THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

 

 

Heartland humor in a diverse America: The city that inspired ‘Roseanne’ has changed

The Trump-infused reboot takes place, as its first version did, in Lanford — a fictional Illinois town based on Elgin, a working-class city west of Chicago.

by Adam Edelman / Apr.16.2018 / 3:21 AM ET

The ABC sitcom “Roseanne” is played on a screen behind the bar at Dutch Inn West in Elgin, Illinois on April 10, 2018.Daniel Acker / for NBC News

ELGIN, Ill. — If Roseanne Conner — the loud, lovable, Trump-supporting protagonist of the recently revived “Roseanne” — were to visit this working-class city that serves as the basis for the show’s fictional setting, she wouldn’t recognize it.

She wouldn’t see the predominantly white, Republican city 40 miles northwest of downtown Chicago with a devastated economy that was the inspiration for Lanford, Ill., during the first “Roseanne” run from 1988 to 1997.

Today, she would find a majority Hispanic city — Spanish is commonly heard on the streets — in a county that went Democratic in the last three presidential elections, with a diversified and rebounding economy, boosted by a huge riverboat casino.

And, inside the Dutch Inn West, a dusty, windowless bar on Elgin’s west side, she’d find Hillary Clinton and Trump voters of various ethnic backgrounds intermingling over $2 beers, watching the latest episode of her show — back on the air 21 years after its first run — talking about how the show’s namesake character’s allegiance to our current divisive president isn’t what they know.

“It doesn’t get Elgin right, when it comes to diversity,” Joshua Roman, 36, who is Puerto Rican and has lived in Elgin for 15 years and works as a commercial kitchen installer, told NBC News at the bar. “I don’t see that in Lanford at all. It’s about a white family. … How many Latinos you see on that show?”

Joshua Roman, 36, right, plays the “Ring-On-A-String” bar game with a friend at Dutch Inn West in Elgin, Illinois, on April 10, 2018. Daniel Acker / For NBC News

The fictional community of Lanford is in many ways the same as it was when “Roseanne” signed off. It’s white, working class and a secure home-base for a Trump-lover like the show’s protagonist.

Elgin, however, a city of about 112,000 people nestled in the Fox River Valley, has changed drastically.

During the first run of “Roseanne,” Kane County, where most of Elgin is, went solidly Republican in presidential elections. Back then, Elgin was majority white.

But starting prominently in the late 1990s, things began to change. Young urbanites and commuters fleeing high Chicago prices moved to the city’s beautiful old housing stock; Latinos, long a staple in the Windy City, also moved west, too, seeking work and a lower cost of living.

Downtown Elgin, Illinois, in April. The fictional version of the town is represented on the TV show “Roseanne.” Daniel Acker / For NBC News

Those migrations transformed the political landscape here, making it a less likely place for Trump supporters like Roseanne Conner. Kane County went solidly for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election; in fact, by 2015, Elgin was majority Hispanic, and the median income had risen substantially, too.

In other words, Lanford hasn’t changed much, while Elgin, like many other parts of the U.S., has — politically, socially and demographically.

But that hasn’t at all harmed the popularity of the “Roseanne” revival: The show’s new season kicked off with sky-high ratings and was quickly picked up for another season.

“It may be kind of ironic that Elgin now is not the Elgin it used to be, but Lanford is. Lanford is still the town it used to be,” Tim Brooks, a former network television executive and TV historian, told NBC News.

“But as long as the characters in the show seem to be good and funny people who you’d want to invite into your own home, the show will succeed,” Brooks added. “Likable characters enable viewers to put up with pretty much anything. Even Trump.

“But difficult political conversations can come up in the show, because they come up in real life, and families go on. It’s what viewers see in their own lives, and they get that and they like seeing it on television.”

Inside the Dutch Inn West, Elizabeth Gospodarek, 48, a lifelong Elginite who works at an oil and gas testing company, said Elgin residents still love the show, even if it doesn’t portray their city accurately.

“The honesty of the show is spot-on,” Gospodarek said, referring to the program’s approach to tough family conversations about politics, in between sips of Budweiser.

