2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 790 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Diagnosing El Salvador’s Snowden Syndrome

In the U.S we’ve heard a lot about whistle blowers and how they’re being dealt with. Heroes or traitors? Here is El Salvador’s version of the Edward Snowden affair.

Diagnosing El Salvador’s Snowden Syndrome

This is a story about El Salvador‘s Edward Snowdens, a group of police officers under investigation for leaking confidential documents, even as authorities refuse to investigate the head of the country’s powerful Texis Cartel.

Recently, journalists from two Salvadoran media outlets had access to a judicial proceeding for which the Attorney General had requested absolute confidentiality. The two outlets — El Diario de Hoy and Diario 1 — published details about the leaked case: criminal accusations against four police officers, former agents of the Police Intelligence Center (CIP) that Attorney General Luis Martinez accused of “disclosure of facts, actions, or secret documents by an official employee.”

15-10-29-ElSalvador-Chepe-Snowden  Chepe Diablo

This is a story of how the Attorney General chose to prosecute police who investigated members of the Texis Cartel, a Salvadoran drug trafficking organization, before prosecuting the head of this criminal group, businessman Jose Adan Salazar Umaña, alias “Chepe Diablo.” For the policemen, the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has asked for prison sentences. For Chepe Diablo — who the Obama administration designated an international drug kingpin in 2014 — freedom and exoneration. Something similar happened with Edward Snowden, the former employee of the US National Security Agency who leaked information about that agency’s abuses. In that case, Washington initially decided to pursue him before those officials that were responsible for, among other things, spying on their fellow citizens.

This story was translated, edited for clarity, and reprinted with permission from Revista Factum. See the original Spanish version here.

Last August, El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office rejected the idea of prosecuting Chepe Diablo for money laundering. After performing an analysis of the available information in reference to the document 22-UIF-2015, the resolution was issued ordering the file to be closed…reads a letter signed on August 24 by Tovias Armando Menjivar, head of the FGR’s Financial Investigation Unit.

Tovias and the FGR made the decision after asking Salvadoran financial institutions about Salazar Umaña, Wilfredo Guerra Umaña, and the business Gumarsal, who have all been linked to the Texis Cartel by journalistic investigations.

Eleven months before Tovias Menjivar signed the letter of exoneration, one of his subordinates, Mario Antonio Huezo Cortez, signed an order to open investigations into Salazar Umaña in order “to determine the existence of the crime of money laundering,” according to a document dated September 23, 2014 and annexed to the file 47-2014-1/EGU, which was opened by the Tenth Court of Instruction of San Salvador.

In that memo, prosecutor Huezo Cortez states the case of Salazar Umaña has “facts that infer the occurrence of activities related to money laundering.”

Moreover, in annexes to criminal proceeding 47-2014-1/EGU, in September 2014 prosecutors assure that, “thanks to the audits conducted, it was identified they moved via bank accounts or accounting records large amounts of money whose origins were unjustified. That is, we have capital from unknown sources… The explanations provided by the audited persons are illogical, for the unreasonable or unlawful purposes of the operations of those mentioned, which were distorted by tax authorities.” (In addition to Guerra Umaña and Gumarsal, the other person audited is the mayor of the municipality of Metapan, Juan Samayoa.)

Curiously, Huezo Cortez and the other prosecutors concluded there was sufficient merit to discuss money laundering charges “after reviewing” the financial accounts of Salazar Umaña. However, the conclusion reached by Tovias Menjivar, head of the UIF, after reviewing the same accounts a year later is that there are no signs of money laundering.

In July 2014, the US newspaper El Nuevo Herald published an investigation that cited “high level sources” from the Superintendent of the Salvadoran Financial System. It asserted Salazar Umaña had infiltrated this state institution to conceal his financial transactions through credit unions.

On September 17, 2015, six days before Huezo Cortez asked to definitively dismiss the money laundering case against “Chepe Diablo,” his boss, Attorney General Luis Martinez, replied evasively to questions from Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Grafica about the Salazar Umaña case. Martinez hinted that it was an open case against Salazar Umaña for money laundering. Yet the UIF’s chief called for the dismissal of the investigation a few days after the attorney general’s conversation with the newspaper.

Factum magazine asked the attorney general’s press office for an interview with Tovias Menjivar to explain the decision. (See tweet below) There was no response.


This chronicle of double standards, misleading statements, and truncated investigations is, however, only part of this story. The Texis Cartel, Chepe Diablo, Attorney General Martinez and his prosecutors are also protagonists in another chapter. That chapter has to do with the police who opened the criminal prosecution against the drug trafficking organization.

