Monday, July 24, 2017

Blake Farenthold Threatens Anti-Repeal and Replace Republican Senators~Duck Pajamas, Machismo, Gerrymandering

Candidate Blake Farenthold at
2009 Fundraiser, Held at the Sky
Terrace Lounge, Corpus Christi
Blake "Pajama Boy" Farenthold, who currently represents the Texas 27th Congressional District, has declared verbal war on at least "three female (Republican) Senators" who are positioned to oppose repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act(ObamaCare).

In a radio interview Friday, Farenthold explained his position:

"Listen, the fact that the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do is just absolutely repugnant to me," he told Texas radio host Bob Jones on "Keys 1440 AM." "Some of the people that are opposed to this -- there are some female senators from the Northeast -- if it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style."

In 1804 then Vice President Aaron Burr killed political opponent Alexander Hamilton in a gun duel.  Murder charges were filed against Burr in New Jersey and New York, but later dropped.

Doughboy Farenthold, would not challenge "females," but only some "guy from South Texas," he would consider closer to his equal.  

Farenthold's district once included Brownsville. TSC Board President Adela Garza was Farenthold's field representative until four new congressional districts were created in 2012 because of population increase reflected in the 2010 census.

Currently, Brownsville is included in the 34th District, represented by Filemon Vela, which gerrymanders from Brownsville, bypasses Corpus Christi, but goes as far north as Goliad and Dewey and half of Gonzalez counties.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"The Hormones" vs. "Undermine Authority," Corpus Christi vs. Brownsvllle

Diego Lee Rot, Music Reporter
for the Brownsville Observer
by Diego Lee Rot

There was no cover charge to see The Hormones last month at the Kraken Lounge, when we joined nearly a dozen local fans to experience the punk group. As is my custom, I bought a couple beers that night without knowing if the punkers got any sort of cut from the bar.  That's between the Kraken and The Hormones.  My suspicion is that the band played for free to build and extend their fan base.

Two days after their Brownsville appearance, The Hormones opened up a "GoFund!" page soliciting $8,000 from their fans to "make an album."  The collections eventually totaled $830, which the group said was used for "studio time" in what pictures indicate was a private home in Austin.

The Hormones
Sparsely attended gigs by The Hormones this month in Harlingen and Corpus Christi, the group's hometown, showed that Brownsville's tepid support of this punk band was not unique. As the band's leader, Tim "Napalm" Stegall lamented on Facebook:

"Not a lot of our regulars showed up in either Corpus Christi or Harlingen this weekend. But we had fun. Gonna be a while before we see you again. Halfway back to Austin now. Ciao."

Andy Ly, Singer, Guitarist for Swikid
Several Brownsville residents responded on Facebook to Stegall's remarks, one calling him a drama queen, another saying The Hormones sported Green Day haircuts.  Martin Camacho, Jr. drummer with local band, Undermine Authority, questioned why this blog failed to promote local bands. 

Martin Camacho, Jr., Drummer
for Undermine Authority
Undermine Authority, a self-described "thrash punk" and "skateboard punk" outfit, has played at the Brownsville/Olmito Sports Park's skater bowl. The group's drummer, Martin Camacho, Jr., seems to resent the coverage given to out-of-town bands.

Punk fan Rocco Marziano hints that Brownsville's Undermine Authority may even be more talented than The Hormones.  Martin Camacho, Jr. replies:  "Hell yeah!"

Undermine Authority, Brownsville, Texas

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Punk Rock Group, The Hormones, Pissed Off by Sparse Support in South Texas

by Diego Lee Rot

Diego Lee Rot, Music Reporter
for the Brownsville Observer
Jesus may have had punker Tim "Napalm" Stegall in mind when he said:  

"A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home."

Stegall, lead singer of The Hormones, recently performed in his home town of Corpus Christi at Boozer's Rock Bar to almost zero audience, then followed that up in front of almost no one at a dive in Harlingen.  One would think Tim's relatives, ex-wives, former school mates and baby mamas would have given the punkers at least a quorum.

