Category Archives: Cristal

No Shame: Zavala Co. Sheriff Turncoats on Democrats

Well, there were rumors that Eusevio Salinas, Zavala County’s Sheriff, could not be trusted as a loyal Democrat. After a press release battle in which Republican Rick Perry issued an endorsement list including a couple of possible “vendidos,” then Bill White campaign released a list that included the same two Sheriffs, it looks like Salinas has sold his soul to the devil–Rick Perry.

“I’d like to know who put me on that Bill White list. It isn’t right,” Salinas said. “I’m only on Rick Perry’s.”

Citing “border money,” most which actually came from the federal government, Salinas gave Perry credit for the infusion of cop cash.

And who could blame Salinas? He can count on Perry’s border-money-throw-away every couple of years, which then allows him to get the new and shiny SUVs and oversized pick-ups which don’t get much use, other than a funeral escort or…that’s about it. It’s not like Zavala County has been heard in the news as a place where there are huge smuggling caches taken down.

Of course, we can’t forget the big shootout, which we really haven’t gotten a final word about, to date. I wonder why?

I implore my friends from Cristal–get this guy out in 2012.

Bill White Earns Sheriff’s Endorsement

Bill White earned the nod of Texas Sheriffs, including the vast majority of border-area Sheriffs.

But who did Zavala County’s Sheriff endorse?  According to Matt Stiles at the Texas Tribune:

UPDATE (4:10 p.m.): The Perry campaign sent us signed endorsement cards from the Zapata and Zavala sheriffs. We haven’t heard back from the White campaign.

I know Zavala County Sheriff Eusebio Salinas and he’s pretty much been a good Democrat. A county that went 80+% for Obama, Ciro Rodriguez and most other Democrats, I doubt that he would endorse Rick Perry. I hope this gets cleared up.

Note:  DosCentavos was born and raised in Zavala County.

Of course, since Rick Perry is announcing that “Democrat Sheriffs” are endorsing him, the 2012 primary is going to get interesting.

Even so, if this is the case, then there are questions that need to be asked of our Democratic candidates; like, since you’re going to small town East and West Texas, are you bothering to go to small town South Texas, too?

Ruben Alonzo Named Harry S. Truman Scholar

Ruben Alonzo is a native of my hometown of Crystal City, TX.  An honors graduate of CCHS, Ruben headed off to MIT to study economics.  Now, a Junior, Alonzo applied for this great honor and he informed me today of his selection.  I could give you his whole story, but the article does a good job on this.  Some extraneous knowledge for you, though, is the fact that he’s also the nephew of State Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D) Dallas, and the Alonzo Family one of the families which has done much to put our little town on the map.  And it just so happens that my sis, Toni Medellin, spoke at his graduation.  Here’s the article from MITNews.

Ruben Alonzo, an MIT junior who wants to use his own escape from poverty as a model for improving the lives of at-risk youth through education, has been awarded a 2010 Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Alonzo, an economics major from Crystal City, Texas, is among approximately 60 students nationwide selected as winners of the $30,000 graduate scholarship. Awarded each year, the scholarships aim to find and recognize college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in public service.

Alonzo seeks to use his talent and skills to help address the U.S. high-school dropout crisis and to empower young students to become role models — issues with which he is all too familiar.

“Ruben’s story goes far beyond that of just an impressively informed and passionate student at MIT,” Professor Anne McCants, chair of MIT’s Truman Selection Committee, and Kimberly Benard, MIT’s program advisor for distinguished fellowships, wrote in their letter of nomination. “Ruben’s story is one about overcoming the odds of a background that suggested he would not, perhaps even could not succeed. What has put him at the top of our Truman Scholarship nominee cohort this year is the same drive that led him from the depths of poverty: an abiding reverence for education and dedication to helping others.”