The Investigation Begins

(The following paragraphs are adapted from a story written by the author in November 2012 about the first capture of Roberto Antonio Herrera Hernandez, a member of the Texis Cartel, in February 2011.)

“Take care of the boy and sell everything we have,” the man said to his spouse via cell phone. It was the voice of a “scared” and “resigned” man, an agent assigned to the Police Intelligence Center told me on February 17, 2011. It was after 3:30pm on that day when Roberto Antonio Herrera Hernandez, alias “El Burro,” grabbed the phone to alert his wife that he was under arrest, and that the police were taking digital fingerprints to confirm he was the same person wanted by the FBI for various crimes related to the theft of vehicles and their illegal sale in California and Texas.

The operation had begun in one of Herrera Hernandez’s houses in western El Salvador with a monitoring unit that had located the green Toyota pick-up truck with plates P235-804, property of El Burro, parked in front of a building with a white façade, red doors, and exposed brick. Four police intelligence agents were waiting around 50 meters from the building.

The operation lasted nearly the entire morning. The CIP agents detained El Burro in a side street near Zapotitan. They told him they had to bring him to the PNC laboratory to confirm his fingerprints.

Herrera Hernandez had been a fugitive from US law enforcement since June 19, 2003, when prosecutors in Texas accused him of heading a criminal group that moved stolen cars between Texas and California. In 2005, El Burro was convicted in absentia on eight charges of interstate automobile theft. According to one of the witnesses in this trial (criminal proceeding 4:03-cr-00230-1), Herrera was “the leader of the organization.” It was because of this arrest warrant issued by the court for the southern district of Texas on July 14, 2003 that the CIP detained El Burro in Zapotitan.

Just before 3:00pm on February 17, 2011, the CIP police received from US police a document with the fingerprints of the man the Texas court wanted. The prints were the same. But, in the end, the arrest warrant, according to US agents, was not legally valid. El Burro was free.

The brief capture was registered in at least two of the proceedings police intelligence have for Roberto Herrera Hernandez since 2008, when the director of the National Civil Police (PNC) was Commissioner Jose Luis Tobar Prieto.

Texis Cartel and Persecution (Against the Police)

On May 16, 2011, digital newspaper El Faro published a thorough investigation that cites three intelligence reports from high-level officials from the PNC and the administration of former President Mauricio Funes revealing the existence of the Texis Cartel, of which Roberto Antonio Herrera Hernandez and Jose Adan Salazar Umaña were alleged members.

While inaugurating a journalist forum organized by El Faro, Funes confirmed his administration investigated this drug trafficking structure in the northwest of the country, and that these and other drug traffickers had infiltrated the Salvadoran government.

In a report published in 2012, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said two important drug trafficking structures exist in El Salvador: the Texis Cartel in the northwest, and Los Perrones in the east. The report says both structures have state protection, echoing what Funes had said.

Various police chiefs, judges, congressmen, and lawyers are named in El Faro’s report. This includes Police Commissioners Douglas Omar Garcia Funes and Victor Rodriguez Peraza, and Congressman Reynaldo Cardoza (who was investigated for money laundering after a publication on the excessive growth of his assets). Other journalistic investigations have added more names, like Commissioner Hector Raymundo Mendoza Cordero and Congressman Cordero Rivera Wilver Monge, also arrested and currently on trial for laundering drug money.

Attorney General Luis Martinez ordered the arrest of Roberto Herrera for trafficking vehicles between El Salvador and Guatemala. But he never went after Chepe Diablo, the man that assistant prosecutors say they had sufficient evidence for money laundering. He is also the man the UN described as the leader of the Texis Cartel, and who the White House designated an international drug kingpin.

SEE ALSO: Texis Cartel News and Profile

Instead, Luis Martinez went after some of the officers involved in the 2011 operation, when the Salvadoran police first captured El Burro and began untangling the web of the Texis Cartel’s operations. These police officers were not accused of corruption, but leaking classified information.

On October 15, prior to the preliminary hearing against the police officers scheduled for the end of the month, El Diario de Hoy entitled an article: “Four Officers Tried for Manipulating Information,” even though the charge is for leaking documents.

Based on the testimonies of unidentified agents, the article states that the CIP wrote up a document that mentions Burro Herrera, Misael Cisneros (alias “Medio Million,” also linked to the Texis Cartel), and unidentified police chiefs.

