Tuesday, May 31, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Did myou hear about the tiff that was created when newly-elected Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño was invited by Stae Rep. Eddi Lucio III to the fundraiser hosted in Harlingen by Gov. Greg Abbott?
We understand that Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilbert Hinojosa – after finally getting a Democrat elected to county judge – was miffed that Lucio III would be the go-between to the meeting between both men given the political nature of the Republican event.
Sandy and Nolan Perez hosted the "reception" to honor Abbott May 26 at their 4205 Water's Edge home in Harlingen Texas, near the Greyhound Park. The Governor's Council – 223 of them – included only two recognizable Hispanics.
Then again, that made sense. To serve as and Abbott "host" you had to raise $5,000 or more per couple.
To be a "patron" that number decreased to only $2,500 per couple. To be a "sponsor," it took only $1,000. And, if you wanted to crash the party and rub elbows with your betters, it was only $500 per "supporter" and $250 per "guest."
At 5:30, Abbott was on hand to chit-chat with the top donors.
There probably wasn't be a stampede to the Perez's crib from folks Brownsville, or for that matter, most of Cameron County as there was when Democrats crossed the party line and voted to make Abbott their governor.
But let's face it, the average resident of this county probably couldn't afford to play the pooches across Ed Carey Drive from the Perezes. If they're lucky, they may hit on a trifecta and make a little less than the cost of a "guest" ticket so they can continue gambling at the track.
In fact, Treviño was probably lucky thaqt Lucio III – a supposed yellow-dog Democrat – has the connects to Abbott through this DINO dad Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. to wrangle the invitation for the Browntown Eddie.
Which brings up another matter: Now that Treviño has won the right to be on the Democratic Party ballot in November, does this mean that the commissioners could appoint him to be seated at their next regular meeting after the vote in the nrunoff is canvassed?  After all, current judge Pete Sepulveda was appointed to replace Carlos Cascos until the results of the next general election.
We notice that the special meeting of the commissioners for June 3 does not include an item on the appointment of the county judge. But since the winner in the runoff was running to fulfill the unexprired term of Carlos Cascos, doen't it make sense that he take over since there is no Republican contender for judge in November?


Even if his polling numbers don’t budge, Sanders still has an important role to play in the Presidential race.

(Ed.'s Note: Too bad Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump cancelled their debate. With their accents they could have opened the event with a duet of "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof. Somehow, it just seems to fit.)

Special to El Rrun-Rrun

SANDERS: If I were a rich man...

TRUMP: I am a rich man, believe me , I am. a. rich. man.

SANDERS: Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dub I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen Right in the middle of town

TRUMP: Already did that. It's called TRUMP TOWER. You may have seen it. Can't miss it. Gold. Gaudy. Gorgeous.

SANDERS: I'd fill my yard with chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks

TRUMP: They're called casino customers, and let's keep them inside

SANDERS: With each loud "cheep squawk honk quack" Would land like a trumpet on the ear...

TRUMP: Ah, Trump- et that a beautiful sound?

SANDERS:  If I were a biddy biddy rich, Idle-diddle-daidle-daidle man, I'd see my wife, my Golde, looking like a rich man's wife

TRUMP: You are so right, you are so right. Yes it's my golde, except her name is Melania, and yes she looks like a rich man's wife because she looks like a supermodel, because, well, she is a supermodel, a super , super hot supermodel. Almost as hot as my daughter.

SANDERS: The most important men in town would come to fawn on me They would ask me to advise them And it won't make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong When you're rich, they think you already know!

TRUMP: Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, I mean Tevye, Tevye, Tevye, that's my campaign plan, you'll have to get your own.

TOGETHER: Lord made the lion and the lamb, You decreed I should be what I am. Would it spoil some vast eternal plan, If I were a wealthy man?


(Ed.'s Note: At first we didn't quite believe it, but after some residents on Barnard Street sent us these photos, we are more inclined to do so. With the construction of the new Barnard Street Duck Pond observation deck, local residents are saying that the ducks are leaving the deck are en masse and migrating to the surrounding neighborhood. According to Jim Barton, of the Brownsville Observer blog, some residents have reported that a few of them have been mauled by dogs or hit by cars.
 Others have told us that the ducks are making nuisances of themselves by leaving their droppings on the lawns and killing the grass. And others say that visitor to the site spread bread crumbs on the road and the ducks present an obstacle to passing motorists. The project was late as usual (it was supposed to be completed in November 2015) and was supposed to provide the ducks with a safe place from where humans could watch them. But the project also involved the removal of vegetation and weeds favored by the ducks. Passing by this weekend, we saw at least three or four kids fishing off the deck and not one duck in the water or on the resaca banks. Perhaps Barton is right when he said the ducks (if there are any left) will return when the structure falls into disrepair and the banks are overgrown with the shrubs and weed they seem to prefer.)

Monday, May 30, 2016


By Juan Montoya
I met Roy Benavidez during a campaign rally for fellow U.S. veteran Bob Kerry who was making a run for the presidency way back when in 1992.
The rally for Kerry was held at the old Ft. Brown Resaca Club (the Aztec Room, I believe). I was standing next to Roy as Kerry made the rounds working the small crowd. I mentioned to him that it seemed funny how many Hispanics were awarded so many medals for bravery in combat.
"I wonder why that is?" I asked the diminutive warrior.
"Nosotros somos como el mesquite, Juan," he said. "Nos cortan y nos queman pero nunca nos rajamos (We're like mesquite wood. They cut and and burn us but we never crack(?).
At the time I thought that was a nice note of bravado. But after I looked into the deeds of that quiet, self-effacing man, I was astounded at what he had endured during the time when he earned the medal.
Here's his story. Some portions of the following first appeared in "Above and Beyond: The Medal of Honor in Texas," Capitol Visitors Center, State Preservation Board of Texas. Benavidez, Roy P. and Oscar Griffin, The Three Wars of Roy Benavidez, Corona Publishing Company, San Antonio, 1986.)
Roy Perez Benavidez was born in Cuero, Texas, on August 5, 1935. He was the son of a sharecropper and endured much racism in his life because of his mixed Yaqui Indian and Mexican heritage.
Benavidez was orphaned as a child and raised by an uncle. He dropped out of school in the seventh grade. For a period of time in his teens, Benavidez worked as a migrant farm worker and traveled as far as Colorado to harvest sugar beets. Benavidez joined the Army in Houston, Texas, in 1955.
Benavidez was first stationed at Fort Ord, California. He was then transferred to Germany, where he received parachute training.
By the time Benavidez was ordered to Vietnam, he had risen to the rank of Staff Sergeant with the Fifth Special Forces Group, Airborne, Detachment B-56, First Special Forces.
On the morning of May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces team was inserted in Cambodia to observe large scale North Vietnamese troop movements and was discovered by the enemy. Most of the team members were close friends of Benavidez, who was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh, Vietnam.
Three helicopters were sent to rescue the team, but were unable to land due to heavy enemy fire. When a second attempt was made to reach the stranded team, Benavidez jumped aboard one of the helicopters, armed only with a Bowie knife.
As the helicopters reached the landing zone, Benavidez realized that the team members were likely too severely wounded to move to the helicopters.
Benavidez ran through heavy small arms fire to the wounded soldiers, and was wounded himself in the right leg, face, and head in the process. He reorganized the team and signaled the helicopters to prepare for extraction.
Despite his injuries, Benavidez carried or dragged half of the wounded men to the helicopters. He then collected the classified documents held by the now dead team leader. As he completed this task he was wounded by an exploding grenade in the back and shot in the stomach.
At that moment, the waiting helicopter's pilot was mortally wounded and the helicopter crashed. Benavidez rushed to collect the stunned crash survivors to form a defensive perimeter. He directed air support, ordered another extraction attempt, and was wounded again when shot in the thigh. At this point, Benavidez was losing so much blood from his face wounds that his vision became blocked. He then injected morphine into himself and into some of the wounded to endure the excruciating pain of their wounds.
Another helicopter landed, and as Benavidez carried a wounded friend to it he was clubbed in the head with a rifle butt by an enemy soldier. The enemy soldier attempted to bayonet Benavidez while he was on the ground, but Benavidez grabbed the bayonet and pulled it toward him.
This took the enemy soldier by surprise and enabled Benavidez to kill him, but the enemy soldier also slashed Benavidez's right hand and embedded the bayonet in his left arm. Benavidez was loaded onto the helicopter and taken back to base.
There, the triage doctor declared him dead, but Benavidez spit at the doctor's face as he zipped the body bag, and was taken into the hospital.
He spent almost a year in hospitals recovering from his injuries. Benavidez's commanding officers felt that he deserved the Congressional Medal of Honor, but recommended him for a Distinguished Service Cross because they thought Benavidez would die before the lengthy application process for the Medal of Honor would award him his medal.
He was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross for saving the lives of eight soldiers at extreme risk to his own safety by General William C. Westmoreland at the Fort Sam Houston Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.
Years later, one of Benavidez's former commanders found out that he had survived his injuries and began the process to award him the Congressional Medal of Honor. However, the eyewitnesses and paperwork necessary to upgrade the Distinguished Service Cross to a Medal of Honor were difficult to locate in the massive bureaucracy of the Army.
Benavidez was finally awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan on February 24, 1981, in the courtyard of the Pentagon. Benavidez had reached the rank of Master Sergeant by the time of his retirement from the Army.
He died on November 29, 1998, and was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, His funeral was attended by roughly 1,500 people. An elementary school in Houston and a boot camp for problem youths in Uvalde are both named in his honor.
In 1999, the Army built the Maser Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez Special Operations Logistics Complex at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In 2003, the USNS Benavidez, a supply ship, was christened as part of the Navy's Military Sealift Command.
In 2001, the Hasbro toy company released the Roy P. Benavidez G.I. Joe action figure, the first G.I. Joe to portray someone of Hispanic heritage.


