Saturday, January 14, 2012

Father Jack Broussard - Part II - The Jim Crow South in Texas

This post is the 2nd part of a series on Father Jack Broussard, a very unusual priest who worked in southeast Texas during the last half of the 20th century.  The series not only talks about his life, but the society in which he lived.  Click here for part 1.

JB with my brother Jojo, 1963
The Jim Crow South in Texas

My son and I once talked about JB's desire to do the right thing and his relationship to his plantation owning ancestors.  Perhaps JB's background of privilege provided the security and drive to make things better for other people.  I'm sure his mother would have said it was his religious faith.

One of the slaves belonging to the Broussard family stayed for decades after emancipation.  The family land was located near New Iberia, LA.  The man lived there until he died.  Its a complex story to tell -  some scholars say that there is never a "good" slave owner.  Why didn't the family free their slaves before the Civil War?  Unfortunately I never asked JB about that.  I wish I would have.

He arrived in Rosenberg (Fort Bend County - near the famous Sugar Land) in the late 1940s - things were still in the 19th century.  Jim Crow laws were strong and some people in town didn't have indoor toilets.  The Jim Crow laws had been in effect since 1889 when the Jaybird Party won a shoot out in front of the court house in neighboring Richmond.  There had been a number of African American politicians in office in the county, but they were run out of town.  The Jaybirds wrote up their own constitution (they called it their "Magna Carta") that set up a rigidly segregated community and controlled the politics making votes caste by people of color invalid.  This went on until 1954 when African Americans from the county filed suit.  They took the case to the Supreme Court and won.  It is still taught in law schools - and is called "the last the white primary cases." I knew and lived through the segregation in Fort Bend County.  But I didn't learn the extent of the problem until I researched my book Cemeteries of Ambivalent Desire.

Most people of color in the county were share croppers.  I cannot say what the rules were for Blacks, but Mexican Americans who visited downtown Rosenberg on Saturdays could not walk past the 2-3 main blocks of the city or they would be arrested.  My mother remembers in the early 1950s having to pick something up at the pharmacy and having to go to a little window to the outside to make her purchase. People of color could not enter the store.  It was owned by a Jewish man named Schaeffer.  Eventually my Dad was able to get that changed.  

JB was bothered by the segregation and at one point tried to get the swimming pool in Richmond integrated.  Instead of integrating, Richmond city officials had the pool drained.  It was later was opened to all, but that took a few years.

The town was divided by the railroad tracks.  The city was originally established in the late 1880s.  It was named Rosenberg after General Rosenberg of Galveston.  Someone told me once that it was originally meant to be a "Jewish community" - but I am not sure this is true, even thought there were a number of Jewish owned businesses in town - as there were in many small communities throughout the south.  The Basilian fathers arrived in the late 1930s and were able to purchase a roomy two story home on the "other" side of the tracks.  The price was good because even though the area had been originally "white" - it was now considered a Black neighborhood.  I remember the house well.  It was dark inside, but had lots of rooms.  My Dad and I used to visit very often.  We would sit in the living room with JB and talk for hours.  Sometimes we would sit in the large dining room - especially after church bazaars where my Dad would count the money they made from the different booths (including the Bingo that he ran).  JB was always there, telling stories or listening to my Dad.  He had a wry sense of humor.  

JB was not considered one of the leaders - at least according to the Basilian documents.  There were other priests who were constantly making changes in the Mexican American community.  One of them was Father John Collins.  Yet, JB outlived them all.  He was not only special to our family, but to thousands of other families over the six decades that he was a Basilian priest in southeast Texas.

If you knew him and have a story about Father Broussard, please contact me at  We can post your story on this blog.

The Capo and the Movie Star - Kate del Castillo

A few days ago I saw a curious article in the Houston Chronicle, about Kate del Castillo saying that a powerful Mexican drug lord was more influential than Mexico's President.  The LA Times soon picked up the story and now it has been circulating all over.

While everyone is focusing on what she said to Chapo Guzman, the powerful drug lord (and also one of the richest men in the world) - she is really seeking to do something for her country.  Mexico is in a terrible position right now.  An announcement a few days ago stated that over 48,000 people had been killed in the narco-war.  Many more thousands can't go home and visit - not because they don't have U.S. visas and can't come back - but because they could be killed, kidnapped, or have their vehicles and money stolen once they cross the border.

