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Cuba to USA: Welcome Back! August 28, 2016

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Cuba, Latin America , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Westways Magazine

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It was my first walk down the Malecón, the famous seawall that has protected Havana for a century along the Straits of Florida. I ended up at a seaside café, where I met a friendly man with a baseball cap. He called himself John and showed me his ID card, which identified him as Juan.

“My parents named me John, and I was John until the revolution,” he explained. “Then, with all the problems—you know, John Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs—it just wasn’t possible to have that name anymore, and the government changed it.”

He wanted to be sure that I knew, however, that he had no hard feelings about the difficult past between our countries.

“We Cubans have nothing against the American people,” he declared. (more…)

Springtime in Sarajevo May 14, 2016

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Old meets new and East meets West in Sarajevo. Mosques and tile roofs, pigeons and copper pots in Baščaršija; pashminas and high fashion in the Ferhadija. A photo collection.

Springtime in Sarajevo

San Antonio Missions preserve Native American history in Texas’s first World Heritage Site March 10, 2016

Posted by Tracy in : Civil Rights travel, Historical preservation, Indigenous culture, San Antonio , add a comment


Story and photos by Tracy L. Barnett
for the Washington Post

Two weathered gravestones sit in a small, dusty rectangle in front of the grand Spanish church at the heart of the nation’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Antonio Missions. I’ve been to Mission San Jose many times — to attend the lively Mariachi Mass, to photograph its antique majesty, to reflect on the history of this place and its role in the settlement of the American Southwest. But this is the first time I’ve thought of it as a cemetery.

I’m seeing it through the eyes of two direct descendants of the missions’ original inhabitants, members of the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, whose ancestors inhabited this part of what is now Texas for thousands of years. Some 300 years ago, they helped to build these missions, and their descendants maintain a vital connection to them.

Last year the five missions, spread out over about 12 miles along the San Antonio River, received the coveted designation of World Heritage Site. Four of them are still active Catholic parishes, attended by some of the original Native American descendants; the fifth, Mission San Antonio de Valero, went on to become a military garrison — the legendary Alamo, now converted into a memorial to the battle fought there.

Ramón Vásquez, a straight-talking Texan with a dark ponytail, and the soft-spoken Jesús “Jesse” Reyes Jr., an anthropologist in a cowboy hat and bolo tie, are my guides today. Ramón, executive director of a nonprofit organization called the American Indians in Texas, has teamed up with Jesse to create Yanawana Mission Tours — named for the pre-Hispanic name for the San Antonio River — which offers an eye-opening perspective not just on the missions, but also on American history itself.

Read the rest of the story here

Feet on Fire: Get immersed in San Antonio’s hot flamenco scene February 1, 2016

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Tracy L. Barnett
Photo by Wyatt McFadden
For Texas Journey magazine

Teresa Champion was just 6 years old when she heard a sound that 
would change her life forever. She was the leader in line to go to 
catechism class in her South San Antonio barrio when a sharp click-click-click reached her small ears and piqued her curiosity. The next day, she stood last in line, and when the group rounded the corner, she hung back and returned to the place where she’d heard that sound. She peered into a window and stood transfixed.
“I saw this older lady, heavy size, and she was …”— here Teresa stops to demonstrate the motion and sound of the castanets, wooden clapping instruments—
“I had no idea what I was seeing. I stood there, and I forgot about the catechism.”
Every day she did the same, slipping away from her class to go back and watch the 
lady dance. After a week, the woman came out and spoke to her.
“Are you a dancer?” she asked in Spanish.
“‘I’ve never danced,’ I told her, and she asked if I’d like to try,” Teresa says.
So began the initiation of a gypsy soul.

Read the rest of the story here

Castro’s Cuba – Before it’s too late December 16, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Cuba , add a comment


Kelly and Carmela Frels grew up in the Cold War era. The Cuban Revolution, the Bay of Pigs, and the standoff with the Soviet Union that nearly led to a nuclear war marked their lives profoundly. For John and Becky Luman, it all amounted to a footnote in history – something you learned about in school, but didn’t fully understand.

Now, with the gradual opening of Cuba, both couples took advantage of trips to the island organized through The University of Texas alumni association, the “Texas Exes” – and despite their quite different perspectives at the outset, both couples came away from the experience similarly enthusiastic.

Vision Council calls to dreamers and doers from near and far November 1, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Eco-Nomads, ecotourism, Ecovillages, Latin America, Mexico, Nature tourism, Permaculture, Sustainability , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett
For El Daily Post

The Call of the Sage, which will culminate on the week of Nov. 21-28 in the intentional community of Teopantli Kalpulli south of Guadalajara, is the newest manifestation of the 25-year-old Vision Council-Guardians of the Earth. This loose-knit network of visionaries, artists and activists have traveled the globe for decades, with their workshops and performances planting seeds for a culture of peace, one that draws on movements from permaculture to bioregionalism to the Rainbow Gathering and the human potential movement.

The Call of the Sage began as a whisper in the winds of a tiny village on the edge of the Primavera Forest. For two years it has gathered force and volume, and now the call is being heard in lands as far away as New Zealand, Germany, Australia and Slovakia. It has different sounds at different moments and for different people; it’s the early morning trumpet of the caracol, calling us to yoga, to the temazcal, to breakfast. It’s the strumming of the Celtic harp in the women’s teepee, it’s the insistent beat of the Navajo water drum from the temazcal, and the rattle of the Aztec concheras as they gather around the fire for their offering of danza.

