Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The forgotten 9/11 of Chile

What’s common between Richard Nixon’s plot to overthrow the government of Chile in 1973 and Al-Qaeda’s plot to blow up the World Trade Center in 2001? Answer: Both of these outrageously criminal conspiracies were brutally executed on September 11.

Today, the world sees 9/11 as the most direct reference to the sinister events two years ago that killed almost 3,000 people in the most well-crafted terrorist design of all times. Few, however, know that 9/11 also refers to the day in 1973 on which the Chilean armed forces, backed and helped by the United States, launched air and ground strikes against the presidential palace, killing Dr. Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president, that morning. What followed was a well-orchestrated destruction of Chile’s democratic machinery doctored by the Nixon government of the United States; a reign of terror, killing, torturing, exiling, and executing tens of thousands of peaceful Chileans. Chile burned under the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet for 17 years, four years longer than Hitler.

George Bush’s Republican predecessor in 1970, Richard Nixon, skillfully manipulated his government’s covert power in systematically destroying Chile’s democracy, which had elected a president in an election, freer and fairer than the 2000 US vote. Chileans watched their democracy go up in flames. Their military with full support from Washington proceeded to wipe out their ancient bicameral legislature, independent judiciary, elected local and regional bodies, free trade unions and media and their broad-based civil liberties.

Not surprisingly, Washington has never admitted its actual role in the coup itself. According to a national security source, the Chilean Navy had coordinated with the US armada to hold maneuvers off the coast at precisely the time planned for their putsch. US military spy ships intercepted communiqués from Chilean military bases and forwarded them to the tyrants. The mutinous general and admirals would then be able to send sufficient force to repress those units whose messages indicated loyalty to the elected government, and thus avoid civil war.

Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted in April of 2003 that it is not a part of American history that we're proud of. Powell attributed the US role in the destabilization of Chile from 1970-73 (some of which is documented in Volume 7 of the 1975 Church Senate Select Committee report on US Intelligence) to the Cold War. This refers to Allende's political sin of allowing the Chilean Communist Party as one of the five political groupings inside his Popular Unity coalition.

In fact, for over a century, US policy makers have consistently plotted to overthrow disobedient regimes like Allende's socialist coalition in Chile. US forces occupied Nicaragua and Haiti for some 20 years each in the early 20th Century after tossing out governments in those countries that refused insufficient obeisance to Washington. Similarly, in Cuba under the terms of the US-imposed Platt Amendment, American forces occupied that island on several occasions (1906-9, 1912 and 1917-22).

Between 1900 and 1910, US troops went into Colombia, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Panama, mainly to put down revolutionary movements. These troop landings refer only to military actions in this hemisphere. During the same decade, Presidents deployed US troops in China (1900), Syria (1903), Korea (1904-5) and Morocco (1904).

But the 1973 Chile coup took the proverbial cake for blatant imperial illegality. Just days after Allende's September 1970 electoral victory, Secretary of State Kissinger and President Nixon plotted in the Oval Office to correct the destiny of Chileans who had foolishly elected the wrong man as president. For three years following Allende's electoral triumph, the CIA plotted violence, economic sabotage and psychological warfare against his government because it did not fall into line behind Washington dictates: not allow Communists to enter a government; not expropriate, even with compensation, US property; follow free market economics; eschew all relations with Castro's Cuba and never vote against the United States in any international forum.

As then CIA Director Richard Helms testified to the Church Committee, Nixon wanted a major effort to prevent Allende's accession to power. Nixon also ordered, as Helms' notes indicate, that Chile's economy should be squeezed until it screamed.

The CIA failed to stop Allende's inauguration, although in October 1970 it hired mercenaries to assassinate Chile's Army Chief General Rene Schneider since he opposed a military coup.
Nixon and Kissinger intended to save Chile, as they told Helms, meaning that they saw the elected socialist and quintessential Parliamentarian, Allende, as no different from the Soviet Communists. Although Moscow gave no significant aid to Allende, the Nixon-Kissinger ideological dogma nevertheless proved sufficient to motivate the CIA in its course of coup-fomenting or outright terrorism.

Did a memory lapse lead George W. Bush to nominate the terrorist Kissinger who withdrew his name some days later -- to investigate the 9/11/01 terrorism, or did some White House savant think that since Kissinger was a real-life practicing terrorist, he would have the kind of knowledge and experience to lead a probe in the subject?

Indeed, refer again to CIA Chief Helms' notes taken from his September 1970 conversation in the Oval Office with Nixon and Kissinger where he received his orders to overthrow the government of Chile. Not concerned risks involved, Helms had written. $10,000,000 available, more if necessary. A similar conversation could have taken place somewhere in Saudi Arabia two years before 9/11/01, with Osama bin Laden talking with his fiends about risks and costs involved for hijacking jumbo jets and flying them into the twin towers and Pentagon.

Suppose, I ask myself, I had lost my father or brother in the Moneda Palace in 1973! You can't sue Kissinger or even pursue justice abroad. US military and political officials, Bush insists, must retain immunity from prosecution outside the United States, thus protecting the terrorists in his Administration and those violent ghosts from regimes past.

In this very born-again nation, with people making pilgrimages to the recently removed Ten Commandments monument in Alabama and piety dripping from the fundamentalist lips of the political leaders, it seems odd that few can remember the words that follow the opening phrase of the Christian adage: Do unto others.

Video courtesy Google videos.
Excerpts from zmag.org.

I hate Latinos

Accounting for about 15% of all Americans, the 42-million Latinos living in the United States are the largest growing population group in the country. However, despite this growth, their contributions to the American society, sports, culture, media, business, and politics remain increasingly significant. Ever wondered what they get in return from the so-called “elite” White society? Here’s an excerpt from a post made on the subject on a popular web-forum:

The word "hate" implies passion and fervid emotion towards the object it is pointed to. I don't "hate" Hispanics. I do, however, feel disdain. I lived in South Texas (a.k.a. little Mexico) and was a productive, tax-paying citizen. It was so nice to see Mexicans (which you are) at the store pulling out their Lonestar Card (food stamps) from their Gucci purse, dressed up like sluts for their husbands (that were probably out with "their" mistresses at the time). They (the Mexican trash) abused the government system, took advantage of our health care system by getting it for free (while I paid insurance premiums to see my doctor and paid for my medicines), lived in Section 8 housing for literally dollars a month (while I paid hard-earned money, a lot, to live comfortably in my home) to spit out a child a year from their womb for me to pay for as well.