The Hormones
Mr. Stegall complained on Facebook:

"Not a lot of our regulars showed up in either Corpus Christi or Harlingen this weekend.  But we had fun.  Gonna be a while before we see you again. Halfway back to Austin now.  Ciao."

As one of a dozen or so who braved the Kraken Lounge last month to witness Stegall and Company rock out, I didn't realize when the punker said  "see you next month" he meant Corpus or Harlingen.  

Maybe Brownsville isn't punk enough.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Borderland Beat~Mexican Criminals Choosing to Enter U.S. from Canada

Saturday, July 8, 2017

by Chivis for Borderland Beat with material from Reuters and Global News

Mexican criminals, cartels, economic migrants, now diverting from U.S. entry into Canada. New passage is due to President Donald Trump’s rigid stance on illegal U.S. entry, in conjunction with Canadian visa requirement lift with Mexico.

Before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that visitors from Mexico would no longer need visas to enter Canada, border officials predicted the decision would make it easier for criminals to enter the country, newly released documents show.

In intelligence reports, officials wrote that associates of Mexican crime groups such as the ultraviolent Sinaloa cartel were already turning up in Canada and said lifting the visa requirement would “facilitate travel to Canada by Mexicans with criminal records.”

Just 0.25 per cent of the 156,000 Mexican nationals who entered Canada between 2012 and 2015 were implicated in crime, but the reports said 29 were linked to organized criminal groups, another eight had “possible links” and “likely more” had not been identified.

“These individuals were drug smugglers, human smugglers, recruiters, money launderers and foot soldiers,” the Canada Border Services Agency’s Intelligence Section wrote in a report dated April 2016, two months before Trudeau announced the visa exemption.”
Since the government dropped the visa requirement on Dec. 1, 2016, the number of Mexican citizens the CBSA has reported for criminality and security has indeed increased, according to figures released by the agency this week.

During the 2015 federal election campaign, Trudeau promised that if he was elected Mexicans would no longer need visas to visit Canada. Within days of taking office, he told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto he would follow through.

“Lifting the visa requirement will deepen ties between Canada and Mexico and will increase the flow of travelers, ideas, and businesses between both countries,” Trudeau said in his announcement. Mexicans still need visas to work and study in Canada.

Internal documents obtained by Global News under the Access to Information Act show the prime minister made the decision despite intelligence reporting that anticipated the likely result would be an increased criminal presence among visitors.

The intelligence reports said more than 300 criminals with Mexican citizenship had been identified by the CBSA from 2012 to 2015 and reported as inadmissible — the process that bars foreign citizens from entering Canada and can lead to their deportation.

“Should the visa requirement on Mexican nationals be lifted, the number of Mexican nationals travelling to Canada is expected to rise, which will increase the number of potentially inadmissible individuals,” according to one of the reports.

Another report said a study conducted the year before the visa requirement was put in place had identified abuse of Canada’s refugee program by Mexican migrants, the use of fraudulent Mexican passports by crime groups and the presence of criminals among Mexican travelers.

“These same problems may resurface once the visa requirement is lifted,” it said.

The crime groups included the Sinaloa organization of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, as well as the La Familia Michoacana, Jalisco New Generation and Los Zetas cartels. In addition, some were working for Latin American street gangs and theft rings, according to the reports.

By 2017 first quarter, illegal entries into Canada had tripled, already topping 2016 totals.

Per the new rules, rather than a visa, under Trudeau's administration, Mexicans are now only required to have a so-called Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) which can be purchased online for CAD $7.

Flight bookings from Mexico to Canada also swelled 90 percent in January and February versus the same period in 2016, according to the travel analysis company ForwardKeys, which reviews all major travel agency bookings. It is unclear what percentage of those bookings were made by people looking to work illegally in Canada.

Marcela Gonzalez's telephone and Facebook page may be a good indicator. The immigration paralegal in Toronto used to receive four calls a month from Mexicans in Canada, before Trump's election and the new visa-free travel.

