Category Archives: El Mundo

Caravan For Peace On The Way

Have you heard of the Caravan for Peace? If so, great. If not, here’s why you should get involved and support it in every way that you can.

A Trans-border Caravan for Peace and Justice with the Poet and Peace Leader Javier Sicilia

More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico in the last few years. 10,000  people have been disappeared and over 160,000 displaced. Global Exchange and Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) led by Javier Sicilia have made “End the Drug  War- No More Violence” campaign a priority in 2012. Starting in August, a high profile caravan will cross the US starting in San Diego/Los Angeles, heading east along the US-Mexico border and then up to Chicago, New York and DC.

Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco was murdered along with six friends on a fateful night in March of  2011. He has since become an inspirational voice for peace, justice and reform– drawing huge  crowds throughout Mexico. He comes north this summer with a call for change in the bi-national  policies that have inflamed a six-year Drug War, super-empowered organized crime, corrupted  Mexico’s vulnerable democracy, claimed lives and devastated human rights on both sides of the border.

2012 offers a uniquely fertile moment to internationalize the struggle for peace in Mexico. Latin American elite opinion is shifting rapidly on the question of ending drug prohibition. This call for reform has not yet echoed in the United States. The Caravan represents an unprecedented effort by Mexican civil society to impact U.S. thinking and policy.

Having just started it’s first leg, the Caravan will make its way through the Southwestern US and all the way to Washington, DC, ending on September 12. It will spend a day and a half in Houston, August 26 and 27.

Learn more about the Caravan here and support this cause.

Send-Off for LibroTraficantes on Monday!

3rd Centavo: Clean Energy and the Environment As Houston Latino Issues

by Dr. Reynaldo Guerra

Maria Cardona, a CNN Contributor, wrote a great article on the environment being a Latino issue nationwide.  She makes a strong case for the environment and clean energy being ‘linked’ for Latinos.  I completely agree, but I’d take it a step further.  While the term ‘linkage’ does imply a connection, it doesn’t necessarily connote dependence, and all evidence points to there being a strong dependence between the three, especially here in Houston.

The nerd in me can’t resist the opportunity for a science analogy here.  Let’s start with a definition:

Symbiotic Relationship: A relationship between entities that is of mutual benefit or dependence. (Note: 100% of scientists don’t agree on this definition, but that’s a separate discussion better had over a frothy beverage.)

I’m not sure how old I was, I was probably still playing with G. I. Joes, but I remember learning about symbiotic relationships in science class.  I still remember the picture of the small fish (a remora, it turns out) swimming, almost with a smile, next to a very mean looking shark.

Even a superficial look at our current situation in this country illustrates the fact that Latinos, the environment, and clean energy all have a symbiotic relationship (I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination to decide the shark leaving crumbs for remoras in this metaphor).  The three are all dependent on each other in some way or another. Each thrives and is much healthier for the other.  Their survival may even depend on their having a healthy relationship.

Given the fact that Houston is the energy capitol of the world and Latinos are 44% of her population, this tri-symbiotic relationship is especially pronounced here in Houston.  Let’s frame the discussion.

Green Home Construction

There is a large contingent of Latinos here in Houston that are blue-collar workers.  It’s even fair to say that anytime something is built or constructed, Latinos will likely play a major role.  I recently visited a LEED Gold certified elementary school as a part of our mayor’s Green Building Tours Initiative (kudos, Mayor Parker).  Not only was one of the creative designers a Latino from Paraguay, but it’s a safe bet that most of the construction was performed by Latinos as well. Given the population and demographics of the construction industry, solar panels, low-E windows, insulation, or any other green measure installed in Houston will most likely be installed by Latinos.

Building Energy Efficiency: REEP

Unfortunately, the City of Houston’s Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP) appears to be on the chopping blocks.  However, since 2010 REEP is responsible for having created, by some estimates, almost 1,000 jobs and for having made thousands of low-income homes energy efficient.

To put REEP’S environmental benefits into perspective, residential and commercial buildings account for 67% of all electricity consumption and 40% of CO2 emissions in the U.S. (DOE).  Either African-Americans or Latinos occupy the vast majority of low-income homes in Houston.  Energy bills are also a much bigger percentage of income for low-income communities.  Making homes energy efficient in the 4th largest city in the country has a huge impact on the environment and on the health and pocketbook of the Latino community.

