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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Free Expression with No Reservation

First Amendment Applies to Religion, Too

This season, we’ve heard a lot of conversations regarding the expression of religious beliefs. One big reason for the revival of this old discussion is Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos quarterback. He kneels down right in the middle of the field and makes hand and head gestures that unequivocally show that he is a believer.
Many criticize him, arguing that this could make some people uncomfortable. Some believe that this is an imposition of his faith upon those who don’t share the same beliefs, or any religious beliefs for that matter. Is that so? Hardly.

When someone openly displays his or her faith, it is not a signal that others have to follow suit. The only expectation is that they will make a connection with the higher power they believe in. They are exercising their freedom of expression. That is it! His reasons for doing it so publicly? Your guess is as good as mine, but I truly think it is none of our business.

Is there any valid reason to take that freedom away from him or anyone? Perhaps non-believers have nothing to express in this regard – but surely that should not remove others' right to express their faith.

If we extrapolate this reasoning to a completely different realm, it would be very difficult to make any sense of it. Consider, for instance, if those who have no car, because they prefer walking, were able to force others not to use their car either; or if, because I choose not to buy in Wal-Mart, others were not allowed to get in these stores. You get the idea.

This time is different from the Inquisition time. Today, most believers have no problem knowing and accepting that others may be agnostics, or atheists. Why should agnostics or atheists have a problem accepting the fact that others have a faith? I am convinced that in the same way no one should judge, or impose action on others, no one should impose the absence of action either.

To each his or her own, and everyone should be able to act, as far as religious matters go, in the way they feel most comfortable, without having to please anyone else.

Monday, December 12, 2011



Make a call, and write tomorrow to Entravision’s Owner and CEO Walter F. Ulloa.

Tell him that you oppose their decision, and ask him to reconsider.

We need the support of the whole community to prevent this from happening!

--- 0 ---

Walter F. Ulloa
Entravision Chairman and CEO
2425 Olympic Boulevard Site 6000
West Santa Monica, CA 90404
Tel: 310-447-3870  Fax: 310-447-3899

Saturday, November 26, 2011

There's Runners and Then There's Runners

A Taste of the Santa Barbara International Marathon 2011

I heard cheers and claps coming from who-knows-where. "What’s that?" I thought, turning and snuggling even deeper in my bed. The noise continued. What the heck? Who’s yelling, and why? On a Saturday morning, my place at the end of the woods is quite peaceful — usually. It was not very early, but I had been out the night before, and at 7:30 in the morning my eyes resisted opening as if they were super-glued shut.

When I first peeked beyond my balcony, I could see people standing, jumping up and down. Then, looking a little further, I saw some runners coming down the street. Of course! I had completely forgotten that the Santa Barbara International Marathon was taking place, in both Goleta and in Santa Barbara.

It’s been a long while since I was a runner. Many years, to give you an idea. However, the whole running thing came back into my life when my best friend Lucy picked it up. She took it very seriously, as she does just about everything. I never did. For me, it was an invigorating thing to do and a great opportunity to enjoy the freshness of the early morning, feel the wind on my body, and see the greenery in the huge park where I ran. I did it to fill my senses, to replenish, day after day, my desire to “smell the roses” and to ponder the ideas that were relevant at the time. It would have never occurred to me to make that peaceful alone-time a competition.

With Lucy, the story is very different. She runs every day, seven days a week. When she doesn’t run, she’s in trouble, and the rest of the world is in trouble because of her. And so, it became clear to me that it was better to encourage her running urges than to have to deal with her titter-totter moods. However, through this passion of hers, the whole runners’ culture was unveiled to me.

I learned, for example, that serious runners are incredibly committed. From their eating to their sleeping patterns, they impose increasingly rigid trainings on themselves, particularly when they’re about to participate in a race, and they constantly work on their endurance — never mind the stomach pains, the sudden cramps, or adverse weather conditions. Sometimes runners suffer strain fractures, which take months to heal; other times their toenails turn black and fall off due to their toes smashing against the running shoes for extended periods of time.