You are proud of your heritage? Your kind is bringing down our standard of living to your low level. Middle class America is dwindling down to near non-existence thanks to you and your breed. How can I make a better living for myself and my children when I am too busy paying for benefits for "your" people? The argument that white people use Medicaid and food stamps is true. They do. I've seen it with my own two eyes and those people make me ashamed. Why? They're usually hand in hand with Negroes and Mexicans or they've got a half-breed child in a stroller, complete with a gold bracelet around its dimpled wrist.

Go back to Mexico, love your culture there. Or at least, from what I've seen, revel in the lack of pride in your culture and go try to earn a dollar doing nothing or selling what you've stolen from someone else. THAT's the real Mexican.

And here’s a Latino’s response to the above racial slur:

Oh no, I am not cool with that slut comment at all. I see women of all races dress like sluts, which does not include me. You talk about Mexican trash, but it'd be just as easy to talk about white trash. Have I started talking like that? No. My family (and me included) worked very hard to get to where we are, and your stereotypes don't help one bit. What do you mean about the 'real Mexican' being a criminal low-life? We're typically law-abiding. People can't do anything about the racial background that they're born into. What would you have done if you were born Mexican? Do you think that God asks people what they want to be before they're born? No, He doesn't. We just are what we are. What am I? American, all the way. I'm studying to be an RN, by the way, and I am earning As and Bs in my classes. You know that we're not going to be expelled from America, and that there won't be a race war. How are we affecting your standard of living? You get what you work for, and I don't support giveaways for lazy parasites either. Most Mexicans (a.k.a., Mexican Americans) are hard working people that deserve respect.

Are we really living in a free world? Is this the same land which was discovered and colonized by immigrants in a steady process spanning several centuries? Is this not a nation built by the illegal immigrants from Europe over the graves of millions of native Indians? Are we supposed to be the unofficial protectors of liberty and democracy in the whole world? Or are we just another society of double-standard hypocrites? Think again.

Cited from: StormFront.org.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

L. A. stands for Los Angeles: What does Los Angeles stand for?

Contrary to the popular belief that the original name of Los Angeles was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciuncula, scholars have determined from official documents of Governor de Neve, Commandant General de la Croix and Viceroy Bucareli that the settlement was simply named El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Ángeles.

In the late 18th Century, Felipe de Neve, Spanish Governor of California, established a pueblo along the River Los Ángeles north of the Mission San Gabriel to counter encroachments by Russia in the north and Britain from the sea. The pueblo would also help to supply rations to Spain’s military garrisons (presidios) in California. The site Governor de Neve had in mind was a site earlier commended by Father Juan Crespi, a Franciscan priest who, more than a decade earlier, accompanied the Gaspar de Portola expedition - first European land expedition through California.

Before the recruitment of settlers even began, Governor de Neve immediately went to work drawing up detailed plans for the new pueblo. The efforts to recruit settlers, however, were much more challenging. Despite incentives of money, land and livestock, it was difficult to find promising and willing candidates. At the time, what we today know today as Southern California was remote and desolate – not the sort of opportunity most people considered attractive. Rumors circulated, somewhat truthful, that soldiers serving in the region did not get paid. Furthermore, getting there was arduous and dangerous. Yet months of searching that extended into Sonora, Sinaloa and Culiacan eventually led to the recruitment of twelve families.

From about August through September 1781, Governor de Neve, the settlers (11 men, 11 women and 22 children - one family never made it to Los Angeles), along with soldiers, mission priests and a few Indians, set out for the last leg of the journey to arrive at the site of the new pueblo alongside the Los Ángeles River. Governor de Neve recorded the date, September 4, 1781, as the official date of establishment of El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Ángeles or Los Angeles.

Though, some other, unverifiable sources misquote the full name as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles de Porciuncula, which is wrong. However, here's what it actually means:

El Pueblo The town

de of

Nuestra Señora Our Lady

la Reina the Queen

de Los Ángeles of the Angels

de Porciuncula of (River) Porciuncula

Governor de Neve’s statue stands today in the Plaza of Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.

Source: Mexican Los Ángeles by Antonio Rios Bustamante, Floricanto Press, 1992.

Tapas: The Latino answer to dim sum

The original tapas were the slices of bread that sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. But soon, enterprising bartenders were putting small snacks on the bread, and the lowly tapa (tapar: to cover) became as important as the sherry.

Tapas is a generic name for a wide variety of appetizers in Latino cuisine. In southern Spain, they come mostly to accompany a drink before lunch or dinner. Mostly, tapas come warm such as puntillitas (Andalusian battered, fried baby squid). Others are cold, such as mixed olives and cheese.

Tapas evolved over time to incorporate ingredients and influences from many different cultures and countries. Olives were brought into the east coast by the Roman invaders. Later, they were introduced to the south by the Moors in the 8th century, along with almonds, citrus fruits and fragrant spices. The Moorish influence remains today, especially in Andalusia. The discovery of the New World brought in tomatoes, sweet and chili peppers (capsicums), corn, beans and potatoes. These were readily accepted and easily grown in Spain's micro-climates.

In Spain, dinner is usually served between 9 and 11 in the night (sometimes as late as midnight!), leaving significant time between work and dinner. Therefore, Spaniards often go bar hopping (Spanish: Ir de tapas) and eat tapas. Since lunch is usually served between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, another common time for tapas is weekend days around noon as a means of socializing before lunch at home.

It is very common for a bar or a small local restaurant to have 8 to 12 different kinds of tapas in warming trays with glass partitions covering the food. They are often very strongly flavored with garlic, chilies or paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron and sometimes in a lot of olive oil. Often, one or more of the choices is seafood (mariscos), often including anchovies, sardines or mackerel in olive oil, squid or others in a tomato based sauce, sometimes with the addition of red or green peppers or other seasoning. It is rare to see a tapas selection not include one or more types of olives, such as manzanilla or arbequina olives. One or more types of bread are usually available to eat with any of the sauce-based tapas.