Alonzo grew up in rural Zavala County, Texas, whose per-capita income of $10,034 in 1999 put it among the 25 poorest counties in the United States. Alonzo’s family still skirted the fringes of poverty despite his father’s job as a math teacher; to supplement their income, Alonzo and his family members worked as migrant farmers in North Dakota and Minnesota during the summer months. This was when Alonzo developed an appreciation for math; to help the time pass, his father promised him a few cents for every vegetable he picked. Very quickly, Alonzo learned to track and then to estimate how much money he could make over the course of a hot day in the sun. His father recognized Alonzo’s native quantitative skills and strove to encourage them.

Alonzo’s world was transformed dramatically when he was 14 and his father passed away. Before dying, Alonzo’s father told him to take care of his two sisters and mother, a pledge that he takes extremely seriously. His brother had already succumbed to the cycle of poverty and desperation in Zavala County and is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for drug dealing. Alonzo and his sisters supported each other and clung to education as a way to rise above poverty. His older sister will graduate this year from Texas A&M in Ocean Engineering, and his younger sister just started her degree program at Texas A&M International University.

At MIT, Alonzo has maintained a solid 4.5 GPA while engaging in numerous activities focused on improving literacy among disadvantaged youths both locally and abroad. As a freshman, Alonzo was a founding member of Real Men Read, an organization that pairs strong male role models from MIT with struggling students from disadvantaged schools in Boston. The program inspired Alonzo to partner with friends to create Project LEAD (Leadership Enrichment and Ambassador Development), which provides both original programming and individual mentorship for underperforming youths in the Cambridge public schools. In the summer between his sophomore and junior years, Alonzo worked in Thailand, helping a school implement a new computer-based system for teaching math.

After he gets his MIT degree, Alonzo plans to serve in Teach for America for two years — preferably returning to the troubled Southwest Texas school system from which he graduated. Eventually, he hopes to pursue a doctorate in educational leadership before returning to the Southwest, where he wants to start a nonprofit that will help improve education.

“I made it this far because I had people who believed in me. They believed in me just like I believe in every single young student in America. I am dedicated to bridging the gaps between the academically/economically privileged and the disenfranchised,” Alonzo said. “Change has to start somewhere, and for me it starts back home. It starts in Texas. I am a community servant and a crusader for social change. The Truman Scholarship will open up doors for me to make this change possible.”

Here’s a Grad Night pic of him:

Celebrating 40 Years – La Raza Unida Party

Here’s an op-ed piece written by Professor Emeritus Carlos Munoz (UC Berkeley) on the 40th Anniversary of La Raza Unida Party in Texas.  As I have stated, LRUP changed the face of the Texas Democratic Party, changed South Texas politics, and empowered thousands of Mexican Americans.  Here’s Professor Munoz:

By Carlos Muñoz, Jr.

627 words

Mexican Americans made political history 40 years ago when, on January 17, 1970, they founded their own independent political party in Crystal City, Texas. They called it “La Raza Unida Party” – or, translated, “The United People’s Party.”

A look back at this party can give us clues about where we need to go today.

The call for an independent political party came out of a national 1969 radical Chicano youth conference held in Denver, Colorado, by the Crusade for Justice, the first Mexican American civil rights organization to emerge during the ’60s. The conference produced a plan for Chicano liberation called “El Plan de Aztlan.” The document called the two-party political system “the same animal with two heads that feed at the same trough” because they represented the nation’s racist political power structures that historically had oppressed and colonized Mexican Americans since the end of the U.S.-Mexico War of 1846-1848.

As was the case for African Americans in the South, Mexican Americans had been victimized by white supremacy in the Southwest – from lynchings to segregation.

The party’s strength was in Texas and California, the two states with the largest Mexican American populations. With the exception of Crystal City, where the party gained control of the city council and school board, and several other South Texas cities, there were few victories for the party, due to strong opposition from both conservative and liberal white and Mexican American sectors.

For example, Henry Gonzalez, a liberal Democratic Congressman and the only Mexican American from Texas serving in the U.S. Congress at the time, publicly denounced Jose Angel Gutierrez, the leader of the party.