They also have to learn how to run. Although one would think that this is a natural thing to learn when we’re toddlers, serious runners learn how to save the most energy — from pacing themselves, to running with their arms next to their body, without swinging too much from one side to the other — you get the picture. They are competitive in a very personal way because when they compete, really, they only compete against themselves. And so it is that, little by little, they reduce their time — even by a few seconds — and become faster runners.

I could never have that kind of patience, dedication, and commitment. But to get back to my point, more than half of the marathon happened in Goleta (a little over 15 of the 26.2 total miles). It started at Dos Pueblos High School, jumped the freeway and went down to the Ellwood area, then to Winchester and back up to Cathedral Oaks until it reached the Turnpike area. Then it continued through Santa Barbara, ending at Santa Barbara City College.

No matter that I had forgotten about the marathon up to that moment. Once I woke up enough to be aware of what was going on just outside my window, I immediately threw on my jeans and a T-shirt, brushed my teeth and my hair as quickly as possible, and grabbed a sweatshirt as I rushed out the door to join the crowd less than 10 minutes later. I didn’t want to miss the sight of those incredible people who are able to do something that I never will.

This is the kind of community event that Goleta residents, like myself, love to see happening in The Good Land, events that provide our children with a good example of how to live a healthy life and show them how to use their free time doing something positive and exciting at the same time.

I’m happy to report that the Santa Barbara International Marathon, with over 5,000 participants, was a great success this year, and it is only expected to become better every year. Next year’s race will be on Saturday, November 10, 2012. If you want to register, or if you want more information, go to

Friday, October 28, 2011


Are the dead the ones who parted,

And the living the ones who stayed?
Or are the living the dead,
But they never realized it?

Maybe the living are the dead, 
In a world that’s upside down,
In which we live with a dead soul,
Not knowing when our life escaped.

Whether dead or alive,
Those who shared love come together,
Through old memories that keep them united,
And through acts in honor of the ones that left.

People never die completely,
Unless no one remembers their legacy,
And no person alive is ever lonely,
Unless the ones who parted are no longer a part of their memories.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Four-Hundred Dollar Guests Were Treated Like Second-Class Citizens

By Silvia Uribe

A few weeks back, Great Britain’s most famous living royal couple — William and Kate — were scheduled to visit the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria. As much as Carpinterians were hoping for the pair to take a stroll in town, it never happened. Others were wondering if the future King of England and his newly wedded wife would visit our neighboring city, the very aristocratic Santa Barbara, at least briefly. That didn’t happen either. People in both towns were rather disappointed.

In Goleta, however, we never entertained the thought that they would visit us, therefore were not disappointed. We simply were some sort of attentive observers of the three-ring-circus spectacle that their visit represented — the helicopter arrival, a glimpse of the prince on his horse, pictures of Kate in her designer dress. At least, one day, we will be able to tell our grandchildren, “Once upon a time, there were a prince and a princess that visited a not-too-faraway land. And although many wanted to, only very few could see them in person.”

But it was not only those living in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, or Goleta who couldn’t really see them. Others, who thought they would, who paid $400 to partake in the occasion, and who initially felt they were part of an exclusive crowd, were pretty much excluded as well. It is true that they got inside the polo club that day, but that didn’t mean they were in the same crowd with the very distinguished guests. They weren’t allowed to come through the same door, or eat the same dinner. No elbow-rubbing whatsoever. Only the richest of the rich, those who paid $4,000, were allowed to be close to the royalty, and, possibly, have a tête-à-tête with Will and Kate.

Was it just me, or was this quite rude and discriminatory? I don’t even know whether the “poorest guests” — the ones in the $400 category — were previously advised that their donation money would be happily accepted by the prince's foundation, but that they themselves would be far removed from the main attraction; that their food would not be prepared by the same chef; that they would be treated so very differently.
I’m guessing they didn’t know this. I cannot believe that someone would knowingly submit to such — in my opinion — humiliating treatment. I would’ve been furious if I had paid that much money for a boxed lunch and second-class treatment. Plus the money they probably spent on their attire — just for their own next-door neighbors to see? I hope the $400 guests were at least handed a pair of binoculars each, to be able to get a glimpse of the famous couple, if only from across the polo field.

