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									                                     THE BRONX

SPRING 2005             A MULTILINGUAL NEWSPAPER FOR A DIVERSE COMMUNITY                                             VOL. 8 NO. 1

Community           7                                   My Bronx Roots 8 & 9
UNWANTED!                                               COMIC
A Fordham Road                                          ALBA SANCHEZ:
Drop-Off Center Saves                                   Using Womanpower To Make

Abandoned Pets                                          ’Em Laugh And Think

                                                                                                               MULTILINGUAL SECTION

                                                                                                         Italian            B-2
                                                                                                         Pope John Paul II
Health                          5
 IS YOUR CHILD                                                                                           French             B-3
 TOO FAT?                                                                                                Playwright Edward
 What You Can Do To                                                                                      Albee Looks Back
 Save Your Kid’s Life!                                                                                   Spanish           B-11
 Sports                       14                                                                         Ecuador’s Ethnics
                                                                                                         Find A United Voice
                                                                                                         Japanese           B-8
Will Boxer Joey Rios Be
The Next Junior                                                                                          A Return To
Welterweight Champ?                                                                                      Home-Cooked Meals

                                                                                    PHOTO: OZZIE RAMOS

                                     Why Your Religious Ceremony
                                     May Be Hazardous To Your Health
      A2                                                               TH E ENVIRONMENT
                                                                                                                                             The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005


                                                                                                                                                                            Photo: Ulises Gonzales
                                                                                                  The Guadalupe Botanica (above), on the Grand Concourse and 183rd Street,
                                                                                                  and La Division, on Fordham Road, sell items for use in Santeria ceremonies

                                                                             Photo: Ozzie Ramos
Mercury, in the jar at right, and candles used to protect worshipers against evil,
envy, and other dangers, are for sale at many of the 41 botanicas in the Bronx.

MAY BE DANGEROUS                                                 is published hard data on mercury sales in the Bronx, and      Guadeloupe Botanica on the Grand Concourse and 183rd
TO YOUR HEALTH                                                   on the influx of mercury into the sewage treatment plants
                                                                 like Ward’s Island, which is highly elevated,” says
                                                                                                                                Street. “Mercury wards off evil spirits in the home, and has
                                                                                                                                been used for that purpose for quite a while,” she says. “I
                                                                 Wendroff. “But no one wants to rock the boat because they      know mercury is bad for you and that the cops will close
OZZIE RAMOS                                                      know there’s a major mercury problem in the Bronx.”            you down if you sell it. I also know that you can still buy it
The Bronx Journal Reporter                                             Even Rockland County is careful about rocking the        in some botanicas if you know someone. But I don’t sell it.”
                                                                 boat. Which is why, says Wendroff, the Rockland County              Neither does the owner of La Division Botanica, a man
                                                                 Health Code sets its own level for the evacuation of build-    who calls himself “Professor” Eliseo, but refuses to reveal
                                                                 ings, using a measurement of mercury levels that is 100        his given name. Eliseo, 52, who has owned his botanica for
       n March, the Rockland County Department of Health

I      added an article to its health code that prohibited
       keeping mercury in an uncovered container in
       homes. It also required that all mercury sold in stores
must be correctly labeled in English, French and Spanish,
and must contain warnings about its danger. In addition,
                                                                 times higher than those currently used in the rest of the
                                                                 country. (The national standard for evacuation in mercury
                                                                 spills is 1 microgram per cubic meter of air. For Rockland,
                                                                 it is 100 micrograms.). “And the reason why it’s so high,”
                                                                 he adds, “is apparently because the Rockland County
                                                                 Department of Health believes there is a problem, but they
                                                                                                                                nine years and also teaches Espiritismo for $150 a session,
                                                                                                                                says, “I have seen men pour mercury from the jar into
                                                                                                                                gelatin capsules to sell it for a couple of dollars. And I used
                                                                                                                                mercury a couple of times myself by placing it in candles.”
                                                                                                                                Eliseo says he stopped after hearing about someone who
vendors are required to inform buyers of the dire conse-                                                                        drank mercury to cure his intestinal problems, but damaged
                                                                 have no place to put people who would be displaced from        his kidneys in the process. “I can tell you that mercury is
quences of mercury spills and exposure.
                                                                 their homes during an evacuation.”
                                                                      For years, elemental mercury, or azogue, has been used
    “This was specifically done because of the knowledge                                                                        being sold and used today. But I do not either sell it or use
that people in the Afro-Carribbean neighborhoods of                                                                             it,” he adds. Instead, he employs herbal preparations in the
                                                                 in the Africo-Caribbean communities for ritualistic purpos-    rituals he practices.
Rockland were using mercury for ritualistic purposes,” says
                                                                 es. Families practicing Vodun, Santeria, Espiritismo, and           Eliseo points out that since 9/11, paranoia has spread
Dr. Arnold Wendroff, the environmentalist and director of
                                                                 other underground religions often use the substance to         throughout the botanica circuit. “I’ve heard rumors that if
the Mercury Poisoning Project, who has been monitoring
                                                                 cleanse their homes of spirits, to put spells on loved ones,   you sell mercury, you can be arrested because the govern-
mercury use in these communities for more than ten years.
                                                                 even to improve the skin or cure intestinal disorders. “As a   ment would think you might be making bombs,” he says.
    Is this a wake-up call for the Bronx?
                                                                 girl, I used to watch my aunt cleanse her home with mer-            There is no truth to the notion that mercury is an ingre-
                                                                                                                                dient for bombs. It is also not illegal, as long as it is prop-
    Since the Bronx has a much larger Haitian and Latino
                                                                 cury,” says Evelyn Cordero of the Bronx, as she left La
                                                                                                                                erly contained and labeled. What is true, however, is that
community than Rockland County, why is New York City’s
                                                                 Division Botanica on Fordham Road. “I remember won-
Department of Health not enacting similar laws banning the
                                                                 dering what made the water glitter as she mopped.”             mercury is a menace. Sprinkled on floorboards, it evapo-
use of uncontained elemental mercury in buildings? “There
                                                                      Carmen Santiago sells religious items at the              rates and seeps into the floors and walls for up to 15 years.
                                                                          TH E ENVIRONMENT                                                                                            A3
The Bronx Journal/ Spring 2005

     Inhabitants of an apartment inhale the
invisible and undetectable vapors, which
can damage the brain, heart, lungs, and
liver. Children and fetuses are especially
vulnerable to mercury’s effects, which can
include insomnia, bronchitis, emotional
instability, neurological problems, gingivi-
tis and developmental problems.

   “As a girl, I used to
     watch my aunt
 cleanse her home with
 mercury. I remember
 wondering what made
    the water glitter
    as she mopped.”

     “What users don’t know is how toxic
mercury is long after they’ve used it,” says
Wendroff, “and how compromised develop-
mentally they may become if they have
been contaminated.”           Unlike lead or
asbestos, he points out, mercury breaks up.
“It’s a liquid and a gas at the same time. The
little droplets on the floor are continuously
evaporating. And the vapor is what’s toxic.
It is inhaled and absorbed into the blood.
The exposure is continuous and lasts for
years.” Which means that families who
move into apartments where practitioners
                                                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Ozzie Ramos

once sprinkled mercury are also at risk,
                                                 “Mercury can be cleaned up. But first you have to find it,” says Dr. Arnold Wendroff of the Mercury Poisoning Project,
although they may not suspect it.
                                                 who suggests that up to 50,000 homes are being contaminated each year with enough mercury to warrant evacuation.
     To get an idea of the extent of the mer-
cury culture in the Bronx, doctors at            sociology with a specialty in the traditional     mer Mayor David Dinkins, and former              cost up to $50,000 per apartment,” he
Montefiore Medical Center conducted a            medicine and witchcraft of the southeast          Bronx Borough President, Fernando Ferrer,        explains. “It can be cleaned up. But first
1995 study, sending an Espiritismo practi-       African country of Malawi, where he               have paid lip service to the problem, but lit-   you have to find it, which is also expensive.
tioner out to locate Bronx botanicas and see     served in the Peace Corps, first became           tle more. Wendroff claims to have written        And embarrassing. Because all these politi-
if she could buy mercury at each. All in all,    aware of the mercury problem in 1991              to almost every local politician and says        cal people know. And so does the media.
she unearthed 41 botanicas and bought            while teaching science at a Brooklyn junior       that they have either ignored him or voiced      They’re treating it as a ‘potential health
unlabeled mercury at 38 of them; 35 of           high school. Pointing to the symbol for           their concern with no follow-up. When The        threat’ and not doing the research them-
these shops estimated how many units of          mercury, he asked if anyone knew what it          Bronx Journal contacted Bronx Borough            selves.” In the end, he believes, the gov-
mercury they sold a day (with one unit           was used for, thinking that kids would            President Alfonso Carrión and Ferrer for         ernment, because of its past negligence,
being 9 grams). The average amount, based        reply, “Thermometers.” However, one boy           this article, they both refused to comment.      will be directly responsible for the cleanup.
on a 300-day retail year, fluctuated between     volunteered that his mother sprinkled mer-                                                             What both Wendroff and Feinberg agree
25,000 and 155,000 units a year, the medi-       cury on the floor to ward off what is known                                                        on is that public health education is crucial.
an being 47,000 units or 930 pounds. In          in Santeria as brujo, or evil spirits. “It sud-                                                    “I don’t think it’s about politicians,” says
addition, more than 29 percent of botanica       denly rang a bell,” says Wendroff, who also        “Little droplets on the                         Feinberg. “It’s about health education. The
workers, customers, and others who were          noticed that the child was exhibiting signs                                                        most affecting change will come when peo-
                                                 of mercury exposure such as anorexia, irri-
                                                                                                    floor are continuously                          ple will start to be more educated in gener-
queried suggested that the primary way to
use the mercury was to sprinkle it on floors.    tability and forgetfulness.                             evaporating.                               al about the problem.”
     As of 1995, says Wendroff,                      Wendroff claims that not only are indi-                                                            Still, Wendroff remains skeptical. He
“Somewhere between 8,000 and 50,000              vidual homes tainted by mercury use, so is         And the vapor is toxic.                         points out that in 2000 the New York City
homes per year are being contaminated            the city’s water supply. It becomes compro-                                                        Department of Health created two pam-
                                                 mised when excess mercury is either                   It is inhaled and                            phlets, one for laypersons in English,
with enough mercury to warrant evacua-
tion.”                                           flushed down toilets or poured down drains             absorbed into                               Spanish, and Creole, and another for health
     Some local environmentalists like           after Santeria rituals are completed.                                                              care workers. “But they never adequately
Marian Feinberg, the environmental health            However, mercury in the community                     the blood.                               distributed them to the public,” he says.
coordinator of the organization, “For A          has become a taboo subject. Few want to                                                            “They did a cover-your-ass operation. And
                                                 talk about it, and even fewer want to own            The exposure lasts                            that was it. The city is at a fabulous, fabu-
Better Bronx,” believe that these statistics
are alarmist and that putting the blame sole-    up to the fact that it is a problem. The New              for years.”                              lous legal liability. After all, our officials
ly on the Hispanic community is racist. “If      York City Department of Environmental                                                              failed to seriously assess the problem. And
mercury is so dangerous, why are dentists        Protection tested New York City’s waste                                                            they never communicated their concern to
still putting it in our mouths?” she says.       water in late 2003 and early 2004 and dis-                                                         the people.”
“Most of the mercury in the environment          covered that there was an enormous excess             Mercury is a political hot potato, says          For now, the Bronx – and the New York
that we’re exposed to comes from power           of levels of mercury in the Ward’s Island         Wendroff, in part because politicians fear       City Department of Health – needs to take
plants. The tuna fish that you eat today is      plant, which serves Washington Heights            alienating the Hispanic community by plac-       inspiration from Rockland. As Dr. Joan
more dangerous. It’s full of mercury.”           and the South Bronx .                             ing the blame on ritualistic mercury use,        Facelle, Rockland’s health commissioner,
     Wendroff, who has a Ph.D in medical             Most politicians, like Congresswoman          and in part because any real solution is         said bluntly, “We don’t know the extent of
                                                 Nydia Velasquez, Senator Bill Bradley, for-       expensive. “Cleaning up mercury spills can       the problem.”
     A4                                                                                 O PI N I O N
                                                                                                                                              The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005