In the northern Spanish city of León, in Asturias, in Extremadura, and in parts of Andalusia, you get a free tapa when you order a drink. This happens mostly in the province of Jaén, Granada, Almería, but it is not very common in the rest of Andalusia. Sometimes, especially in Northern Spain, they're also called pinchos (spelled pintxos in Basque) in the Basque Country and in some provinces like Salamanca. They're called that because many of them have a pincho (toothpick) through them. The toothpick is used to keep whatever the snack is made of from falling off the bread it has been attached to and to track the number of tapas eaten. Differently priced tapas have different shape or size toothpicks. Tapa price ranges from €1.00 to €1.50. Another name for them is banderillas (diminutive of bandera, flag), in part because some of them resemble the colorful skewers used in bullfighting.

In Andalusia, tapas can be upgraded to bigger portions, equivalent to half a dish (media ración) or a whole one (ración). This is generally more economical when a tapa is being ordered by more than one person. The portions are usually shared by diners, and a meal made up of raciones resembles a Middle Eastern mezze or Chinese dim sum.


Aceitunas Olives

Albóndigas Meatballs

Allioli Meaning Garlic and oil in Catalan, a very strong garlic paste.
The classic ingredients are only garlic, oil and salt, but the common form of it is Mayonnaise and garlic. Served on bread or with potatoes, fish, meat or grilled vegetables.

Calamares Rings of battered squid.

Carne mechada.

Cojonuda (Superb female) It is a kind of pincho. It consists of a slice of Spanish morcilla with a fried quail egg over a slice of bread. It is very common to see it in Burgos because Spanish morcilla is also called morcilla de Burgos.

Cojonudo (Superb male) It is a kind of pincho. It consists of a slice of Spanish chorizo with a fried quail egg over a slice of bread.

Chorizo al vino This is Chorizo sausage slowly cooked in wine.

Croquetas These are a common sight on bar counters and in homes across Spain, served as a tapa, light lunch, or a dinner along with a salad.

Ensaladilla rusa Mixed boiled vegetables with tuna, olives and mayonnaise.

Gambas Prawns sauteed in salsa negra (peppercorn sauce), al ajillo (with garlic), or pil-pil (with chopped chili peppers).

Pincho moruno A spicy kebab-like stick, made of pork or chicken meat. Its name means Moorish Stick.

Patatas bravas Fried potato dices (sometimes part-boiled and then fried, or simply boiled) served with salsa brava, a spicy tomato sauce. Alioli is often served with it too.

Puntillitas Battered and fried baby squid.

Queso con anchoas A cheese preparation; Castilla or Manchego cured cheese with anchovies on top.

Rajo Pork meat seasoned with garlic and parsley. A variety with added paprika is called Zorza.

Solomillo a la castellana Fried pork scallops, served with an onion and/or Cabrales cheese sauce

Solomillo al whisky, or al güisqui Fried pork scallops, marinated using whisky, brandy or white wine and olive oil.

Tortilla de patatas This is also known as Tortilla española. It's a type of omelette containing fried chunks of potatoes and sometimes onion. A variety containing vegetables and chorizo (similar to frittata) is known as Tortilla paisana.

Tortillitas de camarones Battered-prawn fritters.

Tigres In Bilbao, these stuffed mussels are called tigres (tigers) because of their fieriness.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Simple rules of Spanish adjectives

One of the biggest differences between English and Spanish is the order of the adjectives and nouns. In English, you say,
white horse; in Spanish, you say, horse white (caballo blanco). Descriptive words always come after the noun they describe. Though this rule does have exceptions but they are very few.

Here are some common adjectives in Spanish:

alto tall

bueno good

bajo short

caliente hot

brillante bright

chico small

claro clear

débil weak

frío cold

fuerte strong

grande big

hermoso beautiful

oscuro dark

malo bad

mojado wet

sucio dirty

rápido fast

The two most common words used to link nouns and descriptive words are ser (to be—a permanent condition) and estar (to be—a temporary state). The rules on how to use these verbs have been discussed in a previous post on ser and estar.

Spanish adverbs must reflect the gender and number of the noun they describe. Adjectives ending in –o are already in the masculine form. To change to the feminine form of the adjective, just change the –o to –a. To make an adjective plural, simply add an –s. Por ejemplo (for example), let’s consider lento (slow):

lent-o (masculine singular)

lent-os (masculine plural)

lent-a (feminine singular)

lent-as (feminine plural)

Adjectives ending in –e or any consonant will not change their form no matter what the gender of the noun. In other words, their masculine and feminine forms are the same. However, they do change according to whether the noun is singular or plural. To convert the singular form to the plural, simply add an -s to the ending. Por ejemplo, fuerte (strong):

Fuert-e (masculine or feminine singular)

Fuert-es (masculine or feminine plural)

Nationalities in Spanish

Note that in Spanish, unlike English, adjectives of nationality are not capitalized. For example:

Mi padre es alemán y mi madre española. (
My father is German and my mother Spanish.)

Nationalities are often expressed using the preposition, de (from/of). For example:

Soy de Alemania. (I am from Germany.)

Soy alemán. (I am German.)

Adjectives of quantity

Unlike descriptions of qualities, these adjectives are usually placed before the noun. Some examples are:

Muchos/as many

Mucho/mucha much

Pocos/pocas few

Poco/poca little

Suficiente enough

Demasiado too much

Carlos Slim Helú: A latino, wealthier than Bill Gates!

So the picture has finally changed! Mexico's telecom tycoon, cigar-chomping Carlos Slim Helú
of the America Movil group, has overtaken Bill Gates to become the world's richest person, according to the Mexican online financial publication, Sentido Común.

