The Amazing Brain

June 27, 2011 at 11:22 am (Uncategorized) (, )

I saw the movie “Limitless” last night. It’s about how a pill lets you access your full brain potential. You become super observant, logical and great at problem solving, etc.

… anyway… I had a dream early this morning that I reached in my back pocket to pay for something but my wallet was gone. This dream is what woke me up, but I didn’t think anything of it. Later, as I was getting dressed for work, I was going to transfer my wallet out of the pants I had on the previous day and discovered it was gone! WOW. Panic set in.

I retraced my steps around the house and it was nowhere to be found. The last place I went to outside the house was the Japanese take-out place and thought that it may be there, so I called them when they opened this morning and they said someone turned in my wallet. Whew! It was found on the floor by the table where I was sitting and must have fallen out of my back pocket. Everything was still in it!

After watching “Limitless” I can clearly see how my subconscious must have observed (via my right butt check) that the familiar bulk of my wallet had not been felt for several hours yesterday afternoon and chose to reveal that to me as a dream. Amazing how the brain works.

Either that or my wallet woke up in a strange place and was sending me a telepathic message that it was lost.

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If William Shatner wrote poetry at the Breakfast Table

November 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm (Uncategorized)

(calm voice)
The morning – bright
The coffee – hot

(sudden rage)
The toast was buuuurned!!
And the sun shines as if to mock me!

(back to calm)
But I should be thankful
The jam was – sweet

Shatner

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Vonnegut Reaction

May 27, 2010 at 10:15 am (Uncategorized)

I had a dream two nights ago that I happened to run into Kurt Vonnegut on the street. Very odd scenario, yet very vivid. He was walking arm in arm with a woman that the peripheral vision of my subconscious perceived to be his wife. I had my wife by my side as well and upon spotting this celebrated author walking toward me I felt my eyes widen with delight and a broad smile stretch across my face.

 
The Kurt Vonnegut before me was the one I recall from my first literary introduction to him in school in the late 1970s; hair bushy and without the lightened color of age. He seemed happy for the recognition and accepted my hearty hand shake with great glee.
 
He noticed I was carrying two books, as I had presumably come out of the small book shop that was among the row of shops on the street, and asked if I would like him to autograph them for me. To my chagrin, I informed him that they were not any of his books to which he happily said, “Well, I’m sure they have one in this book shop that I can get for you.”
 
As Mr. Vonnegut rummaged through the new and used books I just stood in awe at what was playing out before me. He was happily searching, mumbling his book titles to himself, then looking back at me once or twice as if trying to discern which book might suit me.
 
The dream dissipated at that point and I recall thinking, “He was taller than I thought he’d be.”

http://www.avclub.com/articles/15-things-kurt-vonnegut-said-better-than-anyone-el,1858/

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Scratching the Surface

February 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

I made an interesting discovery a few weeks ago. While rummaging through a box of old artwork in my closet I found several sheets of unused scratch board. I thought this was an incredible coincidence because only days before I had spotted a photo of actor/singer Will Smith that I thought would look good in scratch board. I saved the image, as I had done with others over the years, presuming that “someday” I’d get around to illustrating again.

I’ve done several scratch board illustrations, but the last one I’d done was nearly 20 years ago, and finding the Will Smith image and then the blank, pristine sheets of scratch board was like the universe was challenging me to try my hand at it once more.

Scratch board, if you are unfamiliar with it, is basically a piece of poster board with solid black ink on one side, so dramatically lit images lend themselves better to becoming scratch board art. It really capitalizes on the medium and creates a much richer final image.

There are many tools you can use to scratch your image into it, but I had always just used an X-Acto knife.

Setting about the business of illustrating, I felt a little trepidation for having not done it for so long. Most of the past twenty years I have spent doing computer graphic illustrations and design. But I felt compelled and if there is anything I have learned from being somewhat creative is that you have to strike while the iron is hot.

The truly unique thing about scratch board art is that it is the opposite of a pencil drawing. With pencil you are concentrating on shading and darkening areas, but with scratch board you are actually scratching out the highlights and actually drawing the flesh on a face.

I put the general outline of the Will Smith image, and key shadow and light areas, onto tracing paper. Then, rubbed the back of the tracing with chalk so I could do a tranfer tracing onto the scratch board. You can’t erase on scratch board, so with the chalk transfer I can make sure my proportions are correct right off the bat.

The next step was to get a sharp X-Acto blade and begin. I generally start with areas with the brightest highlights. In those places I can get the feel and rythm without risking too many mistakes. The trick here is to not over work these areas. I soon skipped around to some darker areas to make sure my contrast balance was working. Later I could go back and add to some highlights if they needed it to make the image pop. Every now and then I turn the image upside down to work on it. This way I can really get an objective view of the light and dark areas. It really works!

About thirty minutes or an hour into the piece I always feel as if it’s not going to turn out good at all, but I keep plugging at it until eventually it starts to look right. All totalled, in the course of an entire weekend it took about 8 hours.

