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Sunday, February 29, 2004
Brownsville(77)/pass/Harlingen(20minutes)/pass/Raymondville(1 hr)/pass/checkpoint(1.5hrs)/pass/What reststop?(Sarita)/pass/Kingsville(2 hrs)/pass/Robston(Corpus)(2.5hrs)/pass/I-37/pass/Mathis(359)(2.75hrs)/pass/Skidmore(181)/pass/Petus(3 hrs into drive and rest stop)/pass/Karnes City(123)(3.5hrs)/pass/Sequin(4.25 hrs)/pass/San Marcos(1-35)(4.5 hrs)/pass/AUSTIN!!!/Destination made 5 hrs later!
And somehow I have managed to bring this trip to 5 hours after learning where the speed traps are (Driscoll, Corpus, Beeville), where I can speed past 75mh (the area between Raymondville and Kingsville and the hill country), how to keep good speed (70-85pmh) and to keep a good CD collection at hand!
I went home early this year to attend my aunt's funeral and tried to spend as much time with my family as usual. I caught some of the Charro festivites and attended the International Parade and went to the carnival..followed by my usual throw-up session. I think it will become habit now or something...I am slowly making my decent to being that person that goes to the carnival to walk and do some cheap gambling and watch and wait for other people to go on rides.
Okay. enough about me! So what is the news of Brownsville art...
Amigos Artistas is hosting an art exhibition of Mexican artists at the Historc Brownsville Museum located on Madison and 7th behind the Brownsville Police Station. Sadlly I did not get to catch it but I will definitely catch it during Spring Break. I hear it's a good show so stop buy.
I saw more hip hop grafitti driving along Jefferson and I think somewhere between 3rd and 5th st. The throw-ups had a daring use of bright color and I was impressed with it's clean edges and fills, especially this nice one that said PARRA (i am guessing the name of the barrio gang) but again, the tags were gang glorification and a bit stenciled (Old English font), which make it look more like a sign and less like "writing". I mean, in the end grafitti is grafitti, but I always like the mystery and scent (figuratively speaking) left from anomymous alias writers who use individual style and creative freedom in their writing. The PARRA throw-up is almost so graphic that I want to compare it it to how big corportaions build architectural marvels to glorify their own success or power. Which I guess it a perfect analogy since gang graffiti is a show of power or control of a certain territory as is architecture for big corporations (Ex. the Manhattan Skyline). ofcourse, its so easy to go into a Phallic analogy with this, but I won't...this topic warrants so much more research on my part to go into a cheap sexual analysis.
Oscar Casares was at UT-Austin this past Monday and read from his book Brownsville Stories at the Texas Union. I didn't get to see him since I didn't know about him being in town, but Frank did get to see him and I heard it was a pretty good session. Rumor has it he's up for a position at UT-Austin. That's great for him but it's also rather sad, because it seems to add proof to the Brownsville brain drain theory. Can Brownsville retain the talent it filters out to the world? Wouldn't the talents of the bright individuals from Brownsville be better served in their own community, or as ambassdors to outside communities? These are major questions that are going to be coming up more often in the future as higher education becomes a greater role in Brownsville society and culture. As it is UTB has alreasy passed an 11,000 enrollment and more and more high school students are attending colleges outside of Brownsville. But how much of this education is going back to Brownsville?
Friday, February 06, 2004
So anyways...I recommened that you read this interview with Micky, member of Mexican band Molotov. I like the socio-political themes in their music but yeah, sometimes it's difficult to take them seriously when they sing about making a "chandwich a la chichona" and so forth...but then I think their sarcastic and crude content of their music has also been a big part of their success. Just works better with the young audience. Anyways, the interview is about censorship and how they faced many obstacles through Mexican media and government.
Censorhsip is a big concern in art as it is for music and it gets difficult to work as an artist when the lines between art and institutional control cross more often. I plan to make some pieces soon that are direct comments about gerrymandering, especially in concern to the recent redistricting of the congressional districts in Texas. I know it's going to piss some people off, especially Republicans, but I just want to represent the obvious..so no this is not some sort of political-democratic response as more as a social commentary. I won't decsribe the piece yet just for my own private and professional reasons. It will go into the Artsreach exhibition at Sunrise Mall in May. Oh yeah, the tentative date for this exhibition is in May 15th. So keep an open ear and eye.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
What does “history” mean to you? How does it relate to your identity? How do you feel warfare affects culture? What’s the political purpose of the Corrido?