Mr. Slim had rocketed through the global wealth-creators’ league quietly edging past the legendary investor, Warren Buffet behind for the second position, four months ago. Mr. Slim’s worth now stands at $67.8bn, well above Microsoft founder, Mr. Gates' $59.2bn, the website says. Thanks to the recent 27% surge in America Movil’s shares over the second quarter.

So, with a 33% stake in the largest mobile network in Latin-America, Mr. Slim has become the first tycoon to have beaten Mr. Gates as the world’s richest person in over a decade. Born to Lebanese immigrants, the 67-year-old, Mr. Slim has based his empire in Mexico City.

He started with property, moving on to stock-investment, starting a bottling company, and, more recently, the telecom sector. Mr. Slim also owns the Inbursa financial group and the Grupo Carso industrial conglomerate, whose interests range from retail stores to restaurants. Inbursa did well too, with a stock jump of 20% against Microsoft’s 5.7%.

During the Latin American economic crisis of the early 1980s, Mr. Slim made a name, and substantial profits, for himself by buying out many struggling companies at rock-bottom deals before turning around their fortunes.

In April, Forbes magazine estimated that Mr. Slim was the world's second-richest person behind Mr. Gates and ahead of US billionaire investor and the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett.

Like Mr. Gates, Mr. Slim is well-known for his generous philanthropy. Though his wealth is in stark contrast to the 53% of Mexico's population that are living in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Cited from BBC News.

The mysterious goat-sucker of Latin-America

Gonzalo Rodriguez
heard strange noises at night and sent his son to investigate. The son saw "a strange black animal resembling a small dog with a long tail and standing on two legs with a very long tongue. Upon seeing the light, the creature fled into the vegetation, skillfully leaping over a wall."

The El Norte news website in Argentina reports that a woman was almost battered to death by a strange creature that was short and black, like a dwarf. Liliana Nieves says her attacker battered her and wanted to drag her away.

Chupacabra (from Spanish chupar: to suck, cabra: goat; goats sucker) is a cryptid said to inhabit parts of the Americas. It is associated particularly with Puerto Rico (where it was first reported), Mexico, and the Hispanic United States. The name translates into goat sucker, from the creature's reported habit of attacking and drinking the blood of livestock, especially goats. Physical descriptions of the creature vary. Eyewitness sightings have been claimed as early as 1990 in Puerto Rico, and have since been reported as far north as Maine, and as far south as Chile. Mainstream scientists and experts generally hypothesize that the chupacabra is an urban legend.
The legend of cipi chupacabra began approximately in 1987, when Puerto Rican newspapers El Vocero and El Nuevo Dia began reporting the killings of many different types of animals, such as birds, horses, and, as its name implies, goats. It is predated by El Vampiro de Moca (The Vampire of Moca), a creature blamed for similar killings that occurred in the small town of Moca in the 1970s. The killings had one pattern in common: each of the animals had their bodies bled dry through a series of small circular incisions. Puerto Rican comedian and entrepreneur Silverio Pérez is credited with coining the term chupacabras soon after the first incidents were reported in the press.

In July 2004, a rancher near San Antonio killed a hairless dog-like creature, which was attacking his livestock. This creature is now known as the Elmendorf Creature. In October 2004, two animals said to resemble the Elmendorf Creature were supposedly observed in the same area. Specimens of the dead animals were studied by biologists in Texas, who found that the creatures were coyotes suffering from very severe cases of demodectic or sarcoptic mange.

In Coleman, Texas, a farmer named Reggie Lagow caught an animal in a trap he set up after the deaths of a number of his chickens and turkeys. The supposed animal was described as a mix between a hairless dog, a rat and a kangaroo. The animal was provided to Texas Parks and Wildlife in order to determine what species it belonged to.

In April of 2006, MosNews reported that the chupacabra was spotted in Russia for the first time. Reports from Central Russia beginning in March 2005 tell of a beast that kills animals and sucks out their blood. Thirty-two turkeys were killed and drained overnight. Reports later came from neighboring villages when 30 sheep were killed and had their blood drained. Finally eyewitnesses were able to describe the chupacabra. In May of 2006, experts were determined to track the animal down.

In mid-August 2006, Michelle O'Donnell of Turner, Maine, described an evil looking rodent-like creature with fangs that had been found dead alongside a road. The mystery beast was apparently struck by a car, and was otherwise unidentifiable. Photographs were taken and witness reports seem to be in relative agreement that the creature was canine in appearance, but unlike any dog or wolf in the area. The carcass was picked clean by vultures before experts could examine it. For years, residents of Maine have reported a mysterious creature and a string of dog maulings.

In May 2007, a series of reports on national Colombia news reported more than 300 dead sheep in the region of Boyaca, and the capture of a possible specimen to be analyzed by zoologists at Universidad Nacional of Colombia.

The most common description of Chupacabra is a lizard-like being, appearing to have leathery or scaly greenish-gray skin and sharp spines or quills running down its back. This form stands approximately 3 to 4 feet high, and stands and hops like a kangaroo. In at least one sighting, the creature hopped 20 feet. This variety is said to have a dog or panther-like nose and face, a forked tongue protruding from it, large fangs, and to hiss and screech when alarmed, as well as leave a sulfuric stench behind. When it screeches, some reports note that the chupacabra's eyes glow an unusual red, then give the witnesses nausea. For some witnesses, it was seen with bat-like wings.
Another description of Chupacabra, although not as common, is described as a strange breed of wild dog. This form is mostly hairless, has a pronounced spinal ridge, unusually pronounced eye sockets, fangs, and claws. It is claimed that this breed might be an example of a dog-like reptile.

The corpse of an animal found in Leon, Nicaragua is claimed as a specimen of this genus. Pathologists at the University found that it was an unusual looking dog-like creature of an unknown specie. Unlike conventional predators, the chupacabra is said to drain all of the animal's blood (and sometimes organs) through a single hole or two holes.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

El Muerto: The Headless Horseman of South Texas brush country

Out of the badlands of the Rio Nueces and across the pages of western lore galloped the most fearsome rider of all time, the dreaded Headless Horseman of South Texas brush country. People called him El Muerto, the Dead One, and all who saw him ran screeching like banshees into the night. El Muerto brought terror and fear to the south plains for years.

