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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Depression No More!

By Silvia Uribe

If you were born in the 50s or the 60s, do you consider yourself lucky? Think about it. We were raised with the comforts of modern life. At the same time, we have been witnesses to the greatest technological advances in history. These things have slowly but surely taken us from a comfy lifestyle, compared to the previous generation, to a high tech, almost miraculous way of living.

The first real technological related event that I remember is from the time when I was a little girl in Mexico. It's more like a flashback. I was sitting on my dad's lap in front of the T.V. and holding my mom's hand. My extended family, of course, was there too. We were all watching the arrival of men on the moon. As a child, I was only able to discern the importance of the moment by adults' anticipation, reactions, and comments. Right then and there I intuitively comprehended that everything and anything was possible with the right technology. Ever since then, I knew I had to keep an eye on it. And, I have.

If you haven't stopped to think about this lately, allow me to remind you of just a few technological advances that we've witnessed in each decade since we were born:

50s - TV Remote Control, Microwave Oven, Birth Control Pill
60s - Industrial Robots, Communication Satellites, Smoke Detectors
70s - PC Modem, Digital Music, MRI, GPS
80s - DNA Fingerprinting, Prozac, Internet -World Wide Web.
90s - Genetic Sequencing, MP3
2000 - iPhone, and more to come

In the not too distant future, scientists tell us, advances with nanotechnology will bring us closer to the -- what I call -- " Jetsons Era". Do you remember that cartoon? I have been waiting all these years for our lifestyle to be like theirs! For instance, conductive fibers will be woven into fabrics. Your clothes will keep track of your vital signs! Building materials will send and receive information. Sensors on roadways will detect ice and send signals to cars that force them reduce their speed. Drivers in big cities will know when and where a parking space is available. Also, nanotechnology will make it possible to get drunk drivers off the road by virtue of a sensor in the car that will measure the level of alcohol in a driver's breath before the ignition is started.

(Unfortunately, we will have to wait longer for robots and flying cars to become a part of our daily life, sorry.)

But that's not all. Let's not forget that technology is not the only field with enormous advancement. Equal amounts of progress happened in the medical field, thanks to which, our life is way healthier and longer than our ancestors'.

As much as I am in awe with science in general, I also realize how all these advances reflect our perfect human nature. They reflect our intelligence, and our ingenuity. They reflect our ability to adapt to constant change, as well as our learning capability, and even our sociability. I feel so proud of my human congeners!

As obvious as they may be, it's important to keep these facts in mind, especially during the mid-age years, when we start noticing that our youthful traits are starting to dwindle away. When we see a wrinkle steadily carving its way around our eyes, or pounds bulking in the least desired places, and before we succumb to the proverbial middle age crisis, we should stop and think that there's no future without past. But we cannot live in the past, if we want a future. Today, we have a wealth of experience to transmit, and still, an abundance of new things to absorb if we want to stay current.

As time passes, age should be more inconsequential for us to determine who we are, our quality of life, or our state of mind. Instead, we should look at age as a tool to determine our adaptation capability and our wisdom.

It is a fact that our generation didn't need to work as hard as the previous ones. And, we still had more resources at our reach. In fair retribution though, we were the spinning wheel for important social changes. And, one more thing, children today are still listening to the music that our generation created 30 years ago!

Forget about depression! We've received a lot, and we've given back a lot. For the most part, we've lived in times of peace, and we have also created history and seen it develop in an amazing way -- like never before. What else can we ask for?

Let's celebrate life every day!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-posted at

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It Came from the Slough

The History of the Name Goleta

By Silvia Uribe

Thanks to prompting from some Grapevine readers, I became really curious to find out how, when, and why "Goleta" came to be the name of our good land.

It was not hard to find out that the name Goleta was officially given to our city in 1875 when those who resided in this valley applied for a post office. Unofficially, however, the area had been called Goleta since 1828. That is more than 180 years ago!

In the early 1800s, trade was most commonly done by ship. Shipbuilding on the California coast, however, was rare. For the most part, people in the area were simply not experienced enough in building ships, and the fact that the proper kinds of wood didn't abound made their local construction somewhat inconvenient. This is why, when someone made the decision to build a ship here for the first time, it was big news. What is now known as the Goleta Slough was chosen in 1828 as the construction site. To give you some present points of reference, this site was located a little more than 1,000 feet north of Goleta Beach Park, on the Gas Company's property.

Scale model of The Halifax, British Goleta, 1774

The new ship was to be named La Fama (The Fame), and its construction was planned to start in 1828 and be completed in 1829. (The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley has a detailed log of the daily activities, if you're interested in more details.) Now, if you think that the pains of going between Santa Barbara and Goleta are new, think again. History tells us that the unknown carpenter who was instrumental in the construction of La Fama went back and forth on a daily basis from Santa Barbara to the Goleta Slough, either by horse or by rowboat. Who knew that commuting began here in the first half of the 19th century!

In Spanish, the word "goleta" means a small ship with only one or two masts. It is believed that the ship's building crew, consisting of fewer than 20 men, when asked where they worked, they used to answer "en la goleta." This prevailed among the populace as the way to refer to the entire area.

