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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Road To Nowhere

By Silvia Uribe


The story on what's happening with the U.S. economy is obviously more than what meets the eye. There are many things that we, as regular people, will never know about, and thus, we won't understand. However, one thing is very clear. The government has placed us all in a precarious situation and on a road to nowhere, just like the one that Sarah Palin is building in Gravina, Alaska.

All the financial institutions that hold both national and international interests are crumbling like overcooked cakes, and there's no way to cover the situation with any kind of sweet frosting. But our government still needs to hold the burned areas in place. Otherwise these will taint - even more - our relations with the rest of the world. It could be a complete debacle!

In order to do this, the government will have to bail out monstrous financial institutions with the unprecedented amount of $ 700,000,000,000 (did I put enough zeros?), which is a measure that, although I understand that doing nothing is not an option, it is still frightening to me.

You see, I've seen this kind of situation happening before in the Mexican economy. A corrupt government puts the country at risk, and pretends that nothing bad is happening (as Bush did up until a few weeks ago when he kept saying that we were in no financial recession, but in a "slow economy"). Then, I've seen the same government being forced to solve the problems it caused by acquiring financial responsibilities that, in the long run, brings the country to impossible debts, both private and public. Things then were very similar to what has been going on here: the real estate market went downhill; people were loosing their homes. Sounds familiar?

The FOBAPROA (Fondo Bancario de Protección al Ahorro or "Banking Fund for the Protection of Savings") was a controversial fund created in México in 1990 by Carlos Salinas de Gortari in an attempt to "resolve" liquidity problems of the banking system in Mexico. The Fobaproa was applied in 1994 during the economic crisis to protect Mexican banks from going bankrupt, and thus destroying the Mexican Economy. During that decade, the peso went through an unprecedented devaluation, interest rates went through the ceiling, the economy was stagnant, and the country suffered a masive descapitalization due to lack of trust in the financial system. Talk about a debacle!

By July, 1998 the Treasury (Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público) gave the green light for Congress to analyze the Fobaproa books to clarify fraud accusations made public against top rank individuals within the government, entrepreneurs, and bankers. With the Fobaproa, the population felt some relief with their debts, however the financial meltdown of the country was unquestionable, and its consequences unparallel. It was not until September of 1998 that President Ernesto Zedillo created a reform for the financial system. This reform included more efficient mechanisms for the overview of the credit activity, a new legal frame that would avoid new financial crises, support for small and medium debtors, and equity in the distribution of the rescue costs. It also included measures to avoid corruption.

Bush's administration is asking now for $700 billion, and the proposal places no restrictions on the administration other than requiring semiannual reports to Congress, granting the Treasury Secretary unprecedented power to buy and resell mortgage debt. I don't think so. Corruption is an illness that's usually caused by opportunity. It will be up to Congress to determine what kind of severance package Bush will have at the end of his term.

Also concerning, is that our presidential candidates keep campaigning as if nothing is happening. Shouldn't they be an intrinsic part of this decision making process, as opposed to be bickering at each other? Given the fact that one of them will - whether we like it or not - be the next President in a few months, isn't it in everyone's best interest that both of them take part in planning a solution to this mess. After all, one of them will have to run with this snowball in his hands, won't he? Oh, but wait. If the candidates would do this, they could be held accountable for their decisions. Sorry, I forgot that neither of them really wants that.

I'm no analyst, but I'm a person who doesn't forget history - one who has "been there, done that". And yes, I am just frightened by the negative consequences that can be foreseen.

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Goleta Versus Santa Barbara, By the Numbers

A Comparison of Census Counts Between the Two Cities

By Silvia Uribe

As I was snooping around on the Web, I found very interesting information regarding our beautiful city. Not that this information was a secret before-it comes from the 2000 Census, but as often happens with relevant information, we usually don't know it's out there and easy to find. So, although this information will be updated in a couple of more years with the 2010 Census, it's still something that residents of Goleta-and Santa Barbara-might be interested in knowing.