When I knew what really went down during this event, I thought of something my father often said: “It must not feel good to be among the poorest at the party.” It never made more sense to me than on this occasion.

So, if you felt either directly or vicariously offended by the way in which this event was organized, and the guests were treated, you’re not alone. I’m with you.

Friday, July 1, 2011


It Starts With Infrastructure

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Those of who have been waiting for the City of Goleta to start the beautification of Old Town Goleta are about to see their day come at last. But before we get to have Old Town the way we want it, we have to go through the pains of having all the necessary infrastructural work done. Since first things go first, the city will have to start with the San Jose Creek Capacity Improvement Project.

This project was planned even before the City of Goleta became a city. Why? To avoid the floods that have affected the city as far back as in the '50s and as recently as 1995. Today, the San Jose Creek work is considered the first step for the Old Town Revitalization Plan.

Steve Wagner, community services director for the City of Goleta, enthusiastically explained: “What’s unique about this project is that it is a multi-objective one. It reduces flood hazards, and at the same time it will provide environmental benefits by restoring fish passage during low flows. The project will take no longer than two years from start to completion, and it will be divided in two stages. The first stage, at the lower part of the creek, will focus on the removal and reconstruction of the concrete channel. The second stage will focus on the reconstruction of the bridge at Hollister Avenue.”

Although most people understand the importance of avoiding possible floods, particularly in Old Town, some concerns have been raised, the main one being the impact that the construction will have on the adjacent businesses. “The city of Goleta acknowledges this concern," Wagner commented. "As a mitigation measure, we have restricted the time for the contractor to no more than two years to complete the entire project, and we will have full-time engineers from the city on site. They will be responsible for making sure that things move along at the right pace. The other thing, of course, is that there will be uninterrupted access to businesses during the length of the construction.”

Although the business owners' concerns are well taken, the benefits are too many to be ignored. Besides reducing flood hazards and providing direct environmental benefits, the project will also have a positive effect on businesses' bottom lines by reducing the federal requirement for flood insurance, which is very costly.

So, just as infrastructure is the starting point for revitalization plans in other cities, in Old Town Goleta this will be the case too. Goleta residents have spoken, and the beautification of the Old Town Hollister corridor is their main priority. They want it, and they want it now. From this point of view, we can conclude that the sooner the San Jose Creek Project is done, the faster the next stages of the corridor’s face-lift will become a reality.

UPDATE: Yesterday, Goleta City Council awarded, with no opposition, the contract for the San Jose Creek Project. Business' owners, as well as community members were present at the meeting, and gave the City some suggestions to mitigate, as much as possible, the impact for those who live and do business in Old Town.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


By Silvia Uribe

Although the super-warm days are not yet in sight, for a while I have been craving to go to the beach. So, finally, last weekend I gathered my towel, my sandals, sunscreen, and a big bottle of water, and I ventured to the Bacara Hotel’s Beach anyway.

Yes, I know I called it the Bacara Beach and not Haskell’s Beach. I purposely didn’t because our Haskell’s Beach is ours no more. Very few of us have been able to enjoy the beach or its ocean water for a while.

First, medium and large rocks appeared there. I was told that these were the result of storms. They are located at the top of the beach, and go along the entire length of it. Based on its present appearance, many may think that Haskell’s Beach has always been a “no sand” beach, meaning it only has rocks and water, and people cannot stroll there. However, I cannot count the hundreds of times that I went to that beach since the time I moved to Goleta in 1998. It always had a wide and beautiful sand beach. I guess Nature does these things at times.

