Luna family history

I wrote this for the first Luna family reunion four years ago. A relative volunteers at the Austin History Center and collected all the public records he could on the Luna family. He shared the information with me and I wrote this narrative from it, which was presented at the first reunion in 2012.

I’ve been told our family probably came into Austin in 1872. We might possibly be the oldest Mexican family in Austin. I don’t know exact details, because we’re relying on the only public records that could be found. Facebook wasn’t around back then, so Pilar Nava couldn’t tell us when she “checked in” to Austin, but I do know that her relationship status would have changed to “married to Joe Eulogio de Luna” on September 11, 1847.

Pilar came down from China (Chee-na), Mexico where she was born. The town was an important center for guerrilla resistance to the U.S. Occupation of northern Mexican during the U.S.-Mexican war. However, it was also a small village that almost didn’t have agriculture because of the poor conditions. The people had to travel to seek water and pasture for their animals.

There’s no exact date when Pilar, Eulogio and their small son came to San Antonio, but Lucielle Castro Camacho, a great granddaughter, wrote that they came to Austin to hide from the Indians that were rebelling from the Mexican Government. Indians back then were treating like slaves. In San Antonio, they had seven children: Gertrudes, Antonio, Carlota, Elojio, Refugia. Manuela, and Edwardo. One of the granddaughter said that Pilar would talk about how Austin was filled with huddle of huts and people lived in fear of roving bands of Indians. At the time, the Mexicans population reached 300 and and the men were mostly teamsters and farm laborers.

The Capitol was made of logs. She was actually around when they laid the cornerstone to our state’s capitol. One source states she would frequently encounter chain gangs of convicts who were led to work at the construction site by armed guards. She would fall to her knees and make the sign of the cross and pray for forgiveness of their souls.

One interesting thing is that it seems the family moved a lot. According to the Austin City Directories, the address always changed. What makes that interesting is that the family never moved. They lived in the same house in the area known as “Mexico” near the mouth of Shoal Creek, but for some reason, the address was the only thing that changed.

Pilar did laundry and ironing to bring in income. Elojio passed away in Austin and is buried in the oldest cemetery in Austin, which is located in downtown Austin across the street from Brackenbridge Hospital. Pilar passed away in 1918 when she was 105 years old. However, it should be noted that one article states she was 105, another that she was 106, so keep in mind that ages are not exact. The Statesman, which we all know as the Austin American-Statesman, wrote a small article about her death. That was a huge deal during those days as most Mexicans didn’t have lengthy write-ups about their death in the paper unless it was an unusual circumstance. According to the article, she died bearing 24 children and one relative reported that there were at least 300 direct descendants just from her. An interesting note about that article is that it states that she survived all her children except one, who was 54 at the time.

Lucielle also wrote that she remembered Pilar’s casket because it was light brown pine which she and her brother Paul placed wild poppies in. The wake was held at home with the casket in the living room.

Eulogio, Pilar’s first son, attended Austin First Ward School. There’s a school record that showed he was enrolled when he was an older teen even if it also showed he was absent a lot. But it shows that even though he was older, he took advantage of the first time they had free public schools with the other siblings. The father had passed away at the time so Pilar became the parent and guardian.

There isn’t much information on the children besides the basic public information: death records, school enrollments with the exception of Valentino Luna, our famous boxer. Did you know he was born a twin? It looks from the records that the other son didn’t make it at the birth. However, this generation includes your parents, your grandparents. So please join us in sharing your memories so we can add to our family history.

#the100dayproject Day 10: WriteLane

This post is part of #the100dayproject that encourages creatives to do an action every day for 100 days. I've chosen to write an article or blog post every day. Previous posts for this project can be found here.

One thing that inspired me to do this 100 day project was Lane DeGregory's podcast WriteLane. DeGregory won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing for her story, “The Girl at the window,” about a seven-year-old feral child who was adopted by a new family. She is also known for not only finding story ideas from doing something as simple as riding a bus or buying groceries, but also for writing in a way that gives you all the feels.

 Lane DeGregory chatting with us during the Poytner College Fellowship in 2011.

Lane DeGregory chatting with us during the Poytner College Fellowship in 2011.

I first met DeGregory during my Poynter College Fellowship in 2011. Out of all the things I learned during those two weeks of journalism boot camp, her session was the most memorable.

Someone asked me recently why I pursue journalism. I didn't hesitate to respond that I love sharing people's stories. I love discovering a story idea, gathering all the facts and details before I take on the challenge of writing the story that reveals them just right.

DeGregory shared her tips on how she finds her ideas during the fellowship, and her podcast is an extension of that. Her enthusiasm in what what she does is infectious. I find myself ready to write and take on the world after every episode.

