Other Writings

In addition to poetry I write short stories, articles, essays and novels. I'm currently working on a memoir.

The following are poems included in magazines, newspapers, anthologies and literary reviews.


Boys

A torturer does not redeem himself through suicide.
But it does help.
- Mario Benedetti

The boys from the neighbourhood, some of them,
stay behind the mud and the rain.

I ask myself what has become of
Romero, Quezada, Coleman?
Did their bodies and souls
escape deterioration?

Did they go into the army
to do their duty as soldiers
of the fatherland, the ones
who protect us from hate and
foreign tyrants?

Did they climb like the General
by usurping through disloyalty,
lies, secret codes and
finally through money?

Did they have families and
continue living in the city
as if nothing had happened?

Or did they sell their modest houses,
move to another neighbourhood where
no one knows anything about them?

There they will come in the evening and
will wash the remnants of dried blood
from their fingers.

Will they look for their wives,
give them a kiss, touch their bodies
with those same hands?

Will their daytime nightmares
be cast upon those who
know nothing of where they
come at the end of the night?

Will they return their heads,
smashed by the memories they left
in the cells, streets, apartments to a soft warm
pillow that washes away their sacrileges?

What happened to the men
I knew and never saw again?

Did they turn themselves into
men hungry for justice or did
they leave little by little in silence?

Did they put on their clothes
in the morning without knowing
whether they would return in
the evening to their dear ones?

Did they learn to kill in clandestine training or
did they become more men with the
passing of these hard times?

Did they love like those
pure men
I met on those evenings
when to play was
all our universe?

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How Chaos Begins

A butterfly flying in the streets of Santiago on a September day.

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Valentine's Day in Detroit

The sounds of children playing in the snow,
a bunch of orange roses and a sign
”By my Valentine“
on the round surface of this day.

Are these moments similar
to the ones we dreamt of?
We couldn’t answer, we are not others.
We are the ones standing still,
almost faceless.

Here we are inventing words
on this hammock despite
the baby spit.

A house untied to the ground,
a laundry room of nostalgias,
a window clouded by
little sleep,
a coat of memories we remove
every February,
a simple grin and a Sanders chocolate box,
then, we grow to the light like sweet peas.

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Absolution

For Marisela Conjeros

When the call of the rooster
awakens me once again in the morning,
and the dark red of dusk
enters through my pupils and doesn't hurt my heart,
when my voice can pronounce
again his name
and the ground that I walk upon cannot be so hard and cold
and winter disappears,
when your children and my children can play
all day without brawls,
and the sounds of the street are all recognizable and clear,
not foreign,
you and I can lok into each other’s eyes
and discover that we still can smile,
when you come looking for me and need
to know if I am there,
I will tell you that I’ve never left,
that I have always been here waiting
for an encounter, a tear that
will fall down your cheek to wash way forever
the misery of having lost him
April 10, 2001

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Detroit

When I drive down from
Grosse Pointe on Warren
a sudden knot in my heart
is born.

Solitude
is roaming
with the images of
a city broken
and gone.

I cross my fingers
hoping I won't see
any black cats
crossing
these steaming manholes.

Detroit, so full of churches,
so where is God?

Could He be hiding
under politicians'coats?

A "mon cher"
looked through my car window
and believed
he melted snow.

His eyes aflame
consumed two seconds
when the red light stopped.

City in flames,
who took away your palaces?

It was not me.
I am a foreigner,
I just came to see.

Detroit, wake up
from your sleep.

Rebuild your empire.
Rebuild it
so I can see.

Forget about
black LaKeishas
and your white Portias.
Forget about your yellow Chengs
and your brown Carolas.

Let the golden haze
that rusts on your aura
shine proudly
on your face again.

Let a feeling of goodness
drench the city like a storm.
Let your dreams flourish and endure.
Turn the holy fight into
salutation.
Let the happiness return.
Leave your vinegar grief behind.

Let me see, Detroit.
Let me see.

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The following articles had been included in different newspapers.

  1. Census Thoughts
  2. The 7th Annual Corporate Recognition & Award Ceremony By Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  3. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
  4. Truth Or Consequences
  5. Form, Function and History: The Historical Architecture of Detroit
  6. “The ‘Little’ Gem: The Architecture of Detroit ”
  7. “Schools are reaching for the cosmos”
  8. “History of Beecher House paves way for Wayne State’s financial future”
  9. “TV or not TV”
  10. “The other Sept. 11”
  11. “What we see is not what we get”
  12. “Values, foreign policy and culture”
  13. “The media: an emotional striptease”
  14. “Our country is full of infidels?”
  15. “An Exile's tale of Christmas”

“Census Thoughts”

Latino Press, November 15-30, 1999

By Mariela Griffor

Why should we care about Census 2000? It is the question that many have. Let’s look for some answers. Every ten years the Census Bureau does a complete accounting at every residence in America . No matter what language they speak and no matter where they live. Also, the Census Bureau statistics show that by 2050 Latinos will be the largest minority in the USA . And that means we will be one quarter of the population of this country, not bad, Huh! What are the consequences of an accurate or inaccurate census of Latinos for Latinos? In a series of articles, I intend to consider each of the components of Latino political influence that will be adversely affected by a poor Latino turnout in Census 2000.

I agree with statement by the President of the United States when he says, “The Census is a vital, statistical snapshot that tells us who we are and where we are going as a nation. And though it is taken only once a decade, it is important to our everyday lives. The Census helps communities determine where to build everything from schools to supermarkets and from homes to hospitals. It helps the government decide how to distribute funds and assistance to states and localities. It is used to draw the lines of legislative districts and reapportion the seats each state holds in Congress.” (The White House, April 1, 1999.)

Currently there is an estimated 28.4 million Latinos in the United States . This population is distributed mostly in California , Florida , New York , Texas and Illinois . The past census was inaccurate in omitting about 8.4 million people and counting 4 million twice according to The White House. Because of that minorities are more susceptible to being hurt by inaccuracy in the census. Their children attend primarily public schools and use public hospitals, while the wealthy frequently send their children to private schools and critically ill to private hospitals. The help we can get from the census in our communities is critical in achieving parity with the majority. The money we can get from the local and federal government is essential for improving the quality of education, sports and shopping facilities, adult education programs, where we live, and the health care we receive.