Now the sand is back, but huge tree trunks are blocking one of the entrances to the beach. No one could explain the presence of these trunks to me. At the other entrance, a big, uneven, and dangerous step presents itself even before you get to the rocks, making it impossible for most little kids, seniors, and others to get safely to the beach and into the water.

As background information, for those who never knew or have forgotten, one of the main conditions under which the hotel was built was access to the beach. The Coastal Commission then ruled, and the City of Goleta enforced, that the Bacara had to provide access to the beach 24/7 and certain services to the public. The Bacara finally agreed, and to that end the hotel built a public parking lot and a beach trail, and offered some services to the public at their facilities. They made an investment, and in so doing they won the community’s approval (to some degree).

Wouldn’t it make sense then, for the Bacara to offer at least one clean pathway for the public from their facilities to the beach, now that the sand is back? Wouldn’t it show good will on its part to do this for all members of the community? How much could it cost? Can the Bacara not afford it?

As citizens of Goleta, we support private, clean businesses that create and maintain jobs for locals. However, it is also true that businesses should give back to the communities that embrace them. By creating a short, clean path to the beach, the Bacara would be partnering with and supporting the city’s efforts to maintain and improve the quality of life for all Goleta residents.

Haskell’s Beach has always been our community beach, and as a member of that community I know that I would love to have our beach back, by having easy and safe access to it. I’m sure others feel the same way.

Will the Bacara help us get there?

Monday, June 20, 2011


Goleta: Home of Photographers Henry O. Ventura and Aliz Ruvalcaba-Ventura

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I recently attended the photography exhibit called "The Art of Making Tequila" at the Casa Dolores Museum, 1023 Bath Street, in Santa Barbara. It simply took my breath away, not for its size, but for its quality. Since I love photography, I try to go to exhibits to see what I can learn, but I mostly just stare at the pictures in awe of their beauty and the artistry involved.

This time, not only did the photographs attract me to the museum, but also the topic. Because I enjoy tequila so much, it would have been an unforgivable sin not to show up and at least acquire a little knowledge about the complicated and arduous process of making it. This exhibit will be open to the public until June 15.

I’m not going to try and explain the process to you, because that’s something that you can learn on your own when you go to Casa Dolores by looking at the pictures. Instead, and because these photographers live right here in Goleta, I decided to interview Henry O. Ventura and Aliz Ruvalcaba-Ventura, and ask them a few questions about their love for bringing images to life. Not only for telling a story, but about their efforts to — as Aliz described it — bring “those who observe our pictures as close to the experience as possible.”

I asked when they started taking such artistic pictures. In an alternating, animated manner they explained that they founded R&V Photography in 2009. For a long time, they both had photography as a hobby in common, and at some point decided to take it more seriously by creating a business venture.

Their initial idea was to offer a professional photography service for low-income families at a reduced price, and in that way give something back to the community. They were constantly called on to fix other people's jobs—blurry pictures, and so on—and felt that it was simply not right that people were paying so much for such poor service. After all, the Venturas pointed out, these are very special, treasured moments for families.

Now they have expanded from that original impetus, but they "will always continue to serve low-income families," they said together, with warm smiles on their faces. But after awhile, they started to get called to take pictures at bigger events, and for journalistic assignments, and of course they didn’t say no. And, because traveling is another one of their passions, they also "share the world as we see it, from our own perspective, and through our pictures." They have done so with their travels in China and Cuba; the tequila exhibit came about from a trip to Mexico, specifically this region called Tequila, Jalisco.

A picture of a man working on an agave caught my attention, and I asked what the man was doing. He is a jimador, they answered, the person who peels the leaves from the jima, as the heart of the agave is called. The man is wearing the traditional white cotton attire used to do this job, they explained. Jimadores peel those leaves off in order to be able to extract the agave’s juices, and that’s how the whole process of tequila making starts.

While looking at this picture, my mind immediately transported me to the Mexican campiña and I felt like I was there, next to the jimador, hearing the sound of his tools, feeling the intense heat, and enjoying the openness of the field. This picture also evoked the dramatic skies in Gone with the Wind and the exhausting labor of those who work in agricultural fields. Aliz and Henry’s work truly allowed me to immerse myself in the experience of this captured moment.

