Eight-minute donation

February 6th, 2014

Quick and quiet breaths come one after another as the phlebotomist says to stay calm and relax. She takes a light blue tourniquet and places it up above the crook of an elbow. “Breath,” she says, taking note of the blue vein as it begins to swell. Then there is a slight pinch, and a quick prick of pain as the needle hits home. Eight minutes later a bag of blood and plasma sit separated on a sterile white table.

 

This is the process of a simple blood donation. A process each of the Bronc baseball players went through in honor of Nolan Naranjo and Jiada Grace Ortiz, Jan. 30 at the UTPA Wellness and Recreational Sports Complex.

 

The drive was held by United Blood Services and is not solely for Ortiz and Naranjo, but the two have been sponsored by the team in the past with not only two previous blood drives but a bone marrow drive as well.

 

Both children are from the Rio Grande Valley were diagnosed with a type of rare bone marrow disease known as Aplastic Anemia. The illness affects the bone marrow the patient; this causes them to stop producing enough red blood cells and white blood platelets.

 

UTPA Assistant Coach Norberto Lopez explained that the blood drive was in honor of the children and marked another chance for the team, as a whole, to give back.

 

“We have been able to help a couple of kids in the past,” Lopez said. “They had some real rare blood disease…(Head Coach Manny Mantrana) wants to teach the guys, he wants to make sure that we teach them that it isn’t just about us and our lives. (It’s about) going every day and making sure that we are giving back and helping out.”

 

This event is by no means the first or last of its kind. This is the third year in a row that the Broncs have hosted the drive.

 

Recently, the baseball players paired with members of the women’s basketball team to host a bone marrow drive in November. The bone drive held Nov. 13 was to sponsor Naranjo, who was diagnosed with Pre-leukemia and was in need of a transplant.

 

Andy Fortuna, a Bronc outfielder, was present and donated at the January drive. He feels that he and the team should hold themselves to a standard where the community is also a priority.

 

“This is to set an example to the rest of the community,” the senior physical therapy major said. “If they see a group of guys in jerseys donating blood they will come around. Being a part of the University everyone looks at us in a certain way, we always try to set an example to everybody else.”

 

According to Fortuna this is a belief that the coaching staff has instilled in these players and has made the team what it is.

His coaches agree.

 

”We have been doing this for four years,” Lopez said. “And we might have a special group, cause they never complain. I’ve seen guys that are scared of needles and they are freaking out, they are almost turning white, but they still want to do it. And I think that is a testament to Coach Mantrana; he really preaches to them and tells them about giving back.”

 

Whether it is the ideals instilled in them by their coaching staff or peer pressure that keep them donating, the end, even first-timers see the value.

 

Jesus Garcia, a shortstop for the team, said sometimes it’s the little things that matter, and taking time out of their days to donate is a small price to pay.

 

”This was my first time,” Garcia said. “And you really don’t feel much. It did not bother me at all, it was for a good cause. We are doing a small part for something big and this is what we are doing, each of us, It will contribute little by little to something big.”

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UTPA alum no longer a roadrunner

July 24th, 2013

Guadalupe “Wally” Barrera pitched his last game with the Roadrunners July 11. He was originally drafted June 18 by the pro club. He had previously played four years for the University.

According to Barrera he was cut from the pro team to make room on the roster for incoming players. Barrera explained that two teams in the same league as the Roadrunners folded; the McAllen Thunder and the Louisiana Aces. When a team folds this means the team, in a sense, disbands and ultimately does no longer exist, this can be caused by a lack of money or a lack of talented players.

In the case of the Thunder and Aces the players from these teams were up for grabs. Each other team in the league were given four extra roster spots to accommodate the additions from the folded teams.

When it came to the Roadrunners, according to Barrera, they took seven or eight incoming players from the folded teams and cut several Roadrunners, such as himself to make room on the roster.

Despite the sudden end to his pro career with the Roadrunners, Barrera is optimistic.

“At least I was close to home,”  Barrera said, as he explained his thoughts on the day of his drafting. “Ultimately that’s what I got to do, I could play, I could start my pro career and I would be only 20 minutes away from the field.”