We all know that the job of the U.S. Census Bureau is to provide an accurate count of the people, their origin, age, income, religion, language, and other crucial facts. Governments need to know this information in order to plan and provide the services that the population needs. That's why this information is religiously collected every 10 years. What not everyone knows, however, is that the Census counts people either by city or by CDP ("Census Designated Place"). In the 2000 Census, Goleta was not yet an incorporated city, so was classified as a CDP along with other places in the South Coast, such as Gaviota, Isla Vista, Montecito, and Summerland.

Although numbers usually appear dull to me, when they relate to people, all of a sudden they fall in a different category: a "gossipy" one, and my mental machine starts working vigorously, producing endless questions that are politically correct and others that aren't. The latter questions I will keep to myself, but in providing these numbers, I'll posit a few of the questions and thoughts that seem to be appropriate. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts too.

Here are facts, and my thoughts, from the 2000 Census:


Goleta: 55,204

Santa Barbara: 92,325

(These numbers make me think of the now infamous Bird Nest stadium at the Olympics in China. All Goletanos would be able to fit in there and almost half of the stadium would still be empty. Santa Barbarans, on the other hand, would fill its capacity and 1,325 would have to remain outside.)


Goleta: 19,954, 30.6% with children under 18

Santa Barbara: 35,605, 24.3% with children under 18

Married Couples

Goleta: 55.1%

Santa Barbara: 39.8%

(Does not include same-sex marriages, which weren't legal in 2000.)

Female Heads of Household

Goleta: 8.7%

Santa Barbara: 9.5%

Non-Family Homes

Goleta: 32.5%

Santa Barbara: 46.8%

Individual Households

Goleta: 22.5%, with 8.8% being 65 and older

Santa Barbara: 32.9%, with 11.4% being 65 and older

(I'd bet that not many Latinos are included in this category. Traditionally, Latino elders live with an adult son or daughter and their family.)

Average Family Size

Goleta: 3.18

Santa Barbara: 3.17

Age Breakdown

Under 18:

Goleta: 23.1%

Santa Barbara: 19.8%

18 to 24:

Goleta: 9.5%

Santa Barbara: 13.8%

25 to 44:

Goleta: 28.6%

Santa Barbara: 32.3%

45 to 64:

Goleta: 24.2%

Santa Barbara: 20.4%

65 and up:

Goleta: 14.6%

Santa Barbara: 13.8%

Median age:

Goleta: 38 years

Santa Barbara: 35 years

(38 is also the median age of marathon runners!)

Racial Breakdown


Goleta: 78.61%

Santa Barbara: 74.04%


Goleta: 22.33%

Santa Barbara: 35.02%


Goleta: 6.43%

Santa Barbara: 2.77%

(My observation is that, at least lately, people from many different Asian countries have been settling in Goleta.)

African American:

Goleta: 1.27%

Santa Barbara: 1.77%

Native American:

Goleta: 0.82%

Santa Barbara: 1.07%

Pacific Islander:

Goleta: 0.11%

Santa Barbara: 0.14%

Income Data

Median family income:

Goleta: $67,956

Santa Barbara: $57,880

Median male income:

Goleta: $44,770

Santa Barbara: $37,116

Median female income:

Goleta: $32,127

Santa Barbara: $31,911

Per capita income:

Goleta: $28,890

Santa Barbara: $26,466

Population below the poverty line (considered to be $10,400 for individuals):

Goleta: 6.7%

Santa Barbara: 13.4%

Families below poverty line (considered to be and under $18,000 for a family of three):

Goleta: 2.9%

Santa Barbara: 7.7%

Under 18 below the poverty line:

Goleta: 4.8%

Santa Barbara: 16.8%

65 and older below the poverty line:

Goleta: 4.4%

Santa Barbara: 7.4%


- What is surprising to you?

- Do these numbers reflect what you see or know about our communities?

- What affects these numbers?

- What are your predictions for the next census in 2010, based on these numbers?