The REEP program not only created blue-collar jobs for Latinos, it also created managerial and entrepreneurial opportunities.  Four prime contractors were initially awarded the REEP contract.  Two of them were minority owned: Payless Insulation (woman-owned) and PMG Project Management Group (Latino-owned).  The government requirement that prime contractors subcontract out 25% of their work to minority- or women-owned firms has created significant opportunities for Latino entrepreneurs and blue-collar workers.

The Mayor and the City of Houston have made strong commitments to a Green Houston.  They have publically stated a goal of becoming number one in the nation in Energy Star and LEED certified buildings and have committed to making 30 million sq. ft. of city property energy efficient by 2020.  The realization of these goals will undoubtedly lead to more blue- and white-collar jobs for Latinos.

Environmental Justice

The GOP has been in the news lately attacking potential environmental regulations as ‘”job killers.”  Well, not only is the opposite true (see case studies all over Europe and even Austin, for example) but, as Cardona points out, for millions of Americans, especially Latinos, clean air regulations are “life-saving regulations.”  This isn’t surprising, since most occupied areas affected by pollution happen to be inhabited by Latinos or African-Americans.  Again, this is especially true in the Houston area, Pasadena being a prime example.  With respect to creating jobs, retrofitting existing equipment or installing new equipment to meet environmental regulations requires labor, excellent job opportunities for Latinos.  Again, regulations that target pollution and carbon emissions are both health preserving and job creating.

With the recession still in town, it behooves the Latino community to rally around policy, elected officials, and businesses that support the environment and clean energy initiatives.  Our health and ability to put food on the table may depend on it.

Dr. Reynaldo Guerra is a Houston small business owner and Chair of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition.

Back To Work She Goes: Citizenship Week

Mayor Annise Parker has proclaimed November 13 thru 19 as Citizenship Week.

Mayor Annise Parker is urging Houstonians to participate in the City of Houston’s Third Annual Citizenship Week. This year’s observance runs November 13-19 and will feature more than 180 events and activities across the city celebrating what it means to be a Houstonian, including student poetry contests, art exhibitions, citizenship workshops, discussions about Houston’s history, and other events and performances representing many culturally-diverse communities.

“We just completed the most important act of civic engagement and citizenship with yesterday’s election,” said Mayor Parker.  “Unfortunately, this right is often taken for granted.  With that in mind, I hope all Houstonians will renew their citizenship commitment by participating in Citizenship Week.”

You can check out all the information about Citizenship Week here. What’s it all about?

What We Are Celebrating

  • Citizenship: Greater awareness of what it means to be a citizen in order to foster positive, active civic engagement
  • Diversity: Underscoring of the City’s diverse ethnic, immigration, cultural, professional and socioeconomic communities to support social cohesion, secure and vibrant neighborhoods, productive workplaces and healthy communities
  • Global Houston: Highlighting the City as a global, inclusive, vibrant place uniquely-positioned and highly attractive to do international business in order to support its economic growth and health and foster increased work opportunities for our diverse populations
  • Fellowship: Providing opportunities for community-driven events representing every segment of City life to support our City’s neighbors getting to know each other better for harmony, cooperation and a sense of citizen stewardship towards one another and the City as our home and work space
Here’s a link (PDF) to events in which you can participate. 

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.

Mandatory Water Conservation Is Coming

Whenever I cross the river (the San Jac) over to Humble, whether it is along US 59 or Lake Houston Parkway, it’s easy to notice that water levels have dropped significantly. With Lake Houston being one of our main sources of water, I was wondering when exactly we’d be told to conserve water.

It’s here!

Under Stage 2, those restrictions would become mandatory. Other restrictions, such as a prohibition on washing cars, would be added, Parker said. Residents also would be required to repair water leaks on their properties within 72 hours.

The mandatory restrictions would be enforced through fines, though Parker did not elaborate.

“We are coming closer and closer to drawing down water from Lake Conroe to stabilize the water levels in Lake Houston,” the mayor said. “And we are coming closer and closer to a stage 2 water conservation, which is mandatory.”

The city has not had to draw down water from Lake Conroe to stabilize Lake Houston since 1988. The water from Lake Conroe would be use to boost the level in Lake Houston to prevent damage to intake mechanisms that supply water to the city.

Of course, a good way to lower water use is through embarrassment. Look at what the San Antonio Water System is known for doing.

