Friday, November 16, 2018



Special to El Rrun-Rrun

Leave it up to our friend Gerardo Danache to come up with a radio program that will explore local issues, goings-on and personalities.

Danache, a veteran of the Mexican diplomatic corps is hosting an hour-long program divided into two half-hour interviews to be aired live starting today and then repeated Saturday.
Image result for rene de coss

The first half hour of Ecos Fronterizos  – broadcast live over 99.9 FM (Tu EstaciĆ³n) starting at 12:00 to 12:30 p.m. – will feature City of Brownsville attorney Rene DeCoss.

De Coss is a former district judge who until recently was also a judge on the municipal court. We're sure he has plenty to tell about the judicial process and the issues facing city government. It should be interesting radio.

The other interview, from 12:30 to 1 p.m., will feature yours truly, the publisher of El Rrun-Rrun blog. Here you will have a chance to hear me butcher the beautiful Spanish language and address some of the issues on local history, politics and culture.

You will hear the origin of the Rrun-Rrun blog name, tidbits of local corruption and a bit of local history and lore.

We're not sure why Danache included us in the starting lineup, but we'll give it the old college try. I'm sure that if we touch on all the hot-button issues that affect out schools, our city and our region, we'll find something of interest for you to listen. Tune in. If anything, it may be informative, if not fun.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Drue Brown was sworn in by former District Judge Robert Garza as hubby Dave looks on 

Erasmo Castro was sworn in by his father, the Rev. Erasmo Castro Sr.

Dr. Prisci Roca-Tipton was sworn in by JP 2-3 Maria Ester Sorola


"I am honored to have been asked by my good friend Dr. Prisci Roca-Tipton to administer the oath of office. I consider it a privilege to welcome her into the ranks of elected public officials. It is a rewarding, and sometimes difficult, job. But if you care about our community, as I do and I know Prisci does, she’ll love it.

I say this from experience. You see, Prisci and I grew up together in Brownsville. Our parents taught us to work hard and do our best. We attended the same elementary school and then went off to different high schools, she to Hanna, me to Pace. (Go Vikings!)

And we often met on the basketball court as opponents. I don’t have to tell those of you who ran against her that she is a formidable competitor. Every time I saw her suited up on the other side of the
court, I knew I was in for a fight.

Sometimes she was the victor. Sometimes we came out on top. But just as she was competitive on the court, off the court she was a kind and considerate competitor who respected her opponent. She was a
gracious victor and when she lost, which was rarely, she respected the winner.

It’s good to see that the BISD board will be made up of a cross-section of our community coming together from all walks of life to improve the education of our children. I can personally assure you that just as Prisci was ferocious on the basketball court, she will be equally dauntless to be an advocate and a protector our students, our community, and our schools."


(Ed.'s Note: It happens every evening like clockwork in downtown Brownsville. As dusk approaches, flocks of red-crowned parrots (the official Brownsville bird) swirl in a riot of noise and loud argument as they seek their favorite perch in the fronds of the tall Washingtonian palm trees along Adams Street.

That scene is repeated on other streets downtown and for about half an hour, the sound of the birds fighting over their favorite spots is almost deafening. It takes a while for it to sink that in the Rio Grande Valley this happens only in downtown Brownsville.

Now some downtown enthusiasts are out to make this an attraction not only for locals, but for visitors from both sides of the Rio Grande. Its something truly unique to see and hear.)


Special to El Rrun-Rrun

Muchachos Latinos and Girls – Need not apply!

About two months before the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson the Brownsville Herald took advantage of the opportunity to run a subscription drive/contest for all Valley boys. On January 1913, the year Wilson won the presidency, the daily extended an invitation to all boys to participate in securing 50 subscriptions, and those that did – were rewarded with a trip to Washington D.C.

One major rule though, excluded Hispanics and girls from participating. The Herald published the given article… you can read the rest of the story, “Herald’s Inaugural Trip for Boys.”

Area youngsters that applied at the time of the publication date included the following:

Brownsville: Lambert Cain, Preston Smith, Francis Kowalski, Robert Rutledge, Fernando Leiva (not known if he was Hispanic) and John Stark

San Benito: Fenton Caldwell, Randal Symonds, Roy Smith and Bouldin Mothershead

Harlingen: Roland Ogan, Danna Ford, Stanley Ford Jr.

The Herald was not racist – they were only preserving the tradition that was prevalent during that era. (Notice that the president-elect's name is misspelled on second reference (Willson).

Blacks didn't fare much better in the Brownsville School District. Segregated to poor schools, the "coloreds" were treated "separate but equal," or so the establishment liked to say.

