Day: April 27, 2020

Comics take over TAMIU

Comics take over TAMIU

By Andrew Alfaro
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday April 27, 2020

The kids who came of age during the comic book movie boom are now adults and want to see how far the genre can go.

In today’s world, comics are all over pop culture and every weekend it seems as if a new comic book movie was being released before COVID-19. The popularity of these comics has even made its way into classrooms with topics based on the art form.

Assistant Professional of visual communication Thomas Brown, teaches photography and writing courses at Texas A&M International University. One of the courses he offers is Writing for Comics Books, a writing intensive course. The class will be made available again in Summer Session 1 via online due to COVID-19.

The class is meant to help students learn how to develop a comic book script and become more diverse writers. Brown also teaches a brief history of comic books in the class to help newcomers get a better understanding of the genre.

In the class, students learn terminology, such as balloons and tails, and how to build a world for comics. 

“My students don’t have to write a superhero comic book,” Brown said.

 The students are allowed to write any type of comic they’re interested in. Often, people believe comics are only superhero-based, but this is just one genre of comics. Before the influx of heroes in tights, a variety of stories focused on Westerns, war, detectives, horror and even romance.

“When the students end the class, they have the script for a 22-page comic book,” Brown said.  “They just need to find an artist if they want to get it illustrated.”

The students are in control of the comic from the characters to the plot, sometimes referred to as the hero’s journey. Some other things taught in the class are how to use screenwriting software, such as Celtx, which is free.

TAMIU spring 2019 alumnus Kenneth Jones took the course and reflected on his experience.

“The 22-page comic book was easier than it sounds with all the assignments the class did before starting the comic book,” Jones said.

Comics do not only ignite a love for fantasy, but also address social issues. 

In today’s world, there are people of different ethnicity, religion, creed, gender and sexual orientation. Some readers may feel superheroes are supposed to be a certain skin tone. However, there are a multitude of heroes which can satisfy a particular walk of life and the numbers of diverse characters continue to grow.

Major social issues and events helped create beloved characters, such as X-Men, Black Panther and Shang-Chi.

“With the events going on at that time, Marvel was making a statement that people should not segregate others because they are different, but instead of poking right at racism, they made it about humans vs. mutants,” Brown said.

When Marvel did that, not only did they introduce a new team of heroes, they also created interesting new characters to the fans—all while addressing social issues.

TAMIU could potentially see similar success in comic book-related organizations, such as Anime Club, or events like STCE’s Comic Con held annually at TAMIU.

Over the years, comics continue to grow in popularity. Manga, a Japanese art form related to anime, is one type of comic book. Anime has a large and growing fan base.

Anime Club President Liza Nguyen helps organize meetings, fundraisers and events that center around anime and manga.

“The club talks about many things concerning anime and one of the things is manga,” Nguyen said. “The club used to rent out manga, which is a genre of comics. Since the club was created, it has tripled in size.”

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Chasing ‘black gold’

Chasing ‘black gold’

By Tiffani De La O
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

Three hours North of Laredo lies one of many oilfield drilling rigs. These rigs run around the clock without any means of stopping, which makes this profession one of the most demanding in the world. 

Working in the oilfields backtracks to 1859 when the first American oil well was discovered. OPEC started up in 1960 in order to coordinate and create a union between 14 of its members, all foreign countries—the U.S. not among them.

Under the guidelines of that organization, crude oil is being drilled every day, worldwide, to produce energy, gasoline and other resources used on a daily basis. Each barrel, which contains about 40 gallons of crude oil, makes 19 gallons of gasoline. The workforce, which contributes to this organization, comes from drilling companies with crew members who are from different backgrounds and ethnicities.

For Gustavo Chavez, 23, of Laredo, it was one of his dreams to be able to have the chance and experience life in the oilfields. After having a rough childhood, which ranged from poverty to displacement, he decided to get up and make his life better even if it meant being far from home. That is when he became a floor hand for Helmrich & Payne.

“Just like any person, you work at a different job and there is word of mouth that better jobs are out there which pay $2,000 a week,” Chavez said about his motivations. “That is when I decided I have to give it a try because I wanted to better my life and start making good money.”

Ryan Flores pursued a welding career in Oklahoma City before coming to Laredo.

“[It’s] always hard work for everyone, day in and day out, with busted hands and feet,” Flores said of working in the Laredo fields. 