Before the podcast came into my life, I had been phoning it in for quite a while. I left my weekly newspaper job of over three years because I was burned out. I took a year sabbatical to give my brain have a break. Now that I have, I'm trying to remind myself why I love this job in the first place. I'm trying to find that motivation again.

DeGregory's podcast was one of the first things that made me feel that spark again. I get excited for a new episode because I know it means I'll be inspired.

And I always am.

#the100dayproject Day 5: Solange

This post is part of #the100dayproject that encourages creatives to do an action every day for 100 days. I've chosen to write an article or blog post every day. Previous posts for this project can be found here.

Spending this Saturday night watching Bring It On: All or Nothing with Hayden Panettiere and Solange brought back memories of seeing the latter during Chinati Weekend last year.

The movie is over 10 years old and it will never live up to the original (it's a close second), but it's crazy rewatching the film knowing that I saw the same Solange perform in Marfa just a few months ago.

Every year, Chinati Foundation hosts Chinati Weekend, an open house weekend filled with all kinds of events, including a musical act. It's the biggest weekend of the year that it reminds me a bit of South by Southwest in that the town is flooded with people.

I had to read last year's email twice to make sure I read correctly that Solange would be the performer. By then, she had established herself as more than just Beyonce's little sister. Her third album, A Seat at the Table, was a number one album. Her song “Cranes in the Sky” won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance and she performed at the Guggenheim. So I knew this was gonna be epic.

The details about the performances were slowly released as it got closer to the date. We were required to wear white. We weren't allowed to bring cell phones and photography wasn't allowed (not even for the press. I'm still a little bitter about that).

I decided walk to Chinati with my friends to the show so we wouldn't have to worry about parking (and the town is a mile wide, so nothing is really that far). I did some people watching while I waited in line and it was interesting to see how everyone interpreted the dress code. While most were pretty run of the mill, there were some who felt the need to dress as absurd as possible. Granted the dress code was given to us pretty late, so shopping was and will always a struggle, but it was almost like they were throwing a hissy fit. Like how dare this artist force a dress code on them. Someone actually referred to it as dressing as the "KKK."

When it was time for the show, we walked in the field to the main hill next to the farthest set of Donald Judd's concrete blocks. There was a stage set up in front of us and Solange had included a few fushia-colored pieces in the field. Wearing a similar color, Solange and her band marched towards us and onto the stage.

Her performance was amazing. That girl has so much energy, which was impressive in those heels, and the music was so empowering. Solange mentioned in an NPR interview that she's always had "a seat at the table" and that the title of her album reflects that she's inviting people to a seat to her table.

I think that, you know, so many times, black people — or any people who are oppressed — have to constantly explain to people what's right and wrong and what hurts and how to approach this. And I think that even me, I'm still learning so much about other cultures and I think that when you have the opportunity to learn from that, you are gracious and you are appreciative and you listen. And so that was also my way of saying I am opening myself up to everyone to have a seat at this table.

In Doyin Oyeniyi's article in Texas Monthly, she calls out that Marfa isn't the most welcoming to black people. Marfa does have a very small black population and I couldn't tell you why, but I do have issues that the writer didn't include that Hispanics/Latinos are included in the 90 percent of the white population she quotes in the article. When we fill out a form that includes demographics, there isn't a check box for Hispanic/Mexican/Latino under race. It's a completely separate question, so when you use this data, it makes Marfa sound more white than it really is (although, there are three places in town that serve avocado toast). It's evident in today's political talk with "bad hombres," the wall, DACA and now adding the military to the border that we are not viewed as equals, but this is a blog post for another day.

Despite that technicality, she does describe the show better than I ever could.

Throughout A Seat at the Table, Solange makes it clear who she’s talking to: primarily black people, with a few asides to non-black people. During the performance of “Mad,” her dancers and musicians, who’d been moving on the stage along with Solange’s coordinated choreography, suddenly broke from their rigidness, grooving to the drums and the keyboard as Solange sang while standing still. As the song ended, she added new lyrics: “I’m not, no I’m not really allowed to be mad. When you are allowed to be mad. When I deserve and you deserve. I’m not, no I’m not really allowed to be mad. And isn’t that sad?” She had switched from addressing black people, the “you” that she insisted had the right to be mad, to addressing white people, the “you” that had always been given the space to express anger.
And the mostly white audience applauded.

The sun set midway through the concert, which I expected it would given the start time and the way the light hit the stage and the colors changed in the sky drove me crazy that I couldn't document it with my camera. I eventually forced myself to take in the moment and simply appreciate what was happening, like I had to back in the day before social media and smartphones.