Was it Jim Crow that kept the Brownsville Colored School apart? The photo above was published in the Screaming Eagles (BHS paper) 1952. Despite the discriminatory practices of the times, the music group went on to win several UIL awards. Still yearn for those glory days of our "heritage?"


Special to El Rrun-Rrun

Three new members will replace three incumbents on the board of the Brownsville Independent School District today.

The swearing-in ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. at the BISD Main Office at 1900 Price Road after the votes are canvassed by the existing board and certificates of election are given to the new members.

After they make their statement of officer "not directly or indirectly paid, offered, promised to pay, contributed, or promised to contribute any money or thing of value, or promised any public office or employment for the giving or withholding of a vote at the election at which I was elected or as a reward to secure my appointment or confirmation," they will take their oath.

Replacing Cesar Lopez at Position 1 will be Drue Brown, a longtime Public Information Officer with the district. Lopez had initially filed for reelection, but withdrew.

Brown retired from the BISD after 25 years with the district. Former District Judge Robert Garza will swear her in.

Replacing Carlos Elizondo at Position 2 will be Erasmo Castro. Elizondo, a former Brownsville Fire Department Fire Chief, has been under indictment on 11 felony charges. Castro has previously run for the school board and for various other positions, including mayor for the City of Brownsville.

His father, the Rev. Erasmo Castro, is a minister at Iglesia de Cristo and will administer the oath of office him in. Castro was the top vote getter in this election with 10,681 votes.

Replacing Position 4 incumbent Joe Rodriguez will be Dr. Prisci Roca-Tipton. Rodriguez, with nearly 3 decades in the BISD staff as athletic coach and director, also served 17 years as trustee. This is Dr. Roca-Tipton's first elective office.

At 18, she ran her family's shrimp boat business at the Port of Brownsville and since 2015 has been the Texas Southmost College Coordinator of Sponsored Programs, Grants, and Contracts. She will be sworn in by Justice of the Peace 2-3 Maria Ester Sorola.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


By Juan Montoya

When you're in the reporting biz and you cover the courthouse, you come across many different people who diverse roles in the legal process.

Not only do you meet lawyers, prosecutors, judges, bailiffs, court administrators, etc., but also all those other folks who round out the legal machinery in the county.

Just yesterday we ran into one of those guys who work for firms that prepare debt claim cases for companies such as Midland Funding and ABC Legal and Michael Scott, the famed debt-claim attorney.

Our friend told us that in conversation with his colleagues in the serving business, the word has gone out that Justice of the Peace Pct. 2, Place 1 Linda Salazar had stopped accepting filings by their clients until after the start of 2019. Apparently, he said, employees from ABC Legal – who handle credit card claims such as student loans and credit card collection cases filings with the JP courts –  had been turned away from Salazar's office with at least two boxes (at 50 per box, about 100 credit claims) of filings for the company.

"They said that they were overwhelmed with work and that the JP was not taking any more filings for this year until 2019," he said.

And not long ago, a landlord coming down from the second floor of the Cameron County Levee Building ran into us at the county tax office and said he had tried to file an eviction claim against one of his tenants only to be told that Salazar's staff had told him she was not accepting evictions claims either until the beginning of the year.

"The clerk told me that the office just had too much work already and that I could go to the other two JPs on the same floor," said the man. "They turned away another guy while I was there. As it is, the eviction process can take months between filing and to finally have the deadbeat tenants removed. Now it's going to take much longer with one less JP working the cases."

Interestingly, one of the Midland Funding credit claim cases that Salazar did not turn away was one in where her son Mark Anthony Cortez was being sued for a $3,000-plus debt back in April. After he announced as a candidate for the board of the Brownsville Independent School District, news of the debt appeared on local blogs in September.

The fact that Salazar had sat on the claim for nearly six months and had not recused herself form hearing it because of the obvious conflict of interest forced Cortez to negotiate an agreement to pay with the creditors before the election. By then Salazar had transferred her son's case to her pal JP 5-1 Sallie Gonzalez in Harlingen to avoid the obvious questions about her sitting in on her son's case.

If it is true that Salazar is too busy to handle debt or eviction cases and the work is shifted to the other two Brownsville JPs on her floor, then it stands to reason that she will also be too busy to perform wedding ceremonies. The JPs perform wedding ceremonies as a side gig, collecting an average of $250 a pop.

