From the beginning, students are taught the story of the pilgrims and how they traveled to the New World, but that’s as far as the details go for little children.
As the years go on, the details are made more clear and students learn that one of the most important reasons for the pilgrims emigration to the New World was because they were seeking religious freedom: a freedom that Americans today have at birth, along with all the other freedoms, like speech and the right to bear arms.
As an American, I was born into the freedoms that exist today, but in my home, eating wasn’t the most important part about the holiday, it was being thankful for having the food, and a place to eat it.
The idea that there are “people who don’t have” was always special to my family and me because at times, we were those people.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of,” my mom would say to me as we stood in line at the soup kitchen in New York. I was never ashamed because I didn’t think that there was anything wrong. All I knew was that I was with my family and I was thankful for that.
The feeling of happiness and warmth that I got from being with my family on
those cold autumn days was better then unwrapping any gift on Christmas morning.
Professor Marco Iniguez has a similar
understanding of the holiday and his is based family traditions, he said.
“One of the biggest things is that we all go around the table and say what we are thankful for,” he said. “My mother only speaks Spanish so we like to speak in Spanish for her.”
Being Mexican-American, Iniguez has some traditions that cross over and have become family staples, especially with the meal, he said.
“We have the traditional ham and turkey but there are some differences like we add jalapeños to the cranberry sauce so it has a little more spice,” he said. “Someone always makes salsa and tamales, and Mexican desserts like tres leches cake.”
For Iniguez being thankful doesn’t only come on thanksgiving, he said. There are many holidays where his family gives thanks but Thanksgiving is the only one that isn’t secular or religious. It is just a day to be thankful.
Being thankful for what you have and how far you have come is the meaning of Thanksgiving, not how full your stomach is.
CORPUS CHRISTI–It is a clear and sunny day in downtown Corpus Christi; lines of people wait to buy a snack at the food stands while others gather around the make- up shops to get their face painted with traditional calavera designs
Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday observed throughout Mexico as well as South Texas and around the world in other cultures. It focuses on remembering friends and family members who have died.
Corpus Christi is not the exception, and also takes part in this celebration since 2008.
“Dia de los Muertos is a day to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away. The Metzo Americans believed that it is the day that the portals open to connect the underworld and our [present] world,” said Marco Iniguez, senior lecturer in the Department of Language and Literature at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Michelle Smythe, Executive Director at K Space Contemporary has been involved with the festival since its conception.
Smythe, along with her business neighbor from Axis Tattoos, decided to host a block party to celebrate Dia de los Muertos back in 2008 without knowing the tremendous impact that this festival would have in the community in the future.
Now the event attracts several thousand and takes time to plan. “We really kick it into gear about two months before, but even before that, we start in June or July,” Smythe said.
Live musical performances, art work and food preparation, is what takes this festival months of planning.
“We have three stages with music, our main stage starts out with cultural performances like Mariachi, Ballet Folklorico, Conjunto, Tejano and ends out the night with Latin influence; pop and rock,” she said.
As years have passed, this festival has grown in popularity in the community. Every year they have been surpassing previous year’s attendance and Smythe and the crew expects that this year will not be the exception.
“The first year we had 600, the attendance has either doubled or tripled every year since and last year we had an estimate of 35 thousand people,” Smythe said.
Breaking last years’ record was on Smythe’s mind, she said.
“We had more publicity this year than we’ve ever had and it’s a word of mouth thing, you know, tell their friends and get their friends to come out,” she said.
Men, women and small children were seen throughout the festival with their faces painted. The men’s faces were painted in black-and-white to resemble skeletons, while the women mixed a variety of colors and gave a more unique look.
“We have 14 face painters on side, vendors, they do both children and adults,” Smythe said. “It’s fascinating how many people have face paint and dressed as part for the Dia de los Muertos festival.”
The community involvement is of great importance and Smythe acknowledges that this festival wouldn’t be possible without the community support.
“In our exhibition we have lots of local artists, we have the piñatas which are made by children in our K through 12 schools as well as the altars and the teachers are involved as well,” she said. “The community has exceeded all expectations; we have a huge chunk of the community that’s involved, either they are performing on the stages dancing, playing their music or showing their talent,”
The festival is also an opportunity to remember those loved ones who have passed away.
However, there are also people who attend to have a good time in a safe and genuine atmosphere.
“I think that Dia de los Muertos offers the public or anybody a healthy way of acknowledging death, celebrating our loved ones, honoring their lives, and welcoming those spirits back for the day,” Smythe said.
The festival unquestionably brings different cultures together, because in every culture people remember their loved ones that have passed, she said.