And I did.

#exiledfrommarfa: My perspective

Originally published on August 1, 2013


The Marfa Film Festival was a weird experience and not because most of the films left me feeling depressed. One thing to note about living in a small town is that you’re constantly running into the same people. It’s a small area to cover. It’s just gonna happen.

That happened to me with the cast and crew from Exiles that weekend. I ran into them at some screenings and at some of the food places, and they even joined me on a few occasions. That just wouldn’t happen in Austin.

I first interviewed Exiles director Tommy Bertelsen and actors Troian Bellisario and Shane Coffey (you might know those two from this little bitty TV show, Pretty Little Liars) to promote the film. When I saw the film was premiering in Marfa, I immediately used my journalism ninja skills to find contact info and set up an interview with Tommy. I thought it would just be an interview with him, and that would have been OK, but when I got the email saying we would be joined by Spencer Hastings and Holden Strauss, I got nervous.

I was so nervous to do this interview because it was my first Talk at Ten for the radio station, and it was with two people who’ve appeared on a TV show I watch on a weekly basis. We all know how hard it is to tame the fangirl for interviews like this.

But it came out fine. I guess they were in agreement because they joined me in the studio during the festival for a follow-up.

Days after that initial interview happened, things started to get weird. Shane added me on Twitter. When I promoted the interview before it aired, Troian retweeted one of those tweets and they both added me on Instagram. Social media blew up on my end.

And here I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt replying to one of my tweets many SXSWs ago was the peak of my social media existence thus far. Nope. I have now seen the intensity that is Pretty Little Liars fandom, and gotta say, it’s pretty amusing. I now know when Troian likes or retweets anything I post, because I’ll glance at my phone and have at least 20 notifications in 30 seconds. I’ve learned to put my phone away when this happens and just come back to it later.

But I gotta say, everyone I met from the film… super nice.


Now to the film…

I loved Exiles. I’m not even wearing rose-colored glasses because I’m a shameless Pretty Little Liars fan. I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet in high school. It was sparked by Leonardo DiCaprio, but I also read the story in my freshman English class, rewrote it to today’s English for a group project and watched two versions of the movie in that same class. If I could somehow drop a R+J reference in conversation, I would. See? Obsessed.

For those that haven’t read the book or don’t remember anything educational from their teenage years (I don’t blame you, Shakespeare’s’ language is pretty tough/boring), basically Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight for each other, parents aren’t thrilled about it, shit happens and spoiler alert: they kill themselves. Teenage angst at its finest.

Exiles shows what would have happened if they didn’t die. What would have happened if Friar Laurence’s plan had worked: Romeo leaves town, Juliet plays dead and they eventually meet up after her “funeral?”

Real life would have happened, that’s what.

Since the film is under 25 minutes, it’s really just a quick glance of these two lovers as they discover they might not be best suited for each other after all. There’s not much dialogue, but the actions portrayed by Troian and Shane really speak louder than words, and it’s a bit heartbreaking to watch their facial expressions betray how they really feel. After all, this couple is “the greatest love story the world has ever known.” I mean, if they couldn’t work it out, it doesn’t give that much hope for the rest of us common people.

Ok, scratch that. It was pretty obvious from the get-go that this couple wasn’t meant to be. Think about it. Romeo killed Juliet’s cousin. So the guy has some anger management issues to deal with. Sure, Tybalt was an aggressive jerk who killed Romeo’s best friend and provoked Romeo just because of his last name, but still… He was the love of his life’s cousin. And Juliet was your typical 13-year-old only child that turned to prayer with tears in her eyes in times of need. Obviously, there was gonna be some couples counseling in the future.

My point is that, from personal experience, relationships can be work. Even Ben Affleck said in his most recent Oscar acceptance speech that his marriage to Jennifer Garner is work. It’s the best kind of work and there’s no one he’d rather work with, but it is still work. Apparently, he got some flack for that, but whatever, I’m on Team Ben. I agree with him.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some bitter single woman who always has bad luck with guys (that comes from my social awkwardness) and I’m just trying to share my rainy cloud onto you. It’s awesome to find someone that gives you the giggles, the butterflies and everything else every sung about in a boy band song. Sometimes it just doesn’t always end happily ever after, and Exiles shows that.

2017 Highlights

I'm gonna be honest.... 2017 sucked for the most part. But there were some highlights and those highlights were pretty freakin' amazing.