History is the study of past events through analysis of documents, relics, eyewitness accounts, oral traditions, anything and everything. In relation to Acuna’s Chicano History of the Southwest, it is an important and vital political document. A group of people ignorant of their own history is politically crippled. Acuna states that the Southwest and the native Mexicans and Indians who inhabit it have been treated as a conquered, inferior race by Anglo-Americans since the Mexican-American War. He gives each state a chapter, and in each chapter he reveals a pattern of violence and injustices perpetrated against Chicano’s in the name of Anglo progress. The pattern goes like this. Anglos move to Southwestern states. Anglos steal Mexican’s lands by applying their own corrupt real estate system. Mexicans rebel, sometimes violently, sometimes peacefully. Then Anglos subjugate the Mexicans either through violence (the Texas Rangers, lynch mobs), or through corrupt judicial systems and biased laws. Then Mexicans fight back with “banditry” and the cycle continues.
As a Fifth (or Sixth?) generation Spanish colonial born in Brownsville, this article is of great interest to me. It’s difficult to accept the legacy of being a ‘Whitexican’, since in the history Spanish-Mexicans often play both sides against the middle, for example, in New Mexico. Growing up around the de facto Spanish caste system has often been a source of embarrassment. For example, I don't like admitting to growing up wth housekeepers. I’m also rather anglicized. Many of my closest friends are white. In the past this was a source of shame, as well as pride. I often did not feel Mexican enough around family, whatever that means now. I’ve tried to get my family to discuss our genealogy with me. My findings have been interesting but limited. So I’ve taken to investigating Latin American history, and lately, Brownsville history; to figure out my place in the world, where my allegiances lie, and whether that matters anymore. I can be both Mexican-American and Anglo. I guess that’s what Chicano means in a way, though there must be something post-Chicano.
In my brief visits to the Historical Research Center in Brownsville, I learned that in order to understand Brownsville I had to understand the Mexican-American War. Thanks to Acuna’s article I now understand the War to have been an embarrassing loss to Mexico, an easy and ugly victory for the United States, and most interestingly of all, a war that is often glossed over quickly in high school history class. Too quickly, especially, considering how broad the ramifications were. I understand now that Brownsville started off as a peaceful, self-reliant pastoral settlement (From the Paredes quotes in the article), which became an outpost for the U.S. Military (Fort Brown), and then a bustling frontier commercial town when Charles Stillman became its resident (benevolent?) dictator. It’s not that surprising now that there are so many ghost stories in the valley, and Texas as well, considering how much of the West was born out of violence.
I remember in class we spoke of how authors from conquered lands tend to emphasize their virility. I wonder if this also accounts for all the horror nerds and metal fans that I know in the valley. I was strongly influenced a few years back by a book called, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror, by David J. Skal. One of his central ideas is that horror, as a genre, emerged greatly as a reaction to warfare as well as technological anxiety in the twentieth century. I guess the Corrido, and the cultivating of legendary heroes, thereabout, is part of the Mexican’s reaction to violent Anglo subjugation in the nineteenth century. (The only horror movie I can think of that comments on the Mexican-American War, and Manifest Destiny in general, is Ravenous. In the movie cannibalistic soldiers eat the flesh of other people in order to absorb their virility, much like the white man stole the lands of other peoples and therefore stole their livelihood.)
I am aware that the juxtaposition of Corridos and horror movies is almost offensive to some. But they're both different responses to violent or sudden change. Corridos are about pride. They’re about uplifting the souls of the downtrodden through a romantic look at history. I heard the “Corrido of Gregorio Cortez” online and, for some reason, it was heartbreaking to listen to. Maybe because something so beautiful and earnest about a man who fought the system in the 19th century was being played in a technocratic context. It entered a brain (mine) that’s grown fatalistic about “corporate feudalism” and imperial technocracy, when I entertain such notions about ‘the big picture’. It expressed simple humanity in a world full of funhouse mirrors. Maybe I just missed Brownsville.
On the other hand horror is about waking people up. Its visceral, cathartic and in a world becomig noiser and noiser with media distractions a good science fiction or horror movie with underlying social commentary can be a welcome release from the burdens of the post-modern world. Or at the very least it can be entertainment with a brain.
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