Archive for: August 2014

Tejano Bars Diminishing in East Austin

By Camille Garcia, Thomas Hushen and Christina Noriega

Eddie Costilla, owner of La Perla, (left) chats with a few of his regulars, Tomas (center) and Edward (right), on a Wednesday afternoon. Stopping for a drink at La Perla is a ritual for them on their way home from work. Photo by: Christina Noriega

Eddie Costilla, owner of La Perla, (left) chats with a few of his regulars, Tomas (center) and Edward (right), on a Wednesday afternoon. Stopping for a drink at La Perla is a ritual for them on their way home from work. Photo by: Christina Noriega

Sitting at the corner of East Sixth Street and Comal Street, the small, dusty house turned bar named La Perla or “The Pearl” may seem out of place next to the upscale venues and pop-up food trucks lining the street.

Owner of La Perla Eddie Costilla said he regularly sees the new generation of East Austin goers pause on the sidewalk in front of his bar, peer in curiously and walk away.

“They’re not sure if they want to go in; they just don’t want to take that risk,” Costilla said. He admits, “It’s nothing too spectacular, but it’s not too big of a letdown.”

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The bartender prepares La Perla’s signature drink, the Armodelo. According to bar owner Eddie Costilla, the drink is crafted as a lighter option to the Michelada. Photo by: Christina Noriega

Preserved intact from the 1950s, La Perla is an East Austin artifact, a step into a past when gentrification had not yet shaken the neighborhood. On weekdays, the regulars – most of them Tejano men 50 years old or older– will congregate after work for a $1 Bud Light and chat over a Tejano favorite playing from the jukebox. But on Sundays, the regulars bring their families and friends for a game or two of pool. People dance to Bobby Pulido or chug down one of La Perla’s famous Armodelos, a spicy variation of the Mexican beer Modelo Especial. Before the buyouts began, this was the norm on East Sixth Street.
“Five years ago, we had at least ten bars down this road that were all Tejano,” Costilla said. “And now it’s down to one or two.”

With the closure of Tejano bar Cappuccino’s on Wednesday, La Perla is closer to becoming the only Tejano bar or cantina in Austin. As property taxes continue to rise in East Austin, Castillo said La Perla will eventually close too.

 

“All I can do right now is try to keep up with it and hope that [property taxes] are not going to go up too much more,” Costilla said.

 

With the City of Austin bringing in more than 150 new residents a day, growth has increased exponentially throughout East Austin, causing improvements in safety and property values as well as displacing residents and business owners who can no longer afford their rent. Castillo said the Tejano bars on East Sixth Street closed after their lease was bought out by wealthy developers, who then opened rock music venues or cocktail bars.

 

 

Julian Vasquez Heileg, associate professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin, said in major cities such as Chicago and Dallas gentrification has pushed out low-income and mostly Latino and African-American communities from land they had been segregated to.

 

“What wealthy individuals, especially real estate investors have discovered is that communities of color are located in very ideal locations,” Vasquez Haileg said.

 

Though the neighborhoods have drastically changed in the last decade, historically Latinos and African-Americans primarily populated East Austin, though not by choice. Vasquez Heileg said City of Austin planners pushed Latino and black communities from Central Austin to the East side during the Jim Crow era through real estate red-lining and other de jure segregation methods. In the 1960s, the construction of Interstate 35 sealed the divide between the primarily white, downtown Austin and the East Austin populated by communities of color.

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A regular of La Perla contemplates his next move during a game of pool on a Sunday afternoon. Photo by: Christina Noriega

Some of La Perla’s long-time customers or “the old-timers” as Costilla puts it grew up in Austin during this time. In his adolescence, Edward García, a devoted customer since 1955, said he remembers when Latinos had to eat their meals outside at white-only restaurants and when the Tejano bars moved from Central Austin to East Austin.

 

“Back then you didn’t know it was discrimination,” García said.

 

While the majority of La Perla’s customers have been regulars for decades, others like Ray Gonzales started going to La Perla six years ago, after the Tejano bars on East Sixth Street closed down. He said the gentrification of East Austin has erased many popular, communal spaces for Tejanos.

 

“There’s no place for us to congregate anymore and meet people unless you go to someone’s house, but it’s not the same. You want the music and the – it’s kind of hard to explain,” Gonzales said. “I’m losing my culture, I’m losing my people, I’m losing the businesses I use to go to, I’m losing all that.”