For a number of years I went to Monterrey on a regular basis (I was doing research for my first book, Delirio).  I was there for summers and holidays in 1997-1998.  In 1999 I rented an apartment with my daughter who attended a bilingual school there.  For the next several years I went every few months.  I established very close relationships with a number of families in Monterrey and nearby Santiago and San Isidro del Potrero.  My last trip was in 2009 when the family patriarch in Monterrey passed away.  I can't go any more.  Its too dangerous, even if I fly versus drive. The family in Monterrey that I am close to has already lost two family members - they simply disappeared.  A few months ago 2 more young men from the family were kidnapped but were returned after relatives paid thousands of dollars in ransom.

A student of mine told me of someone who was driving in his  SUV with his family from Laredo to Monterrey recently.  They were stopped on the autopista (toll road) and had to pay a narco $200.  The narco was friendly and talkative.  He asked the man what people were saying on American side - the response was "nobody is going to Mexico anymore" -

Calderon may not be saying so, but this war has to be destroying the Mexican economy.  It has decimated the tourist industry, and I can't imagine what is going on with the American corporations who do business over there.  Monterrey used to the the wealthiest city in Latin America.  Its not likely that the city still holds that title.

Kudos for Del Castillo.  At least she has the courage to say something.  I don't think Chapo Guzman is a good guy (I can't image she does either) - but he certainly has the power to do something, if he chooses too.


Here is the translated text of the twitter:

"Today I say what I think and as to which suits him well. Today I have more fun 2012. I listen to more music that I like ChavelaVargas @ @ @ BuikaMusic Calle13Oficial manuchao @ leo @ lydiacachosi Galeano # # # Neruda Sabin • # carlosfuentes and I stop listening to politicians. The fact is that I’m tired of doing what I do not. Many times I was happy but I did not realize. I love. I love you. ”

“I do not believe in handling, have numbed me. The government. Religion. Politics. Media. Society. Dirt. Those who judge me and say but I require and I applaud.”

“I do not believe in marriage, I believe in love. Do not believe in the idea that I should be with someone for the rest of my life, it only creates guilt and unhappiness me when I failed, in fact, do not believe in failure, I believe in getting ahead, making decisions good or bad, think about changing your mind as often as necessary. ”

“I long for the first time around. So I think that no matter how much love I need to feel that my partner feels the first times in the stomach and the body goes through you, no matter how much or how beautiful love is, I need that feeling to which I am addicted. We all yearn for but we dare not speak. It is not that relationships should last until “it” is over? ”

“I do not believe in monogamy, I believe in loyalty, my feelings, as I feel and let you feel my body.”

“I do not believe in punishment or sin, do not believe I grew up believing that everything was a sin, even my body, in fact do not believe in the Bible as manipulated in some passages (which Peña Nieto read insurance) for remorse, guilt, and above all, fear. Moreover, I do not think anything that has been done by the man who makes me feel wicked, that makes me feel less guilty or ashamed of my sexuality .. ”

“I do not believe in the Church and in any case, I do not believe in religion, but I do believe in God because I see in my eyes in the mirror every day.”

“I do not believe I have learned diseases and their cures have been denied me, hidden.”

“I do not think any institution or law that are dedicated to panic and take my money.”

“I do not believe in the Pope, or the Vatican with all their wealth as the priests do not believe in because I think human beings should enjoy the carnal love, sex and preferably without hiding or hurting anyone.”

“I was born naked without laws or religion, these were created by man, as the Bible and I have a sneaking suspicion that it was invented just to follow handling and profit for a few.”

“I believe in what I feel and that is why I believe in fear, keeps me alert, all that experience with my 5 senses is what matters, what is real.”

“I do not believe in society and that has made me feel ashamed of who I am, incomplete, but it is a fact that I treat all my desire to understand and live in peace within it. I believe in myself and my only true because I am who I have to deal with every second, apart from me, I do not think … “.

“I do not believe in judging because I alone am responsible for my act, and life would fail me.”
“I do not believe in morality and that varies greatly between people, I believe in what makes me feel good or bad about myself so I can go to sleep peacefully but not what society wants me to feel.”
“I believe in good.”

“I think, despite everything you just wrote, in the human race cause I love, hate, I’m sorry, I’m wrong, hurt, helped, I feel,” failure “, cry, suffer, envy, I have deep pain, I have sex, I have dreams, fantasies, desires, ask for help, I get, I, I fight, I go on, I forget, I get mad, I laugh, I hope, I’m patient, I am impatient, stand … I’m alive and I thank God that all days, for who I am, good or bad. ”

Become a hero of heroes
“Today I believe more in the Chapo Guzmán government that I hide painful truths even if they are, who hide the cure for cancer, AIDS Etc. For their own benefit and wealth.”