A typical day in the oilfields is nothing less than hot, it gets even worse during the summer. Texas heat will have one of these workers dehydrating and sweating their pores out. Shifts range from 12 to 16 hours, sometimes with no days off for weeks. On workdays, shifts begin with a safety meeting to update the crew on what happens with the rig and about ongoing operations. 

“The meeting is a safety measure to prevent any accidents or to learn about the dangers going through the operations such as drilling, tripping in or out the hole, and other crucial things,” Chavez said. “My primary job as a floor hand is cleaning, maintaining, organizing and being that extra hand the crew might need. It’s like being a custodian for the rigs.”

Flores, on the other hand, would be pre-inspecting equipment to be used and welding metals for the rig with equipment such as grinders, torches, bevel machines and more. “It is usually done way before a rig moves in,” Flores said of the welding process. “It is the main stage for frac welding, or even after in case a pipe has a leak or has been broken.”

Those who work in the fields admit how difficult the work can be.

“Being out on a location is tough but we create a bond through our work ethic,” Chavez said. “You see different kinds of people but there’s people that won’t put out or don’t last their full hitch.”

In fact, the work is so intensive they rarely find time to joke or relax.

“[There’s] not much horsing around,” Flores said. “You have to be alert for anything serious such as [hydrogen sulfide] gas or any explosion on live gas.”

Just like most jobs, some overachieve and others remain satisfied with the work they do—they don’t go the extra mile.

“Not everyone’s work ethic is the same,” he said.

The oilfield lifestyle is not for most, it is a demanding job that puts stress on the crew members who are working far from home. This can also affect life back at home because this career does not allow workers to get up and go home whenever they would like. The people working at Rig 626 have living quarters fully equipped with working stoves, fridges, restrooms and other appliances, but it is not as comfortable as one’s own bed.

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Espinosa reflects on season

Espinosa reflects on season

By Julynne da Silva Sa
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

Coach Jeremy Espinosa took over coaching responsibilities for the men’s basketball team, following the absence of coach Joel Taylor. On the transition from assistant coach to calling the shots, he talks about the challenges he overcame in order to be seen differently by his players.

“The biggest challenge was changing the vibe of the team in a positive way,” Espinosa said. “At the same time not being too soft on the players. Creating that balance took time, but now it’s at a place where I can have fun with the players off the court and be strictly business once it’s time to get to work.” 

Before he started coaching, Espinosa played junior college ball in Oklahoma and finished his career at Newman University, in Wichita, Kansas. He described his coaching career as a “roller coaster,” moving through winning and losing seasons. It also took him places where those experiences helped expand his coaching knowledge.

“I have learned to take losses as opportunities to grow and be better,” he said. “I have also learned how to be a professional in winning.”

Since he took the reins, the team dynamics changed. He thinks the team adapted well and shows it through hard work as they transform efforts into wins. 

“I felt like it took the guys a little bit to get used to a different dominant voice,” Espinosa said. “In games, I see that they really want to play hard for me, which means a lot. Now we have to translate playing hard into winning games and figuring out how to win games together.”

Calvin Fugett, a junior from Denver, says Espinosa’s character helped the team build chemistry and learn how to work together. He thinks this opportunity showed the coach’s passion for the game but also his care for his players.

“Coach E is a very caring and hard-working coach,” Fugett said. “We can see that he wants the best for his players on and off the court. He’s a fun guy, and a very family oriented person.” 

He is not the only teammate with a positive opinion on Espinosa’s work. Freshman Adrian Nosa of Madrid, Spain, also feels confident about his coaching performance.

“Coach Espinosa works really, really hard and really cares about us,” Nosa said. “He always makes sure that we all feel good with whatever situation we are in. He’s definitely made me feel more comfortable playing basketball and he brings confidence to the team.”

The Dustdevils experienced a season of ups and downs. They continued working and making adjustments as the season continued on. Espinosa believes even though they won few of their games, the season was full of learning experiences for the team.

“It’s been a great year even though the scoreboard doesn’t always show [that],” he said prior to the end of the season. “I appreciate the hard work that the guys bring to the table. I plan on finishing this season strong and build some great chemistry leading into next season.”

The 2019-2020 season ended for both men’s and women’s basketball teams during the annual Senior Night event. With Taylor’s resignation from coaching at TAMIU, the spot opened up for applicants.