Though Barrera’s plans for a future in pro ball have not been extinguished, he still plans to continue training and looking for a team to draft him. He has plans to help a friend teach youth baseball camp, something that, according to Barrera, is close to his heart.

“I don’t plan to be a bum,” Barrera explained. “I know when I was a kid I enjoyed going to these camps and getting help and wanting to go to the next level. I just really enjoy giving back to the community.”

Barrera may have only played a short time for the local pro team but according to him, he has no hard feelings about getting cut and he won’t let this stop him.

“That’s just pro ball,” Barrera said.

 

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Former UTB athlete drowns at SPI

July 16th, 2013

According to Ousainou Senghore’s friend Robin Ejdeholm, Senghore was past the third sandbar off the waters of South Padre Island when he started to struggle. The current was powerful and kept dragging him out further as the waves repeatedly struck him. He struggled to swim back but by the time the lifeguards came, it was already too late; he was nowhere to be found.

On July 4 the churning SPI waters claimed a life as Senghore, a former University of Texas at Brownsville soccer player, drowned while swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

That day, emergency crews responded to a swimmer in distress near the third sandbar close to Clayton’s Bar and Grill. There they learned the 27-year-old had gone under the water and not come back up.

The Coast Guard and lifeguards on the beach scoured the water for nearly two hours before he was found.

Senghore was not a Valley native though he lived in Brownsville. He was born in Banjul, Gambia and his hometown was Kotu, Gambia in West Africa. He is the son of Ebrina and Awa Senghore.

According to Senghore’s friend Ejdeholm, a 25-year-old Sweden native, Senghore was a strong swimmer and his drowning was unexpected. Ejdeholm was with his friend on the day he passed.

“We were together at the beach,” the UTB student said. “Ous loved the water and would always go in. This time he went a little bit too far out and he didn’t respect the current.”

The two had been friends since their time playing soccer for UTB in the spring of 2011, when Senghore joined as a new recruit from Barton Community College in Kansas. His personality not only made an impression on his fellow players but also his coach.

According to UTB Coach Dan Balaguero, Senghore or Ous, as he was known to his friends, was a very caring person. Balaguero knew Senghore for about two and a half years though he only played with UTB for the 2011 season. In total Senghore spent four semesters at UTB and graduated December 2013 with a degree in business.

Though Senghore wasn’t a Valley native Balaguero explained he loved the area, especially Brownsville.

“He was the type of person who had a great energy; he was a hard worker, a good defender and a good athlete,” Balaguero explained. “We had been watching him for a while; he played at Barton Community College. He played for us for only a short time because he ran out of eligibility.”

According to friend Juan Treviño, even though Brownsville was not his hometown Senghore had close friends at UTB. Treviño had known Senghore since he arrived on campus and according to him the two formed a close friendship.

“He was an amazing person. Good heart, and intelligent,” the 44-year-old said. “He had this glowing personality that shown through his smile. He was an angel, he brought happiness.”

A memorial service was held June 7 for Senghore at UTB. Dressed in white, friends and family released balloons as a token of remembrance. His brother flew in from St. Louis to escort Senghore back home to his family in Gambia. As a mark of appreciation from the athletics department and UTB, Senghore’s brother was presented with a jersey and a soccer ball signed by Senghore’s old teammates.

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Tourists find hot spots

May 4th, 2013

There’s never a dull moment throughout the weekends for five girls who spend their time exploring the Rio Grande Valley with cameras by their side.

Attending concerts, festivals and hanging out at clubs is part of the job description for the stars of Spanish travel show Las Turistas, or The Tourists, which stars three UTPA students.

The show has been airing on Spanish TV channel Telemundo 40 since early March 2013 and follows five young women from around the country and South America as they explore the Valley. They discover local hot spots like clubs and restaurants and events such as concert performances in McAllen’s Entertainment District and the State Farm Arena.

“People are always complaining that there’s nothing to do in the Valley and it’s really boring here,” said UTPA student and cast member Fernanda Talavera. “If you watch the show, you’ll see that there’s actually a lot of events going on here.”