At the exhibition, people will also see pictures showing the old fábrica, where they used to do the tequila distillation, for a better idea of the whole process.

I asked what kinds of technical things people might want to be aware of when they look at the photographs. They said to look at the paper: It is a metallic paper that makes the photos more dramatic, with more vibrant colors, and it has a distinctive texture. Also, the lighting: "We tried using natural light, as well as the original electric light – yellow bulbs - inside the fábrica, and the result was really spectacular, we think, but it is up to the public to decide."

People can buy their pictures via their Web site, as well as to seek their photography services for an event, and for a sneak peek at their greater collection of pictures, called “The World Through Our Eyes.” Before we said good-bye, Henry and Aliz promised they will let us know first when the public will be able to view this collection in an exhibit.

Monday, February 14, 2011


By Silvia Uribe.

No one argues that there’s no such thing as “what women like”, when it comes to men. Some are attracted to dark- skinned men, or rich men, or funny guys, or dreamers, or romantics. But, whatever they look like, or they do, it is difficult to find the right person. The same exact thing can be said about men. Women, and men, of all ages, have problems finding what I call good prospects. Abi, my grandma, used to define them as “good marriage material.”

We understand what she meant, but what was she really talking about? Well, a person who is “good marriage material” has the necessary traits that would make him/her a good husband or wife. This of course doesn’t assure that the person you consider good marriage material will propose to you. That, only time will tell. But, if your love interest has these characteristics it will be an indicator that you’re not wasting your time hopelessly, risking to fall in love with someone that you really don’t want in your life, for the long run. It basically gives you a safer place to start.

“Heart and brain should work together and not at an alternating rhythm” Abi used to say.

According to her, these main things are: that the person comes from a family that enjoys spending time together – meaning he/she already knows the value of a family; that the person has no vices – or the money will be devoted to pay for them. The person was brought up in a religion – so they have good moral values, and that the person is financially independent – simply to avoid undesirable “leaches.”

I can almost hear Abi’s decided tone: “you should also be able to have long conversations with that person about something other than sex, drinks, or any sort of imaginary, virtual adventures. During those conversations, find out about which accomplishments make that person most proud, about goals for the future in general (not related to you), and what is she/he is doing to accomplish those goals. These conversations will show you how determined this person is. Plus, if your communication is good, you’re ahead in the game”. Abi always said: “those who can talk and laugh together, can live together.”

And, for your own safety, of course, never forget to make sure that this person is respectful of you physically, verbally, and emotionally.

Abi’s “marriage material” characteristics are things that you cannot request, create, nor change. Either they are there or they aren’t. So, don’t fool yourself thinking that the person will change.”

A close friend of mine, Maru, didn’t count on Abi’s advice. She met a man who was handsome and funny but whose only real interest was money. He had no moral values, he played cards and bet on horse races. He was disrespectful to her, and physically aggressive. Maru now accepts that she saw these warning signs, but chose to ignore them, hoping that he would change once they tied the nut. After a few agonizing years of marriage due to his constant abuses and cheating tendencies, he left her with a bruised body, and a broken soul. On top of everything, and using his financial power, he also made good on his threat of taking her son and her daughter away from her.

Unfortunately, Maru’s story is not that uncommon.

I never heard Abi talk about intuition. But in my experience, this is crucial in love affairs. On intuition, I have one thing to say: Trust yourself. There are many times that people feel that something is not right with their significant other, and ignore it. They easily disregard the signs in their stubbornness to go on with the relationship. However, they later realize – usually the hard way – that their intuition was right.

We know that no one is perfect, and will never be. So, once you find someone who’s “good marriage material” be ready to make some concessions from your list (I assume you have one already) of additional requirements that may not be as important in the big scheme of things.