        EDITORIAL                                                                                                          Commentary
                                               “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Sea                                            Pro-Choice
             ith this spring’s issue, we are
             pleased to be reinstating our     Inside.” And Annika Harris set down, in
             multilingual section of The       a funny and touching essay, her thoughts                                By Stella Ilieva
Bronx Journal. Here, among our fea-            on how looking good helped her feel
tures, is an article in Japanese on slow-      good – or, at least, better — during her
cooking foods; one in Spanish on how           recent battle with cancer.

                                                                                                            hree years ago Solvita Mulka, 29, a New York City resident, had to have an
ethnics in Ecuador are finding a political         Accompanying most of our reporters                       abortion because she could not afford to provide for a baby. Even though
voice; a Russian-language piece on the         on their assignments, The Bronx                              she was a college graduate, she could not find a good-paying job and had
KGB’s role in the 1981 assassination           Journal’s crack photographer, Ulises                just broken up with her boy friend.
attempt on Pope John-Paul; and, in             Gonzales, deserves special credit this                    Hundreds of thousands of women in New York State rely on Medicaid to
French, an article on the playwright           issue. Not only did he photograph the               obtain the necessary health care. Our state is one of four in the country that offer
Edward Albee, whose acclaimed master-          children at Jacobi, the student dancers at          abortion for low-income women under Medicaid coverage. Mulka was one of those
work, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”        the Bronx Dance Academy, Rios, and                  to take advantage of the plan.
is currently enjoying a Broadway revival.      comedienne Alba Sanchez, but he also                      Last November 21, Congress passed a $388 billion spending bill permitting
     We are especially proud of our talent-    drew the cartoon on this page and wrote             federal, state and local agencies to deny women abortion services. This law encour-
ed reporting staff. Ozzie Ramos, who           the Spanish piece, “Presencias Reales.”             ages abortion opponents to pressure hospitals and clinics into ignoring state require-
this fall investigated the Parkchester             The Bronx Journal will take a sum-              ments offering abortion to needy women.
turkey plant that was violating                mer break, but we will be back in the fall,               For more than 36 years, since the State Legislature enacted landmark legisla-
Environmental Control Board guide-             ready to serve the Bronx community                  tion legalizing abortion, New York has protected the reproductive freedom of its
lines, visited the botanicas of the Bronx      with relevant, compelling, and entertain-           poorest women. The Legislature has long recognized that state Medicaid funding
and interviewed Dr. Arnold Wendroff of         ing journalism.                                     for abortion is essential if reproductive choice is to be a reality for them.
the Mercury Poisoning Project in order                                                                   But on December 8, President Bush signed the bill that Congress had enacted,
to write about how the ritualistic use of                                                          thus giving the right to hospitals in New York, Maryland, Washington, and Hawaii
mercury in Santeria, Espiritismo, and                             Publisher                        to refuse abortion services to women covered by Medicaid.
other magical religions can affect Bronx                     Lynne Van Voorhis
                                                             Editor-in-Chief                             This sounds bleak for women who believe in reproductive choice. Yet small
households.                                                    Marjorie Rosen                      steps are currently being taken to ensure that women’s health is not endangered by
     Tahana Franklin wrote so well about                    Multilingual Editor                    the sneaky political maneuvering of this administration.
North Central Bronx Hospital’s Sexual                         Nicholas Boston                            On March 22, the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Assault Response Team (SART) last                          Art & Design Director
                                                               Orlando Lorca
                                                                                                   approved Senate Bill 747, sponsored by Senator John Carona (R-Dallas), allowing
November that this spring we sent her to                   Design Consultant                       for a Medicaid waiver. The bill expands the eligibility of women in Texas for pap
Jacobi Medical Center to talk with fam-                       Ulises Gonzales                      smears for cervical cancer, screenings for breast cancer, sexually transmitted dis-
ilies whose children are trying to lose                                                            eases, hypertension, cholesterol and tuberculosis. The waiver covers the eligibility
                                                           Reporters and Writers:
weight and get healthy at Jacobi’s free           Harvey Bien, Ángel Campoverde, Anibelka          of women who make up to $34,000 a year.
Family Weight Management Program.              Cortorreal, Rosa de Jesús, Yolaine Díaz, Leandro          Of course, anti-abortion activists are already opposing the bill, fearing it
                                               Fortyz, Ulises Gonzales, Tahana Franklin, Annika
Melissa Johnson, who interviewed                 Harris,Toshiyuki Harada, Stella Ilieva, Melissa   might be a way of using Medicaid for abortions.
Sonia Manzano of “Sesame Street” last           Johnson, Anne Leighton, Mara Palermo, Bonnie             It is time for American women to understand what is beginning to happen.
go-round, wrote about her hometown,               Quinn, Juan Ramírez, Ozzie Ramos, Louise
                                                         Valentino, Caroline Vaissière.            The ruling party did not waste any time in enforcing its political agenda. Taking
Port of Spain, Trinidad, for our “Cities                                                           away women’s right to choose can divide the nation the same way slavery did. By
of the World” feature.                                      Faculty Consultants:                   giving the medical agencies the right to refuse abortions covered by Medicaid, the
                                                   Patricio Lerzundi, Chair; James Carney,
     New writers have made noteworthy                 Asako Tochika, Robert Whittaker              majority in Congress takes the first step to infringe upon the civil liberties of
contributions to this issue as well.                                                               women.
Leandro Fortyz visited the Bronxchester            The Bronx Journal is published by the
                                                  Multilingual Journalism Program, Lehman
Boxing Club where he observed upcom-               College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. West,
ing junior welterweight contender, Joey           Carman Hall 259, Bronx, NY 10468-1589.

Rios, punching up a storm during his                       Telephone: (718) 960-8217.
                                                            Fax: (718) 960-8218.
daily workout. Louise Valentine percep-
tively reviewed the recent movies,

                                                                                                                         By Anibelka Cortorreal
                                  It’d be cool if
                                they build a new                                                             he TV image showed an abortion clinic’s room full of buckets- —buckets
                                Yankee Stadium                                                               brimming with tiny bones. A group of eighth graders watched and cried. I
                                    in front of                                                              was one of them, sitting in a classroom at a Catholic seminary in the
                                   the old one.                                                    Dominican Republic. That day I made a decision that if I was ever faced with an
                                                                                                   unplanned pregnancy, abortion would not be an option. That was my choice.
                                    Really?                                                               It is infuriating that living in the 21st century in the United States, where
                                    Why?                                                           almost every method of contraceptives is available, more than one million abortions
                                                                                                   take place every year.
                                                                                                          Having an abortion should not be the solution for a night of passion gone bad.
                                                                                                   It is an irresponsible and selfish way out of things. I believe that the life and breath
                                                                                                   of people come from God, and even though many say that what is being aborted is
                                The Babe’s
                                                                                                   not yet a human being, I feel that, in God’s eyes, it is, because it has already been
                             spell is broken,                                                      given a soul.
                               and we need                                                                Even Jane Roe (whose real name is Norma McCovey), the woman who
                              a new reason                                                         inspired the 1973 Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the
                              to keep being                                                        U.S., came to realize this and is now the director of a pro-life ministry. She never
                                 the best!                                                         had an abortion herself because by the time her case was resolved, she had already
                                                                                                   given birth and given her baby up for adoption. However, since then, more than 43
                                                                                                   million fetuses have been killed legally by abortion.
                                                                                                          There are alternatives to abortion. A woman who finds herself in a situation
                                                                                                   where she cannot or does not want to keep the baby can seek help. There are adop-
                                                                                                   tion agencies. A woman can ask for help from her minister, priest or rabbi, or she
                                                                                                   can visit a pro-life center like Birthright that helps young women deal with
                                What about                                                         unplanned pregnancies.
                                   a new                                                                  Children are a heritage and a blessing from God, so it is time that America
                                  owner ?                                                          wakes up. Don’t take the easy way out of a pregnancy because, after all, there are
                                                                                                   other choices to pick from. So make the right one.