In the meantime, enjoy life!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Linguistic Fiesta

By Silvia Uribe

September has been designated as the Hispanic Heritage Month. To answer a question that I'm usually asked, the difference between the terms Hispanic and Latino is quite simple. Hispanic is relative to those from the Hispano American countries, whereas the word Latino is relative to those countries whose languages have a common Latin origin, which includes some languages that are not Spanish. Being the social oriented linguist at heart that I am, I prefer the term Latino rather than Hispano because in acknowledging that we share language roots with other cultures it is easier to recognize other cultural traits that we also share, thus promoting both communication and understanding.

English and Spanish are Indo-European languages. English, of course, is a Germanic language, while Spanish is a Romance language. The Romance languages are Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Romanian. All these languages started as a combination of vernacular (vulgar) Latin with the local tongues. Spanish started making its way into English during The Renaissance, either directly or through French.

Some of the words that came to English via Spanish are from South or Central American Indian languages, like the word potato that derives from Haitian through Spanish. Many times, unless you're really into languages, it is very difficult to identify the Spanish origin of some English words. The French language was a linguistic middleman that channeled fresh vocabulary from other languages. The word canoe is a perfect example, since it is of Latin, French, Spanish, and ultimately Haitian etymology. In other cases, Spanish played the part of the "relay" language. The word cork, ultimately of Latin origin (through the Arabic word alqúrq), came to English via Old Spanish (alcorque).

Spanish cognates (fancy word to designate the same ancestral language), may not be as numerous as those of Latin or French origin, but they are just as varied, widespread, and influential. English would be less rich without words such as the ones that I used, (either direct from Spanish or through a relay language), in the following story written solely for our enjoyment of the English language, and the American culture that constantly adapt and evolve.

"My cousin Luis, the matador, turned off the tango and danced to salsa after the corrida de toros to celebrate that he was alive. He would've had a party with a piñata, but he thought he was too old for that. He has been acting like a desperado, but in this case, he was running away from dangerous situations.

First, it was the tornado that chased him when as he was at the plaza, with the mariachi, having a margarita, at a community barbecue. Then, there was the quite unexpected situation with the machete at the hacienda where he was going to be killed by the guerrilla comrades, while he was smoking a cigar in the patio. After that, a mosquito bit him, making him very ill. At the pueblo's fiesta he attended, he asked the señorita to serve him a menudo with tortillas, guacamole, and pinto beans. He also ordered chili, and chicken fajitas with habanero, and pimento, all grilled on mesquite; he declined the enchilada, the burrito, the tamale, and the tacos with salsa and cilantro, but it was too late. All that food plus the tequila with alfalfa juice became an exploding cannon in his bulged belly. He was put out of commission, hiding in his adobe cabana for a while.

When his amigos went to visit him, they played the guitar and, since it was cold and raining, they brought a poncho for him to wear. They also made hot cocoa to get warm, and they dipped their famous churros in it. All of them were covered with their own zarapes looking very macho like "El Dorado" caudillos. To promote a speedy recovery, they took him to the Caribbean, where they used burros with cinches for transportation. At the ocean, he slept on a hammock, enjoyed the vistas, fished for tuna, and slept siestas with his sombrero on his face to avoid sunburn. In one of the islands, he saw coyotes, alligators, a puma, and a jaguar, as well as canaries and condors. Luckily for Luis, he ended up paying nada of this expensive trip; it was gratis for him.

When they were back, inside his cabana alcove, on the mesa, next to the arroyo, he figured his luck was grande. His friends were not aficionados, but savvy on how to entertain, even though they spent too much time at the hotel cafeteria eating flan and smoking tobacco cigarettes. It didn't matter either that they were conquistadors of senoras and senoritas alike, although Luis didn't agree with such behavior.

Before his amigos left, he hugged them and told them "Gracias, mi casa es su casa, hata la vista and vayan con Dios"

(The previous text has 100 Spanish words or cognates…can you identify them?)

