Letters at 20 Years

Some 'Postmarks' Writers Just Don't Know When to Quit … God Bless 'Em

Paul Aviña

There are three things you can say about Paul Aviña: One, he always has something to say, as "Postmarks" readers very well know. Two, he's extraordinarily trusting. When presented with questions for this interview, he graciously answered the most basic ones, then offered responses to questions he suggested this writer should have asked. An unusual suggestion given that he is one of the first to lament that his concerns, along with those of his barrio, rarely hit the center of Austin's social and political radar. Who's to say that his comments wouldn't be twisted to make him look foolish? The gesture indicates he assumes the best in people and their intentions. Which only makes the third and most critical thing about Aviña, all the more curious: He doesn't suffer pendejos.

A 20-year Austin resident -- he was born and raised in Durango, Mexico -- Aviña freely uses pendejo to describe anyone who can't see that Austin is going to hell in a handbasket. His biggest complaint is that non-natives hired in plum, high-profile positions, are the ones bringing that handbasket to Austin.

"You can add [Jacques Herzog's] name to those of: the police chief, UT president, UT football coach, Capital Metro general manager, museum of art chief designer, American-Statesman editors [and] AISD school principals, as outsiders holding a hell of a job," Aviña wrote in a letter published in the Chronicle (Jan. 1, 1999). (Herzog was then being considered as architect for UT's new Blanton museum.)

Aviña's letters are passionate and irritable, yet underneath the indignation is a sense of love. He loves his gente, and he loves Austin. What he doesn't love is what he sees as economic and social exclusion, and the destruction of native Austin communities in the name of progress.

"If it is implied that all the outsiders holding the best-paid jobs in town are the best and the brightest, then the natives are nothing but a pool of pendejos," Aviña says, via e-mail.

Aviña has offered his opinions to the Chronicle for several years, even though "the Chronicle caters to mariguanos, drunks, and jotitos," he says. "But it gives back something that we can take advantage of, I think. Your editorials and comments are more focused on the smart side, and the opinions of the people are not filtered out."

Is Aviña a cranky misanthrope? His letters speak for themselves. As Aviña says, "I think history is made of all the little things we do every day." So, if an occasional letter to the editor can make a difference, Aviña will do it. One letter at a time.

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