CNN - Zookeepers shot and killed a rare gorilla after a four-year-old boy slipped into its enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo, triggering an outcry over how the situation was handled.
Footage shot by a witness shows Harambe, the 17-year-old male gorilla, standing near the boy, who went under a rail, through wires and over a moat wall to get into the enclosure, according to the zoo. The footage later shows Harambe dragging the child through the water as the clamor of the crowd grows louder and increasingly panicked.
Zookeepers then shot the 450-pound western lowland gorilla with a rifle, rather than tranquilizing him.
"Tranquilizers do not take effect for several minutes, and the child was in imminent danger. On top of that, the impact from the dart could agitate the animal and cause the situation to get much worse," Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, said in a statement released Sunday.
"We are heartbroken about losing Harambe, but a child's life was in danger and a quick decision had to be made."
A vigil for Harambe was planned for Monday.
The boy, who has not been identified, was taken to Children's Hospital and released later Saturday evening. The family is not granting interviews at this time, but released the following statement through a public relations firm:
"We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. He is home and doing just fine. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that this was a very difficult decision for them, and that they are grieving the loss of their gorilla. We hope that you will respect our privacy at this time."
However, the boy's brief encounter with the gorilla set off an uproar on the Internet. The zookeeper's decision to shoot Harambe has been called into question over whether death was the only option.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


(Brownsville's own  Jose M. Lopez's likeness is depicted in the statue at Veterans Memorial Park on Central Boulevard.  We have only met two Medal of Honor winners, Lopez and Roy P. Benavidez, of Cuero, Texas. Both were quiet unassuming men who spoke very little of their exploits and hated war. Below is the story of a real life hero. )

By Juan Montoya
The featured guest of honor at the Brownsville War Bond Drive and party at the Missouri Pacific Park in 1945.was none other than La 421's Sgt. Jose M. Lopez, the Congressional Medal of Honor winner who in one day killed more German soldiers than Texan Audie Murphy killed during the entire war to win his.
Some commenters on this blog have told us they are tired of hearing about Mexican-American war heroes (like Luz Saenz, who wrote his WWI wartime diary).
Sorry, but we're not. In this day and age when some presidential candidates consider Hispanics the new foreigners, recounting their courageous deeds reminds us that their sacrifices have given us, their descendants, every right to demand that we be treated as first-class citizens like everyone else.
The bronze sculpture of Lopez that now adorns the Veterans Memorial Park on Central Boulvard was once shunted to the rear of the Veterans Memorial Bridge office at Los Tomates (known as Ignacio Zaragoza in Matamoros).
Only through the timely intervention of the local VFW post and the county commission was the work moved where it would be more accessible (and visible) to the public.
When he saw it, Lopez said everything was accurate except for the depiction of the weapon the soldier was carrying. The war bond ad shows him behind the actual weapon he used to counter the German attack and allow his unit to withdraw and save themselves from destruction.
An anecdote to the awarding of the medal in the field was that when Third Corp Commander Maj. General James Van Fleet awarded him the recognition, they had to camouflage a parapet for Lopez to stand so that Van Fleet wouldn't have to stoop to pin it on his chest.
Chiquito pero picoso!
His life story and reason for the medal is taken from Wikipedia and states that: "Lopez was raised by his mother Candida Lopez in Santiago Ihuitlán, Oaxaca, Mexico. As a young boy he helped his mother sell clothes that she made as a seamstress in the city. However, his time with his mother was cut short due to tuberculosis which took her life and left Lopez an orphan when he was only eight years old.
Lopez then relocated to Brownsville, Texas to live with his uncle's family.
While living in with his uncle's family Lopez began working various jobs to bring in income and never returned to school. As a young man, Lopez caught the attention of a boxing promoter and for seven years he traveled the country fighting a total of 55 fights in the lightweight division with the nickname of 'Kid Mendoza'.
In 1934, during a boxing match in Melbourne, Australia, he met a group of Merchant Marines and signed a contract with them. He was accepted in the union in 1936 and spent the next five years traveling the world.
He was en route to California from Hawaii on December 7, 1941, when he learned about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he arrived in Los Angeles, the authorities believed he was Japanese and he was forced to prove otherwise.
Lopez returned to Brownsville and, in 1942, married Emilia Herrera. That same year, he received his draft card and relocated to San Antonio where he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Lopez was first sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and then to Camp Roberts, California, where he received his basic training. He was assigned to the U.S. Army, 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division, and was involved in heavy fighting in the forest near Krinkelt, Belgium, on Dec. 17, 1944.
The Medal of Honor Citation reads: "On his own initiative, he carried his heavy machine gun from Company K's right flank to its left, in order to protect that flank which was in danger of being overrun by advancing enemy infantry supported by tanks.
Occupying a shallow hole offering no protection above his waist, he cut down a group of 10 Germans. Ignoring enemy fire from an advancing tank, he held his position and cut down 25 more enemy infantry attempting to turn his flank. Glancing to his right, he saw a large number of infantry swarming in from the front.
Although dazed and shaken from enemy artillery fire which had crashed into the ground only a few yards away, he realized that his position soon would be outflanked.
Again, alone, he carried his machine gun to a position to the right rear of the sector; enemy tanks and infantry were forcing a withdrawal. Blown over backward by the concussion of enemy fire, he immediately reset his gun and continued his fire.
Single-handed he held off the German horde until he was satisfied his company had effected its retirement. Again he loaded his gun on his back and in a hail of small arms fire he ran to a point where a few of his comrades were attempting to set up another defense against the onrushing enemy.
He fired from this position until his ammunition was exhausted.
Still carrying his gun, he fell back with his small group to Krinkelt. Sgt. Lopez's gallantry and intrepidity, on seemingly suicidal missions in which he killed at least 100 of the enemy, were almost solely responsible for allowing Company K to avoid being enveloped, to withdraw successfully and to give other forces coming up in support time to build a line which repelled the enemy drive."
Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, Lopez was accidentally ordered to serve for his country and without hesitation was prepared to do so, until President Harry S. Truman heard of and corrected the matter so that Lopez could remain in the United States.
The city of Mission, Texas, who also claims to be Lopez' hometown, recognized Lopez by naming a street and a city park – Jose M. Lopez Park – in his honor, as did the  North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas, which named a middle school in his honor, Jose M. Lopez Middle School.
We salute his memory.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