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Monday, September 1, 2008

Are Latino Students Being Framed?

By Silvia Uribe


"Expectations" are something we fear at times. However, when talking about our children, high expectations can be the magic wand to cast the spell of success upon them. Talking specifically about Latino students, it's not enough that Latino parents have those expectations for their own children; schools, as well as teachers, should have them, too. Most children will respond well if they are sincerely encouraged not only with words, but by having a school system behind them that really trusts that their success can be real, no matter their race or family educational history.

As a mother of two young Latinas who have gone through the Santa Barbara and the Goleta school districts, I had to fight year after year for their rightful placement in classes that would take them ahead at a regular pace. At the beginning of each year, counselors always wanted to place them in the "not so hard" classes that, coincidentally, were packed with an overwhelming majority of Latinos.

It was upsetting because their recommendation was not based on my daughters' grades from the previous year, which showed that they both could deal with those "hard" classes with no problem. It took long discussions with those counselors to make sure my children could get the classes they deserved to be in, and nothing less. As the years passed, this tendency became more than upsetting. And believe me, I wasn't the only one dealing with this frustration. Many other Latino parents were, too. But they didn't have the knowledge of the system or the language proficiency to advocate for their kids, so their children were pushed to the "easier" classes, thus falling further behind as the years passed.

After graduating from high school with a GPA greater than many Latino and non-Latino students, this year my youngest child is attending City College for the first time (you know, the education there is of superior class and the cost is incredibly affordable.) Her long-term plan is to become a lawyer. Much to my daughter's and my dismay, it happened again. The same attitude regarding which classes she was advised to take, the number of units, and the university to which she should transfer. Everything that she was offered was "not as hard", or "easier to get into" than what she chose in the first place. And in case you're wondering, these "easier" options were more than a suggestion. She felt pressured to change her mind, and although the counselor's efforts were not fruitful, she was frustrated yet once again.

Have you ever wondered why so many Latino students don't perform well at school? I have the suspicion that it's not because they can't, but because they are not expected and encouraged to do well. This is the key question: What benefit is there in trying to send Latino students to classes in which they are required to do very little, as opposed to encouraging them to attend those classes that would awake not only their minds but also their spirits?

If we give children a reputation to live up to, they will rise to the challenge. In addition, we will give them the opportunity to feel proud of themselves. To know that in fact, they have a promising future, instead of seeing themselves as nothing more than a failure, or simply not "good enough".

On the other hand, we know that depression and hopelessness play a big role in youths' behavior. So, are we framing them first, and then are we complaining about the poor scholastic achievement they seem to attain?

If we continue to discourage and hold back such an important (in numbers and otherwise) segment of our community, this tendency could lead -- in a ripple effect -- our cities, states, and ultimately, our country to great social and financial issues.

Make no mistake, I do believe in public education, and I think that public schools offer our children great opportunities such as experiencing other cultures, some of the best, and most committed teachers, plus, up to now, they offer a larger array of activities that smaller, private schools cannot. This is precisely why public schools’ narrow vision, in this regard, bothers me so much. It’s simply unfair and stupid to think that children of a particular culture are incapable of achieving at the same level as those of other cultures without stopping to analyze how the system contributes to the problem, and finding ways to change it. If we continue to do the same, we will obtain the same results. As simple as that!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective

Cross-posted at

The Borgatellos

An Entrepreneurial Family Who "Never Forgets Its Past"
By Silvia Uribe

As I dialed the number to ask for an interview, I didn't know what to expect, which is the normal anticipation that I feel when asking the president of an important company to spare some of his time to answer my questions. Much to my surprise, it took me no time to secure an interview with Mario Borgatelloof MarBorg Industries. During our rather informal meeting, I was able to hear, see, and understand how it is that this family has been able to work together, grow an incredibly prosperous business, and be so appreciated by their employees and by the community at large - including many who live in the Goleta Valley, where MarBorg is the primary trash and recycling service.

