Arnold Garcia, one of the nation's longest-serving Hispanic editorial page editors and a leading voice in Austin's recent growth as a large and diverse city, died early today at the age of 73.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, which was diagnosed in June. In December, his wife Vida died, also of cancer.
Garcia graduated from Angelo State University and began his career as a police reporter for the San Angelo Standard Times. Garcia recently recalled that a police dispatcher nicknamed him "Wet" for Wetback. As he often did in later years, Garcia let the slur pass and the dispatcher became one of the young reporter's best sources.
He worked for the Austin American-Statesman for 38 years, the last 22 as editorial page editor. When he retired in 2013, he was the longest-serving editorial page editor in Texas.
"One of the greats of our newspaper generation," said Zita Aroche, executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.
While editor, said his close friend Mack Martinez, "Arnold fought as hard for African Americans as he did for Hispanics and as he did for working-class people."
During his reporting at the Statesman, no one knew the innards of the Travis County Courthouse better than Garcia. Judges, lawyers, government workers and felons became his sources, and Garcia remained one of the best-sourced journalists in the capital. His network "extended from the barrio to the boardroom," said Martinez.
Garcia successfully campaigned to have the new county courthouse named for Heman Sweatt, a black civil rights activist who challenged Jim Crow-era laws, including the "separate but equal" doctrine in Sweatt v. Painter. Thurgood Marshall tried the lawsuit in Austin.
Alberta Phillips, an editorial writer who worked with Garcia, said he told her that she needed to harden herself against racism she was experiencing inside and outside the newsroom. Garcia had a back door in his office that many reporters, especially those of color, slipped through to get his advice and support when they ran into similar challenges.
Austonia's Editorial Adviser Rich Oppel, editor of the Statesman for 13 of Garcia's years there, said he was "one of the finest newspaper men or women I've ever worked for. Tough, blunt, honest, and a friend and colleague all could depend on."
He added, "Over the last decades of his editorship, Austin matured as a large, sophisticated, diverse and tolerant city--and the capital of a huge state. Arnold Garcia's imprint is all over Austin."
After months of speculation, a new report says political personality Beto O'Rourke is mulling a run for Texas governor that he will announce later this year.
Sources tell Axios the former congressman is preparing his campaign for the 2022 election, where he will likely vie for the position against incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott. The only other candidate that has announced he will take on Abbott for governor is former Texas GOP Chairman Allen West—no Democrats have announced they are running as of yet.
"No decision has been made," Axios reports David Wysong, O'Rourke's former House chief of staff and a longtime adviser, said. "He has been making and receiving calls with people from all over the state."
A new poll from The Dallas Morning News and University of Texas at Tyler shows O'Rourke is narrowing the gap between himself and Abbott's prospects for governor. In the poll, 37% said they'd vote for O'Rourke over Abbott, while 42% said they'd vote for Abbott.
Abbott has been in the hot seat due to his handling of COVID-19 and the signing of landmark legislation into law, including new abortion and voting rights laws; 54% of poll respondents voted they think the state is headed in the "wrong direction." Still, Texas hasn't had a Democrat as governor since the 90s.
O'Rourke's people-focused approach to the 2018 Senator race, which he lost to Sen. Ted Cruz, gave him a widespread following and many hoped he'd throw his hat into the ring since he said he was considering it earlier this year.
"We hope that he's going to run," Gilberto Hinojosa, the state chair of the Democratic Party, told Axios. "We think he'll be our strongest candidate. We think he can beat Abbott because he's vulnerable."
Austin rapper Jordi Esparza may not have won the 2021 Red Bull Batalla, the world's largest Spanish freestyle rap competition, but for a spirited two rounds, the 22-year old Mexican native looked like he had every right to.
On Saturday evening in Los Angeles, the event itself looked like Cobra Kai meets Star Search with graphics adding a very Batman Beyond aesthetic. Over a dozen rappers hoping to represent the U.S. in the international round of the competition took to the stage with in-your-face jabs at accents, sexual orientation and odors, among other things.
This was Esparza's second rodeo; he had placed third at the 2020 National Finals, automatically securing him a spot this year.
However, things were different this year. He was not nervous about the contest. Unlike in 2020, when he made his Red Bull Batalla debut, the anxiety of the event led him to "feeling so bad."
Affecting a casual calm, the locally-based landscaper said he just felt "so relaxed, so happy" and primarily wanted to "enjoy everything."
Choosing his first-round opponent, Esparza, whose stage name is Jordi, elected to go against LA-based Boss.
Esparza freestyled an attack on his opponent's weight and cholo style of dress.
Boss—bracketing his Latin freestyle with English appeals to the crowd—mocked Jordi's lack of education, made fun of how clean Jordi's shoes looked and suggested that Jordi just came back from a Footlocker.
That first round went to Jordi.
But his next opponent Eckonn would prove to be his undoing.
Eckonn compared Jordi to Hannah Montana, while Jordi soulfully explained that he had learned from the best.
Esparza's verbal dexterity is matched by a rattling rhythm and a game face that is as mawkish as it is mockish. The overall effect is that of an underdog with bite.
Eckonn beat Esparza in that round with the overall championship going to Palm Beach-based rapper Reverse.
However, Esparza was just happy to be there. He recently told Austonia going to the finals again was a dream come true—a pinnacle that he said he won't know how to top.
With his nimble jabs and sneaky prowess, honed from pop culture and the swagger of a young working man hungry to be more, Jordi Esparza is just getting started.