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Vivir es Increible

team1
Triqui/Trique Indian boys basketball team
Picture credit:  Unknown

Orlando was blessed to have many fine young athletes in town this week for a Basketball event, and one of the teams that made the news this morning on our local station, WESH TV was from Mexico.
Nothing new here, or was there?
This team of fairly small boys, as far as basketball players go, played without shoes.
But, this is not unusual for them, as they nearly always do so.

These boys come from one of Mexico’s poorest regions, a tiny place in the mountains of Oaxaca, that range from 4,000 to nearly 10,000 feet and the inhabitants are called the Trique/Triqui people, a blended group of Mixtec,   (place of cloud-people), who are known for their beautiful weavings.

This area and these people, are not new to me, as one of my favorite Anthropology Professors at CSUN, had related his summers there, for the past 20 plus years.
Every year, he would travel down to Oaxaca to spend a month with the people, then wrote and brought back what he learned about them to his students.

Years later, when I traveled to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, I felt that there were strong similarities between it and many places in Oaxaca.
They were both poverty stricken areas, that few outsiders came to and even fewer cared much about.

This young team makes news every time they play, mostly for their lack of shoes, but what people don’t understand is that their lack of shoes, are the least of their worries.
So many where they come from, are desperately poor, with food, shelter and personal safety at the top of their daily wants/needs list, and going without shoes, much lower on it.

Native or Indigenous Mexicans, are at a poverty level of about 80%, compared to the National level in the upper 20’s.

Many of these young players must walk two hours or more, on rough mountain roads just to get to their practices, and Basketball is about the only sport that can be played in such a difficult terrain.

For me personally, the hardest part of relaying this story to all of you, is in knowing that the country where these brave young players live, is in constant turmoil from outside political pressures.

A friend from school traveled down there years ago, quite concerned about the way the people were being treated and was never seen again.

“Accidents” can happen, to those who ask too many questions, or get too curious about local politics.

Just playing their games, must seem like great relief after enduring the conditions that surround them.

Whenever the team travels, they basically have become ambassadors for their people, and the state of Oaxaca, and Global generosity to them and their town, have followed them everywhere.

Their Head Coach Sergio Zuniga, was interviewed by WESH and his pride in their achievements was clearly evident as he spoke.

This week in Orlando, not only was the team gifted with shoes, so was their entire town.

Yes, back home things are very difficult, but as their Team jackets say, ” Vivir es Increible, life is incredible.”

Places to learn more:

Mexican youth basketball team plays shoeless in Orange County tournament

Hoop dreams of Mexico’s indigenous youth provide hope in ‘forgotten’ region

It’s Triqui to play around: Shoeless Mexican team plays exhibition match in LA

Youth Mexican Basketball Team Wins Big Playing Barefoot

Mexican Shoeless Basketball Champions Prove It’s About How You Play, Not What You Have

Trique People – Wikipedia

A History of the Triqui People

 

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Monsters of Marianna

FlaIndusSchBoys
The Florida Dozier School for Boys in Marianna
Dining hall construction with “White House” in background, 1936
Picture credit: Wikipedia

 

This story has been percolating in my head and heart since we moved down here nearly ten years ago,

it is not about Florida Wildlife it is about Florida Monsters.

But just like the Wildlife here that I am devoted to writing about, these children also had no voice.

If you blink as you drive West on Interstate 10 near Tallahassee in the Panhandle of Florida, you might miss Marianna.

This is a sleepy little town, that until we moved here and began seeing the News stories, had held only one memory,  it was the town where we always stopped to eat at a place called Po – Folks.

Po – Folks  has  great country-style southern comfort food and a really friendly staff.

Absolutely nothing there, or anything that you see as you drive through, could possibly tell you about the dark, ugly secret this town once had.

Now when I think of Marianna, it will forever be because of the horrible, hideous stories continuously being splashed across our TV News Stations.

You see in  Marianna,  there used to be what is called a Bad Boys, or Reform School and it was said to be the biggest one in the entire United States.

You know, the kind of place where troubled children get sent to because no one can control them, or worse, wants them.

Some of them were orphans, others were just confused and needed guidance and help.

This House of Horrors  is/was called the Dozier Boys School and it was also a  place of torture, abuse and death for many who were sent there.

It is also said that the KKK were very much a part of the crimes here.

The school was opened in 1900 and closed in 2011 amid a flurry of accusations, threats and lawsuits.

Then Governor Crist had it all investigated, but as usual in this place called the racially oppressed and color divided State of Florida, this ugly mess was claimed to not have enough, or sufficient evidence to go further.

Those in control stepped out, hopeful it would all go away.

But not so fast, some survivors started making a lot of noise and some people were listening to their stories, better yet they were believing them.

It has been reported that almost 100 children died while this school was in operation.