How can someone be missed? Living overseas is one way. The Census Bureau’s plan will only count employees of the government and their dependents. In remote areas, reaching everyone is a difficulty. Typically, people without housing don’t even receive the Census forms. And, what about illegal immigrants, who may have been here since long before the last Census? I don’t have that answer, but here the local experts are supposed to go out in the field and locate these people. But one of the largest groups of people uncounted by the Census are those who simply don’t return accurate responses to the Census mailing. Hence the importance of understanding what Census 2000 means to you. In the sequel to this article I will consider the issue of the Census for Latinos in this area.

Another problem we should consider is the attitude of people toward all government in Central and Latin America . Most of us don’t have good experiences with our own governments regarding postal services, federal banking, health facilities, education and so on. And, the last thing many want to do is to tell the government where, who and how many they are! The experience shows me that we should learn to trust those services here, why? Because we have to come up to the economic and political level of the majority! This is in our interest and that of the United States . There are those in government here who are sympathetic to our plight and who have put in place finances and programs to help. We shouldn’t turn our back on them by failing to be counted in Census 2000. We are still among the poorest in the country, with still a long way to go. The least we can do is to tell everybody who, where and how many we are.

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“The 7th Annual Corporate Recognition & Award Ceremony By Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce”

Latino Press, November 15-30, 1999

By Mariela Griffor

The Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce celebrated this past Friday, November 19, 1999, the 7th Annual Corporate Recognition and Award Ceremony. The reception was held in the Diego Rivera Gallery of the Detroit Institute of the Arts in downtown Detroit , Michigan .

The MHCC is an organization that mirrors the Detroit Chamber of Commerce itself and has, as its peculiar role, to promote the interests of its member firms owned and/or operated by Latin American immigrants to this area. Its members represent industries varying from automotive industry suppliers to information technology, health care and telecommunications. These firms’ sizes vary from Fortune 100 companies to small start-ups.

On this occasion they honored three groups of sponsors, based on the level of their contribution to the MHCC. The Gold Sponsors included Ameritech, DaimlerChrysler, Detroit Edison, Digitron Inc., Ford Motor Company, General Motors Corporation and Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The Silver Sponsors were Comerica Bank, Delaco/Lapeer, Henry Ford Health System, Lear Corporation and Mexican Industries in Michigan . Finally, the Bronze Sponsors were Alto Manufacturing, Aztec Manufacturing, Health Alliance Plan, Rouge Steel, US Steel Automotive Group, Toyota Motor Sales and Troy Ford.

The Keynote Speaker for the evening was Mr. James Padilla, Group Vice President of Manufacturing at Ford Motor Company. His talk was highlighted by two words to the wise for the Hispanic Business community. “If you want to take the world, you have to look like the world”, referring to how Ford is a company that serves the desires of the public. Later in his talk he mentioned the importance of diversity, “Diversity is the right thing to do, if you do it right it is a great business opportunity.” Mr. Padilla encouraged the participants on Friday evening to create a strong business environment, because the next millennium will be the Hispanic millennium and a great opportunity for all who are prepared.

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“When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”

Latino Press, December 1-15, 1999

By Mariela Griffor

Thursday morning 11 a.m. he invites us to his office at the Wayne County building. He moves fast between a telephone call from Hamtramck telling him that the city of Hamtramck needed close to one million dollars by the end of the week to solve the problem with salaries for their employees…a kind offer of a cup of coffee with a nice smile. My Editor talks about what we do as the “Latino Press” newspaper and circulation and distribution. I save the best for the end: the questions.

We spoke about education and the restoration of schools, 130,000 gallons of paint and physical parts for the school and putting the buildings in better shape. We also spoke about quality education. He appears very satisfied with the reform that David Adamany, Interim CEO, is doing in the schools.

The implementation of weekly tests has the goal of improving the study habits of the students. The summer school is also a good tool to reinforce good study habits.

Transportation is another issue for Mr. Duggan. What were the goals of the SMART transportation initiative and how far does it go in achieving them?

From February ’92 to January ’96 Mr. Duggan served as Interim General Manager of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) and he obviously looks very proud of himself when he talks about it. “We change the busses, we change the route structure, we implement the service to Dearborn .” As a result the voters give him an overwhelming vote of approval from electorates in Wayne , Oakland and Macomb counties for a 1/3 mil tax increase in support of the SMART system. SMART creates 40,000 jobs where before there were 25,000. He needs more funding to continue with improvement of public transportation.

Does multiracial Wayne County make itself felt in county government and what challenges does it pose as a resource? What are the positive sides of this and what are the negative ones?

“Next year I am running as a prosecutor and I’m looking forward that every community is treated fairly. I would like to build a relationship in between communities. I see a multicultural Detroit as something positive for most, but also it has a negative side, mistrust and segregation. I will try to reinforce the message that we should not be afraid of each other because we are different. That everyone is treated as an individual has a high priority. We have a very aggressive politics in relation to eradicating crime in Detroit . We are going to implement lawsuits against homeowners that abandon their houses. There is an industry of abandoned houses in Detroit and we want that to disappear. We also want to force gun manufacturers to control the dealers and cut down the number of guns.” As prosecutor, he sets the tone of justice for the law in the city.

Finally we spoke about young people and how to get in touch with them. Is it the responsibility of the parents to be close to the children? “I know it is difficult sometimes because in many families we see single working parents, but the free time of the children and how they spend the free time plays a key role in the future of our kids. I coach soccer a couple of evenings every week and still can see the differences between parents. I still see black and white parents sitting in different places at the matches.”

Michael Duggan is currently Wayne County Deputy Executive. He is the chief operating officer responsible for the day-to-day administration of 5,000 employees and a $1 billion dollar budget. Also Mr. Duggan is the founder and former president of Wayne County Kidspace, Inc., a non-profit organization that runs an on-site day care center for County employees.