“The people that come to the festival are all races, all ethnicities, people of all ages,” Smythe said.
Besides providing a fun environment having a good time and remembering the ones that have passed; the festival has impacted the down town businesses in a good way.
“I know that last year hotel and motel rentals were up by 25 percent during the Dia de los Muertos festival,” Smythe said “I mean , we are bringing 35 thousand people down town, that’s a huge economic impact for the shops and the businesses.”
People from all over the state come down to Corpus Christi and that definitely boosts sales for that specific weekend
As the day progresses the crowd is growing drastically.
Many attendees are dressed in typical authentic Mexican outfits and other are wearing catchy and scary costumes that resemble death. Performances are taking place simultaneously in the different stages as well.
Corpus Christi resident Margaret Rodriguez was among the thousands of attendees. She along with her two children attended the festival. Her daughter, dressed in a culturally colorful Mexican outfit, was one of the many performers at the Festival.
“My daughter performed with Chica’s Rock, an all-girls rock group dedicated to improving self-confidence through music,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said her daughter’s performance as well as other performances relate to Dia de los Muertos in a special way because they are doing their performances to commemorate all who have passed away. “The performance related to Dia de los Muertos because November 1st is the celebration of angelitos (Little Angels), the children who have passed on,” she said “ There were Many Ballet Folklorico dancers, mariachis, a dance to La Llorana (The Crying Woman) by Theresa Saldivar. Los angelitos and los muertos were definitely celebrated.”
Rodriguez said that Dia de los Muertos festival is keeping Mexican culture alive by continuing the tradition here in the United States.
“For me Dia de los Muertos is remembering my grandparents and tios and tias (uncles and aunts), who have passed. Taking their favorite drinks and treats to their grave. Singing “Amor Eterno” (Love Forever) to them as well as sharing stories,” she said. Rodriguez also emphasized on the popularity of this celebration in Corpus Christi and the United States as a whole.
She said that the festival shows how culturally rich the city is, while many who are alive are so lost.
“There is a deep love for people in our Mexican traditions, one that we should continue to celebrate,” She said.
The festival, while common in Mexico, had its own unique flavor in South Texas. The smell of turkey legs being cooked never stopped. The smell seemed to follow everyone as they walked through the streets. Now the sun has set, but the celebration continues.
Presently his third production “Stones in the Desert…Eterno” is currently showing in The Little Theatre Thursday Oct. 23 and Friday Oct. 24 at 7pm as well as Sunday Oct. 26 at 2pm.
The play is based off of six characters who are on their journey after crossing the Texas border from Mexico.
“The journey of each one of these characters is very clear and what their struggle is, what their problem is, their issue. It lets the audience know this is a real person. We have real people who are crossing. I wanted to remind the audience that we have real people crossing the border,” Ranson said.
This play has hit the stage, as Ranson has rehearsed the play with his actors there have been some changes but he felt has been for the best as the characters developed. The play has also given the actors advantages.
“The actors have really given me good ideas as we’ve gone along. They’ve brought a lot more to the play. They become the first cast for the play, the first original cast. “They’re the first ones to do this play so they get to decide how to be that character,” Ranson said.
The first playwright Ranson brought to stage was a one act, “Las Cartas” in 2010 which he wrote along with student writers. They toured this play to different theatre competitions and started the Hispanic Playwright Initiative(HPI) group which was started to help students get involved in different aspects of theatre.
“The HPI encouraged the students to write more and do more than just acting,” Ranson said
Later in 2013 he wrote a play based on human trafficking, “Same as Sarah”.
A hispanic couple when their daughter gets kidnapped and is prostituted to older men. This play won second place in the National Playwriting award last year.
Ranson has been with Theatre here at Texas A&M University Kingsville since 2008.
He has done about 85 plays over the past 14 years being in Theatre. As an Artistic Director, Producer, Freelance director and actor, mostly in the Dallas Fort Worth area.
Since 2000, He has taught as an adjunct, and full-time, teaching theatre with Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, University of North Texas, Wharton County Junior College, Tarrant County College and Dallas County Community College.
He has been the full-time artistic director for three theatre companies; Flower Mound Performing Arts Theatre ( North Dallas area 2000-2003 spt-1 equity house), Harbor Playhouse (Corpus Christi 2004-2007) and artistic director and co-founder of the Aurora Arts Theatre (Corpus Christi 2009-2010).
Most people don’t know that the theatre department does the same amount of plays per semester as larger universities Ranson said.
Ranson aims for plays to relate to the audience as well as the students to intrigue their interest into the program.