The Dutch Inn West in Elgin, Illinois. Daniel Acker / For NBC News

The character’s affinity for Trump, both on-air (as Roseanne Conner) and off (as Roseanne Barr), doesn’t fit the city in real life either, residents said.

“It is crazy to me that she’s a Trump supporter because that is so divisive and he is so divisive,” Bill DiFulvio, 57, a self-described “independent who doesn’t support Trump,” said, pointing to the real-life and fictional Roseannes.

THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’

During the first run of “Roseanne,” Elgin was a natural place on which to base Lanford.

A pocket watch made by the Elgin Watch Co., in business from 1864 to 1968, is displayed at the Elgin History Museum. Daniel Acker / For NBC News

After the closing of the Elgin National Watch Company, by far the city’s largest employer, in 1968, the city underwent a decades-long economic downturn, the effects of which continued into the late 1980s and early ’90s, when the first iteration of the show aired, said Elizabeth Marston, the director of the Elgin History Museum.

But over the last 15 to 20 years, she said, due to a resurgence in manufacturing jobs and an effort to diversify the local economy — the city’s largest nonpublic employers last year included two hospital corporations, the Grand Victoria riverboat casino, Fisher Nuts and J.P. Morgan Chase — and an influx of newcomers, many of them Latino, the city has become younger, far more diverse and Democratic.

“Elgin has changed dramatically since the late ’80s and 90s,” Marston said. “And when you see a shift like that, it then brings in more people who are, themselves, comfortable with that diversity, those values.”

My friend, the robot

Being a science fiction fan, I find articles of what writers back when, thought about what would come to be in the future. My favorite kind of sci-fi is that that deals with possible futures.

 

April 2, 2018

My friend, the robot

Hugo- and Nebula-winning science fiction author David Gerrold was spot-on in his 1999 predictions about smartphones. Now he predicts computing’s future…again.

Back in 1999, I was asked to write a short article for Sm@rt Reseller magazine about the future of computing, because (allegedly) science fiction authors are in the business of contemplating the future.

Well, kinda.

Science fiction authors often consider what might happen “If this goes on—” where technology writers are best at “Here’s what we’ve got.” Some of the trends toward convergence seemed obvious to me at the time, so I put down a few thoughts…which turned out to be far more prescient than I expected. Especially that last part.

But, see, here’s the thing: Science fiction authors don’t predict the future. It’s just that once in a while, something that someone imagines does end up as a fact, and this is why some people think science fiction is a literature of prediction.

It isn’t.

Science fiction is a literature of ideas and extrapolation. It’s a consideration of possibilities. It’s a speculation on the way things could be. That’s all.

Enter the robot, stage left

Before there was a genre called science fiction, there were many people thinking about artificial creations that simulated life: golems, Frankenstein’s monster, mechanical chess players, simulacrums of all kinds, and finally Karel Capek’s novel about Rossum’s Universal Robots. That’s where the term robots came from.

Robots have been imagined as a facet of the future ever since Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

As much as we might have imagined the utility of mechanical men, we couldn’t have built them until now. The problem has not been the mechanics as much as it has been the brain, the software, the intelligence engine.

We’ve had single-purpose robots for a long time—ever since human elevator operators were replaced by a panel of buttons. But robots that can actually make decisions based on changing circumstances require sophisticated software, what we erroneously call “artificial intelligence.” It’s not intelligence; it’s information processing. It’s pattern recognition at the service of problem-solving.

A true robot will be capable of many different tasks—and it will have the ability to learn new tasks as needed. I should be able to say, “Robbie, make me eggs Benedict for breakfast,” and Robbie will respond, “I am downloading the recipe now,” and possibly even, “We are out of eggs. I have ordered some from the store. Delivery will take 30 minutes.” Robbie will have to know how to read a recipe, understand it, inventory the ingredients needed, and order those that are not in the pantry.

Quick guide: How artificial intelligence and deep learning are being used and the tech that makes it possible.

Download now

The robot will require a level of data gathering, pattern recognition, information processing, and decision making that will surpass that of a human assistant.