                                                                                          H EA LTH                                                                                            A5
The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005

How Bronx Families Are Weighing In Against Childhood Obesity
                                                                                                        and how to combat it, is important. She p.m. and 6 p.m., they go to the hospital’s
                                                                                                        discourages families from serving chil- gym, where the children ride stationary
                                                                                                        dren undiluted juice, which is full of bicycles, play kickball, do relay races, and
                                                                                                        sugar, and whole-fat milk, since skim or stretch.
                                                                                                        even two-percent fat is so much healthier.          “Parents have to find a way to allow
                                                                                                           “It is clear that obesity runs in families their children to play,” says Gyselle
                                                                                                        and kids copy what parents do,” says Gonzalez, assistant coordinating manager
                                                                                                        Bass. “That means parents have to get of the program. “Many children are not
                                                                                                        rid of their own sodas.”                        coordinated because they don’t participate
                                                                                                           In other words, adults must improve in physical activity and cannot move as
                                                                                                        their own eating habits if they have any quickly as others. They should use the stairs
                                                                                                        hope of helping their children. For this instead of elevators when they can. They
                                                                                                        reason, the Jacobi Weight Management should also walk and look for free exercise
                                                                                                        Program heavily involves the entire fam- programs like the Police Athletic League.”
                                                                                                        ily. “Parents are weighed and measured at           The Jacobi program offers open access.
                                                                                                        visits with their kids,” Dr. Bass says. “We
                                                                                                        get them all up on the scale. We promote
                                                                                                        healthy living for the entire family.
                                                                                                        Healthy eating and exercise is good for
                                                                                                        both overweight and skinny people.”                   “My daughter is
                                                                                                           A referral from a child’s pediatrician is         eating too much,”
                                                                                                        all that he or she needs to attend the ten-
                                                                                                        week program. The initial appointment
                                                                                                                                                               one parent told
                                                                                                        includes a full exam, lab work, and a                       her doctor.
                                                                                                        review of symptoms for any problems
                                                                                                        that may be associated with being over-
                                                                                                                                                             “What can I do?”
                                                                                                        weight. Among the team of experts on
                                                                                                        staff are a psychologist, a social worker,
                                                                                                        a dietician and a coordinator
                                                                              Photos:Ulises Gonzales
                                                                                                            Children at the Weight Management If a child misses one week, he can come the
“They’ve taught me to eat good food that helps you lose weight,” says Tyre Evans, Program range in age from 2 to 18. The young next week or even a month later, depending
10, who is back on track after gaining weight during summer camp last year.
                                                                                                     ones participate along with their mothers, one-on- on the family’s needs.
                                                                                                     one, rather than in a group.                           Olivia Evans and her son, Tyre, 10,
TAHANA FRANKLIN                                 help prevent childhood obesity. Physical
                                                                                                          Starting with the second visit and con- joined the program in 2003. At the time, he
                                                activity and healthy nutrition are the keys,
The Bronx Journal Reporter                      says Dr. Jennifer Bass, the director of the
                                                                                                     tinuing every Tuesday between 4 p.m. and 5 weighed 148. Before that, Evans used to
                                                                                                     p.m., the children and their parents meet fry most of her family’s dinners. Since
                                                North Central Bronx Healthcare Network
                                                                                                     with the dietician and the psychologist to learning what is healthy, however, she
             wo months ago, Esquirina Family Weight Management Program.

T            Espinar, a Bronx resident,took
             her     10-year-old
                                                    “Most parents are aware there is a prob-
                                                                                                     discuss some of the struggles the families bakes her meals instead.
                                                                                                     are facing, including issues like making               At first, Tyre lost weight. But Evans and
                                     daughter, lem in our society,” says Dr. Bass, “but they good food choices, acquiring self-esteem, her husband, Quentin, who live in the
             Kiarabel to the Tremont Avenue do not see their own child as being over- and changing bad habits. Then between 5 Parkchester section of the Bronx, decided to
health clinic that’s affiliated with Jacobi weight. In fact, most parents themselves are
Medical Center. Here Espinar expressed her overweight, so when you criticize what they
                                                                                                                                                                                      Continued on page 6

concern about Kiarabel’s weight. “She’s are doing for their child, it’s like directly
eating too much, what can I do?’’ she asked criticizing them.”
the pediatrician.                                   While obesity is a serious problem
     Espinar had first noticed Kiarabel start- throughout the U.S., Hispanic and black
ing to get chubby a little more than a year children in urban areas like the Bronx are
ago, but she was not sure how to go about the most heavily affected groups. And the
changing the girl’s eating habits. The clinic consequences go beyond social ostracism.
recommended a free program at Jacobi Recent studies conducted by the Centers for
Hospital on Pelham Parkway. Since join- Disease Control indicate that more children
ing it, Kiarabel has lost seven pounds, than ever before are being diagnosed with
going from 152 to 145, thanks in part to the health problems related to overweight.
fact that Espinar now cooks more balanced, These include Type 2 diabetes, high choles-
healthier meals and sends her daughter to terol and blood pressure, fatty liver disease,
school with nutritious lunches such as and sleep apnea. Being fat also increases
cheese sandwiches on whole wheat bread. children’s risk for developing heart disease
“I eat better now,” says Kiarabel. “I feel and cancer.
better, and I can run faster.”                      “When you ask parents if anyone in
     The fifth grader encourages other children their family has experienced diabetes or
who may be chubby to attend the program. “You heart disease, it makes it easier to explain
get to exercise,” she says. “And when you grow the connection,” Dr. Bass says. “It moti-
up, you won’t have heart problems and stuff.” vates parents to change their own lifestyle
   Kiarabel is not the only child eating too and that of their family.”
much. The New York City Department of               If factors like too much TV and too
Health and Mental Hygiene reports that many Big Macs help cause obesity, so does
nearly half of all New York City’s elemen- genetic predisposition. However, weight
tary school children are overweight or gain boils down to this, says Dr. Bass:
obese. And parents need to take the lion’s When a person eats more calories than he                                                                                                 Photos:Ulises Gonzales
share of the blame.                             burns through physical activity, he gets fat.
                                                                                                     “Now I feel better and can run faster,” says Kiarabel Espinar, 10, above, with her mother,
     But just as they play a significant role       Dr. Bass and the staff at Jacobi believe
                                                                                                     Esquirina. Together they have been attending Jacobi’s Weight Management Program.
in making their children fat, they can also that educating people about this epidemic,
      A6                                                                            H EA LTH
                                                                                                                                             The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005

Continued from page 5

                                                                                                                                                                       Photo:Ulises Gonzales
 As part of the Jacobi Weight Management Program, the nutritionist Cindy Sizemore teaches the children and their parents what kind of snacks are healthy, and what kind are not.

 send Tyre to summer camp to increase his       ing no. “If you give your kid a choice               In the end, parents must not only be
 physical activity. When he came home, she      between an apple and an orange, there is         ready for change, they must be patient –
 said, “He was humongous. He had gained         only a good choice that can come out of          and caution their children to be patient as       MANAGING YOUR
 all the weight back and then some, thanks      that,” says Dr. Bass.                            well — because combatting this epidemic           CHILD’S WEIGHT
 to the meals there.”                               Parents also need to help their kids step    is a process that takes time.
      In May of 2004, Tyre returned to the      up the level of their physical activity. Bass,       But most feel that it’s worth it. “I’ve
 Jacobi program. Today he weighs 162, but       who has been working at Jacobi for three         learned how to eat in portions and read           Parents can keep children at a
 he has also grown substantially; now he is     years, understands that safety issues often      nutritional labels on food products,” says
 4’8”. This summer, says Evans, she will        limit children’s physical activity. “They        Tyre, sounding very mature for his age.
                                                                                                                                                   healthy weight by following
 write on her son’s camp application, “Limit    don’t play outside like they used to,” she       “They’ve taught me to eat good food that          the New York City Department
 sweets intake.”                                says, adding that cultural and economic          helps you lose weight, and I can do things I      of Health guidelines:
      Parents of obese children need to mon-    factors come into play as well. “Often, peo-     couldn’t do before. That makes me feel
 itor city-sponsored school and summer          ple in the Bronx are living just below the       much better about myself.”                        1) Talk to your healthcare
 camp program lunches. While these are          poverty line, so there can be food insecuri-                                                       provider to determine a healthy
 well-balanced, they do not consist of low-     ty issues. Also, healthier, organic foods are    If you are interested in Jacobi’s Family
                                                                                                                                                   weight range for your child
 fat, low-calorie foods. According to the       more expensive. Foods such as low-sugar          Weight Management Program, contact the
                                                cereals are rarely on sale.”                     referral office at 718-519-4940.                  and yourself.

                                                                                                                                                   2) Set a good example. Kids
         “Obesity runs in                                                                                                                          are more likely to do what you
        families, and kids                                                                                                                         do rather than what you say.
            copy what                                                                                                                              3) Keep in mind that people
           parents do,”                                                                                                                            get fat when they eat more
          says Dr. Bass.                                                                                                                           calories than they burn up.
                                                                                                                                                   Reaching a healthy weight is a
       “That means parents
                                                                                                                                                   balancing act between what
         have to get rid of                                                                                                                        you take in and how physically
        their own sodas.”                                                                                                                          active you are.