In the end, I was very happy with the piece. So, happy in fact, that I dug out one of my old scratch board references and did a portrait of B.B. King the following weekend. Not bad for a 20 year hiatis.

Will Smith

Will Smith on scratchboard (1/23/2010)

 

B.B. King

B.B. King on scratchboard (1/31/2010)

 

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Grifters and Grits

December 4, 2009 at 8:06 pm (Timmons Fiction) (, , )

Weatherford, Texas. Population: approximately 27,000 and almost 90% white. Like most little Texas towns, there’s not much excitement unless you’re into rodeo, the Dallas Cowboys, or the Houston Astros.

The murder rate is zero in Weatherford, but the overall crime rate is near 900 incidents per year, so there are other obvious distractions.

Trucker’s Delight Diner was much like any diner off the highway – quaint, offering tasty food and lots of hot coffee. Today only six truckers were partaking of the breakfast menu, but they were all regulars along this route.

Amy was tending to all the familiar faces in the diner this bright late November morning when the jingle of the Christmas bell tied to the front door handle announced the stranger. Amy naturally assumed he was a member of the silver haired RV crowd converging on the motel across the street.

The new gentleman seemed well rested, amiable, and hungry as he scanned the diner for the best place to sit. Promptly seated himself in the sunniest window seat, the stranger adjusted the salt and pepper shakers and cream dispenser with one hand while giving the table a quick sweep with the other before plucking the menu from its resting place. The pleasant look never left his face.

From a far corner booth Ben, the bus boy, nodded to Amy as she headed toward the new customer. Ben slopped his cleaning rag haphazardly across the booth’s seats, focusing his attention on Amy as she took the newcomer’s breakfast order.

Amy had approached the table adjusting her expression appropriately. Mouth neither happy nor overtly dour; eyes drooped and emotionless; shoulders slumped; her medium length brown straight hair lay flat adding to her somberness. Twenty years old and she performed her role as if she’d been at it for a dozen years, but in truth she had played the melancholy girl only a dozen times. Ben watched approvingly.

Ben had taught her well. The grift would play out smoothly if all went well. Amy would play the part of the sad, troubled young waitress, with the weight of the world seemingly on her shoulders. Next, the hapless stranger – the mark – would take sympathy on the poor soul.

Amy served the breakfast, and throughout the meal she was to stay in sight, puttering behind the counter so the mark could not forget her sorrowful demeanor. Then, upon her next trip to refill the mark’s coffee the question would be posed. Are you okay?

Some elaborate tale of hardship or sorrow would be spun, but not overly so. Then, some attempt would be made to either take pity on the young girl or blatantly flirt with her to take advantage – either would produce the same result for Ben and Amy. Some monetary assistance would be offered and that was the grifter’s goal.

Ben was noticeably muscular with tattoos that became animated with each movement of sinew as he wheeled his cart of dirty dishes passed the stranger’s table. Parking his cart near the counter where Amy was conspicuously busying herself, Ben peered from behind his thick, heavy-rimmed glasses and began to speak to her. The conversation was a bit one sided, as if Amy were purposely ignoring him.

The newcomer tried to focus on his breakfast, but couldn’t help but notice how mismatched this couple appeared. Ben was clearly ten – possibly twenty – years older than Amy and appeared to be making her uncomfortable. Only a few words from Amy could be overheard.

“No. I can’t,” Amy told Ben without emotion.

“Why not?” Ben’s agitation was evident, but he spoke more softly than Amy. “I don’t understand what makes this mark different from the others to make you suddenly have a change of heart.”

“Look at him, Ben. He looks just like our dad. I can’t steal money from him.”

“I can’t,” Amy repeated. “You know I can’t. I won’t,” she added with emphatic defiance. There was a brief silence before she finally made eye contact with Ben.

“How can you ask me that?” she said. “How can you ask me that after what you did?”

Those last words were a bit louder and Ben became nervous that the stranger, sitting only twenty feet away, had heard. Retreating to the kitchen with his cart, Ben knew his sister’s mind was made up.

Amy was quietly fuming while she continued to wipe the counter. Now her mind was genuinely troubled. She saw the uncanny resemblance between the man at the table and her own father. Her brother, Ben might have ice running through his veins, but Amy was young and her heart was big.

 It was only few years ago when she discovered that Ben had taken advantage of their feeble, drunken father shortly before he died. Ben had stolen his social security checks, stolen items from his house to sell, all while keeping him in a drunken stupor. There was no way Amy could go through with cheating this kind fatherly looking man out of a single dime.

In fact, this was a turning point for Amy. She finally saw the dirty little existence that her brother had forced her into and realized that she deserved better. She needed to be strong. She needed to be resolute and make a stand that after her shift she would just go – leave her brother behind and have a better life. Despite not having enough money, she knew she had to leave. All she needed was a sign.

Noticing that the gentleman had finished his breakfast, Amy brought the coffee pot, warmed up his cup, and asked if he were ready for the check.

