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19 Oct
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As the Presidential Debates unfold, voters are still undecided on whether to continue this nation’s journey with President Barak Obama, or pass the torch to newcomer Mitt Romney.  Several undecided voters continue to be uninspired by the candidate’s campaigns and some have given up voting as a consequence.  However, what voting newcomers and several veterans fail to realizeis that there is a multi-party ballot outside Democrats and Republicans. The TAMIU Political Science Association (PSA) continued its voter education initiative by inviting the Webb County Green Party, a party that is often overshadowed by the larger parties. They took the opportunity to reach out to TAMIU Students and Laredo citizens on their political platform as well as to introduce candidates that would be on their ballot this November.


Optimized-IMG 0257The Green Party provides an alternative for students and citizens who are still trying to find their place in the political world.  What is most fascinating of this party is its drive to fight for political equality despite numerous setbacks.  For example, before Tuesday’s Presidential Debate, Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein and Vice-Presidential Candidate Cher Honkala were arrested and shackled to a chair for eight hours due to their insistence to participate in the event.  While major media sources reported the incident, the injustice went unnoticed by many voters.  These are the types of acts that make you wonder why third parties are often excluded or unheard of by citizens.   What are large political parties so afraid of: the expansion of new ideas, the division of votes, or the fact that tradition will be shaken if a new party steps in? 

Regardless of your political views, it is important to explore your options when voting.  You will be surprised to see that not every party is completely to the left or the right.  The Green Party is largely composed of fomer Democrats who stood against centralized government and choose to take a stand for the long ignored environment. The Green Party serves through ten values including: Diversity, Social Justice, Gender Equality, and Ecological Wisdom all which touch on domestic and foreign issues largely discussed by other parties.  However, the Green Party largely differs from others in their views of pro-drug legalization, universal living wages, and the subject of poverty.

The attractiveness of the Green Party came largely from participants who were mostly Texans and well-known cities.  The most interesting character from the Green Party was David B. Collins who described the presentation “a beautiful assemblage of people regardless of political views.”  He opened up with a discussion of
George Luger’s theory of family as a metaphor.   Through this, you find that the Green Party sees conservatives as having a set group or rules, and those who do not fit their standards are often subject to violence or threats as a means of correction.  On the other hand, you find the more nurturing parent who lets you explore your identity and essentially become manipulated and stepped on by the child. Alternatively, The Green Party see themselves as an enlightened village that legalizes hemp to produce paper, fuel, food, and more importantly end the war on drugs. When an audience member commented that their plan seems far-fetched, Collins immediately jumps in to mention drug solutions in Switzerland and Canada and explains the underlying reason for violence is a fight for territory.  Interestingly, part of his solution is to provide legitimate business opportunities for drug lords as an alternative.

At this point, the Green Party becomes controversial. The Green Party seems to be under the impression that the drug problem is largely consisting of U.S. Citizens drug lords.  Most of us realize Drug Lords are primarily stationed in Mexico; a sovereign nation which the United States does not have the power to interfere with.  It will be interesting to see hear how the Green Party would provide jobs to people in Mexico without bringing them to the U.S. or overshadowing the unemployed in our country.

Regardless of their ideas on ending the War on Drugs, the Green Party is one to look out for.  Their numbers are largely increasing over the years, and they are present in the ballots this year.  Collins recommends spending time on the ballot, instead of voting straight ticket. There are several positions where democratic or republican candidates are absent and other parties have an opportunity to jump into the lead.  The Green Party seems to have some great ideas for voters who have found themselves disliking the Democratic and Republican platforms and are looking for change of their place in politics. 

Whether you decide to stick to tradition and vote for the Democratic or Republican parties, or decide to be innovative and vote for a third party, the most important thing is to go out to vote during in the upcoming elections this November 6, 2012.

 

12 Oct
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580943 351378098289126 1328902936 nArmed with words and a cowboy hat, former Sheriff, Rick Flores, was ready to duel with his opponent, Martin Cuellar. The Candidate Chat, held on October 10, 2012 at Texas A&M International University, served to inform TAMIU students on one of the candidates that
540972 351377494955853 899162469 n would be on their ballot. As part of a Voter Awareness initiative, 307 students were registered to vote. The Political Science and Student Government Associations hosted Flores in a round-table style debate consisting of questions from TAMIU students, staff, and the general public. 