Salazar is known as the "Cupid JP" because she averages about 600 wedding a year, bringing in about $120,000 in ceremony fees which the state allows JPs to keep for themselves. The county does not get any fees apart from the couple's $82 payment for a wedding license to the Cameron County Clerk who issues the licenses. On the other hand, the county keeps all filing and court fees for debt claims and evictions.

The question will be: If Salazar is too busy to take eviction and credit claim cases, then she should also be "overwhelmed with work" to take weddings. Will she?


(Ed.'s Note: Crews of Brownsville Public Utilities Board workers were on the scene just west of the intersection Los Ebanos and Paredes Line Road where a sewer force main erupted Tuesday.

The break eroded the street base and ate out large sections of the road base, forcing PUB and City of Brownsville Traffic Safety personnel to close the section of Los Ebanos between Paredes and the McKintosh streets jst before the US 77-83 frontage road.

The damaged main can be seen in the front with the suction pipe. PUB workers siphoned the raw sewage from the broken main in the sinkhole into an adjacent sewer manhole (as can be seen in the top picture).

Questions to workers about possible stops in service in the area wen unanswered because they said PUB officials had prohibited them from answering any questions unless they went through the PUB's public information office.

Yesterday running raw sewage filled the sinkhole and spectators could see that the force of the effluent had eaten away at the road below the street level.

Workers did not know how long it would take the utility to mend the break and city Public Works to resurface the road and traffic could be restored.)


(Ed.'s Note: Years before the man pictured above (Ben Neece Sr.) met his second wife and our friend - Ben Neece, a current city commissioner and former municipal judge - was born, his dad  showed a creative way to break the bonds of his first marriage. We don't know who the first spouse was, but we're sure she wasn't expecting this type of reaction from her ex.

Putting a decidedly different twist on the slogans painted on cars when couple married then (Just Married, etc.,) Neece Sr. (Peace be with him), instead turned it into a celebration and a notice to prospective female suitors that he was free and available.

If you read closely (Click on graphic to enlarge), you can make out sayings like (Mi pollita flew the coupe [sic],  La Pollita que mas quiero," "Mama stayed away too long, Now Daddy's gone," and  on the hood, "Just Divorced."

Now we are beginning to understand where Ben got his sense of humor. Hopefully, he'll see the humor in this one. We thank one of our seven readers for dusting off his archives and sending in this archived photo.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Special to El Rrun-Rrun

Just a little after 4 p.m. Tuesday, city emergency crews detected a major sewer force main rupture that created a large sinkhole on the street section just west of the Los Ebanos/Paredes Line Road intersection.

The hole measures about 25 by 20 feet wide, big enough to swallow a small car. Responders did not know whether the weight of passing vehicles had caused the roadway to collapse or whether motorists had seen the hole as they approached it.

But today a Public Utility Board crew supervisor this morning said the force sewer main - which services the neighborhoods around the intersection of Paredes and Los Ebanos - was detected by a crew that had been sent to sound out the system.

Fire and police department officers said no one was hurt as a result of the collapse and said the roadway will be closed to traffic from both directions until it was fixed and a new road base filled in and the asphalt replaced.

"The force of the sewage pumped by the force main is just as if it was water pumped at high pressure," the PUB supervisor said. "We are pumping the sewage that spilled out into a sewage manhole nearby and then Pubic Works can come in and work on the road."

The brown water swirled below the broken asphalt and it was apparent that large sections under the roadway had been eroded by the liquefied sewage for some time before the road surface collapsed. A strong smell of sewage emanated from the hole with the swirling brown water, leading to speculation that main sewage main had broken through a drain ditch is nearby.

The level of erosion visible at street level indicates that a large volume of effluent her been flowing below the street or some time. The drainage ditch nearby is at a much lower level than the street surface, making it unlikely that it is the source of the runoff visible from street level.

Motorists are warned to seek alternate means to traverse the area.


Pictures Of The Week Photo Gallery

(Ed.'s Note: Barbed wire was hailed as the end to cattle drives that used to cross the prairies and llanos of Texas such as the famous ones like Jesse  Chisholm Trail that, ironically, had its start in Brownsville. The reason it started in Brownsville was because that was the place where cattle stolen in Mexico were forded over the Rio Grande.

Just last week, U.S. troops stretched the coils of wire past Hope Park, the site where a plaque commemorates the start of the Chisholm Trail here.

Now, that barbed wire is not meant to stop the cattle drives, but to stop human beings from crossing the river and seeking asylum in the United States. Strange things are happening in this year, 2018. For Trump, it is the best of times. For the rest of us who aren't in his "base," it couldn't possibly be worse.)