The article — which has several sections citing the court documents that were supposed to be sealed — concludes: “Public security authorities have taken no punitive action against any of the four accused officers, although the prosecution has presented a range of evidence implicating them, sources consulted by El Diario de Hoy explained.”

That is to say, El Diario de Hoy wrote an article about police officers accused of leaking information — not manipulating, this crime does not exist — to an “electronic news outlet” that was not identified by name. And to create this article the newspaper relies on a document a judge had ordered sealed, implying it was leaked to journalists, and also quotes unidentified police sources. Similar articles appeared in La Pagina and Diario 1. But these publications said little to nothing about the legal accusations against the Texis Cartel.

The electronic media outlet that published the first and most comprehensive investigation into the Texis Cartel is El Faro. Revista Factum contacted Oscar Martinez, editor of El Faro’s Sala Negra section, when the text was published to discuss their research.

The article by El Diario de Hoy mentions El Faro without naming it, and by doing so questions the investigation into the Texis Cartel. I’m not interested in learning about your sources, just to hear your comments on the investigative process…

The investigation was a four-month process that involved three full-time reporters. This is not the first time a subject has given rise to a discussion about whether or not it was merely a leak by people within police intelligence. I think that interested parties often assess the text without reading it thoroughly. This text is based on three different reports, and I must say that not all come from the police. The first is from the year 2000, and the reports were produced during three different administrations and under five different police chiefs.

Apart from that there are active sources, including one linked to the police, that talk about how they protected shipments on orders from people whose names they do give. The investigation into the Texis Cartel was not just based on reports, although these were a cornerstone of the investigation. Following up, because several materials were published after, there are several actors speaking “on the record” regarding the publication, as former Interior Minister Rene Figueroa eventually did. It is an investigation that strongly demonstrates something that later convictions confirmed: the state has believed, for over 15 years, that a group exists which dominates the route called El Caminito to conduct various crimes, mostly related to drug trafficking and money laundering. They — and three administrations — have believed this, but have been unable to arrest those who are considered to be the leaders of this criminal group.

I’ll add something else. Journalists constantly receive leaks. Our job is to sort through them and try to determine what is true and what isn’t. That is what we did with the Texis Cartel.

What do you think of the case against the CIP policemen? To pursue investigators and not Chepe Diablo?

Regarding the proceedings against the police, which I’ve kept tabs on via the media, it seems to me some people within the police and Attorney General’s Office have an interest in conducting a witch hunt for those responsible for the leaks. To me this makes little sense. And I get the impression they did not put the same zeal into pursuing those the state has believed for over a decade are directing a criminal group that has managed to infiltrate the police at a very high level. As well as [infiltration in] the political realm, mainly in the western part of the country but also on a national level.

And what of news reports on the subject?

I do not quite understand what the indictment is, because the articles are very simple and do not explain what is happening. I understand that total discretion regarding the process is intended to impede the press from fully documenting what is happening in this case against the policemen, who they believe leaked some information. I suppose they refer to our investigation into the Texis Cartel, but I infer this because the articles do not say.


In July of last year, an official from the US Department of Justice that has closely followed the investigations into the Texis Cartel said: “There is still a lot of money he [Salazar Umaña] cannot justify. That is the most important [aspect of] this investigation.” Attorney General Luis Martinez does not think the same. For the attorney general, it is more important to investigate those who investigated the Texis Cartel: a kind of tropical Edward Snowden syndrome.

**Hector Silva Avalos is a Research Fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American & Latino Studies and the editor of Revista Factum, an online media outlet that focuses on El Salvador.

The Farmer in the Dell

One of the goals I have aimed for in El Salvador was to have a piece of property apt for a garden. During my first trip to Nicaragua we worked on a farm/training center teaching groups from small, rural communities about having home gardens for growing table vegetables for the nourishment they provide. While everyone here puts every speck of land into corn and beans, I decided to find foods we can enjoy other than those two staples. Margarita brought some guisquil, known to me from my Mexico days as chayote, down from her old house in Casa Blanca and its vines are snaking up our papaya tree and in among our bushes.

Guisquil o Chayote A popular gourd in soups.

Guisquil o Chayote
A popular gourd in soups.