In California, the party was not able to get the required 66,000 voters registered to get on the state ballot. It was able to register only 22,000 people, mostly college students. It never came close to a single political victory.

The party’s last hurrah came in the 1972 Texas governor’s race when its candidate, Ramsey Muñiz, received 6.43% of the votes.
Soon after, the party started to decline due to ideological divisions.

The party did not meet it’s goal of becoming a viable independent political institution, but it did  contribute to the opening of the doors for Mexican Americans into the two-party political system. After the party’s decline, many of the party’s activists went into the Democratic Party.

More significantly, the party contributed to the political awakening of the Mexican American people and other Latinos. It put the issue of political representation of Latino/as  on the agendas of local, state and national politics. Prior to the emergence of the party, there were only a relative handful of Mexican American and Latino/a elected officials. Now, though still underrepresented, there are hundreds of them throughout nation.  For example, in 1970 there were 5 Latinos in the U.S. Congress.  Now there are 25, including two U.S. Senators.

The increase in elected officials, however, has not resulted in fundamental change for Mexican Americans. Primarily because those officials, no matter how liberal they may be, are an integral part of the “animal with two heads.” Racial or ethnic identity does not guarantee the representation of communities of color – specifically, those who are poor and working class. The best example today is the President of the United States. The majority of African American and Latino/as voted for Obama expecting he would act in the interest of their communities. He has not.

The story of the La Raza Unida Party teaches us that independent political parties based on racial or ethnic identity will not work. An independent mass political party that can represent the needs of our more complex diverse society must emerge to challenge the two-party dictatorship. Such a party could lead to an authentic multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural democracy for the twenty-first century.

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

Learn English or Learn?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  My friend Carlos Guerra at the SA Express-News is the best columnist anywhere!  And he can really cause a ruckus when he puts out a column on something controversial, like the whole debate between Bilingual Education and Immersion.  I must say I not only agree with him, but I can identify with his experiences, as well.

Knowing that English is essential, my parents helped me learn it before I started going to school.

Luckily, the two spoke both Spanish and English well, unlike many of my classmates’ parents — even if to my father, nothing was ever “special.” To him, extraordinary things were “especial,” which may explain why, to this day, I catch myself saying “land-escape” when talking about grass and lawns.

In the spring of 1954, my parents — who until then had spoken to me only in Spanish — began teaching me enough English to get by.

“What is your name?” they would ask. “My name is Carlos.” And they would teach me other essentials, like, “Are you a Mexican?” “No, I am an American citizens.” “Citizen!” I remember my mother correcting me. “‘Citizens’ es dos o más, ‘citizen’ eres tú (‘Citizens’ is two or more, ‘citizen’ is you).”

Finally, my mother walked me to school, where I was herded into a classroom with fewer desks than Latino kids and I was on my own.

The teacher spoke no Spanish, so the few of us who spoke any English suddenly were her translators, though speaking Spanish was punishable.

“What is your name?” the teacher asked me. “My name is Carlos.”

“No, your name is Charlie now,” she said. And soon, María was Mary and José, Joe, and Domingo Nieves, the old joke goes, became Ice-Cream Sundae.

Three days later, I was promoted from “low first,” the class for non-English-speakers, to “high first,” where the kids knew some English, though most were a year older than me after a year in low first.

There, another monolingual teacher used the “point-and-say” method to teach us English. Pointing to one, she would say “desk” and gesture for us to repeat the word.

But that came after Ralph, the janitor — the school’s only bilingual employee — came in to tell us where the restrooms were and to raise a hand when need be, and ask, “May I be excused?”

Three years later, some classmates still thought the English word for the toilet was “the beescuse.”

But each day, I would return home and my parents would review with me the day’s English, and whatever else I had learned.