(One of the reasons the majority of Texas Southmost College board of trustees gave for terminating former president Lily Tercero was the Texas Board of Nursing shutting down part of the nursing program because of low graduation rate. TSCs failed to meet the 80 percent standard since it reopened as an independent community college in fall 2013 under her leadership. 

In 2013, the pass rate was 71.3 percent and at one point dropped to a low of 46.36 percent. After trustees terminated her, Tercero sued in federal court and a jury awarded her $13 million. She could go to the courts to complain. Where could students complain about her mediocre leadership that stymied their career plans and deprived them of that educational opportunity?)

By Jose Sandoval
Special to El Rrun-Rrun


I am one of the many students whose lives were affected by the closing of the ADN (associate's degree in nursing) program at Texas Southmost College. 

Having enrolled at Texas Southmost College, one of the first things I did upon entry was to review the TSC ADN program’s requirements for admission. I made sure I took the courses which were required for this program, regularly spoke with my advisors, and met with the ADN program coordinator to see what I could do to make sure I was one of the few selected for this program.

Semester after semester, I double and triple checked I was following the correct path to my future as a nurse.

TSC partners with A&M to improve state statusFor the next several semesters I would eat, sleep, and dream of school. I was engrossed in the classes I knew I had to excel in to be considered for the nursing program. 

The time and effort I put into this endeavor was considerable. I took Anatomy & Physiology I, A&P I lab, A&P II, A&P II lab, Microbiology, Microbiology Lab, as well as other courses. 

This entailed 6-plus hours at the school daily, not including the endless hours of studying.

In addition, I cannot fail to mention the financial sacrifices I had to take in order to enter this program. Classes I had to take were scheduled during working hours, so I had to cut my time at work, thereby cutting my wages. 

Many of my friends would spend long nights at lectures, while their families took care of their children after they come home from work. That, as well as the additional money I spent on lab coats, supplementary books, study guides, etc. were expenses which placed a burden on my finances. Not to worry, I would remind myself, my sacrifices would be recompensed in my career as a nurse.

Long hours were spent as my friends and I studied for our Kaplan exams, required for admission into the ADN program at that time. We had all stuck to our game plan, the courses we needed, the grades we thought we would need. 

We were ready to take the next step and apply for the program. 

That’s when we read that the ADN program had been stopped. 

My heart sank as I realized that all my sacrifices had been for naught. I, as well as several scared others scrambled to find a degree which would accept most of the courses we had taken already. Why hadn’t we been advised the program was failing? 

Why did the college allow me to sacrifice my time, my money and my efforts only to in turn shut down a program I spent so much time trying to enter? 

I had to transfer to UTRGV, in Edinburg, for an alternative academic track, far from my hometown in Brownsville and separated from my family and friends support groups.

Many of the courses I painstakingly devoted my time and efforts show up on my transcripts as elective courses. Many (like trustee Art Rendon who voted against Tercero's termination and is pictured above with her and her lawyer) will say that so few of us were affected by this closure that it shouldn’t be a big deal. 

To them I say, step into our shoes. 

Myself, as well as so many others at this institution, have had to rethink our entire careers. TSC’s ADN program changed my life forever. It changed the lives of entire families who sacrificed so much for their students to enter this program. 

At the end, there were no apologies, no multimillion verdict to indemnify the grievous injury caused to us; only frightened students, mothers, fathers, and members of your community scrambling to salvage their futures. You'll have to forgive us, but we don't really feel sympathetic for poor Lily.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Image result for COACH JOE RODRIGUEZ

Citizens of Brownsville

It has been my honor and of great personal satisfaction to have had the opportunity to amass a tidy personal benefit at the expense of the taxpayers of the Brownsville Independent school district after 19 years as a board trustee.

I want to thank all my cronies and sycophants for the opportunity to serve you as a mediocre coach for 17 years who never won a state football title (We came close against Seguin, losing by only 47-14,  B'Gawd!) and as athletic director for 27 after I resigned from the board and my pals on the board appointed me to that position.

From there, I amassed great personal influence which later helped to make me a successful vendor with BSN Sports. I was blessed with coaching young men who followed me blindly. It is they who deserve the accolades, not me. Aw, gosh, stop it! Stop it!

From this perch, I have been able to strong-arm coaches and other administrators to shop my expensive sports-equipment and will continue to do so now that the voters have rejected my candidacy for another four years as trustee. Man, I will miss the ability to move coaches around and hire my buddies.

