Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dame la Mano: A Class Project

I have been away from blogging for sometime now. Life has taken its course. I started my post-doctoral position as research and writing specialist with the Office of Strategic Initiatives at UTEP, and then a month and a half later I defended my dissertation, Claiming the Discursive Self: The Rhetoric of Mexican Women Journalists, 1875-1924, this July. Since then, I have been just trying to catch up on either sleep or time to read.

Now that I've caught up on life I want to report on my Spring '09 semester. I taught one section of 3355 Workplace Writing and Organizational Communication. The course includes a major project at the end of the semester that asks students to chose a company and write a recommendation analysis/report for upper management. The first part of the course, however, delves into the theoretical bearings of rhetoric and examining businesses through a rhetorical lens. We read Community Action and Organization Change by Brenton Faber, which explains through ethnographic naratives how businesses are discursive constructions, and that in order to alter the direction or reality of a business, that it first must be done through discourse. One of Faber's main critiques in his first chapter deals with the disconnect between academe and university courses and the real business world. Although the students from the Fall '08 semester seemed to have learned a great deal from conducting the analysis/report on the companies, I thought I would take this critique to heart.

Every Christmas Even when I was growing up, my mom and dad would take all of the kids out caroling to families who were less fortunate than us. We would take them food and tidings of good joy. Christmas Eve of 2008 was no different. I stopped by at my parent's house, and they were gathering what they could for an not-for-profit organization they had heard about on a radio announcement that needed food and clothing for battered and homeless women. I loaded myself along with several hams, canned food items, and clothing to take to the shelter. We drove through the lonely streets of Segundo Barrio, an old neighborhood in which mostly Mexican-Americans live and thrive. We found the shelter called Dame la Mano at the very end of the block. There were other good semaritans there loading the front room up with foods, treats for the children, and need toiletries.

The shelter seemed pretty well taken care of by the community of El Paso. I asked for a flier or a brochure that I could have to take home and share with others. The Director, Rose Arellano, handed me a newsletter. A newletter is the first impression of an organization, telling the reader who they are, what their mission is, and what activities are taking place. It should be sharp, well-written, containing vibrant pictures and design to convey the life of an organization. But Dame la Mano's newsletter was anything but. It had mispellings throughout the public document. The paragraphs were not well written and had little relevance to the audience. It only told of the first days of the organization, which had been over 15 years ago.
I asked my students if they were interested in substituting the major research project with a project that would not only get them involved in their community, but also teach them about how discourse shapes and can have transformative powers within organizations. On Cesar Chavez Day, we visited Dame la Mano, and met with the directors of the organization. My students asked what they would like to see in their brochures. What information would be helpful? In what language should they be written? What stories would you like to see in newsletter? These questions gave the students an idea of how to approach their projects.
Groups of students completed their brochures, newsletters, etc. and presented them to Dame la Mano on the last day of class. Beltran Printing here in El Paso donated over 500 brochures and newsletters to the organization. Dame la Mano was extremely appreciative of the class's efforts. This past May, Dame la Mano was invited to the White House to talk about their efforts to help people along the border with their non-profit organization. They were able pass out the brochures and newletters that my class had created to bring more funding and recognition to their work.
¡Esto es el trabajo de la mujer Latina!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In Memory of Petra Casas

Today, I remember Petra Casas, grandmother of my best friend, Cythia Casas Bishop. I have known Cindy now for almost 18 years, and our friendship strengthens with each memory we share. We have a special connection in that that we both hold dear and love deeply our abuelas. Cindy was my friend when my grandmother, Ramona Gonzalez was alive. I know Cindy remembers coming over to my house where I lived with my abuelita to eat lunch, or take naps before we kept studying for the night. The fact that Cindy has in her memory images and recuerdos of my grandmother, connects this dear friend to my ancestrial past. In return, I have dear memories of Cindy's grandmother, Petra. (The picture above is from Cindy's wedding to Steve Bishop this past July in Albuquerque, NM. From left, Petra Casas, Cindy Casas Bishop, and Elvia Casas)
Nuestras abuelas nos dan los más dulces momentos y recuerdos de nuestras vidas. Nunca, nunca se nos olvidará de nuestras abuelas.
In Memory - Petra Casas September23, 1923 - February 24, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Around El Paso on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19, 2009, is a time to remember one of the greatest African-American leaders of our time. But the day is also about commemorating what he stood for: freedom for all people. Monday afternoon I drove down to the non-profit organization, Dame la Mano, and saw some images that reflected the spirit of the day. As I was getting back into my car, I saw a group of children playing in the street. They weren't playing ball or some of the typical street games. They were gathered playing the traditional Mexican bingo game called LOTERIA. I couldn't resist. The sun danced perfectly off road warming the small breeze that blew down the street, and so I sat down next to Kimberly and said, "Yo quiero jugar." The looked at me kinda strange. I'm sure they thought, "Que hace esta señora?" But I played a couple of rounds of LOTERIA with Kimberly, Emmanuel, Caleb, Hillary, and Adan. "El pescado. La pera. El boracho. La dama. El diablito. La muerte. El arbol. La chalupa. El pajaro. El sol. La luna. La corona."