In recognition of achievements and contributions to his community, the Michigan Jaycees honored Michel Duggan for being one of the Five Outstanding Young People in Michigan in 1989. Michael Duggan received the “Regional Ambassador” award in 1995. He was named by Corporate Detroit Magazine as one of Metro Detroit’s 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. Duggan’s father, Patrick Duggan, is a United States Federal Court Judge and his mother, Joan, is a former Livonia mayoral candidate. A resident of Livonia , Michael Duggan is married with four children and is very involved in coaching youth sports.

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“Truth Or Consequences”

Latino Press, September 15-30, 2000

By Mariela Griffor

When Americans go to the polls to elect a new president, they should think about the many sides of their political agenda. Among these is US foreign policy.

I am not an American citizen, but my life has been directly affected by American policy, especially American foreign policy, perhaps more so than many of you who have lived here since birth. Fifteen years ago I lost my husband even as I was carrying his child. Later while living in exile in Europe for 13 years, he was acknowledged officially by the authorities in Sweden as the father of our daughter. I lost him because he was an opponent of the government of General Augusto Pinochet in Chile , a government supported and brought to power and directly influenced by the CIA.

“Operation Condor” is a name used historically by different governments to refer to military or paramilitary operations. It was later the name of the operation to destabilize the government of President Salvador Allende, the Chilean president from 1970 to 1973, and ultimately eliminate him and the other cabinet members of his government. After that, Operation Condor aimed to eliminate prominent people anywhere in the world who were opponents to the Chilean dictator.

Orlando Letelier, the former Minister of Labor in the Allende cabinet, was murdered in Washington , D.C. in 1976 when a bomb that had been planted in his car exploded. The same method was used to assassinate the former Commander and Chief of the Chilean Armed Forces, General Carlos Prats, in Buenos Aires , two years earlier in 1974. In this case a bomb exploded in his car killing him and his wife. The main man behind it was Michael Townley, a CIA agent. He also confessed to attempting to assassinate the former Vice-President under Chilean President Salvador Allende, Bernardo Leighton, and his wife in Italy .

There are many things that Americans usually ignore and foreign policy and its consequences is one. They ignore the millions of people, like me, that suffer the results of that policy to varying degrees and in ways that have taken us far away from our homelands. Many times the issues have nothing to do with our own reality.

This September it will be 27 years of looking for answers that may be still hidden somewhere in the secret archives of the CIA. President Clinton has himself asked that those records be released. Encouraged by the fact that the government of Great Britain had detained the dictator, after the government of Spain had demanded his extradition to Spain to face charges before the Spanish courts, several leaders like Clinton asked that all the evidence be brought forward. Augusto Pinochet escaped English and Spanish prosecution with complaints of poor health and returned, now nearing the end of his life, to his wealth in Chile .

We Chileans that have lost our loved ones need to have an answer. The United States owes this to itself and to its people. Foreign policy is not a short paragraph in American policy, but because it is a superpower, US foreign policy more often than not is a reality that people outside this country have to deal with.

It is better that we “set the record straight”. Things change all of the time, politicians come and go from their seats of power and even governments change. However the memory never disappears of those who wanted a better world and gave their life to bring about a change.

Witness, if you would, the ability of a now 43 year old Caroline Kennedy to transport our thoughts and feelings to a different time with her reminder of her assassinated father’s, President John F. Kennedy’s, demands for justice forty years ago.

Now many are talking about the good things the American government has been doing. The economy is good, US presence in the world is stronger than ever. It is also time to talk about the wrongs that have been done and in that context to make known the “details” of American foreign policy toward Chile during the years 1970 to the 1990’s. It is also time to clean up its conscience and create a better place to live, not only for those who live in the northern part of the continent, but for all of us that share the Western Hemisphere .

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“Form, Function and History: The Historical Architecture of Detroit ”

CityNet, February 2001

By Mariela Griffor

In celebration of Detroit ’s 300th birthday, CityNet Magazine begins here a series of features chronicling Detroit ’s vast array of historical monuments. This series, “Form, Function and History: The Historical Architecture of Detroit ,” will showcase locations where the city’s unique and remarkable architecture has shaped the personality of Detroit as vastly as the people within it.

Founded in 1701 by Antoine de La Mothe Sieur de Cadillac, Detroit lies on the Detroit River between Lake Erie and Lake Huron . Named for Pontchartrain-du-Detroit (of the straight), the oldest permanent settlement on the Great Lakes flourished as a trading post for trappers under French (until 1760) then British (to 1796) and finally American control. The French influence is felt even today as a number of buildings with French architecture still form the character of the city.

The first building featured in this series is the Scarab Club in downtown Detroit .

The Scarab Club was first organized in 1910 by a group of artists looking for camaraderie and a place to show their work. Today, members range from artists in the media to those with a distinct interest in the arts. The Club produces numerous fine art presentations, figure sketch sessions, social events and community outreach programs, which include art history lectures, poetry readings, music ensembles, dance lessons and annual fund raising art auctions.

The Scarab Club building dates back to 1928 and has become a designated historical site listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is considered an excellent example of the Arts and Crafts architectural style.

The structure includes a main floor gallery, a second level lounge, a commercial kitchen and a library/archive room. A lower level includes artist studios, a basement workshop and a garden court. Ceiling beams, autographed by Scarab presidents and benefactors, are decorated in the lounge.

“The 1940s were the boom time of the club,” says Greg Stephens, who has worked as a painter at the Scarab for six years. “But we’re now back up to 250 members.”

The building is constantly being restored and the Board of Directors is dedicated to maintaining the building’s architectural integrity. “We are also in the process of going on-line and in that way we will attract more members interested in sharing the space the Club offers,” said Stephens.

The success of the Scarab Club seems to mirror that of the auto industry and the city of Detroit ; all three thrive during a boom in the economy, and wallow during times of recession.