Although each woman plays a tourist, three of them are actually Valley residents but are allowed to make up back stories for themselves since the show does not revolve around their lives.

On the show, Talavera plays a Mexican tourist, Yesenia Velis plays a girl from Los Angeles and Kimmi Suchil plays a Miami native. Velis and Suchil are also students at UTPA that call the Valley their home.

The other two girls, Vianney Palma, the Venezuelan tourist, and Sindy Buezo, the girl from Guatemala, are actually from their foreign countries.

Talavera explained that the cameras do not follow them at school or at their homes, and filming is usually on Fridays and Saturdays where the events they cover take place.

 

PAGEANTS TO PRODUCTIONS

Velis smiled as she reminisced about how the women came across the opportunity to star in the show, saying that its producer was looking for talent at a pageant they were competing in.

“It was for a store that was looking for a face. In all, there were about 25 girls competing,” the 18-year-old Edinburg native said. “We had to do interviews for the pageant and the producer of the show was there, looking for good candidates.”

She explained that the producer was searching for women who could speak Spanish well and naturally in front of a camera, both of which were involved in the pageant interviews. From there, Velis said each woman received a call from the producer proposing a role on the program.

“I like that I’m in a TV show. That’s pretty exciting,” the pre-med Biology student said with a smile. “And also that people actually believe that I’m from California. That’s the funniest part. Oh, and I have a twin sister in the show.”

Although Talavera chose not to create a fictional family for herself on the show, she said that the producers inject fictional conflicts between the characters for the cameras. Velis agreed and elaborated on the claim.

“It’s horrible because in one of the scenes, Fernanda and I had to have an argument. And I’m thinking, ‘Really, you’re making us fight?’ because we’re best friends,” Velis said. “So when we finished filming, I’d be like, ‘Fer, I love you,’ and she’d be like, ‘I love you too!’”

 

BEHIND THE SCENES

Two or more of the girls usually travel together to the hot spots in the show, and Velis said that their destinations are always interesting, using Brew-seum, an international beer and art festival held at the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen March 19, as an example.

“It was tons of beer from different countries or something,” Velis said. “I mean, I couldn’t drink, but there was a lot of food and restaurants. I had never heard of that and it was really cool.”

She also reminisced about one particular night of filming in February in Weslaco that wasn’t so pleasant.

“There was this pool that we had to film some stuff in and it was so cold. We had to be in there and pretend that we weren’t freezing,” Velis said, her body shuddering at the memory. “I would be shaking then they’d say that we were gonna start filming so I’d be telling myself, ‘Don’t shake, don’t shake!’”

Talavera said she has had some enjoyable experiences on the show and has learned a few things, like how to cook at a taco restaurant and how to mix drinks at bars.

Although both girls agree that the places they’ve visited so far are great, they look forward to doing more fun things and sharing their findings with the public.

Talavera has benefitted from the program, saying that starring in a TV show could greatly help her reach her dream career in broadcasting, which is her concentration at the University.

“I feel blessed. I feel really happy. It’s a dream come true to me,” she said. “I mean, this is my first opportunity and I’m pretty sure other doors will open after this.”

Las Turistas airs every Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. on Telemundo channel 40. Episodes of the show can also be found on its YouTube channel.

 

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Connecting through verse

April 25th, 2013

April is National Poetry Month and the Valley International Poetry Festival is set to take place April 25 – 28. This is the sixth year for the festival.

According to founders Daniel Garcia Ordaz and Brenda Nettles Riojas, the festival is a series of events consisting of readings, workshops and socialization events for the poets registered. Several readings at schools and workshops are set up for the poets all over the Valley and Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico during the festival.

The opening reception will be held April 25 at 7 p.m. at the Edinburg City Auditorium. The poets will be visiting schools such as McAllen Memorial High School and Med High to speak with kids about poetry and writing.

The Poetry Pachanga, one of the main events of the festival, started with Mission native Ordaz, the author of the poetry book You Know What I’m Saying? He was invited to UTPA by Associate Professor of English Emmy Perez, who is part of the Creative Writing program, to do a reading of his works in 2007 for one of her classes. Ordaz wanted more poets to share their work as well, and the pair found themselves with 14 poets and about 170 people in the audience the day of the reading.