“We always try to do something that is relative to our region and that’s been the best way I’ve found to introduce our new students to play and acting because then they realize that there are real stories that relate to their own backgrounds.”
The biggest goals are informing people what theatre is, growing the department, getting the facilities in a better state, and gaining more staff.
“Every year we do something better, better and better,” Ranson said.
He has many goals for the Theatre department but the main goal is to help his students find their career path.
“My goal is help them realize what their potential occupation or potential study could be in Theatre,” Ranson said.
The Theatre department participates in Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) which is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide which has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States.
KCACTF gives tamuk students the opportunity to see other schools work as well as expose them to other schools.
“This will allow the students to know all of their opportunities that they have in theatre,” Ranson said.
It is always a busy day at the Arts, Communications & Theatre Department at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Ilda and Cristina are very busy filling out paperwork and answering the phone. Students come in with questions and leave with answers.
Dr. Manuel Flores, Chair and professor of the ACT department at TAMUK is very busy as well with students, answering his phone after students leave, and then going back to work in the computer.
For Hispanic Heritage Month, Dr. Flores was recognized by the Corpus Christi Caller Times and Citgo for his service to the community and his dedication to preserving the Hispanic culture.
“It was a great honor. I wasn’t waiting for this, and I am very grateful to be recognized by the Caller Times and Citgo,” Flores said.
He said that he does the best that he can and always has the Hispanics in his mind.
“I try to make sure that the Hispanic community gets ahead because the fight for civil rights never ends,” he said. “That is something that my grandfather Pedro Chapa taught me, that the fight for civil rights will never end.”
Since the passing of his grandfather, Flores has continued with fighting for civil rights and equality.
“I’m doing what my grandfather told me to do before he died,” he said.
Flores has impacted the Hispanic community in Texas in many ways.
The Corpus Christi Independent School District allowed him to improve the education conditions of Corpus Christi’s poorer neighborhoods.
“As president of the CCISD I had the opportunity to build new schools in the poorer neighborhoods where schools were very old due to the lack of maintenance,” Flores said.
Flores has also served as the president of the Mexican American School Board Association.
“We asked the state of Texas to change the laws of what the students at public schools were being taught,” Flores said. “We asked for more culture courses and that is how we started to integrate mariachi music into the curriculum.”
Flores said that these organizations gave him the opportunity to keep on fighting for the civil rights not only for Hispanics but for people in general and said these organizations are still impacting his life in a positive way.
“The Mexican American School Board Association called me a few weeks ago because they want TAMUK to train the teachers from the state of Texas in the history of Tejanos and Mexican Americans in the U.S. and we are working to make that project a reality,” he said.
He said that hopefully that project will become a reality in the fall of 2015.
Flores said that he tries to be good a teacher, a good person, treating everyone with dignity and respect because that is what a human being does.
“Sometimes I might fail, but the efforts and fight continues and hopefully the students see me as an example of how to be professional, how to treat others but also how to be a good student,” he said.
He also worked for the Corpus Christi Caller Times covering news and sports.
“It was not easy to find a job as a journalist just because I was Hispanic,” he said. “I’ve always had difficulties because I’m Hispanic, but I don’t let that stop me of what I’m doing or what I want to do.”
Dr. Flores said he feels proud to be a professor at TAMUK.
“I feel proud, because I feel that the experiences that I’ve had I can pass them down to students for them to see that is possible to work as a journalist whether you are Hispanic or come from a small university like ours,” he said.
Like a journal, artist Carlos G. Gomez paints and shares his experiences in life that he says “will never go away.”
Last summer, Gomez went on a trip to Alaska and recorded his journey through paintings Life’s Journey, a Bato in Alaska, which Texas A&M University-Kingsville brought to the Ben Bailey Art Gallery.
Gomez said he began to paint before arriving in Alaska, as he saw the snow and mountains in his mind and said he saw a place in Alaska as he painted it before his arrival.
He said he used spray paint and wax colored pencils to produce the abstract moments he recorded on his trip.
“With the abstract paintings, I’m trying to make them think,” he said.
Gomez said he favors optic art over other styles because he enjoys creating art that is different, despite the money difference.
“It’s not about the money. I can make a lot of money selling paintings of horses or something like that but I want to paint what I like,” he said.
To honor Gomez, TAMUK held a reception and an ‘Artist Talk’ where art students and other students had an opportunity to attend on Sept. 25 at the Little Theatre located in the Speech Building.
Art students listened to Gomez speak of his journey and how he recorded images and feelings he saw and felt on his trip.
He shared his experience as an artist with Art Majors to help them with their career.
