Thanks to Charles at OffTheKuff.com for interviewing those running for the Democratic nomination for Harris County Commissioner Precinct 4. The interviews are informative and allow one to get a feel for a candidate’s views without having to sit through a mass event, like a candidate forum during a pandemic.
Here’s the list of interviews in the order Kuff presented them:
Congrats to Elizabeth Santos (D-I) and Sue Deigaard (D-V) on their re-elections to the HISD board. While Santos squeaked by against a well-funded and hard-working opposition Dem, it was Deigaard who was able to defeat a right-wing nut quite handily.
Unfortunately, my friends Holly Flynn Vilaseca (VI) and Anne Sung (V) were defeated by right-wing nuts who promise to threaten the lives and health of teachers, students, parents, etc., with their anti-mask positions. They are also all about a whites-only history education. Seems to me voters fell for some stupid positions by some hateful (and vindictive) people. Of course, perhaps there was some anti-incumbent sentiment because of actions made by some of them. But people are falling for just about anything that divides and conquers entire communities, possibly even their own communities.
Kuff and others point out that these districts were previously held by Republicans who some call moderate. I never thought of them as moderates since their positions with the new GOPers are similar, just with meaner delivery. And since moderates hardly exist anymore, and this election proved that there were indeed two sides from which to choose, what the hell happened?
I’m thinking turn-out. But I also think voters are taking a turn for the stupid and Democrats need to worry about that in 2022. And I mean the Primary, where we will see some judicial and countywide candidates exploiting issues like crime and bonds, which are easily attacked with one liners and only defended with position papers.
Obviously, in a close election, someone is bound to go negative. Campos isn’t too happy that his client in D-I was attacked, but he’s really pissed about the Democratic Party’s involvement in a race between two Democrats and I understand where he’s coming from since everyone seems to want to be a kingmaker, lately.
As Kuff pointed out, Democrats still have a 7-2 edge on the school board, but these right-wing nuts know how to make noise. They know how to blame others for society’s ills–especially those caused by right-wing nuts. So, I don’t see the majority as a strong one. Given how easy candidates were being bought and paid for by the right and special interests all around Houston, the majority can be controlled by the minority. Hell, just look at “Democratic” Washington, DC.
Anyway, I’m of the opinion that a big effort at redistricting HISD is in order if we really want to utilize this majority. There is no reason to have a district that has River Oaks paired with Gulfton, or Sharpstown with West Houston or Northside with the Heights. It’s just too damn diluting. But I’ll leave that to the experts who will probably lecture me on this.
Anyway, it’s on to the 2022 Democratic Primary where some of our favorite officeholders get challenged and are forced to spend money to keep their party nomination. I swear, we love democracy until a fave officeholder gets challenged.
Posted onNovember 12, 2021|Comments Off on Judge Lesley Briones Announces for Harris Commish Pct 4
With the ink pretty much dry on the recently approved redrawing of Harris County Commissioner precincts, Judge Lesley Briones announced that she would be resigning her position as Judge of County Civil Court at Law #4 to seek the Democratic nomination for the newly approved Precinct 4 Commissioner’s seat in 2022.
Currently, right-winger and consistent anti-progress vote Jack Cagle is in the seat, but the redesigned precinct has been made an opportunity for Democrats as a majority-minority district. Cagle could always move to the safe Republican precinct #3 and run against Tom Ramsey in 2024.
Together, we can build a county government that keeps our families safe, protects our homes from flooding, expands access to health care, treats everyone fairly, and creates good jobs that help our families thrive.
I have been represented by the current Precinct 4 commissioner for the last ten years. In that time, Harris County has changed – and now is the time for new leadership that will get better results for our community.
Briones has been endorsed by the Commissioners in Precinct 1 and 2, Democrats Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia, respectively. One will recall that the current Democratic majority, including County Judge Lina Hidalgo, appointed Briones to her current position after a freak resignation caused a vacancy. Briones handily defeated a Dem opponent and went on to win her race in 2020. Now, Briones is looking toward another seat in Harris County government.
Lesley Briones is a former judge, non-profit leader, attorney, and public school teacher. A graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, Lesley practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP, served as General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer of the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, and most recently served as the judge of Harris County Civil Court at Law No. 4. Lesley and her husband Adán are the proud parents of three young daughters.
I have high praise for Briones as a campaigner having met her on the trail. Anyone who is willing to campaign for votes by actually talking to people gets praise from me. (The powers that be didn’t pick a good one for Pct 3 in 2020.) I’ve been drawn into Pct 4 and my hopes are for a strong, energetic, people-oriented campaign because that is how Democrats win.
Good luck to former Judge Briones. I look forward to seeing her campaign and issues develop as we get closer to the Primary.