Some other miscellaneous historical information is that La Fama was launched by flooding the area around the ship at high tide in June of 1829, just as planned. It had only one mast. The name La Fama was almost immediately changed to Santa Barbara, and its first master was Jose Carrillo. As expected, a license for trading on the coast was awarded on August 12, 1829, and the grantees were Dana and Carlos Carrillo. The Santa Barbara sailed the Pacific Ocean to Mexico, Hawaii, and China. She was able to carry five crew members, six passengers, and goods from near and far away lands. Unfortunately, there is no written record or popular tale as to the fate of this first ship built on the Central Coast.

For those who, like me, are rather new to the area - I've lived in Goleta for only 10 years - it is nice to learn that we have almost 200 years of history. We have gone from speaking Spanish, to speaking English, to becoming quite bilingual. In our area, at times the Yankees worked for the Mexicans and other times the Mexicans worked for the Yankees, but today we should all work together with the common goal of moving our city and our country ahead into the future.

Instead of promoting divisiveness we need to recognize that it was by supporting others and receiving support, and by forming good alliances that our country became a leader in the world. The U.S. will need to continue with this already proven successful practice in 2009 and in the years to come if it is to continue as a leader!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.

Cross-posted at the

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gay Rights - A Holy War Of Our Own

By Silvia Uribe

Rainbow Flag

There is no doubt that human kind frequently resorts to religion and spiritual convictions to "fight" against all that we can't accept or understand. Historically, those fights have been about land, beliefs, and lifestyles. Throughout time, nations have conquered other countries, kept their land, and imposed their religion onto those conquered -- as it happened during the Crusades. Also, during the Inquisition people were prosecuted for not practicing the main religion, or for the perception that their lifestyle was not aligned with the main religion's norms. Impossible to practice these methods in the present day! Is that what we think?

For the most part, we label these as savage, unacceptable and frankly, as fanatic expressions of extremist, radical religious groups. We have a name for these groups today: terrorists. Although we were aware of terrorism before, 9-11 was the first time that terrorists hit home. To them, their attacks were blessed by Allah; by dying during these attacks they became ‘martyrs' in their peers' eyes. These groups are powerful, and terrorism has become the plague of our days. For most, terrorism is the utmost expression of intolerance, but for others is not so. Whereas our country's explanation of the war in the Middle East is to help them achieve democracy, for them it is a holy war: they're defending their interpretation of what their religion establishes as the norm for religious and social behavior.

While we condemn fundamentalists for using religion to encourage others to die and kill, we've launched a holy war against homosexuals in our own country, against our own people, just because they do not adjust to the established norms. We are using religious beliefs as a weapon and as a tool to induce people (including our children) to judge, segregate, discriminate, hate, and harm others. Is this what we are trying to accomplish? We instill hate through pseudo-religious arguments that are mean-spirited fallacies based on some people or groups' insecurities, material interests, fears, and hunger for power.

As a Christian, I know there are three things that don't give much room for doubt or argument: love, free will, and grace.

By not granting gay rights, specifically the legal (not religious) right to marry, we aren't defending the marriage institution that really wouldn't be altered, affected or diminished by this allowance. We are discriminating against others because they're different. We don't want our children to learn about homosexual couples, but we are teaching them to judge, discriminate, and ultimately hate them. Hmm, something's wrong with this picture. In my Bible, love is the main teaching that Jesus gave us.

By some auto-claimed designation or divine inspiration we pretend to know that the God given gift of free will should be taken away from those who do not conform 100% to traditional values. Does God need our help in judging people now?

As for God's grace, I'm sure we have all been repeated beneficiaries of it. Can we be a little graceful in return?

In 1920 women were granted the right to vote. Before then, some people claimed that women would bring the country down, that our opinion didn't matter, that politics were not for women, and that we should stay home and be good housewives - nothing else. Are we going back to a narrow vision over gay rights this time? I'm quite surprised that any woman can be manipulated into opposing homosexual marriage, especially when we know so well how discrimination feels. We are still suffering from discrimination and inequity in the 21st century!

On December 18, 2008 the United Nations presented the Declaration for Gay Rights to its membership. The document was signed by the member states of the European Union. In all, 66 of the U.N.'s 192 member countries signed the nonbinding declaration. The US refused to sign the declaration along with the Islamic countries, Russia and China. What a shame!

Years ago the Dutch were the first to eliminate any distinction between gay and straight, striking all references to gender in the marriage laws, and Belgium did the same, soon thereafter. In the Netherlands gay marriage is also legal, and people are so used to it that nobody talks about the issue anymore. Other countries are going through a similar process. Mexico, Uruguay and Argentina are expected to soon have gay marriages.

The US have accomplished great things by being open-minded: religion and State are separate, women can vote, and we have elected our first black President. Let's not stop now! The truth is that with the social, environmental, political, and financial problems that our planet is facing we should focus on growing as human beings and overcoming the uncertain future together, instead of on fighting each other.

Let's start 2009 with a mindset that stops all forms of discrimination disguised under pseudo-religiousness and medieval ways of thinking.

Happy New Year!

Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latino perspective.

Cross-Posted at