The local agroservicio, the store for farmers where we buy our chicks, only had a few choices in seeds. I bought a little plastic baggie of radish and one of cucumber. I still can’t find anyone who sells tomato or green pepper plants or any plants at all. My intention was to ask Margarita where would be the best place in the yard to sow these colorful seeds and then get to work. But it’s different here. She went into a lengthy speech using western El Salvador farmer vocabulary that might as well have been in Greek–if the Greek economy were worth a drachma (just like the Salvadoran economy isn’t worth a colon). It included varas de Brasil and other forms of vegetation in order to construct a ramada which I thought was something for the cukes to climb on. Then she mentioned sand and black dirt which was plentiful in Casa Blanca. Casa Blanca is a community with many natural resources but toilets and Internet connections are not among them. She said she’d ask son-in-law Milton if he’d drive all these things down to our house. This happened two days ago. When he pulled up to our back gate I thought he’d brought part of the jungle down from the hills with him. He proceeded to carry these twenty-plus foot green grass trunks into the yard. Eight in all. Then there was one what I’d describe as a fat, hollow bamboo trunk that could be used for a drain pipe. He stacked some fern-like branches on top of the other bamboo. Finally he very gingerly unloaded two plastic grocery bags of wet sand and one of the blackest dirt I’ve ever seen. Remember, Central America is an isthmus on a large seismic fault and part of a chain of volcanoes that over the eons has provided some of the richest volcanic soil in the tropics if not the world.   Sometimes it’s difficult-to-impossible for Margarita to stay on task. Her OCD husband doesn’t stop one task to begin another until the first is satisfactorily completed. So yesterday she taught me how to build a ramada, which is basically a crude shelter made of branches.


Chiquero, Ramada, & Young chicken pen

She cut the large poles with a small hand saw to a height that wasn’t much over my head. In some she used the machete to hack a groove in one end to contain the cross polls. Then she lashed the corners with baling wire and announced the structure was built. I tossed the thin branches with what must be leaves on top and wondered why it was thus. It offered no shade like banana leaves and I couldn’t picture cucumbers climbing up it. But I’m a gringo and what do I know? That’s why I have Margarita–to explain things to me. But once that was done she went in to take a shower and go to church. That left me wondering about the radishes and the cucumbers. I decided to also take a shower and to spend a relaxing afternoon with my precious princess listening tell me corny kid jokes, ask me riddles with double meanings that you’d have to have been brought up here to understand, and ultimately watching a romance and crime movie starring members of a Mexican band that was popular in the eighties.


Ramada from below

So this morning I’m up early and all jazzed to continue the work. Margarita had retied the clothesline we had to loosen to get the ramada built but that was so she could hang the clothes that spent the night in the washer. The hose had been run into the house yesterday to the washer even though the water inside the house was enjoying one of its two workdays per week and the hose could have been connected to the pila a few feet away.

Ramada and Milpa.

Ramada and Milpa.

I was all up for attacking the work at hand from the day before. Margarita retied the clothes line we’d had to take down to build the ramada. I had to wait for her to get home from walking our daughter to school before I could get her to sit and tell me what I was to do with the seeds. Again I had to silence her as she was going to show me what to do in one spot when she wanted it in another spot ten feet away on another wall. I stopped her again asking why she demonstrates in one place in lieu of the other. I told her she confuses me and I come away with nothing from her instructions. Furthermore, if she gives me all the instructions at once I won’t remember them all or the sequence.

I took the nearby bricks and made a rectangular wall. She helped me pour the two bags of sand into the box and I leveled them. Then she took a portion of the black soil and spread that on top of the sand. She told me to sow about four rows. THAT I didn’t need too much help for. Then I moved over to the adjacent piece of land and began to chop it up as it was dry. This would be my cucumber bed. I have a real rake as opposed to the home-made pick axe from Casa Blanca and I raked the soil as fine as possible and removed the stones.

New Radish Bed

New Radish Bed

I Googled ‘how to plant cucumbers’ and got some advice from “The Farmer’s Almanac”, Burpees Seeds, and a couple of videos on YouTube. I decided I had space for three rows in four columns. Good enough for a family of four. I have plenty of both seeds left over. I still want tomatoes.

Cucumber bed with radish bed in background.

Cucumber bed with radish bed in background.

Part of the fun of gardening is the waiting. What will come up and when? Will subterranean monsters feast on the seedlings, stems, leaves, and blossoms before I reap my harvest? Will we ever get a normal rainfall in this part of El Salvador?

