Category Archives: Chicanos on Screen

The Boy Made of Lightning

I voted yesterday and it never fails; whenever I’m about to press “Cast Ballot” I feel this sense of power. I feel a sense that in this democracy, I do matter. And when turnout is expected to be low, damn right, I feel a lot more powerful.

When I’m voting, various things go through my mind. Like all those who fought on battlegrounds, and especially in the streets, for my right to vote. Along with my parents who instilled in me a love for voting, one name that comes to mind is voting rights activist, the late Willie Velasquez, founder of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project.

Velasquez is the subject of a children’s book based on his life and times, expected to be published on September 16, 2012. The interactive children’s book is by a collaboration of authors and artists led by novelist and journalist Barbara Renaud Gonzalez.

The boy made of lightning will be about 25 pages long.  It will include sound, photos, video, original music and local voices. A two-page glossary with links.

As our State Board of Education attempts to minimize the contributions of Latinos, it is becoming more and more important that we create a body of evidence that we existed in the making of Texas and America and that children everywhere be taught reality, rather than some fantasy. And Willie Velasquez’s life is one that should be taught as an example of what one can accomplish and how “one boy sets out to change the world.”


One day something happened that Willie would never forget.

It had rained again.  That morning, Willie decided he would discover what caused the flooding once and for all.

“Vamonos!”  He told Rudy.  “Adventure!”

The night before, the drums in his head wouldn’t stop.

Why?Where?What?When?   Why?Why?Why?

He just had to know where the flooding began.

His mother let him go.  Once Willie started on something there was no stopping him.  They took some tacos and a rope just in case they found something interesting to bring home.

Excerpt from The boy made of lightning@2012

Of course, the development of this E-book for Ipad doesn’t happen as easily without your support. Visit the website and make a small contribution toward making this book a reality.

Post #4400 Goes to the Promesa Project

This is my 4400th post  and I figured it should go to the future of Texas; the young leaders who will be working hard to increase the Latino youth vote in 2012, the Promesa Project Inaugural Fellows.

Time Makes March All About Latinos

It’s not Fiestas Patrias. It’s a couple of months before Cinco de Mayo. What gives with a March Time cover?

Courtesy of Time Magazine

Time Magazine seems to think that Latinos will have a major impact on the election in November, and the cover for their March issue is the result. I like it!

Utilizing photos by Marcos Grob of Arizona voters, Time features a Q&A with Florida right-winger Marco Rubio. Also featured, and what I look forward to reading, is a commentary by Univision’s Jorge Ramos who will write on how Latinos feel isolated by either party. And finally, the featured article is by Micheal Scherer on the impact of Latinos from Arizona in 2012.

For the Obama campaign nationwide, “expanding the electorate” increasingly means “expanding the Latino electorate.” If Obama is able to win heavily-Latino Western states like Nevada, Colorado and Arizona, he could still win in the electoral college even if he loses historically key states in the industrial Midwest like Ohio and Wisconsin. “If we do our grassroots stuff right on the ground in all these Western states, which we will, because it’s something we are good at,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told me, “we could seriously change the outcome.”

At the same time, Republicans have generally done a dismal job through the primary of appealing to Latino voters. George W. Bush won more than 40% of the community in 2004, but in a recent Latino Decisions poll conducted for Univision, 72% of Latinos said the GOP either did not care about their support or was hostile to their community. The 27% who sensed hostility represented a seven point increase from April of 2011, when the same pollsters asked the question. “Conservatives have not realized how their tone and rhetoric has turned people off,” says Jennifer Korn, who led George W. Bush’s Latino outreach effort in 2004.

Supposedly, Marco Rubio will be the right-winger trying to soften the blow, but his failure to support comprehensive immigration reform tells me any change in him is mostly cosmetic, and therefore any change by the GOP will be mostly his leftovers.

That said, Scherer does make a point here:

So in the days remaining before the Arizona primary, pay close attention to how the GOP Presidential candidates talk about immigration. They have little to gain from Republicans by pivoting to softer rhetoric, but they have much to gain in the general election.

