Category Archives: History

Tomas Q. Morin’s Machete

While I am awaiting the arrival of my copy of Tomas Q. Morin’s latest book of poetry, Machete, the Texas Standard provides us an interview with the accomplished poet, Rice U professor, and personal friend of mine from our days at Southwest Texas State University.

In his new collection, “Machete,” Mórin questions how to prepare his son for life in modern America. He explores the country’s legacy of racism and the importance of joy as a survival tool.

Texas Standard

Morin is currently on a virtual tour giving readings of his latest work and will be in Houston on November 2 at the Houston Public Library in conversation with recent Houston Poet Laureate Leslie Contreras Schwartz. More details soon.

Click here for interview. Purchase book here. And read the first poem in the book at Poetry Society, I Sing the Body Aquatic, as well as a few words about it.

Tacho’s Sabado Playlist

I just added some great tunes to my playlist for all those drives around Houston. Add them to yours for your listening pleasure.

Chente Barrera – Amor Ingrato – Chente just released a tribute album dedicated to the legendary Roberto Pulido. The special thing about it is that Chente and his band Taconazo stayed true to Pulido’s Clasicos sound. The acordeon, the saxes, and the higher octave vocals are just mind-blowing. Of course, I’ve always been a fan of Barrera’s. Amor Ingrato is one of Pulido’s hits from the late 80s and Barrera sings it with the legend himself.

Little Joe y La Familia – Hernandez Brothers – Little Joe dropped a pretty good album of redone classics featuring himself and his brothers Rocky and Gilbert. Especially in the studio, La Familia is a precision-based horn band and they do not disappoint. For this playlist, I’ll post this tune featuring Rocky and Gilbert, Ingratos Ojos Mios. Recorded long ago by Little Joe, Johnny y La Familia, this is one of my faves on the album, as well as Pajarillo Barranqueño, with Rocky on lead vocals.

There Is A Human Rights Crisis On The Border

While bigoted republicans call it an “invasion,” and others call it a humanitarian crisis, the next phase of a media-exploited “crisis” on the border went to full-on human rights crisis as a Border Patrol with lax regulations and bigoted members rode horses and whipped Haitian refugees as they rounded them up for President Biden’s Title 42 immediate deportations.

Honestly, though, it’s always been a human rights crisis. The Border Patrol and border-area law enforcement has a deeply rooted history of violently mistreating humans escaping violence and poverty–all for political purposes, no matter who is in power. And no matter who is power, the government does a great job of blaming “the other” for the crises it has caused in the countries people are fleeing. Whether it is Mexico, Central America, or Haiti, US foreign policy of befriending and funding right-wing zealots and their elections as a means of keeping indigenous and poor people in control is why these crises exist.

The problem is that the US thrives on people’s ignorance regarding foreign policy–no matter which party is in charge. The narrative of “the other” being the problem works as long as they use fear-based terminology. And people eat it up because they are ignorant and it’s not like candidates and office holders are doing much to combat the narrative.

As depressing as the stories are of migrants and refugees, it’s the stories of fighting back that have given me hope. Whether it is those who have crossed back into Mexico to find food and water for themselves, or the Haitians who revolted on a Biden deportation bus. Sure, they are met with violence by Biden’s Border Patrol, but they are willing to fight. They are that desperate for a better life and the US response of human warehousing, whipping, and horse-led round-ups is a global embarrassment, especially when our President attempts to lecture other countries, or he attempts to show how much better he is than Trump on global affairs.

And then there is that failure of a governor, Greg Abbott, who blames everything on Joe Biden. I don’t know why. Biden is deporting Haitians and other migrants at a rapid pace because of Trump’s Title 42. Biden’s Border Patrol is whipping people. All the republican anti-immigrant porn is available to Greg Abbott, but he wants to be the one calling the shots. The photo ops make it obvious.

And some will defend Biden by reminding us that Biden mouthpiece Jen Psaki called the human rights violations “obviously horrific” and the Biden administration is “investigating” and “condemning.” But Biden is the President. He can end this. And he can get rid of people in the Border Patrol. And he can change agency policy with a signature. Who’s in charge? Biden or the bigoted Border Patrol (and their union)?

There is an old photo of Texas Rangers having murdered Mexican men and dragged them by horse from around 1915. Now, we have the Border Patrol trying to repeat history. Yes, only 100 or so years ago and things don’t seem to change.