By Juan Montoya
A few years ago I used to live near the U.S. post office on Los Ebanos. One Sunday, I wanted to mail some letters and decided to walk from my house. Along the way, I noticed many books piled near a trash can, apparently waiting for the garbage truck the next Monday.
I glanced at some of the titles and was struck by the wealth of literature that was being thrown away.
There was a copy (1933) of the complete works of Shakespeare, Candide, by Voltaire, several tomes by Jack Barnes, a U.S. Communist and Socialist leader, and one by Jose Angel Gutierrez, of Raza Unida fame, among others.
Then I glanced at the name of the owner in one of the books. The books used to belong to an old friend of mine named Ricardo Molina. Molina, to those of us who knew him, was an ardent Hispanic rights advocate who was also instrumental in civil right struggle in the Rio Grande Valley.
He was, at the time I knew him, the acting engineer for the City of Brownsville. He was hefty for a Mexican, and at first blush appeared to be gruff. However, after a few minutes with him, his gentleness was discernible and his genuine concerns for the rights of Hispanics surfaced.
Ricardo had died a few years before I came upon his collection in that alley behind his home. I know that he would have been hurt by the treatment that his unthinking descendants had given his lifetime collection of great books.
I returned in my car after I mailed my letters and scooped up as many books from the trash as I could. I think they filled two boxes with a few spilling over into the back seat of my car.
One of the books caught my eye. It had a beige fabric cover and something had gnawed away a part of the right bottom cover. Its author was one J. de la Luz Saenz.
I knew nothing about Saenz then, but the title (in Spanish) was "Los méxico-americanos en la Gran Guerra y su contingente en pro de la democracia, la humanidad, y la justicia."
It turned out to be the diary of a Mexican-American soldier in World War I, a subject I had never heard about. It was published by Artes Graficas in San Antonio in 1933. Even more intriguing was the listing of the contributors from throughout South Texas to its printing. There were people from as far away as Laredo, El Paso, San Antonio, Edinburg, Port Isabel, and even one from Brownsville.
As I leafed through the book, I knew that I was holding a unique narrative of a Mexican-American soldier and writer. Only later would I find out that Saenz was a school teacher who had enlisted in the U.S. Army after he tired of hearing the Mexican population called "slackers" by whites. Saenz took part in trench warfare and graphically describes its horrors.
I knew that even though the book might have been worth some money, it was even more valuable as a resource for students who might want to learn more about Hispanics of the era. I ambled over to the John Hunter Room at the Arnulfo Oliveira Library at TSC and struck a bargain with Javier Garcia, a library assistant and writer who worked there.
In return for a photostatic copy of the book, I would donate it for their historical collection. Garcia agreed and the school kept the book. I understand that some students have already used it to write papers for their classes.
I then learned that the collected papers of José de la Luz Sáenz (1888-1953)are stored in the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas-Austin.
Here' the biographical sketch provided by the collection's archivist:
"José de la Luz Sáenz was born May 17, 1888, in Realitos, Duval County, Texas. He was one of eight children of Rosalío Sáenz and Cristina Hernández. Growing up in South Texas, José de la Luz heard stories of his indigenous ancestry from his father, from whom he inherited a strong feeling of pride in his heritage. In 1900 the Sáenz family moved to Alice, Texas, where José de la Luz graduated high school in 1908.
After attending business college in San Antonio, Sáenz obtained his teacher's certificate and began his lifelong vocation as an educator in South Texas. He married María Petra Esparza in 1917, and together they were the parents of nine children: Adán, María de la Luz, Enrique, Evangelina, Eduardo, Eva Olivia, Cristina, Beatriz, and José de la Luz, Jr.
Following the entrance of the United States into World War I, Sáenz volunteered in 1918 for service in the armed forces. He served in the 360th Regiment Infantry of the 90th Division from Texas, stationed in France and occupied Germany. During his years in Europe, Sáenz kept a diary which was published in 1933 as Los méxico-americanos en la Gran Guerra y su contingente en pro de la democracia, la humanidad, y la justicia (San Antonio: Artes Gráficas). In his diary, Sáenz linked the American World War I "rhetoric of democracy" with the Mexican American struggle for civil rights.
Upon his return from the war, Sáenz translated his experiences and sacrifices—and those of the many other American soldiers of Mexican descent—fighting for democracy into a movement for Mexican American civil rights in Texas. Sáenz had an early involvement in the establishment of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens. He was a member of the LULAC Board of Trustees between 1930 and 1932, and was president of the McAllen chapter in the 1930s. Through his numerous writings and his leadership in local activist organizations, Sáenz continued to battle discrimination.
During the Depression, Sáenz found work through the Federal Works Agency and continued his career as a teacher and school administrator in the South Texas towns of Moore, New Braunfels, Benavides, Premont, La Joya, Oilton, and Edinburg. United States involvement in World War II—and the participation of his own children in the war effort—brought renewed vigor to his belief that these contributions to the defense and promotion of American democracy made Mexican Americans deserving of equal legal and social treatment, and his writings and actions fighting discrimination demonstrate his continued leadership.
Professor José de la Luz Sáenz died on April 12, 1953. He is buried in the National Cemetery at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
(P.S. After I told some of my friends this story, I learned that there is a translation of his war diary in the works as well as a story of his life by noted Chicano professor Emilio Zamora.)
If Ricardo could hear me, I would thank him for turning me on to this piece of knowledge, even if it was from the great beyond.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


