Monday, June 16, 2008


Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to sit in on the proceedings of a county court at law. A county court at law in Texas is a state trial court. One of our attorneys would be representing an individual in a criminal case.

The office’s second attorney, myself and the other two interns attended the hearing. The four of us sat in the rear of the courtroom watching all of the activity. At one point the trial judge asked who we were. Our supervising attorney stood up and explained we were law students and we were here to observe. The judge simply nodded and carried on with his business. There was much discussion in Spanish, but no praying as far as I could tell. Of course we might have just missed it since we arrived a few minutes late. It was interesting to note that side conversations were mainly in Spanish and anything that needed to be “on the record” was in English.

After a while the Judge returned his attention to us. He asked me where I went to school and I answered while seated “The University of Texas.” My supervising attorney hissed “Stand up!” I popped out of my seat, feeling quite chastised, and said “Sorry, your honor.” He then asked what year in law school I was and after I answered asked how I had felt about my first year. I told him that it had been scary. He grinned at me and moved on to questioning the next intern.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Out of the Habit

I am living with a nun. At first I was worried. Really worried. As I wrote before, I don’t really have faith in god and I don’t adhere to the tenants of the Catholic Church. Mainly, I was concerned that I would have to justify my lack of faith or I would have to listen while she attempted to bring me back into the fold. So it certainly surprised me just how much I like the woman whose home I am sharing. In fact, I admire her quite a bit.

She is amazing. She entered the convent at age 18. In her early thirties she moved to Bolivia and lived there for sixteen years. As part of her work in South America, she helped set up a vocational school that taught typing as well as sewing and other practical skills. She feels that priests should be allowed to marry if they desire and she also thinks that divorce is sometimes necessary. She is a self-proclaimed rebel. She calls me dear and for some reason I find that very comforting.

So far, my favorite story she has shared with me is about the first time she left for Bolivia. At the time, nuns were still expected to wear the habit. As soon as she entered the airport, she stuffed her habit in the nearest trashcan! How cool is that?!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Historical Event

I just want to take a moment and reflect on the fact that a black man has been chosen as the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States of America.

At times I have been envious of my parents who were fortunate enough to have lived through the social movements of the sixties and seventies. Now I have also had the opportunity to witness a truly historic event.

Si se puede! Yes we can!

Jesus es todos lados!

Jesus is everywhere! I haven’t been exposed to as much religion since I was in high school. I am staying in a house with many crucifixes and many images of christ. On the roadsides there are billboards reminding you about god. A great many people wear a cross around their neck.

This is not meant to be critical. It is simply meant to be an observation. In Austin, I interact with people from a wide range of belief systems. Here in the Valley, it is interesting that I interact with so many Catholics.

I remember the day I was confirmed as an adult member of the Catholic Church. I was standing in a pew with Kim Huber behind me. I wore a purple dress with tiny flowers scattered over it. I even remember it tied in the back. I know my parents bought that dress especially for the occasion.

What I remember most vividly, however, was thinking I needed to bolt. I remember listening to the priest and wanting to respond “No!,” when he asked if we believed in god, the father, creator of heaven and earth. All I could think was my own father would be extremely displeased if I actually did bolt. So, I stayed in my place and answered yes like a good girl.

The image of that younger version of myself in the purple dress jumped to my mind yesterday morning. I was sitting in the Hidalgo County Commissioners’ Court for a hearing. Individuals from the community were there to discuss work to be performed on the local levees. A group of us from the office attended the meeting to observe.

Much to my surprise, at the very beginning of the meeting almost everyone rose to say the pledge of allegiance. I felt as if I had entered a time warp to elementary school. Afterwards, I plopped myself back down in the chair only to almost fall out of said chair in the next moment.

We were going to pray!

At a state proceeding!?

A woman in the front of the courtroom asked god to guide the proceeding and to grant the Commissioners wisdom in their decision-making.

Well that sounded nice, but what ever happened to separation of church and state? I know I read that in one of my textbooks. No really! It was in Constitutional Law, I promise!

Monday, June 2, 2008

You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?

My first real adventure in the Valley was going to the grocery store on Sunday. Even walking through the parking lot, people were staring at me. Obviously, a very pale-skinned redhead looks out of place in this region of the country. On the bright side I don’t seem short here!

Once I entered the store, I was quite surprised at how unfamiliar the store seemed. I grocery shop at the HEB in Austin and generally the layout of the store was similar at the HEB in San Juan. However, despite the familiar appearance of the store, the types of items available for purchase were quite different. I immediately realized how spoiled I’ve become in Austin. First, there wasn’t any Stonyfield Farm Organic vanilla yogurt. I was sad that they didn’t carry my favorite brand. Second, no vegetarian frozen food. At least I couldn’t find any. And I certainly wasn’t going to be that gringo chick asking about the hippie food. And the deli!? Where was the Boar’s Head Brand meats and cheeses?

I think it is interesting that people criticize low-income individuals for being over weight and often for having poor overall health. My trip to the grocery store yesterday alerted me to a significant obstacle. Not only would it be difficult for many people to afford organic food products, the local store doesn’t even offer them as an option. What do you think?

After cruising around the store and contemplating the implications of the HEB offerings, I headed to the check out line. The clerk said, “Hola, how are you?” And I responded “Hi, fine and you?” He then immediately said, “you’re not from around here are you?” I responded, “No I’m from Austin.” He asked me if I was going to the beach and I explained that I was here for an internship. After he finished ringing up my purchases, including the can of organic corn I discovered, he had two more questions. “Do you need help taking your groceries to the car?” and “What about an escort to the beach?”