And have you noticed that, up until today, it’s been all about Obama’s Christianity and the attack on women? Is that the actual Latino strategy at work?

These stories will appear in the March 5 issue of TIME, which will be released online Thursday and hit newsstands Friday, February 24.

Theatrical Trailer: The Harvest/La Cosecha

The Harvest is a film about the children who work in agricultural fields here in America. With Texan Eva Longoria as executive producer, this film is sure to be heart-wrenching for those of us who experienced migrant farm work growing up, and a reality-check for those who have avoided the reality of knowing from where exactly the food on their table comes.

Every year there are more than 400,000 American children who are torn away from their friends, schools and homes to pick the food we all eat.  Zulema, Perla and Victor labor as migrant farm workers, sacrificing their own childhoods to help their families survive.  THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA profiles these three as they journey from the scorching heat of Texas’ onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards and back south to the humidity of Florida’s tomato fields to follow the harvest.

From the Producers of the Academy-Award® Nominated film, WAR/DANCE and Executive Producer Eva Longoria, this award-winning documentary provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of these children who struggle to dream while working 12 – 14 hours a day, 7 days a week to feed America.

Learn more about this award-winning film at Here’s a two-minute trailer.

The Shift: Hispanics in America

This vid I came upon today was produced by the Center for Hispanic Leadership, which has a commitment to creating Hispanic Talent. Warning to Tea Partiers – Your head may fall off after watching this.

Over 200 Attend Screening of Longoria Affair at LSC-Kingwood

Thanks to folks like Professor Raul Reyes and the Student Activities office at Lone Star College-Kingwood, programs like Monday night’s screening of The Longoria Affair are bring offered to suburban communities in North Harris county. And Monday night attracted over 230 students, faculty, and members of the community.

The Longoria Affair, a documentary produced by John Valadez, takes us back to the days of WWII when a Three Rivers, TX soldier by the name of Felix Longoria died in the field of battle. When his widow was making funeral arrangements and requested a wake at the funeral chapel, the funeral home owner did not allow the wake because his white patrons would not like that.

It was this flash point in South Texas history that began a civil rights battle in which South Texas civil rights activist and physician Dr. Hector P. Garcia took on. As the film navigates through the history, which includes the involvement of then-Senator Lyndon Johnson who worked to have Longoria buried at Arlington National Cemetery, one learns but one piece of Mexican American civil rights history, but one that provided what one faculty member at LSC-Kingwood called, “a Rosa Parks moment.”

One part of the film that I found sobering was how Dr. Garcia formed a relationship with LBJ that took almost 20 years to foment some sort of action. From JFK ignoring the fact that the Viva Kennedy clubs were a major reason for winning Texas to constantly sitting on civil rights legislation, it was not until LBJ became President that the Voting Rights Act provided for a real voice for Mexican Americans, as well as Johnson’s  appointment of Latinos to positions of importance in his administration.

If there are some folks locally (Latinos included) who want to learn about the road Texas Latinos have taken to where we are now, then this is a must-see. One may view it on PBS right now. Or you can go to the website and try to work out your own screening including the producer himself, John Valadez.

I met Valadez and one can honestly see that as an independent filmmaker, he has put in some laborious hours of love into this film. The fact that it made it to PBS and he is just finishing up a 40+ city tour in less than two months shows he has achieved much, thus far. And those of us in the activist community must continue to help him spread those pesky truths that our elected officials and a few educators attempt to avoid, and thus repeat the past.

Longoria Affair Coming to UH


Hispanic Magazine Falls Off the Deep End

Who would you vote as Hispanic of the Year?  2009 gave us some pretty good choice:  Justice Sotomayor, Bill Richardson (for being nominated, getting screwed, then beating them back); heck, I would even give it to Luis Gutierrez for stepping up to present CIR ASAP tomorrow.