Amy totaled the bill at just over $8.00, wrote her name at the top on the line after Your server is, and stepped away to return the coffee pot to behind the counter.

As the bell on the door jingled, she returned to the table to fine the man had left a crisp twenty dollar bill. She picked it up and began to cry.

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Relaxed Awareness

September 24, 2009 at 2:54 am (Recollections) (, , , )

In the realm of weird phenomenon, there is one personal account that bears telling.

It was during my honeymoon in 2008. My wife and I decided to stay at the Lake Lure Inn, a North Carolina landmark built in 1927. There have been a few noted paranormal occurrences in its lore, but the inn’s contemporary claim to fame is that some scenes from the movie Dirty Dancing were filmed there.

Now, I’m not one for fanciful treatments, but the package deal we received included a couple’s massage. Entering the spa area I was both uncomfortable and curious. I know I like massages, but I have never received one from someone who was a complete stranger. I mean, at least get to know me first.

We were provided comfy robes and slippers and were asked to wait until the massage specialists were ready for us. It was all very professional, and routine for the two young women who would be providing our relaxing experience. As they appeared I guessed their ages to be at least in the mid-twenties; nearly half my age.

The lights were dim and the soothing Canon in D was playing softly as we were led to the side by side massage tables, then each handed a heavy towel to lay across our private parts for our session. Like I said, it was all very professional.

Having never been one for such spa treatments, I found it hard to relax as I was supposed to. I was incredibly self-conscious. I also did not want to relax to the point of falling asleep and embarrass myself by snoring and drooling.

The young woman working on my wife was a not too tall, short-haired blonde while the one tending to me was tall, brunette and slim. From time to time she would speak soft and smooth to let me know what she was doing and to ask if I was doing okay. I replied in similar sotto voce.

To distract myself from my self-consciousness I decided to play a game. I realized that neither of these women had introduced themselves to us properly, so I trained my thoughts on becoming “in tune” with the one who was rubbing my shoulders.

Attempting my best trance like state of relaxation, that would rival any yogi, I began “tuning in”. Her fingers, palms and aura that circled around me as she moved would give me a window into this person’s spirit, and in that connection I would be able to intuitively divine her name. Merely a clever game that would help me pass the time.

I soon became relaxed… ever more relaxed and focused on the pressure points her fingers were massaging with the warm oil. Muscles became less tense, thoughts not so restrained, and free associations began forming on their own. As she changed positions around my body I felt suspended as if floating in water. Sounds entered directly into my mind rather than my ears and almost flickered like dappled light through a tree.

Slowly, name sounds presented themselves to me; repeating over and over as if defying to become any other sound. “Jessica. Veronica.” Somehow the persistent ‘ica’ ending names continued… “Jessica… Veronica”… until slowly I drifted briefly to sleep- my mind released.

After what seemed like only a few remaining minutes the young women indicated that our time was up and we could return to the dressing rooms.

My wife and I conferred, comparing sessions and I recalled to her the mental game I was playing before I drifted into my cat nap.

As we were leaving the spa we said thank you to the two women for the massages and I had to ask, “By the way, what’s your name?”

She replied, “Jessica.”

Massage_image

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Blinded by the Light

July 22, 2009 at 4:34 pm (Recollections) (, , )

In my youth I was an insatiable sun worshiper. Let’s face it; a tan just looks good. I remember catching some rays out in the yard with a December’s snow on the ground. The addiction got so bad that my mother – also a tanner – and I chipped in on some tan pills, which naturally did not perform as advertised.

During the fall of my last year of high school (1982) my mother came back from a yard sale with quite the treasure. A sunlamp. It wasn’t a contemporary model, but it functioned and would certainly get the job done.

Eagerly, I was the first to test it on the heels of repeated warnings from my mother to be careful and not “overdo it”. Naturally, the best place for tanning privacy was the bathroom. I set the lamp on the vanity, acquainted myself with the dials and switches, and read the product labeling. “IMPORTANT: DO NOT look directly into the lamp while in use.”

To test it for proper positioning and optimal body coverage, I set the timer for ten seconds. As the lamp heated up, I made necessary adjustments, observing that the light was not as bright as I anticipated, comparing the brightness to not much more than a halogen bulb. The timer was finally set to ten minutes and I absorbed the rays, opening my eyes occasionally to check out premature results in the mirror and reposition the lamp.

When I was done there was a slight added darkness to my skin and I assumed that several sessions would be required to do the trick. I didn’t want to overdo it in one day.

The time was around 2 or 3am when I awoke to an incredible burning sensation in my eyes. Uncontrollable tears were streaming and it hurt to open my eyes; it hurt to close them. Blinking was all I could do and the pain was unbearable. I made my way down the hall to the bathroom for some eye drops. The drops only intensified the burning. Switching on the light over the vanity, I wanted to see what was causing this feeling of battery acid in my eyes. Had I grabbed something other than eye drops? Nope. It was eye drops alright. I then pried my eyes open to get a look at them in the mirror, finding to my shock and horror that the white of my eyes was now completely blood red. I had burned my eyes with the sunlamp!