Now she says she gets "four in less than 10 minutes" from people wanting to know how to get work permits and permanent residency.

Once in Canada, undocumented migrants will discover no social services awaiting them. Not even in cases of life threatening health circumstances


Friday, July 7, 2017



Several times now the art at 11th and E. Levee has been defiled by vandals, writing words like "slut" or "whore" over paintings.  Each time repairs were made, the vandalism would reappear.  The building's owner, obviously tiring of this routine, had the art work painted over in a dowdy gray, possibly a primer.  It is still possible to discern the faint image of the artwork through the dull gray.

Some have blamed the vandalism on downtown prostitutes and/or crackheads, but to our knowledge, no one has been charged with the crime.  

A man we approached in Market Square responded curtly to our querie:  "I ain't seen nuthin'," he declared.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Possible Sighting of the Vehicle of the City's First Bicycle Tourist

Motorscooter with Tamaulipas plate moored at La Plaza at Brownsville Terminal

The scooter above reminds us of Kevin Costner's promise in The Field of Dreams:  "If you build it, they will come." Is the unknown rider of this vehicle, locked into a city bike rack, Brownsville's first bicycle tourist?

We can only hope.

This impoverished city has gone out of its way to "build it," be bicycle-friendly, not only with trails, but also bike rentals and convenient bike parking. City Commissioner Rose Gowen has raved about the millions of dollars of revenue this emphasis on cycling will generate for the city, even speaking glowingly about the type of tourists who will visit Brownsville just to ride the trails, describing them as having "an annual income of $190,000, no $200,000 and an average of at least two advanced degrees."

To promote such bicycle tourism, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation spent $7,000 to display the postcard on the left in the lobby of the Valley International Airport in Harlingen so that passengers disembarking would be reminded to bring their bicycles next time they landed at H-town.

Caricature of Ramiro Gonzalez by Nena
The city's Goodwill Ambassador, Ramiro Gonzalez, also a bike visionary, once mentioned on a grant application that over "1,000 riders" used the Battlefield Trail daily into Linear Park.  While that "vision" has not yet materialized, it can be a foregleam into the city's prosperous future, enhanced by cycling travelers.

Thursday, June 29, 2017


UB40, British Reggae Band
HIJAB-CORE, All-Girl Muslim Rock Band, Indonesia
Darius Rucker, Black Country Singer

Brownsville Artist Honoring Indigenous Art

Oops! I Left Out My Principal Argument on Cultural Appropriation~Music!

This should the final segment on the criticism of a local artist for creating art in a style similar to indigenous folk who once lived somewhat south of our border.  The charge was "cultural appropriation" or, actually misappropriation.

Some local artists and others seem to feel one needs the necessary lineage to create in an already existing style, as if those with a different ethnicity are thieves of intellectual property.

One local Facebook commenter, Johnny Chingaz, reasoned otherwise: 

"It's a sad state of affairs and what it says about our current culture is nothing good. What is cultural appropriation? Did we not do the very same thing? I never heard anyone complain when we took the German Polka and made it our very own. I still hear it in our music today and so do many of my friends from Wisconsin and Minnesota, but they're not complaining. Quite the contrary, it is seen as an excellent example of imitation being the greatest form of flattery. I think we still have much to learn and even more of our culture to share."

A sensitive area of U.S. culture is the alleged "stealing" of black music by white artists, Pat Boone's sanitized cover of Little Richard's song Tutti Frutti, for example.

Little Richard was certainly pissed off that Boone covered, not only Tutti Frutti, but Long Tall Sally, Good Golly Miss Molly and Rip It Up, toning down the songs' sensuality and lyrics.  Boone achieved commercial success as whites at the time seldom bought so-called "race records," but got little regard historically for his efforts.  One could make a case for Boone simply "using" black material without respecting or embracing it.