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The race for Texas Attorney General had a couple of active candidates in Joe Jaworski and Lee Merritt. They’ve been pressing the flesh and working the state of Texas for a few months. Yesterday, the race added another candidate with former ACLU lawyer Rochelle Garza announcing her candidacy. Here’s her intro video and it’s pretty good.
Garza hits on all the right issues, but also backs it up with experience. As an ACLU lawyer, she represented “Jane,” a 17 year-old immigrant who found out she was pregnant while in detention and wanted to exercise her right to an abortion. ACLU took on the Trump administration who wanted to force the young woman to remain pregnant and ultimately give birth, while Ken Paxton supported that effort. A federal judge ruled in favor of Jane.
As a sister to a brother injured at childbirth, she and her family took on a health care system that fell short to ensure her brother received the care they needed. It’s a story that many Texans experience everyday.
Check out Garza’s intro video. Check out her website. Her entry into the race certainly makes it a battle of regions as far as voter behavior goes. With a couple of months left to finally file, Garza will have to do some catch-up work, but can certainly get some attention in a short time.
Posted onAugust 9, 2021|Comments Off on 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.
Posted onJuly 19, 2021|Comments Off on 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:
Flo passed away five years ago, which is the ONLY reason she is not registered to vote.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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Conjunto Album – Los Desperadoz – Calm Before The Storm
Collaboration – Shelly Lares and Ernestine Romero – Estupida
Best New Male Artist – J.R. Gomez
Best New Female Artist – Monica Saldivar
Best New Group – J.R. Gomez & The Conjunto Bandits
Video – Stevie D – El Primer Tonto
The TMAs are usually a fancy affair with red carpet arrivals, live performances, interviews, and all that, but 2020s pandemic forced the usual crowd of Tejano Music fans to watch it from their couches at home. Thanks to the Texas Talent Musicians Association and FIERRO HD Radio, the TMAs went on virtually with live nom and winner announcements from radio personalities Johnny Ramirez, Bo Leo Gonzalez, and Bo Corona, along with pre-recorded performances from performers like Gary Hobbs, Jay Perez, Shelly Lares, Isabel Marie, Monica Saldivar and others.
Along with the celebratory awards, fans were offered a Selena tribute video of one of her Astrodome performances, an amazing rendition of America the Beautiful by various artists, and a heart-wrenching In Memorium to remind us of all those industry greats lost this last year.
All in all, I enjoyed the festivities. I didn’t have to rent a tux, I drank hot cocoa in my jammies, and connected my laptop to the big TV. I’m all for virtual concerts right now and I am in no hurry to run into an unmasked crowd at a club. Kudos to Bino Gaona of TMAs for reminding us to Mask Up, wash hands, and to distance so that we can head back toward some sort of normal.
Congrats to all involved and congrats to all the winners and nominees.
Also, just want to say that I picked Jay, Shelly, JR, and Los Desperadoz in my TMA nominee post. So, I guess I still know my Tejano talent.
The last time I participated in a tamalada was in 2013. It was also the last time our Flo (Mom) was able to participate in one as age and arthritis were taking their toll. So, while Flo supervised, my sisters, brother-in-law, and I went through the process of preparing the meat, the masa, and the hojas, before becoming an assembly line which smeared the masa on the hoja, filled it with meat, and closed the hoja before setting up several dozen of them in a big olla (steamer) for cooking. It was a fun family experience that I’ll always remember because Flo was just so happy.
These last seven years, though, it’s been all about experiencing community, listening to others’ chisme, and seeing other things one sees in the North Side of Houston by standing in line at Alamo Tamales. Sometimes, it was about ordering a few dozen for the season and other times, we’d get into the double digits so we could give out to friends and neighbors. Alamo’s are my favorites–the homestyle ones that are made by an assembly line of ladies in the back and not the machine made ones.
This year, although a lot of businesses are hurting because of the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot more time in my tiny kitchen making my own meals and experimenting. Not trusting COVID-19 protocols (or their customers) at restaurants, I’ve found myself remaining careful and avoiding them. And this year, that includes avoiding standing in line for tamales. Although I do hear Alamo has some sort of protocol to make things safer, I decided a few weeks ago to make my own tamales for my family.
Unfortunately (very), the family-style assembly line would not be possible as distancing and staying quiet while making them is impossible. Too much chisme and politics of which to speak and too many arms crossing to grab spoons and hojas. So, it was up to me and my sister, Sylvia, to get the job done.
The night before, I chopped up a pork loin, along with an onion, a few garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and some low-sodium chicken broth to cook in the crock pot overnight. By 4AM, the aromas emanating from the kitchen were waking me up. After six hours in the pot, I removed the meat and set it aside to shred. Also, the night before, I took a bag of corn husks (hojas) and set them in a huge pot of water so they could soften overnight.
