Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dr. Flores named new Communications, Theatre Arts Department Chair at TAMUK

KINGSVILLE - The phone rings in the office of the Texas A&M University-Kingsville student newspaper—The South Texan—on a Monday morning.
Bustling between reading proofs of the week’s newspaper and helping student journalists with the layout and design of the newspaper just hours before deadline, Dr. Manuel Flores, associate professor of journalism, finds himself in familiar territory.
Producing newspapers and meeting deadline have been part of his life for nearly 50 years.
Dr. Flores - a 1966 graduate of Hebbronville High School and grandson Pedro G. Chapa, former editor and publisher of the Jim Hogg County Enterprise - takes a break from the pressure of deadline to take the call.
On the other line is retired TAMUK journalism professor and former sports information director Fred Nuesch.
“We’re making sure The South Texan gets published,” Dr. Flores tells Nuesch.
“Your doing the same thing you were doing 42 years ago,” Nuesch said jokingly to Dr. Flores.
Forty years have passed since Dr. Flores served as a student editor of The South Texan and Nuesch was adviser, but his dedication to TAMUK journalism remains steadfast as he has inherited the role of his old adviser and appointed as Department Chair.
Dr. Flores, who was named Chair of the TAMUK Department of Communication and Theatre Arts June 1, graduated from Texas A&I University with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science in 1970. He went on to earn two master’s degrees in the same areas from the university. He earned his doctorate degree in education from Texas A&M Corpus Christi and also did extensive graduate work at the University of North Texas.
His professional career has included more than 13 years of daily newspaper experience (most of it with the Corpus Christi Caller-Times), 11 years in public relations (with Central Power and Light Co.) and more than 18 years teaching journalism in the college and university classroom and advising award-winning collegiate student newspapers at Del Mar College and Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Flores has presented at several national conventions including several sponsored by the College Media Advisers and Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications. A scholar of Hispanics in the Media, Dr. Flores has also authored a book documenting the history and role of Hispanics in the U.S. media, to be published this summer. Dr. Flores is also a Tejano historian and has toured the state making presentations on the contributions of Tejanos to our state and nation.
Throughout it all, he has remained grateful to the education he received in Hebbronville.
“Hebbronville is just special. There is a strong sense of community that is hard to find elsewhere. The teachers truly cared and the advice you received came from the heart, and not just a paper evaluation. That’s the difference, teaching with heart and passion instead of nagging kids to tell them ‘You should do this and that’,” Flores said.
Flores credits his grandfather, as well as his English and journalism teachers in high school, for helping choose the profession of journalism.
“Mrs. (Pedro) Perez, Mrs. (Maude) Rogers, Mrs. (Josephine) Morris in one way or another had a tremendous impact in my life, either through writing English papers or helping produce or edit the monthly student newspaper (The Longhorn) or yearbook (Corral). It was a great educational experience,” he said. “As for my grandfather, I started working at the Enterprise when I was 10. He gave me my first job as a printer’s devil and later reporter. I own much to him. I have printer’s ink in my blood and once you have that you’re going to be involved with journalism in one way or another.”
Dr. Flores joined the TAMUK faculty in Fall 2006.
Since then, Dr. Flores has been instrumental in a variety of new initiatives for the department which include a sense of cooperation and innovation.
As adviser to The South Texan, Dr. Flores has encouraged cooperative efforts between university’s newspaper and the university’s radio station - KTAI. Both mediums join forces every weekday during the regular semester to bring 91 seconds of campus news to the TAMUK community every half-hour on KTAI. Plans are also to begin student-produced podcasts that will be simulcast on the university’s television station, he said.
Dr. Flores also was key in the joint effort between the Art Department and the Communications-Theatre Arts Department to send students to the regional American Advertising Federation competition.
As chair of the department, Dr. Flores hopes to continue the trend toward growth and development of departmental programs by increasing the use of multi-media technology, continuing to promote cooperation with national organizations, including the AAF and National Association of Hispanic Journalists to increase internship, scholarship and career opportunities for students.
“I want this department to gain state and national recognition so that our students will be able to compete for and accept jobs in today’s media-based society,” Dr. Flores said.
While much has changed both in media and at TAMUK in 40 years, Dr. Flores remains committed to ensuring the department he chairs at TAMUK continues to be a leader in South Texas for producing tomorrow’s media leaders.
“It’s an honor to think I’ve come to a point in my life that I can give back to the institution that prepared me to do well in my profession,” he said. “I also want to extend an invitation to any South Texas area student wanting a career in journalism to contact me or our department at the university.”