Unlike Washington Irving’s rider in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, this mounted specter was no figment of the imagination by any means. There is probably no legend in Texas history more frightening and terrifying than that of the headless horseman. He seemed to be everywhere, and his nightly rides caused more wide-spread panic than did the Indians, bandits, and outlaws combined. All efforts to destroy him went futile, as did all attempts to explain him. Credited with all sorts of evil and misfortune, El Muerto galloped across South Texas like wildfire.

The gruesome horror began turning up in conversations one summer around 1850 after one of two ranch hands out tending cattle in the Wild Horse Desert, which at that time stretched from the Nueces River practically all the way to the Rio Grande, happened to glance off into the darkness and saw what he thought was a lone rider silhouetted against the moon on a nearby low rise. The rider looked odd, and the cowboy wasn’t sure why. Since the cowboy and his partner were frying fatback for their evening fare, and the flickering flames of the campfire made viewing poor, if not totally obscured, the cowboy cautiously stood up for a better view. Squinting into the darkness, he suddenly turned and reached for his rifle. Not only was the rider sitting stiffly upright in the saddle, there was absolutely nothing above the shoulders! When the cowboy turned back around with his weapon, however, the horse and rider had vanished.

Thinking the Comanches were on the move and playing tricks, the two men quickly doused their campfire and spent a tense, restless night on the prairie listening for war whoops that never came. Daylight found them carefully picking through the brush for any signs of Indians or their pony tracks. They found none. What they did find, however, were the faint traces of a horse---a lone, unshod horse which had milled and moved about the meadow in an apparent grazing pattern. The tracks led over the rise and disappeared into the next valley.

With passing time, more and more cowboys and travelers spotted the dark horse with its fearsome cargo. All claimed that the rider carried his head under a Mexican sombrero tied to the horn of his saddle. The rider himself wore the light tan, rawhide leggings of the Mexican vaqueros, and a brush-torn serape which fluttered over his shoulders and out behind him like a wind-blown cape. Some people even claimed to see Indian arrows and spears dangling from the body. But El Muerto wasn’t yet ready to be explained. Stealing through the night, creeping up on the unwary, he made the South Texas brush country a place to avoid, a place associated with evil and misfortune. It would be years before the real truth could be learned.

From the outset, Texas was probably the most savage and brutal of all the western states. It was never a Territory---it went from a Republic in 1836 directly into Statehood in 1845---and it had to rely solely on its own wits instead of the United States Army for survival. It was prime Indian and bandit territory, and the lawless took every advantage of it.

Fortunately, Texas was never totally defenseless. It had a group of peace officers determined to drive the outlaws from the land. Called Texas Rangers, this roving posse of expert gunmen existed long before the bid for independence took place. Two of these men were Creed Taylor
and William Alexander Anderson "Big Foot" Wallace, who was himself a folk hero. It was Big Foot, with Creed’s blessing, who unwittingly created El Muerto.

Creed’s ranch lay west of San Antonio, in the thickest of bandit territory, not far from the headwaters of the Nueces River. He had cattle and horses, and like all stockmen on the open range, he also had a devil of time keeping tabs on his stock. At the time Creed Taylor and Big Foot Wallace created their headless horror, Mexican bandits were a dime a dozen in South Texas.

One well-known raider was a Mexican horse thief known as Vidal, who had always been as elusive as the will-o’-the-wisp. Back in the earliest days of the Texas Revolution, he had been a lieutenant in the Mexican army. However, after the war, Vidal turned to horse stealing with his area of operation stretching clear into Louisiana and Mississippi and soon he had a price on his head all over South Texas. That summer of 1850, taking advantage of a Comanche raid which pulled most of the men northward in the pursuit, leaving the sparse settlements temporarily unguarded, he and three of his top confederates made off with some of Taylor’s prized mustangs. Taylor lost all his patience.

Unknown to Vidal, Taylor was not out chasing Comanches. Where the river bends below Uvalde, Taylor and his aide ran into Big Foot Wallace. But Big Foot already knew how to get to the Indians: mutilate the body in some fashion---like scalping---and then leave the body to rot. But, getting to the Mexican superstitious beliefs required a little more thought.

When the three men finally located the camp of their quarry, they waited until night, when all the thieves lay sleeping, before making their attack. An ensuing gunfight down the line, the thieves were quickly killed, and that included Vidal. Although Vidal was wanted dead or alive, Big Foot had other plans. As disgusting as the task was, with the help of his friends, he severed Vidal’s head from his body.

The men then lashed Vidal’s body on a young, charcoal-colored stallion, binding the hands to the saddlehorn, legs to the stirrups, and securing the torso in such a fashion that it sat upright in the broad, Mexican saddle and couldn’t fall out. They then tied the stirrups to each other under the horse’s belly so they could not fly up. When that was finished, Big Foot worked a rawhide thong through the jaws of Vidal’s decapitated head, and with the chin strap of the sombrero, secured it in the sombrero, which he tied to the saddlehorn where it would flop and bounce with each step of the horse. He then turned the terrified mustang loose with an ear-splitting yell that could have been heard in the next valley. The maddened pony went bucking and stomping over the hill...and into legend.

Big Foot’s creation rode into legend. Why? Because no one knew what it was. No one was ever able to kill it. The black horse never came close to anyone or anything. It just milled about on the fringes of vision, scaring everyone who saw it. Furthermore, although frontiersmen took long shots at it and claimed that they hit it, it continued to ride. Creed Taylor and Big Foot couldn’t advertise what they had done because then it would not have been effective. No doubt they chuckled every time they heard stories of the fearsome rider. As it was, the specter, clad in its Mexican rawhide leggings, buckskin jacket, and blowing serape, with its severed head tied on the saddlehorn beneath the tattered Mexican sombrero, frightened everyone on the south plains for years. As more and more ranchers, cowhands, and stage drivers saw the dark horse with its gruesome cargo galloping through the brush, more and more outlandish characteristics were added to its countenance.

