Makeout in Paradise
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Monday, February 10, 2014
Friday, February 7, 2014
Chingados: Image & Text in Cortés Poem by Ricardo Favela & Luis “The Foot” González
Jade Hand-Shaped Pendant, 1500-300 BC: Bodily Anomaly in Olmec Art
Daniel Joseph Martínez’s Museum Tags: Race and Resistance in America, 1993
Speech Investigation: Castrapo
The Historiography of Visual Culture in Mexico, 1980s-2012: Images of Popular Culture, Profit, and Patria
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
I just found this essay from 2 years ago:
May 8, 2012
Speech Investigation: Castrapo
Language of the Iberian Peninsula has never been static. Over the last several hundred years, languages in Spain have diverged, converged, multiplied, and died. Inevitably, the languages coexisting in this small geographic region have exerted influence on each other. As a part of Spain, Galicia is a crucible of linguistic variation in which elements of Portuguese, Castilian Spanish, and Gallego intermix to form Castrapo, the Spanish spoken by Galicians. Origin and experience shape each speaker, but not all speakers fit perfectly into a particular linguistic mold. As an individual fluent in four languages living abroad, the informant in this study exhibits some tendencies of her homeland, and others that are atypical. This study will investigate the phonetic and phonological variation of the informant through intonation, vowel variation, Gheada, velarization of the word-final nasal, and other tendencies.
2.0 Methodology and Biographical Information
The interview was conducted in the informant’s apartment in west Houston. The informant is a 26 year old female and a native of Galicia, Spain. Born and raised in Burela, the informant attended the University of Santiago de Compostela, completed a study abroad program at the University of Perugia, Italy, and later studied at the University of Antonio Nebrija in Madrid. After graduating, the informant worked in Bilbao, then London. The informant moved to Houston in 2010 to work at the Spanish Consulate. The informant speaks Gallego, Castilian Spanish, English, and Italian. The informant is married to an Italian and speaks mostly Italian with him. The informant’s husband speaks Italian, English and some Spanish.
3.0 History of the Evolution of Gallego
Details of the linguistic characteristics of the Galician region in Pre-Roman times are unclear. The Romans spread Vulgar Latin until 8th century when the Visigoths invaded, contributing a small lexical influence. The Gallego-Portuguese language developed in what is now Portugal and Galicia. Due to the west coast’s relative geographic isolation from the rest of the peninsula, Gallego-Portuguese was a conservative language with many archaic forms. In 711 AD, the Moors invaded Iberia from the south. Like the Visigoths, the Moors contributed to the Spanish lexicon. In the 12th century, the Kingdom of Portugal was established, and in the 13th century, the Kingdom of Castile incorporated Galicia. The Gallego and Portuguese languages separated during the 14th and 15th centuries (Beswick 112). In 1479 AD, Aragon became part of the Kingdom of Castile. With the influx of Castilian nobles now in Galicia, Castilian Spanish dominated. Gallego lost its prestigious status since it was no longer the language of nobles, public administration, or documentation. Gallego was shunted to use by “lower-class rural dwellers” (Loureiro-Rodríguez 119). The Kingdom of Spain was finalized in 1492 AD.
3.2 Modern Changes
It was not until the 19th century that interest in Gallego experienced a resurgence; the first Gallego dictionaries and grammars were created at this time (Beswick 114). Although Franco was Galician, during his dictatorship (1939 to 1975) the speaking and writing of Gallego was outlawed (Loureiro-Rodríguez 119). In 1978, Spanish democracy was declared, and Gallego became a co-official language with Castilian Spanish. Despite rampant stigmatization since the 15th century, Gallego persevered due to the inherent nature of the region’s people. According to Verónica Loureiro-Rodríguez (2007), “The conditions (that) lead to the stigmatization of Gallego were the very factors that helped maintain it: isolation, illiteracy, rurality, and poverty” (Loureiro-Rodríguez 121). From the marginalization of the Middle Ages to the oppression of Franco, this crucial element of Galician culture was preserved by those who were historically disparaged.