“Life is a business, the only thing that changes is the good” is not?
-Not to blame
-No remorse
-Not to shame
-No-no to impunity for racial differences
-Not politics
-Not religion
-Not noted
-No silence
-No to corruption
-No illicit enrichment
-Not stifle our dreams
-No more blood
I love you, kate

En Español: El Capo y la Estrella

Aunque la prensa y el internet enfoca en el mensaje para el Capo, del Castillo habla de mucho mas.  Esta pidiendo por lo bien, para ayudar su país que esta en tan terribles condiciones.  Ella sabe, como saben muchos, que El Capo tiene mucho poder y si quisiera mejorar la condición de México si pudiera – si usara su energía por lo bien en lugar de estar matando tanta gente.

Del Castillo sabe que siendo una actriz tan popular – puede influir mucha gente con sus escritos y anuncios.


Twitter Text from Kate del Castillo

Hoy quiero decir lo que pienso y pues al que le acomode bien. Hoy 2012 me divierto más. Escucho más la música que me gusta como @ChavelaVargas @manuchao @Calle13Oficial @BuikaMusic  leo @lydiacachosi #Galeano #sabines #Neruda ·#carlosfuentes y  dejo de escuchar a los políticos. Y es que ya me cansé de hacer lo que no quiero. Muchas veces he sido feliz pero no me di cuenta. Amo. Me amo.

No creo en la manipulación, me tiene adormecida. El gobierno. La religión. La política. Los medios. La sociedad. La suciedad. Los que me juzgan y señalan pero también me exigen y me aplauden.

No creo en el matrimonio, creo en el amor. No creo en la idea de que DEBO estar con alguien por el resto de mi vida, eso sólo me crea culpa e infelicidad cuando he fracasado, de hecho, no creo en el fracaso, creo en salir adelante, en tomar decisiones buenas o malas, creo en cambiar  de opinión tan seguido como sea necesario.

Añoro la primera vez de todo. Por eso creo que no importa cuanto ame a mi pareja necesito sentir eso que se siente las primeras veces en el estómago y que te recorre todo el cuerpo, no importa cuanto lo ame o que tan bello sea, necesito esa sensación a la cual soy adicta. Todos lo añoramos pero no nos atrevemos a decirlo. No será que las relaciones deberían de durar hasta que “eso” se acaba?

No creo en la monogamia, creo en  la lealtad, en mis sensaciones, en lo que siento y dejo sentir a mi cuerpo.

No creo en el castigo ni en el pecado, no creo en como crecí creyendo que todo era pecado, hasta mi cuerpo, de hecho no creo en como la Biblia nos manipula en algunos de sus pasajes (los cuales seguro leyó Peña Nieto) para tener remordimientos, culpa y sobre todo MIEDO. Es más, no creo en nada que haya sido hecho por el hombre que me haga sentir perversa, que me haga sentir menos, culpable o avergonzada de mi sexualidad..

No creo en la Iglesia y en cualquier caso, no creo en la religión, pero si creo en Dios puesto que lo veo en mis ojos a través del espejo todos los días.

No creo en las enfermedades porque he aprendido como sus curas me han sido negadas, escondidas.

No creo en ninguna institución o ley que se dedican a aterrorizarme y quitarme mi dinero.
No creo en al Papa ni en el Vaticano con todo y su riqueza como tampoco creo en los sacerdotes ya que creo que el ser humano debe disfrutar del amor carnal, del sexo y de preferencia sin esconderse ni lastimando a nadie.

Nací desnuda sin leyes ni religión, esas las creó el hombre, como la Biblia y tengo la ligera sospecha de que se la inventaron sólo para seguir la manipulación y lucrar a favor de unos cuantos.

Creo en lo que siento y es por eso que creo en el miedo, me mantiene alerta, todo lo que experimente con mis 5 sentidos es lo que importa, lo que es real.

No creo en la sociedad ya que me ha hecho sentir avergonzada de quien soy, incompleta, pero es un hecho de que trato con todas mis ganas de entenderla y vivir en paz dentro de ella. Creo en mi y en mi única verdad, por que soy con quien tengo que lidiar cada segundo, aparte de mi, creo que no creo…

No creo en juzgar ya que sólo yo soy responsable de mi actuar y me faltaría vida.

No creo en la moral ya que varía enormemente entre el ser humano, creo en lo que me hace sentir bien o mal de mi misma para poder ir a dormir tranquila pero no en lo que la sociedad quiere hacerme sentir.

Creo en el bien.