Mario, as he prefers to be called, explained with pride: "My father, Mario F. Borgatello, raised us on responsibility, respect, work ethics, honesty, and integrity. That's all you need to live a good life." He said as much with a wide, sincere smile that set the mood for the rest of the interview.

What's your family history?

Mario Borgatello
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Mario Borgatello

My parents were immigrants who came from the north of Italy to the United States. Due to the terrible discrimination in those days, it was impossible for my father to get a job. My parents were very poor. Picking up trash was the only thing that my dad could do to earn some money. In 1936, he started this business. There's a picture of my father next to his first truck, with his brother Charles and their friend "Shorty." Did you see it as you came in? My uncle served at the Marine base, which used to be where UCSB is located now.

My parents lived for years in what we know today as the "Noleta" area, where my brother David and I were born. This business is what I have always called my job. When I was 13, I was already working on it! I did have, at times, a second job as a valet parking at the Coral Casino and for private parties in Montecito. David had a couple of other jobs before joining the family business in 1973. As time passed, other family members joined us.

How many members of the Borgatello family work in the company?

Years before retrofitting the natural gas powered trash truck, Mario Borgatello (pictured) installed solar panels to offset Marborg's electricity use. Mario notes that a cleaning is due because of ash from the Gap fire
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Years before retrofitting the natural gas powered trash truck, Mario Borgatello (pictured) installed solar panels to offset Marborg's electricity use. Mario notes that a cleaning is due because of ash from the Gap fire

Well, let's see. It is David and I, and my son Brian, who brought recycling as an integral part of the business in the early '90s. You see, when my father started his business, there was no formal recycling in the horizon; however, he was already recycling potato sacks, bones, and silverware. My other son, Anthony, was the one suggesting the addition of liquid wastes. David's daughter Kathy Koeper, my daughter Theresa, and her husband Derek Carlson share the administrative responsibilities, plus my other 240 family members [meaning his employees].

Things have worked pretty well in this organization. What's the secret to be able to work with family members in an efficient way?

Communication and respect is the key to running a successful family business or any other endeavor, call it friendship or a marriage. I've been married for 40 years and my wife and I don't always agree in everything. [He giggles.] In our company, we all focus in what's best for the business.

Last week was the official opening of the ABOP (antifreeze, batteries, oil, and paint) and Electronics Collection facility. The ABOP recycles these items at no cost to the public, but there's a cost that will be absorbed by MarBorg Industries. What's in it for you?

The community is important to us because that has been one of my father's main teachings. He's always told us, "Never forget what has brought you to where you are." We exist because of the community and we have to serve the community.

We do it as a thank you to all our customers and residents of the Goleta Valley, but we also do it because we care about the environment. These materials are no longer acceptable in the landfill. Legislation means nothing without the necessary infrastructure to ensure that the law can be applied.

What are your plans for the next five years?

If there is an opportunity for expansion we'll take it. When a business rests on its laurels, it dies. Conversely, a business with a vision can always prosper. Our business is local and it is not controlled by Wall Street, but by Main Street. Whatever the need is out there, we want to meet it. We have the ability to adapt quickly to the ever changing needs, to make this a better place.

Tell me one thing that you don't like about your business.

Having to fire an employee who I know has a family to feed. When I do that, it is because I have tried everything else and nothing has worked, but this doesn't make it any easier.

What drives you?

Mario Borgatello
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Mario Borgatello

What drives me is the thought that our family started in the '30s with nothing. It has been very gratifying to see our business grow in the spirit of honesty and integrity. To see that one can offer a service, be fair to our customers and employees, and still make a profit is very inspirational.

What's the last thing that you think about before you go to sleep?

I thank God for the example that I was given by my parents, and for the one I can give to my children.

One last thought?

Unequivocally, there has been a tremendous amount of hard work in making this business what it is today, but we have passion and love for what we do, and we enjoy it! That's why, under no circumstances, regardless of how much money someone offers, our business is not for sale. We simply love what we do!

Learn more about MarBorg Industries at

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the