Then several years ago a team of Anthropologists from USF in Tampa went to Marianna and began a dig.

The Dig team was led by Associate Professor and Forensic Anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, who had known about the school and wanted to see if something could be found.

Because my field of Education at College was in Anthropology and the majority of my Nursing experience was at a State Rehab Center in California, this story was of great personal interest.

One of the many sad  things about this story,  is the name that was given to the place where so much of the abuse happened, it was called the White House.

So, the survivors of this school nightmare, call themselves the White House Boys and they are determined to not only expose the crimes, but to shine a bring light on what happened there.

This time, they want to see justice for the victims and punishment for the perpetrators, if any are still alive.

These few survivors of unspeakable abuse want, need, to be assured that this can and will never happen again, anywhere.

The White House Boys also want an apology, as well as, who can blame them, compensation from those who kept the secrets of the Monsters of Marianna.

 

Places to learn more:

Read the Full USF PDF  Report here:  Dozier School Report

Florida School for Boys – Wikipedia

THE WHITE HOUSE BOYS SURVIVOR’S ORGANIZATION CORP

Florida to exhume bodies buried at former boys school

Remains of 2 more boys identified at closed Florida boys school

Boy missing since 1940 identified at closed Florida boys school

Florida’s Dozier School For Boys: A True Horror Story

Abuses at infamous Florida boys reform school even more widespread, report says

 

 

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The True Cost of Your Food!

migrantchildren

The year  is 1941 and these are the children of Migrant Farm Workers in California.
Picture credit: Library of Congress, Robert Hemmig.

 

As you sit to eat each day, do you ever think about where the food on your table comes from?

Perhaps not, but maybe you should.

The United States has millions of Migrant Farm Workers whose sole means of survival, is to put that very food on your table.

And how do we thank them for this life-giving nourishment?

The truth is not very pleasant, nor often even humane.

The work that they do is back-breaking, with very low pay or sometimes,  even no pay.

They have no health insurance and few rights and even fewer who care what happens to them at all.

Yet, without these Migrant Farm Workers who suffer in silence, we would have nothing, or very little, on our dinner tables in America.

I know of no one who would do the work that they do,  no one!

Would you?

If they are lucky, they and their children will hopefully survive it all.

As most of you who follow my two Blogs know, I lived in Southern California  for over 30 years.

My education was in Anthropology, and my opportunity to learn about Migrant Workers came easily because of these two facts.

My last semester at CSUN was a rewarding one, the hard part was all done and the classes that remained were ones that gave me the chance to study what really meant the most to me, people.

Over the years, I had met and become friends with many Hispanics in California, some were legal residents, many were not, but they were all the same to me, kind, warm and family loving people,  that I enjoyed being with and knowing.

The first  “free study”  Class that I did was about the Migrant Farm Workers who lived and worked in Southern California.

I spent countless weekends for six months,  all over LA talking to and learning about, the way these people lived and worked.

They were so forthcoming in offering me the chance to understand the hard lives that they and their families lived.

In these interviews, the people who talked to me were always men,  their wives and children were still in Mexico and they sent them as much as they could each week.

This was the saddest part of the lesson learned, many times the men would get onto trucks and work for an entire day in a field somewhere, only to be dropped off and told that they would be paid the next day.

But, that never happened they said,  because the next day the nasty people who did this,  always chose another street and another group of unsuspecting victims.

Usually, these men lived as many as 8-10 to a room, sharing what they had,  just trying to survive and send money home.

They were victimized by “legal” Americans who cared nothing for them of their families, but only used them.

The workers of course,  could not complain, as so many of them were not here legally and those who cheated them, were quite well aware of this fact.

This was in the mid 1990’s.

What I did not know about at the time of these interviews,  was all that had been done to those who came before them.

Migrant Farm Workers coming to pick food in California began shortly after the two World Wars,  first in the early 1900’s and then later, in the 1950’s, with the Bracero Program.

California advertised everywhere to bring people there to pick the exploding orange and fruit harvests for the owners who were desperate for pickers.

Those who came, were promised many things and in the beginning they were treated fairly well.

Although unbelievably,  I just learned today, they were sprayed with DDT at the Borders.

But then later after the worker shortage slowed down around the mid 1960’s, things began to change and conditions for the pickers became most unbearable.

Just about this time,  Cesar Chavez began his lifetime of dedication to improving  Farm Worker’s Rights.

He would fight this good fight,  until his death and made such a tremendous difference in their lives.

But silently waiting in the dark shadows all during this time was a sinister evil that few suspected, until it was out of control.

Pesticide poisoning was now rampant among the farm workers, their families and the places where they lived.

There is a small town in the San Joaquin Valley, called  McFarland, where not so long ago, the rate of leukemia among the children there under six, was nearly 80% and many blamed this on the over use of pesticides throughout this entire farming region.