Migrants: Humanitarianism vs. Greed and Egoism



“Myanmar migrants on a boat stranded for a week in the Andaman Sea with no food or water say 10 people have died, while some are resorting to drinking urine.” (BBC News 14 May 2015)

“Nearly 2,000 migrants are estimated to have lost their lives attempting the perilous sea crossing from North Africa to Europe in 2015, and it’s not even fully five months into the year.” (CNN 13 May 2015)

“A UK warship rescued about 450 people from the Mediterranean on Wednesday. The UN estimates that 60,000 people have already tried to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa this year. More than 1,800 migrants have died – a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.” (BBC News 13 May 2015)


These are the daily headlines and stories. I wonder how many details people read before selecting a different story. I wonder if they probe the faces well photographed to feel the anguish of mothers and children floating on abandoned boats by smugglers. What is the supposedly civilized world focusing on these days?


This morning I took the time to study the tenets of the major religions of the countries most affected by the immigrants attempting and succeeding in seeking shelter. In Southeast Asia I searched Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. I didn’t need to probe so deeply Europe’s Christianity or my own Judaism to learn what we consider humanitarianism. The first precept is to save human life and do nothing to abet its termination. Yet in Asia, Australia and Europe this precept is subject to debate. Why is there a question? People are risking their lives to escape secular persecution, lack of basic human rights, summary executions for being the “others”. In the United Nations and in the capitals of the rich and powerful nations of the world, leaders and diplomats argue over responsibility and cost.


Americans in the disunited states are as guilty as the British or Thais in talking while people are dying at sea by the hundreds. Americans in the disunited states are divided over what to do about their own immigrants. They have a government that can’t arrive at a definitive policy that will reduce or eliminate the number of deaths, rapes, and sequestration for ransom perpetrated upon those who have fled from similar circumstances as the Africans and Asians who occupy today’s headlines.


Americans have learned nothing from their own history regarding preserving lives in imminent danger in their native countries. What does the S.S. St. Louis mean to you? If you don’t know, Google it and learn of just one more shame staining the U.S. flag. How many of you gripe at the number of recent Syrians who have gained asylum? Do you ever wonder where you would try to go if your ethnic or religious group became victimized by another group in the U.S.? Do you think the U.S. is immune to such a secular division? A religious division by fanatics as strongly pro-fundamentalist as Islamic State, al Qaeda or Taliban? A political division fomented by nationalists as we’ve seen gathering as militias in Idaho or at Tea Party meetings near your house?


Doesn’t it seem contradictory that the crowd that shouts about American values and a Christian nation is the same mob that seeks to deport the helpless albeit willing to pay their return fare? That wears WWJD bracelets and crosses around their necks don’t get Matthew 25:35-40? You know, the part that says, “35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Jesus feeds 5000

Jesus feeds 5000

How can any self-declared “civilized” human being deny life to any other human being? How can any person of power and authority not take whatever steps are needed to allow these migrants to drown at sea, to close your ports to their landing, to direct them to return from whence they came? I do not recognize you and I as being of the same species.



Old Friends’ Reunion

I spent the morning with some old friends I hadn’t seen in years. I kind of bumped into them almost by accident. It was a joyous reunion for me since I’d known many of them since my boyhood. But there were a lot of tears as well. I soaked two handkerchiefs and most of a third when they revived old memories of some of the happiest events in my long life. The truth is that most of my old friends and acquaintances are dead. Some have been gone for a number of years. As is the case when one is almost eighty, I recognized some of their faces but I couldn’t remember their names. As is my habit nowadays I wait for someone to call them by name and then the pieces come together.

This is a marvelous age we live in. I spend a lot of time on my computer but until recently not as much as I’d have liked to. You see, my provider wasn’t allowing me to download at the same speed as the rest of the region. I finally grabbed a technician working at a relay station and he got the ball rolling to where I can now watch videos and stream sports from the U.S. to my home in El Salvador. This is what brought me and my old friends together.

Country music has been the center point of my life as far back as I can remember. I loved listening to my sister’s records on our Victrola and radio programs from Newark, NJ to WSM’s Grand Ole Opry in Nashville when it played on WEAF in New York. When I had access to my sister’s radio at night or on weekends, I’d find WWVA’s Wheeling Jamboree or some other popular programs from across the Mexican border that were powerful enough to reach Piscataway, NJ.

As a teenager in 1953 I started singing and picking my Gretsch guitar at local gigs and with some moxie and pushes from my friends found myself being part of the “local talent” in Grand Ole Opry package shows in some of the larger venues in Northern New Jersey. Back then the stars were just regular people who traveled by car to sing and play and mix with the people who came to listen. I got to meet and become friends with many of the true country performers of the 50s and 60s.