Creo, a pesar de todo lo que acabo de escribir, en la raza humana, por que amo, odio, me arrepiento, me equivoco, lastimo, ayudo, siento, “fracaso”, lloro, sufro, envidio, tengo dolores profundos, tengo sexo, tengo sueños, fantasías, deseos, pido ayuda, recibo, doy, lucho, salgo adelante, me olvido, me enfurezco, me río, espero, soy paciente, soy impaciente, aguanto…estoy viva y por eso agradezco a Dios todos los días, por ser quien soy, bien o mal.

Hoy creo más en el Chapo Guzmán que en los gobiernos que me esconden verdades aunque sean dolorosas, quienes esconden la cura para el cáncer, el sida, etc. para su propio beneficio y riqueza.


“La vida es un negocio, lo único que cambia es la mercancía” que no?

-no a la culpa
-no al remordimiento
-no a la vergüenza
-no a la impunidad
-no a las diferencias raciales
-no a la política
-no a la religión
-no a señalar
-no al silencio
-no a la corrupción
-no al enriquecimiento ilícito
-no a coartar nuestros sueños
-no más sangre
-si a la vida
los quiero,

The Year of the Immigrant

While many countries in the West are kicking and screaming, the global reality is that things and people are shifting around.

It generally makes people very uncomfortable when they realize that the identity of their land-nation-country-region is changing, especially if they think the new reality will be seen as lower class or less educated.

Some say that the xenophobia (an unreasonable fear of foreigners) - in America is because white people don't want those looking different to take over.  I think its more than that.  It is that everyone doesn't like change.  A small town in Mexico would be upset if it was taken over by Hungarians.  What makes it more complicated (and unfortunate) here is that the division is made more clear because the "new" people are easily identified by their darker skin.

Amidst all the bad feeling and subsequent draconian anti-immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama there are some positive changes.  Sayu Bhojwani, former commissioner of immigrant affairs for New York City writes about our new American leaders who are changing the road for all of us.


January 12, 2012, 11:31 pm - New York Times

Year of the Immigrant

[The] ...most crucial, development for immigrant civic engagement is the growing number of new American candidates on the ballot for school and library boards, state legislatures and Congress. The number of Asian-Americans running for Congress more than doubled in just two years, from 8 in 2010 to 19 in 2012, according to the Asian Pacific American Institute of Congressional Studies. These races include three in which Asian-Americans are running against each other for the Democratic nomination — in Illinois’ eighth, Washington’s first and Hawaii’s second districts. In these races, voters to whom policy positions may matter as much as ethnicity no longer have to choose one over another.

Latinos in elected office have already increased by 53% over the past 15 years, according to the National Association of Latino Elected Officials; with senate races this year in Texas and New Mexico featuring both Latino Democrats and Republicans (including Cuban-American Ted Cruz), that number will probably to complete article


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Antibiotics are Killing us

This may sound extreme, but the extreme over use of antibiotics has created a nightmare where so many people develop antibiotic resistance strains of bacteria.  Many have died from this problem, others suffer for months trying numerous different medications until (if they are lucky) their infection is finally appeased.

Its not only that a number of our doctors give us antibiotics every time we visit their offices.  Its is more so because the food industry stuffs cows, chickens, and pigs full of antibiotics so that these animals can survive in the horrid conditions they are forced to live in.  Once we eat beef, poultry, and pork, the antibiotics pass on to us.

If you are prescribed antibiotics by your doctor, be sure to take every pill he/she prescribes.  If you don't you increase you resistance to antibiotics.

Editorial - LA Times

Fatter cows, sicker people

The FDA has restricted the use of a minor antibiotic used by the meat industry. It's a small step to counter the widespread overuse of antibiotics on healthy animals, which helps create antibiotic-resistant bacteria that harms humans...

...Eighty percent of the antibiotics used in this country are given to chicken, pigs, turkey and cattle, not because the animals are sick but to fatten them and prevent illness from sweeping through crowded pens. Evidence has been building for decades that the overuse of antibiotics in livestock has helped lead to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which then present a threat to human to complete article

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Going to College - is it worth all the money?

Today's NYT has a blog post on College and what its good for.

A friend with a PhD in physics told me a few years ago that he didn't want his kids to go to college.  Yet these days it seems necessary to make enough of a living to survive - that is if you don't get laid-off...


January 11, 2012, 5:30 pm

What Is College For? (Part 2)

...How, exactly, does college prepare students for the workplace? For most jobs, it provides basic intellectual skills: the ability to understand relatively complex instructions, to write and speak clearly and cogently, to evaluate options critically. Beyond these intellectual skills, earning a college degree shows that you have the “moral qualities” needed for most jobs: you have (to put it a bit cynically), for a period of four years and with relatively little supervision, deferred to authority, met deadlines and carried out difficult tasks even when you found them pointless and boring.