Domestic and foreign questions were asked by Jacqueline Verastigui, PSA president, and Jonathan Gutierrez, SGA president, who served as moderators.  Rio Bravo and El Cenizo seemed to be a concern for many, as the lack of police surveillance in rural areas is largely
noticed.  Although it was obvious from Flores’ response that he has vast knowledge of the Laredo region from his naming of Webb County communities, his answer left many in the audience with skepticism.  The rest of the questions asked by the moderators were answered quickly and effectively. Among those questions were the increase of inmate deaths in the prison structure, penitentiary future maintenance, and surveillance. In the past three and a half years, there have been several inmates that have died while imprisoned with speculations of employee negligence.  Flores is concerned that resulting lawsuits are multiplying at taxpayer’s expense, and he attributes the problem to a lack of training.  “It starts with the sheriff.  What is happening is a lack of training in officers,” he affirmed.

            Flores also touched based on the community programs he created with forfeiture funds during his tenure as sheriff. Flores vowed to bring back his Hunting and Fishing Program, which was closed down by Cuellar. Flores also disapproved of the decrease in participation of the Sheriff’s baseball little leagues and boxing gym enrollments under Sheriff Cuellar. Flores further asserted that his opponent’s spending was focused on self-promotion rather than these crucial community programs. Flores found a way to not only defend his work as Sheriff, but he simultaneously attacked the Cuellar administration.  The greatest criticism for Cuellar came from a helicopter seemingly piloted by unlicensed pilots.  With approximately half a million dollars spent in maintenance and operation, citizens in the audience were concerned of where their tax dollars were being spent. Flores explained the solution lied in education and training. The crowd reacted in jeers as Flores explained that 5 out of the past 6 sheriffs possess an undergraduate degree; Cuellar only holds a high school diploma. “I am a strong supporter of academics and constantly work with employees’ schedules to allow them to continue their studies and create an educated workforce and professional environment,” Flores explained.  He continued by explaining that ethics are a large portion of current problems in the sheriff’s office, as time after time employees have been subject to questioning and arrests from ethic problems.  Overall, Rick Flores came prepared and with a deep knowledge of his trajectory and education. He was quick to answer questions posed by TAMIU alumni and Laredoans.  Undoubtedly, the audience left fully informed on the platform of Sheriff Candidate, Rick Flores. 

 

30 Jul
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Vote. Vote Vota! Vote.

 

These are the rally cries of the Laredoans who sit in busy street corners and a block away from the polling sites to encourage us to vote. It seems, however, that they have accomplished nothing more than making noise.

Laredo is inundated with bright colored political signs on the corners of the streets we drive.  The newspapers used to promote the latest events have turned into political photo-ops.  Name recognition is not the problem, I can even name the candidate who made homemade signs with spray-paint.  The candidates have even made their way to the internet as they are found in banners and pop-ups in local media websites and social networks.

However, I can’t name you the positions and stances these politicians have taken.  I can’t differentiate between a candidate who has the same values I do than someone who doesn’t, and there lies the problem. Despite local media attempts to encourage Laredoans to vote, such as broadcasting live debates on Univision and Pro 8 News; politicians used the segment to focus more on criticizing one another than highlighting the important issues.  If politicians want citizens to vote they need to go out and inform us.        PS1 opt

I constantly see Facebook and Twitter statuses encouraging others to vote for a particular person, but sadly when it comes down to it, most can’t tell you why. Laredo is largely dominated on a networking basis. Those who know enough people win. As citizens, we need not only to inform ourselves of the issues, but to encourage our candidates to do the same. It is difficult to identify with a certain candidate, when you’re not certain what they stand for.

10 Jul
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Onlookers


Though touted as a celebration of street culture, the third annual Urban Fest became a melting pot. Last Sunday’s indoor-outdoor event at the Laredo Civic Center attracted various styles of expression from grunge skateboarders to lowrider car club members. Organizer Dave Perez said it was all about good vibrations.


“It was diverse, and everybody respected everybody,” he said. “It was just such positive energy.”

Perez, who also organized the last two festivals, said he and his staff started out with two-thousand entry bracelets but, with less than three hours to go, ran out. This indicates to him the event attracted double what it did last year.

“It’s Laredo. They came out to support their local businesses, local artists and local talent,” Perez said.