US troops in Brownsville

By Rebecca Onion
A hundred years ago, in the Texas counties along the U.S.–Mexico border, a decade-long flurry of extralegal killings perpetrated by Texas Rangers, local law enforcement, and civilian vigilantes took the lives of thousands of residents of the United States who were of Mexican descent, and pushed many more across the border into Mexico. 
This record of death and intimidation, which irrevocably shaped life in those border counties, has not been commonly taught in the state’s mainstream school curricula or otherwise recognized in official state histories. Mexican-American communities, however, have preserved the memory of the violence in family archives, songs, and stories.
 “To many Mexicans, contemporary violence between Anglos and Mexicans can never be divorced from the bloody history of the Borderlands,” write William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb in their history of lynchings of Mexican-Americans. “They remember, even if the rest of the country does not.”
Belatedly, tentatively, Texas has begun to reckon with this bloody history. As election-year rhetoric around the border and Mexican immigration has reached new levels of xenophonia and racism, the state – goaded by a group of historians calling themselves Refusing to Forget – has taken steps toward commemoration of the period called "La Matanza" (“The Killing”), with an art exhibit at the Bullock Texas State History Museum and three historical markers soon to be unveiled. 
For a state that has long refused to come to terms with those years – sealing transcripts of a Congressional investigation into the killings and waxing nostalgic about the Texas Rangers despite their involvement– it’s something like progress, even if the legacy of this violence will require far more than exhibits to expiate.
The deaths that occurred between 1910 and 1920 are part of a longer history of lynching of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the United States– itself little-discussed in comparison with the parallel history of violence against black Americans. 
Carrigan and Webb identify waves of violence against Americans of Mexican descent in the 1850s (when Mexicans were forcibly expelled from many mining camps in California), the 1870s (when Mexicans and Americans both took to raiding farms and ranches across their respective borders), and the 1910s. While a mob’s stated reason for lynching black victims tended to be an accusation of sexual violence, for Mexicans in the United States, the reason given was often retaliation for murder or a crime against property: robbery, or what was sometimes called “banditry.”
Property – in the form of land – was the underlying cause of the Texas border violence that took place in the second decade of the 20th century. 
At the turn of the 20th century, an epic, often illegal, transfer of land began, moving ownership from Tejanos living in the border counties of Texas to newly arrived Anglo farmers and ranchers. (Because the people living through this history did not use the term “Mexican-American” to describe themselves, I’m following the lead of the Refusing to Forget historians, and using the terms “Texas-Mexicans” or “Tejanos” to describe Texas residents of Mexican descent.) 
The advent of the railroad, which reached the border city of Brownsville in 1904, made Anglo expansion onto historically Mexican land possible, seriously shifting the balance of power in the land along the Rio Grande.
This area had fallen within the borders of the United States since the middle of the 19th century, when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War and made the river the new boundary between the two countries. 
But it had remained culturally Mexican, with many Mexican residents staying on the ranches where they had been living – which were now, legally, located in Texas. Between the signing of the treaty and the advent of the railroad, the area was predominately Mexican, with a small number of Anglo settlers mixing into the culture, intermarrying with Tejano neighbors and learning to speak Spanish. As historian John Moran Gonzalez put it to me: “You paid your taxes in dollars, but you paid for your groceries in pesos. English was the language of government but everybody spoke Spanish.” The Border Patrol wasn’t founded until 1924; in the meantime, people went back and forth across the river easily.
After the railroad arrived, irrigation companies soon followed suit, and the Rio Grande Valley’s naturally fertile lands began to look more and more appealing to Anglo immigrants. The price of land went up, and so did taxes; Mexican ranchers found it hard to pay. “Sheriffs sold three times as many parcels for tax delinquency in the decade from 1904 to 1914 as they had from 1893 to 1903,” writes Benjamin Heber Johnson in his book Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and It's Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans Into Americans.
 “These sales almost always transferred land from Tejanos to Anglos.” 
Because records of land ownership in the region had been poorly maintained when the land was less desirable, Anglo settlers could often challenge ownership in court. If the Tejano living on the land didn’t have the funds to fight such a challenge, they ended up selling parcels in order to pay legal fees. 
Sometimes, Johnson writes, white ranchers “resorted to the simple expedient of occupying a desired tract and violently expelling previous occupants.” The end result was catastrophic for the Tejano community: Between 1900 and 1910, more than 187,000 acres of land transferred from Tejano to Anglo hands, in just two Texas counties (Cameron and Hidalgo). Many who lost their land ended up working on it, paid, not well, by its new owners.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Eddie Treviño is our new Cameron County Judge. (Good thing we have four other commissioners.)
Sheila Garcia-Bence will be the new Cameron County Court-a-Law #4 Judge. (You go, girl.)
Estela Chavez-Vasquez will be on the bench at the new Cameron County Court-at-Law #5 judge. (OMG)
Sofia Benavides will continue to be the Precinct 1 Cameron County Commissioner. (Congrats, Sofie)
Abelardo Gomez will remain Pct. 2 Constable. (Take a break, Pete.)
The voters have spoken.
Like it or not, this is what we have to live with for the next four years.
Out of 189,784 registered voters in the county, 17,596 – less than 10 percent (9.27 actually) – decided this was to be.
Dan Sanchez, Dan Robles, Chuy Garcia, Bea Rosenbaum, and Pete Avila were worthy contenders and gave it their best. Nuestros respetos.
Onward through the fog.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Those of us who had the pleasure of knowing politiquero par excellance Jorge Briones (Peace Be with him) were treated to some esoteric political humor as we went thtough the local election process.
Whether it was city, county, school board, the port, the college, or even state and national elections, Jorge was the kind of guy who could worm his way into the confidences of most candidates and make them believe his efforts were mainly responsible for getting them eelcted.
To that end, he was the master of the dirty trick. Well, not so dirty, perhaps cunning.
At debates where people from the audience would pass around papers with questions for the candidates, he would make sure he was at the end of the line where he could remove questions that might have been embarassing for those he was supporting and remove them unbeknownst to the moderators.
This, of course, delighted his candidates to no end. More tnah once, candidates to judgeships, law enforcement and judicial races would be invited to dine at his home wher ehe lived with his mother and his wife Aurorita (peace be with them as well). His photo albums were filled with politicians and celebrities from both side sof the border.To make the long story short, he never missed a beat.Jorge used to tell a joke in Spanish about the United Nations sending international observers who were sent to monitor presidential elections in Mexico. I forget what sexenio it was, but it went something like this.
The elections observer from Argentina was a woman named Viola Casillas (Voting Booth Violator), the two Japanese observers were Sibotas Yoro and Tekito Tuboto (If You Vote and I'll Cry and I Will Take Your Vote. From Iran came Ayatole Koneldedo (no translation other than they'll play you), and from France Pierre d' tu Votto (I'll Lose Your Vote), Tumbo Tuboto (I'll Dump Your Vote) from South Africa, and from Vietnam Ho Dang Tse (Jodanse). Funny as that was, Jorge never repeated a joke if he knew he had alsready told it before to particular listeners.
Now we hear that one of our local politicians doesn't know that playing the same trick doesn;t go over well.
We had reported here before about the illegal sign that supporters of Democratic Party runoff candidate for Cameron Coun ty Judge Eddie Treviño had placed in front of the Central Public Library which was cited by the city's inspectors. The sign was larger than 4' X 8' adn was placed on a trailer without license plates or a tractor attached to it.
Now we have come upon yet another Treviño sign chained to a city light post and obstructing the right-of-way in front of Cobbleheads. It, too has caught the attention of the city guys and a red sign notifying the owner of the violation is also attached to it. (See graphic above.)
In the case of the first trialer, since early voting was over when the citation was issued, it turned out to be moot. In the case of the second one, it'll probably end up as a no-cause as well since today is the last day to vote in those raaces until November. Without a Republican opponent, whoever wins today will have the coast clear to become county judge.
Some people never learn, we guess.
Or as Jorge used to say when he was telling his joke: Why was Eddie so confident of the result? Vaclav Arselo (He is Going to Steal It). 
 Because one of the elections observers is from the Czech Republic. His name? Vaclav Arselo (He is Going to Steal It).


By Juan Montoya
The polls must be showing that former Brownsville mayor Eddie Treviño has fallen behind in the runoff race in the Democratic Party for the nomination for Cameron County judge.
On the eve of the election today, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa reeled off a letter where he has dropped any pretense of personal impartiality and openly endorsed Treviño for what he calls an "attack" by the Sanchez campaign on his integrity by calling him "corrupt" and suggesting that if he ie elected, Treviño would be under his control.
He also charges that Dan Sanchez's brother – 444th District Judge David Sanchez – has "openly violated judicial canons in openly campaigning for his brother."
Funny how Hinojosa has held his anger at being called "corrupt" and taking on David Sanchez's alleged judicial canon violations until the day before the election.
But that isn't all, Hinojosa calls Sanchez a "wannabe politician" and mouths the Treviño campaign's propaganda about Sanchez missing meetings and votes during his tenure as Pct. 4 commissioners.
Those of us who are acquainted with Hinojosa's strategies recognize his signature tactics of pretending impartiality toward all Democratic Party nominees and waiting until the last minute – when the target can no longer defend himself – before dropping the veil of deceit and hurling what he hopes will be the killing blow.
Hinojosa is disingenuous in his claims that he does not choose sides in inter-party races (he calls them inter-family disputes) "unless I believe that one or more candidates has a history of supporting Republicans, is in fact a Republican, or is completely lacking in the qualifications necessary to adequately work for the good od our community."
While this is  noble Democratic ideal, we didn't see Gilbert denounce former District Judge Rolando Olvera when he switched parties after he was appointed twice by a Republican governor to fill that seat. The same goes when former district judge Oscar X. Garcia asserted he would run as a Democrat after his appointment to 357th District Court by Gov. Rick Perry.
And as far violating judicial canons, where was Gilbert when District Judge Elia Lopez-Cornejo was openly politicking for hubby Leo Lopez in his primary and runoff race against Pct. commissioner Alex Dominguez?
He charges that Sanchez has done what Gilbert himself has always done in his races – and what Treviño's campaign reports he has done as well – accept campaign contributions from "vendors, engineers and contractors who, if you really want to know the truth, are interested in taking control of county business at the expense of Cameron County taxpayers."
In fact, Treviño listed 22 contributors from outside the county, some as far away as Washington, D.C., compared to only three reported by Sanchez in the last campaign reports. Notable among these is the firm of  Rofa Architects, partly owned by Manuel Hinojosa (Gilbert's brother) which chipped in $500 to Treviñ and Linbarger, Goggan, Blain and Sampson, the delinquent tax people, who plunked down $1,500
And the amounts listed by Treviño report were nothing to be sneezed at.
James R. "Bill" Fisher, of Naples Investments, Dallas, who has done extensive low-income dwelling projects in the city, was a main contributor with outlays of $2,500 and another $5,000 just for good measure. Fisher has been courting Brownsville politicians and the Brownsville Housing Authority for his projects for quite some time. Among some of his former associates were former mayor Pat Ahumada, now Treviño's nemesis. Bill wore a wire for the FBI to bust some black public officials in Dallas who were exacting too much of a tribute (kickbacks) from him for one of his low-income multi-dwelling projects.
Another $15,250 came from San Antonio $10,750 from Houston contributors, $5,000 from Beaumont, and $500 from Washington, D.C. Even someone from Johnson City loves him and slipped $750 to Eddie.
Sanchez reported $1,000 from The Woodlands, $500 from Round Rock, and $2,000 Austin.
Treviño's ties to the Imagine Brownsville-United Brownsville-OP 10.33 bunch is notable. He received $1,000 from Brain Godinez, an interim United Brownsville consultant-director who stayed for a bit to get the ball rolling and then sought greener pastures in McAllen.
Ambiotec part-owner Carlos Marin, the architect of Imagine Brownsville cum United Brownsville and now a job developer for OP 10.33 chipped in $1,000 and later another $2,500 about a month later for good measure.
It was during Treviños tenure as mayor of Brownsville that the gates were opened for the $1 million gift to Marin for the Imagine Brownsville debacle that morphed into United Brownsville that has resulted in taxpayers subsidizing the shadow government that hijacked the roles of elected representatives of the cityfor their own personal benefit.
Treviño was also part of the group that funded the campaign of Abel Limas, now serving a six-year sentence for racketeering.
As the uncomparable Emma Perez-Treviño reported during her coverage of the Limas trial: "Not all funds raised by Limas for his 2000 campaign came from contributions. A good portion came from a $25,000 loan that Limas secured from the International Bank of Commerce. 
Four Brownsville attorneys and a relative put their names on the line for Limas, each guaranteeing $5,000 of the loan. These were not reported as campaign contributions, and individually they exceeded state limits on contributions to judicial candidates.
The attorneys were Ernesto Gamez Jr., who was Limas’ campaign spokesman; Leonel Alejandro, now judge of the 357th Judicial District; and former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa’s partners at the time, Juan Magallanes and Eddie Treviño, now former Brownsville mayor, with the then-law firm of Magallanes, Hinojosa & Treviño. The firm was under retainer with IBC.". Ruben Gallegos Jr., of International Educational Services, whose family has made a fortune providing services to unaccompanied undocumented minors, chipped in $1,000.
Gilbert then goes on to lament the fact that Sanchez has pointed out that Treviño was his law partner 15 years ago.
But what he doesn't say is that both he and Treviño played pivotal roles in the election of convicted district judge Abel Limas, and in fact encouraged him with money to run for office, prior to his fall
from grace and conviction for racketeering and taking bribes and kickbacks from ad litem appointments.
As the uncomparable Emma Perez-Treviño reported during her coverage of the Limas trial: "Not all funds raised by Limas for his 2000 campaign came from contributions. A good portion came from a $25,000 loan that Limas secured from the International Bank of Commerce. 
Four Brownsville attorneys and a relative put their names on the line for Limas, each guaranteeing $5,000 of the loan. These were not reported as campaign contributions, and individually they exceeded state limits on contributions to judicial candidates.
The attorneys were Ernesto Gamez Jr., who was Limas’ campaign spokesman; Leonel Alejandro, now judge of the 357th Judicial District; and former Cameron County Judge Gilberto Hinojosa’s partners at the time, Juan Magallanes and Eddie Treviño, now former Brownsville mayor, with the then-law firm of Magallanes, Hinojosa & Treviño. The firm was under retainer with IBC."
And Gilbert is whimpering because the Sanchez campaign called him "corrupt?"
We thinks that he doth protest too much.