At that point, the robot becomes the life manager. Cleaning house will be the least of its responsibilities. The robot will connect to all of your wireless devices and monitor what TV shows you want to watch, what toppings you want on the pizza you order, what bills you pay, and more. It will likely manage your finances as well, so that filling out your tax forms will be as simple as saying, “Robbie, file my tax return.”

All of this is already in development, or at least envisioned. The tech is there. It’s primarily a software challenge. (That, and a standardized language of data exchange.)

But there’s something else to consider.

Beyond a digital assistant

The more sophisticated a robot’s information processing ability, the more it will develop a personality tuned to the user. It will become a companion. It will become an electronic friend. It will play games, matching its ability to yours. It will offer suggestions and advice. It will be a good listener—like those old Eliza programs. It will even have a certain therapeutic function for those needing comfort. It will be an appropriate aide and companion for those with diminished mental abilities.

The robot teddy bear will be a toddler’s first friend. It will listen, it will respond, it will teach, and it will monitor the child’s health, reporting any irregularities to the parents. It will even sound an alarm in case the child stops breathing.

As the child grows, the teddy bear will evolve as well, becoming an ever-more sophisticated and robust playmate. The bear will be more than a playmate. It will play catch, helping the child develop motor skills. It will respond to “please” and “thank you,” helping the child develop better social skills. It will eventually demonstrate a sophisticated repertoire of emotional behaviors as well—happiness when the child demonstrates good behavior, and sadness and disappointment when the child demonstrates antisocial behavior.

Adolescence and adulthood will represent a whole other challenge for robot companions. But robots could become tutors and coaches throughout high school and college. Elsewhere in life, robots will be convenient in ways limited only by the needs of humans. They will become dance partners, they will play basketball, they will pace joggers, they will walk dogs, they will take on any task that can be defined by a specific set of rules. Robots will assist with the care of the sick and the elderly. They may even end up delivering the mail.

Robots will certainly have military uses, but even more important, robots will be able to function in environments too hazardous for humans—firefighting, for example, and other rescue operations. Remote operators will be able to advise robots on specific goals within that hazardous environment.

And then there’s this:

Robots as romantic partners. We’re already seeing the first steps in that direction. For some individuals, it is possible that a robot companion will be preferable to the messy uncertainty of a human relationship. It is inevitable that robots will become more and more sophisticated in their ability to interact with humans.

All of the above is only a glimmering of what will be possible when we have machines able to navigate safely through a human world, solving specific problems and providing specific services. But the societal effects of robots are less easy to predict.

Some people will react negatively. Vandals might attack and disrupt robots. Others might find robots so disturbing they will retreat to communities where robots are restricted. Some people might reprogram their robots for illegal activities.

We are also likely to see a shift in the way individuals relate to each other. People might redefine their understanding of identity based on their understanding of robotic identities. Humans might learn to interact with each other with the same expectations that they bring to their relationships with their robots.

Perhaps some people will retreat to technological cocoons, with robots as their primary companions—because real people are messy, uncertain, and harder to manage. There may even be extreme cases of individuals refusing to interact with other humans at all, restricting themselves to games, conversations, and other various activities solely with robots.

The development of true robots will likely take at least another decade, probably longer. The process will be slow and painstaking—the development of the self-driving car is a good example of the kind of caution necessary. And that deliberate pace of development will give humans plenty of time to get used to the idea.

Here’s the singular caution.

We must not give up the most essential part of being human: the ability to connect with each other.

Yes, a robot can rock a baby—but I’m pretty sure the baby would much prefer to be rocked by a human. If we give that up, we create a generation that will never know what it is to be loved.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.

David Gerrold

Science fiction author

David Gerrold’s work is famous around the world. His novels and stories have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and his TV scripts are estimated to have been seen by more than a billion viewers.

David’s prolific output includes teleplays, film scripts, stage plays, comic books, more than 50 novels and anthologies, and hundreds of articles, columns, and short stories.