IMPORTANT: DO NOT look directly into the lamp while in use.

“Maybe if I just let the eye drops do their job and I just go back and lay down things will be better in a few hours,” I thought. “Can’t let mom know that there is anything wrong.”

Fighting through the burning for a few more hours until the sun came up, and using almost the whole bottle of eye drops, I decided that not much had improved. I was going to have to tell mom. Naturally, she was shocked and angry at my stupidity, but she had the good sense to call my grandmother, who was a nurse.

There wasn’t much my grandmother could do except take me to the eye doctor. I can’t remember if he was located at the hospital or not because the daylight hurt my eyes so much that I kept them closed as much as possible behind my sun glasses.

The doctor used a variety of ocular instruments; each one hurt to different degrees, but the one that held my eyelids open so the doctor could survey the damage was the most agonizing.

“Wow! What on earth did you do for this happen?” The doctor asked.

The answer was embarrassing, so I spat it out like ripping off a Band-Aid, and then the doc gave me his report. “It’s hard to give a prognosis, but from the damage I see here I’d say that if you had been exposed to that light even a minute longer you would have been permanently blind.

When he’d completed the exam he squeezed a tube of salve into each eye, covered each with a gauze pad and taped them in place. I was to return in a few days to see if my eyes had healed sufficiently.

When I returned home my little sister was scared at the sight of my bandages, and I thought my brother would have had fun moving the furniture around for me to trip over, but instead he destroyed the sunlamp. I tried to make light of the situation with self-effacing jokes. What else could I do?

I missed a few days of school, and I hated to mess up my perfect attendance record, but I was more concerned with hoping that things would be back to normal when I got the bandages off. I took this experience to listen more and test my memory of where things are. Listening to the television was, in a word, different. The movie of the week at that time was a depiction of the royal love story of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and it’s amazing what images my brain uses to fill the gaps during the length of the program; images based solely on what I had seen from a month’s worth of commercials.

In just those few days the temporary blindness brought on a bit of understandable depression because I felt trapped and was prevented from drawing or writing – the two things I loved to do. My mother presided over the situation with her usual quiet strength and she remained nurturing and attentive given her son’s condition, never in a coddling way, but always lovingly.

As my next doctor’s appointment grew near I felt nervous and hopeful that whatever magic goop he put in my eyes had worked. When the bandages finally came off it was nothing like in the movies… you know, where the eyes flutter a bit at the light, but slowly things come into focus. For me, the goop was like glue crusted in my eyelashes, locking my upper and lower lashes together. After a moment of clean up, my eyes did flutter a bit at the sight of light again.

The exam now indicated that remarkably, there was no trace of damage in my eyes. The doctor checked a second time because he was sure that damage like he’d originally seen surly should have left some traces, but there was nothing. He commented on how lucky I was and that he hoped I’d learned my lesson because next time I might not be so lucky.

“No worries there, doc. My brother already got rid of the sunlamp.”

I think about that episode now and then and how just one more minute exposing my eyes to the sunlamp could have made me blind for life. I never would have been a graphic designer or seen the things I’ve seen. Amazingly, to this day I am still the only person in my family that does not wear glasses, although, now at age 44 there are indicators that make it apparent that that will be changing soon.

 

A contemporary sunlamp, but similar to the one I used.
A contemporary sunlamp, but similar to the one I used.

 

Sun worshiper
Sun worshiper

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A Cartoonist in the Family

July 9, 2009 at 2:55 am (La Familia) (, , , )

My grandfather’s brother was a notable cartoonist whom you can find mention of in any number of serious comic strip aficionado’s archives or blogs. His name was Victor Pazmino and commonly signed his work with his initials VEP.

There is a chance that I met him perhaps once, but my memory is vague. Upon his death in 1970 (I was 5 years old) I recall gathering with my grandfather and other family members at my great uncle’s residence (I presumed). I can remember wandering around, as kids do, but very aware of the somber mood in the dim room, and I laid my hands on his desk simply because it was his (I presumed).

My mother’s cousin Joseph was the self-appointed family historian and compiled much of the Pazmino family history. Joseph died in late 1993, but when he became very ill some years earlier he prudently began getting his affairs in order and I received several parcels from him containing many of Victor’s comic strips, scrapbooks and original artwork. Joseph knew I was bit of an illustrator myself and thought I would truly appreciate these pieces of, not only family history, but a bit of American cultural history as well.

Below is a brief history of Victor Pazmino.

Victor Pazmino at his drawing board
Victor Pazmino at his drawing board
Víctor Estenio Pazmiño

Born June 24, 1899, in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Family History

His father was Víctor Manuel Pazmiño, of the Pazmiño family of Quito, Ecuador, who had moved to Guayaquil in 1897. His mother was Lelia López, whose family was also from Quito. Lelia’s father was Felicísimo López, a political activist in Ecuador, and her mother was Francisca Romero, niece of Gabriel García Moreno, President of Ecuador (1861-1865 and 1869-1875). Víctor Estenio was named after his father, Víctor, and his uncle Estenio López, who had died just two years earlier at the age of 17. Víctor Estenio’s godfather was Eloy Alfaro, future president of Ecuador, who was a friend of Felicísimo López.