Monday, May 23, 2016


By Juan Montoya
The ad run Sunday by Dan Sanchez in local newspapers – one of the candidates in the runoff for the Democratic Party nomination for Cameron County Judge – caught most political watchers by surprise.
Sanchez also did a mass mailout of the same ad.
The conciliatory ad (quoting the Gospel of Matthew) where Sanchez runs a photo of him shaking hands with opponent (and former Brownsville mayor) Eddie Treviño came after Sanchez had complained of a "negative" ad where he claims Treviño poked fun at his obesity.
The Treviño ad depicted Sanchez as he slept in a Cameron County courtroom awaiting a decision in a case. 
Ruben O'Bell, administrative Assistant to State Rep. Eddie Lucio III (Yes, there were three of them!), is a frequent bible thumper on his FB page and probably resents that someone else is using the mantle of holiness in politics as he has done so often.
That O'Bell would chide Sanchez for doing the same would seem to indicate that he thinks he has a monopoly on the Good Word.
We've all heard of the saying that some people think they are holier than the pope. Well, O'Bell fits this description to a "T."
What O'Bell doesn't say is that he and his boss E3 are firmly in Treviño's camp. They are also paid "consultants, advisers?" to Mike Hernandez's OP 10.33 group that tried to take over the Port of Brownsville.
We understand that they also drive cars in Hernandez's car-lease fleet.
Now that we know O'Bell is carrying water for E3, OP 10.33 and now Treviño, we wonder whether these fine gents are using a public office for purely partisan political motives.
We have never been comfortable with Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez casting himself as a pious Catholic (he even has a private chapel in his back yard) while at the same time he engages in contradictory behavior where he takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
The case of the Casa Nylon purchase from is buddy Abraham del Galonsky for $2.3 million in public funds and his attempt to "convey" Lincoln Park to the UT System for a fraction of its appraised value are but two instances of his largess at the expense of the public.
And when E3 continuously states that he is "humbled" by the voters being swayed his family's influence convincing voters to put him back in office, it smacks a little of false piety.
Now, the fact that O'Bell cites Jesus frequently on his Facebook page and even posed photo of him with a Savior look alike at Cowboy stadium (see graphic at left)  would convince many that he has friends in high places.
If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, claiming religious correctness on O'Bell's part and chiding someone else for quoting the Good Book smacks of false self-righteousness for political gain on his part.


By Juan Montoya
As the last day of voting in the 2016 primaries approaches on Tuesday (for both Democrats and Republicans), the gastric juices flow and last-minute anxiety creeps in.
Have I done all that I could have?
Did I miss getting in touch with someone that I should have?
Did we knock on enough doors?
Did I do enough block walking?
Were my newspaper (and mass media ads and mailouts) aggressive enough?
Should I have gone negative?
Most candidates and their supporters know the election isn't over until the last voter emerges from the election day voting precincts and the election judges turn in their results to the central voting site with the Election Administration Officer.
Then it's a matter of time until the early and mail-in votes are counted prior to the tallyiing of the election day boxes.
In most cases, the early voting turnout determined the outcome because more than 60 percent of the votes are already in before the voting on election day.
But in runoff races, the difference may be negligible and the outcome may well be decided by last-minute voters on election day.
In some races, the candidates have been running for more than a year, announcing their intentions in late 2014 or early 2015 to discourage others from stepping in. The person-to-person approach and knocking on doors is preferred by some while other count on mass and social media to catch voters' interest. Others prefer a combination. But what is the right mix to win?
That, as they say, is the $64,000 question.
The recent Brownsville Navigation District and Texas Southmost College races showed that money alone will not win you an election. In the port race, particularly, car sales magnate Mike Hernandez threw money in the direction of Ed Rivera and Raul Villanueva with meager results. Both lost handily to incumbents Tito Lopez and Ralph Cowen.
Still, some have decided that once you commit to a race, spending in the runoff is a must if you want to overcome your opponent.
Take, for example, the race between Sheila Garcia Bence and former county court at law judge Dan Robles for Cameron County Court-at-Law #5.
Garcia-Bence beat Robles by 1,760 votes (9,614 to 7,854) in the primary where two other candidates (Rene Gomez and Carlos Monarrez) wer ealso in the race.
Still, Garcia-Bence has not been content to rest on her laurels and during the period from February to May, she has reported $70, 225 in expenditures while taking in $59,855 in contributions.
At least $49,400 were pledged to her by her husband Travis – also an attorney – between April 15 and May 9.
If you're gonna be a bear, don't be a teddy bear, be a grizzly, the saying goes.
In contrast, Robles reported that he had received $1,900 in contributions and reported spending $3,330. Will his former experience as county court-at-law judge carry Robles over Garcia-Bence in the runoff? Or will the combination of spending and political alliances carry her over the former judge?
Garcia-Bence has also featured the endorsement of the two other candidates who were in the race, Gomez and Monarrez prominently. Will that – in addition to the spending – be enough o stave off the pugnacious Robles?
To their credit, both have abstained from mudslinging in this campaign, with the only things that Garcia-Bence might consider objectionable was Robles' judicial scorecard where he says his experience on the bench makes him a better cnadidate, tame charges as charges go.
Garcia-Bence, on the other hand, has stayed away from any mention of Robles' past association with law firm partner Jim Solis and the whole Abel Limas, Marc Rosenthal judicial corruption scandal.
To many attorneys in the county, either one would make a competent jurist.
When the dust settles on this one on election day, both can say that they ran on their merits without the smokescreen of scandalous gossip.


By Jim Barton
All Laguna Vista resident Ed Rivera has to do is find a girlfriend within the boundaries of theBrownsville Independent School District and he's good to go on Mike Hernandez III's 2016 BISD slate to remove poverty from the city by 2033. 
As we all know, several thousand BISD students take a bus downtown each day to return to their homes in Matamoros, Mexico, all with BISD addresses in their paperwork.

It's not too big of a stretch to call Ed Rivera, "Brownsville's Biggest Loser," as blogger Bobby Wightman-Cervantes did, just a few days ago.(We had that designation in our notes, but BWC is just a bit quicker on the trigger.) 