If Boone ripped off Little Richard, the dominant groups of the so-called British Invasion DID recognize and acknowledge their affinity and debt to Black music.  Notice this John Lennon quote from Jet Magazine:

"We didn't sing our own songs in the early days
- they weren't good enough - the one thing we always did was to make it known that these were black originals, we loved the music and wanted to spread it in any way we could. in the '50s there were few people listening to blues - R + B - rock and roll, in America as well as Britain. People like - Eric Burdons Animals - Micks Stones - and us drank ate and slept the music, and also recorded it, many kids were turned on to black music by us. It wasn't a rip off. It was a love in."

Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger
The Rolling Stones also grew up with Black music, unashamedly utilizing the same style.  But, they credited and toured with blues legends like Buddy Guy or as Jagger introduces him:  "mutherfuckin' Buddy Guy!!!!"

Jagger at 2011 Grammy Awards
Who can forget Mick Jagger's tribute to blues legend Solomon Burke at the 2011 Grammys? It was not cultural appropriation as much as cultural appreciation.

Maybe England's UB40 shouldn't sing reggae, leaving only for natives of Jamaica! Lol!

The fact is that artists, yes artists from all over the world sing and perform all types of music, not just the music of their forebears, their ethnic group. In the music world, white men like Stevie Ray Vaughn or Eric Clapton are blues men, singing and playing a music originating with slaves on the Mississippi delta. 

Anyone thinking somehow this artistry is cultural appropriation is simply insecure and, in a way, racist.  

We apply the same sensibility to art.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Art, Politics, Racism Revisited After Publishing Letter Critical of BCFA's Exhibit of Artist Mark Clark

"Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now"

"My Back Pages," Bob Dylan

Mark Clark, Artist,
Owner of Galleria 409
When this blog published a letter from two Hispanic artists to the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts, critical of the museum's decision to exhibit the work of artist Mark Clark, we received a substantial amount of feedback, particularly on Facebook.

Bill Young
Longtime local newscaster, Bill Young, who also happens to be the father of the Cameron County Republican Chair, Morgan Graham, described the viewpoint expressed by artists Celeste de Luna and Nansi Guevara as "liberal/progressive fascism," a phrase frequently used by Fox News' Sean Hannity to describe those who try to "smear President Trump."

Jack White

Jack White, Interim Director of the Good Neighbor Settlement House with a long association at UT-RGV, stated in defense of the exhibit:  "Gee...I will have to attend in support of an open society."

When Alix Torres told White that, "as a white man," he couldn't "get it," White responded:  "You are can I comprehend that culture? But to bar my expression would be inconsistent with enumerated freedoms. It's your choice to take a position...."

Juan Fidencio Trevino,
Publisher of the Brownsville Bright
Juan Fidencio Trevino, publisher of a local blog, Brownsville Bright, felt that artist Clark was taking a "step out of (his) lane" to "represent a bit of culture that an educated and talented indigenous individual should be presenting. . . "

Trevino continued his line of thought:  "The thing is, here, you have an outsider to the culture, albeit a nice guy from what I've seen, benefitting from information that those who pertain to said culture have not had the opportunity or the luxury to learn and cherish."

There were many other cogent comments from Mary S. Rey, Teresa Saldivar, Maggie Galvan, Johnny Chingaz, Saul del Angel, Israel Galindo and others.

Eduardo del Rio
Eduardo del Rio, a UT-RGV professor, originally from Havana, Cuba, countered Juan Fidencio Trevino's arguments with:  "Those two things are not mutually exclusive. Both are possible, and needed. Instead of criticizing and claiming "cultural appropriation," we should celebrate Anyone's effort to educate others on art and culture, regardless of the artist's race or ethnicity."

Josie del Castillo
One local Hispanic artist, Josie Del Castillo, made a Facebook statement in support of Clark:  "I want to give a big thank you to Mark Clark for giving me the opportunity to work on my paintings at his gallery. He helped me frame my work, invited me for dinner, and had a lot fun talking about art and artists. He is truly a great man! I am very thankful for everything he has helped me with."