Vasquez Heileg said gentrification nationwide has revived the historical segregation of communities of color.

 

“What you see now in Houston, Austin, Chicago and Dallas is a redux of the historical approaches to these population except for now, these approaches are not under de jure practices or those required by law, but de facto practices,” Vasquez Heileg said.

 

Costilla said despite the decrease in Tejano bars, Tejano culture can still survive in East Austin

 

“If the few that are Hispanic and that have grown up in East Austin can all stick together even with the new people coming in, we can preserve that heritage in this East Austin area,” Costilla said.

By Tom Hushen

By Tom Hushen

 

 

Music: A Study, A Lifestyle

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Written by: Heather Leighton

The smooth rhythms of pianists, strong choruses of opera vocalists, and rapid bowing and fingering of the strings filled the air in the practice hall for the music majors at the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas.

Walking down the hall I would peek through the narrow windows into the practice rooms where the artists would be sitting, or standing, or pacing. All would have a focused stare in their eye as they read their sheet music; many would rarely look up to see me outside.

Listening to these students simply practice caused my body to chill, my heart to smile, and my mind to be amazed.

“Music is great to have a passion for, but if you’re not 100 percent committed, then it’s probably not the life for you,” said Nathan Mertens, a doctoral candidate in saxophone performance at the university.

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University of Texas piano professor, Martha Hilley, believes that if more of the general public realized the benefits of studying music, regardless of the instrument, they would see the importance of music. Rather than thinking of it as a frill; an extra. Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

Two to three hours per day is the minimum amount of practice time suggested to the students from many of their professors, although many practice three to five hours per day.

“The amount of effort that you have to put into the artistry side of it and the fact that you’re never at a spot that you can stop, you can always be better,” Martha Hilley, a professor of piano at the University of Texas, says. “Would you ever slow down as a mathematician if you could get smarter?”

Eva Van Houten reads along her sheet music as she plays the viola. She originally learned the violin and has now learned the viola. The two are similar and the transition was an easy one, according to Van Houten. Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

Eva Van Houten reads along her sheet music as she plays the viola. She originally learned the violin and has now learned the viola. The two are similar and the transition was an easy one, according to Van Houten. Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

Along with practicing daily, music majors are required to take the same course load as all other undergraduate students at the university. This entails 42total hours of core curriculum comprised of English, foreign language, sciences, mathematics, government, history, humanities, and arts.

“Not only do I have homework in all of my classes, but every day I am practicing four or five hours on my instrument and that is the number one priority,” said Mertens.

Music floods the airwaves from headphones, to stores and restaurants, to the University of Texas tower at noon.

“Music is a part of everyone’s life. You can’t go a day without hearing music. Even walking down the street you can hear it in cars,” said Brian Taylor, a music and education double major UT student. “And I think that if you study music, you’ll better able to appreciate it and you can understand why it’s making you happy or sad.

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Taylor holds a long note through his trumpet during his practice. “Music a part of everyone’s life and after you know more about it, I think, it helps you connect with it more.” Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

According to professor Hilley, people do not go into music thinking that they are going to be better coordinated, better organized, or have a better ability with scanning material.

“These skills are not normally linked to music, but things that happen as you study music,” she said. “It’s beneficial from a stand point of social well-being, because so much of music is making music with other people.”

According to Dr. Robert Duke, professor of music and human learning and an advisor for the Butler School of music, there is an immediate connection with other musicians, regardless of a possible language barrier.

“I’m not sure how many other activities you can have that immediate rapport with people whom you’ve never met before,” he said.

Though when the Texas Legislature threatened to cut public education budgets by five million dollars in 2011, many music and fine art supporters wereworried that the arts would suffer.

“I think that the arts are becoming less important in our secondary education and that we are ignoring a whole section of our society,” said Harvey Pittel, a former professor of saxophone for the Butler School of Music. “And we are, in a way, beginning to turn our back on our culture.”

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Harvey Pittel smiles at his home while speaking on the impact of music in his own life: “I think that everyone that plays a musical instrument has something they want to say, that maybe can’t say it in a different way.” Photo by Marshall Tidrick.

According to Pittel, although the amount of money may be decreasing, the amount of students interested in the arts is not.

“I see more students that I have ever seen wanting to go into the arts, but often the funding isn’t there,” he said, “and that’s of grave concern to me.”

Eva Van Houten, a master’s student in music and human learning, caught this desire for the arts.