Coming to America

Felicísimo López, Víctor Estenio’s grandfather, became the Consul General of Ecuador, a position to be held at the Ecuadorian Consulate in New York City. So, on February 1, 1900, he, along with Víctor Manuel and Lelia, and their (then) only child, 8-month old Víctor Estenio, left on their journey to America. It was a two-week trip, traveling by boat up the Pacific coast to Panama, taking the train across land, then again by boat up the Atlantic coast, to New York City. They arrived on February 14, at night, and stayed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in Manhattan. Felicísimo and Víctor M. went to see Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera House, while Lelia stayed at the hotel watching little Víctor E. The family moved in to 6 Agate Court in Brooklyn (Stuyvesant Heights area).

Youth

During the next ten years or so, little Víctor Estenio would get four younger sisters (one of whom died at the age of one year), and three younger brothers. During this time, the family moved to 65 Rutland Road in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens area of Brooklyn. Víctor attended school while living here. The family later moved to 2114 Glenwood Road (also known as Avenue G) in Flatbush. He was living here when he registered for the draft during World War I. The registration card (dated September 12, 1918) shows that he was a student at the Pratt Institute at the time.

Cartooning

Víctor was in the habit of sleeping late in the mornings. When he woke up, he would go immediately across the room to his desk to start working on his drawings. He had a large cane that he would use to bang on the floor, a signal to the women of the house downstairs that he was up and ready for his breakfast. They brought it up to his room, so he could work while he ate. He would also frequent Prospect Park.

Víctor Estenio Pazmiño was an artist for American newspaper strips and comic books in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Mostly using his initials VEP as his signature, he began working on comics and panels in the mid 1920s, starting with ‘Frolicky Fables’ in the Daily Mirror (1925-26). This was followed by the syndicated feature ‘Figgers Family’ (1927-28), before he began working for the comic books published by Dell.

For Dell, he drew comic strips and cartoon pages like ‘Bush League Barry’ and ‘Jimmy Jams’, as well as the entire ‘Clancy the Cop’ book. He additionally produced gag cartoons for Ballyhoo Magazine, and made ‘Seaweed Sam the Rhyming Rover’ and ‘Goofie Gags’ for the Famous Funnies comic book. By the late 1930s, Pazmino was working on funny features for comic books by other companies, mainly through the Sangor Studio.

He created many features for Better/Nedor/Pines, including ‘Jr. Wizard’, ‘Peter the Pooch’, ‘Kid Bagdad’, ‘Basil the Bold’, ‘Butch’, ‘Frankie Fiction’, ‘Mortimer Magic’ and ‘Puss an’ Bimbo’. He drew ‘Hedda and Tails’ for Fawcett’s Whiz Comics, ‘TNT Todd’ and ‘Ace G-Man’ for Centaur’s Keen Detective Funnies, ‘Billy Brains the Boy Marvel’ for Harvey’s Champ Comics, and contributed features like ‘Jetsam Joe’, ‘Laffy Daffy’, ‘Spots’ and ‘Uncle Walrus and Willie’ to Rural Home titles like Laffy-Daffy Comics.

Census Data

In the 1920 US Census, Víctor, age 20, is shown as being an “Operator” in a “Machine Factory,” and his father is shown as being a “Publisher” for a “Trade Paper.” In April 1930, the Census shows him aged 30. This would have been near the beginning of his artistic career. He was still living at 2114 Avenue G. His occupation is listed as “Cartoonist,” and the industry is shown as “Pictures.” It states that he “Worked on own account,” as opposed to being a wage or salary worker. Also, his father is listed as being an editor for a magazine, and his brother as a reporter for a newspaper.

Víctor lived at 480 East 23rd Street in Brooklyn. Víctor never married nor had any children. He died on June 6, 1970, in Brooklyn at the age of 71.

—————————————————————————————————————————–

Thanks to my distant cousin Chris Mosher who compiled most of VEP’s bio. http://mosher.mine.nu/vep/

VEP comic covers
VEP comic covers
Original VEP artwork from my personal archive
Original VEP artwork from my personal archive
Clancy the Cop comic book by VEP from my personal archive
Clancy the Cop comic book by VEP from my personal archive
Víctor and his mother Lelia López-1942

Víctor and his mother Lelia López-1942

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Ecuadorian Statesman

June 30, 2009 at 2:21 am (La Familia) (, , )

