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Monday, May 19, 2008

Requiem To Laura Cleaves

By Silvia Uribe

When I arrived at the DA's office building on Thursday May 8th, it was a balmy morning; I could smell the ocean and the freshness of nature; the birds were chirping and the majestic Santa Barbara Court House clock sounded 8:15. (The previous night, in my dreams, I was chatting on the phone, laughing and making plans with a friend to get together.) That day, in the late afternoon, I would be on my way to Santa Maria to meet with her for the last time. I needed to finalize the carpooling plans with other mutual friends who work in that office, and I wanted to do it as soon as possible.

As I was sitting in the rather new, white, "intelligent" building, whose lights turn on and off automatically and keeps a comforting temperature at all times, I couldn't help but looking at the people who were seemingly floating through the hallways, in a somber mood. Even though they went about their business in the usual manner, there was heaviness in the air and in the way they walked; most of them wore monochromatic black attire. In the normally loud office, one could not hear the everyday laughter, or the jokes played among peers. The office was quiet; people spoke softly as if their voices could disrupt their memories of a lost friend, and colleague.

The Santa Barbara District Attorney's office's 140 or so employees in the whole county knew Laura Cleaves. The senior Investigator who, due to her 25+ years of experience, dealt with the most complex case load, the one who had the highest work ethics, and who always tried to do the right thing; the woman who opened the doors of her home every year during Christmas time, so people could rejoice with her decorations and welcoming goodies; the Sheriff's Office trainer, the horse lover, and the excellent wife, mother and cook. She was fun, calm, gracious and humble, as only the great can be. Her impeccable reputation preceded her, but she acted like one more among her peers.

It was hard for everyone to hear about the accident that ended such a rich, full life. When the telephone rang at my home in the early morning of May 2nd, I could not believe or make sense of what I was hearing, but it was unfortunately true. Laura was killed by an irresponsible, egocentric, and brainless drunk driver who ripped us all of a wonderful human being, who provided a great service to our community.

Laura with her sweet smile was there, at the religious service in spirit, welcoming everyone for the last time. (I smiled at the thought that she and I made the meeting we arranged the previous night in my dreams.) For her friends who vastly overflowed the large church capacity one thing was very obvious, there was no doubt or disagreement about what kind of person she was. Those who gave the eulogies, and the rest of us in our minds, described her as ethical, warm, trustworthy, committed, and loving. Most of us were trying to contain our tears in an attempt, not always successful, to quiet our pain.

Maya Angelou said once that "A woman of courage enters a room, and everyone is put at ease. There is something appealing in the way she walks and in the way se holds herself." This is the memory I will always keep about Laura.

Her human presence might be gone, but her impact in all of her family, friends and the community outlives her.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Thursday, May 1, 2008

This Latina Wonders...

By Silvia Uribe

After all of these months of political campaigning, of heated arguments between candidates, and supporters, of an endless parade of political pundits dissecting each of the candidates’ words, attitudes, and moves, have you gotten a clear idea whether America is more racist or more sexist?

Hillary Clinton is criticized for speaking softly, aggressively or mid tone. When she talks about her vast experience, they say she is “same old, same old”, when she expresses her opinions she is too divisive, if she shows her emotions, she is “fake”; nothing that she says or does seems to be right. On the other hand, Barack Obama’s tone only needs a few adjustments…at times, they say. Since he lacks experience, he brings hope, and when he laughs about his opponent’s campaign, he’s not condescending, but he is addressing the issues; when he tells us that he didn’t know, after 20 years of attending the same church, about his pastor’s opinions…he is not lying, the argument is that in fact, he is hurt for having to distance himself from the “crazy” man.

And what’s up with the tone that the media uses lately referring to Clinton? Are they making fun of her because she doesn’t want to quit? 64% of democrats don’t want her to quit, and why would she? People should know by now that quitting is not women’s nature. Most women tend to hold on to, and take life commitments to completion. From raising their kids, to accomplishing great careers, they stick to their goals even in light of great difficulties and barriers of opposition and discouragement. Women can take on great responsibilities, including some that correspond to men, when they are not up to the game. Women are not quitters, what can I say! I think that the media loses respect and the already little credibility it has when making so common, but so unprofessional remarks.

If all of the above is not enough answer for you, you might want to consider the fact that Clinton’s detractors say that those white, middle age and middle class voters who prefer her are racist, but the black voters who prefer Barack are not blamed of the same; or how about Hillary’s overwhelming victories, some by incredible margins in Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Ohio? All of them in the double digits! The media and the public down play them, but when Barack wins by similar or even smaller margins, those same voices are loud and prompt in praising his “colossal” victories to death.

Are we more racist or more sexist? I think I have my answer…what about you?

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This Latina Wonders... Does anyone remember Edwards criticizing Obama for praising Ronald Reagan and his politics at a campaign rally back in January? Edwards said then that “is not a good example of change for a presidential candidate running in the Democratic Party to admire Ronald Reagan, the man who busted unions, the man who did everything in his power to destroy the organized labor movement, the man who created a tax structure that favored the richest Americans against middle class and working families, ... " is Edwards so power starved now that he feels the need to support Obama?

-- o --
This Latina Wonders… have both Democrats and Republicans learned at least one or two things from this eternal race? How about not letting campaigns to be so long, huh? Or to set limits to campaign spending? If politicians are so good in their fundraising efforts, shouldn’t they raise money, for example, to serve people’s basic needs and not to spend so much in their advertising efforts? Millions and more millions! Isn’t it a slap on the face of those whose main priority is being able to get mental health services, or having food on their table, or a place to sleep, or better education, or for a lot of baby boomers, some certainty of a Social Security income when retirement time finally comes? If they raise money so efficiently, shouldn’t politicians have higher goals than mere self promotion, and shouldn’t we all choose to put our money to better use?

-- o --

And finally, I wonder… are the difficult days for America ending, so to speak, with the Bush administration? Or will they be prolonged with a series of more unfortunate events, starting with the next presidential election?

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.
Cross-posted at