I published my first issue of the Marfa Gallery Guide as the new publisher. I got a newish car so I could travel more, which I did. I did a whole lotta freelance, most of it was thrown in my lap. I became a barista (free coffee for me!) and I briefly returned to the Big Bend Sentinel. I saw New Kids on the Block and I met Hanson! It was quite a busy year.

Check out the photos to see for yourself.

Bloglove: Strangers with Style

Originally published on March 30, 2013

I’m digging this blog by Olivia Obineme, who studied with me at the Poynter fellowship. In fact, we interviewed each other during the first session on the first day, so we’ll always have that.

Anyway, her blog, Strangers with Style, features people she randomly meets in Baltimore with great style and it’s not like just-off-the-runway, too-expensive-for-common-people style either. Most of the posts feature great looks that inspire a t-shirt-and-jeans kinda gal like me with a tight budget.

Olivia said she had the idea of having a public collection of strangers for a long time. She loves people-watching, which makes sense as she is a journalist. When she was a student at Towson University, she kept a WordPress blog called Local Fab for a class with Dr. Thom Lieb. On that blog, she featured style profiles of strangers as well as things she found interesting from other sources and fashion tips.

But as it goes, life happened after that class ended and she put the blog aside. However, she decided to get back into blogging.

“And I think I may have hit something really cool,” said Obineme.

What I love about this blog is the simplicity. Olivia doesn’t write lengthy paragraphs about each stranger’s style. Instead, we get short and informative descriptions.

“Because they are strangers, I like to keep the copy brief for the photos — to keep that mystery to them being people I really don’t know,” said Obineme. “The photos really show their personality, I think.”

I agree. I mentioned to Olivia that my favorite thing about the blog are the photos. What I’ve noticed on the man-on-the-street fashion blogs I’ve seen is that it’s pretty obvious the photographer just told the person to stand there so they can snap the photo and then moves on. On Strangers with Style, the strangers look natural and comfortable. I have yet to see one awkward photo on her blog yet. Olivia said she doesn't separate the interview from the shoot.

“What some people don’t realize is that when you do a blog like mine, where you are stopping people with whatever they are doing, they are the ones doing you a favor,” said Obineme. “Yes, people love to talk about themselves, especially when they are asked to, but it doesn’t mean they want to take a whole day to do it.”

She said she likes to make sure she’s doing it at their convenience. She doesn’t just talk about fashion with the stranger. She also asks how they are doing, what they’re up to and questions like that to make them comfortable.

“I put it like this: I talk to strangers because I genuinely want to get to know them,” said Obineme.

Again, that’s when journalism becomes helpful. We are taught in the classroom that we have to get out there and approach people we don’t know to get a story. Even though she does have to warm up before she approaches a stranger, she said she has learned that it’s either you do it or you don’t.

“If I don’t talk to people, I’d have nothing for any story I’ve ever written or shot or recorded,” said Obineme.

She’s only been rejected once for the blog.

“So far, I should say,” said Obineme.

But once she approaches the strangers, she doesn’t take long to explain why.

“The title of my blog explains itself,” said Obineme. “And when I tell them ‘Strangers with Style,’ they immediately light up, as if to think, ‘Oh wait, she wants to know about me.’ And that usually is what does it.”

Well it’s working. Since our little chat, Olivia seems to be featuring a new stranger daily. She recently discovered that two strangers she’s featured on two different days on her blog were actually mother and son. What a small, but fashionable, world.

Weekly highlights

With all the negativity going around these days (read the news for an update), I've decided to focus on the highlights from my week. No, I'm not bypassing the news. I will eventually write about it, but right now I'll share things I've bought, things I've read, things that made me smile, etc., because I need a little bit of sunshine.

  1. I love these paintings I purchased from Kayla Arroy, who I met on Instagram. The layered colors remind me of West Texas.
  2. I can't wait to receive this amazing bag from Oddballl Vintage based in Austin. I'm such a bag lady and it's hand painted and leather. Win.
  3. I spent the past five days at Marfa Poetry Festival listening to fellow writers and watching musicians such as Joyero, Josh Jones, Rob Mazurek and Christopher Owens. I think it's a great debut year and I can see this festival grow each year.
  4. I'm participating in Popsugar Reading Challenge this year. I was a little burned out from my journalism job, so I needed to remind myself why I love to read again. I'm off to a very late start, but I'm determine to check everything off before the clock strikes 12 on NYE.
  5. A former classmate Barak Tamayo is selling merch he's designed online. I sat across from him in our fifth grade class and he was always drawing something, so he going into the designing world is no surprise to me. I bought a cell phone case with "100% Texican" (because I am), and a sweatshirt with "The Walking Decaffeinated" (I can't wait to wear this while I work at the coffeeshop).