QEPD – Gregg Barrios

I’ve known about Gregg Barrios for a long time.

The former Crystal City educator impacted a lot of students’ lives, mentoring so many kids who became leaders in their respective communities, taught students during the 1969 Crystal City Walkout, and was even the print communicator of La Raza Unida Party with the newspaper, La Verdad. Of course, I wasn’t even born and/or was very young during this part of his life. But he left his mark on Cristal and I learned about it.

Beyond Cristal, he impacted even more lives as a journalist, writer, poet, playwright, cultural critic, and recognized literary figure. To call him a genius and a force of nature doesn’t do him justice because he already knew he was both. Gregg passed away suddenly last week.

He is being remembered by many on his FB page–so many stories. I’ll forever be proud of being included as “Dos Centavos” in the acknowledgments of his poetry work, La Causa, as I had shared some of his works and linked to many of his writings in Texas Monthly, LA Times, and the San Antonio Express-News on DosCentavos.net as a way to support him.

I wrote a lot about his play, Rancho Pancho, which he debuted in San Antonio in 2008, staged in Provincetown, MA at the Tennessee Williams Festival, and finally, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque to rave reviews . It was during this time when I finally met him. It was during the trip to catch Rancho Pancho in New Mexico when I found out he had mentioned me in La Causa, which really touched my heart.

Rancho Pancho is the story of Williams’ tempestuous relationship with South Texan Pancho Rodriguez. Racism, classicism, the nature of superior/subordinate relationships, and the influence of Rodriguez on Williams’ work are just a few of the themes touched on in this play.

And my nephew was cast in the play as Pancho just after he graduated from university and as he was headed to LA to begin his professional acting career. So, needless to say, I became quite the follower of Gregg’s work and exploits as he kept in touch with my family over the years.

On October 15, 2021, Gregg was to be honored by San Antonio Writing Center, Gemini Ink, at their annual Inkstravaganza with the Award of Literary Excellence. So, I’ll steal from them the bio they used on Gregg:

Gregg Barrios is a first-generation playwright, poet and journalist. He is also a graphic digital artist and film-maker. His award-winning plays have been produced in San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Albuquerque, Provincetown, and New York City. He has received a Rockefeller Grant, a Mark Taper – CTG Fellowship, and an Artist Foundation of San Antonio Grant for his theater work. The San Antonio Current has called him “A Texas Treasure.”

Barrios’ journalism has appeared in The New York TimesFilm Quarterly, the Los Angeles Review of BooksSan Francisco ChronicleFilm CultureLos Angeles Times, and the Texas Observer. He is a former books editor and columnist for the San Antonio Express-News. He was a founding editor of the local Spanish language daily Rumbo, and an editor of La Verdad, the Raza Unida Party newspaper. Barrios received a USC Annenberg Getty Arts Journalism Fellowship in 2013, and was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2015. He received a Golden Gavel for his literary work from the Texas House of Representatives, and was the 2015 Fall Visiting Writer at Our Lady of the Lake University. He currently serves on the executive board of the National Book Critics Circle.

Barrios credits his time at Andy Warhol’s original Factory as transformational. He made an experimental film, BONY (1967), with/about Warhol “superstars” poets Gerard Malanga and art critic René Ricard. He later collaborated with Warhol on a Nico music video. His short film Desperately Seeking Dionysus (1968) was part of the Velvet Underground NYC exhibit in 2018. Excerpts from Barrios’ original Bowie-inspired rock musical Stranger in a Strange Land (1976) were featured in Monarchs: Brown and Native Contemporary Artists… exhibited at Blue Star Contemporary, also in 2018. In 2019, the Austin Film Society honored Barrios for “bringing film culture to Austin through Cinema 40 Film Society” that he founded as a UT student in 1965. Recently, his digital photography was part of the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture at the Centro de Artes exhibition for the New York Foundation of the Arts. 

Barrios has written four poetry collections: Air-Conditioned Apollo (1968); Healthy Self (1979); Puro Rollo (1982); and La Causa (2010). His poetry has appeared in Hecho en Tejas, Latina Magazine, Harvard Review, Aztlan and Vietnam, Fiesta en Aztlan, New Orleans Review, and Home Front: An America at War Reader, Lowrider, and El Quetzal Emplumece. An anthology of his poetry “My Life: The Poem I Never Wrote: New & Selected Poetry 1968-2021” (Hansen Poetry) is scheduled for publication in 2021. 