This town is right smack in the middle of the Big Valley, which we Californians jokingly called the “salad bowl of America” because just about everything in a salad came from there.

What no one talked about back then,  however, was the amount of pesticides and the harm they caused, used everywhere in this  Great Valley,  that  all of this wonderful food required to be delivered to America’s dinner tables.

The people who bring you your food and their families,  have paid a great price for this, many paid the ultimate price.

So, now that you know the true cost of your food, perhaps the next time you and your family sit down to dinner, you may say a silent thank you to the Migrant Farm Workers who brought it to you.

 

Places to learn more:

How To Better Protect Farmworkers From Pesticides

Protect Farmworkers From Pesticide Poisonings

California goes mobile to educate farm workers on pesticide safety

Pesticides and Childhood Cancer

Heavy Lift

Florida Farm Workers Allege Pesticide Exposure Is Giving Them Cancer

A Poisoned Culture: the case of the Indigenous Huicholes Farm Workers

Farm Workers Demand Protections From Pesticide Poisoning

Long-awaited EPA pesticide protections a ‘mixed bag’

Farmworkers plagued by pesticides

Farmworkers

 

 

 

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My Most Admired Women~

Clinton_and_Aung_San_Suu_Kyi

Hillary Rodham Clinton with Aung San Suu Kyi
Picture credit:  U.S. State Department

 

They say that today is International Women’s Day.

This makes me just a bit curious, what about all of the other days?

What follows here is a selfish post.

I have always wanted to write about the women that I think have changed the world and influenced me.

So, with the excuse of what has been deemed their “day,”  I shall  begin!

I would like to speak of just a few of the women who have impacted my life and are especially worthy of mention here today.

 

I would of course, begin with my grandmother, who had 18 children and was the matriarch of our huge family and my mother, who raised me as a single mother, long before it was socially acceptable. Between them, these two very different, equally strong women, gave me all that was needed to become the person that I am today.

berthanugentmother

 

Of the women in my past not related to me, that I most admired,  I would like to mention a very special History teacher at Shortridge High School who made the subject come alive, for one who despised the whole idea of it, Mrs. Mary Walker.
She was a tiny, vibrant, African-American woman with beautiful white hair and I loved being in her class.
To this day, I can still hear her saying the word  ” Hapsburg’s.”

marywalker

 

Of all of the world’s current women leaders,  the one that I hold in the highest esteem is  Aung San Suu Kyi   of Burma/Myanmar. What she had done for her people and her country is  simply astounding and remarkable and there are few in the world who could have endured all that she has.

aungsansuukyi

 

Dr. Judith Marti was my first Anthropology Professor at CSUN and  taught mostly Ethnography Classes, which is basically, the study of a people through written observations.  She made a huge impact on all the years that followed in College. My classes with her and the lessons in life that she gave me, changed the way that I looked at  the world. She pushed me to always do better in every paper, every project, I would know little of real Anthropology if it were not for her. (Regretfully no picture)

 

Mrs. O’Brien, the dynamic, demanding,  Irish Charge Nurse at two of the facilities where I worked. She put the fear of God in all who were near, and not meeting her expectations in Nursing and patient care and taught me how to be a better Nurse. She often stood over me as I did treatments and remarked how perfectly they were done. As I told her, I had many times to practice with my son, who had years of skin breakdowns due to his paraplegia. We became very close and I will never forget her passion and her insistence on nothing but the best from all who worked with her. (Regretfully no picture)

 

For our current positive status in women’s liberation and equal rights we all owe much to many women, but for my own generation, my connection has always been to Gloria Steinem.  Those of us who came of age in the ’60’s, especially in Southern California, found their voice,  through hers. We were able to fight for our rights,  when no one wanted to give them to us and what she did made me a stronger woman. Regrettably, we are still waiting in this backwards thinking state of Florida for the ERA to be passed!

GloriaSteinem1972

 

In American politics, my choice must certainly be  Hillary Clinton  for being one of the most intelligent, powerful, accomplished women of my time. She is the closest we have come so far in putting a woman in the White House. For that I will forever thank her. Hillary has worked hard all of her life to make the world a better place for all of us.

HillaryClinton

 

 

 

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The Leakey Legacy

MaryLeakey

The Leakey’s on a dig: Mary, Richard, Louis and  ” the Boys ”
Picture credit: Unknown,  although M.D. Leakey would be Mary

 

There were several new discoveries in the news today that had me salivating as I read them.

Well actually, more like lusting, as my College studies were in Anthropology/Ethnography, not Archaeology, but none the less, this is pretty mouth-watering breaking news for all Anthropologists and those interested in the Ancient Origins and History of Humans.

The links to the stories are below, in the meantime, here is a tiny personal tidbit.