                                                                                                                                                   4) GET MOVING! Physical
 New York Department of Education, a                                                                                                               activity improves your health
 five-year plan is in place to change the                                                                                                          even if you do not lose weight.
 menus, but it is being phased in slowly.                                                                                                          Spend at least one hour a day
     At Jacobi, the staff works with mothers,
 teaching them how to serve appropriate
                                                                                                                                                   being physically active.
                                                                                                                           Photo:Ulises Gonzales
 portion sizes and healthy foods, and how to    Tyre Evans’ mom, Olivia, his dad, Quentin, and sister, Toya, are part of his support group
 set limits without feeling guilty about say-   at Jacobi. Now that he has lost weight, Tyre says, “I can do things I couldn’t do before.”
                                                                                          PETS                                                                                       A7
The Bronx Journal/ Spring 2005

A Fordham Road Drop-Off Center Saves Abandoned Pets

                                                                                                                                                                              Photo: Ulises Gonzales
A homeless cat waits at the A C & C to either find a new family or be shipped to another city-run adoption center.

ANNE LEIGHTON                                     nate the “no pets” clause in housing leases.        James advised her that she would need        proven to be healthier. “And it helps control
The Bronx Journal Reporter                        This means that New York City’s residents       to pay $35 per cat for medical care.             odor problems in the home as well.”
                                                  who shop at more than 400 pet shops in all          Astounded at the cost, mother and son            This year the AC & C has sponsored
At the Animal Care &                              five boroughs are a good deal more animal-      picked up their cat carrier and headed for       two all-day spay-neuterathons, called “The
                                                  friendly than their politicians.                the door. Minutes later, the staff checked       Big Fix,” in which vets, working in a
Control Center,                                       The Fordham Road A C&C functions            outside to make sure the cats had not been       mobile truck, traveled the neighborhoods,
Even Your Goldfish                                chiefly as a holding center; animals are kept                                                    fixing hundreds of cats and dogs.
                                                  there for three days before being shipped                                                            Part of Boks’ mission to prevent ani-
May Find A New Home                               out to the city’s other full-service adoption                                                    mals from becoming homeless includes
                                                  facilities. While the city government pays         More than 10,000                              building a full-service shelter in the Bronx
                                                  for such basics as AC&C staff salaries,                                                          over the next year or two. “It’s our feeling
                                                                                                      animals from the
        ose, a middle-aged laborer, looked        building maintenance, and spaying and                                                            that the Bronx and Queens are the most
        worried as he and his pit bull terrier,   neutering dogs and cats, the drop-off center                                                     under-served boroughs in the city,” he says.
        Annabel, 5, approached the Bronx’s        survives, thanks to donations and fees paid       Bronx are euthanized                               Boks hopes to make the Bronx center a
        Animal Care & Control Drop-off            for adoptions and animal surrenders. As a                                                        community-oriented facility where families
Center on Fordham Road near Webster               result, the shelter system still supports the          every year.                               can come to learn about animals. The
Avenue one recent Saturday.                       “kill,” policy; only the Staten Island branch                                                    AC&C has a “TLC (Teach Love &
    ”I have to turn over my dog,” he              has had the resources to find homes for                                                          Compassion) Program,” he says, “for so-
moaned. “My landlord wants me to get rid          every healthy animal that it has taken in.                                                       called at-risk kids, teens who need to devel-
of her.”                                              Jose and Annabel were extremely lucky                                                        op interpersonal skills. Many of them are
    Jose has had Annabel for more than four       because they had each other, as well as         abandoned. They weren’t.                         from the Bronx. So they’re trudging either
years. And New York City law actually             some serious legal recourse. However,               A couple brought in a Pekinese dog, and      to Manhattan or to Brooklyn to work with
supports pet owners in rent-stabilized apart-     according to Ed Boks, the director of the       the wife explained, “We both have jobs and       animals.”
ments who have been open about owning             AC&C, “There are more than 10,000               can’t take care of him.”                             Pet Product News, the business trade
non-exotic pets like cats, dogs, fish, rabbits,   unwanted animals from the Bronx every                Moore assured them that the dog would       magazine, has reported that 69 million
and birds for more than three months. (The        year.” These animals either die on the street   be adopted quickly. Then a large pit bull        homes in America have pets. And their
only exceptions would be if pets threatened       or are euthanized.                              arrived with its owner, who was moving to        owners can be passionate – and activist.
the health and safety of other residents).            The AC&C staff keeps busy with a vari-      a building with a “no pets” clause.                  For instance, Boks points out, last year
    Mary Pannazzo, one of three people on         ety of people bringing in pets. The same            “Years ago the city euthanized all the pit   Governor        Arnold      Schwarzenegger
duty, gave Jose the phone number of Legal         Saturday morning that Annabel’s life was        bulls,” Pannazzo recalled. “Lately we’ve         announced that he could save money for
Action for Animals, a group of volunteer          spared, a dozen people came in with cats        been finding homes for some of them.”            California by trimming the amount of time
attorneys who deal with landlords trying to       and dogs.                                           This is thanks to Boks, who was previ-       animals could stay in shelters. But pet peo-
evict tenants with pets. Despite the 90-day           One man in his early twenties arrived       ously the director of the Phoenix, Arizona,      ple protested – loudly.
law, landlords continue to serve eviction         with two cats; he asked this reporter to        shelter system, whose facilities he turned           “He changed his mind within the first
notices in hopes that tenants will move out.      adopt them, then explained to the AC&C’s        into no-kill centers. He is determined to        day,” says Boks. “Clearly, he’s a very
    Currently only one related bill is in any     technicians, Melissa Moore and Sabrina          accomplish this mission throughout New           astute politician.”
committee of the New York City Council.           James, that his sister was moving and she       York City’s five boroughs.
Intro 189 allows senior citizens to replace a     couldn’t keep them. Moore instructed him,           One of the major reasons such a large        The AC&C’s branch at 464 E. Fordham
pet that dies. Although more than 30 mem-         “We have to find out from your sister if        number of cats and dogs are euthanized,          Road, (212-593-0078) is only open
bers have signed on as sponsors, Intro 189        that’s what she wants.”                         explained Moore, is that so many unwanted        Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4
has yet to make it into the Council for a full        The man left and brought in his mother,     animals are born each year. “People need         p.m. However, the Manhattan office at 326
vote.                                             who told a brand new story, adding, “I          to spay their females and neuter their           East 110th Street is open daily between 8
    There still are no bills that would elimi-    can’t take care of them,”                       males,” she says, adding that this has           a.m. and 8 p.m
    A8                                                   M Y BRO N X RO O TS                                                                                                                                                               MY BR O N X R O O TS
            The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005

   Comic Alba Sanchez Makes ’Em Laugh – And Think
BONNIE QUINN                                                                                                                                    Project,” opened the esteemed La Mama                                                                        and everything is

                                                                                                             lba Sanchez is something of an
The Bronx Journal Reporter                                                                                                                      Theatre Company’s 40th anniversary in 2002.                                                                  funny,” she says.
                                                                                                             enigma. The Puerto Rican come-

                                                                                                                                                                                                         “You can’t be afraid
                                                                                                             dienne, labeled “the female John   She was also selected as the face of HBO                                                                     “The truth on any
                                                                                                             Leguizamo,” is as funny and raw    Latino’s “Habla Campaign” and as a BRILLO                                                                    subject            is
                                                                                               as she is guarded. Yet what informs all her      (Bronx Recognizes Its Own) award winner in                                                                   funny…it’s      your
                                                                                              work, and her persona as well, is the fact of
                                                                                             where she comes from. “I love the Bronx; it’s
                                                                                                                                                2003. And this June, coming straight from a col-
                                                                                                                                                lege tour and a gig at the Remy Lounge on the            that you’re not going                               view or take on a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             topic that makes it
                                                                                             very special to me,” she says. “I’ll always be a   Lower East Side, she will be opening at the                                                                  funny.”
                                                                                             Bronx girl.”
                                                                                                 Sanchez has crammed a multitude of
                                                                                                                                                famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem in an ensemble
                                                                                                                                                show, “Latinas Don’t PMS.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   to be funny.                                Is she ever afraid
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             of flopping? “You
                                                                                                                                                      A self-described “change-of-life baby,”                                                                can’t be afraid that
                                                                                                                                                                                                              You have to try
                                                                                             acclaimed, original comic pieces into a career
                                                                                             that is just picking up steam. One of her most     Sanchez grew up with three much older siblings                                                               you’re not going to be
                                                                                                                       highly praised shows,    and parents who had immigrated to New York                                                                   funny,” she says. “You have to
                                                                                                                             “The      Bronx
                                                                                                                                   W i t c h
                                                                                                                                                City in 1940 from Puerto Rico. They always
                                                                                                                                                balanced each other out, she says; her father, a          out different things                               try out different things and have no
                                                                                                                                                sometimes-singer and sometimes-loan-shark,                                                                     Sanchez’s “no fear” attitude is
                                                                                                                                                would be lenient, while her mother, a spiritual-
                                                                                                                                                ist and full-time nurse, who would jokingly
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             and have no                     what keeps her going.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             For the past several
                                                                                                                                                characterize herself as a “white woman slave of                                                              months she has
                                                                                                                                                a black man,” would lay down the law — and
                                                                                                                                                vice versa.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        fear.”               been traveling
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             to college cam-
                                                                                                                                                      Sanchez claims to have inherited her flair                                                             puses across
                                                                                                                                                for performing from her father, whom she                                                                     the country,
                                                                                                                                                describes as a cross between Ricky Riccardo in
                                                                                                                                                “I Love Lucy” and Bill Cosby. Sanchez’s father
                                                                                                                                                was an entertainer and singer who was an active
                                                                                                                                                member of the growing mambo music scene of
                                                                                                                                                the 1940s through 1960s. As a girl, she spent
                                                                                                                                                many nights in clubs watching him perform and
                                                                                                                                                believes that through listening to his stories and     involved in theater, both as an
                                                                                                                                                stage work, she was able to learn how to craft         actor and writer, after graduation she                                 schools
                                                                                                                                                her own comedy, from the pacing to the punch-          pursued other career avenues, just in case                        such as the
                                                                                                                                                line. “He really should have been a comedian           the worlds of show biz and stand-up did not          University of Pennsyl-
                                                                                                                                                because I spent so many hours laughing with            greet her with open arms. She even attended          vania, to perform her one-
                                                                                                                                                that man,” she has said.                               seminary school and says that she is an ordained     woman shows.
                                                                                                                                                      Sanchez says that she admires her parents        inter-faith minister.                                       She especially enjoys
                                                                                                                                                for the struggles they endured and also for their          At the moment, however, it looks like            working in front of young
                                                                                                                                                hard work. “When they moved to New York,               Sanchez won’t need a fall-back career. She has       Latino audiences. “I hope
                                                                                                                                                Puerto Ricans were not the flavor of the week,         racked up a long list of acting credentials,         that through my bilingual act
                                                                                                                                                like we are now,” she says, “so it was not at all      including the prestigious HB Studios, The            and jokes that they can see
                                                                                                                                                easy for them.”                                        Harlem School of the Arts, the New Media             themselves in me,” Sanchez
                                                                                                                                                      Yet they worked hard to provide their            Repertory Theatre, and Chicago City Limits,          said. “I hope that they leave
                                                                                                                                                daughter with a first-rate education, sending her      and she has performed solo shows at such well-       feeling really good about
                                                                                                                                                to Catholic boarding schools in Westchester            known venues as P.S. 122, Dixon Place, and           themselves.”
                                                                                                                                                County and then New Jersey. When she saw the           Franklin Furnace. Even the titles of her pieces –        Her ultimate show
                                                                                                                                                musical, “Annie,” as a girl, she says, “I thought,     among them, “The Tall Thin Blonde in the Short       business goal, she says, is
                                                                                                                                                ‘What are those kids complaining about?’ My            Puerto Rican Body” and “Giving Up Religion           to have her own television
                                                                                                                                                 parents were paying good money to have me             For Lent” — brim with pointed good humor. “I         show. She would like to
                                                                                                                                                 scrub floors.”                                        try to find the heart in the crazy situation,” she   model it after Ellen
                                                                                                                                                      Shuttling between upscale suburban schools       has said.                                            Degeneres’ current talk
                                                                                                                                                  during the week and the South Bronx on week-             Sanchez, who was married for 15 years to a       show — “You know, a