Nope, not Hispanic Magazine.  They picked:

I don’t begrudge what he does–we all need entertainment.  I just look for a little bit of substance in anything we choose “…of the year.”

Hispanic Magazine lost my respect when they moved the HQ from Austin to Miami.  (Hispanic even quoted me back in 1994 when they wrote a piece on a leadership conference I directed.)

Dallas Examiner Covers Crystal City 1969

The Dallas Examiner

Cara Mia Theatre Company will be presenting the original play, Crystal City 1969, at the Latino Cultural Center from Dec. 9 through Dec. 19. Written by David Lozano and Raul Treviño Crystal City 1969, commemorates the 40th anniversary of the student walkout in Crystal City, Texas in 1969. Trevino is the nephew of Mario Trevino, one of the three student leaders of the walkout. The elder Trevino moved to North Texas and has lived here for many years. The play has many other connections to Crystal City, Texas, and most of them have to do with people – familial relations – some political and educational.

Crystal City is a small rural town in South Texas with a population of about 7,000 today; approximately 90 percent being Mexican American. It is a typical South Texas town. It has a special place in history, however, for being a pioneer for its political and civil rights activities, which lead to the advancement of Mexican Americans in South Texas and throughout the country. The activism gave momentum to the Chicano Movement that grew exponentially after the Crystal City walkout.

In 1963, Crystal City also made political history when the town’s people elected five Mexican Americans to their city council. The five men were known as “Los Cinco.” The victory was short-lived when all were not re-elected or chose not to run for re-election due to losing their jobs or to harassment, among other reasons.

Perhaps influenced by the 1963 election, the youth became proactive in making a difference in 1969. They had suffered institutional discrimination for too long. They were left out of school activities and educational opportunities. The rules that were set in place were unfair and made it hard for students to participate fully. They were unable to run for homecoming king and queen. Only one Chicana was allowed to be cheerleader per year. They were not allowed to speak Spanish anywhere during school hours. The three student leaders, Mario Treviño, Diana Aguilera and Severita Lara were determined to make a difference. They went before the school board to ask for change.

When their request was rejected, the students understood that they needed to convey their message through an act of civil disobedience, so they organized and planned a walkout. They took to the streets in an organized manner with instructions given to all participants. In a photo posted on the Cara Mia Theatre’s Web site, the students are seen walking orderly down a city sidewalk. This photo does not show the emotion and excitement that I recall.

My memory is limited in terms of relaying information about the walkout; I was only 6-years-old at the time. But the experience of seeing hundreds of students marching outside the elementary school and chanting, “Walkout, walkout, walkout,” invoking the younger students inside the school to join them in the protest, was life changing. It is that image that became the mantra for my own activism and the defining moment of my identity as a Chicana.

It was Dec. 9, 1969. I was sitting at my desk in the grammar school, when all of a sudden we heard a distant sound that grew louder and louder by the second as students got closer and closer to our school. My classmates and I looked at each other, then through the widows of our second-floor corner classroom. It had enormous windows all around that began at counter height and reached the ceiling. As the chanting students arrived at the school and began circling it, we rushed to the windows. The teacher kept telling us to get back in our seats and not to leave the classroom. But one by one, as the students recognized their older siblings, they ran outside to join them. Soon there were only a handful of us in the classroom. The building was almost emptied in minutes. Other teachers and a few students joined us in our classroom. I stared out the window mesmerized; my adrenaline pumped and my heart was raced. I looked for familiar faces and saw none. I remember wanting to run outside and join the students, but also wanted to stay there at the window to take it all in. I don’t remember leaving the building or participating in the organized teachings in the park. It was December, and I probably stayed home for the remaining two weeks of school before the winter break. The rest of the story I learned through listening to other’s memories of their participation and through history books.

Those moments in time made a great impact on my life; I had become a child of the walkout and part of its legacy. I will always remember the students’ faces and body movements as they manifested their emotions through chants, signs and raised fists.