Eyewitnesses claimed the horse spouted flames from its nostrils and sent lightning bolts skyward with each clop from its hooves. The eyes in the head under the tattered sombrero were said to be like two fiery coals chipped from the cinders of hell. Some even claimed the specter glowed with an eerie green light and smelled like brimstone as it thundered through the tumbleweeds and desert sage.

People credited it with all kinds of curses and misfortune. When a posse of local ranchers and cowboys finally became brave enough to bushwhack it at a watering hole on a ranch at the tiny community of Ben Bolt just south of Alice, they were thunderstruck to discover a dried-up Mexican corpse riddled with hundreds of bullet holes, arrows, and Indian spears. It was lashed to the horse and saddle so tightly that the rope had to be cut to unfasten it. Beneath the rotting sombrero was a small skull, shriveled from too many years in the grueling, Texan sun.

Vidal---what was left of him---was finally laid to rest in La Trinidad’s tiny ranch cemetery at Ben Bolt. The grave lies back in the brush marked only by a small, jagged chunk of limestone.

Although El Muerto was now properly dead and buried, his ghost apparently never got the message. Right up until the fort closed in 1869, soldiers at Fort Inge (present-day Uvalde) saw the headless rider---and properly avoided him. So did travelers and ranchers throughout the No-Man’s Land.

At the turn of the century, the headless horror rode straight through a wagon team in Old San Patricio, passing soundlessly through the traces, the wagon, and the terrified occupants at a place now called Headless Horseman Hill. The site is on the outskirts of town, near the old cemetery. Even today in the tiny community of San Diego in Duval County, a headless rider can occasionally be seen on dark nights, galloping through the desert sage toward a dried up pond once known as Dead Man’s Lake.

There are still rumors that El Muerto continues to ride. In a modern-day manhunt in the brush near Freer in 1969, members of the mounted posse reported a strange horseman off in the distance. Two men rode to investigate, but they found no indication that a horse and rider had been in the area. Furthermore, although unwilling to admit it in front of other members of the posse, one officer was overheard to whisper that he thought the unknown rider had no head.

Although everyone is gone now, the legend lives on. The Headless Horseman of South Texas Brush Country is still very much real.

Cited from TheOutlaws.com.

Ever been called a gringo and felt insulted?

If you have ever visited a Latino neighborhood, chances are that you have been called a
gringo by the natives if you happen to be a non-Hispanic White. At the same time, I can bet, most of you must have also taken offense at this reference! Well, you can’t be blamed as it has been drilled into our brains that this is a term of racial abuse for non-Latinos used by the ones who speak Spanish.

But did you know how this word came into being or what it actually means? Well, it’s true that this is a Latino slang term that they use for any White whose native language isn’t Spanish. The American Heritage Dictionary and other English dictionaries classify the term as offensive slang, usually disparaging or often disparaging. However, the fact remains that many native speakers who use it do not do so pejoratively. Actually, it’s the context that decides whether the word has been used as an insult or a general reference. There is furthermore some variation in the connotation of this word between Latin America and the rest of the English-speaking world, and even among the countries within Latin America.

The Hispanic migrants in the United States occasionally use this word as a derogatory synonym of Anglo, though a more frequently word used in that sense is gabacho. In Mexico, the word gringo is not used for Americans. They use gabacho instead. And natives of Central-America use the word, gringo to refer to any North-American in general, with no insult intended. With no pejorative sense, the Caribbeans use gringo for all citizens of the US, while the Puerto-Ricans use the term for all Americans who live on the mainland United States. The Chileans, however, mean pure insult when they call you gringo!

According to the Spanish etymologist Joan Coromines, gringo is derived from griego (Spanish for Greek), the proverbial name for an unintelligible language (a usage found also in the Shakespearean, it was Greek to me and its derivative, It's all Greek to me). From referring simply to language, it was extended to people speaking foreign tongues and to their physical features - similar to the development of the ancient Greek word, βάρβαρος (bárbaros), meaning barbarian. Still, scholars are not in agreement about the correct origin of this word.

So the next time somebody calls you a gringo, relate it to the context and the situation and judge whether it was an insult or not before you start sulking. It could be just a friendly term with no hidden intent!

The legend of the Weeping Woman: La Llorona

This is a story that the old ones have been telling to children for hundreds of years. It is a sad tale, but it lives strong in the memories of the people, and there are many who swear that it is true.

It can be traced back many miles and three centuries to become a part of the Mexican border folklore. Among the old folk tales told up and down the Rio Grande is the story of Maria Gonzales. Some say she was the most beautiful girl in the world! And because she was so beautiful, Maria thought she was better than everyone else.

As Maria grew older, her pride in her beauty grew too. When she was a young woman, she would not even look at the young men from her village. They weren't good enough for her! "When I marry," Maria would say, "I will marry the most handsome man in the world."

And then one day, into Maria's village rode a man who seemed to be just the one she had been talking about. He was a dashing young ranchero, the son of a wealthy rancher from the southern plains. He could ride like a Comanche! In fact, if he owned a horse, and it grew tame, he would give it away and go rope a wild horse from the plains. He thought it wasn't manly to ride a horse if it wasn't half wild.

He was handsome! And he could play the guitar and sing beautifully. Maria made up her mind-that was, the man for her! She knew just the tricks to win his attention.

If the ranchero spoke when they met on the pathway, she would turn her head away. When he came to her house in the evening to play his guitar and serenade her, she wouldn't even come to the window. She refused all his costly gifts. The young man fell for her tricks. "That haughty girl, Maria, Maria! " he said to himself. "I know I can win her heart. I swear I'll marry that girl."

And so everything turned out as Maria planned. Before long, she and the ranchero became engaged and soon they were married. At first, things were fine. They had two children and they seemed to be a happy family together. But after a few years, the ranchero went back to the wild life of the prairies. He would leave town and be gone for months at a time. And when he returned home, it was only to visit his children. He seemed to care nothing for the beautiful Maria. He even talked of setting Maria aside and marrying a woman of his own wealthy class.

As proud as Maria was, of course she became very angry with the ranchero. She also began to feel anger toward her children, because he paid attention to them, but just ignored her.