3.3 Contemporary Times
Today, Spain is divided into Autonomous Communities, a unique configuration meant to maximize regional identity. While Castilian is spoken throughout Spain, many Autonomous Communities such as Cataluña, the Basque Country, and Valencia maintain their own native languages. In Galicia, Gallego is taught in schools in order to reinforce its role as an integral part of the region’s culture and identity. According to a linguistic study published by the Xunta de Galicia (2003), 93% of Galicians speak Gallego, and 72% maintain a favorable attitude towards the language (Hualde 422). Galicia is a crucible of linguistic variation, as José del Valle explains:
The Galicians...want to maintain the multiple norms available to them. Standard Galician, local Galician norms, code-mixing and code-switching norms, Galician Spanish and Standard Spanish. Modernity has not caused the convergence of linguistic behavior, it has in fact broadened the linguistic repertoire of Galicians (Del Valle 130).
For this reason, the informant learned Gallego from birth and continues to speak it, rather than Castilian, with Galician friends and family. The informant is a representative of the diffused speech community that forms the ethnic identity of the region.
Though many Galicians code switch between dialectical and standard Gallego, as well as Castilian and Gallego, they also employ a distinct form of Spanish. Centuries of contact between Gallego and Castilian produced “español agallegado,” also known as “Castrapo,” terms used by Galicians to describe the Castilian Spanish that they speak (Klee 69). Contact between Castilian and Gallego since the Middle Ages created a transference of patterns and derivations of norms from both languages. This language transference entails a leakage in function and a mixing in form so that traits from one language become totally integrated into the other. Transferred traits may be stigmatized by the larger population, but for speakers of the dialect, the transferred traits do not appear foreign. Therefore, the way that many Galicians speak Spanish is influenced by the phonological and phonetic tendencies of Gallego.
5.0 Basic Phonemes
The basic phonemes for the informant’s dialect are /b/, /p/, /m/, /f/, /t̪/, /d̪/, /θ/, /s̺/, /n/, /l/, /r/, /ɾ/, /ɲ/, /ʝ/, /tʃ/, /k/, /x/, /g/, /u/, /o/, /a/, /e/ and /i/. Some of these phonemes contain allophonic variants. The /b/ manifests itself as the voiced bilabial plosive [b] after a pause or a nasal (Transcription page one: “Burela” [bu-ˈɾe-la]), or the voiced bilabial fricative [β] in all other contexts (Transcription page one: “pueblo” [ˈpu̯e-βlo]). The /d̪/ is the voiced dental plosive [d̪] after a pause, nasal, or [l] (Transcription page two: “grande” [ˈɣɾan̪-d̪e]), or the voiced dental fricative [ð] in all other contexts (Transcription page one: “estudios” [es̺-ˈt̪u-ði̯os̺]). The /n/ is the voiced dental nasal [n̪] before [t̪] (Transcription page seven: “diferentes” [ði-fe-ˈɾen̪-t̪es]), the voiced alveolar nasal [n] after a pause, intervocalically, or before an alveolar sound (Transcription page seven: “menos” [ˈme-nos]), or the voiced velar nasal [ŋ] before a velar sound or at the end of a word (Transcription page two: “Houston” [ˈxus-t̪oŋ]). The /g/ is the voiced velar plosive [g] after a pause or after a nasal, or the voiced velar fricative [ɣ] in all other contexts (Transcription page four: “gustaría” [ɣus-t̪a-ˈɾi-a]).
One of the most prominent features of the informant’s speech is her melodic intonation. Many phrases are broken into individual groups that are intoned with several abrupt rises and falls. Examples of this can be found in nearly every substantial response given by the speaker. On page two of the transcription the speaker says, “Mi hermano estuvo a punto de venir, pero...por cuestión de trabajo tuvo que esperar mucho tiempo” [mi̯eɾ-ˈma-nu̯es̺-ˈt̪u-βu̯a-ˈpun̪-t̪o-ðe-βe-ˈniɾ-ˈpe-ɾɔ:#poɾ-ku̯es̺-ˈt̪i̯oŋ-ðe-t̪ɾa-ˈβa-xo-ˈtu-βo-kes̺-pe-ˈɾaɾ-ˈmu-tʃo-ˈti̯em-po]. The tonal pattern is illustrated below:
In the informant’s speech, the tone rises in each phonic group, then descends suddenly. This tonal process repeats throughout the interview. The musical cadence and melodic character that pervades the informant’s speech is not typical of Standard Latin American Spanish, nor the Standard Castilian Spanish of the rest of Spain. Blas Arroyo (2005) elaborates: Quizá el rasgo más sobresaliente sea la interferencia suprasegmental, caracterizada por la sucesión rápida de líneas melódicas típica del gallego, en lugar de los grupos entonacionales más extensas del español general” (Arroyo 568). Tonal variation is a unique feature of Castrapo due to its proximity to Gallego, and in the case of the informant, might also be influenced by her daily use of Italian with her Sicilian husband.