Among these local go getters was 17-year-old Elle King, who promoted a clothing brand she’s developing: Thug Kitten. Tattoo

King explained, “When you think of a thug, you think of someone who’s been through a lot. Someone’s who’s wiser. But the kitten part represents approachable. I think it’s like that thug spirit with a softer side too.”


With music provided by rock bands outside and DJs indoors, visitors had many forms of art from which to choose. One could get his face painted or arm tattooed. Or, one could hear some poetry. 

Laredo BorderSlam Poetry members read their work periodically throughout the day and sold chapbooks. BorderSlam founder Roberto “ChibbiOrduña said they sold out.

“We actually sold our chapbooks to people who were probably unfamiliar with slam, so it’s a great way to spread awareness of it,” he said.

On the athletic side, a local mixed martial arts training camp put on an exhibition and the Laredo Wrestling Alliance offered up several matches and a battle royal.

Reflecting on the overall event, Perez said the diversity of urban expression present reflects positively for Laredo.

“Laredo’s getting more accepting of different people, different ideas,” he said. “I would invite all of Laredo to come out for next year’s, which will be even bigger.”


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01 Jul
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The fighting isn't real, but the following surely is. When observing the over-the-top antics of professional wrestling, it’s easy to overlook the headlock it maintains on the popular culture. Casual viewers of World Wrestling Entertainment might not realize it’s a publicly traded corporation luring executives away from Sports Illustrated and Miramax Films, just to name two examples from last year. Just hours from now, when the company broadcasts “Raw,” its most popular show, live from the Laredo for the first time, it comes into a city with a thriving wrestling fandom.

Approximations provided by the Laredo Energy Arena, which hosts "Raw" tomorrow, show healthy attendance at WWE shows for the last two years. The two shows in 2010, July 28 and Dec. 15, saw 6,000 and 6,500 attendants. A show on July 26, 2011 pulled in 5,400, and January's “Smackdown” TV taping drew close to 7,000 fans.

In an e-mail to Laredo Scene, LEA Marketing Manager Rafael Benavides pointed out that televised shows offer less seating overall because the WWE crew takes up some of the arena’s floor space.

A non-televised Raw brand show in March of 2009 drew over 9,000 people.

Local Scene
While waiting for WWE’s recognized stars and large-scale productions, wrestling fans have been slaking their thirst with a local wrestling scene that has grown into a micro industry all its own. In October of 2010, the Laredo Wrestling Alliance held its first show, and it now holds at least one a month.


“For me, it was always about trying to be the promoter,” said LWA founder Rey Chavarria. “I don’t want to be known as the guy in the ring. I want for someone who came through my company and made it big to say that I helped him get his start.”

The shows bear Chavarria’s mark in every respect. He discusses the match outcomes with his talent and allows them to decide how to get there, and he himself gets in the ring as “Ace.” Under this persona, Chavarria’s been bruised, beaten and thrown head first through wooden boards. All of this in a ring he and his roster put up and tear down for every show.

“It’s called paying your dues,” he said, explaining that it’s a tradition for up-and-comers in small companies. LWA wrestlers also put away the chairs, which Chavarria has to rent. All told, the promotion spends about $1,200 on each show.

“That’s going into the venue, equipment rental,” said Chavarria.

The wrestlers of the LWA, most of whom hold down “regular” jobs, perform for free. The crowds
they draw range from 250 to as many as 400 by Chavarria’s estimates. A ticket is usually $5.


“We recover probably seventy-five percent (of costs) for each show,” Chavarria explained.

In March, Chavarria took a big step forward and started contacting past-their-prime talent with big names to come to Laredo for his shows. He needed $600 to bring 63-year-old Chavo Guerrero to Laredo, and that’s not counting the travel and lodging expenses he would need to book this veteran. He said his wrestlers came forward and offered what they could to make it happen.

This kind of investment in the organization is found in another local promotion that started as a splinter group of the LWA. In 2011, one of Chavarria’s early partners, Benjamin “Bones” Nuñez, cut ties with company. Nuñez helped train some of the LWA’s first crop, and many of them followed him in what would eventually become 5 Star Wrestling. Though he pays his wrestlers, Nuñez said many of them offer to return it to help the company grow.

“I just think it’s awesome that there’s so much wrestling in Laredo,” Nuñez said about the two homegrown promotions. “I’m glad I get to train some of these guys and introduce them to this.”

