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.

Rather than denigrate Victor Castro, Cruz would do well to be humble about the depth and omnipresence of this Mexican and Spanish legacy. This is the "big lie" of Aztlan and La Raza; that there is some higher moral ground to be held by those who come from the arcane Mexican caste system itself, as though they are "perfect Indios"! To point fingers at even just the United States, not to mention early California settlers, or specific white bogeymen is just ridiculous or disingenuous.

For those of us who have Californio heritage, we are mostly forgotten or misunderstood, as Cruz' stance illustrates. We have tried outreach to modern Mexican immigrants, but they often share the attitudes of Cruz, seeing early settlers as some kind of mysterious white anomaly, instead of as an earlier manifestation of the trip north from Mexico. We are still here, and I think Cruz has insulted our family and history with his methods and charges.
Lance Beeson, San Pablo

"Queer Eye Country Guy," Music, 6/9

Us versus them
While I am no George Strait fan myself, I must say the comments of Mr. Lomax toward said artist to be an example of a seemingly approved kind of stereotype I often see nowadays (albeit a small example of the many I've seen written in this paper). The comments in regard to Mr. Strait seem based superficially upon covers of CDs and perhaps the perceived historicity of Mr. Strait's form of art. Mr. Lomax gives no indication whether he knows Mr. Strait or has even met the guy, yet accordingly portrays himself to be a near-absolute judge of someone and their character based solely upon their appearance. This comes across as an attempt to demonize George Strait in some degree and to equivocate him as some sort of "evil" for being white, male, seemingly patriotic and, possibly worse according to the tone of author: a seeming heterosexual (GASP!!!). Mr. Lomax, could it be the case that you would like to add to your authoritative summary of Mr. Strait's whole being that he must also be an inbred wife-beater with potential gay-bashing and racist tendencies as well? At least have the guts to finish off the stereotype you've started.

If this type of prejudicial viewpoint were to be written in this paper about gays, lesbians, or some ethnic group other than European American, I would venture to guess there would be public outcry at the very least. Why should it be acceptable in this case? Could it be that open-mindedness is not about what you believe in or agree with, and that it has more to do with how clearly you perceive things with as few preconceptions as possible?
Allen Schenck, Berkeley

"Berkeley Intifada," Feature, 5/19

Greater than our prejudices
Ronnie Schreiber's letter in the June 23-29 issue states, "'Allah, he is greater' ... is a statement of Muslim triumphalism ... saying that the God of the Muslims is greater than that of the Jews, Christians, or any other non-Muslim faith community."

I certainly do not deny the existence of "Muslim triumphalism" -- with a faith community of over a billion people, if even a fraction of a percentage point hold aberrant attitudes, that still amounts to several millions of jerks. I have served as an imam for over a decade, and I have spent quite a few hours commiserating with Christian ministers and rabbis about the small fractions of our congregations who cause most of the troubles within (and between) our faith communities.

Mr. Schreiber, however, should know that "Allahu Akbar" cannot possibly be construed as a statement that "the God of Muslims is greater than" the God of Christians, Jews, or anyone else. The whole theological point of Islam is, there is only one God, the same God, for Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians ... everybody. If someone has a God at all, it has to be the One God, because there are no others.

"Allah" is the Arabic word for the one God; it was the word for the One God in Arabic, long before the coming of Muhammad and Islam. The word "Allah" is the word for God used by the Arabic-speaking Christians and by the Arabic-speaking Jews, and has been for eighteen centuries or more.

"Allahu Akbar" means "God is greater" ... than ... fill in the blank. Greater than any present problem. Greater than whatever just occurred. Greater than our conceptions and prejudices, certainly. "Allahu Akbar!" is an all-purpose reaction to surprise, good or bad. It is very much equivalent to the common use of "Praise God!," "Praise the Lord!," "Dios!" among American Christians.

Perhaps Mr. Schreiber is simply worried by the idea of Muslims expressing emotional intensity. That is quite understandable, after viewing his Web site, "Infidel Apparel" -- whose line of "Proud Zionist" T-shirts bears slogans in Arabic and Hebrew like "There Is No Palestine -- Palestine Never Was and Never Was Created -- The Jewish Nation Lives." I suppose that anyone selling those ideas would be very worried by the idea of Muslims having emotional reactions.
Imam Rashid Patch, Pinole

Why publish hate speech?
"It is these so called 'progressive Jews' who provide the fig leaf of 'Zionism' to cover Judaism's ugly ass," writes Leo T. West of San Leandro. I'm shaking as I write this letter now. Why was this hate speech published? If it had been a letter that actually addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I would understand. But printing a letter that calls names and perpetrates vicious stereotypes gives nobody a new perspective.

I'm a Jewish girl about to enter my junior year of high school, and I can attest to the fact that there is a vast amount of anti-Semitism in the Bay Area. All the same, I believe there are two sides to every conflict, and it seems to me that in the rush to condemn Ms. Rufus' article, people forget that atrocities have been committed by both sides. My people deserve a homeland, and the Palestinians do too. Hopefully my generation will be better able to solve the problem than those adults now who only fling insults and accusations.
Jericha Senyak, El Cerrito

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