“One of the poets even had his son fly in from Dallas just to see him read for 10 minutes,” 42-year-old Ordaz said. “That’s when we knew the Valley was ready for its own festival.”

Ordaz asked Riojas, a poet and public relations professional, to join him in founding VIPF.

“She handles some of the logistics, such as ordering T-shirts, catering and getting us security from the U.S. and Mexican Consulates to protect poets traveling into Mexico to read,” Ordaz explained. “We’re truly international, perhaps the only festival in the world with concurrent readings in two countries.”

Amalia Ortiz, Lupe Mendez and Edward Vidaurre will be featured and running some of the events. Mendez will be reading at several venues, including Robert Vela High School in Edinburg April 26.

“I have selected a variety of pieces based on connections to education, banned books, cultural identity and the unifying feeling of struggle and success,” Mendez said.

The Houston native will also read at UTPA that afternoon in the Albert J. Jeffers Theatre in the Arts and Humanities building for the Poets in The Schools project. The PITS project aims to teach public school students that poetry is a living language that is accessible. The project provides students the opportunity to interact with working poets, according to Ordaz.

“We want young people to know that poetry is everywhere, not just in nursery rhymes,” Ordaz said. “Poetry is in our Facebook posts, it’s in our bathroom stalls, it’s in our booty calls, it’s in our DNA.”

Vidaurre is hosting two of the festival’s 27 events. One is the Slam poetry competition available to youth and adults at Schneider’s Beer Garden in McAllen April 26. The other is the lunchtime reading at the Rio Grande Grill in Harlingen April 27 at 12:30 p.m. The poets will wrap up the festival with a visit to the grave of Gloria Anzaldua. Anzaldua was an artist, teacher and scholar who was mainly known for her writing of her book, Borderlands/La Frontera and This Bridge Called My Back.

“I always look forward to the visiting poets. Also, to buying poetry books from the poets in the festival,” 39-year-old Vidaurre said. “But more than anything, the fellowship with my peers.”

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Good hack, not an attack

April 25th, 2013

A Windows Surface tablet, Xbox 360 system and PC games are just a few of the grand prizes available at UTPA’s first ‘Windows Hackathon’, a weekend-long competition where as many as 30 people are expected to participate and create apps for the Windows 8 system.

The apps will be for Windows mobile and computer devices and must be made under a 48-hour deadline. Competitors will use Visual Studio 2012, a compiler that allows users to develop applications for software supported by Microsoft Windows, to create the apps.

The Hackathon is is hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery, a national organization that promotes computer science. Miguel Garcia is the leader of the UTPA student chapter.

“Everyone can participate in the Hackathon,” the 23-year-old Tamaulipas, Mexico native said. “The only requirement is that you need to know some basic computer science.”

For some participants, such as senior Mark Lagunas, the Hackathon is the first time in a computer competition of this sort. Lagunas sees it as a way to advance his computer science degree.

“A representative from Windows (Ryan Joy, a developer at Microsoft Corp.) is coming down,” the Dallas native said. “They’ll bring several career opportunities for us. It’s pretty exciting.”

ACM adviser David Egle, a computer science professor who has been teaching at UTPA for 30 years, looks forward to seeing what his students come up with.

“This is a great opportunity for students to use what they’ve learned in class in an applied setting,” the Texas A&M graduate said. “It also gives them ideas (for) what they want to do for their senior project.”

Even though this will be the first Hackathon held at UTPA, this isn’t the first competition for the ACM.

Members of the student chapter previously competed at a Windows Hackathon in Austin in November 2012. Garcia said he believes their performance there was what caused Microsoft Corp. to come to UTPA.

“I think we impressed the judges and Microsoft with what we did,” he said. “I don’t think they expected a lot from us, but we definitely surprised them.”

The Hackathon is from April 27 at 10 a.m. to April 28 at 4 p.m. in ASB room 1.104. Students have the option of staying there for the entire duration of the competition, or leaving for breaks. Registration can register at acmutpa.com, the ACM website.