“We are, however, the cornerstone of all the buildings around us,” said Stephens. “The Scarab Club will survive.”

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“The ‘Little’ Gem:
The Architecture of Detroit”

CityNet, March 2001

By Mariela Griffor

The Spanish Revival style of The Historic Gem Century Theatres is not only in the appearance of the building, it’s also in its character. The Century Club, which is attached to the Gem, was built in 1903 in Mission-style architecture, characterized by straight and clean lines as well as ornate detailing.

Originally owned by the Forbes family, the Gem has recaptured its natural beauty over the course of the past decade, showing elegance in its frescoes, décor and style through an extensive restoration.

“The beautiful carpet of the Gem was recreated from a piece of the original, found intact in the basement,” said Leslie Karr, marketing and public relations director of the Historic Gem Century Theatres. She also pointed out that different frescoes were rescued from the heavy layers of black paint that once completely covered the walls.

The theater was built in 1927 as an auditorium for the Twentieth Century Club and stands as a reminder to those who have been in the city for many years that it is possible to survive changing owners and names (a half dozen times) and still maintain a proud and elegant look. It also reminds people that a piece of history like this is worth restoring for its spiritual value to the city.

The Gem Theatre was originally a foreign-film movie house. It was leased to the Motion Picture Guild, opening September 8, 1927 with a French movie adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac.

In the late ‘30s and throughout the ‘40s, the Gem was known as the Russian Bear Restaurant, complete with Russian music and menu. In 1959 the theater was renamed the Vanguard Playhouse. The building has survived several changes in names: the Little Theater (1928-1932), the Rivoli (1932-1934), Drury Lane (1935), Europa (1935-1936), Cinema (1936-1959), Vanguard Playhouse (1960-1964), and finally the Gem (1967-present).

Ironically, the building has also made a painful journey, such as any good Spaniard does. On November 10, 1997, the Gem Theatre completed its historic move, making way for Comerica Park , on wheels from Woodward Avenue to its present location at 333 Madison . According to the Guiness Book of World Records, it was the largest building to be moved on wheels to date.

Reopening in September 1998, the Gem was back on track with a popular musical comedy I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. The Gem has gone on to stage some of the most popular contemporary stage works, including Escanaba in ‘da Moonlight and Late Nite Catechism.

The Century Club building reopened in April 1999 and the Century Club Restaurant followed in June, effectively completing the restoration work.

“It is such a nice place to work everyday,” said Karr. “How many people can go to work and be in the middle of so much history?”

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“Schools are reaching for the cosmos”

The South End, March 7, 2001

By Mariela Griffor

A fascinating voyage to the reality of the Cosmos can be made from the classrooms of eighth graders at University Public School at 2727 Second Avenue in Detroit , MI . With contact via the Internet, children can connect to the Mission Control Center at the Lewis Center for Educational Research that then meditates control of the antenna to the students.

The teacher’s computer, located at the side of the classroom, suddenly becomes the center of attention. A television screen at the front of the classroom, above the computer area where the teacher works, becomes the most interesting point of the room. Through images on the screen, students are able to follow how three select students are able to control the antenna. At the same time they learn how to gather data, interpret it, analyze it and record it using a computer software program.

Students in the classroom follow carefully the instructions of the teacher when she asks them to pay attention to the information that the three select children will soon read. They will write down the number as they work in teams, commenting and conversing on the information given.

The teacher, Ruby Rohn, explains that the results of the student data analysis are forwarded to JPL for inclusion in a database.

“The project started seven years ago and University Public School was the first school online, “ said Rohn.

“It is exciting and we learn together,” said Janeille Norled, a student who sits at a table with four other classmates and talks about the data they see on the television screen.

Ashley Simpson, Mathew Dillars and Adam Sadler were the three students that the teacher had selected for this opportunity. The children react positively and rapidly to the call of the teacher to go in front of the computer and get in contact with the control room in California .

Rohn describes one more time the steps to be done to the students before Simpson starts reading the data to the eighth graders that sit at tables in groups.

“I have been involved in this project for three years and I can see that the possibility of working with real data makes even those students that are not especially science-minded enthusiastic,” said Rohn.

Another figure that attracts attention in the room is Tony Dow, a veteran in educational television. He directed and produced one of the highest rated specials in

A&E history, “Child Stars”. Dow has been hired by the LCER to direct a documentary on advancing education through science.

The movie, a first for the Lewis Center , will provide information on how children learn about science through interacting with real people in science real data.

Dow has completed 18 years of network television. He has directed “Star Trek”, “Deep Space Nine” and episodes of the TNT series “Crusade”. He also directed five episodes of the award winning one-hour sci-fi series “ BABYLON ”, five series episodes for Warner Television and thirteen episodes of the hit sitcom “COACH” for Universal Studios.

“We are interested in promoting progressive education and promoting this type of project in other schools,” said Dow.

The movie will be entitled “Launching Education” and is meant for classroom viewing, national distribution and international release. The idea behind it is to promote science and stimulate students of all socioeconomic groups beyond the simple completion of projects in the school curriculum.

During the session, Rohn tells the children to start writing down the data gathered on a paper that contains a chart that students fill out with information. Students then sit at the computer and use a 34-meter radio telescope to make observations.

“The goal is to critically look at the Jovian system (where Jupiter and its moon are) to determine what environment exists and how humans might interact with that environment. The observations they made give them an idea about the Jovian environment. This can allow the children to make decisions about a hypothetical mission to the Jovian system with its multiple moons and intense magnetic field, so different from the Earth-moon system,” said Rohn.

The Lewis Center has trained 74 teachers, is active in 36 classrooms and has a presence in 14 states.

Over a period of six days, the teachers who want to be involved in this project receive intensive training on how to use the radio telescope, how to include the radio telescope activities in the basic standards-based school curriculum and assistance in planning an individualized missions for his or her classroom situation. The project is included to correlate to individual state curriculum standards.