This sort of intellectual and moral training, however, does not require studying with experts doing cutting-edge work on, say, Homeric poetry, elementary particle theory or the philosophy of Kant. It does not, that is, require the immersion in the world of intellectual culture that a college faculty is designed to provide. It is, rather, the sort of training that ought to result from good elementary and high school to complete article

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Father Jack Broussard

Father Broussard and myself on my fourth birthday
This post is part of a series on Father Jack Broussard, a very unusual priest who worked in southeast Texas during the last half of the 20th century.  The series not only talks about his life, but the society in which he lived.

I was in London with a case of the flu last week when my family back home in Houston told me that Father Jack Broussard had passed away.  I shortened my trip by a few days and came back home so that I could drive my elderly parents to the wake being held in Manvel, Texas.

Father Jack as many called him, was an amazing guy.  He was so amazing that this blog is going to devote a number of posts to his life and accomplishments.

These posts will not be about religion or Catholicism.  He may have been a priest - but his impact went much much further than his local parish.   He was not famous.  He didn't preach in a megachurch. He wasn't great at getting millions of dollars in donations.   He was just a good guy with a spectacular sense of humor; lots of humility; and even more curiosity.

He was born John S. Broussard in 1919.  His father Robert was from a family that owned a plantation in New Iberia, LA.   Robert was working for a congressman in Washington when he met Jack's mother, Margaret (who was the daughter of a congressman).  Robert was Louisiana French.  Margaret was Irish.  Robert invented the first coin operated parking meter.  He also invented batteries and any number of things.  Sometime during Jack's childhood the family moved to Houston. They lived an affluent life and had a home in River Oaks. At one point during Father Jack's adolescence his father had him take golf lessons from someone really famous.  I wish I could remember the name of the person who taught him.  (perhaps I could look up what famous golfers were living in Houston during the 1930s).  He attended St. Thomas High School and came to know some priests from the Order of St. Basil.  During his senior year he decided to become a priest.  The mother house of the Order was in Toronto, so he spent lots of time in Canada the next few years and ended up back in the Houston area ten years later.

In the 1930s, in a moment of significant social awareness, the Order of St. Basil decided to start a number of what they called "missions" in small cities southwest of Houston.  The superiors were concerned that the Mexican population of these small towns did not have access to priestly care.  The truth was that most of the churches did not allow Mexicans inside.  If they did, they were treated badly.  In one archival record I found at the Basilian library in Toronto, I found a story about a Mexican man knocking on the door of the rectory of Sacred Catholic Church in Richmond, Texas.  The priest who opened the door met the man with a gun and threatened to call the Sheriff.

Father Jack, or JB as my family came to call him, was already a good friend of my father's by the time I was born.  JB arrived in Rosenberg a couple of years before my parents moved there from San Antonio in 1950.  I can honestly say that I probably saw JB just about every day of my life until I finished high school.  He would often come by our house, or I would go with my father to the rectory and we would sit in the living room and talk.  They would frequently go on trips to Houston (30 miles away) and I would accompany them.  I think that besides my parents, JB was the most influential adult in my life.  I think his presence strongly affected the development of my character and intellect.

In the following posts on JB I will tell about his life, his adventures, and his importance to thousands of people who came to know him during his 62 years as a priest.

Vegetarians Starving in Kansas City

Vegetarians are not really starving in Kansas City.  However, it is hard to find a good meal is you have chosen to avoid hamburger or steak.

If you are vegetarian and you are traveling to the American South, the American Midwest, Argentina, Portugal, and France - BEWARE.  You might get very hungry.  These regions and countries don't like their veggies, which makes it very difficult for those that eat only veggies - to survive.

A vegetarian I know lost six pounds in a span of 5 days in Argentina ---  It was scarey.  

 Why do some places promote meat as if it is an essential?  Why do some people insist that without meat they can't live?   


De Gustibus - New York Times

Meatless in the Midwest: A Tale of Survival

...Even though the [midwest] region boasts some of the finest farmland in the world, there is a startling lack of fresh produce here. This is a part of the country — and there’s no polite way to put this — where the most common vegetable you’ll see on dinner plates is iceberg lettuce. 

“The mentality of the Midwest is, green is garnish,” explained Heidi Van Pelt-Belle, who runs Füd, a vegetarian restaurant in Kansas City.   

As a result, many heartland vegetarians say that eating, that most essential activity, can be a constant struggle. Longtime members of the club recall the days when doctors and family members alike warned that forgoing meat would result in serious malnutrition. This was not hyperbole to those who, lacking other options, subsisted on to complete article