5.2 Vowel Variation
As she formulates her next thought, the informant frequently draws out many word-final vowels for several seconds. In these instances, the vowel sound is slightly closed as the informant elongates its articulation. This tendency reflects the vowel system of Gallego, which is more extensive than that of Standard Castilian Spanish. Gallego consists of seven oral vowel phonemes in tonic and pretonic position: /u/, /o/, /ɔ/, /a/, /ɛ/, /e/, and /i/; Standard Castilian consists of five vowel phonemes: /u/, /o/, /a/, /e/, and /i/ (Beswick 135). This extended vowel system is a legacy of the 16th century Gallego-Portuguese pronunciations of vowel sounds:
terra [ˈtɛ-ra] “tierra”
nove [ˈnɔ-βe] “nueve”
pouco [ow] “poco”
madeira [ma-ˈðej-ɾa] “madera”
moito [ˈmoj-t̪o] “mucho”
Examples from Gallego-Portuguese vowel sounds demonstrate that Castrapo speakers frequently open middle vowels /o/ and /e/. Thus, the closed vowel sound [e] becomes the open vowel sound [ɛ], and the closed [o] becomes open [ɔ]. In the informant’s speech, vowel change occurs most prominently in prolonged, world-final /o/ and /e/; common transitions “eh” [e] becomes [ɛ:] and “pero” [ˈpeɾo] becomes [ˈpeɾɔ:]. The opening of /e/ and /o/ affects the final /e/ articulated in diphthongs: in these cases, “bueno” is [ˈbwɛ-no] and “tiene” is [ˈt̪jɛ-ne]. Rising diphthongs may be realized as hiatus: “viuda” is [bi-ˈu-ða]. Klee (2009) elaborates: Tales variaciones parecen estar ligadas a las normal fonológicas del gallego, lengua que siguió una trayectoria evolutiva más parecida a la del portugés, en cuanto a diptongación se refiere: (Klee 70). The closing of word-final atonic /o/ to [u] is common in Castrapo, as with Standardized Castilian. However, the influence of Gallego also closes middle vowel /e/ at the end of a word, so that “leche” [ˈle-tʃe] becomes [ˈle-tʃi] and “mano” [ˈma-no] becomes [ˈma-nu] (Hualde 423).
5.3 La Gheada
The presence or absence of the linguistic phenomenon gheada is one of the most prominent phonetic features of present day speech in Galicia. Gheada replaces the articulation of the Standard Castilian voiced velar plosive /g/ in all intervocalic or world-initial occurrences with an alternate sound. This can be weakly articulated voiceless velar fricative [x], its aspirated counterpart [xʰ], pharyngeal voiceless [h], voiced glottal fricative [ɦ], voiceless pharyngeal fricative [ħ], voiced pharyngeal fricative [ʕ], voiceless uvular fricative [χ], or voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] (Beswick 141). However, the most frequent articulation of gheada is the replacing of the voiced velar plosive /g/ with [x] or [h]. Therefore, the Castilian word “gota” pronounced with gheada would be articulated as [ˈxo-t̪a] or [ˈho-t̪a] (Hualde 423). Gheada may be encountered in the Central Zone of the region, but is typically limited to Galician speakers of the Western Zone. The informant articulates the voiced velar plosive /g/ in the Standard Castilian manner; the informant is from the far north of the Central Zone. See map below for geographic demarcation of the linguistic zones of Galicia:
Gheada is considered non-standard, and is stigmatized as rural, uneducated speech. Rabanal (1967) found that many rural, native Gallego-speakers pronounced the Standard Castilian [g] as [x] when speaking Castilian, so that: [ˈa-xu̯a] “agua”, ˈ[lu̯e-xo] “luego”, [ˈxoɾ-ðo] “gordo. Rabanal conveys bias in the language used to describe the situation: “Como fenómeno rústico, que merece burla, el ‘geante’ que habla castellano trata frecuentemente de corregirse, y, en su afán de corrección, incurre en ultracorrección” (Rabanal 31). Rabanal observes overcorrection such as: [go-ˈse] “José”, [mo-ˈgaɾ] “mojar”, [ka-ˈgoŋ] “cajón.”