Getting in my car and driving north to go home, I came upon a group of students and community members who were painting a mural on the wall of small grocery store in Segundo Barrio. They are working on a series of murals in Segundo called Heroes de Segundo Barrio. This day, they were working on the mural of El Paso DJ, Steve Crosno. The muralists were Ruben Velez, Eddie Velez, Albert Calzada, Jesus, Jerry Calvio, and Kimberly.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Another Mexican Revolution in Juarez, Mexico

The year 2008 found Juarez, Mexico in the grips of terror. It has been reported that just over 1600 people were murdered on the streets of Juarez, Mexico. (I wouldn't take this as the official count because I think that there were more!) Already in the first days and weeks of 2009, over 50 people have been killed in Juarez. I've seen the sad reports with the gruesome pictures of people being run over with vehicles to headless corpses hanging from city bridges for the better part of a weekday morning! The people in Juarez are victims of a lawless environment! First, the drug cartel conduct daily murders on the open streets of Juarez. They don't care who they kill, or how they kill. They are sending a message! One would hope that if your city were being terrorized by criminals that the law, the government, or the military would be there to protect them, especially since the people do not have the right to carry a weapon. BUT THEY ARE NOT PROTECTING THE PEOPLE! THEY HAVE TURNED A BLIND EYE TO THE TERRORISM AND HAVE SANCTIONED THE ACTIONS OF THE DRUG CARTEL! So what are the people to do, lay down and allow themselves to be held hostage? NO!

"Evil thrives when good people do nothing," is the phrase my husband, Alex, uses for moments such as the one brewing in Juarez. And good people are rising to the moment. This past week a group of business men released a public announcement telling the poeple that they would be financing a retaliatory movment. They call their group of vigilatantes Comando Cuidadano de Juarez or Citizen Comandos of Juarez or CCJ. They have declared, in so many words, that they are fed up with the terror in the streets of Juarez and are prepared to clean up their streets. They have posted a warning, a line in the sand has been drawn, "a criminal will be killed every 24 hours" until the streets of Juarez are once again safe.

Evil thrives when good people do nothing. There has been a Revolution every century since 1810 in Mexico; this one will make 3! Patria y Libertad!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mayor Cook Vetos El Paso's Voices

(Picture source, El Paso Newspaper Tree)
We've all heard the saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." This week, El Paso City Council member, Beto O'Rourke, laid the ground work for this journey to HELL! What started out as a resolution to extend EL Paso's solidarity with our sister city, Juarez, Mexico, that has been besieged by unchecked violence, has been converted into a major controversial issue. Beto O'Rourke added an ammendment to the resolution that called for a debate on the issue of the drug war being fought right here in our community. I have not been able to find a link to the resolution, but O'Rourke's two cents on the issue that called for "the encouragement of the U.S. federal government to start a "serious debate" on the legalization of drugs" (El Paso Times).

First, I'd like to commend the EL Paso City Council's Border Relation Committee on trying to bring attention to an issue that to me, seems like it has been swept under the table by the majority of America. But I have to agree with Mayor John Cook and Sylvestre Reyes, who commented on this ammendment, that legalizing the use of mariguana is not the solution to the drug war. Mayor John Cook used his veto power to keep the resolution from moving forward, but the resolution has now made major headlines in El Paso and elsewhere. Imagine what this would bring about in Mexico. The drug cartel, murders, terrorists, and money launders, would now become the agents with whom the governments deal with for access to this drug. And then, can you imagine, not only would out school teachers, doctors, airline pilots, mechanics, for that matter, our city council members, could now not only legally drink their woes away, but smoke a joint with that glass of booze. Is that the solution to all our problems, make the issue acceptable? You're 15 and pregnant, well, that's okay! You robbed a bank, well, that's okay. You cooked your books past the boiling point, well, that's okay. Just stay in your penthouse until we can figure out what to do with you. Ay NO!

First, Mexico needs to clean up their act. The government has been in bed with the enemy; for too long they have turned a blind eye to the issue of drug running. Greed has taken hold of the people in power, and the power of the government should be greater than one of human's weakness. But I'm wondering also, if government isn't the result of human weakness? Are we all to blame? Do we all have blood on our hands? Are we all complacent? "Not my children," we argue.

I'm just wondering what SHOULD be done about the drug war. Is there any ONE solution? I'm going to say that the first step, as city council proposed, that the people on the border are NOT a divided people, and that their problem IS our problem.

Maybe it's time for a SUPER HERO!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Local County Commisioner, Anna Perez, Makes Progress

I am sorry to say that I don't follow local El Paso politics. Too many times the citizens of El Paso hear only negative news on the politicians of El Paso from the sad news of fraud by Raymond Telles to the kick-back charges made toward Sal Mena, ex board of trustee in the El Paso Independent School District. Sadly, the list, and the investigations, go on. All too easily, a local El Pasoan can get discouraged and lose faith in our local government. (Picture above from Anna's website,

But today, newly sworn in County Commisioner for Eastside Precinct 1, Anna Perez, caught my eye and positive attention. She is a local talent (and on top of being smart, she is Latina) that went to Texas Tech Law School, and has come back to serve and improve her community along the border. She has a long track record of working for the community from issues on mental health advocacy, to outreach for the disabled and elderly. She is the immediate past President of the Mexican American Bar Association of El Paso, and currently sits on the board of the El Paso Bar Association. But what caught my attention is her desire to get things done in El Paso.

The EL Paso Sportspark, a recreaction spot used by many EL Paso families, has been set aside as a project too big to tackle. But Anna Perez has made the park her priority. She is quoted in yesterday's El Paso Times,

"The Sportspark has to get resolved," Perez said.

"It's gone through several administrations, it's been tossed around, and I'm committed to finally getting it resolved for the families who use that park."

ALthough Anna is not my precinct representative, I will be following her, hoping that she can bring a positive air and noteworthy results to El Paso politics that has, of late, been dragged through the muck.