Since I prefer Tamales rojos, I made a red chile paste made of dried guajillo, ancho, and pasilla chiles. I boiled them with garlic, onion, and a little salt, then pureed them in the blender. I kept a third of it to add to the masa, and the rest for the meat. Later, I needed more for the second batch of masa, so, I made some more paste.
Once I shredded the pork meat well, I added the red chile paste to it and cooked it some more in a giant pan, drained any excess fat, and set it aside for the assembly line.
The masa is a whole other experience. After already buying a couple bags of Maseca, I saw that Kroger was actually selling bags of masa. Growing up in Cristal, the only masa we ever used was from El Molino that was behind my childhood barber shop. Since it’s hard to find a molino in West Houston, and after not trusting the masa at the store, I decided that Maseca was the way to go. I unded up using 7 or so cups of Maseca, a 1 lb block of lard, baking powder, salt, and the rest of the chile rojo paste, then added 6 or so cups of warm low sodium chicken broth, making a huge bowl of masa by continuously mixing by hand until it seemed pliable and soft enough to squish out of your hand. If it was soft enough, it would spread easily on the hoja.
By now, you realize that the masa is not only the most important part, but the most challenging part of the process. That’s until you start spreading the masa on the hoja. Memories of my Mom and Pop came up as I tried spreading my first hoja. They made it seem so easy, but it wasn’t. Maybe I just don’t have the talent. So, I went to YouTube and found a Mexicana from the barrio telling me that “it takes years to achieve the talent of spreading masa on an hoja.” Thankfully, this is when my more experienced sister, Sylvia, joined the two-person process. Thankfully, she was faster than me and spread a lot more of the masa than I did.
We like our tamales meaty, so, that’s how we made them. After adding the meat and rolling them up (we didn’t put a hoja ribbon around each–too much work!), it was time for the steamer. I have a huge 24 quart steamer I found at a local market, but I decided to do two different batches (5 dozen total) to allow enough room for the steam to cook the tamales. After adding water to the steamer, to just below the steamer plate, I set up a huge coffee cup wrapped in foil in the middle, then stood up each tamal against the cup and continued placing them around as if forming a teepee of sorts.
We gave each batch two hours to cook. They came out tasty and spicy. Obviously the filling and the chile in the masa are important, but ensuring that the masa is well-cooked is key so that the tamal rolls out of the hoja. After leaving them out to set and cool, we wrapped them up in foil. They were ready to travel, eat, and also to freeze for later.
Sunday morning, I traveled to the ‘burbs to deliver a bunch to my other sister, Toni. We had a good breakfast of tamales and a side of eggs. Brother-in-law made a chile in the molcajete that was hot and that just made you hungrier for more tamales. There seems to be enough for the Christmas weekend and I even kept a dozen in my freezer in case I get the urge.
My first experience making tamales from start to finish was an experience. It’s a process. And if you want them to taste good, you must be meticulous about every part of the process to ensure success. That means it’s time-consuming and work-heavy. Or, as my Pop would say, “es una chinga.” Because after everything is done, you still need to wash everything and put it away for future use. So, don’t complain when someone tries to sell you some expensive tamales!
As my sis and I laughed about some of our mistakes, the lights going out in the middle of the process during the morning storms, and about all the memories with Flo and Pop, we decided that it was all worth it and that it’ll remain a thing we do.
I’m happy with my latest accomplishment en la cocina. And I look forward to a bigger tamalada post-pandemic with the whole family and maybe one-or-two COVID vaccine-inoculated friends, if it is deemed safe. But with Greg Abbott and his followers acting like fools…anyway.
Have a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday. COVID-19 may be at a scary point right now, but if you continue to mask up, distance from those not in your household, and practice good hygiene, your risk will be decreased. And this is worth it, too.
Posted onDecember 7, 2020|Comments Off on OMG! That Girl Looks Nothing Like JLo!
And that’s how some of the negative “fan” reviews began this weekend about Selena: The Series.
Once you get other little things out of the way, like, there are no mountains in Matamoros and Tejano dancers dance around the dance floor and not in one spot on the floor, well, the rest is an actual attempt at a biography of a struggling, yet short, and ultimately successful career that achieved much in terms of musical quantity and quality.
For folks whose love of Selena started at Amor Prohibido and Carcacha, or worse, for those whose love of Selena started at Dreaming of You, there seems to be disappointment in the series. For those of us who lived in the 80s and enjoyed 80s, big haired, weird outfit wearing Selena, this series has definitely been a treat and even a respite from current realities.
For those of us who have been fans of the genre for a while, we’ve enjoyed the mention of other artists and events that many of us experienced, such as the importance of the Tejano Music Awards. Whether folks want to accept it or not, there is a lot of history in this genre of music and I really appreciate an attempt to put it out there.