San Antonio’s Missions declared a World Heritage site July 6, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : San Antonio, Spain, Texas , add a comment

Alamo with Moon (Al Rendon photo, courtesy San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau)

Tracy L. Barnett, Special for USA TODAY

Five cherished portals to America’s Spanish colonial past have just been elevated to the stature of Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal with Sunday’s decision by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to grant World Heritage status to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

“We are thrilled,” said San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor, calling from Bonn, Germany, soon after the announcement was made. “The decision came right after Independence Day and we felt we were representing the United States on a world stage, so it was very exciting.”

Selma marches, Bloody Sunday mark 50th anniversaries February 21, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : Civil Rights, Civil Rights travel , add a comment

Marchers walking in the rain in Montgomery during the Selma to Montgomery March (Courtesy Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Marchers walking in the rain in Montgomery during the Selma to Montgomery March (Courtesy Alabama Department of Archives and History)

My latest for USA Today, and one I really enjoyed doing. The best part was interviewing two heroes of the Civil Rights movement – Vera Booker and Gwen Patton, who put their bodies on the line time after time. Sad that 50 years later, people are still having to fight for the same things. But it feels good to take a moment, anyway, to appreciate the progress that’s been made.

by Tracy L. Barnett, Special for USA TODAY

Vera Jenkins Booker was the night supervisor on duty at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma, Ala., the night Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot by an Alabama state trooper who followed him into a restaurant and shot him at close range as he tried to protect his mother and grandfather. The date was Feb. 18, 1965, and as those who have seen the movie Selma already know, it was the first in a chain of events that would focus the eyes of the world on the brutality of racism. The 26-year-old Baptist deacon was among those marching in the tiny town of Marion in protest of the discriminatory voter registration practices of the day; he had tried unsuccessfully to register for four years, and the struggle eventually cost him his life.

“He was in so much pain, and when I pulled up the shirt, that was when I saw a piece of gut the size of a small grapefruit,” Booker recalls. She tended the wound as they waited for the doctor. “I said, ‘You gonna be all right,’ and he kinda calmed down.”

She cared for him throughout the week, and through two surgeries. “He told me he was home from the service, and he said to me, ‘I got a little girl, and I’m going to marry her mother.’ I said, ‘That’s the thing to do, marry that little girl.’ I was sure he was going to live.”

His death eight days later was the match that ignited an already smoldering civil rights movement, kindling Bloody Sunday, the Selma to Montgomery marches, a summer of nonstop protest around the country, and in August, the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Those marches are the focus of an ambitious series of anniversary events in Selma and Montgomery that have already begun. At their peak, on the March 7 anniversary of Bloody Sunday, President Barack Obama is scheduled to make an appearance; other big names to help mark the event include Bernice King, who will be reading her father’s seminal “How long? Not long” speech from the statehouse steps on March 25 in Montgomery, at the same time and spot as her father did.


Rocky Mountain National Park celebrates 100th Anniversary February 5, 2015

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Tracy L. Barnett
Special to USA Today

It was January 1915, and big things were happening. Alexander Graham Bell made the first transcontinental phone call; the U.S. House of Representatives rejected an outlandish proposal to give women the vote; and the devastating Great War in Europe was making waves across the Atlantic, with the first U.S. ship lost to the war.

It was also the month that nearly a decade of organizing and lobbying on the part of a handful of Colorado citizens finally paid off with the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park, on January 26, 1915.

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“Whenever one of these great parks has an anniversary, it’s a real cause for celebration and also a moment to remember with gratitude our elders who brought these parks into being in the first place,” said Lloyd Burton, professor and environmental policy scholar at the University of Denver. “They decided that it was really important to ensure the legacy of wild, beautiful places for future generations – particularly at a time when there were powerful forces at work that wanted to slice and dice and privatize them – and quite frankly, those forces haven’t gone away.”

Indeed, as the beloved park begins its second century, it faces a number of challenges to its integrity. Climate change, with its recurring droughts and high temperatures throughout the West, has weakened the forests and is believed to have exacerbated a pine beetle blight that has destroyed millions of acres of lodgepole and Ponderosa pine. Another factor weakening the forest has been fire suppression. “Before settlers the fire was the way the forest healed itself; but since we started to suppress the fires, the forest is getting sicker and sicker.”

Read the whole story and see the historic slideshow here

RELATED: See my Rocky Mountain National Park guide, here.

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Enjoying the best, preparing for the worst January 20, 2015

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure , add a comment


Patricia and Mark Rauch were planning a trip to Italy to celebrate a cousin’s 60th birthday, and they decided to explore a less-beaten path across the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.

Rochelle and Alan Jacobson have always sought out exotic, challenging destinations far from tourist zones, so Myanmar had been on their list for a long time.

Both couples experienced the best of what life has to offer in their travels last year – and each also lived through a hard-hitting reminder to prepare for the worst.

– See more at: http://thebuzzmagazines.com/articles/2015/02/enjoying-best-preparing-worst#sthash.2Gwc06da.dpuf