 Consider this, Rivera, a Harvard grad with a splendid resume', relinquished his spot as a Texas Southmost College trustee, to run for one, then another position on the Brownsville Navigation District, but lost that race by a wide margin despite heavy financing from Dallas car salesman Mike Hernandez III.

 He also found his brief service on the Brownsville/South Padre Island Airport Advisory Committee a bit too cumbersome, relinquishing that post.Ed, the frequent flier and world traveler in his business, called in jet-lagged for his final meeting representing the kids of TSC. Perhaps, "ass-whipped" would have been a more accurate excuse for his absence.

The names ED RIVERA and RAUL VILLANUEVA both adorned OP 10.33 advertising signs throughout the county with the space between their first and last names removed, possibly to demonstrate their frugality in apportioning tax dollars at the Brownsville Navigational District. 

We suspect Mike Hernandez III sells both the HUNDAIELANTRA and the KIASPORTAGE at his Dallas luxury car dealership and knows how to market an economy puddle jumper as a luxurious land yacht.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Some parents with students attending the Brownsville Independent School District's Academic Center on Morrison Road say a "rumble" that erupted one week ago Friday resulted in injuries to drill instructions and the arrests of a few students.
And, they say, the BISD administration and Boot Camp staff are trying hard to keep a lid on information on the near-riot. The parents fear for the safety of the students who were not involved in the melee, they say.
"You have some students saying it was gangs and others saying ti is just something that happens at the end of the school year," said one. "But when some of the DIs get hurt by students kicking them in the face, it's something serious."
As a result, they say, the BISD Police Department has stationed several units and officers at the Morrison Road facility as a show of force to discourage unruly students from causing further mayhem.
So far, neither the BISD nor its PD has mentioned the disturbances which continued all through the week, they say.
The DAEP, District Alternative Education Program for BISD is the discipline center known as BAC, Brownsville Academic Center on Robindale Rd. Students only get sent there for "discretionary removals" or "mandatory" removals. Discretionary removals are for serious violations of the Student Code of Conduct of BISD and the "mandatory" violations are set by Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code, this is the discipline chapter. These are more serious or severe transgressions.
On the other hand, as it has been pointed out to us, the Brownsville Learning Academy, on Morrison Rd,, or BLA, is another program altogether different and NOT (supposedly) a discipline campus.
 "We heard that there had been several fights at the Boot Camp that erupted inside after the first big one last Friday," said a parent. "The BISD cops can stand outside, but they can't control what's going on in the hallways."The "BAC" does not call those sent here "students." They are called "cadets." In fact, the BAC is called "Boot Camp" around town because of the emphasis on military discipline the DIs hope to instill in them.
For the most part, their discipline problems run the gamut from gang membership, brawling, foul language, truants and scofflaws who have violated the student code of conduct.
The routine, as reported in an article in the Texas Tribune, consists of a morning ritual that starts when they are dropped off by their parents at 6 a.m. to begin classes at 6:30.
"First they line up for intake screening, the boys in double-file, girls single-file beside a wall, and for the first of many times in the next 10 hours, they wait. When they reach the front of the line, they turn their pockets inside-out, take off their shoes, raise their arms and submit to a pat-down.
They range from sixth-graders to seniors in high school, all in matching gray T-shirts and shorts. Their haircuts are the same – short buzz cuts for the boys, the girls’ hair pulled back in buns – and only their size and sneakers differentiate them.
They don’t come here with much. The things they carry fit in neat bundles at their feet: dark camouflage pants, shirts and hats tied up in a cloth belt, a canteen, and a pair of black boots. Most have worn copies of a school handbook."
The Tribune article goes on to mention that principals in the BISD schools can send a kid to Boot Camp for just about any infraction of the rules.
"Principals in Brownsville can send kids to boot camp for any misbehavior serious enough to warrant out-of-school suspension: bringing weapons to school, or just cursing in class. BAC provides tough love for gang-bangers and class clowns alike. Sometimes it’s just a stop for kids before they drop out or end up in the juvenile justice system. Until a few years ago, Brownsville ISD police issued misdemeanor tickets to more students than any other district its size in Texas, a prime example of the trend toward criminalizing student misbehavior – the school-to-prison pipeline."
As the end of the school year approaches, some parents are apprehensive about whether the BISD staff and police can do enough to guarantees the safety of their students. They say that the volatile atmosphere being lived day to day may explode at any moment.
"We have already been told that for the first time in the years that the Boot Camp has been open, there won't be summer classes held this year," one parent said. "I don;t think they can keep a handle on things there."


(Ed.'s Note: You have a colony of ants, a swarm of bees, a riot or troop of monkeys, a pod of whales, a flock of birds, a clutter of cats, etc., But what do you call a group of Border Patrol cyclists rolling down the streets of Brownsville?  If you don't have papers, you might cal it a Migra Migraine, a No-Papeles Pesadilla, a flock of Legal Rollers, a Not-So-nICE, Border Butts on Wheels, a Herd of Border Ss, a gaggle of Donde Nacios, a Rump Parade, a queue of --------?. We know. It's Sunday. But think about it.)

Saturday, May 21, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Less than a  month after former Cameron County District Attorney's Office PIO Melissa Landin announced she was all gun-ho to make Harlingen the vaction spot of the world – as she said she would SPI and Downtown Browntown – she has posted on her Facebook page that it has proven all too much for her frail constitution.
Landin, who left Luis V. Saenz's shop to become Harlingen PIO, quickly worked her way to be the city's executive director of their Convention and Visitor's Bureau. After a taste of her management style, a longtime staffer at the HCBV decided she would have none of it and left. That left the staff shorthanded, but Landin assured her pals at the Valley Morning Star that she was up to the job.
“We have a lot of catching up to do,” Landin said. “We’re looking forward to moving ahead with marketing tourism in Harlingen.”
Landin hired Rachel Diana Flores at a salary of $37,000 to serve as the bureau’s first marketing manager in more than a year. Flores’ duties will include media relations, media buying and press release writing, Landin said. 
Landin believed Flores’ hiring would fully-staff the department for the first time in about two years.
But she spoke too soon. Esmeralda Martinez, the bureau’s events coordinator, turned in her retirementjust just a day after Landin made the announcement.
Well, apparently being the linchpin for Harlingen's dream of becoming the paradise spot of the Valley proved all too much for Landin. Two weeks after flores' hiring (and Martinez's departure) the very public lady posted a selfie on her Facebook Page with her hubby after being hospitalized for what she said doctors diagnosed as "early warning signs of a stroke" and said she was going to "slow down" for her family's sake.
Someone said that her city health insurance had probably already kicked in and that it made it easier to "slow down" on her job.
So much for "working aggressively to market Harlingen" and draw tourism to help fill city hotels, or as they like to say in that industry "put heads on beds."
Well, now that Girl Dynamo's head herself is on a bed, Brownsville boosters may heave a sigh of relief that the torrent of tourists to the City of the Hill will now slow down to a trickle without her.


By Juan Montoya
Was it done intentionally, by mistake, or was it a coldly calculated for the Eddie Treviño campaign to install the illegal sign across Central Blvd. from the Central Library?
The question, like the notice of violation, my be purely academic now that early voting is over and the voters on election day will be in the precincts across Cameron County. But there is no question of the fact that the sign mounted n a trailer is obviously illegal.
In fact, a city building inspector attached a violation notice on it. The sign is not on the right-=of-way, buy any means. But it is larger than the 4'  X 8' maximum sign allowed by the city ordinance covering political signs.
We asked a couple of our political friends who have been candidates in the past and they all readily agreed that the sing was patently illegal and recalled instances when the city made them remove theirs when called on the question.
"When I ran I put a banner on a trailer by the 77 Flea Market and the city made me take it down because the trailer wasn't attached to a tractor," said one. "In fact, you can't have sings on trailers inside the city limits."
Now, we just happen to know a bit about this particular sign. In fact, we ran a photo of it being installed on Abraham Galonsky's property across the Central Library without even realizing it was illegal. 
Now, we know that Trevino is a former mayor of the City of Brownsville so he would know that the signs didn't comply with the municipal sign size requirements. In fact, the person who directed the workers to install it there was a city commissioner himself, Cesar de Leon.
De Leon was a candidate for the city just a few months ago so he cannot say that he didn't know about the sign requirements of his own city.
As we said, all this is probably academic because no more voting is being done at the library so the Trevino camp can pat themselves in the back and consider that they have gotten away with it.
Et tu, Cesar? 