Remember, no one has the recipe for happiness, but if you start with “good marriage material” your chances increase considerably.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Only Words?

by Silvia Uribe

Words are never only words. Words, although very common, are also like magic tools to communicate thoughts that have no color, no form, no smell, and transform these into something concrete, something that we can imagine, and almost touch.

We also use words to dress our feelings. Sometimes we dress them up with distinction and elegance, and other times with rather simple, everyday attire. Words allow us to reveal what’s in our heart, and by doing this, they assist us in understanding, and in bringing us close to one another.

Words are also like a double-edged sword. They can hurt when we are careless, but when used with tenderness, they work like unexpected healers. They can make us laugh or cry. They can surprise us or make us bored. They can open our mind to imagine great things, or they can make it very narrow. They are the golden key to open other people’s heart, inviting them to share their dreams, and their fears. Words are so powerful that even when unspoken, their mere absence may reveal what we’re trying to hide.

As with any other tool, we should be handling them with care, always taking responsibility for how we use them.

We shouldn’t make another person feel bad and then pretend that we were only joking. We should not lie, and try to make the other person responsible for not knowing the truth. By the same token, we should not give ill intended advice, or invite violence and declare, when violence erupts, that we were not its source.

Our words, then, should be used with care. Our family and our friends, as well as our acquaintances, just like any other person, deserve that we consider the way we use words particularly, when our racing emotions attempt to get the best of us. Although it may seem extremely difficult, it is in these situations when we should take greater control of our words, considering that once they come out of our mouth, their effect is irreversible. We can apologize, and we can be forgiven, but hurtful words will never be forgotten. In fact, words will stay in our minds as perpetual reminders of love or hate, happiness or pain, violence or peace.

Following this advice will bring immediate benefits to our everyday life. By extension, the words we choose along our journey, will determine whether we will end our days in the company of those whom we love, or in excruciating solitude.

The choice is ours.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Debate Over A Deadly Bridge

By Silvia Uribe

This is the story of a bridge over which a huge dispute has erupted and continued for years now. The yeast of the argument is not that uncommon, if you think about it: beauty vs. practicality.

Some, don’t want to disrupt the beautiful view that we can enjoy while traveling through the bridge, while others emphatically argue that the benefit of the barrier surpasses anything else.

I’ve heard all sorts of well thought-out reasons on both sides, interesting points all of them, but the question remains: should the Cold Springs bridge barrier be finished?

As true as it is that many desperate souls have made the decision to take their own life by jumping off the bridge, it is a fact that if they don’t jump off the bridge, they could probably find another door knob to turn, and take the false gate to solving their problems. The key word here is “probably” keep that in mind.

However, being the practical woman that I am, I completely support the barrier. Here is why.

a) Nature has already been disrupted by the mere construction of the bridge that’s already there, but because it serves many of us to go through the pass, we didn’t oppose it. Many were benefitted by it, and that was a practical decision.

b) The barrier in dispute will be translucent and won’t stop our view of the valley, and

c) With the barrier, the bridge won’t represent such an easy path for those who want to end their lives, and by obstructing and delaying their intention, the barrier might just save those lives.

I’ve worn and still wear many hats in life. Working with victims of crime is one thing that has taught me a lot. Many of these victims, had great difficulties in dealing with the consequences of such crimes, and several - more than one would like to think- consider suicide. From them I’ve learned that it only took someone listening to them, or making a verbal contract for them to snap out of the moment, and realize that there are other alternatives.

Not because someone tries, or thinks about committing suicide they are condemned to do so. So, not everyone who considers jumping off the bridge will look for an alternative to accomplishing the same purpose.

To me, natural beauty and life are one and the same. We cannot care and preserve the former if we don’t care and preserve the latter. If someone is not there to enjoy nature, what’s the value of its beauty? By the same token, enjoyment should not fly in the face of life preservation.

Consider this: If your loved one were at risk of committing suicide – and we know that the bridge is a magnet in those cases – would you choose the practical solution of the barrier, or would you choose to preserve the view instead?