Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A José Antonio Navarro: ¡Feliz Cumpleaños!

That is: "'Happy Birthday!' to J.A. Navarro". And yes, I know that if you, dear reader, aren't from Texas (& possibly even if you are) you're asking, "Jose Antonio who?" Well, here's the scoop: of the many heroes from Texas or significantly associated with this heroic state, José Antonio Navarro is in my "Top Three Heroes of Texas"!

On this date (27 February) in the Year of Our Lord 1795, he was born in this city of San Antonio to a father from Corsica and a mother who was a "rose of San Antonio". He was a "patriot's patriot": as a resident of this city all his long life (he died in 1871) he lived under five of the "six flags of Texas". (The only flag missing is that of France, which hardly counts since French occupation was so tenuous and ephemeral.) Navarro fought for the freedom of his beloved native city, first from the imperial Spaniards, then from the dictatorship of Mexican General Santa Anna. He served in legislative bodies for Texas, as a part of Mexico's state of Coahuila y Texas, as an independent Republic, and as one of these United States! Most of all, this native son of San Antonio, a lawyer by profession, fought legally for the rights and heritage of los tejanos -- the native-born Texans of Spanish surname and Spanish or Mexican or mestizo ethnic-cultural background.

This morning the San Antonio Conservation Society hosted a birthday party for this historic and heroic tejano, at Casa Navarro, the family homestead in what is now downtown San Antonio. (In his lifetime, his home and office complex was toward the southwestern outskirts of town.) Several descendants of Navarro were also present, as were the curator, representatives of the "Friends of Casa Navarro" and of the Texas Historical Commission (which just took oversight of the property from the state Parks and Wildlife division), and County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson. The latter read a Proclamation from Bexar County proclaiming the day to be "José Antonio Navarro Day" in honor of his birthday and his tremendous significance for tejanos and for Texans in general.

Navarro, let it be known, was one of two delegates whome San Antonians chose to represent them at the convention in Washington-on-the-Brazos which concluded by declaring Texas free and independent. He and the other San Antonian, his uncle José Francisco Ruiz, were the only native-born Texans (and the only Spanish-surname) to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. Navarro also served on the committee that drew up the Constitution for the Republic, and later served again on that which framed the state document -- and always he fought vigorously for the equal rights of the original inhabitants of the Lone Star State: los tejanos.

Hi-lite of the Navarro Birthday Party was a re-enactment of a meeting between José Antonio and Sam Houston, in period costume. The Anglo general (actually then still just a colonel) was performed by Mike Waters -- who stand six feet tall if that in contrast to the towering real-life Houston -- and performing as the tejano leader was the man who wrote the script: Maclovio Pérez. Maclovio is a local media personality, weatherman for WOAI. He also is one of voices heard giving the forecast if one dials 225-0404 (time, temp & forecast). I've heard him several times in my years of residence in this city, dialing that number at least a couple of times a week! And now I was getting to meet the man -- in the guise of one of the top heroes of Texas (in my book at the least)!

Title of the Pérez-authored dramatic conversation -- the two gentlemen drank toasts twice -- is "The Winds of Change: Jose Antonio Navarro and General Sam Houston." Let me assure you, the dialog between the two gentlemen sounded quite authentic - true to their personalities and to the politico-social situation of 1835 Texas. Houston spoke with deep concern and conviction about the discontent of the Texian colonists in the east part of the state. And Navarro uttered very unflattering epithets against Santa Anna. I don't know if any such meeting and conversation between the two occurred in Casa Navarro, but I sure hope it did and basically in agreement with Pérez' script!

The program portion of the birthday party segued into refreshments, including tamales a huge layer birthday cake and hot cocoa, served in the kitchen of the Casa Navarro complex. This third building of the complex (the other two being the two-story office and the one-story, porched residence) was surprisingly large; perhaps one of the rooms served as pantry. Many of us took our birthday snacks outside to enjoy them under los ancianos encinos (ancient live oaks) of the property and the blue, clear sky with its warming sunshine. All in all, we threw a terrific birthday party for a terrific Texas hero!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Let's Rodeo, San Antonio!

Here's to you, dear reader, a belated "Happy Valentine Day!"

I had the holiday off yesterday -- not because Valentine Day is a school holiday in the AHISD, but just because I didn't have a sub-teaching job. So I took advantage of this to attend the opening of the San Antonio City Council meeting in the mid-morning.

After I had passed thru the new airport-style security gate -- having divested myself of all metallic objects and my belt -- I entered Council chambers (the former ground-floor lobby of the former Frost Bank skyscraper next to the Cathedral on Main Plaza/Plaza de las Islas) to see that the Council, Mayor Hardberger and City Manager Scully were posing for their formal group mug shot. You see, we have two new "temporary" or "fill-in" Council members, because those two Councilmen, Roland Gutierrez of District 3 and Kevin Wolff of Dist. 9, resigned at the start of the calendar year to campaign for other offices. I deem it very inconsiderate to the citizens of those districts that these men did this soon after being re-elected. It means that for most of what would have been their second term their former districts are represented by persons chosen by the Council, not the district voters! Perhaps the two-year two-term limit is not such a bad idea after all!

