Wednesday, February 13, 2019
Whataburger, one of Laredo's favorite burger joints, put out an old photo in Sunday's paper. The fast food franchise is celebrating 52 years, and it's still going strong.
The photo above is of the first Whataburger in Laredo, located on Bartlett Ave.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Available for public viewing is the Washington's Birthday Celebration Association's (WBCA) yearly magazine ByGeorge, a publicity handout which includes ads, dates for each and every festivity, and a telling of how the month-long party came to be.
In its current iteration, the journal describes the festival with the usual grandiose and imaginative tone. One familiar WBCA character, however, has taken on a more central import, that of Princess Pocahontas. In February of 1898, Nettie Matherne played the part of Pocahontas. (The name Nettie Matherne doesn't exactly scream native Laredoan.) The actual "peacemaking princess" called Virginia home in the early 1600s and mingled with the early colonists. That's the one we all know from historical and animated movie accounts. She was the daughter of a tribal chief who was never in line to inherit any power among her people. The title of Princess is an honor that has been bestowed to Pocahontas by us, or rather, the people who push this theatrical event.
In the article pictured above, organizers concede that the beloved WBCA event started in 1898 with a mock raid. Unfamiliar to most people today is that everything that took place in the initial commemoration was a mockery, cooked up by Laredo's Anglo elite. Dr. Jerry Thompson, in his book "Laredo: A Pictorial History," tells of a burlesque show being part of that first celebration. The farcical elements of the Washinton's Birthday celebration are different nowadays. Instead of a mock battle between made-up players, icons are marched out in bedazzled costumes with no historical accuracy or context whatsoever.
Dr. Thompson details how the WBCA was actually the idea of Samuel M. Jarvis, Mayor of Laredo.
On February 22, 1870, Jarvis had handbills distributed announcing a Washington's Birthday Celebration "in honor of the Birthday of the first President of the Unites States."
The mayor apparently wanted more American holidays celebrated in Laredo. In 1872, Jarvis relinquished his duties as mayor and his brainchild fizzled away. Fast forward 25 years and that's when the local Yaqui Tribe took up Jarvis' challenge. A committee was named to start the ball rolling. What comes next is nothing short of ridiculous.
In 1897, the Yaqui Tribe No 59 of the Improved Order Of Red Men planned a celebration. The Red Men created characters to put on a show. They were:
Miguel Benavides - Hot Booze, Man Afraid of Fire Water
Justo Penn - Spotted Tail, The Dude
Robert McComb - Painted Plover
Henry Deutz - Little Wounded Knee
Thomas Dodd - Joseph Weasel Bear
George R. Page - Man Afraid of his Squaw
Francisco Fierros - Walking Cloud
Reverand J. Ward - Great Prophet
Sam Howard - Hail Stones in his Stomach
Charlie Ross - C. Capias, of Brief & Capias
Will C. Long - John Timmid, a Pale Face
Johnny Thompson - Samuel Brief, Esq.
The inane roles the fraternal brothers gave themselves, coupled with the organization's name, the Improved Order of Red Men, is more of a dig at Native Americans than a tribute. What we have is a co-opting of cultures. With the help of the Improved Order, we have appropriated the honorable traditions of Native Americans and mangled them for our delight.
In the mock battle of 1898, troops from Ft. McIntosh were included to defend City Hall. Today the only troops that partake in the festivities are Border Patrol agents. The raid of 1898 had a military prop: a Gatling gun. Last year, Councilman Charlie San Miguel rode in a Jeep that was rigged with a Browning M2 50 caliber machine gun.
The Red Men of yesteryear drove off the soldiers that were defending the municipal stronghold. The mayor hoisted a white flag and a key to the city was passed around. Pocahontas made a cameo. Nowadays we have an abrazo ceremony between people of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo. And we have a president who is putting up barbed wire all along our border. That same dingus (real name Donald) mocks a U.S. senator by calling her Pocahontas.
Laredoans don't know why we celebrate George Washington every February. Perhaps that's a good thing. When you look at the inspiration for the festival that we know today, it looks like a bad Mel Brooks movie. The famed movie-maker did satire. What our people do is somehow taken seriously, even though the elaborate galas are tacky and misguided.
Professor William Nericcio said of the WBCA: Nothing warped my imagination more as a child than the George Washington's Birthday Celebration. The GW gala basically freaked me out. An annual event that mimicked the "glamour" of plantation-style debutantes fused with South Texas sexy culture. It left this future cultural critic of the border with a lifelong case of frontera schizophrenia.
LaredoTejas blogger Maximiliano Laredense was more succinct: I think the whole thing is absurd.
I've always thought that the WBCA celebration came to be out of a nationalist fervor. The Improved Order of Red Men gave it some pizzaz, albeit at the expense of Native Americans. The costumes got more gaudy and the bandas de guerra from Mexico took the place of the original marauding cosplayers, I guess. Our whole spring festival is absurd, like Max said. It's Laredo's giant-ball-of-yarn attraction. It's our Mount Rushmore, without the gravitas. The only constant in this whole sham has been that Laredo's elite have dictated how history is told. They drive the narrative and we spectators sit idly by.