Barrios served in the USAF as a combat medic during the Vietnam War. He appeared in “Telling SA,” The Tobin Center’s theater production, and on the PBS national broadcast of San Antonio veterans. He was a Harvard Fellow in 2017 and a Yale Fellow in 2019. Recently, he endowed Urban-15’s Mega Corazon with the Gregg Barrios Beautiful Words Prize for the Best Poetry Performance. His new play “Hard Candy: The Life and Times of Candy Barr” will premiere at the Gregg Barrios Theater at Overtime in early 2022. 

No doubt, there was much more for Gregg to accomplish and more lives to impact. I only hope the projects he was currently working on are continued to their completion.

Gregg Barrios, ¡Presente!

Fact-Checking the Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric

Whether it’s Greg Abbott (and Republicans, generally) blaming migrants for COVID-19, or the Biden Adminsitration continuing a Trump deportation policy because of COVID-19, or the Trumper Mayor of McAllen joining in, or now, a Democratic State Senator from the RGV also doing the same, along with Democratic law enforcement all over South Texas who are just seeking free money for toys and overtime pay, the bottom line is that they are full of BS.

John-Michael Torres, of the humanitarian group La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) in the Rio Grande Valley, penned an op-ed in the Rio Grande Guardian detailing actual facts about migrants entering the US seeking asylum.

Some of the highlights:

  • People seeking asylum at the border and who pass credible fear interviews and are permitted to proceed with their asylum cases in the US are the most tested and vaccinated population in Texas. The latest available numbers (page 44 of this court filing) show released migrants continue to test positive at a lower rate than Texas’s statewide rate.
  • Those migrants who need to be vaccinated are volunteering to get them from local public health officials — 90% vaccination rates in one of the largest Texas shelters — and those who require quarantine are being quarantined in shelters and hotels, per CDC guidelines. Records from the Holdings Institute, the primary shelter in Laredo, show nine out of ten of migrants volunteer to receive the vaccine (pages 43-44 of this court filing). In contrast, Texas’ general population has a disappointingly low vaccination rate: just 44%.
  • Migrants at the border in Texas make up a tiny percentage of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Texas, a state with low vaccination rates.

Here’s another one:

Texas COVID-19 positivity rate has increased, jumping to 16.9% as of July 31. That is after Governor Abbott lifted all restrictions — including mask mandates and local governments’ ability to impose their own restrictions. The state’s vaccination rate continues to lag behind the national average.

It’s sad that Democrats are joining in on the anti-immigrant whining and rhetoric considering many South Texas counties are among the least vaccinated in Texas because of Greg Abbott. It is political laziness on their part and being on the same side as our bigot governor does not help the overall cause. Instead of being educative of their constituents, they fall for the anti-immigrant whining and join in. All these years in office, some of these Democrats have become furniture that needs replacing.

Divide and conquer tactics have always been around. The tactic was effective when done by Democrats in the 70s and now when Greg Abbott is calling the plays. Appeasing racists is never a good thing.

Jessica Cisneros Announces for TX-28

After an impressive grassroots campaign in 2020 to unseat a long-time incumbent, Jessica Cisneros announced this week that she will once again challenge Henry Cuellar in Congressional District 28 in the 2022 Democratic primary in. I’m rooting for Jessica, an immigration and human rights attorney working in border communities, who released this powerful campaign video.

No doubt, Cuellar will pull out all the stops, raise corporate and special interest PAC money, and even get the help of Nancy Pelosi, who will fail again at getting much in return from Cuellar on Democratic issues. It’s time for change and Cisneros offers a voice to lead that change in DC.

Anyway, follow Jessica’s campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and donate to her campaign.

QEPD – Ruben Cubillos

There were some good articles and tributes posted yesterday for Ruben Cubillos, Tejano Music advocate, graphic/visual artist, and performer, who passed away over the weekend. I never got to meet him, but I knew and appreciated his work. We also became FB friends and I partook of some of the intense and productive conversations he would start on the state of the Tejano Music genre.

Regarding articles, check out Tejano Nation and Joey Guerra’s piece in the Chron. My FB friend and Austin PR exec Paul Saldana also had one on FB.

If you’ve ever bought a Selena tee, poster, album, or anything with her logo, you owe it to Ruben Cubillos. Ruben put Tejano music imagery on the map, developing concepts and images for Tejano music album covers when the big record companies were finally investing in the genre in the early 90s. Bands like Mazz, David Lee Garza y Los Musicales, and Selena enjoyed his top-notch and creative concepts, which added much value to their albums.