5.4 Velarization of word-final /n/
The informant articulates all word-final nasals as [ŋ], including words like “Houston” [xus̺-ˈt̪oŋ], “en” [eŋ], and “inauguración” [i-nau̯-ɣu-ɾa-ˈs̺i̯oŋ]. This tendency is found throughout Galicia where word-final /VN/ sequences become [Vŋ]. Velarization of the word-final /n/ is historically also a trait of Leon, and is currently a trait of Asturian and Andalusian Spanish (Klee 73). Word-final velarization of /n/ is related to Galicia’s linguistic past: “In accordance with the historical development of other Romance Languages, it is generally agreed that vowel nasalization evolved in Galician-Portuguese as a result of regressive assimilation to a conditioning nasal consonant of the Latin base word” (Beswick 153). In Portuguese, the word-final nasal consonant was eventually dropped, but in Gallego, the nasal vowel was retained and velarized to become [ŋ], while the vowel was de-nasalized. This phenomenon is illustrated below:
Latin: mānu “hand” > Gallego-Portuguese: manu > mano > [ˈmãŋo] >
Portuguese: [mão]; Gallego: [maŋ]
The Castrapo tendency to pronounce word-final nasals as [ŋ] is therefore a transference from Gallego. Therefore it follows that the informant, as a native Galician who also speaks Gallego, exhibits this tendency.
5.5 Standard Castilian Spanish and other observations
The informant exhibits several linguistic tendencies that are typical of Standard Castilian Spanish speakers. She is conservative in the articulation of consonants: the informant maintains the voiced dental fricative in past participle words such as “aplicado” [a-pli-ˈka-ðo] (transcription page two), as well as the word-final unvoiced alveolar fricative /s/ to indicate plurality or second person indicative: “piensas” [ˈpi̯en-s̺as̺] and “personas” [peɾ-ˈs̺o-nas̺] (transcription page two). She also articulates /ð/ in word-final voiced dental plosive /d̪/ contexts, such as “Madrid” [ma-ˈðɾið] (transcription page one). the informant employs the voiceless apico-alveolar fricative [s̺] in situations that typically utilize the voiceless alveolar fricative [s] in syllable-final contexts. This use is a typical feature of the phoneme /s/ in Gallego (Hualde 399). Typical to an individual of her generation and origin, the informant uses the voiced palatal fricative /ʝ/, not the voiced palatal lateral approximant /ʎ/, which is increasingly a less common phoneme in Spain. the informant makes a phonological distinction between /θ/ and /s/. This can be seen in words like “vez” [βeθ] and “ves” [βes̺] (transcription page one). Although seseo occurs in some parts of Galicia, it is usually limited to those zones that utilize gheada, and is even less common than gheada. Seseo is most typical on the west coast of Galicia, such as in cities like Pontevedra and La Coruña (Klee 73). The informant is from the north east coast of Galicia, and accordingly does not utilize seseo. The informant utilizes the voiceless palatal fricative /x/ rather than the aspirated [h] in syllable-initial and syllable-final contexts, such as “Jesús” [xe-ˈs̺us̺] (transcription page one) and “Nebreja” (transcription page one). This pronunciation is typical of Standard Castilian Spanish.
The informant’s speech retains many typical characteristics of Castrapo: its use of melodic intonation, vowel phonemes /u/, /o/, /ɔ/, /a/, /ɛ/, /e/, and /i/ word-final velarized nasal [ŋ], and voiceless apico-alveolar fricative [s̺]. Due to her geographic origins in North-Central Galicia, the informant does not utilize gheada or seseo in her speech. Despite long term interaction between Galician and Castilian, little scholarship has been produced regarding this specific type of Spanish, as Klee (2009) states: “Aunque han sido muy numerosos los estudios sociolinguísticos sobre la lengua gallega en los últimos años, la investigación de fenómenos de contact en el castellano de Galicia ha sido muy escasa” (Klee 69). However, Galicia is a center for linguistic interest and dialectical variation, as Jose del Valle explains: “Galicia is a diffused speech community in which the availability of several norms of linguistic behavior constitutes a source of ethnic identity” (Del Valle 131). The informant is an individual who travels regularly, and has lived in Galicia, Madrid, London, Italy, and the United States. She maintains relationships with members of various speech communities, and navigates her world in four languages each day. The informant is truly a representative of the complex and fascinating linguistic continuum of our day.