Television brought country music superstars into our homes. “Ozark Jubilee” was hosted by Red Foley. The Grand Ole Opry had specials. People like Jimmy Dean, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and others came on as summer replacements and some became regular shows. Then there was the most durable country show of all, “Hee-Haw”.

Meanwhile, I was playing in different clubs in New Jersey and attending every country concert that came to the area. And there were plenty. I’ve got a fortune in autographs to prove it. But what affected my life and my twenty-five year career was the friendship and counsel from the many popular stars of the day. I learned to appreciate their humility despite being adored and even worshipped by millions of fans across the country who bought their records, listened to them on radio or TV, and drove for miles to see them in person.

That’s all past history. Now we’ve got YouTube and videos of my heroes performing live or just audio with photos. The country music TV channels that taped their shows are able to bless old-timers like me with short and lengthy videos of my idols at the beginnings, highlights, and ends of their public careers. A series of “Family Reunion” videos hosted by Bill Anderson that go back several years caught my eye yesterday. I spent part of yesterday afternoon watching different episodes and couldn’t wait to pick up where I left off this morning. Some of the old-timers were doing their best to recreate their hits of twenty or thirty years earlier. Nashville’s best studio musicians played the original arrangements and made the experience of watching more real for a fan like me. But as the camera would pan the many stars listening and also reminiscing, I could see how the years had taken a toll by the age on their faces and the many stories they told of their contemporaries–in the past tense.

I don’t recognize the names of current award winners nor do I listen to their music. It all sounds the same to me. I came across an impressionist whose specialty is the older country singers. He’s very good both with the voices and the movements. His name is Johnny Counterfeit and he’s on YouTube. The golden age performers were unique and easily distinguishable one from another. Even their bands were unique. Today’s “country” music seems to be played by singers with stock voices and bands that blare jazz chords.

If you’re from my generation, check out classic country music on YouTube or search for “Family Reunion”. You might get teary as I did running into my old friends. 

Young_Faron Williams_Hank1 Wells_Kitty Snow_Hank Thompson_Hank Tubb_Ernest Robbins_Marty Reeves_Jim2 Parton_Dolly1 Monroe_Bill Nelson_Willie2 Owens_Buck Jackson_Wanda2 Jones_George Louvin Brothers 1 Frizzell_Lefty Flatt_&_Scruggs Dean_Jimmy Davis_Skeeter Conlee_John Cash_Johnny2

Roy Acuff

Roy Acuff

Arnold_Eddy1 Atkins_Chet

Dixie Lee Lesko, nee Brown Sept. 2, 1957-Feb. 8, 2015


Doris & Dixie Lee September 1957

Doris & Dixie Lee
September 1957

Dixie Lee Brown was born prematurely in Middlesex Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ. She spent her first days in an incubator as was the practice then. I remember holding her on the day Doris and I brought her home. She was so incredibly tiny. She weighed about four pounds and fit easily in my hands. She was ugly–but not for long.

She cried with the teeniest mewl and waved her wee arms about as babies do but she was loved. As she grew she had allergies and other baby problems that meant doctor’s visits and special care but she was loved.

Every other year Doris and I created another daughter. First came Karen Jeanne. Dixie was a loving big sister. Next came Lorene Marie. Dixie was even more a loving big sister.

Dixie, Karen, & Lorene               1962

Dixie, Karen, & Lorene

Unfortunately, her father was a rectal sphincter and he abused her mother physically and emotionally for the most immature and selfish of reasons. The marriage ended in divorce and the demise of the family. Doris remarried and their petition to adopt my daughters was granted by a judge whose area of expertise was in business and criminal law, not the family court judge. His logic was he’d be saving me child support.

  "Uncle" Daddy with Karen, Dixie, & Lorene      Easter visitation.

“Uncle” Daddy
with Karen, Dixie, & Lorene
Easter visitation.

During their childhood years there were long periods of time when I was unable to see them but Dixie managed to get to a pay phone from time to time to call me. Visits to their home were infrequent and Karen managed to “disown” me. By the time I moved to California in 1978, the children were old enough to become closer to their real father. Dixie had lived with us for a short time. Lorene came to her old house to say good-bye.

     Dixie, Dad, and granddaughter Kathy

Dixie, Dad, and granddaughter Kathy

I flew home to New Jersey several times and motorcycled across country two or three times to visit all three of my daughters and their growing families. Dixie had made some unwise choices in her life just as her dad and others have made. She was still my daughter and still loved as always. The girls were not happy with our move to California, but I needed to move on from the by then two divorces. It was one of the worst decisions of the many I have made in my 79 years. I wished they could have understood the pain and helplessness I’d gone through from not being with them as they grew up. A pain that would never subside.