                                                                                                       “I try                                      ends was not always easy. The neighborhood
                                                                                                                                                   kids, says Sanchez, were turned off because
                                                                                                                                                                                                       doctor, draws material from her own life and
                                                                                                                                                                                                       observations about being a Latina woman in
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            monologue, some inter-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            views and music, a little
                                                                                                                                                    “they thought I was trying to be ‘white,’          America today. One thing she regrets is not hav-     bit of everything,” she
                                                                                                          to                                         whatever that means.” Yet the disparity that
                                                                                                                                                    she observed between the rich and poor kids,
                                                                                                                                                                                                       ing had any Latina comedians as role models. “I      says.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As for any pressure
                                                                                                                                                                                                       don’t think Latina women were given permis-
                                                                                                        find                                       and her own isolation in both worlds, eventu-
                                                                                                                                                   ally became a source of humor. “It forced me
                                                                                                                                                                                                       sion to be ballsy and funny until recently,” she
                                                                                                                                                                                                       has said. “I find that a lot of Latina women shy
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            to dilute her ethnic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            observations, Sanchez

                                                                                                     the heart                                     to become a better writer,” she says.
                                                                                                                                                       Still, living in two different worlds may not
                                                                                                                                                                                                       away from being funny professionally because
                                                                                                                                                                                                       they’re afraid of looking ugly.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            says that there is none.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “I keep it real because I
                                                                                                                                                     have done much for her self-esteem. “I spent          She has taken inspiration, however, from         was born and raised in
                                                                                                   in the crazy                                     too much of my youth not feeling okay, like I      funny Latino men like Paul Rodriguez and             the Bronx and still live
                                                                                                                                                    just was not good enough,” Sanchez told Mija       Cantinflas, as well as from Woody Allen and the      there,”     she      says.
                                                                                                    situation.”                                     Magazine. “Thank God I am over that. It’s a
                                                                                                                                                  lot more fun now. Just be who you are, and let
                                                                                                                                                                                                       stand-up comedienne, Sandra Bernhard.
                                                                                                                                                                                                       Bernhard’s “rawness, delivery and no-holds-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “‘Keeping it real’ is
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            about being a Puerto
                                                                                                                                                that be okay.”                                         barred attitude,” Sanchez says, are ideals she       Rican girl from the
                                                                                                                                                      For the tenth grade, Sanchez – happily —         strives for.                                         Bronx, which is who I am
                                                                                                                                                returned to New York and attended high school              Like Bernhard, Sanchez tackles difficult         and also who I always will
                                                                    Photo: Ulises Gonzales                                                      at the Professional Children’s School in               and emotional topics such as politics, racism,       be. The Bronx continues to
“Anything and everything is funny.” says Sanchez, here hanging in her Bronx neighborhood.                                                       Manhattan. Although she was continually                body image, sex and relationships. “Anything         inspire me.”
      A 10                                                                       ED U CATI O N
                                                                                                                                                The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005

Keeping Students At A Bronx Middle School On Their Toes —-And On Point

                                                                                                                                                                                  Photo: Ulises Gonzales
“Our students come to us raw,” says dance teacher Sarah Sanford-Perez of the Bronx Dance Middle School 308. Here, a class warms up in the dance studio.

HARVEY BIEN                                       about 300 students; this year 83 percent are     learn ballet terminology, and, occasionally,       website, Insideschools.org. “There were a
The Bronx Journal Reporter                        girls and 17 percent, boys, but their num-       to give public performances.                       number of schools that I went to before I found
                                                  bers are growing.                                     “I feel that the Bronx Dance Academy is       BDA, but BDA was worth the travel time and
                                                      The curriculum covers basic academic         my baby,” says Yvette Williams, the                effort.” Besides, she added, “Bronx Dance

            ittle girls who have visions of       studies but emphasizes a “learning through       school’s dance director, who has been with         Academy helps keep kids off the street.”
            sugar plum fairies, pink tutus, and   the arts” program. Through it, students use      M.S. 308 since its inception. “I have seen
            toe shoes, and little boys who        exhibitions, projects, performances, and         it grow into what it is today.” Williams puts
            prefer to leap and jump rather        portfolios to report on their work. They are     the school into context when she adds, “I
than walk or run, may dream about attend-         also expected to take classical, jazz, and       wish there had been a school like the Bronx
ing a program like the one which the Bronx        modern dance classes three times a week,         Dance Academy when I was growing up. I
Dance Academy Middle School 308 offers.           each in a 90-minute time block, and one          went to Catholic school, and I had to pay for
    Standing in the northeastern part of the      visual arts class such as painting, sculpting,   dance lessons.”
Bronx just below Yonkers, this boutique           or drawing.                                           Sarah Sanford-Perez, one of the
school for grades six through eight has               It is little wonder that with such an        school’s dance teachers, says, “Our students
occupied an airy three-story red brick build-     enterprising program, the school is highly       come to us raw. They have never seen a bal-
ing at 3617 Bainbridge Avenue since July of       competitive. Although only students in           let slipper and don’t have a clue what dance
2003. Here is where tomorrow’s Paloma             Region 1 may audition for BDA, it accepts        is really about. In two years we have to pre-
Herreras, Julio Boccas, and Arthur                approximately one of ten applicants. Even        pare them for high school auditions and turn
Mitchells, legendary dancers of the past and      so, students do not need to have prior dance     them into well-rounded dancers. It has been
present, may be rehearsing in one of the          experience to gain entrance.                     difficult.”
school’s spacious dance studios.                      The audition is held at a group                   Some students are surprised at the disci-
    But don’t be fooled. The BDA, as it is        Open House. Here, girls and boys par-            pline required to keep up with their classes,
known by students and teachers, is not a          ticipate in basic movement exercises             and occasionally they bow to the pressure
school that teaches hip hop, tap, or even         and drills. Faculty members then                 and drop out of the school. Generally,
Broadway-style dance. Its program is              invite those who show significant                however, the BDA has legions of young
designed to train serious classical dancers,      potential to a second audition.                  fans. Natasha Marquez, an eighth grader,
and to give students a sense of self-confi-       At this time, teachers evaluate the children’s   is one. “My parents encouraged me to audi-
dence, and an appreciation of the arts that       academic records and discuss the candi-          tion for the school, and they gave me a lot
they will take through life.                      dates. Guidance counselors and an assistant      of confidence,” she says. “I am very proud
    “What I liked most about the Bronx            principal make the final selection.              of the program here, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Dance Academy,” says Betzaida Fuentes,                Once students are accepted at BDA,                Her friend, Candace Saunders, a sev-
the BDA parent coordinator, whose two             they must be willing to wear uniforms and        enth grader, adds, “I never learned about
daughters graduated from the school, “is          pull their hair back in a bun every day. No      ballet before coming to this school. Besides
that it’s a small school, and my daughters        jewelry or long nails are allowed. Dance-        the teachers, we have demonstrations and
received personal attention from the teach-       wise, sixth graders are schooled in the          videos. It’s good to learn something new.”
ers.”                                             Martha Graham technique and “foundation-              Bonica Freeland, an alumna, is grateful for
    This unique center of learning, which         al” dance moves such as body positioning.        her time at BDA. “This school is a great influ-                                Photo: Ulises Gonzales
originally opened in a theatre space of the       By seventh grade, they begin school perfor-      ence on you when it comes to enhancing your        Candace Saunders, left, and Natasha
Bronx Dance Theatre in 1995, accepts              mances, and by eighth, they are expected to      passion and desire for dance,” she wrote on the    Marquez find the BDA exhilarating.
                                                                                      CULTURE                                                                                         A 11
The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005