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“History of Beecher House paves way for Wayne State’s financial future”

The South End, May 21, 2001

By Mariela Griffor

From internationally-known corporations to hardworking alumni, all donations to Wayne State are considered valuable and are important for the university’s development. This is the case at the Beecher House, where most of the plans for the allocation of money for WSU takes place.

The first fund-raiser dates back to the 1950s. This past year was WSU’s most successful fund-raiser as the university received a total of $33 million in cash gifts. WSU’s “Financial Report” shows that 50,000 people contributed to the university from 1998-99. The number of donors whose gifts totaled six figures has also grown by 20 percent.

But the history of the Beecher House has more humble beginnings. In 1893, George L. Beecher bought a lot and built his home. He paid $65,000, which was a fortune at the time. He only had a small amount of money when his father, Luther, left him an inheritance, making George an instant millionaire.

Luther came to Detroit in 1836. He saved enough money with the sale of dry goods to move to Rock Island, Ill. He became quarter owner of a store and purchased a flock of sheep, and started a comfortable life at the farm with the money he brought from Detroit.

Years later, Luther became ill and had to return to Detroit. With only $3,000 worth of goods, he opened up his own dry good store and it prospered from the beginning. He invested $50,000 in 1840 to help start the Detroit Bridge and Ironworks Company. In 1852, he began to sell carpets and became a millionaire.

George, who was born in 1848, studied in New York at the State Normal School. He came back to Detroit and when his father died, he had the resources and funding to build the Beecher House, located on the southwest corner of Woodward and Ferry. The Beechers lived at the mansion for 20 years. And though George was a millionaire by that time, he kept a tight grip on the family fortune. He was once caught cutting weeds in his yard because the gardener wanted to be paid more than 25 cents per hour, yet George refused to pay it.

The family moved to the Whittier Hotel on the riverfront in 1914, and the home was sold and converted into a boarding house. In 1947, the house was purchased by the Children’s Center of Metropolitan Detroit.

WSU bought the property in 1968 and eventually turned it into the Office of University Development. Each year, University Development has to come up with new ideas to attract the funding that will allow WSU to expand.

“We have around 70 people working on the University Development staff and basically we have two major ways of doing the work: through fund-raising and Alumni Relations,” said Donald U. Ritzenhein, Ph.D., deputy director of University Development. “In the annual-fundraising, we collect up to a couple thousand dollars with minor activities and up to millions in gift and major activities, like strategies to increase membership in the national alumni and expand and enlarge the involvement of alumni in annual fund activities.

“We also have the economic help of Ford Motor Co. that has donated to our colleges over $13 million over 20 years of collaborations.”

Mark Sevald, an alumnus of WSU who is now a lawyer in Grand Rapids, is grateful for the help he received from the law school and its night program.

“Obviously, Wayne State is a city school and its function is to educate all of those who cannot afford anything else,” he said. “I went to the law school and many of the classes were at night because I had to work during the day.”

As of Dec. 1, 1999, supporters of the Law School had donated more than $11 million, surpassing the $10 million campaign goal. Another gift of $2 million was given by Walter Gibbs, also a WSU alumnus.

The Law School has since undergone a $15.6 million renovation last year, in which 56,000 square feet was added to the building. Funds were also given by the late Betty Maiullo, who donated more than $1 million to establish a scholarship fund for students in honor of her late father, Anthony, a Detroit lawyer.

Additional donations have come from students’ concerns for the betterment of the university.

“A couple of months ago, I donated money to Wayne State and I specified that it would be used to buy supplies for the print-making department,” said Roey Patrick, a graduate of the college of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. “When I was at school many years ago, I saw that one of the printers created a lot of dust and an odor and I had the thought that I would do something about it some day. I wanted a separate area for this kind of print, a place where people with allergies can work better. I felt so happy for what I did because, little as it was, I was helping Wayne State become better.”

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“TV or not TV”

The South End, September 10, 2002

By Mariela Griffor

Finally, when I decided I had had enough of the television news and I took the television out of the house, my professor told us all that we would flunk his class if we didn’t watch the news.

Strange things happen when the television is no longer a part of your life. If you don’t believe me, try to remove yours for a month. You will be a completely different person.

There have been times when the television was kept in the basement or in my children’s room, but is has always found its way back. It is like a person, or perhaps an entity with a mind of its own.

I had cable television for a short period of time and only because the service provider had a promotion. They were offering a channel package and installed the cable free of charge.

I even had a satellite system for a while, though when I think about it, I don’t remember watching much of it. I have always been afraid of that television box, maybe because it is difficult for me to resist its magic. Or maybe it’s because I’m too lazy and cannot resist sitting on the sofa and watching for hours.

Right now, I have this terrible dilemma between passing my classes without feeling as though I have betrayed myself. With so much going on in the world how can it be possible to shut the door and just exist without worrying about contracting anthrax and all the violence and instead focusing on what Martha Steward does? Is that possible?

A friend of mine would probably say that I’m a little bit disturbed. I am in some sense, with everything that the media is trying to pump into my brain. So much is being presented to me that it doesn’t let me think; it just overwhelms me and finally makes me dependent on whatever comes next. Maybe that is the idea.

I also realize that if I throw out my television, I would have two or three more hours each day to read or to write, which is what I like to do. I also would have more time to be with myself, a though that terrifies me, though sooner or later in life everybody has to deal with such a crisis.

I remember days when I was little and we used to go to a cottage on the Pacific Ocean. There were no telephones, no radio and no TV. There were just walks to the beach and swimming and eating food from a basket and newly washed grapes in plastic bags—a habit that I still have today. I remember those days as intensive. With that same intensity, I remember a weekend in a country home in Shanty Creek two years ago when we decided to leave the cellular telephones at home and try to exist without TV and radio. It worked out just fine. We played winter sports and walked and talked like never before with our kids.

I know that they thought that something was going on, but I believe that they never realized what happened. They are used to being busy. This time they were using us as entertainment. I forgive them.