“I feel blessed to be here and help advise young people. When I was young, I had to learn the hard way and I want to share my knowledge to help them move up in their career quicker than I did,” Gomez said.
Jesus De La Rosa, associate professor of art at TAMUK, was a student of Gomez’s and said he said it was important that his students were able to get advice from his former teacher.
“It’s great that the art students have this opportunity to hear of his experience to help them develop as artists themselves,” De La Rosa said.
Among art majors, other students like Marco Garcia, a junior business major, found Gomez’s lecture interesting.
“His art is different from what I usually see so I find it interesting. You can put yourself where he’s been by looking at his art,” Garcia said.
Gomez is currently professor of fine art and chair of the visual arts department at the University of Texas at Brownsville.
Life’s Journey, A Bato in Alaska opened Monday, Sept. 8 and will continue through Wednesday, Oct. 8, at the Bailey Art Gallery.
The soft but powerful voice of Veronica Mireles filled the banquet hall at the Memorial Student Union Building (MSUB) as the anthem, “viva Mexico, viva Mexico” bellowed from her vocal cords during the Window on The World (WOW) event last Thursday.
The WOW event brought together many of the different ethnic groups on campus to celebrate the beauty of culture, and that is exactly what it did, said Ahmad Sahir, who was dressed in his traditional clothing that consisted of an ankle length thawb.
The long white thawb is what Sahir would wear if he were still in his home country of Pakistan, he said.
“It feels nice to be able dress in my traditional clothes with my friends and feel comfortable,” he said. “We don’t get this opportunity to do this too often so we are taking advantage of it.”
The ballroom was filled with smiles and happiness as students made their way through the chairs as they rushed back to their seats to enjoy the talent show.
Dressed in a plaid kilt to display her Scottish heritage was International and Multicultural Programming Coordinator, Elizabeth Lawrence, who was the MC of the event.
Up-tempo performances like “Dance Africa!” brought together students from different countries in Africa for a mash up of traditional and contemporary African Dance. The girls came together on stage and represented countries spanning from Nigeria to Cameroon.
Freshman, Geology major Hapynes Odhiambo, originally from Kenya, twirled on stage with her peers to the booming sounds of “ADA ADA” by Flavour. Her bright red braids, tied in a bun on the top of her head, were clear identifiers as her head spun in sync with her hips.
Being a freshman, Odhiambo was a role model for other freshman, like Peter Smith who had not been to any other campus events all year, he said.
“I’ve been pretty intimidated to go out and do things,” he said as his eyes widened during the fashion show. “I see that there are so many different people here and a lot of freshman getting involved so I’m going to be more out going,” Smith said.
It is a hot and humid summer day, usual Kingsville weather. Sitting on a chair outside of the dining hall, the sun hits his face directly, but this doesn’t seem to bother Turker Ertem at all.
He smiles and gets comfortable on the chair as he takes his cap off.
“This is my perfect weather. I’d rather have humid and hot weather than cold weather,” he says as he puts his backpack on the floor and rests his elbows on the table. He seems to be very integrated to the life that people in this country live; he does not seem like a foreigner.
Turker Ertem, a mathematics researcher at TAMUK, loves the citizens and, for the past eight months that he has been living here in Kingsville, he has been treated like if he was in his home country.
Ertem said he is very happy living in the United States. If he was to be given the opportunity to pick a country to go work or live, he would definitely choose the United States again.
“In 2012 I came to Kingsville for a conference. I liked the town. It’s small, pretty calm, and people are nice. I applied to come here to do work at TAMUK and do research on sub topics dealing with mathematics,” he said.
Ertem is originally from Ankara, Turkey, a city of about five million people. While going to school there, he fell in love with mathematics. He knew that was his passion, and now he holds a Ph.D. in the field. Mathematics brought him to Kingsville, he said proudly.
“My time here is set to end on November, but I will apply for a visa extension so I can keep on working on the research and stay a little longer here,” he said.
Ertem has applied for several jobs around the United States and also to some here in Kingsville. He said he hopes to find a job here and not somewhere else.
“The people are always real nice and very kind, an everyone has treated me very well,” he said.
Still sitting down outside of the dining hall in the humid and hot weather he sees students, custodians and teachers walk by. Many of them ask him how he is doing and greet him in a very pleasant way.
People that come to this country encounter many barriers. Ertem only encountered one barrier, the language barrier.
“The only problem I’ve had is that my English is not very good. People have trouble understanding my English, sometimes I have to spell out words, or when I’m talking to someone I’ve had to ask them to spell out words,” he said. “But as time has passed I have been getting good at it, and I try to talk to people to practice my English as well as read because that helps English learners a lot.”