Yolaine Díaz
The Bronx Journal Reporter

At El Museo Del Barrio,
Photographer Agustin Casasola
Captures Mexico’s Turbulent
20th Century History

             lthough many in the Bronx community are not
             even aware that El Museo del Barrio exists,
             others derive great benefits from it. “It’s great
             to find a museum in New York City that
enhancesLatino culture,” says Arelis Lachapelle, 29, an
Argentine exchange student majoring in history, who visits
El Museo regularly. “The current Casasola photo exhibition
is an excellent example of our heritage. It transports you to
those revolutionary times in Mexico.”
    El Museo del Barrio, located at Fifth Avenue and 104th
Street, is the only museum in New York City dedicated to
showcasing Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Latin American
art. Its current exhibit, “Mexico: The Revolution and
Beyond, Photographs by Casasola, 1900-1940,” which
runs through July 31, features the photojournalism of                                                                                                            Photo Courtesy of El Museo del Barrio.
Agustin Victor Casasola, who captured the tumultuous              During the Mexican Revolution,Casasola captured federal troops at the Buenavista train station in 1914.
events of the early 20th century in Mexico with a style that      temporary artists. This
ranged from the celebratory to the unforgettably graphic.         encompasses more than
     Organized by the leading Mexican photographic spe-           8,000 objects from the
cialist, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, the exhibit showcases 92         Caribbean       and      Latin
photographs acquired from the image archives of the               America, including pre-
Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History.           Colombian Taino artifacts,
One of the most dramatic images, in black and white,              traditional drawings, paint-
shows police detectives triumphantly holding a child they         ings, photography, and docu-
have rescued from a kidnapping. In another, Casasola cap-         mentary films and video.
tures the precise moment when the Mexican revolutionary,               The museum originally
Francisco Madero, and his troops storm a Mexican town on          took its name from the
horseback.                                                        Spanish-speaking neighbor-
     “This exhibition is as important for the Hispanic com-       hood in East Harlem called
munity as for the Mexican community because it is a way           El Barrio, which is mostly
to get closer to our culture,” says Julian Zugazagoitia,          populated by Puerto Ricans.
director of the museum. “It shows that we Latinos have a          Founded in 1969 by a group
lot of talent.”                                                   of Puerto Rican parents, edu-
     The photographer, Agustin Victor Casasola, was born in       cators and artists, El Museo
Mexico City in 1874 and began working in typographic              initially operated in a public
workshops as a boy. By the age of 20, he had become a             classroom in the heart of El
reporter; it was later on that he began to establish himself as   Barrio and then moved to a
a photographer. In 1912, Casasola, in partnership with his        series of uptown storefronts
brother, Miguel, opened the Mexican Information and               on Third and Lexington
Photographic Agency, one of the first professional photog-        Avenues. After six years of
raphy agencies. This agency helped Casasola to realize his        moving from one location to
lifelong obsession: the creation of a photographic archive        another, the museum found a
that would record the turbulent history of Mexico as it           permanent home at 1230
unfolded. In the course of his long career, the artist pho-       Fifth Avenue, right opposite
tographed all the major figures on the Mexican landscape –        Central Park’s Conservatory
from Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa to Mexico’s first           Gardens. This move allowed
Republican president, Benito Juarez, to the acclaimed             El Museo to maintain its ties
painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and even Leon              with the community and yet
Trotsky during his Mexican exile.                                 reach out to a wider, non-
     This Casasola exhibition also contains pictures that         Latino audience. In 1978 the
Casasola either contracted or purchased from other photog-        museum became a founding                                                                 Photo Courtesy of El Museo del Barrio.
raphers. In all, it focuses on eight themes: Pax Porfiriana,      member of the Museum Casasola photographed the revolutionary leader, Emiliano Zapata, circa 1915.
The Revolutionary War, The Work Place, The Eagle and the          Mile Association, which
Serpent (according to a myth, the Aztecs settled on a rock        helped to make it one of New York City’s major tourist the chance to see the Casasola exhibition, and I liked it so
in the center of a lake, where they discovered an eagle           attractions.                                                 much that I’m going to go back with my family. It’s a great
devouring a serpent), Modern Times, Night Life, and The                “Its permanent exhibitions like ‘Point of View’ are family trip.”
Famous. The images document a positive view of a modern           amazing and interesting,” says Margarita J. Aguilar, the
Mexico that emulated Europe.                                      museum’s assistant curator. “We also have pictures from El Museo del Barrio is open to the public Wednesday
     This past winter the museum showed 2000 years of             contemporaries like Oscar Munoz and Gabriel de la Mora, through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Suggested admission is
Latin American portraits as well as Latin and Caribbean art       who exemplify the talent of Latin American artists.”         $6 for adults and $4 for students and seniors. Children
from the Museum of Modern Art’s collection. El Museo’s                 “I always go to El Museo. There are amazing collec- under 12 accompanied by an adult may enter free. For
permanent collection includes works by recognized                 tions there,” says Yisel Silfa, 30, who is a senior studying information, call 212-831-7272, or visit the website,
painters like Diego Rivera and Beatriz Gonzalez, and by           criminal justice at John Jay College in Manhattan. “I had www.elmuseo.org.
photographers like Fritz Henle, as well as by emerging con-
    A12                                                                EN TERTA I N M EN T
                                                                                                                                                   The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005


 “Million Dollar Baby” and “The Sea Inside”
The Bronx Journal Reporter

                       illion Dollar Baby”
                       pretty much swept
                       the Oscars this year,
                       winning honors for
Best Picture, Best Actress (Hilary
Swank), Supporting Actor (Morgan
Freeman) and Director (Clint Eastwood).
On the surface, it may seem like a boxing
story, but as written by Paul Haggis, it is
much more.
     Eastwood, who also stars, plays an
emotionally closed-off trainer, Frankie
Dunn, who has been estranged from his
own daughter. Although he never dis-
cusses why, when he takes on Maggie
Fitzgerald (Swank), a 31-year-old hillbil-
ly waitress who has the notion that she                                        Photo: Fine Line Features                                                                         Photo: Warner Bros.
can box, it is clear that she becomes a sec-   Bardem receives visitors in “The Sea Inside.” Eastwood trains hillbilly Swank in “Million Dollar Baby.”
ond chance for him to get this family rela-
tionship right.
    Swank portrays Maggie, a spunky            to him because he feels it is accepting            company that it is difficult to imagine           familiar territory (Remember the 1979
young woman who is all heart and mus-          what he calls “scraps of freedom”;                 allowing him to get his way and die.              play, “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” and the
cle. A waitress since she was 13, Maggie       instead, he stays in bed, which is occa-               The film is also a love story. Julia          1981 movie of the same title, starring
believes that with Frankie’s help, she can     sionally maddening for the audience.               (Belen Rudea), a lawyer suffering from a          Richard Dreyfuss?). Yet both films move
become a champion, but he tells her                The 35-year-old Bardem, who sat                progressive brain disease, decides to take        us with real human stories, told intelli-
bluntly, “I don’t train girlies.” Still, she   through four hours of makeup daily to              his case. As they become deeply connect-          gently and sensitively.
works out in his gym, and eventually,          play an older man, delivers a powerful             ed, she comes to understand his wishes in             As Sampedro says, “A life without
with a little prodding from his pal, Scraps    performance, relying on minute eye and             a way his family never does.                      freedom is not a life.” Maggie Fitzgerald
(Freeman), he relents.                         facial expressions to convey his emo-                  Neither “Million Dollar Baby” nor             may come from a strikingly different
    Frankie, needless to say, gets Maggie      tions. But Sampedro is also wise, charm-           “The Sea Inside” boasts car chases or             world than his, but she clearly shares
into fighting shape, and together they         ing, learned, and witty. He is such good           thrilling special effects, and both cover         these sentiments.
work their way up to a championship
match. Here, she takes on the German
woman known as “Billie the Blue Bear.”
The fight wreaks of backhanded brutality
because Billie fights dirty, jabbing at
                                                BRIDGE:                              Knowledge is power                                               Professor Julian Laderman (Math and Computer
                                                                                                                                                      Science) is a Life Master of ACBL

                                                                                                                                                     knowledge and the powerful club 10,
Maggie’s head and neck even after the                                                                                                                behind the king and jack. Armed with this
referee calls a time-out. The results, as it    JULIAN LADERMAN                                                        NORTH
turns out, are devastating.                                                                                          ♠ K6                            declarer realized he held a winning club