Having performed locally and in San Antonio, 5 Star Wrestling uses social media to get people into its ongoing storylines. Nuñez posts videos of his wrestlers in character calling out an adversary or otherwise advancing a feud (segments called “promos” in industry parlance).

“Without a big budget, you have to get creative and take advantage of everything you can,” he said, adding that he wants to one day have a weekly local wrestling show in a consistent venue. “Part of the challenge for that is a lot of venues for shows like this in Laredo are outdoors, and you know how crazy Laredo weather can be.”


Chavarria and Nuñez both said they'd heard fans say they don't go to wrestling matches in Nuevo Laredo anymore because of the drug-related violence. 

The local shows draw entire families, native Laredoans and a few transplants. What they witness is a meeting of divergent cultures. Mexican luchadores, faces covered in colorful masks, put on aerial displays in between more ground-based matches. Throughout a given show, the stock elements of American wrestling appear including the heel faction whose members always interfere in each other’s matches. There are “commissioners” who make matches and mediate disputes, though rarely objectively. There are so-called character wrestlers providing comedy and others like LWA’s cholos, and the “Arab assassin” Burhan who clearly play on class and cultural stereotypes.

Amid all this, the audience is an active participant in a kind of cultural ritual, observes TAMIU film professor Marcela Moran. In 2008 Moran directed and produced a documentary short called Audencia, which focuses on the audiences at local lucha libre events.

“What I saw was a lot of people, a lot of women, who seemed to feel this was a place they could just let their hair down,” said Moran. “Women would be yelling vulgarities at the bad guys. It was a place you could go to not follow the rules of society.”

Moran also noticed that the shows were a community production.

“They way the shows were pulled off, there were a lot of in-kind donations,” she said. “There are a lot of ways in which the community, people sitting in the audience, were not only enjoying the show, but helped make it happen.”

For LWA and 5 Star, these community partnerships reach a whole new level. Notable voices from local sports media like Bryan Benway and Ryan Bailey have acted as ring announcers and play-by-play commentators for LWA shows. In what was likely a first for a Laredo politician, former candidate for the 341st District Court Fernando Sanchez tapped 5 Star to put on a show for his campaign.

Merchandise

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Amid all this is a local business owner who turned his wrestling addiction into his livelihood.

“I started doing this at the Santa Fe Flea Market on the weekends,” said Oscar Zamarron, owner of Laredo’s Wrestling Shop, which now occupies a tight space in an office suite on Arkansas Street. The walls are covered by WWE characters from the 80s, 90s and today. His collectables include a still-packaged children’s watch with the likeness of Lex Luger, a 90s star of now-defunct World Championship Wrestling and a cardboard Hulk Hogan promotional for Wrestlemania VII.

When a customer walked in and bought two action figures, Zamarron offered to sell her tickets to the next LWA show. In turn, the LWA lets him to get in the ring during the shows to plug his shop by tossing free merchandise to the fans.He’s hosted special autograph signings or local wrestlers Madness and The Freak. The LWA gets more promotion, and Zamarron gets foot traffic in his store.

He said sales pick up when a major WWE event comes to Laredo. Fans have been buying licensed WWE character shirts from him in anticipation of tomorrow’s “Raw.”

“I’ve sold a lot of John Cena shirts,” he said. “What I’m doing is carrying a lot of the kid sized shirts because they don’t sell those at the live shows.”

But it doesn't stop at a local shop selling WWE merchandise. Local wrestlers are branding themselves, taking advantage of their independent contractor status and using each show
as a chance to sell shirts with their ring names. Havoc, a massive brute who competes with a bandana covering his mouth, sells his shirts from the parking lot at the end of each show. In his autobiography, Hulk Hogan describes doing this early in his career.


Meanwhile Polo Arispe, who dons a mask for 5 Star, started earning extra money making merchandise for other wrestlers. He recently ordered a sample plush doll made for Texas Joe, an LWA wrestler.


Safety
Texas Joe is one of several in the local scene who practice the “hardcore” style of wrestling. He’s broken fluorescent light tubes over opponents’ heads, and in May he speared rival South Side off the ring apron and into a wooden board set on fire. The fire spread through South Sides’ back until Chavarria put it out. Stressing that the wrestlers themselves decide what moves and sequences they want to execute, Chavarria said he takes safety precautions when his wrestlers want to go hardcore. Still, the occurrence of these stunts highlights a long-standing concern by critics of the ersatz sport: the fact that wrestling operates largely unregulated, whether it be independent promotions or WWE.