Beswick, Jaine. Regional Nationalism in Spain: Language Use and Ethnic Identity in
Galicia. Claredon: Multilingual Matters, 2007.
Blas Arroyo, José Luis. Sociolinguística del español. Madrid: Cátedra, 2005.Del Valle, José. “Monoglossic Policies for a Heteroglossic Culture: Misinterpreted
Multilingualism in Modern Galicia.” Language & Communication April 2000: 105-132.
Hualde, José Ignacio, et. al. Introducción a la linguística hispánica. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2002.Klee, Carol A. and Andrew Lynch. El español en contacto con otras lenguas. Washington
DC: Georgetown University Press, 2009.
Loureiro-Rodríguez, Verónica. “Are Galicians Bound to Diglossia? An Analysis of the
Nature, Uses, and values of Standard Galician.” Spanish in Contact: Policy, Social, and Linguistic Inquiries. Ed. Kim Potowski and Richard Cameron. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, 2007.
Rabanal, Manuel. Hablas hispánicas: Temas gallegas y leoneses. Madrid: Ediciones
Monday, January 27, 2014
Monday, December 30, 2013
Peso Dollars, 2014
How do articulations of price affect experience? The Mexican peso is signified by the dollar ($) sign commonly associated with US currency. But, US and Mexican financial systems are very different; $50 MXN might be the price of a taco in Mexico. In light of continuing immigration spurred by Mexican economic instability, I took the weekly promotional flyer from a local Houston supermarket that targets Latino clientele to demonstrate this monetary duality. By translating English captions to Spanish and adding “MXN” to the prices listed, the products become unbelievably affordable, even cheap to a Mexican consumer (costing the equivalent of a few US cents). These altered ads were be posted in the streets of Mexico City.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Exerpt from my thesis paper:
The San Antonio Spurs: Whose -ismo?
A family history
This essay considers issues regarding the San Antonio Spurs: changes in its logo, lineup, and its status as a basketball team that represents one of the most Mexican and Mexican American cities in the United States.
This essay deals with my family who live in the San Antonio area. For this reason my life memories are inextricably linked to the place. Recently the first of us died. Now I am carefully, cautiously, curiously awaiting the next phase of us.
New and Old: A Brief Comparison
The city of San Antonio’s centuries-long history is rife with contradictions and reinventions. It only makes sense, then, that its basketball team’s logo would also undergo a change that speaks to the city’s overall shifts in identity. The new logo (2002-present) of the San Antonio Spurs is a model of austerity and aggression. Its black, white, and grey colors are a given, the straightforward colors of the players’ jerseys. Its outline takes the shape of the the facade of the Alamo. The spur that forms the ‘U’ of ‘SPURS’ is upraised at a sharp angle, its end point is more jagged, schematic (not actually functional as a cowboy/vaquero/charro’s spur), and is accentuated by a pointy black outline. The bold pink, orange, and teal of the older Spurs logo (1989-2002) were popular colors representative of the 1990s aesthetic, and communicate a looser, less aggressive vibe. More importantly, the colors of the 90s logo represent the cultural choices of San Antonio at the time.
San Antonio Spurs logos: 1989-2002 (left) & 2002-present (right)
San Antonio is not my home. But the difference between Austin, where I’m from, and San Antonio, where we went to visit my mom’s (Mexican) side of the family is this: Austin was, is, and always will be a city for, by, and about white people. San Antonio was, is, and always will be a city for, by and about Mexican people. Somewhere along the highway south, I-35 was my border crossing. I soften myself down or harden myself up for what lay before me.
Colors: a Historical Review
The colors of the 90s logo certainly cannot be found on any of the six flags that have flown over Texas. No, these are fiesta colors: they represent a city with a long history of culturally-based celebration busily refashioning itself into a Tex Mex fun hub outwardly flaunting elements of its Mexican roots as a strategy to draw Anglo visitors, city regeneration and reunification, and commercial gain. Indeed, this free and easy spirit is communicated in the 90s logo’s overall shape, which suggests the quick swash of a paintbrush. But the rapidity of this gesture also reflects the instability of the fiesta’s foundations. Anyone who knows about the history of Texas knows about the colonization of the indigenous population by the Spanish, who founded the city of San Antonio de Béxar originally as a mission. Monks there were bent on collecting converts when they weren’t dodging arrows, hunger, disease, etc. Then came the Americans pushing west, who soon wrested control from the Spanish. With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1948, thousands of Spanish-speaking, Catholic Mexicans in much of the Southwest lost rights to their language, faith, and nationality overnight. The Anglo invaders had been wearing them down for a good while before then (Texas gained “independence” in 1836). And who are we kidding? The Spanish invaded the shit out of this hemisphere before that.