    But the power of the film is not in its              ne of the first conventions new                                 A J 10 8
                                                         bridge    players      learn    is                                                          trick. After winning the diamond lead, he
fight scenes; rather, it is in how Frankie                                                                               AK3
                                                         Blackwood. Most tournament                                                                  played two rounds of trump ending in his
and Maggie bond, and how a sudden trag-
ic turn of events leads them to confront        players use some variant of Blackwood.                               ♣ KJ52                          hand. He then led the club 10 and played
                                                                                                                                                     the club 2 from dummy. Of course, as
the true meaning of love and dignity.           A popular alternative is called Roman                  WEST                           EAST
                                                                                                                                                     expected, this trick was lost to the queen.
Eventually, Maggie becomes the daughter
whom Frankie never got to know. Which
                                                keycard Blackwood, where the king of
                                                the implied trump suit is treated with the            ♠ 10 9 7 5 4                  ♠ QJ8            After winning the diamond return in
                                                same respect as the four aces. A 4NT bid                   52                         7              dummy, declarer led the club king. When
makes the characters’ final choices that
                                                asks partner about his possession of these                 96                         Q J 10 8 4     East did not play the club ace, declarer con-
much more poignant.
                                                                                                                                                     fidently discarded a diamond from the
    Spanish        director      Alejandro      five keycards. When using this variation
                                                of Blackwood the standard responses are
                                                                                                       ♣   7643
                                                                                                                                    ♣ AQ98           South hand. If East had played the club ace,
Amenabar’s “The Sea Inside,” the Oscar                                                                                  SOUTH
                                                as follows:                                                                                          declarer would have ruffed and eventually
winner for Best Foreign Film, is based on
the true story of Spanish author, Ramon         5♣ : 0 or 3 keycards
                                                                                                                     ♠ A32                           entered dummy to throw his diamond loser
                                                                                                                                                     on the club jack.
Sampedro, a quadriplegic who for 30                                                                                      KQ9643
                                                     : 1 or 4 keycards                                                                               The play of the king of clubs with the intent
years fought for the right to assisted sui-     5                                                                        752                         of discarding a diamond if the ace does not
cide. Javier Bardem, who in 2002 starred
in “Before Night Falls,” about the exiled       5    : 2 or 5 keycards without the queen                             ♣ 10                            appear is called a ruffing finesse. The infor-
                                                       of trump                                                                                      mation that declarer learned from East’s 1
Cuban writer, Reinaldo Arenas, plays
                                                                                                                  DEALER : EAST                      bid made it a sure thing. Even if East had
Sampedro. Confined to his bed as a              5♠ : 2 or 5 keycards with the queen                             Both Sides are vulnerable            not opened the bidding, and declarer had no
result of a diving accident at age 26,                of trump
                                                                                                           West      North     East       South      information about which defender held the
Sampedro, now 50, is living in his broth-
                                               On the illustrated hand, North was very                                          1           1        club honors, the same technique should be
er’s farmhouse in Galicia, tended by his                                                                    -         -
                                               optimistic when he decided to investigate                                                             used in the club suit. This method has
family, when the movie opens.                                                                              Pass      4NT       Pass          5♠*
                                               slam possibilities. He was extremely fortu-                                                           approximately a 75% chance of success. It
    The fact that he is so helpless and                                                                    Pass       6        Pass        Pass
                                               nate to learn that South had the trump                                                                will only fail if East holds the club queen
such a burden contributes to his desire to                                                                 Pass
                                               queen and two of the three missing key-                                                               and West holds the club ace.
die. However, the Spanish government                                                                       * See text
                                               cards. With this information he bid 6 .                                                               A ruffing finesse usually involves two
has threatened to prosecute anyone who                                                                     Opening lead: diamond 9
                                               Actually, after the 5♠ response, he had no                                                            touching honors (such as, king-queen)
helps him commit suicide
                                               choice. With this form of Blackwood,                                                                  opposite a void.
    Written by Amenabar and Mateo Gil,                                                             an opening bid, declarer realized that both
                                               North has to be prepared to go to the six-                                                            On this hand, however, it was necessary to
the movie allows Sampedro to talk                                                                  the ace and queen of clubs were held by
                                               level if his partner holds two keycards and                                                           drive out the queen with the 10 in order to
frankly about his situation.
                                                                                                   this knowledge and the powerful club 10 an
                                               the trump queen.                                    East, behind the king and jack. Armed with        create a card combination where a ruffing
    “There is no dignity in being quadri-
                                               There were two potential losers: a diamond                                                            finesse was available. I hope you have
plegic,” he says. He resists the help of a
                                               and a club. Since declarer and dummy had            opening bid, declarer realized that both the      enough bridge finesse to recognize a ruff-
wheelchair and the life it might open up
                                               a total of 28 high card points and East made        ace and queen of clubs were held by East          ing finesse.
The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005
                                       IN MY VIEW                                                                                         A13

         My Cancer, My “Evil Twin”
                                                                                    ANNIKA HARRIS

                                                                               The Bronx Journal Reporter
                                                                  e lived together for over    need.” In addition, the National Cancer Institutes
                                                                  a year. We were insepa-      advise that families and friends are able to “comfort
                                                                  rable. I fondly referred     and reassure you in ways that no one else can.”
                                                                  to her as “Mini Me.”           During my chemo experience, I surrounded myself
                                      She liked to rest her head on a little section of my     with supportive people. Those who did not support me,
                                      left side. She was my secret, a tiny treasure – a        I eliminated from my life. Small gestures from my
                                     lump about the size of a silver dollar that I discov-     family and friends meant more to me than they would
                                   ered on my left rib cage. But, then the pain began          have before my diagnosis. I looked forward to the
                                  and she turned into my “evil twin.” When the pain            times when my mother would bring me a burger from
                                 became unbearable, I sought help. After six months of         McDonald’s while I was having a treatment. I also trea-
                                being poked and prodded, my “evil twin” was finally            sured my friends for taking me to run errands or for just
                                gone. But, of course, she had the last word. That word         calling to make sure I was okay.
                                was CANCER.                                                      At one point, because I had been constipated for more
                                   When I was diagnosed, I was extremely angry for             than two weeks, my family actually prayed for me.
                                three reasons. First, I had been misdiagnosed a year           Okay, that was rather weird. But they all understood
                                earlier. A doctor had told me that my tumor was just           how uncomfortable I was. Each morning, a different
                                extra cartilage and that it was easier to live with it than    person would tell me that she or he had prayed for me
                                to have it removed. Then, I was further upset that I was       the night before or had added my name to another
                                 diagnosed with a particular type of lymphoma, one             prayer circle. And I was grateful.
                                  which usually occurs in the elderly and spreads slow-          Another way that I coped during my chemotherapy
                                  ly. If I had been 40 or 60 years older, the doctors told     treatments was to dress like a knockout. I always made
                                  me, I probably would have died of natural causes
                                   before the cancer had a chance to kill me. Since I
                                    was 21 and in pain, my oncologist decided it was                         My oncologist
                                    best to treat me.                                                       asked me which
                                       And most distressing of all, I would have to put my
                                     life on hold for medical reasons. Two years earlier,                I would rather have—
                                      I had undergone major surgery for endometriosis                     a cure or clear skin.
                                       and was, consequently, on bed rest for six months.
                                         Although I am the type of person who rolls with
                                                                                                           I surprised myself
                                           the punches of life, my diagnosis meant that it                      by saying,
                                            would take me even longer to graduate from
                                             college. I thought I should have accom-
                                                                                                              “Clear skin.”
                                              plished more during my 21 years and felt
                                               like I was being left behind by others my       sure I looked my best and never like I was undergoing
                                                age. How would I catch up?                     serious medical treatment. Toward that end, I would put
                                               I later learned that my feelings about my       on a full face of make-up, wear high heels, and com-
                                              diagnosis were similar to other cancer           pletely accessorize my outfits.
                                           patients who were my age.                              My favorite activities during my treatments were
                                   “This is a tough age—this is the beginning of your          reading fashion magazines and watching makeover
                                  adult years when you’re getting to do a lot of going         shows. Getting a weekly manicure and pedicure also
                                  out and hopefully meet your future spouse; it’s also         made me feel better. My philosophy was: “The better
                                the beginning of your career…All this gets put on hold         I look, the better I will feel.” And it worked.
                                when you are receiving chemotherapy,” said Joanna                 No wonder that one of the most important doctors to
                                Mikhail-Powe, a nurse-practitioner at Sciode Medical           me, apart from my oncologist, became my dermatolo-
                                Center in the Bronx, where I received my treatment. I          gist. I had struggled with acne throughout my teenage
                                found it difficult relating to the other cancer patients at    years and had finally gotten it under control. But one
                                Sciode because they were much older than I. As                 of the side effects of my chemotherapy was the break-
                                Mikhail-Powe said, “We don’t see too many people               out of huge pus-filled zits. When I complained to my
                                between the ages of 20-30.”                                    oncologist, he asked me which I would rather have: a
                                   As I went through chemotherapy, I had many ques-            cure or clear skin.
                                tions: What was the best way to cope with side effect             I surprised myself by replying, “Clear skin.” Luckily,
                                of treatments that are worse than the symptoms? What           my dermatologist prescribed medications that once
                                resources were there for young people affected by dis-         again put my acne in check. So in the end I did not
                                eases that usually afflict older people?                       have to choose between my health and appearance.
                                   I, like most cancer patients, feel that the side effects       Although I have been in remission for almost two
                                of chemotherapy are worse than the symptoms of the             years, I am still dealing with some of the side effects of
                                cancer. According to the National Cancer Institutes            chemotherapy, things like seasonal allergies and a post-
                                website, these side effects are caused by damage to nor-       nasal drip that causes constant coughing. Also, I still
                                mal cells as a result of the chemotherapy and include          have the catheter in my chest that was used to adminis-
                                nausea, vomiting, anemia, infections, mouth and throat         ter the chemo. And I am picking up the pieces of my
                                sores, and constipation, among other unpleasant and            life by finishing college.
                                sometimes debilitating conditions. Although the side              I will not be considered cured until I have been in
                                effects can be severe, they are much more manageable           remission for five years, but if I relapse, I know that I
                                today than they were even a decade ago. “We have a             have built the support network necessary to beat cancer
                                lot more drugs, and they are more effective,” explained        once again. I also know that focusing on what I could
                                Mikhail-Powe.                                                  control — my appearance — helped me to dwell on
                                     Cancer and chemotherapy can also affect the patient       something other than my disease, over which I had
                                            emotionally. I found that the best way to cope     absolutely no control. Although I figured that a day of
                                              with the emotional side effects is through the   chemotherapy would be physically grueling, I looked
                                              help of family, friends, and health-care         forward to wearing a certain pretty outfit or a pair of
                                          providers. According to Mikhail-Powe, “Many          chic new shoes.
                                           people without support lack the encouragement          In the end, I feel that looking good made it easier for
                                         and daily support that people getting chemo           me to endure my treatments.
  A14                                                   CO M I N G TO A M ERI CA
                                                                                                                       The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005