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Bikers surge surfside

April 25th, 2013

South Padre Island’s normally tranquil surroundings gave way to the roaring sound of solid power once the 10th annual Beach-N-Biker Fest geared up to a start. The festival went from April 19 to 21.

Motorcycles of every kind were in attendance: sport bikes, motorcycles, made for performance and speed, and cruisers, which are often low and wide but do not lack in performance. Then there are trikes, three wheeled motorcycles that have every type of accessory imaginable everything from chromed out motors to l.e.d lighting. Finally, there were custom bikes galore. These creations roared across the small island all weekend long.

Rows of painted steel and chrome sat outside the South Padre Island Convention Center. Bikers, motorcycle clubs and people from all over the Valley gathered to inspect and admire motorcycles left and right.

This year the events ranged from poker runs, which are events that participants ride to seven different checkpoints and draw a playing card at each, the rider who has the best hand at the end wins. There were also burnout contests which a rider will keep a their motorcycle stationary (or close to) and spin its wheels, causing the tires to heat up and smoke due to friction, the rider with the biggest and best burnout wins.

Not only were there motorcycle centered events, regular nightly entertainment also took place, bands such as Pelican West Unplugged, Mars Overdrive and Whiskey D played nights outside the convention center.

“I’ve been coming to Biker Fest for a couple of years now,” Janie Zapata from Edinburg said. “I come because it’s close to home and it’s just fun. You get to ride around, cruise the beach, have a few beers and just be around bikes and bikers in general.”

Zapata who is 37-years-old, rode passenger with her boyfriend, Mark Cedillo, on her customized 2009 Harley Nightrain.

Despite the massive presence of patrol cars and SPI police, bikes and trikes alike prowled the streets from sunrise to sunset. Most headed towards the convention center where, for the price of $15 dollars, one can enjoy the company of bikers and enthusiasts as well as a variety of vendors.

“I like to go because I enjoy myself and I like to be around other bikers,” Ruben Leal said. Leal is a seven year veteran of both fests and has been riding motorcycles for over 20 years.

The sellers at the convention had everything from motorcycle parts to riding attire, snacks, food and beer. Booths were filled with biker merchandise including motorcycle patches, which often have meaning or simply fit the personal taste of the rider. Patches come in all shapes and sizes. Some memorialize loved ones while others proudly display military pride and service.

This year the weather was a bit cold and many were unprepared for the sudden drop in temperature. Though this did little to affect Biker Fest and its events.

“We rode over here only wearing T-shirts and jeans,” Cedillo said, “We ended up spending $100 dollars on jackets that we didn’t even like ‘cause the temperature just suddenly dropped, so we gave in and spent the money.”

Cedillo, who has been riding bikes since the age of 13, rode with Zapata out to Biker Fest from Edinburg but the pair spent the night on the Island.

“It was just too cold to bear the ride back,”  Zapata quipped.

Beach-N-Biker Fest is one of two bike festivals that take place on the Island. The other is known as the Corpus Christi Bike Fest. This year is the last year that two will be occurring on the Island, as of 2013, the tradition of SPI Bike Fest will come to an end. After 20 consecutive years of being hosted on the Island, Bike Fest will be held in Corpus Christi as of 2013, However since both bike fests are separate entities the move of Bike Fest to Corpus will have no effect on Beach-N-Biker Fest. Although some bikers looking forward to the change.

“I think that it moving to Corpus is a good thing, I have been to many bike fests and rallies and I can tell you that having it at the Island is not as fun as some that I’ve been to,” Cedillo said. “Pretty much all you do is ride out from one side of the Island to the other then head out to the bars, drink and then do it all over again.”

Like Cedillo others also believe that this bike fest though fun does not have much to offer its patrons.

“Its true they don’t have too much going on but its something to get away,” said Leal, who would follow wherever the fest goes. “If it goes to Corpus I would go but I would prefer if it stayed in South Padre.”

Even though the move is troubling some, not everyone thinks it is such a bad idea.

“It’s not like we don’t have fun, but moving to Corpus, might be a good thing just because there will be more to do and it being closer to the bigger cities, it’s bound to make more money,” Cedillo said.