He has worked on a dozen different TV series, including “Star Trek,” “Land of the Lost,” “Twilight Zone,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Babylon 5,” and “Sliders.” He is the author of the most popular “Star Trek” episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

Many of David’s novels are classics of the science fiction genre, including “The Man Who Folded Himself,” the ultimate time travel story, and “When HARLIE Was One,” considered one of the most thoughtful tales of artificial intelligence ever written. His stunning novels on ecological invasion, “A Matter for Men,” “A Day for Damnation,” “A Rage for Revenge,” and “A Season for Slaughter,” have all been best sellers with a devoted fan following. His young adult series, “The Dingilliad,” traces the healing journey of a troubled family from Earth to a far-flung colony on another world. His “Star Wolf” series of novels about the psychological nature of interstellar war is in development as a television series.

A 10-time Hugo and Nebula award nominee, David is also a recipient of the Skylark Award for Excellence in Imaginative Fiction, the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Horror, and the Forrest J. Ackerman lifetime achievement award.

In 1995, David shared the adventure of how he adopted his son in “The Martian Child,” a semi-autobiographical tale of a science fiction writer who adopts a little boy only to discover he might be a Martian. “The Martian Child” won the science-fiction triple crown: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus Poll. It was the basis for the 2007 film “Martian Child,” starring John Cusack and Amanda Peet.

David’s greatest writing strengths are generally acknowledged to be his readable prose, his easy wit, his facility with action, the accuracy of his science, and the passions of his characters. An accomplished lecturer and world traveler, he has made appearances across the United States, England, Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. His easy-going manner and disarming humor have made him a perennial favorite with audiences. David was the guest of honor at the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention.

He is currently completing the fifth book in his “The War Against the Chtorr” series.

The Art Of The Vulture

The Art Of The Vulture

Toys R Us back in the US come to mind. As do other stores like Sears and Kmart. The whole retail scene back home is in upheaval. Too bad that I cannot take advantage of the situation.

Mrs P and I love a bargain. Who doesn’t? But I think we love a bargain more than most. Neither of us will pay full price for anything of substance before we’ve scoured the internet for discount vouchers. I’ll watch prices for months to get the cheapest flights. She’ll get an extra few pounds off for the slightest of perceived flaws in a new blouse. And the hours we’ll put into the January sales. But don’t start thinking that we’re tight. Or miserly. Thrifty is perhaps a better word. But really, we just like the thrill of the sport.

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#TBT The Lesson

#TBT The Lesson

A childhood story by Gary Denness.

This is me, returning from my night of triumph at the annual awards night of Northwood Boys Club. So many certificates, cups and shields, huh? To be honest the two cups were for winning the clubs snooker tournament. The big one has my name etched on it. The little one was to keep. I must have been about 12 or 13 years old. I did pretty well with a cue. Be it snooker or pool.

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New York Time Opinion: Donald Trump Does Not Follow The Rules

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The New York Times

The New York Times

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

NYTimes.com/Opinion »

 


David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt

Op-Ed Columnist

Donald Trump doesn’t like to follow the rules. He lies constantly. He cheats on his wife (and not just the current one). His businesses are notorious for stiffing customers and vendors. As president, he has violated one longstanding norm after another. When Trump believes it’s convenient for him to break a rule, he often just decides that the rule doesn’t matter.

This longstanding pattern probably goes a long way toward explaining yesterday’s events: The F.B.I. conducted a raid of the office and hotel room of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen — a raid approved by the United States attorney for the southern district of New York, Geoffrey Berman, who was appointed by the Trump administration just three months ago.

Think about how extraordinary this is.

Receiving a warrant to search any lawyer’s office is unusual, given the power of attorney-client privilege. And in this case, the office being searched is that of the lawyer representing the president of the United States. Which means that the search required the approval of both top Justice Department officials and a federal judge.

Why would they have granted it? Because they had good reason to believe that Cohen would have refused to follow the rules and voluntarily turn over material relevant to an investigation. As a former senior law enforcement official told CNN’s Jake Tapper, it’s likely that either Cohen “was so uncooperative they couldn’t get the information from subpoena or they had proof there was destruction of evidence.”