Gabriel García Moreno was born in Ecuador on Christmas Eve in 1821 to wealthy aritocratic parents from Spain. In addition to Gabriel’s most notable achievement of serving two terms as Ecuador’s president, and subsequently being assasinated, he was also my fourth great uncle on my maternal grandfather’s side.
Following is what information I found online about this controversial statesman.
————————————————————————-
Gabriel García Moreno (1821-1875) was an Ecuadorian lawyer and politician who served as President of Ecuador from 1860 to 1865 and again from 1869 to 1875. In between, he ruled through puppet administrations. He was a staunch conservative and Catholic who believed that Ecuador would only prosper when it had strong and direct ties to the Vatican. He was assassinated in Quito during his second term.
Early Life:
García was born in Guayaquil but moved to Quito at a young age, studying law and theology at Quito’s Central University. By the 1840’s he was making a name for himself as an intelligent, eloquent conservative who railed against the liberalism that was sweeping South America. He almost entered the priesthood, but was talked out of it by his friends. He took a trip to Europe in the late 1840’s, which served to further convince him that Ecuador needed to resist all liberal ideas in order to prosper. He returned to Ecuador in 1850 and attacked the ruling liberals with more invective than ever.
Early Political Career:
By then, he was a well known speaker and writer for the conservative cause. He was exiled to Europe, but returned and was elected Mayor of Quito and appointed Rector of the Central University. He also served in the senate, where he became the leading conservative in the nation. In 1860, with the help of Independence veteran Juan José Flores, García Moreno seized the presidency. This was ironic, as he had been a supporter of Flores’ political enemy Vicente Rocafuerte. García Moreno quickly pushed through a new constitution in 1861 which legitimized his rule and allowed him to start working on his pro-Catholic agenda.
García Moreno’s Unflagging Catholicism:
García Moreno believed that only by establishing very close ties to the church and the Vatican would Ecuador progress. Since the collapse of the Spanish colonial system, liberal politicians in Ecuador and elsewhere in South America had severely curtailed church power, taking away land and buildings, making the state responsible for education and in some cases evicting priests. García Moreno set out to reverse all of it: he invited Jesuits to Ecuador, put the church in charge of all education and restored ecclesiastical courts. Naturally, the 1861 constitution declared Roman Catholicism the official state religion.
A Step Too Far:
Had García Moreno stopped with a few reforms, his legacy may have been different. His religious fervor knew no bounds, however, and he did not stop there. His goal was a near-theocratic state ruled indirectly by the Vatican. He declared that only Roman Catholics were full citizens: everyone else had their rights stripped away. In 1873, he had the congress dedicate the Republic of Ecuador to “The Sacred Heart of Jesus.” He convinced Congress to send state money to the Vatican. He felt that there was a direct link between civilization and Catholicism and intended to enforce that link in his home nation.
Dictator:
García Moreno was certainly a dictator, although one whose type had been unknown in Latin America before. He severely limited free speech and the press and wrote his constitutions to suit his agenda (and he ignored their restrictions when he wished). Congress was there only to approve his edicts. His staunchest critics left the country. Still, he was atypical in that he felt that he was acting for the best of his people and taking his cues from a higher power. Is personal life was austere and he was a great foe of corruption.
Accomplishments:
García Moreno’s many accomplishments are often overshadowed by his religious fervor. He stabilized the economy by establishing an efficient treasury, introducing a new currency and improving Ecuador’s international credit. Foreign investment was encouraged. He provided good, low cost education by bringing in Jesuits. He modernized agriculture and built roads, including a decent wagon track from Quito to Guayaquil. He also added universities and increased student enrollment in higher education.
Foreign Affairs:
García Moreno was famous for meddling in the affairs of neighboring nations, with the goal of bringing them back to the church just as he had done with Ecuador. He twice went to war with neighboring Colombia, where President Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera had been curtailing church privileges. Both interventions ended in failure. He was outspoken in his support of Austrian transplant Emperor Maximilian of Mexico.
Death and Legacy of Gabriel García Moreno:
In spite of his accomplishments, the liberals (most of them in exile) loathed García Moreno with a passion. From safety in Colombia, his harshest critic, Juan Montalvo, wrote his famous tract “The Perpetual Dictatorship” attacking García Moreno. When García Moreno declared that he would not relinquish his office after his term expired in 1875, he began to get serious death threats. Among his enemies were the Freemasons, dedicated to ending any connection between church and state. On August 6, 1875, he was killed by a small group of assassins wielding knives, machetes and revolvers. He died near the Presidential Palace in Quito: a marker can still be seen there. Upon learning the news, Pope Pius IX ordered a mass said in his memory.
García Moreno did not have an heir who could match his intelligence, skill and fervent conservative beliefs, and the government of Ecuador fell apart for a while as a series of short-lived dictators took charge. The people of Ecuador didn’t really want to live in a religious theocracy and in the chaotic years that followed García Moreno’s death all of his favors to the church were taken away once again. When liberal firebrand Eloy Alfaro took office in 1895, he made sure to remove any and all vestiges of García Moreno’s administration.
Modern Ecuadorians consider García Moreno a fascinating and important historical figure. The religious man who accepted assassination as martyrdom today continues to be a popular topic for biographers and novelists: the latest literary work on his life is Sé que vienen a matarme (“I know they are coming to kill me”) a work that is half-biography and half-fiction written by acclaimed Ecuadorian writer Alicia Yañez Cossio.
Source:
Herring, Hubert. A History of Latin America From the Beginnings to the Present. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.