Anyhow, after the photo-taking (many of the women -- now the majority on the Council -- wore red dresses and the men red neckties due to the holiday) one of the first orders of business was introduction and explanation of the new "branding" that the Convention & Visitors Bureau will use in promoting the City of San Antonio. Ten posters were displayed, which will apparently be seen as pages in travel magazines, brochures, and even on the Web. Each poster/page had a montage made up of one or two "background" subject(s) and a lower corner (approximately a quarter of the space) of a candid of some person, separated somewhat from the "background" subject(s) by a discreet ripped edging. Subjects included The Alamo (naturally) accompanied in the ripped-edge corner by the Director of The Alamo, a Riverwalk footbridge, a painted charro figure associated with Mi Tierra Restaurant, etc.

At center bottom a maroonish quatrefoil encloses the words "San Antonio. Deep. In the Heart". These words appear in more prominent print toward the top. The phrase of course implies the great song "Deep in the Heart of Texas" -- I've known and loved that song since my Idaho boyhood and of course I thrill every time I hear it at the finale of the "Lone Star Spectacular" at Fiesta Texas. By leaving off the "of Texas", the branding phrase fosters a more diverse interpretation. E.g. that San Antonio gets deep under one's skin, to become a passion, as it did with me upon my first visit to the Alamo City around 1980. Indeed, the quatrefoil was interpreted, among other ways, as having the four parts People, Passion, Pride and Promise!

So, what does the Council meeting presentation on the new "branding" have to do with the Rodeo? Well, that's the point. The Rodeo was one of many potential subjects which did NOT grace any of the ten poster/pages. This omission leapt out at me, since I already was planning to attend it that evening. Also, of the many, many annual events -- perhaps I should say "parties"? -- of San Antonio, the Stock Show and Rodeo is msot appreciated because it connects me to my "roots" as a boy growing up in Idaho, where we Grahams annually attended the Snake River Stampede in Nampa! I love rodeos! Always have!

I'd originally planned to attend Friday evening's competition (and concert) with my brother Patrick and sister-in-law LaRae. But then the military intervened -- again -- by assigning a later shift for Patrick to work at the hospital OR. So once again I didn't get to see the thrills of the cowboy competitions with family. Just by my little lonesome. See my posting of Monday 19 February 2007 for how we all enjoyed the Stock Show grounds last year but only yours truly the Rodeo. Speaking of which, together we three did attend "Cowboy Church" on Sunday the Tenth. Suzie Luchsinger was there this year, sounding and looking as great as ever; and Brother Ikels preached as engagingly as always. He has a great way with sermon illustrations!

After I purchased my Rodeo ticket I wandered the Stock Show grounds for the hour-plus before the competition was to begin. In my wanderings I was delighted to run into my old radio buddy Jerry King of KKYX-AM 650, at the booth (actually tent) for KKYX and Y-100. We had a great conversation while I snacked on a free sample of black beans I'd been given just across the way.

After entering the AT&T Center and locating my seat, I noticed that in addition to the four NBA Champion banners honoring the Spurs, there also hung from the ceiling three banners from the PRCA honoring our Rodeo as the "Best Indoor Large Rodeo" in these United States! Hooray, San Antonio! I also located, from the "nosebleed section" the two announcers for the event, Randy Corley and Hadley Barrett -- both great guys. The Rodeo commenced with its traditional colorful and patriotic horseback presentation of the flags, of the Rodeo, of the State of Texas and of Old Glory.

Competition in each event was exciting. Of course, each had at least one contestant who didn't complete the eight-second ride or had a disqualification. But there were some terrific efforts from others! One competitor in the Tie-Down Roping (I think) hailed from Chubbuck, Idaho. Later another, in Saddle-Bronc Riding (I think), came from Bruneau in the State of my raising. (Recently I was told that "raising" is for horses and other domesticated animals and that human children are "reared" by contrast; oh well, whatever. . . .) There were also two competitors during tis evening from Pendleton, Oregon. When I was a boy I knew that the "Pendleton Round-up" was a big rodeo, as were the "Calgary Stampede" in Alberta, Canada, and the rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Of course, my provincial, "backwoods" young mind considered Nampa's Snake River Stampede to be the equal of any of those three!

Anyhow. . . it was an exciting and fun night of ridin' 'n ropin' in the S.A. Rodeo!

After the competitions, they set up the floor for the featured entertainer on this Valentine Day evening, Clay Walker. He's one of the newer stars of country music, so I'm not familiar with him -- I really need to listen more to KKYX's sister station Y-100 or to KJ-97, so I can keep up with current country hits! Including the latest release by my man George Strait! He may be a legend now, having been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but he's still a superstar too -- who keeps recording new albums and producing great new hit songs! If you haven't listened to "It Just Comes Natural" with its 15 top-notch songs, go give your ears a treat!

But I did know that Clay Walker is a so-called "hat act" -- after George appeared on the country-music scene and kept on wearing his Stetson while performing despite Nashville bigwigs' objection to headgear, others such as Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks donned Stetsons and spawned the originally derisive term. And I knew that Clay had a fair singing voice and sang in a more-or-less traditional style.

What I didn't know and found out this nite is that he loves and supports our military. Before he came out to start live singing of country love songs, they played a video of still shots of soldiers in Iraq (and a few scenes from military funerals here at home) while Clay was singing his song "Fall". Even tho' the lyrics are on the face of it a romantic love song, many of the phrases seem fit for expressing the comradeship of brothers in arms in the face of the grimness of combat.

. . .Forget about the world tonight
. All that’s wrong and all that’s right
. Lay your head on my shoulder let it fade away

. And if you wanna let go baby its okay

. Fall. . . go on and fall apart
. Fall into these arms of mine
. I'll catch you every time you fall
. Go on and lose it all
. Every doubt, every fear, every worry, every tear
. I'm right here
. Baby. . . fall