While Ms. Del Castillo includes several styles of personal work on her Facebook page, we submit an example of her "reflective art," a self-portrait:

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bill Russell : NBA Lifetime Achievement Award, National Hero

Bill Russell, June 26, 2017 at NBA Awards Banquet

Muddy Waters lyrics conjure up an image of Bill Russell:

"I'm a man
I'm a full grown man
I'm a man"

"Mannish Man," Muddy Waters

It was almost redundant for the NBA to give Bill Russell its Lifetime Achievement Award.  Those of us growing up in the 50's, 60's, following the NBA, always knew Russell was "a man," the man.  The Muddy Waters song cited above was a reaction to the fact that black males were referred to as boys, no matter how old.

Russell won an NCAA, NBA and Olympic championship in his first 13 months on the basketball scene, following with 10 more NBA championships, 11 in his 13 years with the Boston Celtics, then two more as the first African-American coach in professional sports.

Russell carried himself in a dignified, erudite manner, explained basketball and life with 50 cent words without talking down to his audience. He handled himself as a man.

In Russell's era, Boston was a very racist city.  He came home on occasion to find racial epithets written on the walls of his home and human excrement in his bed, but NEVER gave the perpetrators any notoriety.  He kept silent, cleaned up his home, hugged his kids, locked his doors.

Years later, in his book, "Second Wind," he described Boston as a "flea market of racism."

Russell became a mentor, father to all NBA players coming into the league.  Even the loquacious Charles Barkley shut his mouth in Russell's presence. 

In the 60's the three greatest athletes in their respective sports, Jim Brown in football, Muhammad Ali in boxing and Bill Russell in basketball, took center stage in the civil rights movement.  All three were bigger than their sports achievements.

Yesterday, at the NBA Awards Banquet, surrounded and introduced by NBA greats Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and David Robinson, the 83 year old Russell looked each former player in the eye and said:  "I would kick your ass!"

Then, he was handed his cane and he accepted the award with a short speech.  No one today calls Russell a "boy."  They know he's a man.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Celeste de Luna Art~"Tu Cuerpo Es Una Frontera"

by Celeste de Luna from her Facebook page


LNG Plants Explodes in Algeria in 2006, Killing 26
Proposed plans for three LNG plants, extending from the Port of Brownsville to near the city limits of Port Isabel is a very bad, short-sighted idea, not just because of the danger of explosion as happened in Algeria in 2006, killing 26, but because it would leave towering metal carcasses with a chemical cleanup Cameron County can't afford, once the short term profiteers have left town.

And, they will leave town, after pocketing millions in profits and likely avoiding millions in taxes from abatements, pocketing millions more in incentives off the backs of hard-working taxpayers.  

LNG, the concept of condensing liquefied natural gas to 1/600th of its normal volume, is, not only a highly polluting enterprise, it is short term. Currently, markets are shrinking and will continue to shrink as the global economy moves away from fossil fuel.

An anonymous comment below, left in the comment section of two local blogs, implies some discord among those in opposition to LNG in our region, the RGV.  That's unsubstantiated, but would not surprise. Advocacy groups are made up of strong-willed people with strong opinions:

"As a former member of this group, You should know that There is currently a lot of in fighting going on among the save the rgv from LNG people. Power struggle for and a lack of leadership from The current people in charge. I stopped supporting them because they can't get anything done. Fundraising has been disastrous. We would get together and just talked in circles and accomplish nothing. The lack of support from the community at large is disheartening. I am still anti LNG but really have nothing good to say about them. A couple of us younger more active people are thinking of starting our own anti LNG group. Stay tuned."

While this commenter reports some dissension within the local anti-LNG community, we have to consider it could simply be disinformation from the deep-pocketed proponents of LNG intended to divide and weaken the protesters.

Vlad Putin: "America Could At Least Thank Me!"

Vlad Putin

Saturday, June 24, 2017


From the editor:  We submit this article from the Neta website to foster discussion of the issues raised.  