Friday, May 20, 2016


By Juan Montoya
If ever there was a curse cast upon future generations it was by the people who named this city Brownsville and the county Cameron.
Why do we say that?
Local historians love to regale us with tales of the 500 brave defenders of Fort Texas, an earthen structure with walls 15 feet wide shaped into a six-sided star built near the present-day golf course next to Texas Southmost College. The finished walls stood nine to 10 feet tall.
Zachary Taylor had ordered the fort built right across the river from Matamoros in May 1846.
Taylor left Major Jacob Brown in charge of the fort on his way to fortify Point Isabel he (as did then-Lt. Ulysses S. Grant) heard the cannonade as Mexican forces began a siege on May 3 bombarding the fort with their artillery.
The Mexican cannon ball fire was ineffective after the defenders knocked out the guns shooting from Matamoros.
Although the confrontation at Fort Texas lasted six days, only two U.S. soldiers died in the bombardment, but that toll included the fort commander Brown.
The late Bruce Aiken used to say that the Mexican Army stopped their cannon fire when they saw that their cannon balls rolled and bounced off the earthen walls of the Fort. Firing continued from the Mexican side erratically.
Aiken said that during one of the lulls three days into the siege, Brown walked out of the fort and was standing by a wall when one of the cannon balls rolled by him, bounced off a wall, and and struck him in the leg, shattering it. (The sketch above that appeared in Harper's Magazine showing an exploding shell killing Brown is fanciful, since the Mexican cannon balls did not explode)
Over the next three days, gangrene set in and he died on May 9.
Why on earth did Brown venture outside the fort on that fateful day and get himself killed? Boredom? Ignorance? Bravado?
Whatever it was, it got his fool ass killed and both the fort and then the city were named after him.
The same goes for Ewen Cameron, which the plaque above has him dying "with his face to the foe."
Actually, hard-luck Ewen was one of a gang of plunderers who raided northern Mexico on July 1842. This was four years before Zachary Taylor was ordered to the mouth of the Rio Grande by President James Polk.
The men were captured in Mier, Tamaulipas by the Mexican army and sent to Mexico City.
Not wanting to merely execute all the raiders, they were given the chance to escape death by being blindfolded and reaching into a jar of beans. If they drew a white bean, they would be spared, but if they drew a black bean, they would be executed. At Perote Prison, a jar containing 159 white beans and 17 black beans was presented to the Texan prisoners. Each man drew a bean from the jar. The 17 Texan prisoners who drew black beans were executed by Mexican firing squad.
Actually, for the Mexicans to give the prisoners such good odds of surviving speaks well of their civility. After all, these people came into their territory to plunder and kill their fellow citizens.
Cameron drew a white bean in the lottery, and he was allowed to live and serve time in a Mexican prison. But no, Cameron thought he could escape his captors and was caught in the act twice, prompting the Mexican commander to order his execution "with his face to the foe," as Texas lore suggests when he refused a blindfold and bared his breast shouting at them to fire, "fuego."
Cameron could have left well enough alone and survived. But noooo! He had to tempt fate and his luck ran out. Why?
Cameron County is now named in his honor.
Other things named after the military men who came here with Zachary Taylor also defy belief. On May 8, 1846, Major Samuel Ringgold was with the 2,400 troops were en route to Fort Texas (Ft. Brown), when they were engaged at the Battle of Palo Alto by Mexican General Mariano Arista and his force of 3,800 men.
Historic accounts indicate that Arista's army was stretched a mile wide, making an American bayonet charge, Taylor's first option, impossible.
Major Ringgold mortally wounded at Palo Alto.Taylor, in an unlikely move, advanced his artillery to attack the enemy. The use of Ringgold's flying artillery tactic won the battle for the Americans. The Mexican artillery, heavy and slow, was futile in the thick steel-wool brush at Palo Alto. Arista ordered cavalry charges to flank the artillery gunners, but the American flying artillery was able to mobilize, relocate, and repel the oncoming dragoons.
During the battle, Ringgold  the "Father of Modern Artillery" that fired grape instead of cannon balls – was mortally wounded by...you guessed it, a cannon ball that mangled both his legs just below the crotch. He survived three days, during which time his legs were amputated and he died days later in Port Isabel, Texas.
Now there's a fort, as street, and before Gladys Porter took it, a park named after him.
Want some more? You know about Fritz Wilhelm Hofmokel, the first director of the Port of Brownsville and the man credited with the success of the Port of Brownsville? He was a German native who had become naturalized and became the director of the port in 1936, a few years before the Nazi invasion of Poland and the onset of WWII. Hofmokel was unjustly suspected of having Nazi sympathies and was stripped of his job as port director until things quieted down and he returned. Under his leadership for 30 years, the port became the leading port in cotton shipments, opened the Intercoastal Waterway and diversified into shrimping and chemicals.
Wouldn't you know it? On the eve of the port's 30th birthday, Hofmokel, a submariner with the German Navy in the first World War... drowned in the surf off South Padre Island.
We live in a cursed region, it appears.
With a city named after someone who did not have enough sense to stay inside a perfectly good fort and a county named after another who had been given a chance to live and still attempted to escape and got himself killed, what hope doe this area have?
The future, indeed, cheats you from afar.


By Juan Montoya
Twice a week Alejandro Martinez (not his real name) crosses the Rio Grande at the Gateway Bridge to save American lives.
And also, to make a few dollars to take home to his impoverished family in northern Tamaulipas.
For three hours he sits on a padded recliner along with hundreds of other Mexican citizens with a needle stuck in their vein at the crook of their inner left elbow as their blood fills a red bag hanging from a hook on a metal holder.
"It takes a long time and it hurts a bit,"he said. "But my family really  needs the money for the basics, like chicken and other stuff."
If you look closely, you will see many people in downtown Brownsville with an elastic wrap around their left elbow as they walk down the streets. Many of them, as soon as they get paid for their donation, head straight for the downtown HEB to purchase their groceries and then walk across the bridge to take them home.
The signs on the blood donation centers entice the potential donors to come in and "Donate plasma and earn up to $200 a week." It's a hard invitation to ignore when wages in Matamoros rarely climb above $10 to $15 a day.
Introductory offers by the plasma centers used to be $50 for the first two times a person donated, dropping to $25 a shot two times a week.
But the competition is stiff and now some centers are offering $75 for the first two introductory donations, and then drop to the $25 twice a week.
This in itelf is interesting because, as the Chamber of Commerce likes to say, the cost of living down here is a lot cheaper than up north, therefore justifying the lower wages. The national CSL website states that: "You can get paid up to $400 each month by donating life-saving plasma. This is applicable for eligible, qualified new donors. Fees vary by location."
It also states that: "The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations state that the maximum frequency you can donate plasma is once in a two-day period – and, no more than twice in a seven-day period."
Also, CSL says the plasma bought from locals will be used to treat a variety of diseases. "Your donation helps those in need of plasma-derived biotherapies to live healthier lives.
These biotherapies, produced by CSL Behring, are used around the world to treat coagulation disorders including hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, primary immune deficiencies, hereditary angioedema and inherited respiratory disease, and neurological disorders in certain markets. CSL Behring's products are also used in cardiac surgery, organ transplantation, burn treatment and to prevent hemolytic diseases in the newborn."
Martinez's mother, who waited outside the center while her son sold his blood said she was not comfortable with Alejandro selling his blood twice a week, but the family's needs outweighed her distaste for having a needle stuck in her son's arm.
"He's a little weak after each session," she said. "They give them a cup of juice and they keep everything real hygienic. But I'm still afraid he'll catch some infection or disease. I just don't like the idea of him selling blood for money."
There are at least two plasma donor centers in downtown Brownsville and they do a land-rush office business. Every day at dawn donors line the sidewalk before the doors open. Some local donors say they would rather go to a center on Price Road by the expressway to donate.
"The downtown centers are always full and you have to stand in line for a long time," said a Brownsville resident. "I lost my job at a call center that closed and I had no other job opportunity. I am just doing this until I find something else."
But although donating blood may seem like an easy way to make money, donors say that they are tested extensively by the plasma center staff to detect any indication od diseases such as TB, HIV, hepatitis, etc. Only then can the donor be accepted.
However, by the looks of things, times are hard in northern Mexico and it will continue to provide willing – and needy – customers to provide the precious liquid that will save the lives of people in the United States.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