I never thought that TV would be such a big part of life when I saw a big box coming to my house in a truck. I never imagined that the box inside would develop its own fatal attractions and would become a family member. I never thought that someday I would have to fight for independence from a household appliance.

Meanwhile, if I want to read more or to write I have to put it away. I will not flunk this class.

I still have internet access, but that is another story.

I decided, at least for a couple of weeks, to keep the magic box in its package and read the newspaper online. I will keep it in the basement, this time inside another box.

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“The Other September 11

The South End, September 11, 2002

By Mariela Griffor

Remembering about September last year:

A friend called to give me the news about the World Trade Center attack and he told me to turn on my television. The images brought back the panic and fear many citizens in my native Chile know would not heal easily. Those images of the World Trade Center falling will stick with us in America as a second skin in future years.

September 11 was also the day of a coup in Chile a long narrow land on the Pacific coast of South America with, at that time, a population of 12 million people. 1973 was the year and September 11 was the day that freedom and democracy as a long tradition ended in my country.

La Moneda—the equivalent in Chile to the White House in this country—was the first building attacked by bombers. Eighteen rockets struck the 200-year-old building.

The upper floor was badly damaged on the north side and in the west wing, where the offices of the President and Minister of the Interior were located. Two jets made nine strikes between 11:56 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

It was the beginning of a nightmare. The President, Salvadore Allende Gossen, was the target. The official story later was he “committed suicide.”

It took the forces of Augusto Pinochet hours to subdue 42 civilians armed with submachine guns and one bazooka. This small group defended the president and held off eight Sherman tanks with 75-mm cannons and .50-caliber machine guns, 200 soldiers and two recoilless 75-mm cannons mounted on jeeps for six hours.

We estimate now that more than 1,000 people died in the first days after the coup. Many of them we never found. Pinochet the military dictator had their bodies thrown into the Pacific Ocean, after having their stomachs cut open so the bodies would sink.

Another 3,000 died in the years that followed under the Pinochet regime. Just as with many American families of victims in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, many Chilean families would never have the bodies of their loved ones and would never have real burials.

More than an expert in social justice, I can say that I am an expert on suffering. This is a title that gives little distinction in the world we live in today.

The nights and days after the attack of terror against the sovereignty of Chile, committed by generals who were traitors, seemed to never end. Thirty years after all of this happened I still meet people who cry when they remember Sept. 11, 1973 in Chile exactly as many American will do in the future.

One of the most tragic of all of these experiences is not to have the body of your loved one. I have met hundreds of people who never had the bodies of their dead returned. This particular issue has such a great impact on me because those people were the ones that suffered most. They lived years waiting for their loved ones. With the years, I learned to recognize who had lost someone and never found their bodies and who did recover them.

We learned to deal with the pain in a different way, but you are never over it. Americans who lost someone in these attacks will go through this, too.

The pain we are experiencing will have repercussions in the next generation, especially in children that lost their parents in Washington and New York and Pennsylvania. Some will develop chronic depression, others manic disorder or post-traumatic stress syndrome and some may attempt suicide. We will have to watch and see. Some may leave New York and Washington and retreat to their own exile, some to another city or country as many of us did when we left Chile.

This September 11, much like the other one, did not put things in their place. On the contrary, it pushed things further out of balance. When that happens, terrorism has a chance to win. Terrorism creates fear, and then creates suspicious minds because the person that commits these acts of terror is rarely visible. When people become suspicious they close themselves. The fear triggers a natural survival instinct. We become apathetic, and that is exactly what terrorists want because the level of violence will be increased in order to accomplish their goal: to destroy what America represents in the world.

To target a building is never the goal. To target minds and hearts is the reason. Terrorism is a violent form of political combat that is aimed at destroying the established order.

To be calm is one thing, to be apathetic is another thing. If we don’t open our hearts to the pain of the victim’s families and the pain this country is going through and instead become apathetic toward what is going on, terrorists will have killed not only the estimated 2,800 but the spirits and hearts of many more of the other 300 million Americans.

That is what happened to thousands of people, on the other September 11, in my native land.

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“What we see is not what we get”

The South End, September 17, 2002

By Mariela Griffor

The United Nations has a crucial role. President Bush is working hard in order to get its approval for a war on Iraq. He did not ask the U.N. for a resolution but he was cautious. He will work in different ways to get their support. He will work country by country.

Last week Richard Haass, a top assistant to the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, made a 24-hour visit to meet Chilean Interior Minister José Miguel Insulza. They talked about how Chile may vote next year when it becomes a member of the U.N. Security Council in case the U.S. declares war on Iraq.

Haass declares that the Bush administration has not yet made any decision on whether to attack Iraq or not, but he “favors” a change in the Iraqi leadership.

We need to remember that in the past Haass defended the position taken by Bush Senior to allow Saddam Hussein to continue in power.

Haass insisted on the threat that Hussein has been developing chemical and biological weapons that certainly Iraq cannot use. The reason is very simple: if it does, Iraq would lose power in the region. The country will not be able to respond to an offensive of the U.S. and its allies. So the Iraqis have more political control by not using weapons of mass destruction than by using them.

On the other hand, it is always good to remember what the government wants us to forget in this case.

On January 15, 1995, President Clinton’s Justice Department issued a report stating that it found, “no evidence that American agencies or officials illegally armed Iraq in the 1980s.” The report contained a curious admission that the CIA had withheld relevant date from the investigators.

In 1992 the Department of Defense released an information report not finally evaluated. The report said that a U.S. process company seems to have had direct ties with Libya and Iraq. The report can be found at www.fas.org/irp/gulf/intel/950719/22010243_92r.txt, on the Web.

A U.S. arrest warrant was issued on May 27, 1993 charging a Chilean citizen by the name of Carlos Cardoen with illegally exporting zirconium and U.S.-made parts and mold for bomb fuses through his U.S. based company.

Cardoen sold approximately $200 million worth of cluster bombs to Saddam Hussein during the ‘80s. To make the story short, despite denial, the sale was already public knowledge.