Image result for joe rodriguez, BSN sports

Finally, I congratulate the winners of the recent elections, and pray that, unlike me, that they keep their promises to the citizens for our community is deserving. Old vendors, never die, they just get off the spotlight. You haven't seen the last of "Coach" Joe, by any means. Lookee here at the cash I'm making from my beloved BISD. Do you think I'm crazy and let that bone go?


Image result for luis saenz, dirty deeds
By Juan Montoya

With just a few weeks before the March 2016 primary elections where Cameron County Democrats were to elect their candidate to face the candidate of the Republican party (if any), it seemed to local political observers that challenger Carlos Masso could defeat incumbent Luis V. Saenz on his second attempt.

Four years previously, in 2012,  Masso had come incredibly close to beating Saenz,just losing in a runoff election by a mere 351 votes of the 15,721 cast in that race. But now, in the spring of 2016, many felt Masso had the momentum to finally defeat his nemesis.

In the final months of 2015, Masso had gathered numerous endorsements and the word on the street and the county courthouse was that he had Saenz this time. The Democratic party was torn asunder with adherents of the two men bitterly fighting for their survival. In Masso's corner was the surprisingly popular Cameron County Clerk Sylvia Garza Perez and her growing clique which included residents in the north part of the county.

The old Democratic machine at one time dominated by his sister-in-law former Cameron County District Clerk Aurora de la Garza was behind Saenz. Some of the county commissioners also backed the DA, albeit without as much enthusiasm as they had in the previous election.

In the newborn year of 2016, and with his political doom written on the wall, Saenz needed something – anything – to improve his chances.

According to sources inside the law-enforcement community, ever since
September 2015, Saenz and his Public Integrity Unit headed by chief investigator at the Cameron County District Attorney's Office (and former DEA Special Agent) George Delaunay and Asst. D.A. Edward Sandoval  had been running a sting operation in the Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector's Office targeting head taxman Tony Yzaguirre.

Pete Gilman, the head prosecutor in the D.A's Office, would try the case for Saenz.

They had enlisted a shady confidential informant named Melquiades Sosa to ingratiate himself into Yzaguirre's inner circle and give the goods on him.

They had Sosa by the short hairs because he had been indicted on nine charges of Tampering With a Government Document dealing with getting phony titles to vehicles. Sosa was a car dealer and dealt with the Vehicle Registration Department almost on a daily basis.

He made a deal with Saenz, Delaunay, and DPS Special Agent Rene Olivarez with the task force investigators that included the Texas Attorney General, the FBI and local law enforcement to bring down Yzaguirre.

To get close to Yzaguirre, Sosa agreed to help him sell tickets to barbecues at $20 a pop for his reelection. He got them from Yzaguirre 10 at a time and when he sold the lot of 10, he would give Yzaguirre the $200 and take 10 more.

The idea was to record Yzaguirre taking the $200 in envelopes he had in his desk and make it seem like Sosa was paying him to let him "fix" car registrations and titles without checking his ID or insurance. In fact, as Sosa knew, since he was a registered car dealer, under Texas law he did not need to show ID or insurance to get titles to the cars.

This simple fact – which formed the crux of the entire Dirty Deeds operation – eluded Saenz, Delaunay, and DPS Special Agent Olivarez and his boss Ray Maza.

What's more, as they reviewed tapes of the Sosa-Yzaguirre exchanges, some agents thought they didn't have the evidence needed to get the indictments.

(Trial Transcript of Olivarez P. 102, L. 15 - P. 103, L. 2)

Q. Okay. She's saying, "I'm not seeing any money – handing any money directly"?
A. Correct, sir,
Q. Now, you had already heard, even though you're saying "1 wasn't present in that car, " before arresting Mr. Yzaguirre, you said you had already heard Janie Alvarado express that sentiment to you. 
A. Yes, sir. 

Q. So now you have another agent from another completely separate different agency telling you that he in his opinion, Mr. Yzaguirre is not accepting it, correct? 
A. You'd have to ask him exactly what he meant by that, sir. 
Q. Okay. But you just heard him say that, right? 
A. Yes, sir.

During Yzaguirre's trial, defense attorney Eddie Lucio made it clear that numerous agents in the task force did not think that the investigation was ready – and lacked sufficient convincing evidence – to seek indictments, much less make a case and get a conviction.

But Saenz was facing a sure loss in the 2016 primaries against Masso and could not wait. As  a seasoned attorney, and with his covey of ex-federal agents and DPS and federal investigators, Saenz struck nonetheless. He carried his half-baked boxes of "evidence" in front of a gullible grand jury and walked out of the courthouse with 40 counts. Aside from Yzaguirre, five other tax-office employees were gathered in the net.