Along with his professional PR career and his career as a vocalist with the legendary Latin Breed, he was also an advocate. Always willing to offer up some advice to up and coming musicians, he never candy coated it. He was quite honest, especially when it came to how a band should develop their image. Especially during the forced break during the pandemic. But he was also an advocate.

Ruben was one of the leaders of those demanding the HoustonRodeo bring back Tejano music acts after it decided to concentrate on regional Mexican and banda acts. Beyond this, the protests were also about pay parity for Latino acts, equity in distribution of scholarships given from the thousands of dollars made from sold out concerts, and more diversity in rodeo committees. Well, Tejano is still missing from the line-ups, the undocumented are still passed over for scholarship money, even though that’s who attends the banda music concerts, but the message was sent to the rodeo people and Ruben was one of the chief advocates. All the rodeo people did was whine that anyone would complain.

Anyway, Ruben was one of the good ones in an industry that has historically been taken advantage of by corporatism, whether it came from Miami-owned radio stations, LA-based record companies, or corporations who used it to make a buck. When the profits slowed, the genre was cut-off and left to die. But much was learned and the music and culture continues. And Ruben is one of the reasons it continues.

Gracias, Ruben.

Republicans Blame Brown People for COVID-19

Thus far, the governors of two failing states, Texas and Iowa, have blamed brown folks for the rise in the COVID-19 rate. They don’t blame the fact that half of their states have yet to be vaccinated or that they are run by anti-mask republicans, though.

In Texas, Greg Abbott has given orders to his state police to commit racial profiling to stop any car with suspected migrants from leaving South Texas in the name of COVID-19. Meanwhile, we don’t know the vaccination rate of his state police, county police who are happily assisting him, or his national guard members. We also know that more than half the state is unvaccinated because of him.

In Iowa, its governor blames brown folk, but the Iowa State Fair goes merrily on with no mask mandate while the medical experts worry about the kind of COVID-19 outbreak that will occur.

You can use a term like “culture war” all you want, but this is downright racist public policy. And those running for office need to call it what it is because the republicans sure as hell aren’t playing nice. Why should we?

The Attorney General of the United States spoke up and threatened to sue Abbott for his policy which violates civil rights of noncitizens in federal custody. Unfortunately, the Biden’s administration position has more to do with defending its right to transport captured migrants, rather than changing immigration and detention policy altogether.

Anyway, we are seeing what the republican platform will be in 2022.

Dan Crenshaw Attempted to Register My Late Mom To Vote

It could be voter fraud, or else, it’s just crappy staff work at various levels, but Dan Crenshaw (and his minions) attempted to register my mother to vote. Yes, my mother, Flo, who passed away in 2016.

I received a text message on my cell phone from Dan Crenshaw whining to my mom, Florencia, about the border under Joe Biden and asking for my mom’s help. Then, he says the Texas Secretary of State’s records show she isn’t registered to vote and offered to register her, even mentioning the street where she lived. Creepy!

Here are some facts about Flo:

  1. Flo passed away five years ago, which is the ONLY reason she is not registered to vote.
  2. Flo was a staunch Democrat all of her life, voting in all of the primaries, except that time in the 70s when she was a member of La Raza Unida Party.
  3. Flo was a Pro-Choice Chicana, mother of two daughters and a son, who enjoyed sipping champagne at the Planned Parenthood Luncheon VIP suite, while raising money to provide low-income women and men with health care and reproductive health services. She also supported pro-choice candidates and helped raise money for many by making tortillas for fundraisers.
  4. Flo and my Pop owned a business across the street from a major railroad route in which many undocumented folks would walk toward San Antonio and beyond, while escaping poverty and violence in their own countries. My parents would offer food and water and even clothing to them, which is something republicans have threatened to jail Americans for recently.
  5. Flo and my Pop were proud voters who would show up early in the morning to have their voice heard at the ballot box and would vote for anyone who didn’t have Dan Crenshaw’s bigoted views toward immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQ+, etc. They wouldn’t appreciate Crenshaw’s lies about voting rights, either.
  6. Flo resided in Congressional District 7 and not 2.