Gabriel García Moreno was born in Ecuador on Christmas Eve in 1821 to wealthy aristocratic parents from Spain. In addition to Gabriel’s most notable achievement of serving two terms as Ecuador’s president, and subsequently being assassinated, he was also my fourth great uncle on my maternal grandfather’s side.

Following is what information I found online about this controversial statesman.

————————————————————————————–

Gabriel García Moreno (1821-1875) was an Ecuadorian lawyer and politician who served as President of Ecuador from 1860 to 1865 and again from 1869 to 1875. In between, he ruled through puppet administrations. He was a staunch conservative and Catholic who believed that Ecuador would only prosper when it had strong and direct ties to the Vatican. He was assassinated in Quito during his second term.

Early Life:

García was born in Guayaquil but moved to Quito at a young age, studying law and theology at Quito’s Central University. By the 1840’s he was making a name for himself as an intelligent, eloquent conservative who railed against the liberalism that was sweeping South America. He almost entered the priesthood, but was talked out of it by his friends. He took a trip to Europe in the late 1840’s, which served to further convince him that Ecuador needed to resist all liberal ideas in order to prosper. He returned to Ecuador in 1850 and attacked the ruling liberals with more invective than ever.

Early Political Career:

By then, he was a well known speaker and writer for the conservative cause. He was exiled to Europe, but returned and was elected Mayor of Quito and appointed Rector of the Central University. He also served in the senate, where he became the leading conservative in the nation. In 1860, with the help of Independence veteran Juan José Flores, García Moreno seized the presidency. This was ironic, as he had been a supporter of Flores’ political enemy Vicente Rocafuerte. García Moreno quickly pushed through a new constitution in 1861 which legitimized his rule and allowed him to start working on his pro-Catholic agenda.

García Moreno’s Unflagging Catholicism:

García Moreno believed that only by establishing very close ties to the church and the Vatican would Ecuador progress. Since the collapse of the Spanish colonial system, liberal politicians in Ecuador and elsewhere in South America had severely curtailed church power, taking away land and buildings, making the state responsible for education and in some cases evicting priests. García Moreno set out to reverse all of it: he invited Jesuits to Ecuador, put the church in charge of all education and restored ecclesiastical courts. Naturally, the 1861 constitution declared Roman Catholicism the official state religion.

A Step Too Far:

Had García Moreno stopped with a few reforms, his legacy may have been different. His religious fervor knew no bounds, however, and he did not stop there. His goal was a near-theocratic state ruled indirectly by the Vatican. He declared that only Roman Catholics were full citizens: everyone else had their rights stripped away. In 1873, he had the congress dedicate the Republic of Ecuador to “The Sacred Heart of Jesus.” He convinced Congress to send state money to the Vatican. He felt that there was a direct link between civilization and Catholicism and intended to enforce that link in his home nation.

Dictator:

García Moreno was certainly a dictator, although one whose type had been unknown in Latin America before. He severely limited free speech and the press and wrote his constitutions to suit his agenda (and he ignored their restrictions when he wished). Congress was there only to approve his edicts. His staunchest critics left the country. Still, he was atypical in that he felt that he was acting for the best of his people and taking his cues from a higher power. Is personal life was austere and he was a great foe of corruption.

Accomplishments:

García Moreno’s many accomplishments are often overshadowed by his religious fervor. He stabilized the economy by establishing an efficient treasury, introducing a new currency and improving Ecuador’s international credit. Foreign investment was encouraged. He provided good, low cost education by bringing in Jesuits. He modernized agriculture and built roads, including a decent wagon track from Quito to Guayaquil. He also added universities and increased student enrollment in higher education.

Foreign Affairs:

García Moreno was famous for meddling in the affairs of neighboring nations, with the goal of bringing them back to the church just as he had done with Ecuador. He twice went to war with neighboring Colombia, where President Tomás Cipriano de Mosquera had been curtailing church privileges. Both interventions ended in failure. He was outspoken in his support of Austrian transplant Emperor Maximilian of Mexico.

Death and Legacy of Gabriel García Moreno:

In spite of his accomplishments, the liberals (most of them in exile) loathed García Moreno with a passion. From safety in Colombia, his harshest critic, Juan Montalvo, wrote his famous tract “The Perpetual Dictatorship” attacking García Moreno. When García Moreno declared that he would not relinquish his office after his term expired in 1875, he began to get serious death threats. Among his enemies were the Freemasons, dedicated to ending any connection between church and state.