While he was still a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, Rick Santorum took a lot of blame for helping create a no-holds-barred business atmosphere for professional wrestling because in 1987 he worked as a lobbyist for WWE (then World Wrestling Federation). A Philadelphia Inquirer article from November of that year details Santorum’s part in the push to pull pro wrestling out from under the state athletic commission. The basic argument hasn't changed. It’s not real, so it doesn't need regulation. It’s proven effective though the rules vary from state to state.


In Texas, it’s not regulated at all.


Randy Nesbitt, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation said no state body currently oversees professional wrestling, and none will until the legislature passes a bill to that effect. With no such bill in sight, the only possibilities for oversight, Nesbitt suggested, might come not for the wrestling events but for the promotions as businesses under the Texas Department of Insurance.

Chavarria registered LWA as an LLC under the Texas Secretary of State, and many independent promotions follow similar requirements as small businesses. If the promotions have to self-regulate for individual shows, keeping the action traditional and minimizing the use of weapons is one natural safeguard, at least according to wrestling purists like Prince Fontenot.  

“Your first job as a wrestler is to put a butt every 18 inches,” he said, referring to the distance between chairs. “But that doesn't mean you need to be setting someone on fire. I mean, look, we can put a table with AIDS needles and have a, call it a death match, and you’ll get people’s attention. But we need to know where the line is.”

A competitive body builder and former LWA champion himself, Fontenot spent years as a wrestler and promoter in Texas and Georgia. He’s seen multiple companies thrive in bigger cities and thinks it can happen locally as well.

“You could have a situation where one group has more American style, with the story lines and all that, and another has the Mexican style,” he said. “You can do wrestling all kinds of ways.”

Certainly, there’s no shortage in Laredo of wrestling fans, young and old. On the day Zamarron spoke with Laredo Scene in his shop, a family of four walked in. A young boy looked into the glass case at an action figure of WWE’s Alberto Del Rio.

“You know he’s injured, right?” Zamarron asked the boy. It was a Monday. “Raw” would be on in a few hours.

“I know,” the gentleman with the boy said. He patted his pocket. “I signed up for the text alerts.”

21 Jun
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Close to 75 young girls spent the week engaged in science activities at a camp organized by Informal Science Learning Associates. ISLA, as this group of educators is known, held the camp to teach kids about the process of science. 

"It's really about discovery," said ISLA educator Melissa Cigarroa at the camp's site at the Lamar Bruni Vergara girl scout house.  "It's about how you draw conclusions about your observations and your investigations. You have to be able to form a good question about what interests you."

Cigarroa added that collaborative experiment design, data collection and presentation are all vital, if not sometimes overlooked, aspects of science. Camp participants focused on each of these through projects like frying an egg outside using the bottom half of pizza box and tin foil. In groups, girls came up with different add-ons to the box and different placements of red bricks to keep the makeshift stove-top in place. Along the way, the girls learn about the properties of heat and energy. 

Inside the house, associate Samantha Sanchez helped girls create monsters out of fruit. 

"They needed to name the monster and come up with a story," she said. "I told them they

can't use anything from movies or T.V. It had to be original, and Optimized-IMG 1601they had to use their imag-

inations."

Creativity and art complement the sciences because they involve similar thinking, explained

Jose R. Perez. 

"To solve a problem, an engineering problem, people need to be creative," Perez said. "Engin-

eering has to be very open ended. It's adding that scheme of things to the entire camp."

The groups were heterogeneously mixed, so the girls experienced learning with

partners of various ages and levels. Allowing collaboration in scientific pursuits is important

but not happening enough in schools, he added. 

In Cigarroa's view, ISLA can not only provide supplementary activities for students but work with local classroom teachers. 

"What we would really like to do is get teachers involved in the process," she said. "Sometimes the hardest thing for a teacher is to remember what it's like to be a learner. There's so much focus on classroom management and this authoritarian model. Not that classroom management can't work in conjunction with this kind of process. It's in the emphasis placed on the culture of the school."

Added Cigarroa: "It is not one or the other. It's coming together."

ISLA plans to hold more camps in July. 

 

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