It is quite insulting that anyone would assume that Florencia Serna Medellin would ever be unregistered to vote while alive; vote republican (based on her primary record); or ever be an anti-immigrant zealot, given her love of humanity, papers or not. To think that a Greg Abbott-run state agency might still be selling her information (or making it available) for voter registration purposes is just plain alarming, considering the GOPs daily whine of voter fraud. Five years later, one would figure that her name would not even be on any databases for this purpose.

Needless to say, Crenshaw and fellow right-wingers had no clue whatsoever about Flo, the South Texas-born, former migrant farmworker, small-town-mom turned suburban Abuela who advocated for all. It would seem Crenshaw just wants any random bigots he can find–even dead ones–and texts random unregistered people whining about immigrants to capture their support. So republican.

Flo would have been pretty upset to think that she might be on the call/text list of any right-wing, bigoted, republican campaign or organization. Dan Crenshaw is full of BS, misinformation, and lies. And Flo was an informed voter who would have known about Crenshaw, and would have done what I did: Replied STOP. And then would have told the world how she feels about Dan Crenshaw and bigoted republicans.

We miss you, Flo! ¡La Lucha Sigue! And, #FloTheVote

Note: After Mom passed away in 2016, we did our due diligence and cancelled her registration. I received confirmation from the local elections office today of this fact. Why Texas SOS still has her info (according to Crenshaw) is beyond me.

Note #2: I received a message from a fellow Dem activist who also received the text about being unregistered. But he’s actually registered. Damn, Crenshaw! Get with the program or else you’ll actually commit voter fraud!

.

TX House Dems Break Quorum; What’s Next?

I love a good act of political disobedience, especially if done by those we elect to represent us.

Texas House Democrats left the state and broke the Texas House quorum to stop a vote on a Republican anti-voter rights bill, among other items of Greg Abbott’s special session. It was a cause for a lot of excitement for Democrats around the country who are concerned about red states who are working on similar anti-voter bills.

Of course, Greg Abbott wants to round them up using law enforcement and imprison them in the state capitol building while he calls more wasteful $3 million special sessions to push a white supremacist agenda that only republicans love. And still avoiding important issues like a dying electric grid and dying sick people because of lack of insurance, especially as we seem to be heading toward another spike in COVID-19 cases. In case you didn’t notice, Abbott just wants to do to Democrats what he is doing to migrants with his sick and twisted border policies.

I’m with Kuff regarding his questions of what the end game may be. For now, if it boosts excitement within the Party, if it raises some funds for the fight, and if such a bold act stays in the minds of low-propensity voters that a political party is willing to stand up and fight for them rather than leaving them to do all of the civil disobedience, then great for the Democrats.

If it was the 90s, everyone would be hoping that republicans would make changes to the law to make it “not as bad,” but republicans are all about being hateful and bigoted now. They have the ability to pass the most racist and bigoted laws because that is what they have always wanted to do.

Sure, Abbott and the republicans will say the usual stuff, but it will be the same stuff they’ve always said about Democrats. One would think that Texans would get bored with such a dumb and hateful message that has been used since the 90s, but, then, I remind myself, we are in Texas. Land of the dumb because of the hateful. Some folks minds will just not be changed about Democrats. So, Democrats must be bold and do bold actions to get the attention of those that feel left out.

So, what’s next? Kuff has been doing a daily round-up of articles on the cause if you want specifics. Obviously, the Democrats are using the opportunity in DC to lobby US Senators and President Biden to reform the filibuster and pass federal voting rights legislation that would kill what Texas and other states are attempting. At least on paper. Some have doubts Texas would follow federal law because Texas still believes they are in the frontier days. But at least it would set things in motion for a real(er) fight in the courts.

President Biden’s speech on voting rights had the right message, but was missing the component about killing the filibuster. Either he doesn’t want to be so bold, or he doesn’t trust Senators Manchin and Synema to follow through. And let’s face facts, the Democratic track-record of some of their own not following through is well-documented.

One way or another, everyone involved needs to stop living the fantasy of “bipartisanship” and get the job done.

Texas Dems want to spend a very expensive month in DC–until the end of Abbott’s special session. Thus far, they have had a few newsworthy days, but how long does that last if there is no action on the US Senate’s end?

As far as the arrest warrant for the State Reps, Abbott is doing what he does to migrants on the border–setting up photo ops and press conferences. I wouldn’t be surprised if he would arrive personally to arrest them, place them in a TDJC bus, and kept them overnight at his empty immigrant prison in Dilley, TX. That’s if you want a show as wasteful as a bigoted special session.