On August 6, 1875, President Gabriel García Moreno went to the Cathedral in Quito to adore the Blessed Sacrament as he did often. Leaving the Cathedral, his assassins sprang into action. Faustino Rayo, the leader of the band, suddenly attacked the President with a machete while his comrades opened fire with revolvers. Recalling his previous words, García Moreno shouted “Dios no muere” (’God does not die’). Still concious, he was brought back into the Cathedral and was laid before the altar of Our Lady of Sorrows. There he received the Last Rites and finally expired.

On his person at the time of his death were found a relic of the Cross, a Scapular, and his copy of The Imitation of Christ, which he read from every day. His body lay in state for three days to accomodate the crowds of mourners wishing to pay their respects to their fallen leader. A draft was found of an upcoming address to Congress which was read out to that body a number of days after his funeral. In it, he proclaimed:

“If I have committed faults I beg your pardon a thousand and a thousand times, and this forgiveness I beg of all my countrymen with very sincere tears, begging them to believe that my desire has ever been for their good.. If on the contrary, you think I have succeeded in anything, attribute it in the first instance to Almighty God, and to the Immaculate Dispensatrice of the treasure of His Mercy, and then to yourselves, to the people, the army and to all those who in the various branches of government have helped me with so much intelligence and fidelity to fulfill my difficult duties.”

Upon learning the news, Pope Pius IX ordered a mass said in his memory.

García Moreno did not have an heir who could match his intelligence, skill and fervent conservative beliefs, and the government of Ecuador fell apart for a while as a series of short-lived dictators took charge. The people of Ecuador didn’t really want to live in a religious theocracy and in the chaotic years that followed García Moreno’s death all of his favors to the church were taken away once again. When liberal firebrand Eloy Alfaro took office in 1895, he made sure to remove any and all vestiges of García Moreno’s administration.

Modern Ecuadorians consider García Moreno a fascinating and important historical figure. The religious man who accepted assassination as martyrdom today continues to be a popular topic for biographers and novelists: the latest literary work on his life is Sé que vienen a matarme (“I know they are coming to kill me”) a work that is half-biography and half-fiction written by acclaimed Ecuadorian writer Alicia Yañez Cossio.

Source:

Herring, Hubert. A History of Latin America From the Beginnings to the Present. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962.

Gabriel Garcia Moreno
Gabriel Garcia Moreno
The assassination of Gabriel Garcia Moreno
The assassination of Gabriel Garcia Moreno
The painting Moreno had commissioned upon consecrating the republic. It still hangs in Quito.
The painting Moreno had commissioned upon consecrating the republic. It still hangs in Quito.
This sanctuary was inaugurated and blessed by the Pope Juan Pablo II in its visit to Ecuador the 18 of January of 1985. It was built to recall the consecration of the Ecuadorian state to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, during the presidency of Gabriel Garcia Moreno in 1873. It is 115 meters of height and it has 24 internal chapels that represent the provinces of the country.
This sanctuary was inaugurated and blessed by the Pope John Paul II in his visit to Ecuador the 18 of January of 1985. It was built to recall the consecration of the Ecuadorian state to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, during the presidency of Gabriel Garcia Moreno in 1873. It is 115 meters of height and it has 24 internal chapels that represent the provinces of the country.

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What’dya do today?

June 26, 2009 at 2:34 pm (Recollections)

My grandfather celebrated his 96th birthday this year. The man is sharp as a tack, does not take medications for any ailments and still drives around Brooklyn dividing up his grocery shopping between several stores to frugally take advantage of their respective discounts and sales.

I learned many things from my grandfather throughout my life, much of which was simply through observing him. He exemplifies fairness, diplomacy, respectfulness and a keen awareness of what it means to do what’s right – to the best of your ability.

He always seemed on a mission to teach us kids something… anything. I am keenly aware that I acquired this trait from him. Even while he was teaching me and my brother to play card games, or chess he was subtly teaching larger lessons, like respect, patience, honor, to use reason and logic… oh, and to not be a cry baby if you lose.

My grandfather missed his calling as a school teacher, for he would pose questions to us as if there would be a quiz in the offing – and there usually was. Some were bluntly scholastic: “If a train leaves New York at 6am, travelling at 120 MPH…” (you get the idea). Others were fun tongue twisters or riddles: “The daughter of pharaoh’s son is the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. How can that be?”

Every December 7th – literally every single one – he would approach us asking, “Do you know what day it is?”

“I dunno” was the typical response, knowing full well what would follow our feigned ignorance.

“Ya don’t know?! Ya don’t know?! Today is the day that will live in infamy!” Grandpa would say authoritatively, yet playfully before detailing the events of December 7th, 1941 at Pearl Harbor that brought the U.S. into World War II.

One of the richest lessons came in an innocuous and routine question from Grandpa. “What’dya do today?”

“Nuthin’”

“Nothing? Well, then consider that day lost.” Grandpa would reply. To this day, I ask myself what have I done that was of value each day, and I do admit that there are days that I can genuinely count as lost, but thanks to my grandfather those days are few.

 

Grandpa, George Pazmino, on his 95th birthday in 2008.

Grandpa, George Pazmino, on his 95th birthday in 2008.

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