Ertem said he has been very optimistic, and has taken advantage of everything that he has to better his English.
He also said he only has a certain amount of time to be here, and after that amount expires he has to go back to Turkey.
“I will have to leave to Turkey whether I get the extension or not, but I’m sure about one thing, I definitely would like to live in the United States all my life,” he said.
The aroma of funnel cakes, balloons popping and loud cries of cheerful screaming is the perfect playground for a kid. Brittany Maple was lucky enough to have her own personal playground growing up with her family business, Kenny’s Funland Carnival.
Brittany Maple, junior journalism major at TAMUK, is a 6th generation “carnie.” She’s not your average college student but that is where she is unique.
She has grown up with both sides of her family in the carnival business.
Her mother’s side worked for different carnivals, and her father’s side owned a company, Kenny’s Funland.
“It made me who I am, it shapes how you are and who you are as a person,” Maple said.
Her great grandmother and great grandfather lived in La Feria where the business developed, and after her grandfather passed away, her father took ownership of the business.
Being in the carnival business, Maple said she has dealt with the carnie stereotype with being accused of cheating and trying to steal ‘everyone’s money’.
“One time someone just came up to me at the carnival and said, ‘You’re just a stupid carnie, you’re nothing but dirty, cheating people.’ I replied with, I am a 15 year old who will graduate high school going into college as a sophomore, what have you done?” Maple said. “Growing up as a carnie, it really pushed me because I wanted to make everyone realize carnies aren’t really what you think they are.”
Growing up in such a fast paced environment, Brittany said she learned how to do everything at the carnival from setting up the equipment to cooking the treats. At four years old, she made her first two dollars at the balloon popping game, at five she learned how to dip her first corn dog and by eight she was running a cotton candy stand by herself at a county fair.
“My dad calls me hopscotch because I know how to do everything in the carnival. At 15, I got a rock wall for my birthday and I learned how to set up in 30 minutes, and for my sweet 16 I didn’t get the car, but a concession stand where I learned how to do the deserts with all of the fried snacks,” Maple said.
When finding workers for their business, they like to go to homeless shelters to find people who really need the work. They are not only gaining workers but helping those in need.
“You help them get back on their feet and show them that not everyone will push you down. We want to help,” she said.
She wasn’t always at the carnival as she said she wishes she could be but she did help every chance she got on holiday breaks.
“I was involved with different sports like track and powerlifting. I graduated in the top ten in my class from La Feria High school but I still made time to help out,” Maple said.
Brittany is going to school for her bachelor’s degree in journalism and is hoping to pursue her dreams becoming a journalist but is happy and ready to take on the family business if necessary.
“The carnival is my dad’s business right now but if something does happen to him, I will take it over, because it’s not only mine, its my family’s. It’s my dad’s, my grandpa’s, great grandpa, and great-great grandpa,” Maple said. “It’s their legacy and if I let that go then what happens to them. I want to keep that one last thing that I have left of them.”
Kenny’s Funland won’t be back in Kingsville until the spring sometime around May of 2015.
“Ill tell you this,” Maple said, “If you go get a funnel cake from Jack in the Box or McDonald’s, it won’t be the same as getting one from the carnival.”
Patrol officer Arnold Salazar has been with the university police department for over two years and helped develop the new design, he said as he turned the lights on the new patrol vehicle.
The university received two donated vehicles, a Chevy Tahoe from Dr. Terisa Riley and another from the Kingsville Police Department Task Force.
The new designs were needed to help the university police integrate into the community and identify TAMUK UPD as an actual police force, Salazar said.
“We wanted to have a more modern look, like Kingsville police department and other universities,” Salazar said.
The TAMUK police department is the primary source of police for the campus and surrounding area, Salazar said.
“We were the first responders to that bank robbery, so when you are dealing with serious situations like that you want to look professional and equal,” he said.
The new vehicles feature many different reflective graphics along the sides and on the back of the vehicles to help the vehicle be seen when police lights can’t be used, Salazar said.
The Tahoe will be more of a help to the department then the Crown Victoria police cruisers that were used in the past, Salazar said.
“This new vehicle has much better suspension and gets pretty low to the ground so it is better equipped for high speed pursuits,” he said.
Director of public safety and chief of police, Felipe Garza had an optimistic outlook for the new design, he said, and he gave the final approval.
They got good feed back from the campus officials but also the members of the Kingsville community, he said. TAMUK has strong ties to the community so positive feedback is desired, Garza said.