Celeste de Luna
Two local Hispanic artists,
Nanci Guevara
Celeste de Luna and Nansi Guevara, disapprove of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts displaying an exhibition by Mark Clark on the basis that Mr. Clark is a "white male artist whose main body of work is composed of colorful reproductions of Aztec codices."

Mark Clark

They describe Clark as  "a tourist in our struggle and in our long attacked art tradition" and assert that "presenting this artwork as his own sends a dangerous message to our community that this imagery and tradition comes from the dominant culture."

While we disagree with the two protesting artists and consider Mark a friend, we submit their viewpoint for your consideration:

Dear Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts,

While we acknowledge the work that artist Mark Clark does within the community to create space to promote the arts in the Rio Grande Valley region, we will not be attending his current exhibit Mexica: Paintings by Mark Clark.

We value artistic and the freedom of expression, but are not in favor of cultural appropriation.

(For all the folks that are not familiar with the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, it is predominantly made up of Latinx/Mexican immigrants and mixed status families. Mark Clark is a white male artist whose main body of work is composed of colorful reproductions of the Aztec codices.)

Art by Mark Clark | Photo from Galeria 409 Facebook page

We get that his time on the border might have inspired him (as well as other outsiders) to take on that subject matter and imagery. But Mr. Clark is a tourist in our struggle and in our long attacked art tradition. The imagery that he has chosen to appropriate, is part of a long indigenous tradition, the Aztec codices have a deep and sacred significance to its descendants that no cultural outsider can understand. These codices depict Aztec cultural and spiritual life, prophecies and visions, journeys and astrological knowledge. Colonization has kept trying to erase these images and stories for the past 500 years. And, this rich indigenous history is not taught in our local public schools or cultural institutions and is intentionally kept from us.

As our cultural history continues to be ripped out of our curriculums, Clark presenting this artwork as his own sends a dangerous message to our community that this imagery and tradition comes from the dominant culture. We live in a racist society and country, where colonizing forces have been historically prized and recognized for ripping and taking ownership of the knowledge and excellence of indigenous and people of color. Indeed, local college art departments discourage students from working in a style that is considered “too cultural.” Centering a white artist appropriating Aztec imagery while discouraging local brown students from using culture as content is surely a symptom of racist systems.

Art by Mark Clark depicting a woman in a bikini as border patrol agents on the Rio Grande watch attentively and migrants cross the border behind them.

It is okay to appreciate native and indigenous art as a non-native person. It becomes deeply problematic and dangerous when someone who is not native starts painting native imagery and claims it as his or her own.

We will not gaze over appropriated renditions of our ancestors’ art and community. This is harmful to the community, this art is harmful to the community. It perpetuates the racist idea that white people dominate in excellence, instead of our own communities where that work comes from.

We envision a city, especially in this critical time, that will evolve into a place that celebrates the ingenuity of this place and work to support and cultivate young local artists.

Finally, Brownsville Museum of Fine Arts, cultural and arts institutions should hold themselves up to high critical standards. That includes the question of cultural appropriation. Traditionally our border community has been taught that we can only better ourselves through unquestioningly accepting the views of the dominant culture. This includes stories about ourselves and cultural heritage.

Mark Clark has every right as an artist to depict whatever images he chooses regardless of whether or not it is blatant cultural appropriation, but the community doesn’t have to passively and uncritically accept them. Cultural appropriation in the borderlands during Trump Nation cannot pass without comment.

“As I pull out to take notes on the clay, stone, jade, bone, feather, straw, and cloth artifacts, I am disconcerted with the knowledge that I, too, am passively consuming and appropriating an indigenous culture. I walked in with a group1 of Chicano kids from Servicio Chicano Center, and now we are being taught secondhand our cultural roots twice removed by whites. The essence of colonization: rip off a culture, then regurgitate it’s white version to the ‘natives.'”


Celeste De Luna & Nansi Guevara