On the the other hand some folks are not as excited about the change.

“We like it here, it’s become a tradition,” Gilbert Munoz who came out with his wife and son, said.

Even SPI loyalists like Munoz understand why the move is taking place.

“I get it, bigger city, better things, but I don’t know. I prefer South Padre,”Munoz said.

The two bike fests are held at the same location although SPI Biker Fest is hosted in October and the Beach-N-Biker Fest happens in April. Octobers’ Fest was the third largest motorcycle fest in Texas according to G.J. Reyna on the Budweiser Corpus Christi BikeFest`s website.

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Fighting to win

April 23rd, 2013

There’s two fighters on a floor mat, surrounded by cheering onlookers as they compete in the 3rd Annual Rio Grande Valley Jiu-Jitsu Open and no-gi Grappling April 13. Coaches surround them, barking out orders as the two men rock back and forth entangled in a mess of limbs.

“Jiu-jitsu was the most effective form of martial arts for me after boxing. I started competing in boxing for about five years,” said Robert Tamez, a 31-year-old McAllen native.

The tournament consisted of each fighter competing in several fights. From there, the fighters’ scores were tallied up and the winners were chosen. At least four matches went on simultaneously. Referees and time judges were set up at the end of each mat, keeping time and tallying up scores. Coaches were also allowed by the judging table to offer advice and criticism to the fighters as the fight went on.

Jiu-jitsu is a form of martial arts that involves striking and grappling, a form of wrestling without weapons in a close fight. Grappling includes techniques and maneuvers applied to an opponent in order to overpower, submit or to take physical advantage in a match such as placing them in a chokehold to make them tap out.

There are two styles of grappling, Gi and no-gii. The three main differences are the techniques, the style of clothing and the tournament rules. In Gi, the fighters wear a traditional belted kimono, in no-gi, they can wear board shorts and be shirtless. The tournaments rules would be different, and the scoring wouldn’t compare as well.

“Jiu-jitsu for me is an art form of mixed martial arts. It helps me deal with stress, it’s very therapeutic, keeps me in shape, and allows me to remain close to my friends,” Amber Sias said.

Sias and Tamez were two of the fighters who competed in the Jiu-jitsu Open April 20 at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen.

Sias started practicing jiu-jitsu in 2008, and then in 2011, her trainer re-introduced her to the sport as a form of extra exercise to her boxing.

“I started off practicing boxing for about two years,” Sias said. “My trainer asked me if I wanted to try out grappling. Pretty soon I had started training jiu-jitsu again.”

Sias is part of the Green Ghost Academy, located in Los Fresnos . She had been in a competition before but this was her first time being a part of a larger event. Sias previously won first place in a smaller tournament where she competed against men and women.

“My first tournament competition was against men, I was pretty nervous because you’re in front of a crowd and you can feel everyone watching you. It’s a challenge and they didn’t take it easy on me,” the 23 year old said. “It was definitely very different but very fun. A unique experience that I liked a lot.”

The tournament was divided into weight categories. Children competed first in a different division, and adults were divided into women and men. The tournament began at 11 a.m. sharp and finished around 5 p.m.

This open was the first competition Tamez had ever been in.

“It was awesome, I would love to do it again and definitely look forward to it,” Tamez said.

Fights consisted of grappling for about five or six minutes while referees counted points the grapplers earned. The scoring system depends on who is running the event. For example, if the trainer running the event sets rules for only above the waist submission, then fighters get scored on that. If below the waist submission occurs, the fighters could then lose points. Submission is the act of acknowledging surrender to the hold of one’s opponent.

“Whoever takes down the opponent onto the mat is counted as a point. Being on top also counts as a point yet I lost by one point against one opponent,” Sias said. “There were very talented ladies that I had to go up against.”

In her first competition, Sias placed first in her division. In this tournament, Sias placed second in her division, winning silver. The main difference for her between both competitions was the lack of female fighters.

“I’d definitely recommend jiu-jitsu to anyone. Everyone should give it a try. Kids especially would love it,” Sias said. “And it would be great to have more females.”