Map showing the land ceded by Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 1848
Light skinned and dark skinned history:
Origins: Luis Moya, service in the military, World War II, refused service in a restaurant while wearing his uniform. How many grandfathers experienced this? In photos he looks real light.
Mom’s cousin Jesse: Here’s the way the story was told to me: he was dark skinned. Very, very dark. Even darker than the rest of us! Somehow he married a white skin, blond hair, blue eyed “German” girl named Amy. They had two kids who I guess turned out mocha color. Well, they left the small town of Cuero for Dallas, TX. She ended up fooling around with her white old fat bald man boss there. One day dark skin Jesse caught them in the act, she and he pulled out guns, and they shot each other to death in front of the kids. The boss man was injured by a stray bullet but survived. I don’t even know what happened to their children.
San Antonio Trouble
After the nation of Texas became the state of Texas, Mexicans in the San Antonio and other areas continued to be persecuted and indiscriminately lynched by the Texas Rangers and other governmentally-sanctioned officials up to the end of the 19th century. Beyond that, we can think of the Chili Queens, hard working ladies who pioneered Tex Mex cuisine in San Antonio’s Alamo Plaza over the course of 200 years who grappled with the city’s efforts to thwart their production in order to sterilize and Anglo-cize the city. We can also remember the heat brought to the city by CBS’s 1968 airing of Hunger in America, which profiled infant mortality, child prostitution, and barrio poverty in the Mexican American population of the city, and which featured an interview with San Antonio Senior County Commissioner A.J. Ploch expressing apathy towards these social ills. The city continued to fall into disarray and decay until the 1980s and 90s, when it snapped into a slew of culturally-oriented rescue-renovation projects. Like Mexico itself, San Antonio holds the lucrative lure of tourism; the Alamo remains the largest attraction in the state of Texas. The city spent $186 million in 1993 to construct the Alamodome, where the Spurs were to play for the next decade and which features many similarly colorful accents in the architectural details of the exterior. This frog-spaceship-shaped structure is part of the drive in and through downtown. Breeze by at high speeds. One of the newer welcoming buildings for the visitor.
When I was about ten, my Aunt took me and my little brother to the Alamodome to see the Spurs play against the Phoenix Suns. This was back when David Robinson and Charles Barkley were still playing on those teams, and by chance our seats were right in front of those players’ dads. I don’t know why those guys weren’t in better seats. I guess they were used to it and probably had their fill of games by that point. All of the sudden we were so starstruck that my little brother dropped the giant foam finger my aunt bought him through the cracks of the moveable floor beneath us. He did retrieve it after some ado. The Alamodome was the biggest, most important building I had ever been to by that point in my life. I was awed by the vision of sports, the squeak of sneakers on the impossibly shiny wooden floor, the star-bright lights hanging like bats above my head. There was something about the space that felt like being in our church back home. I was filled with reverence. I did not know yet what a museum was by then. Full of relics from Spain in the 60s and statues of Don Quixote, clowns, and masks, my grandmother and aunt’s houses were museums to me.
Paseo del Río
Steeped in its Mexican-flavored mode of celebration and festivity, the city also invested in the massive expansion and renovation of the River Walk in the 1980s and 90s. Gardened pathways edged with mostly Tex Mex themed bars, shops, and restaurants entice visitors as they wind through historic downtown just below street level. Anyone who has ever stepped within a few blocks of this area near a holiday, especially a Latino one, will know the type of lights, dancing, and other festivities that tend to take over the city. To protect its cultural/touristic investments, the city instigated improvement projects in the 90s to control flooding of the San Antonio River, which runs from the zoo, past the Alamo, and alongside each of the three old Spanish missions south of downtown.
The San Antonio River Walk
We went to the river walk together a couple of times. We might have even gone on a floating boat once. If we did, ballet folklórico was danced on the banks as we floated past. At Christmas the lights covered every overhanging branch. I don’t know if I thought I was dreaming or if I thought that this must be how Mexico was like.