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QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 2

QUARANTINE CORNER: Dealing with the pandemic – Part 2

By Jessica Rodriguez
Director of Photography
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

[Editor’s note: The following is the second installment in a series of articles about different Texas A&M International University students, faculty and staff who are working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope their stories can be as inspiring to you as we found them to be.]

Staying at home 24/7 during an almost catastrophic pandemic can be daunting. However, for Texas A&M International University art student Elkin Cortez, he sees this as an opportunity to get back to his creative ventures.

Cortez possesses multiple talents, including art, photography and even a knack for making YouTube videos in his spare time. He says that now, more than ever, he can focus on his passions.

“I am spending a lot of time on my favorite activities during this quarantine,” Cortez said. “Activities such as painting, drawing, videos and photos.”

For many students, the transition from regular college life to a secluded online routine can be challenging. Cortez came to TAMIU from Miguel Aleman Tamaulipas and returned home when the campus transitioned to online classes.

“My routine changed completely because I was living on campus and now I am at home with my family,” he said. “Therefore, the living routine is different.”

COVID-19 undoubtedly altered people’s lives but there are always ways to reshape this new way of life. Students now have time to explore new hobbies and get creative at home. Because of what is going on in the world, new leisure activities can be helpful, both physically and mentally.

He said that although many students are in different situations, he still encourages them to get as creative and productive as possible.

“Try to be as efficient as you can with the time you have,” Cortez said. “Try to strengthen your skills or develop new ones if it’s possible.”

Submitted images | courtesy Elkin Cortez
Elkin Cortez paints in his room during the stay-at-home quarantine.

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BUSINESSES & VIRUSES: Local business owners adjust to trying times – Part 2

BUSINESSES & VIRUSES: Local business owners adjust to trying times

Korean BBQ keeps same tastes

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

[Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories on local businesses and how they are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.]

Korean BBQ continues to serve Laredo one meal at a time, despite the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on its business.

Owner Carrie Park started the business at the Shiloh location under the name BBQ Park, but since then changed the name to Korean BBQ to avoid confusing potential customers. The restaurant currently sits on Del Mar Boulevard, not far from Alexander High School. The change added new customers, including those from nearby Texas A&M International University.

Bridge | Jessica Rodriguez
Korean BBQ is located on East Del Mar Boulevard, not far from TAMIU.

Suddenly, as spring commenced in late March, the U.S. went into self-quarantine and this caused confusion upfront for many. Businesses, especially restaurants, were tackled with the task to remain open, if possible, and feed a hungry nation.

Park said they were ill prepared, but failure was not an option for her.

“Everything seems frozen,” Park said in an email to The Bridge. “The government allows us to serve our food with only take-out options and we have to operate our business with minimal staff.”

This turn of events put a damper on her business, especially in terms of attracting new customers.

“Not only is our staff minimal, but our profit is diminished,” Park added.

As of late April, the staff did not change the menu and the food is prepared the same as before the city ordinances. If anything, they added to it.

“[We’ve] added a meal box that comes with steamed white rice, choice of meat and three side dishes,” Park said in the email. “Something simple, but good enough to cover a full nutritious meal.”

She would like to keep the menu as is, for now, for the sake of her regular customers.

“We will continue to serve a freshly prepared menu, as usual, and we are also trying to introduce some new dishes for the future,” Park emailed.

Korean BBQ’s business hangs in the balance for now, but the owner knows they are not the only ones feeling the pressure of possibly losing a restaurant.

“Not only us, but everyone is having a hard time because of the pandemic,” Park emailed. “We hope everyone will get through it and will get back to our normal life soon.”

For the time being, Korean BBQ remains open for hungry customers willing to give their taste buds a change of pace.

Park emailed, “We appreciate all of our customers who have always supported and continue to encourage us.”

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BUSINESSES & VIRUSES: Local business owners adjust to trying times – Part 1

BUSINESSES & VIRUSES: Local business owners adjust to trying times

Laredo funeral home follows ordinances

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

[Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories on local businesses and how they are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.]

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause disruption for most local businesses, which are  adjusting to the times and new ordinances.

Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services made adjustments to observe the nation’s quarantine and city ordinances to further prevent the spread of coronavirus at public events. This Laredo business operated under different names, and management, since the 19th century.

Bridge | Jessica Rodriguez
Fred Dickey Funeral & Cremation Services on April 19.