With network cameras rolling, Yzaguirre, peace officers Jose Mireles and Joe Garza were paraded in handcuffs in front of the courthouse. Others including clerks Omar Sanchez Paz, Claudia Sanchez, and Marisol Sifuentes were arrested at their work place, handcuffed and hauled off in front of their coworkers and the public and booked at the Rucker-Carrizalez Corrections facility in Olmito.

The gambit worked.

"Man, Luis was really falling behind Masso until the Yzaguirre arrests and then he surged past him here in Harlingen" said a former county commissioner who lives there. "El arrest le dio un levanton."

 As televised arrest followed televised arrest, Saenz's chances improved markedly. By that March, the voters came out in the Democratic party primary and handed him a victory over Masso of 14,650 to 13,860, albeit still a squeaker with 27,510 votes cast in the race, a 790- vote margin.

But a win is a win is a win, Saenz figured. Now he had the victory with no Republican candidate to face in November.

Trying Yzaguirre and the other five tax-office employees was almost an afterthought. But that was when things got dicey. Due to massive negative media pre-trial publicity, a court granted Yzaguirre's motion for a change in venue to Nueces County.


When the jury heard the "evidence" against him, they dismissed eight of the 23 charges during trial and acquitted him of the other 15.

Saenz had no choice but to dismiss all the remaining 17 charges against the other five defendants. Sifuentes, who had been arrested and booked, was never indicted or tried. (See graphic below. Click to enlarge.)

Now Yzaguirre and the five tax-office employees have filed a complaint against Olivarez and his supervisor Maza for Abuse of Official Capacity, Official Oppression and civil rights violations and malicious prosecution.

Neither D.A. Saenz or his prosecutors are named in the complaint, but many think that a complaint against them with the Texas State Bar is the least of the consequences they should face. After all, they – seasoned legal practicioners – knew the "evidence" they had against the taxman and his workers didn't hold water and yet still continued the prosecution to help their boss get reelected.

Was a political gain worth ruining the lives and staining the reputation of six individuals? These were "Dirty Deeds," indeed.



Special to El Rrun-Rrun

Pfc. Marcos M. Rodriguez left the friendly confines of home to join the war effort – like
thousands of Valley boys did after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Within weeks he found himself facing the darkest moments of war. There he was rubbing elbows with his colleagues - who like he, were wearing various expressions of alarm.

His life was cut short on January 30, 1945. 

It was a very sad day when he returned, as his family witnessed his flag-draped casket make its way to Buena Vista Cemetery.

Pat Ford, who was among the crowd, described the day of Marcos’ funeral that warm afternoon as the sun’s rays streamed through the stained-glass windows as Rodriguez’s casket made its way to face his final sunset.

Aside from his wife and now widow, Maria de los Angeles and his aged mother Maria Elida, he was bid farewell by his son, and now orphan, Marcos Jr., and a six-block-long funeral cortege of his grateful fellow Brownsville residents. 

All movement to his final resting place was precise and in rhythm as the uniformed American
Legion representatives, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the regular U.S. Army escorts accompanied the casket of the returning veteran.

His first stop of his somber journey was at the Immaculate Conception Church. There, Father
William Caldwell chanted the age-old prayers for the dead over the closed casket. A subdued audience, Catholic and non-Catholic, filled the pews of the church, and in dead silence, displayed their endless gratitude for his service.

At the grave site, it was a picturesque scene, as all who were there, took their place to say their last good bye. Father Caldwell, sheltered by a large open sighted tent, intoned the brief burial service.

As the final syllables of prayer came to an end, the focus than turned to the nearby roadway, where the firing squad shattered the stillness of the afternoon with three sharp volleys. 

From beyond the firing squad stood a soldier, grabbing the attention as he played a stunning rendition of “Taps.” A second bugler distance away from the cemetery followed with the U.S service farewell.

He was the first Brownsville veteran returned from an overseas cemetery. He was buried for almost two years in Belgium, before he was removed and transferred to Brownsville.

In December of 1947, his body came home. Herald staff writer, Malcolm Yates eloquently
reminded us that his coming home was a sign of the sacrifice this nation made in defense of

In coming home Rodriguez reminded us that this great republic must not compromise, must
not appease, must be strong and prepared, and must eternally resolve to defend the great principles of liberty and the peace of which he so nobly died for.