“My original inspiration for studying music was joy, I think, I found a lot of happiness in it,” said Van Houten. “When I was a kid I felt a sense of happiness that I didn’t experience in other places.”

Hilley describes this sense of happiness differently. “Music is all consuming,” she said, “so there has to be a fire in the belly or you wouldn’t do it.”

 

Would you donate your own money towards music education?

image (2)Information gathered from: http://www.payscale.com/college-salary-report-2014/majors-that-pay-you-back

Music's Benefits To The Brain

DID YOU KNOW

Up, Up, and Away: Austin Cosplay Community Takes Off

Lee, suited in his Iron Man costume, takes a photo with a fan in the middle of Sixth Street. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

Cosplayer Albert Lee, suited in his Iron Man costume, takes a photo with a fan in the middle of Sixth Street. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

By ChinLin Pan, Barbi Barbee, and Alisa Semiens

When Arcy Ward steps out in her new outfit, people will stare. As she walks down the sidewalk, some may take pictures. She just smiles when this sort of thing happens because she knows she looks good.

After all, her top made of black pleather and gold trim is certainly eye-catching. She matches the look with velvety maroon cutout pants. To pull it all together, she handcrafted silver and red skull knee pads and the matching necklace and belt buckle.

“You get the strangest looks from people,” Ward said. “Also some good reactions, too. It’s kind of part of the fun in being in costume. That you can go around and kind of freak out some people who weren’t expecting you.”

No, Ward isn’t joining a metal band. She is a cosplayer.

Cosplay is costume play. A person dresses up as a character from any of their favorite works. Popular choices come from anime, manga, role play games, and comic books. Costumes are often handmade and then worn to conventions.

 

Ward’s latest creation is High Command Katarina from the multiplayer online game “League of Legends.”

“I’ve actually had to use a lot more complicated materials than I have previously when I was making it,” Ward said. “I have pleather for the top and I have probably had to use a good 120 pins just to get everything in place with proper ribbons and everything. I have suede belt buckles that I made by hand.”
After working on her costume at least eight hours a day for a week, Ward traveled from Austin to Baltimore to debut her costume at the Otakon anime convention from Aug. 8-10.

Otakon is just one of many conventions Ward has attended in costume. It is one of many conventions that will occur in the next few months all over the United States.

Lee often suits up as Iron Man to take photos with people on Sixth Street, meet up with other cosplayers, and score free drinks. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

Lee often suits up as Iron Man to take photos with people on Sixth Street, meet up with other cosplayers, and score free drinks. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

“At various conventions, it’s like a con family where you see the same people a couple times a year,” Ward said. “You can meet other people too if they are cosplaying something from a series you like. It’s an instant friend. You can just go up to them and talk to them about the series.”

But conventions can cost hundreds of dollars to attend.

Cosplayer Albert Lee says the trouble is finding a balance between the cost of costume materials and the price of admission into events to display them.
“I have only been to Ikkicon and South By Southwest sadly,” Lee said. “It’s like the great paradox of cosplaying. You always have ‘X’ amount of time to finish a cosplay, and then you have so little time to go to these convention. And then you have all this money you dumped into the costume, you don’t have enough money to purchase tickets for conventions.”

Lee has poured thousands of dollars into creating his costumes.

“The most amount of time and money I have put— that costume would probably be my Iron Patriot suit,” Lee said. “That one cost me 1.5K of my own dollars to put into. A lot of that went into electronics and such.”

As a result, he chooses to showcase his work weekend nights on Austin’s famous Sixth Street. These days he’s sporting an Iron Man costume made of foam, yoga mats, and various electronic parts.

“Recently I started walking downtown,” Lee said. “My other friend—he dresses up as either Boba Fett and Mecha Spawn—we walk around downtown, and take pictures with people and it’s fun. People get us drinks and stuff, so it’s always a great experience.”

Austin will host a Cosplay Expo at The Vortex theatre and bar. Cosplayer and host of the event Justin LaVergne hopes to draw in cosplayers from all over Austin and create a greater sense of community in the city.

“Austin’s cosplay community is a little more spread out than other places like Dallas and Houston and San Antonio,” LaVergne said. So we’re trying to bring things things together, because if we get together we can help each other. Because everyone has a different skill set. And if we can get all of these people together, that can boost everybody’s ways of making cosplay.”

As an experienced cosplayer, LaVergne says the best thing about it is the social world it opens up to people.