Dixie too fled from her problems. She chose to move to North Carolina where a friend helped her get restarted. I never saw her again but we’d write to each other and I’d call her as well. Then suddenly it all changed. I’m told it was the drugs she had used back in New Jersey that distorted her thinking and she stopped communicating with me. My grandson Michael also stopped our regular Email conversations. My heart has been broken ever since. But I always loved my daughter.

I hated California almost from the beginning. It never felt like home. I added to my university degrees, had a good job and some good friends. My third wife and I had our kids and the chance to realize the “American Dream”. But unforeseen, unexpected and this time undeserved circumstances blew the dream to smithereens. I lost everything including my family, my position in the community, most of what I owned and my savings. I had to start all over again.

  Roger in Nicaragua Working on a building.

Roger in Nicaragua
Working on a building.

God works in mysterious ways indeed! He led me to a humbling job and then caused me to have to give it up because of surgeries I needed. It was during this off-time that my church called for volunteer short-term missionaries to help in Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch. Money was provided for my passage by the church. It was a wonderful experience that led to several more annual trips to Central America. Being single again in 2008 and frustrated with my life in the U.S. I moved to El Salvador. I became very active in my church here and regained the sense of fulfillment I felt had been taken from me in the U.S. Through Email I kept in touch with my children. But over time they stopped communicating for various reasons I’ve been told.

I have pictured my Grandpa Roscoe, who died before I was born, living alone apart from his estranged wife and children and perhaps discovered one day dead at 75 in a lonely room. He’d been active to be sure but alone. I imagined my own last days being like that, thousands of miles from my uninterested and uncaring children who were living their lives as though I never existed. I never considered that any of them would precede me in death.

Adriana & Margarita,     Mis dos amores.

Adriana & Margarita,
Mis dos Amores.

I continue to serve my church and community as best I can. But my focus is on my wife and especially my daughter. I live to ensure her a better life than her mother could have imagined, a life certainly better than her own. Sometimes I wonder about Adriana’s perception of me as a father, as her father. My girls were always great huggers, jockeying for position on my lap, three kids wanting to hold my two hands. Adriana isn’t like that for the most part. I can count the times she’s kissed me on the cheek on one hand. Her mother had to encourage her to give me a hug at bedtime. A man who has lost the confidence and love of his natural and adopted children is insecure. As a teacher I thrived on the love of my students. As a parent I had little to show. Adriana is perhaps a measuring tool in my last years as a father. Among all my endeavors and successes, the most important endeavor, fatherhood, feels like a loss.

But this morning when Adriana found me sitting on the edge of my bed crying aloud over the loss of my first daughter, she threw herself into my arms holding me ever so tightly and lovingly. Not one of her typical hit-and-run ‘OK, I’ve done my duty hugs’, but so genuinely in tune with what I was feeling. I don’t know how many times a day I tell her that I love her and how happy she makes me. No one child can make up for the loss of or separation from another. No one child is more loved than another. As I wrote to my grandson Michael, Dixie’s son, love is forever. I will always love Dixie, my other children and grandchildren, and Adriana.


It’s Been a Long Ride but the End of the Trail Is in Sight


I’ve been retired from any real job for around fifteen years. It’s been a great ride in that I’ve been to places I never would have dreamed of even visiting let alone making my home in any of them. But El Refugio has treated me relatively well compared to my previous fifteen years in California. I’m enjoying my freedom, my church and community, but most of all my family. Not to take anything away from 3/4 of my previous wives or most of my girlfriends, Margarita is as close to the perfect wife as I could want. She takes such good care of me and seems to anticipate my every need and wish.  Our son Luís at thirteen can be a handful. Sometimes I wonder if he’ll amount to anything for all the hours he wastes doing nothing. We’ll watch fútbol together on TV if Barcelona is playing or on my laptop when there’s no TV coverage.


Ten-year old Adriana is a miniature version of her mother. She checks me when I forget something and corrects me when I misspeak in Spanish. I’ve come to depend on her for many things. She’s been letting me help her more with her homework and that makes me very happy. She’s not only mommy’s helper but her confidante as well. I enjoy watching them do “girl things” or study the Bible together. Still, she’s got plenty of little girl to allow her to make clothes for her dolls and do their hair. She’ll kick a plastic ball with her brother and ride her bike around the yard. I do my best to spoil her.