(Do we) find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down
Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down

Saturday, November 10, 2018



Mr. Katzenbaum
That was his name

Owner/mananger of a Snowbird
Trailer park 
In deep South Tex

Where my father managed
A crew of jardineros
Who tended to the landscaping
and the upkeep of the park

Home on Christmas break
From a Master's plan
In a Midwest school
Dad called for me
to his work
And I went

He met me there
In muddy rubber boots
Mud-splattered pants
And shovel in his hand

To met his boss
This Katzenbaum
This Mr. Katzenbaum
To you

"Dile que te vas a recibir
Con una maestria," he said.
And I could tell, 
That he was proud as punch

"So you're his son?," he asked
This Katzenbaum

"Yes, sir," I had replied in turn

"And getting a Master's degree
In Madison?," he asked.

"That's right," I said. 
"Are you a Badger, too?"

"South of Milwaukee,' he had replied.

"Pleasure to meet you," I answered then,
And shook his hand.

Then, in a lower voice and to the side he asked:
"And you still claim him?", 
Nodding slightly toward my dad.

"Of course I do," I said. "Why shouldn't I?
He's is my dad."

"Oh," said Katzenbaum,
This Katzenbaum
And turned, and walked away.


By Juan Montoya

Well, everyone knew that the Brownsville Independent School District would have to confront the issue sooner or later.

Now, with the election victory of Erasmo Castro as self-described patient resource specialist and Head Cheeze of Cheezmeh, the issue of his felony conviction has come to the fore. Castro beat out incumbent trustee Carlos Elizondo and former trustee Otis Powers and incumbent Carlos Elizondo for the Position 2 seat on the BISD board. The board is scheduled to canvass the vote next Thursday and administer the oath of office to Castro, Drue Brown and Prisci Roca Tipton.

But now some of these candidates' supporters are saying that the BISD failed to do its due diligence to verify that what Castro swore under oath – that he had not been finally convicted of a felony for which he had not been pardoned or had his full rights of citizenship restored by other official action – was true and correct. (See graphic top right. Click to enlarge.)

The only mention of that issue during the election campaign was in an anonymous hoja suelta, saying he was a convicted felon. (Right)

A cursory Google search under his name – Erasmo Castro Dragustinovis – shows that he was convicted on two counts of forgery, adult felonies, in 1994.

Further, a search of the court records shows that he was sentenced to the Texas Department of Corrections to concurrent five-year terms on the convictions which were modified to five years probation. The docket sheet shows that he never complied satisfactorily with the probation. Nor was there ever an expunction of the convictions granted by any court, records show.

Way back in 2015 when this issue first came up, we ambled over to the Cameron County District Clerk's Office and had Eriz Garza look for the case file (94-CR)75-B. He found it in the county warehouse and scanned all of it, including the case docket for us. One year later, another public information request was done for another person and the file was again reproduced.

What we found – in a nutshell – was that after his conviction on two counts of forgery before then-Judge Robert Garza, his lawyer, Angel Castro, filed a motion for reconsideration of the sentence and asked for deferred adjudication where his conviction would be erased if he complied with the conditions of probation imposed by the court. At the time, Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz filed a motion opposing the deferment but his motion was denied by the court.

Ironically, Saenz endorsed Castro in this BISD election. (Right)

Nonetheless, Garza granted it and Castro was off on his merry way promising not to sin again and to comply with probation. But the last entry in the court docket copies that we – and the other person who requested a copy of the entire file – was an order signed by Judge Arturo Nelson in the 138th District Court "unsatisfactorily discharging defendant from probation."

It stands to reason then, to our viewpoint, that since Castro did not comply wiht the conditions of his probation and was "unsatisfactorily" discharged from probation, then the conviction still stands and Castro cannot possibly hold a public office. Or can he? Let's take a stroll down memory lane.

On January 12, 1994, Erasmo Castro was indicted by a Cameron County grand jury on two charges of forgery.

The charges involved a friend signing over a car to keep it from going to his wife in a divorce and then Castro forging a Brownsville Police Department officer signature to have it released to him from the Cardenas Motor impound lot after it had been seized by police.

According to the docket sheet, Castro waived a jury trial and was convicted in a bench trial and – after a pre-sentence investigation report was considered by the court – sentenced on April 28, 1994 to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections probated to five years by Judge Robert Garza in the 138th District Court with the
usual number of restrictions, fines and court costs.

On May 13, 1994 – barely over two weeks after he was sentenced – his lawyer Angel Castro filed a petition in Garza's court asking that the judge reconsider the sentence and grant Castro deferred adjudication.

On June 3, Garza heard the motion, denied the state's objection (by  Saenz) to reconsider the sentence, granted deferred adjudication – and signed Castro's petition on June 22 with the same conditions of probation for five years.