In Other Water News…

Meanwhile, my elected officials want to dredge up Lake Houston to get rid of some of the silt at the bottom of the lake, and they’ve asked the Mayor to do it. Of course, Ted Poe should be asking for federal money for this, but instead, they’d much rather raid the drainage fee and other local sources to fund this.

Here’s an idea:  Go after the mining companies that dump silt into the river. What? Do they think the silt appears naturally?

Because of sand mining, the San Jacinto was named one of 10 most endangered rivers in 2006 by American Rivers. Sand and gravel mining – including the production of its main product, concrete – contributes an estimated $19.6 billion to the Texas economy annually. (For comparison, wildlife watching contributes $1.3 billion, and total tourism $44 billion). Sand mining may have a role in Texas, but does it belong on the San Jacinto? The river provides the city its drinking water via Lake Houston, and the upstream forested reaches of the watershed help protect Houston from downstream flooding.

With $19.6 billion being exchanged, certainly someone should be paying for it, and it doesn’t only have to be the gum’mint.

Of course, for the future, perhaps Poe, Huberty and their Republican buddies can do something about this:

Sand mining is not a regulated industry in Texas, unlike most other states. In other words, the industry has no regulations to follow, no permits to apply for, and no reclamation to complete once finished.

Silly me.

My Morning at FIEL Houston

The FIEL Houston Executive Board

I spent a couple of hours visiting with the hard-working people of Familias Inmigrantes y Estudiantes en la Lucha (Immigrant Families and Students in the Struggle), located in SW Houston, just outside of the Mahatma Ghandi District on Hillcroft. While it was an informal visit to experience the unveiling of their new website, as well as a talk about the newest Texas Congressional supporters of the DREAM Act, I was able to sit in during a Telemundo interview.

FIEL recently celebrated its third anniversary as a non-profit organization available to assist immigrant students with financial aid and scholarship information that will allow students to access a college education after completing K-12, as well as serve as a conduit to immigration services around Houston.  Finally, FIEL also conducts legislative research and action on issues surrounding comprehensive immigration reform, and is at the forefront of the DREAM Act movement which is picking up steam on a daily basis. In fact, it is through legislative and direct action that FIEL Houston is able to create a leadership base for the next generation.

Directed by Cesar Espinosa, FIEL Houston also has a board of active and engaged members who help guide the organization through its mission.  With a commitment to family unity, FIEL Houston literally brings families together for the purpose of building a better and diverse Houston, Texas, and America.

There’s no doubt that the DREAM Act and CIR will become reality and organizations like FIEL Houston will be a reason for their enactments. And while the DREAM Act is the lead legislative goal of the group, Espinosa answers the question:  What happens once DREAM Act is passed?

“Well, FIEL Houston will become available to assist the DREAM Act benefit recipients through their change in immigration status, but we will also continue our work to pass and enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform.”

Board Member Dayana Gomez is a founder of the organization and gives this description regarding her support of the DREAM Act, “The DREAM Act would help students who were brought here at a young age to continue their studies; the Act gives hope for these students to continue their studies.”

Personally, Gomez’s goal is to complete a Master of Social Work so that she can continue assisting the Latino community with elevated services not readily available.  Again, this organization will be credited with the leaders which it creates.

Regarding the goals of FIEL Houston, Gomez promotes student involvement, “Whether it is with FIEL or other groups, the more involved you get, the easier change will happen.”

Gomez also stressed that once the DREAM Act is passed, the work is not done, “DREAM Act is the first part of the struggle, but we will continue working for comprehensive immigration reform.” would like to thank this wonderful organization for the grand tour, the discussion, and for just plain existing. They serve as an example for other organizations in regards to being focused, aware, and ready to put in the sweat equity to make change happen.

For more information, visit You can also follow them on Twitter at: And on YouTube.

Cheech Takes 3rd on Celebrity Jeopardy; Donates Winnings to HSF

Thanks to the folks at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund for the heads up.  This is awesome news.



SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. (MAY 7, 2010) –– Today, actor/comedian Cheech Marin (“Cheech & Chong” and “Lost”) placed third in the “Jeopardy!” Million Dollar Celebrity Invitational Tournament, winning $100,000 for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) for this final round.

HSF is the nation’s leading Hispanic scholarship organization and provides support to Hispanic families and students through education workshops, scholarships, college retention and career opportunities. Frank Alvarez, president and CEO of HSF, said, “Cheech has long believed in the importance of Latino college completion.  By choosing us as his nonprofit partner, he is helping low income, academically qualified Latinos realize their dreams.”

