn this grant and recognition. I have no doubt that it will be good work and a great contribution to society.

When the database is complete, more lives lost at the border will be counted, more stories recovered, more families reunited and more humanity regained.

That said, it is sad that the Feds would need to fund such a program. The fact of the matter is that if a Democratic President, House, and Senate had prioritized immigration reform and reformed its border enforcement policies instead of bolstering them, perhaps we wouldn’t need to match dead bodies to broken families. According to law enforcement on the border, bodies are found almost every day.

Some of the deaths are also due to migrants taking more and more risks to evade detection by federal authorities, he says. People are crossing the tumultuous Rio Grande, walking through dangerous ranchlands in the record Texas heat and paying the ultimate price, the sheriff adds.

It’s something immigration rights advocates have warned about as the latest tragic trend: people being forced to take increasingly risky paths due to mix of border policies that have made it more difficult for migrants to seek refuge in the US.

So many migrants, including children, who have attempted to cross the US southern border have died in this region that the forensic pathologist serving the area says 2022 is on pace to become the deadliest year on record in recent memory.   

Whether it’s the Border Patrol, Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden, or Greg Abbott, nothing has been done to actually save people from imminent death as their policies force migrants to change paths to get to this side. Paths which are more dangerous, treacherous, and deadly. Paths that walls, armed enforcement, and federalized local cops make more dangerous, thus, causing death.

Yes, kudos to NSF for funding this important work. But it further exhibits how broken our government is when it comes to people escaping violence and poverty. At least people who are south of us.

Another Influx in The News

Credit: Texas Tribune

Hitting the news, and just in time for campaign season, is news that there is another migrant “influx” happening at the moment. It shouldn’t be a surprise. We’ve known since early in the summer that it was going to happen. Title 42’s end certainly will be a contributing factor. That said, what about the children?

Back in May, reports began about an influx of unaccompanied children expected to arrive soon. A friend of mine in South Texas told me about all of these job openings put out by a government contractor. It’s the same contractor who ran (or hired for) the kiddie jail in Carrizo Springs during Trump’s reign, Deployed Services, Inc. (Ominous name, huh?)

Well, Joe Biden is using the same facility and same awful contractors. The difference is that the agency doling out the cash is Health and Human Services. Still, buildings with a fenced perimeter is pretty prison-y for kids. And with the feds preparing as many as 19,000 beds for migrant kids escaping violence and poverty, well, there will be a lot of money to be made in small-town, lacking jobs, South Texas and other places. And the contractors will make a pretty government penny, too. Billions of pennies.

Meanwhile, Greg Abbott is running a campaign on the “failures” of the Biden administration on migration issues by causing more problems in other states with his human trafficking buses. But it makes for a great attack ad later in October. (Once the annoying re-intro ads stop.)

You get a boondoggle! You get a boondoggle! Everyone gets a boondoggle!

There’s enough blame all-around for what is a human rights crisis. A Democratic majority in the House and Senate who have failed to pass immigration reform is tops on my list. One can certainly blame Republicans, but Democrats are in charge. Instead, one party avoids the issue to save a few anti-immigrant Dems and the bigoted Republicans use it for all it’s worth to win in November.

And who suffers? Children and migrants who just want to get away from violence and poverty.

43rd Festival Chicano – The Schedule is Out!

My heart skips a beat whenever the schedule for the Festival Chicano is released. Three days of the best Tejano music in a great venue with an amazing sound system. And it’s FREE! thanks to some great sponsors, the City of Houston, Miller Outdoor Theater, and efforts of local legend Mr. Daniel Bustamante and volunteers.

The King of the Brown Sound, Little Joe has played in everyone of the festivals, except one, during his storied 60 year career. He never disappoints and the crowd will definitely sing-along. Jay Perez is currently touring in support of his Freddie Records release, El Maestro. Elida y Avante is one of the top live acts en la onda on her Block Party Tour. Pasadena’s own La Fiebre is supporting its latest album Historico and puts on the equivalent of a Tejano rock show. David Farias of the famous Hermanos Farias brings his own band while also supporting his latest album, Volando Alto. Finally, The Most Wanted Man, Ram Herrera is touring with his new band of top flight musicians and a new album, Back on Track. This is a pretty hard-core line-up ready to give folks new and classic hits.