Friday, June 6, 2008

San Quilmas comes to Kingsville with new movie

The mood at Jones Auditorium May 30 on the campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville was relaxed. Alumnus Domingo Chavez was busy greeting people who were flocking to the Kingsville debut of his latest movie - Barrio Tales/Historias del Barrio: Tops, Kites and Marbles - produced and directed by legendary Chicano filmmaker
and TAMUK-San Antonio alumnus Efrain Gutierrez. Chavez (l) and Gutierrez are featured in the photo above while working on the film. The posters of two of Gutierrrez's films are featured above that photo.

Most did not realize the magnitude of the event at aged Jones Auditorium. Gutierrez is recognized by scholars as the first Chicano filmmaker. His latest film was to be a touching tale of barrio life in San Antonio (affectionally known as San Quilmas by SA dudes, better known as vatos back in the day). The film premiered at CineFestival in San Antonio April 12. Following its Kingsville showing, it will run in the Cine Cuauhtemoc Pan American Film Festival at the University of Houston-Downtown June 16.

Chavez is an alumnus of then-Texas A&I University, graduating in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in communications and theatre arts. His photo is still depicted in the halls of the Speech Building on the TAMUK campus as one of the almuni who has gone on to greater things - a.k.a he made it to Hollywood - along with the likes of Eva Longoria and others in the display. He is the "star" of Barrio Tales and winds up portraying a super hero as an Aztec Warrior.

Barrio Tales is the fifth film Gutierrez has produced and directed during his illustrious and trailblazing career, which started back in 1976 with the revolutionary Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! or ¡Por Favor No Me Entierren Vivo! That film was the first feature directed by a Chicano, and its successful independent production and distribution served as a model for future Chicano filmmakers working outside of traditional Hollywood.

Barrio Tales is different and not as controversial. It tells the story of a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, who is able to remember the days of his youth while teaching his granddaughter the classic childhood games of tops, kites and marbles. Comic relief comes from the characters Baby Marin, played by Chavez, and Primo. Both characters were featured in Gutierrez’s last movie Lowrider Spring Break en San Qilmas, released in 2001.

Gutierrez,who made an appearance after the Jones Auditorium showing and spoke to the audience of about 200 people, said Barrio Tales is the first in a series of films that wil feature other barrio activities such as the Skateboarding Barrio Olympics and games such as jacks. Chavez will continue to play his Baby Marin role and appear as an Aztec Warrior urging the children and all to read.

Gutierrez is simply a legend. That he took time to visit in Kingsville was quite an honor. Gutierrez founded the Chicano Arts Theatre in 1971, followed by his own film company in 1974, which he used to produce his first film. Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! and Gutierrez’s next two films have since been restored and preserved by the UCLA television and film archives, as part of their Chicano Cinema Recovery Project. In addition, Stanford University collected production papers from Gutierrez for their Green Library Archives.

Chavez moved to Kingsville two years ago to care for a sick relative, and has become known by young people around town through his work as a substitute teacher with the school district. Chavez wants that audience in particular to see the other side of him, which has been acting extensively in film, television and the voiceover arena for some 20 years. Acting credits for Chavez include parts in the films Robocop II and Selena, local and regional television roles, and voice work for Japanese anime.

But, now, Chavez is home and his Barrio Tales' role will more than likely endear him to thousands of new fans. Chavez's career has been revived and not a moment too soon. Gutierrez is a legend and a genius and his film - which will probably be released in DVD form by the end of the year - will certainly make its way into thousands of homes.

We wish Javelina alumni Domingo Chavez luck and hope for the best for Gutierrez. It would be wonderful if the two could return to the university during Hispanic Heritage Month and perhaps help us do a film festival on Chicano films - films that truly matter to South Texans and talk about our history and not films that depict the history of other Latin or Hispanic areas of the United States. These - Gutierrez's films - are the films which our students should be made aware of and be familiar with. It makes no sense to know about films from throughout the world and not know what is going on in our own backyards. We should all make an effort to make these films available.