One evening, as Maria was strolling with her two children on the shady pathway near the river, the ranchero came by in a carriage. An elegant lady sat on the seat beside him. He stopped and spoke to his children, but he didn't even look at Maria. He whipped the horses on up the street.

When she saw that, a terrible rage filled Maria, and it all turned against her children. And although it is sad to tell, the story says that in her anger Maria seized her two children and threw them into the river! But as they disappeared down the stream, she realized what she had done! She ran down the bank of the river, reaching out her arms to them. But they were long gone.

The next morning, a traveler brought word to the villagers that a beautiful woman lay dead on the bank of the river. That is where they found Maria, and they laid her to rest where she had fallen.

But the first night Maria was in the grave, the villagers heard the sound of crying down by the river. It was not the wind, it was La Llorona crying. Where are my children? And they saw a woman walking up and down the bank of the river, dressed in a long white robe, the way they had dressed Maria for burial. On many a dark night they saw her walk the river bank and cry for her children. And so they no longer spoke of her as Maria. They called her La Llorona, the weeping woman. And by that name she is known to this day. Children are warned not to go out in the dark, for, La Llorona might snatch them and never return them.

La Llorona still cries for her children. She comes in the dark, on the wind, seeking that which is forever lost to her.

La Llorona - from the Mexican folktale.

Don’t go down to the river, child,
Don’t go there alone;
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own.

She weeps when the sun is murky red;
She wails when the moon is old;
She cries for her babies, still and dead,
Who drowned in the water cold.

Abandoned by a faithless love,
Filled with fear and hate.
She flung them from a cliff above
And left them to their fate.

Day and night, she heard their screams,
Borne on the current’s crest;
Their tortured faces filled her dreams,
And gave her heart no rest.

Crazed by guilt and dazed by pain,
Weary from loss of sleep,
She leaped in the river, lashed by rain,
And drowned in the waters deep.

She seeks her children day and night,
Wandering, lost, and cold;
She weeps and moans in dark and light,
A tortured, restless soul.

Don’t go down to the river, child,
Don’t go there alone;
For the sobbing woman, wet and wild,
Might claim you for her own.

Courtesy Joe Hayes.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Whales barf...and they sell it too!

We truly live in a world of strange or, at least, overrated events occurring every other moment around us. So much so, that even a lowly blob of vomit (vómito) makes for sensational headlines! So what if it’s a whale’s? Isn’t it still a trash thrown up by an animal like us all? Why go so hysterical about it? Well you do so when your puke sells for $300 an ounce!

So whales (las ballenas) puke. Just like all of us. And they sell it too! It happened so that this lucky Latina, Dorothy Ferreira, 67, just received a 4-pound doozy from her 82-year-old sister in Waterloo, Iowa. The ugly box had no receipt and contained a gnarled, funky, wax-like blob that looked, well, ugly.

“I called my sister and asked her, ‘What the heck did you send me?’ ” Recalled Ms. Ferreira, who has lived here on the eastern tip of Long Island since 1982. “She said: ‘I don’t know, but I found it on the beach in Montauk 50 years ago and just kept it around. You’re the one who lives by the ocean; ask someone out there what it is.’ ”

So Ms. Ferreira called the Town of East Hampton’s department of natural resources, which dispatched an old salt from Montauk named Walter Galcik.

Mr. Galcik, 80, concluded that the mysterious gift might be ambergris, the storied substance created in the intestines of a sperm whale and spewed into the ocean. Also called whale’s pearl or floating gold, ambergris is a rare and often valuable ingredient in fine perfumes.

“He told me, ‘Don’t let this out of your sight,’ ” Ms. Ferreira said. She was soon summoned to show the thing at a town board meeting, after which a story in The Independent, a local newspaper, declared Ms. Ferreira the proud new owner of “heirloom whale barf.” Friends and neighbors flocked to her tchotchke-filled cottage overlooking Fort Pond Bay, the very shores where her sister, Ruth Carpenter, said she found the object in the mid-1950s.

Childless and never married, Ms. Ferreira bounced from job to job, most recently as a short-order cook at a local deli, and now lives on her Social Security income. “If it really does have value, I’m not silly, of course I’d want to sell it,” Ms. Ferreira said as she looked out past her lace curtains and picket fence at the whitecaps on the bay. “This could be my retirement.”

After researching ambergris on the Internet, Ms. Ferreira’s neighbor, Joe Luiksic, advised, “Put it on eBay.” But endangered species legislation has made buying or selling the stuff illegal since the 1970s; a couple who found a large lump of ambergris valued at almost $300,000 on an Australian beach in January has had legal problems selling it.

“If I get locked up, will you bail me out?” Ms. Ferreira asked her friends.

Ambergris begins as a wax-like substance secreted in the intestines of some sperm whales, perhaps to protect the whale from the hard, indigestible “beaks” of giant squid it feeds upon. The whales expel the blobs, dark and foul-smelling, to float the ocean. After much seasoning by waves, wind, salt and sun, they may wash up as solid, fragrant chunks.

Because ambergris varies widely in color, shape and texture, identification falls to those who have handled it before, a group that in a post-whaling age is very small. Ms. Ferreira says she has yet to find an ambergris expert.

Adrienne Beuse, an ambergris dealer in New Zealand, said in a telephone interview that good-quality ambergris can be sold for up to $10 per gram, adding that for the finest grades, “the sky’s the limit.”

At $10 per gram, Ms. Ferreira’s chunk, according to a neighbor’s kitchen scale, would have a value of $18,000. “The only way to positively identify ambergris is to have experience handling and smelling it, and very few people in the world have that,” Ms. Beuse said. “Certainly, if she has it, it’s like winning a mini-lottery.”

“The older folks would always tell us, ‘Keep your eyes open for that whale vomit because it’ll pay your way through college,’ ” Larry Penny, 71, director of East Hampton’s natural resources department, recalls. “We used to bring home anything that we thought looked like it, but it never turned out to be ambergris. The average person today could trip over it on the beach and never know what it was.”