People who are willing to break the rules can sometimes get away with it for a long time. But sometimes their history and their misbehavior catch up with them. That now may be happening to Trump. If so, thank goodness. We’re supposed to be a nation of laws, where rulebreaking brings consequences.

Related: In The Times, Harry Litman — a former federal prosecutor — explains what the investigators may be looking for.

Asha Rangappa, a former F.B.I. special agent, says the raid is another sign that the Russia probe may continue even if Trump fires Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation: The president “will be sorely mistaken if he thinks that getting rid of Mueller will stop anything that has already started rolling in our justice system,” she said.

Trump continues to refuse to play by the rules. The government seems to have followed the exact process for conducting a search of an attorney’s office, as law professor Steve Vladeck notes. Yet Trump “made it sound — dangerously — like treason,” writes The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson Sorkin.

“Now more than ever,” Bill Kristol tweeted, “Republicans in Congress, and others in leadership roles, should step up” to protect Mueller.

10 Daily Habits That Can Actually Change Your Life

10 Daily Habits That Can Actually Change Your Life

 

Noma Nazish , CONTRIBUTORI cover lifestyle and life balance for young adults. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

Man using a tabletPixabay

Your attitude determines your altitude. “Succesful people don’t just drift off to the top. Getting there requires focused action, personal discipline and lots of energy every day to make things happen,” says American author and entrepreneur Jack Canfield. So, don’t let old habits hold you back. Start building these simple yet essential habits for a happier and more productive life.

  • Create a morning ritual. Maybe you like to go for a run. Or, maybe you like to meditate or enjoy a healthy breakfast. Whatever it is that makes you feel supercharged, kickstart your day with that habit. Establishing a meaningful morning ritual helps you start your day on a positive, proactive note. Having a structured start to your day instead of rushing to make up for the lost time also helps eliminate stress, mental fatigue and enhances your productivity. Don’t know where to begin? Check out the morning rituals of some of the most successful people to get some inspiration!
  • Follow the 80/20 rule. The Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 rule means that in any situation, 20% of the tasks yield 80% of the results. So you can maximize productivity by investing most of your time and energy on those specific tasks that will create the biggest impact. Once you’ve finished those tasks, you can focus on other activities that are on your to-do list.
  • Read, read, read. Reading books is a great way to gain knowledge and stimulate creativity. Immersion reading also improves focus and has a calming effect similar to meditation. Moreover, reading before bedtime can help you sleep better. Non-fiction books, in particular, are an excellent tool to broaden horizon, develop new ideas and seek motivation. Additionally, they also offer actionable advice on how to overcome all kinds of challenging situations through real-life examples.
  • Learn to singletask. Only 2% people in the world can multitask successfully. While there’s no harm in occasional multitasking, constant juggling between tasks limits your focus and contributes to mental clutter by making it difficult for your brain to filter out irrelevant information. Moreover, according to a study conducted by Stanford University, heavy multitasking lowers efficiency and may impair your cognitive control. This is why you should try to single-task as much as possible. Make a list of things you need to accomplish in a day. Start with what’s most important and make your way down the list, completing one task at a time.
  • Appreciate more. French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said, “we can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.” It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget how fortunate you are. Practicing gratitude is a great way to create positivity, reduce stress and improve your physical health. How can you cultivate this healthy habit? Start a gratitude journal, volunteer, take time to appreciate your loved ones and remind yourself of at least one thing you’re grateful for every day before going to bed. The more you appreciate the little joys of life, the happier you’ll be.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” said American author and entrepreneur Jim Rohn. This is precisely why you should carefully consider who you’re spending time with. Let go of relationships that bring you down instead of lifting you up. And spend time with people who know how to nurture and share happiness. Since happiness is contagious, it’s one of the easiest ways to create positivity in your life.
  • Make time for exercise. Other than improving your physical health, working out regularly pumps up creativity and enhances your cognitive skills. It’s also an effective way to build endurance and get energized. And if you’re still not convinced, exercising also elevates mood by boosting the production of endorphins – hormones that act as natural anti-depressants. Still need more reasons to hit the gym?
  • Master the art of listening. Effective communication is crucial when it comes to cultivating personal and professional relationships. And listening is central to communication. Pay attention to what others have to say. It’ll not only make others feel valued but will also help you understand them better and gain a fresh perspective. Don’t try to monopolize the conversation or fake attention while your mind is busy figuring out what pizza you should order for dinner. Listen to what they have to say and what they really mean and take note of the non-verbal cues as well. The more you listen the more you’ll learn. Here’s a handy guide that can help you become a good listener.
  • Go for a social media detox. The digital world has taken over almost every aspect of our lives. The average person has five social media accounts and spends at least 1 hour and 40 minutes every day on checking social media. Research shows that the more time you spend on a social media site, the more likely you are to develop depression. Take time to cut back on social media to reduce stress and mental clutter. Switch off your phone and laptop for a few hours every day to improve your mood and reconnect with the world around you.
  • Invest in self-care. Taking some time off to unwind can do wonders for your mood, mental health, and self-esteem. Do at least one thing every day that makes you feel good. Listen to music, learn a new skill, take a long bubble bath, or prepare a nice meal. Whatever floats your boat!