After that, Castro's conviction would be erased from his record and his full rights restored, including running for office.

The deferred adjudication order included the former restrictions and a fine of $1,000 in equal monthly installments, $500 in restitution to Petra Mancillas (the owner of the car) at $10 per month, court costs at $10 per month, $25 in monthly probation fees, a one-time $50 CrimeStoppers fee within six months, $350 for the pre-sentence investigation, at $10 a month, and 350 hours of community service.

On June 15, Garza signed the order denying the DA's objections. On June 22, he signed the order for deferred adjudication.

Castro asked and was allowed his request that his probation be removed to Titus County ( Mt. Pleasant, Texas). If he satisfied all the requirements of Garza's assessed five-year probationary period, the sentence would be deferred.

Then a flurry of events occurred. The state filed a Motion for Adjudication of Guilt against Castro and the Garza ordered both the state and the defendant to a hearing to show cause for the motion on March 22, 1999.

On March 11, 11 days before the hearing where the state's motion to Adjudicate Guilt was to be heard, an assistant district attorney wrote the court that Castro "has violated the conditions of said probation since it was granted"...and was in arrears $581.38 of the $1,000 fine, $875 of the $1,500 probation fees, $310 of the $500 in restitution to the victim, and $85 on the $350 pre-sentence investigation fee.

The Asst. DA also wrote the court that he had performed only 214 of the court-ordered 350 hours of community service. She asked that the court to revoke his probation.

When Castro failed to appear Garza ordered that a warrant for his arrest be issued and that a $500,000 bond be placed upon him at the time of his arrest.

The docket's next entry appears on February 7, 2008 – eight years later – when now-138th District Judge Arturo Nelson issued an order to the state to show cause why the case should not be dismissed for want of prosecution and set the date of the hearing for March 12, 2008.

On March 3, 2008, Delia Fierro, a community supervision officer, wrote Nelson that Titus County had accepted Castro for supervision on November 14,1994 and that he was employed, sending payments and complying with his probation. However, Fierro wrote, on Aug. 16, 1995, "he was charged with fraud, a charge that was later dropped."

She also said that a TCIC/NCIC record check on September 2007, revealed that the defendant "has been arrested five (5) other times. He was charged with thee (3) times with Theft by Check, of which two counts were dismissed, and he was convicted on the third of two (2) counts and ordered to pay $167 and $204 in court costs; and restitution in the amount os $23.31 and $47.43.

On October 19, 1997, he was arrested and charged with Hindering Secured Creditors in Mount Pleasant, Texas. These charges were later dismissed. On May 29, he was arrested by the Camp County Sheriff's Office and charged with Forgery; these charges were dismissed on April 12, 2007.

On September 22, 1998, courtesy supervision was rejected by Titus County, after the defendant failed to report April, July, August, and September 1988. "

The defendant's whereabouts shave been unknown since then. Attempts have been made to contact defendant at the last known address, to no avail."

The docket indicates that the hearing was reset for March 28 when the state's Motion to Adjudicate was dismissed with no objection from the the DA's office headed by Armando Villalobos and the warrant was recalled.

The motion from the state for an Order Unsatisfactorily Discharging Defendant From Probation was denied and signed by Nelson on March 22, 2008 and the case was closed.

Castro' critics say that the unsatisfactory order means his felony conviction stands and he cannot hold public office. They say that Garza erred in reconsidering Castro's sentence and granting deferred adjudication since the court had no further jurisdiction on his case.

They claim that Garza could no longer correct the sentence because "A trial court has inherent power to correct, modify, vacate, or amend its own rulings, and, as long as it does not by its ruling divest itself of jurisdiction or exceed a statutory time limit, it can simply change its mind on a ruling."

An appeals court in Riles v. State, 216 S.W.3d 836 (2006), quotes precedent that a court is within its authority to change a sentence "only a few moments after it had initially sentenced
defendant and before it had adjourned for day," not two weeks later. Castro, his opponents say, could have moved for a new trial or appealed his conviction.

The Texas Election code states that a person can hold public office only if they "have not been finally convicted of a felony from which the person has not been pardoned or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities."

Some sources have told us that there were other documents – a letter from Garza to Nelson and an order by Nelson exonerating Castro – in the case file. District Clerk Garza did not find it in the case file he pulled from the warehouse and copied for us in 2015 or for the other person who asked for a true copy in 2016. Nor does it show up in the case docket. How can that be? If they exist, why aren't they in the case file or the docket entries?

Will it ultimately take a court to decide the legitimacy of his election win or his ability to take office? And will anybody raise the issue?