Letters for the week of July 7-13, 2004 

Good huevos rancheros and bad radioactive wastes; the straight dope on Victor Castro, and the real dope on George Strait.


"Best of the East Bay," 5/5

Over easy, not scrambled
I was very happy to see La Estrellita win Best Huevos Rancheros. I have stumbled through their doors with a cloudy mind from a hard night more than once for this completely satisfying breakfast. But your reviewer failed to describe La Estrellita's huevos rancheros correctly. The eggs are not "scrambled" at all. I have ordered the dish numerous times, and over easy is the standard format. Perhaps the reviewer ordered huevos a la Mexicana? A fine dish, certainly, but no huevos rancheros.
Mark Meyer, Oakland

"Cal's Tentacles Extend Out from Campus," City of Warts, 6/16

Call me naive, but ...
With both amusement and appreciation, I read Chris Thompson's spicy and informative piece in which he references my neighborhood association's comment letter to UC Berkeley on their 2020 LRDP. I deeply appreciate his drawing attention to our concerns about the high-density housing complex the university had envisioned for the Grizzly Peak Boulevard/Centennial Drive area.

However, I also wanted to both thank and assure Chris that he didn't need to protect me from the "tiresome group of hysterics" he mentioned in the piece. I am specifically referring to the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste. I cannot speak with authority on their previous efforts or accomplishments (although I understand that they did, after all, hasten the closing of the Tritium facility). But I do take full responsibility for my own comments about the critical need to maintain a buffer zone and ample emergency access to and egress from the neighborhoods that sit in close proximity to many of LBL's buildings. Call me naive, but it seems like a silly thing to keep adding more toxic and radioactive materials into a canyon, not far from several unstable cracks in the earth, don't you think?
Andrea Pflaumer, Berkeley

If that's carping ...
Kudos, Chris, for the article alerting your readers to UC's twenty-year expansion plans, which include building faculty housing in Strawberry Canyon. However, your ranting reproval of Berkeley residents' and especially the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste (CMTW)'s tactics in opposing UC management reeks of paranoiac projection, with its hysterical journalistic style much lacking in objectivity. In particular, your statement that members "carp about Lawrence Berkeley Lab -- not to get anything done, but merely to hear themselves squawk" shows a total ignorance of the fact that the CMTW was founded in the early 1990s to fight the university's plan to build a replacement facility for the storage of all its Berkeley Campus laboratories' toxic and radioactive waste in Strawberry Canyon, just kitty-corner from the Haas swimming pools. This first battle was won by the CMTW and was followed several years later by another victory, the closing on December 31, 2001, of the Cal-managed Lawrence Berkeley Lab National Tritium Labeling Facility, whose legacy waste remains in the soil, groundwater, and vegetation of the Strawberry Creek watershed.

We suggest your readers check out our tactics, fact sheets, and the "Contamination Chronicle."
Gene Bernardi, cochair emeritus, Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste, Berkeley

"Portrait of the Times," Feature, 5/26

Aztlan's big lie
I noted a letter about the El Cerrito controversy about the Victor Castro mural in the June 23 issue. Thanks to your excellent archive and search feature, I was able to find the original article. It was pretty well written, but I wish to correct an error about Victor's parents made there and in a subsequent letter.

Victor Castro's grandparents and father were born in Sinaloa, Mexico, and came to California in 1776 with the DeAnza Expedition. They, like other Anza families, were multigenerational Mexicans: some soldiers, some ranchers, recruited from Sinaloa, Sonora, and modern southern Arizona to come north and settle in California.

Although Victor's grandfather, Joaquin Isidro Castro, was listed as "Español" in military records of 1782 in San Francisco, this was technically impossible by the elaborate caste designations of the day. IF (and that's a big IF) he was of pure Spanish blood, he would still technically be a criollo (Spanish, but born in the New World). Perhaps that record is the source of confusion to some amateur historians or hagiographers. At any rate, all of the Anza party, except Father Font and Father Garces, were of the New World. Many were mestizo (mixed Indian and Spanish blood) and a few were mulatto, of Spanish and African origins.

I know a bit about this and other Californio families, because I am a Castro descendant (from Victor's sister, Francisca), as well as descended from Moraga, Peralta, Bernal, Soto, Berryessa, Pacheco, and other families who came to California in 1776 with the DeAnza Expedition. I am in an organization called Los Californianos, made up of people whose Hispanic, mestizo, and mulatto ancestors came to California prior to 1848. We often find that contemporary Hispanic activists like Cruz have little to no understanding that the early Californios were mostly of mixed blood who had lived in Mexico for up to four or five generations removed from any Spanish heritage, with inevitable racial mixing, even if denied for the sake of social station.

Many of the soldiers who came were career cavalrymen, like my ancestor Josef Joaquin Moraga, founder of San Francisco. He was a third-generation cavalryman stationed at Tubac, Arizona. His father Jose spoke fluent Pima and was killed by an Indian arrow near there. Jose Joaquin's son Gabriel, my fifth great-grandfather, escaped the Yuma massacre in 1781 by one day as he was in an advance party who left early. I mention this to make the point below.

It is sad but not atypical if Castro practiced oppression of local Indians despite his own heritage and family relations with the Mayo Indians back in Sinaloa. The soldiers came from a culture in which some tribes were allied with the Spanish settlements against common enemies like Apache or Comanche, for example. Indian revolts (like the Yuma) were common with shifting allegiances and circumstances, so there was likely a lot of fear and mistrust. The oppression of Indians continues to this day in Mexico, apparently.

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