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2019, a look back
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By Ernest Gurulé

We have just about completed our annual trek around the sun and 2019, once a year filled with mystery, has given up nearly all its secrets. Of course, in our current political state, maybe the best---a term used advisedly---is still to come. But as we march toward the New Year, let’s pause and look back.

Last January we wrote about President Trump’s idea of something called a Space Force. It would, as he explained, become the sixth branch of the military, joining the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy. Its mission would be outer space and counteracting China and Russia whose presence in space continues to grow. In early December, the House passed a $738 billion appropriation to pay for it. Its headquarters---at least for the time being---would be Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

Last March, Denver residents with a blip on their records for a marijuana conviction learned they had a friend in the Denver DA’s office. District Attorney Beth McCann introduced the “Turning Over a New Leaf” program. Because marijuana is now legal in Colorado, McCann decided that these individuals deserved a second chance and possible expungement of a conviction. “In the interest of justice and fairness,” she said, “my office will assist individuals convicted of a marijuana offense.” Clinics were held across the city to counsel those who are deemed eligible.

La Voz Bilingue writes regularly about issues impacting Latinos. Osteoporosis, a condition affecting more than 54 million Americans over age 50 has a significant impact on Latinos. Osteoporosis is a weakening of bones. It has been linked to smoking and a key cause of loss of bone density. The condition often causes bone breakage even in simple falls. Both men and women are susceptible.

As we reached the halfway mark around the sun, La Voz Bilingue featured an article outlining the five leading causes of death among Latino men. Pueblo County’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Chris Urbina, said they are cancer, heart disease, unintentional injuries, stroke and diabetes. Urbina said lifestyle changes, including eliminating tobacco along with more responsible alcohol consumption, are important. So too is honesty in speaking with physicians. Heredity, he said, is out of our control. Personal choices are not.

One of Colorado’s newest residents is also one of its most famous. He’s residing in Florence, at Super Max. In July, the Bureau of Prisons delivered Joaquin Guzman Loera, the drug kingpin known as ‘El Chapo,’ to the country’s toughest, most secure prison. Guzman for years ran one of the most notorious drug cartels sending tons of marijuana, heroin and cocaine across the border. Barring the unimaginable, El Chapo will live the remainder of his life in the same 70-square-foot cell he now calls home.

As we entered the fall and the homestretch of the year, we learned from Clinica Tepeyac’s Dr. Patrick Huffer about the stealth threat Latinas face with ovarian cancer. It kills more than 14,000 women each year, a disproportionate number of whom are Latina. Diagnosis often comes at an advanced stage. Huffer says symptoms, including constipation or abdominal bloating, are often “non-specific.” But caught early, he said, survival rates are high.

RTD wants riders of public transportation across the metro area to have a new and improved experience. In September, the metro area’s public transportation option announced Reimagine RTD, a plan it hopes will entice riders to come back. It’s going to be a challenge, not simply because it’s facing new competition from transportation options like Lyft and Uber but also because understaffing is creating delays and even cancellations on some routes. But RTD’s woes are not unique in large cities. But using Houston as a model---a city that turned its ridership decline into a surge---RTD is confident that the two-year study to solve some of its problems will work here, too.

In October, Colorado said ‘adios’ to a political giant. Ruben Valdez, Colorado’s first Latino Speaker of the House, passed away. After leaving the legislature in the late 70’s, Valdez worked in both state and federal governments. Valdez bookended his career with a successful lobbying operation. Valdez would joke that he was also Colorado’s first Latino governor. As Speaker of the House, he was the state’s chief executive for a matter of days during the Lamm Administration when both Governor and Lieutenant Governor were out of state.

From time to time we explore subjects slightly off the beaten path. UFO’s fall into this category. In October we told you about the ‘best place’ in the state to spot a UFO, which is not to be confused with an actual extraterrestrial craft. It’s simply unidentified. In Hooper, a tiny San Luis Valley town, visitors can spend a few dollars and spend the evening at the UFO Watchtower. The price of admission does not guarantee a close encounter of any kind.

As 2019 came to an end, La Voz Bilingue wrote about the growing specter of climate change. A University of Chicago and Associated Press poll said that most Americans now believe climate change is real. There is evidence, say scientists, that the earth is warming. NASA says 18 of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred this century. Increased temperatures have warmed ocean waters and contributed to more severe tropical storms.

Regardless of the data, there remains a stalemate between believers and deniers. This inability to thoughtfully address the issue is moving no one closer to a sensible dialogue. If deniers are right, nothing changes; we’ll be OK. If, on the other hand, believers are right, we should all brace ourselves for a reality that will rock our collective world.





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