Marin’s total “Jeopardy’ wins of $150,000 will help fund students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in performing arts and entertainment.  A longtime advocate of HSF and board member, Marin said, “This generous donation will have such an enormous impact on the American landscape.  HSF empowers and educates so many worthy Latinos.”

Marin faced off in the finals against actress/comedienne Jane Curtin (“SNL,” “3rd Rock from the Sun” and “Kate & Allie”) and actor Michael McKean (“Laverne and Shirley” and star of Broadway’s “Superior Donuts”).  McKean placed first and won the $1 million grand prize on behalf of the International Myeloma Foundation, and Curtin came in second and received a quarter million dollars for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.  These earnings are in addition to the $50,000 each received during the quarterfinals.

Host Alex Trebek said, “I think it’s really remarkable that Cheech Marin, who won our very first Celebrity “Jeopardy!” competition 18 years ago, hasn’t lost a step.  In fact, he not only made the finals of the Celebrity Invitational, but he is the only player who came up with the correct Final “Jeopardy!” response in the deciding game.  He should be congratulated on his fine performance.”

Since its September kick-off, the tournament has hosted 27 celebrity contestants who competed in a series of monthly quarterfinal matches.  A total of over $2.5 million has been donated to local and national charities selected by the stars.

“Jeopardy!,” the winner of 28 Emmy awards since its debut in 1984, was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most awards won by a TV Game Show. The series is the #1-rated quiz show in syndication with nearly 9 million daily viewers. “Jeopardy!” is produced by Sony Pictures Television, a Sony Pictures Entertainment Company. It is distributed domestically by CBS Television Distribution and internationally by CBS Television International, both units of CBS Corp.

DC Needs You To Send Krys to D.C.

Dear Friends:

Last year, you helped me send my friend and Democratic colleague, Krystafer Redden, to Washington D.C. to participate in the Model Arab League Moot Court competition.  Because of the excellent service to his team, he has been invited to compete once again!

This means that he will need all our help to get there.  He needs to raise $500 by February 15th to cover his airline ticket and expenses.   If 10 of us can donate just $50 each, we will make sure that he can attend and participate in this wonderful opportunity.  No donation is too small, so please help if you can.

Krystafer is a former student, shares my love of Democratic politics, and has become a dear friend.  He is currently a Terry Foundation Scholar at the University of Houston Honors College working towards a degree in Political Science and is looking forward to graduate school.

Krystafer is an extraordinary young man.  He was raised by a single mother and battles some serious health problems, but his determination, love of learning, and love of Democratic politics have served as an inspiration to me.  I have worked alongside him on many campaigns and projects and know that your investment in him will be money well spent.

If you can help us with this effort, please respond to this email and let me know your pledge amount.  Then make your checks payable to Krystafer Redden and mail them to the attention of:

Jodie Koszegi, Dean

The Honors College

212 MD Anderson Library

The University of Houston

Houston, TX  77004-2001

Thank you very much for your time and your donation.


Stace Medellin

Redden Reports on the National Model Arab League

Last year, thanks to contributions from a few FODC’s from the Kingwood Area Democrats, as well as State Rep. Armando Walle and State Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, we raised funds to help send a University of Houston student to the National Model Arab League in Washington, DC. Krystafer Redden represented UH, Houston, and Texas quite well and provides us this report.


Greetings!  My name is Krystafer Redden.  I am a second year Terry Foundation Scholar in The Honors College at The University of Houston pursuing a dual degree: a bachelors of arts in political science with an English literature minor, and a bachelors of arts in history with a phronesis minor in politics and ethics.

I was given the distinct opportunity and rare pleasure to travel to Washington DC with my fellow students for a competition called the National Model Arab League in Spring, March of 2009. I was chosen to serve as the Co-Counsel and Associate Justice on the Arab Court of Justice at the National Model at Georgetown University, representing our delegation of Tunisia in a case against Libya regarding environmental law and oil spills.

I would like to take this opportunity, graciously given to me by Stace Medellin and Dos Centavos, to do two things.  Primarily, I would like to use this space to thank all the people who assisted me financially in being able to take the trip, attend the model, and seize the opportunity.  Finally, I would like to share with all of you my experiences as Counsel and Associate Justice in the National Model Arab League’s Arab Court of Justice.

