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Beyond Bratwurst: A Journey into the Heart of German Texas January 18, 2018

Posted by Tracy in : Cultural tourism, Texas , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett
Photos by Sarah Lim
For Texas Journey magazine

Greg and RodneyLively polka tunes mingled with the scent of grilled bratwurst. A bevy of girls in Bavarian dirndls bounced by aboard a hayride. A young
family tried ninepin bowling on a wooden plank. Then a fellow in a plumed hat, ruffled shirt, and tall riding boots caught my eye.

“Pardon, may I ask,” I began.

He held out a white-gloved hand. “Prince Carl, madame. Charmed, I’m sure.”

For a moment, I could have imagined myself in 19th century Germany. But I was actually 5,000 miles and nearly two centuries away in New Braunfels, at the annual Folkfest celebration of the town’s German pioneer heritage. (more…)

¡Viva! Brownsville’s Charro Days Fiesta takes friendship and unity across the border and back January 18, 2018

Posted by Tracy in : Border Culture, Cultural tourism, Texas , 2comments

By Tracy L. Barnett
Photos by Larry Ditto
For Texas Journey magazine

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 3.24.40 PMOn a sunny February afternoon in Brownsville, Beatrice “Chickie” Samano stood on a covered stage and surveyed the crowd as she had done countless times over the decades. Serious in her serape-striped director’s vest, she held a microphone and awaited her cue. Then, as violins began to soar, she took a deep breath, leaned back, and let out a shout so loud and so long it could surely be heard across the Rio Grande in Matamoros:


Whoops and hollers arose from the crowd. Samano finished with a classic Mexican cackle and sharp cries of “Aayy! Aayy! Aayy!”

By then, she was smiling from ear to ear, and the audience was roaring its approval. “¡Viva México!” shouted the emcee. “¡Viva!” yelled
Samano, her fist upraised. “¡Viva los Estados Unidos!” “¡Viva Matamoros!” “¡Viva Brownsville!”

With that, the 80th annual Charro Days Fiesta was officially under way. Launched in 1938, while the nation was in the throes of the
Great Depression, the festival was conceived by Brownsville civic leaders to lift peoples’ spirits and celebrate the town’s Mexican flavor, as well as its friendship with Matamoros, the bustling metropolis across the Mexican border. Organizers named the event for Mexico’s skilled horsemen—charros—and the elegant culture epitomized by their mariachi-style braidtrimmed leather ensembles and wide-brimmed sombreros.

From Medicine Bow to Standing Rock December 13, 2016

Posted by Tracy in : Indigenous culture , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett

Dec. 9 – I landed back at my daughter Tara’s doorstep at almost midnight, filled with gratitude and relief to have made it safely full circle home from my journey to Standing Rock. I fell into a deep deep sleep and awoke with a fragment of a dream – just an image, really – of a woman standing strong in front of the Diné hogan where we had stayed at Oceti Sakowin Camp, dressed in full winter gear, goggles, facemask, coveralls, the works. Arm raised high, fist clenched in a salute of solidarity and power. Smoke rising from the chimneys of the Hogan and the Tipi side by side.

I realized that woman was me. And I realized that the gift I was given – and that we were all given – in our stand at Standing Rock was a gift of strength and resilience, as well as a small measure of understanding. Understanding of many things that we as a culture have only begun to grasp. A strong feeling that the sacred hoop of which Black Elk spoke has come full circle. That the vision I had in the Summer of 1989, the song I was given to set my life course, has guided my life in a good way, and that the time for the circle to complete is now.

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

Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , add a comment

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

Posted by Tracy in : San Antonio , add a comment


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.”