Fiesta Fever Revs Up
The conflicts of history aside, the colors and shape of the 90s logo communicate a playful, budding team spirit tied to the newly fiesta-filled atmosphere of the city. The pink, teal, and orange logo represents a city in the midst of a transitional return to its historic past, the start of gente-fication (a resurgence of ‘Hispanic’ interest/expression). The Six Flags Fiesta Texas Amusement Park opened to great fanfare in 1992 following the opening Seaworld Theme Park in 1988. Dedicated to the experience of fun filtered through a mix of German and Mexican music, food, and culture historically linked to the region, Fiesta Texas was a succinct fantasy of lederhosen, roller coasters, and Tejano music. With the Fiesta Texas park development, the city extended its renewed historical and cultural identity to a higher level of artificiality. The fiesta flavor needn’t be tied to a specific historical landmark like the Alamo or a mission; it could spring up on the outskirts of the city as part of an amusement park.
Fiesta Texas was the most fun I could have as a kid. My identity as a Texan came a lot from the way I felt while walking around there.
Back in the Game
As San Antonio regeared itself towards a center of amusement and attraction, the Spurs warmed up the court. Parallel history: new owner Red McCombs, new coach Larry Brown, and new recruit David Robinson press reset in 1989. Over the next decade, the Spurs gained speed with players like Sean Elliott, Avery Johnson, and Dennis Rodman (more on him later), so that by 1999, it hit the jackpot and won the first of four NBA Championships. The Spurs worked the city into a fiesta frenzy again in 2003, 2005, and 2007 thanks to the later/ current dream team of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan.
More to the point of frenzy: the irregular edge and bright colors of the 90s logo do more than embody the changing priorities of the city; they embody one player in particular who brought a new attitude to the team, the fans, and the sport at large. Dennis Rodman joined the Spurs in 1993, and there has never been anyone on any team like him since. It was with the Spurs that Rodman went full force into his rebellious, chameleon identity. The Worm was out of nowhere; in a town of many aliens, he was the one who outed himself.
Dennis Rodman didn’t give a shit. He didn’t take himself too seriously but he also was masterful on the court. He took care of business and had fun on the side. He lived his life the way he wanted and spent a good chunk of time on top of his game without any shame. In this way, he was like my Uncle Steve, who did exactly what he wanted in life almost until the very end.
The Coyote: The Only Mexican on the Team
Is it strange that the team representing a city with one of the largest concentrations of Mexican Americans has never turned out a big Mexican American star? Manu Ginobili is the hardest hitting Latino that has come through the team, but whatever loose gaucho affiliations we can make with the vaquero/charro/cowboy connotations of ‘spur / gachupín’ (another term for a Spaniard, curiously enough) aside, he is still a South American. That leaves us with Coyote, the Spurs mascot since 1983 and as far as I can tell, the only Mexican (American) on the team.
The word ‘coyote’ comes directly from the Spanish word, also ‘coyote,’ which comes from the Nahuatl (the language spoken by the Mexica / Aztecs) word ‘coyotl’. The Spanish took on and adapted the term since coyotes were never before seen, native only to the New World. Coyotes are seen as scavengers, unwanted, menacing, but it’s not all bad. They are also skilled as tricksters, our very own pícaros of the western hemisphere.
It is my contention that I too am a coyote.
From Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas (collected by Jerome Rothenberg, University of New Mexico Press, 1991):
CRAZY DOG EVENTS
1. Act like a crazy dog. Wear sashes & other fine clothes, carry a rattle, & dance along the roads singing crazy dog songs after everybody else has gone to bed.
2. Talk crosswise: say the opposite of what you mean & make others say the opposite of what they mean in return.
3. Fight like a fool by rushing up to an enemy & offering to be killed. Dig a hole near an enemy, & when the enemy surrounds it, leap out at them & drive them back.
4. Paint yourself white, mount a white horse, cover its eyes & make it jump down a steep & rocky bank, until both of you are crushed.
Final Thought: Going Forward, Going Backward
In San Antonio, the future is through the past. Whatever shape that takes, however superficial, monetary, etc. its intentions have been and will be, its relationship with its Mexican past, present and future is tenuously but inevitably linked. The city will always satellite around a point in its past that fixes it to this identity, and the visitor cannot leave without a sense that the city is genuinely haunted by those that have come before.
Who were we? Who are we? Who will we be next?
Where have we come from? Where are we now? Where are we going?