Wednesday, January 23, 2019
City Manager Horacio DeLeon announced his retirement last night at the first council meeting of the year. The surprise announcement was made after executive session.
DeLeon took over for Jesus Olivares, who also retired during a council meeting on May 15, 2017. Olivares stepping down came almost three weeks after city hall was raided by FBI agents in a corruption case that may still be ongoing. "Chuy" Olivares was named as a target subject in the federal probe. Nobody from the municipal side of local government has been formally charged yet.
County Commissioner Jaime Canales is set to be sentenced soon in connection with that same investigation.
Carlos Villarreal retired on November 2014. Of the three city managers we've had in the past five years, DeLeon is the one with the most amiable personality. Luck to him in his newfound retirement.
Sunday, January 6, 2019
Before the runoff election took place last month, a video surfaced on FB that featured a chaotic scene at a local establishment. An employee of the newly-opened PlaMor filmed a shouting match between chef Louie Bruni and businessman Roque Vela Jr. (photo above taken FB post/video)
Bruni and Vela yelled their heads off at each other. The chef was then quick to post the video on social media for us to see.
What's interesting about the video is that you had two grown men in each other's face, and it dropped as one of them was in the running for the office of mayor. Vela ended up losing the race against incumbent Pete Saenz. The video was not the deciding factor for voters, I think. It was, however, a glimpse of Roque Vela's storied volatile behavior.
Making the rounds before the general election was a flier that listed Vela's run-ins with the law. It was dirty laundry galore, courtesy of none-friends of Roque Vela Jr. The info. made for great water cooler talk. And it may be what future campaigns look like: third parties making their voices known through push ads.
But gutter politics aside, I want to mention one more thing about the viral video. As the rogue videographer taped the fight on his phone, a lady tries to put an end to it. She wags her finger at the employee while saying no! She puts her hand on the phone, interrupting the visual. She's then heard saying, don't touch me! It's funny to me because she's invading an employee's space, getting physical, but demands not to be touched. Everything that takes place in the clip is a lesson in what NOT to do in that type of situation.
Laredo politics don't disappoint. If it's not the corruption that jars our sensibilities, it's the relationships that are made and the antics that come with it.
Wednesday, January 2, 2019
On the way into town, you pass the Tumble Inn, so named because it seems imminent that the whole place will crash into the arroyo over which it is built.
That passage is from an old issue of Texas Monthly. The Tumble in was a restaurant/dance hall that no longer exists. The arroyo the writer mentions has to be the Chacon Creek, which is near the 3 Points neighborhood. I can't tell you exactly where the restaurant was located, because of the scarcity of information about it.
An ad that I found in an old yearbook lists the Tumble Inn as being located on Corpus Christi Highway.
Photo: an ad for the establishment that appeared in a February 1960 issue of the Laredo Times.
And a photo that a friend sent me via Twitter, showing the actual address of the restaurant: 2803 Cortez.
Tuesday, December 25, 2018
It's the end of the year, a time when no significant news is reported by local media outlets. For that reason I bring you La Sanbe's 'Person of the Year.' My selection for 2018 is Jaime Canales.
The former Webb County Commissioner, and sometimes school administrator, pleaded guilty in federal court two months ago. Canales was found to be taking illegal gifts from an engineering company lobbyist, a man who may be the person who took his own life in late October. The go-between these two gentlemen was a weasel named Johnny Amaya, a boil of a man who knew his way around our political circles.
An unsealed indictment showed how Jaime Canales was none too shy about asking a corporate shill for money and use of a condominium at a nearby vacation hot spot. That in exchange for introducing a lucrative road project in to the commissioners court agenda and the subsequent approval thereof. It's the classic story of lobbyists writing policy for elected officials, compensating those same officials for carrying out their wants, and then securing multi-million dollar contracts to enrich themselves immensely. Canales played along with the whole scheme, scoring money and trips along with way.
It's unfortunate that this man got lured in to the world of local politics. You would think that somebody who had a cushy job, that of administrator, would be happy with what he had; but perhaps the boredom was too much to shoulder. He took hold of something more, a position that brought a little more prestige and attention. As commissioner he got a comfortable new chair, and a new title that bestowed upon others the obligation to refer to him as the honorable Jaime Canales. He gained a new workload that brought with it a handsome yearly salary. He secured the admiration of people like me. I met Canales before he was elected to office, and then several times by chance during his tenure with the county. He seemed personable, capable and dedicated to his work. Unfortunately he became another corrupt cog in the cynical world of Webb County politics.
For his greed, Canales will be sent up for a prison term of about five years. We'll find out exactly how much time he'll serve when he's sentenced in February. For now he'll be our Person of the Year. Soon he'll become inmate number Pendejete who should've known better!
Take care, people. Hope seems to be in short supply around here.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
A friend mentioned to me the time that Charles Manson was jailed in our fair town. I found out that he was extradited from our sister city on June 1, 1960. Manson apparently violated the Mann Act, which makes it a crime to transported women across state lines for immoral purposes.
Interesting tidbit of information if I do say so myself.
(Clipping from the Laredo Times I found online.)