                               MY MOTHER
                                        BY JUAN RAMÍREZ

                                        my mother’s candidate.
       always thought of                    As a single mother of two boys,
       myself as a citi-                she has devoted her life to her chil-
                                        dren. She works long hours at
       zen. I was born                  Cookie’s Department Store in the
                                        Bronx and sometimes feels guilty
       here and have                    that she cannot spend time with me
lived here my whole                     and my little brother, Miguel. Still,
                                        she understands that she is the
life. But I never took                  breadwinner, and some things just
                                        need to be done. Food, clothing and
part in the history of                  shelter are all that matter. And her
my family — especially                  job makes that possible.
                                            My parents separated seven
my mother’s history.                    years ago. Ever since then, I have
                                        been living with my mother. Still, I
    I have come to wonder about my      see my father about three or four
mother and how she felt about com-      times a week.
ing to America. And so I asked her.         My mother has been able to take
    Gladys Garcia, my mother, was       care of my brother and me finan-
born in Guatemala City, Guatemala.      cially. But now I have started work-
Even as a young girl, she did not       ing so that I can help her out. At 21,
spend a lot of time with her parents,   I figure if I need something, I have
who went back and forth between         to earn it myself and give my moth-
the United States to Guatemala for      er a break.
work. They told us stories about            Last summer, during my break
how much better the United States       from Lehman College, I went to
was than Guatemala. My mother
listened and started to wonder
about the good life in America.
                                             The right to
                                                                                                                                                        Photo: Leandro Fortyz
    She compared the job opportu-                                                Joey Rios won his May 6 bout with Derrick Moon by a unanimous decision.
nities in Guatemala to those avail-
able here. She felt that she could             vote was
have found a decent job in
Guatemala. She could even have
gone to college there. However, she
would not have improved herself
over the years if she stayed there.
                                           another wonder
                                            to my mother.
                                            She wanted to
The chances to learn new skills, or
any skills, for that matter, were
limited. The United States, she felt
sure, would be a better teacher. So
                                               to have a                                 CONTENDER
my mother came here and learned              voice here..                        LEANDRO FORTYZ
English easily. She had many tutors
within the ESL classes who wanted                                                The Bronx Journal Reporter
her to learn.
    In 1999 my mother finally
became a citizen. She studied the
United States history with a real
                                        work with my mother at Cookie’s. I
                                        was a stock guy and would have to
                                                                                 Undefeated Junior Welterweight Joey Rios
curiosity for it. But the reason why
she became a citizen was somewhat
                                        be there by eight in the morning; I
                                        would come home at eleven at
                                                                                 Is Jabbing and Hooking His Way to the Top
different. She knew that by not         night. After two weeks, I quit and
being a citizen, she was not eligible

                                        never went back.                                n a modest boxing gym behind a supermarket on Castle Hill Avenue in the
for many important benefits such as        My mother is a manager there,                Bronx, Joey Rios pounds on the speed bag, creating a rhythmic cadence that
healthcare.                             and she is twice as old as I am, but            attracts everyone within ears distance. “I live for this,” he says during a break.
    The right to vote was another       she has those same hours. She has               Rios, a professional boxer who fights as a junior welterweight, believes he will
wonder to my mother. She wanted         been working there for as long as I      be a champion in this unforgiving sport. And the truth is that he is rapidly filling out
to belong, to have a voice here. She    can remember. My experience at           his resume with boxing achievements. He won the Golden Gloves at Madison Square
voted for the first time in the 2000    Cookie’s has helped me to be able        Garden in 1999 and is currently 11-0 with five knockouts.
Bush vs. Gore race. Of course, like     to relate to her. What I feel about          The guy is also telegenic enough to have been featured at age 12 on a Nickelodeon
so many others, she was disappoint-     that is that my mother works hard        Channel segment, “In a Minute,” about talented children, and on a 1999 PBS docu-
ed with the outcome. Last fall’s        to make my brother and me smile,         mentary, “In My Corner,” which took viewers behind the scenes and into his life out-
2004 election also failed to deliver    and I really appreciate it.              side the ring.
                                                                                     Rios has known what he wanted to do since he was 9. It was at about that time that
                                                                                 he caught the attention of a neighbor, the trainer and former boxer, Angel Alejandro,
                                                                                     SPORTS                                                                                      A15
The Bronx Journal/Spring 2005

    who saw that the young boy was always
getting into scrapes and suggested that he
channel his anger and spunk in the boxing
ring. Once Rios visited the Bronxchester
Boxing Club, where he still trains, he was
    Alejandro, a Golden Gloves boxer who
is Rios’s trainer, remembers how “Lil Joey”
used to clean spit buckets and do other
odds-and-ends jobs “because he just loves
being around the fighters.” As fate would
have it, Alejandro broke his nose during an
amateur bout and had plenty of time to
teach his willing young student the basics

      “It plays into
       my persona
       when I fight
       on the road,
    and they announce
   I’m from the Bronx,”
        says Rios.

of the sport known as “the sweet science.”
More to the point, while Alejandro was
recovering, young Rios hounded him for
instruction. He was, from the first, eager to
     “This is a home away from home for
these kids,” said Luis Camacho, who
helped train Rios as a boy. “This is their
neighborhood gym, this is where they learn
boxing, this is where they learn what life is
all about.”
     Rios attributes his own toughness and
determination to growing up in an area
which, he says, is synonymous with slums,
gangs, and violence – the Throgs Neck
Project in the Bronx. “It plays into my per-                                                                                                                                Photo: Leandro Fortyz
sona when I fight on the road, and they          “I want respect. And a world title,” says Rios, here working up a sweat during his daily training session in Bronxchester.
announce that I’m from the Bronx,” he
says.                                            fight because so many people were trying       financial backing to make a bout feasible.      thoroughly to fight him.”
     Early on, Rios’s youthful neighborhood      to gain entrance to the venue. “We used to     “Joey doesn’t fight for a slice and a soda,”        A fight in the professional ranks seems
struggles mirrored problems inside his           coordinate buses so Joey’s fans could trav-    trainer Alejandro said. “We’ll fight King       like an inevitability, and Rios awaits the
home. His mother, Rosie, from Puerto             el to fights,” Alejandro adds. “First it was   Kong if they have King Kong money.”             day when he can beat Santana a second
Rico, played the role of both mother and         one bus, then two, and finally three. It got        Rios realizes that he is approaching his   time. He refuses to let on just how he plans
father to Joey and his five siblings, raising    so crazy that we had to stop chartering        window of opportunity to challenge the          to dominate his current archrival, but a mild
them and simultaneously working at Albert        buses.”                                        likes of Zab Juda or Arturo Gatti for a         smile crosses his face when he suggests that
Einstein Hospital in the Bronx. “My father           Rios is grateful to “Team Rios,” his       championship. Wilfredo Benitez, the for-        he will soon put to rest any confusion about
was hardly ever around,” Rios said.              tight group of supporters who have been in     mer junior welterweight champion from           who is the better brawler.
      Young Rios loved to raise hell. “Joey      his corner since the beginning, for helping    Puerto Rico, won the title at the age of 18.        In the meantime, Rios trains six days a
would get into scuffles around the neigh-        him to maintain his focus. First and fore-     Rios estimates that he is perhaps two years     week, with Team Rios watching his every
borhood,” says Dave Malavé, 23, a center         most among them is Alejandro. The other        away from contending for a title. “There is     move and guarding him against shark pro-
fielder on Lehman College’s baseball team        members are Rios’s manager, Rusty Ansell,      no rush,” he said during a training break at    moters and fights that do not serve his best
and a 15-year friend. “He was aggressive         and his trainer, Carlos Ramirez. All have      the Bronxchester Club. “When my manag-          interest. His last fight was on May 6. At the
and sometimes violent, but boxing helped         weighed in on such career-shaping deci-        er and trainers say I’m ready, that’s when      Westchester County Center in White Plains,
turn that around for him. On the positive        sions as Rios’s opponents, his fight venues,   we’ll make our move.”                           he pounded Derrick Moon and won a unan-
side, he was dedicated and a hard worker.        and the size of the purses he should accept.       Mention the name Edgar Santana, and         imous decision. “Joey gets a lot of offers to
These days he’s funny and has a great sense          Because this group is so nurturing, says   Rios quickly dismisses the idea that the        fight other junior welterweights, but when
of humor. And he’s very caring with his          Alejandro, the aspiring champ is well-         other junior welterweight is in the same        it comes time to signing the contract and
friends and family.”                             grounded and cannot be lured away by the       class. Santana boasts a record of 13-2, but     securing the money, the offers go by the
     Rios graduated from St. Raymond’s           promise of bigger fights or larger pots of     Rios claims that some of Santana’s wins         wayside,” Alejandro says.
High School in the Bronx and briefly             money from promoters looking to exploit        came only a few weeks after Rios had                Rios would like to make an impact in a
attended Old Westbury College on Long            young talent. “When Joey turned pro,”          already taken the wind out of his oppo-         division that has recently restored life to the
Island before deciding to throw his body         says Alejandro, “not one manager wanted        nents’ sails.                                   sport of boxing, thanks to such colorful
into the ring and turn pro.                      to sign him to a contract — until Rusty            “He has fought the same boxers I            fighters as Floyd Mayweather Jr., and the
      Boxing has proven to be Rios’s ticket      Ansell put up the money.” Ansell was the       defeated, and he has had better results         Australian, Kosta Tszyu. “My first profes-
out of the projects. In his fifth professional   only one who had enough faith in Rios to       because I wore them down first and gave         sional fight was a head rush,” Rios says. “I
bout, he fought in his neighborhood at           lay out the cash.                              Santana an easy win,” Rios gripes, then         look forward to an opportunity to fight the
Jimmy’s Café on West Fordham Road. He                Until “Team Rios” thinks it is time for    adds, “I respect Edgar as a boxer, but per-     guys I’ve been watching on TV.”
was so popular, says Alejandro,that the Fire     Rios to challenge for a title, the men will    sonally I feel that he is trying to make a          His goal? “You want to go as far as you
Department threatened to shut down the           continue to handpick opponents who are         name for himself by challenging the fight-      can in this business,” he says. “ Put simply,
                                                 respectable in the rankings and have the       ers who have not had the chance to train        I want respect. And a world title.”
With an 11-0 Winning Streak,
 Joey Rios Is Hot Hot Hot!

    Story on pages A 14&A15

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