Although Ethnography was my chosen sector of Anthropology to study, my interest had always been in the findings of the entire Leakey family and the great Rift Valley of East Africa, including Olduvai Gorge, or as one of my favorite Professors  always referred to it,   ” the elevator down into our past. “

While Louis, the son of Kenyan Missionaries among the Kikuyu people, was the one always in the spotlight, his wife Mary and son Richard were both quite well-respected and had earned the right to also be admired for their work.

Mary was most celebrated of course, for her discoveries of the Laetoli footprints  in Tanzania in 1978 and Richard had his own numerous notable finds.

In the Literary world, between the two of them, they penned quite a few excellent books, of course I have read them all and they now sit on a book-case next to me when I write.

A one of a kind photo taken of Louis while he was on a dig in Calico, California, many years ago,  looks down at me as I eat everyday, it  was a kindly, generous gift from the woman who led the site tour and asked me to follow her to her office afterwards. I had been more than a little chatty during the tour,  sharing my knowledge of the Leakey’s and I was sure she was going to chastise me for doing this. Not so, as it turned out, surprisingly, she took an envelope out of her drawer, smiling as she handed it to me saying,  ”  I cannot think of anyone who would treasure this more than you ” and gave me the soon to be life long treasure. On this point,  she was absolutely correct.

While my studies in Ethnography kept me quite busy all through my College studies,  Archaeology,  especially Paleontology,  the Leakey’s  and  Olduvai Gorge were always right there in the back of my mind. I spent countless hours and dollars finding books about any and all of it.

I was never really sure what  the most interesting thing about them was, their astonishing finds, their brilliant children, or their wonderful Dalmatians, ” the boys ” as Mary called them, who accompanied the family on many of their digs.

If I had to choose my favorite of all of my Anthropology classes,  it was most certainly Human Paleontology. I will never forget the terrifying Final Exam, which was a room filled with shelves and the nearly 100 skulls waiting to be identified sitting on them.

Shockingly,  I did pretty well on this Final Exam, (which was a Master’s level class not required for my Degree.)

Was it due perhaps,  to my obsessive reading and studying anything and everything about the Leakey’s? Probably~

Anyway,  now back to today’s exciting, well at least to some of us,  Ancient discoveries.

 

The stories are below, if this subject sounds of interest to you, do take a look:

The Epic Journey of our Species

Treasure trove of ‘absolutely wonderful,’ never-before-seen fossils uncovered in B.C.

 

 

 

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Zora Neale Hurston

ZoraNealHurston

Zora Neale Hurston in 1937
Beating a Haitian tambour maman or mama drum
Picture credit: World Telegram staff photographer

 

As an Anthropology student in California years ago,  I do not remember ever hearing about this remarkable woman.

It was only after coming here to Florida in 2000, that I became aware of her work in my own field of study.

I was at the University of Florida Press in Gainesville one day, picking up some books, when I noticed a stack of hers on the counter.

I asked the person there who she was and she said that she was  ” A Florida writer.”

Well as soon as I got home, I looked  her up and the shock hit me, she was a great deal more than just a “Florida writer.”

So this is a brief introduction into the world of this extraordinary African-American woman, whose life was just celebrated recently in the Annual Zora Festival in Eatonville.

Although many are not aware, Zora was not born in Florida, she was born in Notasulga, Alabama on January 7, 1891, but was brought to Eatonville at the tender age of 3.

Eatonville,  which is near Orlando, was/is one of first all black towns in this country.

I believe it was certainly the first one here in Florida.

Zora was the daughter of Baptist preacher and after they moved to Florida, he later became the Mayor of Eatonville.

After her mother died when she was 13, her father remarried quite quickly and soon after, her father and new step-mother sent her away to a boarding school in Jacksonville.

When they stopped paying for her tuition, Zora took what ever work she could find during this period, to stay in school.

Later as their  only black student, she received a BA in Anthropology at Barnard College/ Columbia University and graduated in 1928 at the age of 37.  (she had changed her date of birth to be able to complete her education)

During this time she worked with renown Anthropologists, Franz Boaz  and Margaret Mead.

She also became an active writing member of the Harlem Renaissance Era in the 1920’s.

Sadly, Zora later had several personal issues that hurt her and caused her great embarrassment.

Like so many other very talented, political and social trailblazers, Zora died alone and poor.

She was buried in the Garden of Heavenly Rest in Fort Pierce,  Florida,  in an unmarked grave in 1960.

Years later  in 1973, an upcoming author  Alice Walker  (who in 1982 would  write The Color Purple) and who had benefitted from Zora’s  example and writing, went to Fort Pierce and found what she believed to be her grave site and had a marker placed there.

 

This is an excellent accounting of her fascinating life:  Zora Neale Hurston

 

Zora Festival 2014

Zora Sustaining a Culture of Color

 

 

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