Sias is currently practicing to earn her blue belt. The blue belt is next to be earned after the white beginner’s belt. There are typically four stripes that can be earned from within the next belt. The Green Ghost Academy is under the leadership of the Ohana Academy who then gets to decide if Sias is worthy of her next rank.

“Right at this moment, I find myself practicing so much that in the future, when I compete, I hope I am ready for the next step,” Sias said.

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Man on Wire

April 22nd, 2013

Douglas Clark took 18 months to finish a sculpture that ultimately was created in less than eight hours. It was Clark’s most time-consuming piece.

The Man on Wire is a bronze sculpture of a nude man standing on a wire while holding the wire by his sides, resembling a standing man on a swing. Clark said he intended to convey the image of balance, but the story behind the Man on Wire goes beyond what can be seen.

In the process of making the bronze sculpture, Clark went through an artistic recession period due to his 13-year-old son’s car accident in 1988.

Clark’s son, David, was run over by a car, which caused him to become blind and suffer brain damage.

“My whole world just stopped. I couldn’t do art.” Clark said. “I thought it was the end of the supply where art comes from.”

The accident unleashed a period of hospital visits and surgeries for Clark and David, leaving the Man on Wire on hold.

“I didn’t have anything. It wasn’t there anymore, it was just gone,” Clark said of his artistic inspiration.

Tim Haley, a friend of Clark’s, tried motivating the artist every week during his artistic cease to finish the piece. Haley showed his unconditional support during those months, helping Clark and his son as they were adjusting to David’s new lifestyle.

“That guy was special, he was a great support,” Clark said about Haley. “You know who your friends are when things get really, really bad, and that was as dark as my days got.”

Eighteen months after the accident, David, then 14 years old, called Clark making him realize something that would mark the start of his art making once again.

“He calls me and says ‘Dad this sympathy thing is working out great, the girls fight over to see who is going to walk me to class,’” Clark said. “I knew he was gonna be okay. That one phone call, it switched back on; I went back and finished the piece and I never slow down since.”

Clark finished the piece in 1990 and gave it to Haley, who died of AIDS four years later.

After his friend’s death, Clark decided to make the sculpture part of his friend by submitting it as a panel in the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The AIDS Memorial Quilt, Clark explained, is a project dedicated to people who have passed away because of AIDS. Friends of the individual gather to make a panel to be added to the quilt that is put on display in the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Clark drew a replica of the Man on Wire and sent it to the Names Project Foundation, which is a non-governmental organization dedicated to the management and preservation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

“It is so big that it can never be seen in one place because it takes acres and acres and acres to lay it and show it,” Clark said.

Clark’s drawing faced some controversy between the members of the foundation board in Beaumont, Texas, due to the nudity of the drawing.

“I sent it in to Beaumont, he was from Beaumont,” Clark explained. “There was a lot of young ladies with the daughters of the American Revolution or something like that, ‘Oh no, it is full frontal nudity. We can’t have that. Tell the artist to draw some clothes on it.’”

The board would not release the panel until a group of ladies, according to Clark, pointed out the similarities between Italian painter Michelangelo’s nude arts and Clark’s piece. The opposed were then convinced to get on board with the drawing and sent it to the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The Man on Wire has been a successful piece since the day the first sculpture was released, as Clark has made countless replicas. Each one of the replicas captures a small piece of the story that makes the Man on Wire a unique piece of art.

The bronze sculpture may have taken over a year to be completed, but when Clark finally finished it, he felt nothing but relieved.

“I was back at work again.”

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‘The Valley’s soundtrack’

April 18th, 2013

Each weekend, artists across the Valley plug in their amps, set up their mics and prepare to perform for anyone who will listen. But while they’re playing their tunes in the limelight, empty seats in the venue don’t go unnoticed.

A headcount of about 50 people attended the RGV Local Musicians Showcase April 13 at Barlow’s Rock Venue in Pharr. According to event promoter Waylon Magallan, that’s a large number when it comes to Valley shows.

RGV Showcase is meant to expose local artists on the rise and get them known in the Valley community, Magallan said. A total of eight acts performed, ranging from rap and metal to acoustic.