03-16 12 Adriana & Margarita

Adriana & Margarita, mis dos amores.


During these years I’ve learned a lot about myself and about the world in which I’ve lived but experienced little of until the turn of the century. I’ve had to learn to live with the extreme disapproval of most of my children. I forgive them their ignorance and realize that if they can be happy without a father or a grandfather for their children, I can’t mourn their loss only pray that they don’t experience the same now that they’re middle-aged. They’ll never appreciate what they’ve lost and what they’ve cost my grandchildren. But my life is the better for needing to focus my attention on the needs of others rather than my own wants. I believe God has blessed and rewarded me in gifting me Margarita and the children. Her extended family might not fit the image that my blood relatives envision as ideal (albeit their lives have not made them role models for their kids) but people here are closer to living in God’s love than they are. My in-laws, my nephews and nieces, legitimate or not share their love with me as I share mine with them. Love and caring here go beyond family lines. Little things. It seems I’ve become a godfather to a two-year old girl, daughter of a teen-age mother who is part of Margarita’s Single Mothers’ support group sponsored by a nearby church. I saw the child’s front teeth yellowing from lack of oral hygiene. I bought her a little tooth-brush and paste. I gave the young mother some advice on the importance of caring for baby teeth to have healthier adult teeth. She has been following my advice (which sometimes is contrary to local beliefs). I’ve never seen the child with shoes. Yesterday, I bought her a pair for $3.00. She was sick and stayed home with her mom but I gave the shoes to her great-grandmother who was deeply appreciative.

Before I married Margarita I did a lot of similar things for families of my students and members of my church. Little things. Adriana is accepting my philosophy that there is more in life awaiting her than looking for a man with a steady job and having his babies. She wants to be a dance teacher. This past December during “summer” school break she began dance lessons, something she and her mother would never have considered before I entered their lives completely. She’s learned poise and public presentation because I could give her the clothes she needed to enter the Miss Chiquita contest four years ago. I do my best to encourage the kids in our community to excel at what they love to do even if it won’t earn them a dollar. It helps them to do better at what might earn them that precious dollar. It all feels so good. Little things.

On my four and five- hour bike rides I have made friends out of acquaintances and acquaintances out of strangers along my route in the nearby city of Chalchuapa. If a kid greets me in English I’ll take the time to give him a little more vocabulary. If a family hears me translate “God is love” into Spanish for a child’s understanding, I’ll get to talk about Jesus to the mother. If I see a three-year old boy sitting at a table with his mom and grandmother who sell fruit on the curb and he tells me he doesn’t have a ball to kick I’ll stop at the local store and invest 30 cents in a plastic ball for him.  If the boyfriend of a long-time dear friend wants help in his English studies I invite him over and we set a schedule for him to converse with me. Little things.

It is so far removed from the U.S. life here that one has to adjust to the absence or unavailability of restaurants, movies, places of entertainment, transportation to visit relatives and friends, books, hobby and craft materials, familiar clothes, foods, and personal items, technology needs, and other items you don’t spend too much time thinking about when you need or want them. But it’s not too far from the Stelton I grew up in 70 years ago.

Unfortunately or fortunately, I was not a life-planner. How I’ve spent my life happened more at chance than by design. Therefore, after several wives and children, more jobs than I can remember before choosing an advanced educational program that led to an entirely different career, and acquiring some unearned credits in the California prison system, I should not be surprised to find the long and winding road has brought me to this unlikely destination surrounded by some of nature’s most beautiful landscapes, some of her most beautiful women, a family which loves me unconditionally, and some fantastic spiritual experiences.

I confess that as I approach the 80th anniversary of my birth, I feel the aches and pains of joint overuse. I yawn more than your cat. I can fall asleep watching an exciting or emotionally stimulating TV show. And the longer I have to wait for my wounded “good” knee to self-repair the more frustrated and depressed I will be. But when Margarita comes up to where I’m sitting and plants her soft, full lips on my soft, Anglo-thin chops I feel rejuvenated. When Adriana creeps up on me to let me watch Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Prince Royce, or Wisin and Yandel on her Android tablet, I am surely a kid again.

Roger & Margarita

Roger & Margarita

I have no doubt that when I’ve reached the end of the trail I won’t be alone. I’ll have a smile on my face and a beautiful, loving woman holding each of my hands. I can’t ask for more than that! Thank you, Lord.