When I saw a vignette of Crystal City 1969 recently, the scene of the character Lara being spanked for speaking Spanish followed by the scene of her father threatening the principal was very emotional. It took several minutes and many deep breaths for me to rid myself of the knot in my stomach and throat. I am looking forward to seeing the play in full on opening night, which is Dec. 9, 2009. I think that for many, the experience of being spanked for speaking their own language, will provide them with cultural affirmation and perhaps heal old wounds caused by past insensitive practices.

Dallas has many connections to Crystal City. The first and most significant is the fact that the co-playwright’s father was the first bilingual education director for the Dallas Independent School District – a Cristaleño. Not only did Mario Treviño fight for the right to speak his own language and not be punished for it, but his brother was also instrumental in ensuring that other students were given equal educational opportunities in Dallas. The first Center for Mexican American Studies in North Texas – at the University of Texas in Arlington – was established by Dr. Jose Angel Gutierrez and created through the legislature by state Rep. Roberto R. Alonzo, both Cristaleños. The latter becoming the first [Mexican American] elected state representative in North Texas (Dallas – District 104).

It is fitting that Crystal City 1969 should make its world premiere in Dallas. Cara Mia is dedicated to presenting plays on the Chicano and Latino experience, and can be proud of its unique mission that no other theater company is attempting to promote – yet another reason to support the theater company and Crystal City 1969. For more information on the theatre or the play, visit

Cara Mia’s Crystal City 1969 Opens to Great Review

The DMN has its theater review of Cara Mia’s Crystal City 1969, a play based on my hometown.  As I have told many of you, this is must see teatro.  Plus, if you really want to find out why I am the way I am, this will provide you a bit of my personal political foundation.  And congrats to fellow CCHS Alumna Priscilla Rice on her performance as one of the lead activists, Severita Lara (Severita was my Biology teacher back in the mid 80s!).

By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News

Cara Mia Theatre’s Crystal City 1969 opened precisely on the 40th anniversary of the historical events it narrates, and it was uniquely thrilling to be sitting near the people portrayed onstage. But it’s a strong enough show – maybe the best original script premiered in Dallas this year – that it can stand on its own with later audiences.

The script’s motto is “Never forget.” But just in case your memory is rusty, a group of Hispanic high school students in a small southwest Texas town led a walkout when the school board refused even to hear their demands for equal rights. The leaders became national celebrities, the town got a whole new set of elected officials within months, and the political party La Raza Unida grew out of the Crystal City events.

David Lozano and Raul Trevino, a local theater artist who happens to be the nephew of one of the original students, wrote the play and produced it, garnering support from many area Latino leaders. Lozano directed the cast of 20, plus a live percussion player.

Crystal City 1969 is unashamedly political theater – like The Cradle Will Rock without the songs. But Lozano long ago established himself as a theatrical stylist and poet. The story is real and accurate to the original events. But it is told fluidly, though movement and image as well as in words.

John M. Flores (no mean playwright himself) narrates, his face in a mask, his gestures often ritualistic. Blanca (played by Rosaura Cruz) wants to be a doctor and has high grades, but a counselor says her IQ is “low normal” – because she had barely begun to learn English when she took the test. Teachers beat other students for speaking Spanish. Finally the kids speak up.

At first the school superintendent agrees to some of the students’ demands, but the board breaks the pact. A new set of students – Severita (Priscilla Rice), Mario (Luis Palmas) and Diana (Ana Gonzalez) – organizes the walkout, with the help of activist Jose Angel Gutierrez (Ivan Jasso).

The actors are terrific. The bilingual script reinforces its points with plenty of humor, though the best jokes always seem to be in Spanish. Lots of heightened detail – a talking Popeye, or two darling children singing a Christmas carol to mark the passage of time – keep the show from seeming too much like a school lesson. You learn painlessly, even have a little fun.


Through Dec. 19 at the Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak. Runs 105 mins. $10 to $15. 214-717-5317,