Vice President of funeral and cremation services, and second-generation Funeral Director Fred Dickey III knew it was only a matter of time before it would affect his business in a different way.

At funerals, mourners tend to be affectionate with one another to comfort each other in a time of sorrow. This means handshakes, hugs and kisses on the cheek are prohibited. At least in the meantime. Social distancing, the act of keeping a relatively safe distance of 6 feet or more, is enforced inside the funeral home and parlor.

“You can’t quarantine love,” Dickey said.

“To protect ourselves, and the community, we plan the arrangements with one family member or two, but no more than that,” he said. “We also provide 2 gallons of sanitizer, wear masks and follow further ordinances when they are made known.”

Currently, none of his staff tested positive for the virus or showed symptoms of being infected with the disease, he said.

“Thank God, nobody in our staff has contracted or [gotten] sick [with] COVID,” Dickey said, “and It’s not beneath us to keep people as safe as possible.”

That does not include the sanitizing stations at the entrance of the chapel, which serve like holy water in a Catholic church. They thoroughly clean every pew, toilet seat, sink, doorknob and break room.

Of course, as with many businesses, there are a select few who can enter an establishment. This holds true to funeral homes as well. They only allow immediate family members.

“There is no guest book for 10 people or less,” Dickey said. “Service, or public viewings, can be arranged at a later date if they would like and have burial or cremation now. Some people are traditional.”

For now, under the obituary section on the Dickey website, the funeral service can be seen through a live stream, or private server If the family prefers.

“[In northern areas,] I’ve seen jumbo-trons outside and that was something we didn’t want,” he said. “To have a large gathering outside the funeral home defeats the purpose of social distancing.”

Employees use usher ropes to further enforce social distancing in the parlor.  That includes the departed as well, as there is a barrier between the casket and the family.

“We treat every case as if it were a COVID case,” Dickey said.

“We want to offer the community that they will be safe at our establishment,” he added.

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Sports games a no go; TAMIU athletics continue

Sports games a no go; TAMIU athletics continue

By David Gomez Jr.
Editor-in-chief
Published Monday, April 27, 2020

Dustdevils athletics ceased games and practices due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that is not stopping the department from continuing to recruit, train and be ready to play at any moment. 

With Texas A&M International University on lock down, spring sports programs such as golf, baseball and softball were cancelled for the remainder of the semester. That speed bump did not completely stop the work the Athletics Department continues to do on a daily basis.

“With the majority of our staff and coaches working from home, our coaches are spending most of their time recruiting over the phone and evaluating video of potential recruits,” Athletics Director Griz Zimmermann said in an email to The Bridge. “In addition, [they are] keeping in touch with their current players.

“Most of our administrative staff has continued their normal day-to-day workload, just working remotely … some are still in our offices on campus as essential staff.”

The pandemic, seemingly, came out of nowhere. What started as a noticeable trend in the news and social media, quickly became a full-blown pandemic in less than five months. This generated concern with the administration, faculty and student athletes.

“We are in constant contact with our student athletes,” Zimmermann said in the email. “We are fortunate that the majority of international students were able to make it home safely. Our university has done a fantastic job in keeping faculty, staff and students updated and informed with all matters pertaining to the pandemic and the University community.”

One student athlete who remained on campus expressed concern, taking all the precautions and ordinances seriously, knows the pandemic should not be taken for granted. TAMIU golfer Natchawan “Faii” Serisamran holds optimism the quarantine will come to an end.

“Everyone’s got a rough day,” Serisamran said regarding being stuck in her University Village apartment. “Today might be the worst day, but it will never be worse than this.”

Though, for how long it will continue is the answer everyone seems to be searching. As the self-quarantine continues, so will the cancellation of sports games.

“It is truly unfortunate that the baseball, softball and golf seasons were cut short,” Zimmermann said in the email. “This was exceptionally heartbreaking for our coaches and student athletes who work so hard to compete and represent our university on the field and course. We always look forward to watching the student athletes compete.”

Adding to Serisamran’s hopeful message, Zimmermann added a few words of his own in what many people keep referring to as “these difficult times.”

“We[, the staff,] would like to take this time to once again say, ‘Thank you to all medical personnel, first responders, caregivers and front-line workers for all the work they are doing during this trying time,’” he said. “[We] look forward to the day when we can all be together and celebrate Dustdevil Athletics.”

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