Only now do I realize that I benefited from the best of two distinct ways to teach a language: total language immersion, which I got in school, and bilingual education, which I got at home. And while the first worked well to teach me to identify things, I learned to discuss concepts from my parents’ bilingual education.

Don’t be surprised if we are soon in a national debate again over which method is better because last month U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito opined, for the 5-4 court majority, that “research on English-language learner instruction indicates that there is a documented, academic support for the view that structured English immersion is significantly more effective than bilingual education.”

Not so fast, your honor.

Let’s first decide what we want to teach our non-English-speaking kids. Do we want them to learn, or do we want them to learn a language? And must the two be mutually exclusive?

Of course, the 210 comments get a bit hairy.  They’re still a must read to know what kind of nuts are out there.

Happy Father’s Day!

Grad Night 1989

Grad Night 1989 would like to wish all the dads out there a very Happy Father’s Day.  It is a day to celebrate and cherish your dads (or the male figure that comes close to being a dad to you).  Before going into my Dad’s Day story, here’s a link to my friend Carlos Guerra’s column which brought some memories and tears to my eyes.

For me, Father’s Day has always been one of those days you don’t forget in your life.  For me, Father’s Day 1990 was one of the last times I can say I saw my Pop.  I was living in Austin and he and mom had come to visit for Dad’s Day.  We enjoyed watching the Braves on WTBS, and we even went to lunch at what was my favorite restaurant back then, Serrano’s on Ben White. Otherwise, we enjoyed watching just about anything on the tube that weekend, including a Pedro Infante video.

That weekend, we also got to celebrate the fact that I had just completed my first year of college. I was a little frustrated that weekend because I was in the middle of a summer job hunt.  He told me not to worry, that something would come up. Then he gave me a few bucks, which I figured he and mom could not afford; but I later found out that every now and then, they’d get a signature loan at “El Pat’s” (a local pawn shop) so they could send me a few bucks “pa’ las sodas y snacks at school.”  I started a pretty cool first job at a Republican-owned Telecom company where I handled their billing.  In fact, one of our best customers was the call center and consulting firm of Karl Rove!  Pop was proud that I had gotten a job a week or so after they had visited.  “Te llevamos la buena suerte” (We took you some good luck.) he would tell me. And when I had to work that first weekend in which I started the job, he called me when I got home from work to find out all about it.  And that was the last day I heard his voice on the phone as he would fall ill that night and pass away the next morning at age 59.

A.R. Medellin, Medellins Texaco

A.R. Medellin, Medellin's Texaco

SSgt. A.R. Medellin

SSgt. A.R. Medellin

Dad was just starting to accept and enjoy his forced retirement-by-disability. He had been a business owner, a member of the National Guard, a bookkeeper for the local school district, and even a Texas Highway Department worker.  He loved to work, earn his take, provide for his family, and really deserved one of those long retirements.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.  Still, he was an awesome father.  Sure, he had “the look” but I can honestly say that he never spanked me, although I think I may have earned it sometimes.

What he did have was a lot of love for my mom and for the three kids (Sylvia, Toni and Me). And his pride and joy was my nephew Benny who was four when Dad passed.  I don’t think there’s a day that passes that I don’t think of him.  Usually, it’s situational–a funny thing that happened, or something in politics, or flipping channels and passing the Braves game.  But on Father’s Day, I remember that last fun weekend we had.  Then I remember earlier in the Spring when I spent Spring Break at home and he and I watched all 11 games of the Crystal City High School Popeye Baseball Tournament under the South Texas sun.

Sure, I could get very sad, but nowadays, I tend to smile more when I remember my Pop.  Whenever I’m in a crisis, I still think, “What would Pop have done?”  And when I attend a political event in Houston, I remember how he and I would attend election night gatherings in Crystal City to watch them tally up the numbers on some oversized chalkboard (much different than the “refresh” button we use now to find the latest tally on the computer).  I just know that whatever I’m doing, or whatever big event I attend, he’s around with a big prideful smile.

We Miss ya, Pop!