In 1981, Cardoen sent the first shipment to Iraq and continued sending armaments there until 1989. In the summer of 1990 a Bell 206 long Range helicopter owned by a subsidiary of Swissco Management, Inc. in Florida was test by Federal Aviation Authorities and exported to Cardoen. The helicopters that later would be exported to Iraq.

In 1995 after the investigation, Swissco was found guilty of exporting zirconium and in violation of the terms of their Commerce Export License. Cardoen was put on a list of the most wanted terrorists. The U.S. government forgot all about it. Cardoen Industries could not possibly construct the cluster bombs with the zirconium. After that he went over to building mines for the Chilean government that were deployed in the north and south of Chile.

Bombs seem to be a favorite toy for Chilean officers and sympathizers with the dictator Augusto Pinochet, the same kind that killed Nasser Beydown, a witness at the Cardoen trial. He was murdered in June 1995 in Brazil.

It was also with a car bomb that Orlando Letelier’s life was ended in Washington, D.C. in 1976. He was an ex-ambassador of Chile in the U.S. and exiled by Pinochet. General Prats and his wife were also killed in a car bomb in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1980. Prats was the former General-in-Chief of the Chilean army before Pinochet got to power.

Now we are supposed to go into another war, with our eyes closed because Saddam Hussein is a threat.

We armed him and kept him in power this long. American foreign policy will once more bleed dry those who believed the government was acting to protect them, not fill their own pockets with profits from Iraqi arms sales.

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“Values, foreign policy and culture”

The South End, October 4, 2001

By Mariela Griffor

We are told Sept. 11 has changed everything. This has been repeated in all the media. However, each of us, if only to take on the next day’s challenges, are asking ourselves: How has everything changed? What is the difference now and how are we supposed to behave?

There are certainly many practical answers to this. For example, we will have to wait in longer security lines at airports. But there are deeper lessons to be learned. Now everyone is obliged to learn and understand more about their national heritage, its history, obligations, debts, sins and victories. U.S. foreign policy is one of the lessons to be learned; few of us know of its meaning for the rest of the world and ourselves.

We live in a multicultural environment. Many say the United States has a culture based in entertainment, a culture built around the media. In fact, it is more than that.

We strive for many material values, a large home, comfortable transportation and stylish clothing. These are some of the values we work for, but at the core is the option to work for these things. We call it democracy and freedom.

Foreign policy used to be understood as a way of bridging cultures or expressing answers to the question, “How do we or should we relate to the interests and culture of other countries?” The question has now become, “How can we promote our culture and interests in contact with the interests and culture of other countries?”

In this modern world, who can resist the temptation of owning a large home, relaxing in a warm Jacuzzi on your deck while you sip a cocktail and purchasing goods on the Internet? Is there anything wrong with this picture?

Apparently there is because it is viewed as one of the biggest threats to other cultures, because to other religions this conveys our consumerism. To those cultures, that refuse to accept the American style of life, this is the biggest threat.

In many countries, people are fighting against their governments because they want to have access to freedom of speech, the right to education and better housing, but beyond that the most important thing is to improve standard of living. The truth is, as related in the book “International Security and Democracy: Latin America and the Caribbean in the Post-Cold War Era” by Jorge I. Dominguez, that previously there were at least three military conflicts between Latin American countries per year. These days that is no more! Today’s conflicts, like today’s values, have become global.

At this moment, when so many people are discussing the recent attacks on the United States, it is important to ask whether there is a broader context in which all this has happened.

To ask whether these attacks can be seen as a criminal response to something else in the world. In that case, whether the attacks were aimed at the United States, or at a much larger institution.

All of the countries in the Americas want to defend human rights, democracy and improve participation in the world markets. In effect they have assimilated the values of consumerism, it is no longer a threat to them. But there are other threats like drug trafficking destroying youth of all countries, including the United States.

The truth is that many countries in Latin America have felt neglected in terms of trade relations. The United States has been trading with Europe and Japan for many years. Now with the fall of the Japanese economy and restrictions of the European Union on trade, there has been more emphasis on trade between the Americas, and we are fortunate for that.

U.S. foreign policy over the past four decades demonstrated its role as Big Brother: Dominican Republic (1965), Cuba (1960), Chile (1973) through CIA involvement, Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), Haiti (1984) and Nicaragua (1980).

Now when we find ourselves in the midst of an international confrontation and with all of our national securities threatened, we wonder: “Where did we go wrong?” In fact it is not so much a question of what or who went wrong, and more a question of whether we ever had a clear idea of where we wanted to go, besides getting good prices for our exports.

Not since the early 1900s, when the concept of the United Nations was first born, has the pressure been so great to have a “global vision.” This means a view of relations that guarantees the integrity of each culture’s values while enabling their economies to coexist.

These are the issues we are all preoccupied with following the terrorist attacks on the United States. As we watch Secretary of State Colin Powell and others negotiating new allies in the battle against our new enemy, international terrorism, we are confronted with a simple question: “How did we get here?” The answer is shockingly simple: “We made choices appropriate to each circumstance with little regard for their ultimate consequences.”

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“The media: an emotional striptease”

The South End, October 11, 2001

By Mariela Griffor

Watching television tonight reminded me of my old friend Pamela who was in journalism school at the same time I was attending school. It strikes me that she and Barbara Walters have much in common: they know how to get to the heart of people with news.

The first time I saw Pamela, after 12 years of political exile, was in 1997. I was still opening boxes and bags from my long forgotten trip to Europe. I walked over to the television and turned it on. The first thing I saw was her face, as a reporter, broadcasting from the remote coast of the Straits of Magellan, the southern most point of the western hemisphere. My first reaction to seeing her on television now casts a blush of shame over me when I recall it. I was speechless due to unhappiness.

The reason I was unhappy was because I myself had watched so many years pass by in exile unable to do what I had planned for my life. Sweet Pamela had, during that same time, succeeded as a television journalist, something we at one time had both aspired to be.