Ambergris has been a valued commodity for centuries, used in perfume because of its strangely alluring aroma as well as its ability to retain other fine-fragrance ingredients and fix a scent so it does not evaporate quickly. Its name is derived from the French ambre gris, or gray amber. During the Renaissance, ambergris was molded, dried, decorated and worn as jewelry. It has been an aphrodisiac, a restorative balm, and a spice for food and wine. Arabs used it as heart and brain medicine. The Chinese called it lung sien hiang, or “dragon’s spittle fragrance.” It has been the object of high-seas treachery and caused countries to enact maritime possession laws and laws banning whale hunting. Madame du Barry supposedly washed herself with it to make herself irresistible to Louis XV.

“We always heard about it, but I don’t remember finding any,” recalled Encie Babcock, 95, of Sag Harbor, whose great-uncle Henry Babcock was captain of a whaling ship in the 1800s.

Mrs. Carpenter, Ms. Ferreira’s sister, said she was about 30 years old, beachcombing with her dog in front of the family house, when she spied the object and “and just liked the way it looked, so I kept it.” After moving with her husband to Iowa, Mrs. Carpenter kept the waxy hunk in a box in her bedroom closet.

“Anytime we had houseguests, I’d take it out and ask them if they knew what it was,” she said. “Of course they didn’t. This is Iowa.” She sent it to her sister, Mrs. Carpenter said, because “I’m not feeling too good, and I don’t have much time left.”

Cited from The New York Times.

Gloria to release a Latino album

Spain's 20 Minutos reports that Gloria Estefan is set to announce tomorrow a new album in Spanish, with a focus on getting back to her Cuban music roots and reviving some Afro-Cuban rhythms

The album 90 Millas (90 Miles) is "an amazing explosion of rhythm" because of the influence of the r a genre, which is typically recognized for its use of the backbeat.

On the topic of the song Cuando Cuba Sea Libre (When Cuba is Free), Gloria clarified that it isn't a political song but a celebration for a free Cuba. The first promotional single, No llores, is already in the first spots on the Billboard charts.

The album, which is set to hit stores on September 18th, will be formally presented tomorrow at an event in Miami, along with a documentary which follows the making of the album and includes images of Cuba. Gloria has recruited a star-studded lineup of collaborators for this project, among them Carlos Santana, Andy Garcia, Sheila E., Cachao and India.

Cited from 20 Minutos.

Beyonce's Spanish just got a celebrity fan!

Beyonce's foray into Spanish language singing on a duet with Shakira is already stale tale now. Late last year, it had everybody talking about it. Well, the video's been out for a while, but now Shaki is amazed at what a polyglot Beyonce has become, and the experience of working with her overall:

Shak told MTV, "(Beyonce) has a very good accent when she sings in Spanish and I think anything that she wants to do she will do just fine, because she is a very determined and focused woman and that is something to admire. She is a great artist."
She added, "I am very happy and very excited about (working with Bey). I have just finished shooting a video with her. It was a fantastic experience to work with her, to get to know her as the great artist that she is.

"She is an amazing performer and also a sweet person and a very nice human being, and I am so thrilled and thankful for her invitation. It was her idea to make me a part of her album and it has been wonderful."

If you still haven't seen the video, check it out here.

Cited from MTV.

Which is the second most studied language worldwide?

Newt Gingrich might think that Spanish is the language of the ghettos, la lengua de Cervantes is now the second most studied language in the world, after English. According to Spain's 20 Minutos, there are now more than 14 million people studying Spanish in 90 countries in which Spanish is not an official language.

According to the Director of the Instituto Cervantes (the Spanish organization that looks to promote the language all over the world), one of the main reasons that people are choosing to study Spanish is because they believe that it will professionally benefit them in today's global economy. He also pointed to Brazil's decision to make Spanish an mandatory subject in schools as an example of the growing importance of Spanish in the world.

There are currently one million Spanish speakers in Brazil but Molina estimates that in 10 years there will be more than 30 million Spanish-speaking Brazilians, adding to the already 500 million Spanish speakers in America and Spain, making it the fourth most spoken language in the world, after Chinese, English and Hindi. Brazil's new Spanish initiative will call for 210,000 Spanish teachers to teach the language.

Molina, speaking at a language school conference in Coruña, Spain, also said that the United States -- currently with (according to his estimate) 36 million Spanish speakers -- is the frontier that must be conquered, calling it a decisive platform for Spanish to reaffirm its role as the second language of international communication.

Cited from 20 minutos

Ever seen a true Latino URL?

Spanish speakers have gotten used to seeing their language take a beating when it comes to URLs, since such common accents and even an entire letter (the beloved Ñ) have previously been unavailable for use in our browser address bar.

Given the constraint, concessions have been made over the years, or people have simply had to call their website something else so as not to risk embarrassment in the form of words like year (año) becoming anus (ano). But that's all going to change now, as the Spanish government has labored to get the standards changed to accommodate the proper use of the language on URLs, as well as the characters associated with the other languages of Spain (Catalan, Valencian, Euskera and Galician):

Red.es, the industry in charge of domain registry in Spain, has informed the 62 accredited registry agents to allow names with the the characters á, à, 'é', è, í, ï, ó, ò, ú, ü, ñ, ç, and ll.

The initiative will go into effect in October, and there's already worry of speculation. As with prime real estate, there are just thousands of people out there waiting to snatch up previously unregistered URLs. Imagine the value of a site called niños.com (which when you type into a browser now, redirects to http://xn--nios-hqa.com/) to a baby products company, or elpaís.com to newspaper El País (previously found at elpais.com, without the accent on the i).

With so much at stake, they've set up a way to make sure vultures don't swoop down and take all the prime domain names. Priority will be given to holders of URLs already registered with the .es extension (for Spain) to register for the proper spelling or punctuation of their name, and a live auction will be held online in the case of disputed URLs, according to Spain's El País (or El Pais).

El País seems to imply that this only applies to sites in Spain. What isn't clear to me is where this leaves domain holders who don't have the .es extension for their sites. Will this apply to people with sites ending in .com or .com.mx, for instance? This measure is needed not only in Spain but in the rest of the Spanish-speaking world as well.

Cited from El País