“Cosplay allows them to be more of themselves, be more social,” LaVergne said. “Wearing a costume is like wearing armor. Seeing someone that’s from the same anime or from the same comic as you, and being able to go up to them, because you have something, that you can see physically that you have something in common with this person. It’s a lot easier to talk to them.”

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of West Campus

West Campus

 

By: Cody Jo Bankhead, Diego Contreras, Anthony Guerra, and Austin Harrison.

Looking down from outer space human bodies appear to be suspended to the earth by backpacks as they shuffle in and out of skyscrapers and concrete buildings with Greek letters scribbled across them.  Blue and red Solo cups color the grass as if they are trying to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for themselves.  The neighborhood never sleeps.  This is West Campus.

 

Located behind Guadalupe Street, otherwise known as “The Drag” by Austin residents, and nestled in-between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and North Lamar Boulevard, West Campus houses Austin residents and students from The University of Texas.

 

West Campus Housing Map

 

 

Housing CompairisonWest Campus is well known by Austin residents, but filmmaker Richard Linklater, known for his cult classic, stoner film “Dazed and Confused,” brought another level of notoriety to this tight knit community.  Linklater’s first film “Slacker” was shot in West Campus.  The film features extensive scenes in the neighborhood prior to its expansion as the predominant location for UT student housing.

 

 

The neighborhood is home to various apartment complexes, condominiums, co-operative housing compounds, sorority and fraternity houses, restaurants, bars, and local businesses like real estate companies.

In recent years West Campus has become known primarily for its housing of Greek organizations, including 13 sorority houses and over 30 fraternity houses.

Greek organizations host various events throughout the year including a three-day long party in the spring that raises money for various philanthropic organizations known as “Round Up.”   Events such as these have contributed to backlash from locals who complain of West Campus’ rambunctious reputation.  

“The most annoying thing about living in west campus is having to deal with drunk college students at 2 o’clock, or 1 o’clock in the morning,” Joey Valenzuela, a recent UT graduate and real estate researcher, said.  “Especially if you’re trying to sleep or study at night and you can hear hollering and yelling outside of your window.”

 

Noise levels are one of the many complaints students and residents have in regards to West Campus.  Other concerns include housing prices, building maintenance, constant construction, and safety.

 

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Fixing the problems with West Campus is no easy task.  Mike McHone, the vice president of University Area Partners, believes that there is no simple fix in West Campus.  According to McHone, repairing streets like Rio Grande are often complex construction projects.

 

“Buried in the streets is drainage and sewer lines and that presents multiple complications,” McHone said.

 

When homes and other structures are built, builders routinely place utility pipes underneath the asphalt.   These pipes include electricity and sewage.  Making a road wider or smoother may require contractors to take certain precautions that tend be more expensive.

 

Many students complain about the infrastructure of West Campus, however improvements to roads and streetlights depend on the budget passed by the city of Austin, McHone said.

 

According to McHone, University Area Partners are dedicated to improving the safety and living conditions in West Campus for all students.  The University Area Partners are a neighborhood registry for West Campus that provides information to the public and helps construct policy decisions.

 

The city of Austin has seen major expansion in the last decade with as many as 100 people moving to the city each day. Some see the city’s rapid expansion as a reason for West Campus’ steep rises in housing prices.

“Now that Austin has become more expensive I feel like it’s reasonable to live in West Campus,” Joey Valenzuela said. “The market is kind of leveling out and $800 seems pretty reasonable to live in West Campus or any other part of the town as well.”

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On average, West Campus living has increased at an annual rate of 10 percent.  According to the trend, if a student graduating in 2014 has a child that attends The University of Texas in 2054, the rent for the child will have jumped from $840 to $38,467 a month, a massive increase over the span of 30 years.

 

 “It’s not affordable for the entire student body to live here anymore.  Even the cheaper places have become a lot more expensive,” Safeer Khatib, a UT senior said.  “I’ve seen a change in three years, when I got here it was a lot cheaper.”

According to realtor Kevin Farrell, the price of realty is skyrocketing and even with all the development that is ongoing, the prices aren’t being driven down. “It would be nice if there was more affordable housing for students in the west campus area,” Farrell said.

In order to obtain affordable housing, some students live areas such as Riverside and commute to campus.  These commutes can be inconvenient and often present obstacles for students like traffic.

 

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However, Farrell does believe that more students living in West Campus is a step in the right direction.

 

“I like the idea of UT students being closer to campus,” Farrell said.