On this occasion, she was interviewing a fisherman about the fatalities that typically occur along the Chilean coast. She and the fisherman made me cry. Pamela was able, just as Barbara Walters often does, to bring out the drama of it all, to dredge up the emotion that those involved can not—or dare not—set free.

The same thing occurred to me last night when I saw Barbara Walters interviewing the relatives of some of the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. She, too skillfully took these tortured individuals to a place they really didn’t want to go, or maybe they did. They were brought to experience, one more time, their own fear and horror at what had befallen their loved ones, but now in front of the television camera.

This phenomenon is somehow at the heart of what media is about. “If it bleeds, it leads,” one frequently hears. Everyday, we are exposed to a kind of emotional striptease, in programs varying from Barbara Walters’ commentaries on the news to the worst of Ricki Lake. People bare their souls rather than their bodies before millions of attentive watchers.

In the end, after watching the people interviewed bombarded with one heart-wrenching query after the other, I simply walked away. I was shocked and not entertained.

The events of Sept. 11 couldn’t be more serious. They brought with them loss of life, the fear of further attacks and the immeasurable insecurity that we now live everyday.

Reporting the events and their impact on our lives is an obligation. The reporters cannot possibly determine where to stop reporting—or can they? We are educated to believe that we should minimize harm to the person interviewed, to show good taste and avoid pandering to lurid curiosity. Are these journalistic principles passé today? I would die to hear what Pamela and Barbara Walters would have to say.

It is up to each one of us as viewers to determine when we have had enough. For the first time I was very happy not to be Pamela or Barbara Walters, not to have to do “the dirty work”. Don’t get me wrong, their salaries are attractions that are difficult to resist and there are millions of viewers out there that need and want the “kick” of watching. To “pander” to their needs seems something less than journalism. Or maybe it is entertainment, in the sense of classical drama?

I guess this brings us back to where we started. What is the difference between reporting the facts and reporting what people feel about the facts? I don’t know the answer. The only thing I know is that the reporter on television is continuously and without warning moving back and forth between facts and feelings.

Instead of getting to the heart of the matter, or the truth, too often we see television reporters who are getting into emotions, rather than facts.

The reporters succeed in helping us experience the feelings of those interviewed. What about those of us who are captives of the news? We simply cannot cut off the hold that news events have on us.

Maybe it is time to add to the Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists a new dictum. In the section “Seek Truth and Report It” we could put another principle: Distinguish between matters of fact and matters of emotion. Sometimes we see warning before programs with explicit violence, sex or language but not before programs with explicit emotion! Analysis and commentary should be labeled with the clear warning: HE WHO CONTINUES BEYOND THIS POINT RISKS LOSING SLEEP DUE TO UNBRIDLED EMOTION! I personally would get a lot more sleep this way.

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“Our country is full of infidels?”

The South End, October 18, 2001

By Mariela Griffor

I remember five years ago my husband saying, “The world will have to deal with the Muslim countries sooner or later, whether we want to or not.” Personally, I thought he was exaggerating. Now I publicly admit—I was wrong.

After World War II, the world was more sympathetic to the Jew’s cause, and Jews came up with the great idea of inventing Israel. So the old Palestine became the place where the world thought the Jews could find peace. But they forgot one thing: Arabs living in Palestine would resent the loss of the land and grow bitter.

The Arabs in Palestine—the Palestinians—have always been treated like a poor relative by the Muslim world, until now. Osama bin Laden claims that President George W. Bush is the leader of the “infidels” and that the Western nations will not have peace and security until the Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim world have security.

These demands seem to imply that Israel disappears from the Middle East. How in the world can that happen when there are 4.7 million Jews living in Israel, and they are not moving anywhere else.

The conflict seems to be more difficult if bin Laden’s intention to polarize the world between Muslims and Christians succeeds. In that way, the rest of the Muslim countries will support the 1.1 million Palestinian-Arabs living in Israel.

According to the definition, “infidel” is a person that doesn’t accept a particular religion. In Islamic use, it refers to a person who doesn’t accept the Islamic faith. In Christian use, it’s a person who doesn’t accept the Christian faith. It can also be a person who has no religious belief.

As a lover of words, I’m uncomfortable with this infidel business because it’s one of those words that doesn’t have nuances: If Bush is an Infidel and he is the leader, then we’re all infidels.

When things start turning black and white, even if we don’t like it, everyone is forced to choose. That is like Occam’s razor, which says to look for the simplest explanation possible.

I heard a foreign policy expert discussing how the neutral countries will be forced to choose between the United States and countries that support terrorism. In one sense, Bush and his supporters around the world are imposing a “political version of Occam’s razor” which says the simplest policy is always the best.

In this case, all who oppose U.S. foreign policy are terrorists when pushed to the wall. If choosing the simplest policy even if it’s a commitment people don’t approve of, then “you are either with us or against us.”

This has always been the real difficulty with U.S. foreign policy. We boast freedom of speech and democracy, but not outside our borders when we are interested in the outcome. People soon lose patience with attempts to convert them to our interest.

The same, but much more violent uncompromising position, is held by bin Laden. The truth is that the Jews and Arabs have been together in the Middle East since time began. The conflict can be traced back to the Bible.

Now when so many unexpected things are happening, biological war seems to have started, and suddenly the world has become divided between “them” and “us.” The actions and words of both sides of this conflict are designed to polarize the people and governments of the world.

There are forces that want to see this conflict occur and have succeeded in painting it as a religious conflict instead of an economic and political standoff. They exploit people’s religious beliefs to promote their own wars.

Sadly, there are no neutral political positions that are helpful. When I think about the letter that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle received Monday, I freeze. I think the next time a letter arrives at my home, I suppose I should be afraid. America has suddenly become a part of the “real world,” a world that has been far from this land until now.

All countries and individuals have to take some stand. We as independent thinkers are of course obliged to voice dissent against the political ideas that this government stands for.

However, at a moment when we look around and see the world blowing up in our faces and anthrax spores multiplying, I suppose we have to become what bin Laden calls “infidels.” We are also forced to take a position for or against the actions of him and his organization—at least until everything returns to normal.


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