“I’m from San Antonio. They have a very good music scene there. When I came here, I was expecting it to be the same,” the 21-year-old said. “Over there you have a show and you’re like, ‘Man, only 200 people showed up.’ Over here you’re like, ‘Oh I had a good show, 40 people showed up.’ It’s just really different.”

Magallan moved to the Valley in May 2012 and eventually began organizing live music shows with promoting company Ace’s High Productions. According to Magallan, he noticed a struggle in the local music scene, motivating him to get involved. As a musician himself, he said he wanted to do his part.

“We wanted to do a show for artists who are barely starting – some people’s first shows – just to help them out and get some exposure, ” Magallan said of RGV Showcase. “Before I moved down here, everyone would say that McAllen had a very good scene and the local music had support. But when I moved down here, everyone said the scene was dying. I just wanted to help it out.”

According to Magallan, artists in the Valley don’t promote themselves well, resulting in a less-than-packed house, discouraging the artists. Lack of self-promotion is one of the factors in the “struggling” scene, according to the promoter.

Barlow’s owner Dante Becerra can attest to this theory.

“As a venue owner, I feel bad for bands if they don’t have people. At the same time it’s the band’s responsibility to promote their show,” said Becerra, the singer of local band 22 to None. “A lot of bands, when they get booked, they assume that the promoter is going to promote for them, but the bands have to bring in their own people.”

Tucked away in a plaza, next to Taqueria Jalisco, lies Barlow’s Rock Venue, which opened in January. Becerra explained that he opened the venue because bands didn’t have many locations to play.

“Too many local venues closed down, and since I’m in a band, it was hard to find places that let you play if you don’t bring in 50 to 100 people,” 34-year-old Becerra said. “I wanted a venue for the locals. The ones who don’t get to play anywhere.”

While Magallan said he believes support is lacking from fans and artists, Becerra thinks it’s because there aren’t enough venues to play.

BARS VS. VENUES
According to Becerra, bars such as McAllen’s Simon Sez and Cypress Lounge are popular with bands, but many are ages 21 and up, leaving out the younger demographic. Barlow’s, however, doesn’t sell alcohol or allow smoking indoors, leaving that particular crowd to potentially seek other locations.

Along with the venue, bar battle, Becerra explained that audiences get discouraged when they have to pay to see local bands perform and will complain about a cover fee. The RGV Musicians Showcase charged an entrance fee of $4 with 10 percent of the cut for Ace’s High. There are reasons for this. As opposed to bars that use drink funds to pay bills, places like Barlow’s, which don’t sell alcoholic refreshments, rely solely on the cover charge to stay in business.

“You’re not paying for a local band. You’re paying for the place to stay open so you can watch local bands,” Becerra explained. “We don’t sell anything, maybe water for a dollar. Cover pays the lights, the AC. It pays for the venue to stay open and a lot of people don’t like that.”

FOR THE MUSIC
Regardless of the attendance, for some artists, the show will go on – a mentality that Secrets Told In Silence guitarist Melissa “Bones” Martinez follows.

“As a person who has seen it all and has been struggling for years, it doesn’t matter to me,” the 30-year-old Weslaco native said. “I can be playing in front of like three people and I would still have brought the whole getup. It’s fun to me. This is what I do and I’m not going to half-ass it.”

Martinez, whose band played at the RGV Showcase, explained that she’s been involved in the music since she was 12 years old, performing with bands and as a solo act. Although she said she will play music regardless of crowd size, she understands the importance of audience involvement.

“If you have support and they show interest in you, it kinda adds motivation for the band to get out there and practice as much as they’re supposed to,” she noted. “If they see that people are starting to show interest in them then it kind of builds them up.”

For shows such as RGV Musicians Showcase, Becerra and Magallan explained that it’s all done for the locals, and it’s something that they will continue to do while they can.

“This is all we have. We don’t live in a big market city where there’s stuff to do all the time,” Becerra said. “It’s like, every movie has a soundtrack, this is our soundtrack. We need the support. I mean, we’ll play with or without it. Even if it’s playing in a garage for two people, we’re still going to play. This is the Valley’s soundtrack.”

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