Developing these habits require determination, oodles of patience and constant effort. Maybe it’ll take just a few weeks or maybe more than a year, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to build the habit as long as you don’t give up.

Now pull up your socks, it’s time to win at life!

The Alma in the Alamo: Stories from San Antonio’s 300th year

THE BY AND BY

EMILIANO ZAPATA COMES TO SAN ANTONIO

By  Bárbara Renaud González |  March 22, 2018

Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata in Mexico City. December 1914Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata in Mexico City. December 1914

The Alma in the Alamo: Stories from San Antonio’s 300th year

Emiliano Zapata, peasant and spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution, wasn’t killed during the Mexican Revolution. In his sombrero, moustache, and muslin garb, he still lives in the descendants who crossed the border with their family’s property titles sewn into their clothes, settled in San Antonio, and are categorized as undocumented or illegal. Like two elderly siblings, Lupe and Luis, whose story is about a crossing that never ended.

The Mexican Revolution that made Zapata so famous was a war that killed ten percent of Mexico’s population—the children of the big haciendas and their campesino workers alike. It lasted ten years and people starved—like in today’s Syria. The survivors of the Revolution arrived in San Antonio in the twenties and thirties. They had no choice. My own mother, who was born during the Mexican Revolution, told me once that after all that happened to her family, she didn’t believe in owning land anymore, that it belonged to everyone. She used to say that if we could become a world of at least two cultures, American and Mexican—this world would be perfect. My mother saw the border as a metaphor for possibility. To her, the border wasn’t geography, but poetry. Sometimes the border is a crisscrossing, with some children born here and others born there. Not a river, but a poem filled with words waiting to be written down. A brave new music.

Like my neighbor, Lupe, who was born in San Antonio. As the oldest of many, Lupe was born here because her mother came to visit relatives in the early thirties. Like my own maternal grandfather, Mexicans have travelled from there to here to work on the railroads, to work in agriculture, to visit relatives, and because they want to see another world, too. Lupe’s mother returned to Anenecuilco, Morelos, in Mexico, with Lupe in her arms. El destino. For some of us, it is our destiny to cross borders over and over again. As a young widow in Mexico, Lupe returned to San Antonio to pursue a career after World War II, when America needed workers. She quickly got snapped up by KCOR, the historic and independent Spanish-language radio station in this country, because of her old-world Spanish.

Lupe interviewed all kinds of people on air. Throughout the years, she helped half of her siblings come to the U.S., where they settled and became middle-class professionals. The other half stayed in Mexico and made their lives as engineers and businessmen, too.

Lupe was separated from her youngest brother, Luis, who was born in Mexico. She had raised him after her mother died and missed him terribly. She convinced him as a young man in the 1950s to work on this side of the border, and he married and had children here. In time, Luis became an esteemed master carpenter. Now blind and divorced, he depends on Lupe. And his English is better than hers because he worked in Chicago and Georgia for long periods of time. He was also recruited to work in Europe, turning down that opportunity to stay with his family, and of course, Lupe.