Here’s the release from the FB event page:

The “43nd Annual Festival Chicano” is a reflection of the artistic creativity that has developed in the Chicano cultural experience after centuries of influence from native peoples, Mexico, Europeans, and the U.S.A..

Chicano music has been historically shaped by many diverse styles such as Mexican rancheras, corridos, mariachi, orchestra, tejano, conjunto, big band, rhythm and blues, country, rock and roll, and many others.

The festival is a celebration of culture through the musical expression of countless generations of artists. It is truly a unique, original American sound.

Thursday, Oct. 6

Jay Perez
David Farias Band

Friday, Oct. 7

Elida Reyna y Avante
La Fiebre

Saturday, Oct. 8

Little Joe y La Familia
Ram Herrera

All performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre are FREE!

The Friday, October 7th Performance Will Also Be Livestreamed.

It’s also a ticketed event, so get yours here: http://www.milleroutdoortheatre.com/get-tickets

Photo Credit: DCMedia/Stace Medellin

Tacho’s Sabado Playlist

It’s time for some new music for your playlists. These got on my radar recently and one is a lyric video of a tune previously on the TSP. Enjoy and have a good weekend!

Pepe Aguilar f/ Intocable – No Me Hablen De Amor – Previously on the TSP, this new collab which is on Pepe’s new album is a great tune, well-written, and powered by Grupo Intocable. Intocable has been on this collab kick recently and that they made it on to Pepe’s new album is a huge deal. Check it out.

Pio Treviño y Majic – Mucho Miedo – Freddie Records has released the newest single by the legendary Pio Treviño as a lyric video. A conjunto tune penned by another legend, Freddie Martinez, the tune features Mariano Herrera and Mike Flores on acordeon and bajo. Pio’s first album on Freddie had several tunes that got on my radar last year. Enjoy this one. A little tristeza, though, the lyric vid features a group photo that includes the late Pepper Gonzalez, the Majic guitarist who passed away during the pandemic. #QEPD

Zereno f/ Little Joe – Con El Agua Hasta El Cuello – One of my fave bands from the 80s is an RGV group by the name of Zereno. Featuring Carlos Aleman on vocals, me and a buddy thought he was one of the best voices of the time. Well, the band is still around and keeping busy as they have released this collab with the King of the Brown Sound, Little Joe. LJ y La Familia made this song famous on his La Voz de Aztlan album in 1977. It’s been retouched up as a ranchera and sounds great.

Thoughts on Viernes – 08122022

FBI’s Mar-a-Doofus Visit

The FBI search of 2020’s presidential election loser certainly made the whole saga interesting. While Congress asks questions during the Jan 6 hearings, the people have been waiting for some sort of police action–mostly handcuffs and a perp walk. Still, I remain cynical about all of this. Much like Trump’s wall and bigotry (and the bigotry that followed from the likes of Greg Abbott and DeSantis) served as right-wing-nut-job porn, I feel that investigations and opinions on Trump actions somehow satisfy some fetish that Democrats have while avoiding solutions on the issues.

Me? I want action. I want to see Trump suffer, but I also want comprehensive immigration reform now. We have a Democratic President and Democratic majorities in both houses and can’t get rid of the racism and bigotry that Trump put into policy. Hell, we’ve known the racism has been in practice for decades and President Biden and Sec’y Mayorkas can’t even change that within Homeland Security! I certainly won’t make the FBI some kind of hero in all of this given their own history of investigating and affecting the livelihood of civil rights activists. Frankly, for me, the raid was funny because it made Trump even whinier than usual.

Greg Abbott’s Human Trafficking Boondoggle

Greg el Coyote! So, Greg Abbott is wasting $1400 per person (with no breaks and no food on the way) of your tax money on his migrant bus tour of America. A ticket to NYC from Eagle Pass, TX is only $200 for any individual! Who’s making all this money? And how much have they given to Abbott’s campaign? We already know it’s all about the photo op, but does putting them on a bus as a group make it look like they’re on a Border Patrol bus? Is that the image Abbott is seeking to put out there? We know he’s a hateful SOB.