As I said, I want to sincerely thank everyone who contributed to my ability to be able to fly to and from Washington DC, and attend the model.  I will be perpetually thankful for this opportunity; it was highly educational, and helped me to hone my leadership, public speaking, legal logic, and compositional skills.  Beyond these academic and professional benefits, it was extremely rewarding on a personal level.  In all reality, words are inadequate to articulate my thanks and gratitude. I hope my actions, both now and in the future, can serve as some evidence and assurance of this fact.

Having spent much time preparing our brief with delicate care and legalistic precision my co-counsel and I boarded a plane with the rest of the team to depart from Bush IAH, landing at Reagan National around noontime on Wednesday.  After making our way to Dupont Circle via Metro, and boarding the GUTS (Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle) shuttle, we arrived at Georgetown University to settle in to the Conference Center and Hotel.  The following day (Thursday) is always reserved for a visit to the embassy of your host country, which we did.  The visit was an amazing opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of Embassy Row.  The highly political process of embassy placement was slightly peculiar to observe, seeming to mirror a game of political real estate chess.  The next day (Friday) our model commenced, and the court began hearing cases immediately.  The skills necessary to stay in character, and play the role of Tunisia were difficult at times.  We had to resist the temptation to judge our cases based on western standards of jurisprudence, relying instead upon precedent in international and Islamic religious law.

When it came time for our case, it was a particularly contentious and hard fought battle.  The issue to be dealt with in our legal proceeding was: Should Libya be held liable for environmental pollution resulting from offshore oil and gas drilling carried by tidal forces into the Gulf of Gabes Marine and Coastal Resource Protection Project?” Opposing counsel was from Northeastern University in Boston, and had prepared their counter-memorial equally as thoroughly and strategically.  Despite this fact however, many holes remained in their case.  They had failed to provide visual exhibits or sworn affidavits of expert testimony for the court, instead relying primarily on hearsay and what they considered to be forgone logical conclusions.

Capitalizing upon their weaknesses, we presented a visually, legally, and intellectually compelling case that was characterized by some as “the best we have ever seen” and prima facie”.  We worked together fluidly as a team, simultaneously articulating our arguments while introducing visual exhibits and evidence.  Ultimately however, despite distilling complex environmental issues dealing with seasonal marine tidal and air current flow, and conveying the nuances of gas drilling and oil transport ballasting protocol, the court struggled to come to a verdict.  Much like modern politics, under the guidance of the Chief Justice, the court “tasked” the Council on Environmental Affairs with investigating the issue and advising the court.  Given the nature of the model, this was for all intents and purposes the end of our case, and amounted to a hung jury.  The model closed the following day, and our case remained one of the most contentious issues of the whole competition, with judges ardently arguing for both sides.

Aside from the academic activities surrounding the model, I also had the opportunity to explore the city and see some of the sights.  Probably my favorite, and arguably the most memorable part for me was the Smithsonian Museum of American History, particularly their Julia Child exhibit.  I have been a long time fan of this culinary behemoth, having watched her on Houston PBS early in my childhood.  It was also particularly current, since “Being Julia” was being heavily promoted at the time, and I had been a huge fan of the book prior to the movie.  Her larger than life persona and disarming charm awakened people across America to “The Art of French Cooking,” which could, on her account, most definitely be ‘mastered.’  My friends and chaperone were particularly amazed by my uncanny impersonation of her, honed over many years of observation and devoted viewing.

In addition to the Smithsonian, we also visited in the International Spy Museum, Chinatown, the Georgetown neighborhood surrounding the university and many other spots of cultural and historical significance.  Thanks to the Metro, we could swipe our fare card, get on board, and be in another part of DC in five minutes, which fostered much exploring and strolling about the various neighborhoods and enclaves.  We also had dinner with some alums who now work in the area, and enjoyed some Chinese cuisine while in Chinatown.  Further still, beyond the extracurricular fun outside the model, I am so thankful I was also given the opportunity to meet and form relationships with so many great students, professors, and administrators from universities across the nation.

In conclusion, I would like to share some equally wonderful, but more recent news.  Based on my past performance, I was chosen once again to represent my school, in March, at the National Model at Georgetown University in Washington DC.  Our delegation this year will be from Iraq, so this round of competition holds particularly current significance.  This year, I have elected to participate as Iraq’s Representative on the Council of Arab Social Affairs Ministers.  My hope, as before, is that I might be able to depend upon gracious donors and benefactors to help me achieve my fundraising goal in order to attend this year as well.