By Juan Montoya
Even before the meeting of the Texas Southmost College trustees started, chairman Kiko Rendon was told that he did not have the votes to push through the naming of the REC Center for former trustee Rene Torres.
Trustee Ed Rivera, who had opted to run for commissioner of the Brownsville Navigation District, called in saying he was "decompressing" from a trip to New York and would not be able to make it to the meeting where the the newly-elected trustees would be sworn in. (Other sources tell us that River had been seen with running mate Raul Villanueva and Ambiotec's Carlos Marin in the casinos in Las Vegas, but that's neither here nor there.)
Anyway, the race for Rivera's seat is still up in the air with Dr. Tony Zavaleta and Mary Rose Cardenas-candidate Evelyn Cantu to be decided in a runoff. Zavaleta got 2,556 votes to Cantu's 1,835.
ta, unlike Cantu, was present at the meeting where it was decided that the runoff would be held June 18.
With Rivera's absence, whatever hopes that trustee Art Rendon had of putting together four votes vanished and the item was tabled on a motion from trustee Dr. Reynaldo Garcia, one of the board members who had said he would vote in the negative. Rendon thought that he, Kiko Rendon, Rivera and perhaps trustee Trey Mendez could push the item through. In the end, Rendon was left alone without a second. We predict lonely times for Rendon who openly supported Daniel Pizaña against attorney Ruben Herrera, who turned out to be the top vote getter in the TSC election with 4,298 votes.
However, the board did proceed to install the new members who were sworn in by their chosen public officials.
Herrera chose District Judge Janet Leal to swear him in and Mendez chose Texas Secretary of State (and former Cameron County Judge) Carlos Cascos. Both men were sworn in before a packed board room.
The new members will serve six-year terms and have their plates full. At the top of the agenda is to try to save the Nursing, EMT and Dual Enrollment programs. The nursing program, in particular, is facing extinction because under the Lily Tercero administration, it has failed to graduate students who can pass the state nursing test. Unless 80 percent of the students pass their tests, the program is in danger of being shut down.
The nursing program has been the crown jewel of the TSC crown since before the "partnership" was established between the college and the University of Texas at Brownsville. In the past three years, the number of students passing the state exam has dipped below 50 percent and in 2013, the state warned the administration it was in danger of losing it.
Now, if at least 80 percent of the class taking it in September of this year don't pass it, it will be shut down. Already, TSC has partnered with Texas A and M to salvage the program.
It is obvious to everyone at TSC that Tercero's days are numbered at TSC. While no one is going to push her out the door, there are more than a majority of the trustees who will undoubtedly show her the way to it.  


(Ed.'s Note: As the end of the early voting period approaches, candidates are pulling all the stops to entice voters and get their votes. One of our eight readers sent in this photo of former Pct. 4 commissioner and a candidate in the runoff election for Cameron County Judge against former City of Brownsville mayor Eddie Treviño. We're sure his opponent is doing the same as are supporters of both men. The early vote is usually 60 percent or more of the total, with the other 40 or so percent coming on election day, which is next Tuesday. If you haven't voted, do do as good Democrats say, "vote early and vote often.")


By Juan Montoya
May 19, 1916 – 100 years ago today – it was a typical hot sticky day in Brownsville.
The weather hovered between 74 degrees at night and soared to 89 during the day.
Inside the the newly-constructed Cameron County Jail at the corner of Van Buren and 12th street, two men – identified by participants in a bandit raid that left two Anglo men known for their segregationist views dead even though the Civil War had been more for more than 50 years – were in a chapel saying their last prayers before their execution by hanging.
Melquiades Chapa was between 20 and 23 years old and his companion on the gallows was Jose Buenrostro, 25, had been arrested for other offense related to banditry by perpetrators from across the Rio Grande. This was the height of the cross-border banditry days when people from both sides of the river would cross in search of stolen cattle or to settle a score with residents on either side.
An article written about those days by Norman Rozeff which appeared in the Valley Morning Star accurately paints a picture of the times.
"For over half a century the combative years of the second decade were popularly termed the era of the 'Bandit Wars.' Tempered with the passage of time and as modern-day historians take a more objective look at this period, the term “Border Wars” has come into use. The latter term better portrays the many manifestations of the area’s conflicts at that earlier time. Across the river, the vacuum left by the departure of dictator Porfirio Diaz dictatorship turned into all-out war and anarchy with adherent s to the Constitutionalist cause banding under Pancho Villa in the north and Emiliano Zapata in the south. At any one time, different generals claimed control of the presidential chair with no one really controlling the northern or southern regions of the country.
The revolution touched the north side of the river as well, with civilian refugees and Mexican combatants alike seeking shelter and safety from the fierce battles that decimated the northern Tamaulipas areas.
Juan Cortina had been driven from the border and placed under house arrest by Diaz when he came to power. But the anti-Anglo bitterness left over by his revolt against the newcomers who dispossessed local residents of their lands was still an open wound.
The year 1915 was an especially tumultuous year for cross-border raids.
Rozeff says that in that year, multiple murders occurred of both Mexicans and Anglos, often blamed on the theft of cattle or horses and the retaliation by both against people they thought were to blame, Often, innocent people perished in the conflict.
The incident that led to the twom men praying in the chapel before they were to be hung had its roots on August 6. A. L. Austin and his son Charles, were shelling corn on their farm outside Sebastian when a band of armed men approached the farm in search of them. 
The Austins were known as segregationists whose personal behavior had angered local Tejanos. The senior Austin was head of the local Law and Order League, a local vigilante group blamed for terrorizing Mexicans across South Texas.
Another historian says that the men were targeted by Mexican-Americans who followed the Plan de San Diego, a movement to drive out the Anglo newcomers who had terrorized local inhabitants and Mexican-American ranchers for their land and eventually annex Texas to Mexico.
A well-known Plan de San Diego advocate named Luis de la Rosca led the Sebastian raid where Austin and his son Charles were killed. Austin who, according to federal investigators, "had driven several bad men out of that section" and was therefore an ideal target for the raiders who thought of him as a racist. Within the next few days after the deaths of the Austins, several local Mexicans were killed by either the Texas Rangers or vigilantes in revenge for their murders.
One account has the band confronting the Austins in front of Mrs. Austin, and after the raiders had demanded the family weapons, father and son were dragged from the kitchen and summarily shot. Patrols out the next day failed to find the marauders. 
However, a second version of the Austin story differ in details: Then at a nearby granary the bandits picked up A.L. Austin and his son Charlie. They were taken to their house which was then robbed. After assuring Mrs. Austin that her men would be safe, the robbers drove them away in a wagon manned by a young man named Elmer Millard. The Austins were then shot to death, but Millard was released. Millard, as a star witness, testified not only against Chapa and Buenrostro, but also against numerous local Mexicans, some of who were not in the vicinity at the time.
The men, after they were identified by Millard in the attack on the Austins, protested their innocence until the very end. Authors Charles H Harris and Louis R Sadler, in "The Plan de San Diego: Tejano Rebellion, Mexican Intrigue" wrote that "on the day before their execution, Chapa reiterated his innocence and requested a bottle of whiskey to calm his nerves and asked that there be music at his execution. He and Buenrostro requested that they be hanged together. The authorities were happy to oblige; two nooses were prepared for the gallows." 
Newspaper accounts of the hanging said the men were tied together and that they fell through the trap at the same time, dying just a few minutes after they fell.
Robert Runyon, who photographed many of the area's historic events, was on hand before and after the hanging to record the events for history.
From there on, things just got hotter. In fact, only three days later, on May 22, 1916, the heat climbed to 102, a record that still stands for that day.
J.B. Rogers, a U.S. Bureau of Investigation agent, wrote his superiors that "Since the execution of Chapa and Buenrostro, there is an attitude of stoicism among the Mexicans. They are both afraid and angry. Very little talk is done. They feel than a great injustice was done by the execution of these two men. The men maintained to the last that they were innocent and their countrymen believed them. The race feeling has been greatly intensified by the occurrence. The danger of an outbreak has been aggravated."
The renovated jail has since been turned into the law offices of Colvin, Chaney, Saenz & Rodriguez, who in their website state that: "Over the years, some of South Texas' most notorious criminals have been incarcerated in the jail...The jail also served as the temporary residence of Charles "Hit Man" Harrelson – father of actor Woody Harrelson of "Cheers" Fame – after his arrest for the murder of a resident of Hidalgo County. The elder Harrelson was later convicted in the assassination of United States District Judge John Wood (in San Antonio)."