One thing is for sure, Democratic mayors should be calling for FEMA and Health and Human Services resources to help with what Greg Abbott is causing and NOT military assistance. Thankfully, Biden said NO to the National Guard.

Don’t Mess With Beto (Or Uvalde)

I keep asking myself if Texas is worth saving after Greg Abbott’s and Republican’s decades of destructive practices. After Beto brought down a Greg Abbott-sent heckler who laughed at Beto’s comments on Uvalde and guns, he seems to have energized some of us to the point where we are up for a fight.

Bottom line: I hope he has these kind of words for Greg Abbott, too. The rules of campaigning changed a long time ago and Republicans have thrived on lies while Democrats have tried to win Texas by cowering and avoiding issues. Beto showed Texas that he’s willing to fight. Or, at least not take the kind of crap that Greg Abbott slings.

Kuff has more on Motherfuckergate.

Tacho’s Sabado Playlist

Have you run out of new music to add to your playlist? Here are my recent favorites.

Selena – Como Te Quiero Yo A Ti – The long anticipated release of the newest tune from the Queen of Tejano dropped and it did not disappoint. Being a Selena fan since she was 12, I do remember this song and I even had the cassette. It was more of simple ballad that seemed like a filler back then, but her brother AB has made this into a full-fledged hit with a mariachi backing the vocals. He has also digitally “aged” the voice to make her sound in her 20s and not in her original teens, but one can’t even notice it. She always had a huge voice. No surprise that it is trending on YouTube. I look forward to the full album. It’ll be on CD, too!

La 45 f/ David Lee Garza and Cezar Martinez – La Embarcacion -My friends from La 45 have been busy working on various projects and this one is a big collab with David Lee Garza and Musicales vocalist Cezar Martinez. This is a classic tune from the days of Miguel Aceves Mejia and has been recorded by numerous artists in as many genres. La 45 gives the tune its big band sound with an acordeon interlude by DLG. Cezar lends his vocals to duet with La 45 bandleader Mike Torres, III. Give it a listen. [Also, wishes of good health to La 45 co-leader and trumpeter John Ontiveros!]

Frankie Caballero, Jr. – Legends Medley – I’ve been a fan of Frankie’s dad for ages, so, when Jr. showed up on the scene, it was easy to enjoy his music, too. This tribute medley to legends Chacha Jimenez y Los Chachos and Esteban Jordan includes Nunca Nunca Nunca, Te Recomiendo Esa Ingrata, and Falsa y Mancornadora. Great dancing music made by great musicians.

El Prez Is Back; COVID-19 Still Here

CNBC

The good news is that President Joe Biden has tested negative for COVID-19 and he is back in the Oval. Thankfully, he has in-house medical and the ability to clear a hospital, if needed, for himself. Good thing he was able to get what he needed at the White House.

At today’s COVID-19-Neg presser, the President was promoting vaccines and boosters, at-home tests, paxlovid (if infected), and even wearing masks indoors. He really promoted the fact that these treatments and vaccines are free and available. Masks, I’d still suggest N-95, KN-95 and KF-94 one can find on Amazon and at grocery stores.

Biden also mentioned that things have advanced in the fight against COVID-19, reminding us that his orange predecessor had to be helicoptered to the hospital to get treated, while President Biden was treated effectively in-house with no need for a media circus involving waving from an SUV or endangering Secret Service.

That said, Houston Health reported a miniscule decrease in the positivity rate (down to 32.1%), as well as a drop in the wastewater viral load (down to 774%). While the wastewater number gives some hope because at-home testing doesn’t go reported as PCR tests do and this much of a decrease is noteworthy, a closer look at specific areas of town where they are taking these measurements show some increases, with some areas at over 1000% of the baseline.

Needless to say, COVID-19 is still with us and we still need to avoid it by masking up, avoiding large crowds, and even avoiding indoor activities with crowds. Oh yeah, and try not to get MonkeyPox, either! The side effects can be scary!

UPDATE: El Prez has tested positive for COVID-19 again. Apparently, he has a rare rebound case which are known to appear after treatment with Paxlovid. Hopefully, we’ll get some anecdotal knowledge of the effects of such a positive test.