Now, I wasn’t going to be “that fan” who binged it. I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can, so, I only watched the first three episodes, thus far. But some of the criticism has been vicious. Some call it sanitized and white-washed. Others are blaming the patriarchy. Some even blame Netflix. I don’t really see any of what is being criticized in this regard. I’m just trying to enjoy some entertainment that touches on a little history about my culture.
Maybe people don’t want to see Selena’s family’s struggles. The food stamp scene brought out some emotions from me. The scene where the restaurant closes because of the economy tanking hit home with me, too. The scene where Abraham tells his kids that it’s OK to ask for help from the government as he paid his taxes was a speech I heard from my own Pop when we were struggling and I told him about what school kids would say about families on food stamps. It hit home.
The slow ascent to success that Selena went through was also important. Having to find an indie record label to produce, record, and distribute her music without much promotion was tough enough, but the struggle to come up with good songs and dealing with unhelpful songwriters was very telling about what Tejano bands have gone through in their careers. You can’t become a YouTube sensation when Al Gore hadn’t even invented the internets. Hell, just keeping the van and trailer running is something that still occurs in the present-day Tejano business. Showing Selena as appreciative of those that came before her (Laura Canales) was heartfelt, at least as a scene in the show.
The first three episodes provided a good foundation about Selena and the importance of her family in her success. Some of the criticism that the series is all about the dad and brother seems a little whiny. This was a family business. Selena was the main talent, but they all played a part in getting this business started, so, the story needs to be about all of them. I was even appreciative of Suzette’s struggles as a non-musician turned instant drummer for the band and the criticism from within the band as they discovered drum machines and electric drums to get the sound right. Without Abraham’s experiences in his own music career as a What Not To Do List for Selena’s career, and AB’s own struggle to become the family’s musical director, there is no Selena.
Let’s remember that even Beyonce started as a family business and that’s what it is now.
Anyway, I’m enjoying it. The early recordings featured, like Dame Un Beso, or her sped-up version of La Bamba, makes me miss my Tejano cassette collection and the GPX boombox my parents bought me at the Carrizo Springs Wal-Mart.
I’ll keep watching it. Watch it for entertainment or watch it for a little history about a Mexican American icon. But if you are watching it for a different take on the “washing machine” scene from the movie, then it may not be for you.
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Posted onDecember 4, 2020|Comments Off on Selena: The Series Has Captured My Interest
Twenty-five years after the murder of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, her fandom continues to grow, including fans who weren’t even born during her days on the stage. No doubt, Selena, the movie, did a lot to bolster the icon and spread the fact that she existed. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
When I heard of Selena: The Series, I didn’t know what to think. After the movie, what else could be said? Well, for those of us who grew up with her music, watched her in charity softball games, or even stayed around after her early shows, we knew a lot more could be said that hadn’t already been said.
The Selena I remember was thirteen years old, opening for La Mafia at the Crystal Ballroom in Crystal City. My sisters had come to visit from Austin and took me to the dance as the designated bailador for them and their friends. Of course, we knew who La Mafia was. They’d been around for a few years and their innovative, brightly lit, and loud stage shows were already nipping at the heels of bands like Mazz, Roberto Pulido y Los Clasicos, and La Movida.
The place was packed, obviously, but the radio ads hadn’t made mention of an opening band. As a thirteen year-old kid myself, I became interested when I saw a fellow teenager getting up on stage wearing some shiny purple outfits, along with a bunch of young musicians. When they started to play, they had the same professionalism as the other Onda Chicana bands I’d seen, except they were young. Then, the vocalist began to sing and that was it for me. A trip to the K-Mart in Uvalde a few weeks later had me buying one of her cassettes recorded on an indy-label. A few weeks later, she was on Johnny Canales.
In the early 80s, there weren’t many female vocalists that drew big crowds, except for Laura Canales. Stories abound about how badly Laura was treated by promoters and managers and other musicians as she was growing into her career. Selena’s story also tells of her struggles with the pendejos who didn’t take her seriously. Because of my sister’s love of music, I was quite the fan of Laura Canales, too.
There was one guy who was the best promoter of La Onda Chicana at the time and that was Johnny Canales. Canales put bands like Mazz, Laura Canales, Roberto Pulido and so many others on the map through his TV show, El Show de Johnny Canales. And when younger bands like La Mafia, La Sombra, Los Chamacos, and Selena came around with bigger and brighter stage shows, Johnny was at the forefront of promotions–even taking the bands on tours to cities in the Mid- and Northwest where his syndicated show was popular.
So, when I hear the stories that the new Selena netflix series was going to include scenes with actors int he roles of Laura Canales and Johnny Canales, I thought, “Finally!” More of the history of the music and culture is being told, rather than the sensationalized and Univisionized versions put forth through bad chisme talk shows, and yes, even the movie.
So, I’m happy that the show is happening. On top of that, it’s great to see more brown folks on screen, too. I’ll start watching this weekend.