Last summer, I saw the iconic painting of Zapata and Pancho Villa’s arrival in Mexico City while visiting Lupe and Luis at their home in San Antonio and heard the story of their revolutionary uncle. Then the rest fell into place: their love of democracy, their constant reading, their informed politics, their infinite generosity. 

Their uncle was Emiliano Zapata’s right-hand man, standing next to him in a photograph taken when the two victoriously arrived in Mexico City in December of 1914. Everyone I know has seen this photograph; it’s in Mexican restaurants all over Texas. For Latinas like me, this is better than claiming your heritage from the Mayflower. This is like seeing your ancestor standing beside George Washington as he crosses the Delaware.

In the case of Mexico, the Revolution was a political one. The Mexican elite, descendants of the Spanish elite, were overtaken by the new mestizajethe mixed people of Mexico. The war was over land, as most of it had been awarded to the Spanish and the Catholic Church. But nothing really changed. The poor got poorer, and the rich kept their power. Emiliano Zapata was an indigenous blood-native of Mexico, and he had his original papers. He died trying to make Mexico honor them.

We are all children of Zapata. We resisted, we fought, we died, we crossed the border to survive. We have fought more wars, won some, lost others. And we still don’t have any land.

Our land right now is my memory. My books. My story.

Lupe and Luis’s family never really regained their ancestral land. Just like Zapata, who was the inheritor of land appropriated by the owner of the hacienda where he worked as a horseman. He and his family lived in a starving, chewed-up, poverty. This is the basis of the Mexican Revolution: Tierra y Libertad, or Land and Liberty. But the heart-pumping memory of land and its sharing remains in both Lupe and Luis. I saw it in the way Lupe would bring me a plate of enchiladas or the way she raised money with those enchiladas to contribute to a family’s emergency in Mexico. She was always doing something like that. I remember how she and Luis asked me to help them register to vote in our last election. And I did, though neither could see where to sign. They asked me the best questions about American democracy. They talked about how worried they were about the rising attacks on Mexican immigrants, the war in the Middle East, you name it.

Their questions were better than MSNBC. Their analysis was too richly Michenerian for the New York Times. They were walking libraries. They had read all the great novels, too. They were a novel.

Lupe died last week from liver cancer at eighty-six. Something unusual because she didn’t drink. The only addiction she had at the end of her life was playing braille-dominoes with her brother. And voting. She was constantly worried that the wealthy and privileged here would ripen the conditions for an American version of the Mexican Revolution.

As Lupe’s health failed last summer, Luis’s American daughters separated the siblings, sending the seventy-plus-year-old brother to a rehab center. Lupe was going blind too, she was tired, telling everyone she had digestive problems—not the truth. Losing her brother meant that she couldn’t live alone anymore, and was forced to pack up and leave for Mexico, where her granddaughter, an engineer, assumed care of her.

Luis stayed in San Antonio, visited by his daughters who haven’t told him that his oldest sister died. He can’t take it, they say. He is so frail.

Lupe and Luis travelled back and forth between two countries constantly until they couldn’t anymore. At home in each, trying to make the best of both. They witnessed many people re-establishing old borders as new, and shrinking their lives to fit inside them. The two siblings kept their passports close for a country that has no name but in their hearts. Both knew that the border of ideas is a place where you can be burned, decapitated, assassinated, arrested, hung, and then celebrated as a nation’s hero.

Only to resurface as a monster when fear crosses the border again. 

 


 

“The Alma in the Alamo: Stories from San Antonio’s 300th year” is a part of our weekly story series, The By and By.

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Bárbara Renaud González

Bárbara Renaud González is a Tejana born in South Texas, who grew up in the Texas Panhandle. Her novel, Golondrina, why did you leave me?, was the first Chicana novel published by the University of Texas Press. Author of The Boy Made of Lightning, an interactive children’s book on the life of the late, great voting rights activist, Willie Velásquez, she is currently developing The (S)Hero’s Journey, a series of children’s books about the marginalized (s)heroes of Texas, and finishing her first Tex-Mex adult fairy tale.