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A reflection of 2013
Pope Francis I (La Voz file photo)

By Ernest Gurulé

For people who fear the number 13, triskaidekaphobians - you know who you are - you’re good for another hundred years. Calendar year 2013 is gone, or just about. But, with only a handful of days remaining until the calendar turns over, where did the time go?

It seems like just yesterday that we worried we would be victimized by the flu that had descended on the country. Last January influenza strain H3N2 was picking its victims with a vengeance, including in Colorado. More than half of the state’s 64 counties reported flu outbreaks. A handful of fatalities was also attributed to the flu.

Fortunately, the outbreak, while serious, was nothing like 1957 or 1968 when Colorado declared full blown flu epidemic. Miraculously, 2013’s outbreak came nowhere close to The Great Influenza that killed between 20 and 40 million worldwide. That outbreak killed more than 600,000 across the U.S. and in New Mexico, alone, killed one in seven.

Once again, public health officials are advising people to get their flu shots.

A year ago, Colorado’s agriculture picture was looking bleak and well into the throes of a fourth straight year of drought. And while there have been some healthy early snows, the condition for a number of counties, including several in southeastern Colorado, has not improved. However, storage levels in state reservoirs are running about 20 percent above a year ago. State agriculture is monitoring the situation closely.

In March, the world’s 2.2 billion Catholics were shocked with the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI was stepping down. He was succeeded thirteen days later by the first non-European pope since 1272 and the first from South America.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who took the name Francis after Saint Francis of Assisi, became the Church’s 266th leader. Prior to his selection as Cardinal, Pope Francis served as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

In his first year, the Pope has shocked the world with thoughtful pronouncements on homosexuality, atheism and economics while urging the world to work to improve the quality of life for the world’s poor while focusing less on the wealth of a relatively few.

In recent days, North Korea has once again landed in headlines with news of the execution of the country’s number two leader. Last April, La Voz Bilingüe wrote, as papers around the world did, about a new level of tensions between this Mississippi-sized country and the U.S.

Once again, the world is wondering what is going on in North Korea with recent news of the death of Chang Song-thaek. His execution was ordered by North Korea’s leader Kim Jung-un, who also happens to be the late Chang’s nephew.

A year ago, La Voz Bilingüe readers were learning a bit more about the food they consume and the growing role that genetic modification plays in the way it is produced. Genetically modified foods, including some foods produced in Colorado - corn, wheat and soybeans - are controversial for a number of reasons including its role in the reduction of genetic diversity and the potential creation of mutant genes. Genetically modified foods are often not labeled but there is a growing outcry for more governmental control over this production trend.

Until diabetes, a scourge in the Latino community, begins trending down, it will continue to be written about. Last May, diabetes victims learned on these pages of a potentially life-changing new trial underway at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Wellness Center.

The procedure is called EndoBarrier, which involves inserting a tube-shaped liner through the mouth and into the stomach. The device forms a physical barrier between ingested food and a small portion of the intestinal wall. Researchers hope, if successful, it can decrease blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss. EndoBarrier is non-surgical and can be completed in approximately 15 minutes. The procedure was conducted on approximately 500 individuals, including more than a hundred Latinos.

Also in May, the Denver Library Commission took its first steps in the naming of a new library a Latino luminary. After a series of lively public meetings, the Commission decided on christening the new building after the late Rudolfo ‘Corky’ Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a Denver native and author of the Chicano epic poem “I Am Joaquin,” was a powerful voice in the Latino civil rights movement. The new library is under construction in the Avondale shopping center on West Colfax and will open in the fall of 2014.

The story of an interesting new trend found its way to La Voz Bilingüe readers when they read in June that cremations, for the first time, have overtaken funerals as a preference for final arrangements for Latinos and others. In our story, we reported that cremations have gone from 1 in ten to 1 in two in just one generation. The simple explanation is economics; cremations are cheaper. Another reason, especially among Latinos, is that the Catholic Church has softened its stand. Still, the Church prefers traditional burial but accepts cremation.

Last July, for the Colorado Rockies, celebrating their 20th anniversary, times were good. The team was still in contention and fans - as attested by attendance - were excited. Of course, as with parched farmlands, it was a disappointing harvest. By August, the end was near and sounds of the annual lament, ‘wait ‘til next year’ were being heard. The Rockies, like ‘mighty Casey,’ struck out and finished last.

In recent days we have learned about computer hackers invading Target and stealing the private information of millions of holiday shoppers. We wrote about cyber ‘phishing’ and last August warned about the ease of losing control of sensitive personal information. Cyber predators, individuals and whole rings, routinely scour cyberspace looking for ways to commit this invisible form of theft. Security experts warn consumers to regularly change passwords, check records for unusual activity and to remain on high-alert for stealth larceny. Until and unless a technological miracle occurs and the internet become a guaranteed ‘no phishing’ zone, the problem will continue growing.

Each September is Suicide Prevention Month. It is an especially important event for everyone, including Latinos. Colorado, with nearly 1,100 suicides in 2012, ranks sixth in the nation for suicide deaths. Equally as alarming is the growing number of women and young girls who are dying from suicide. Latinas are now the fastest growing segment in this dubious category.

In October, La Voz Bilingüe readers learned that while cigarettes are losing favor among Americans, e-cigarettes are gaining a foothold. E-cigarettes - the ‘e’ is for electronic - are nicotine-delivery devices. Sales of e-cigs have grown astronomically and now account for $1.7 billion in annual sales but are expected to reach $80 billion worldwide by 2047.

Sticking with vice, also in October, we wrote about the explosion of hard spirits and how the distillery industry is targeting younger women as the new growth audience. Vodka, once a simple choice, is now marketed in more than thirty flavors including pomegranate, berry and passion fruit. The advertising campaigns are also focused on young Latinas, a potentially lucrative and growing demographic.

As 2013 waned, a two-part story appearing here underscored the growing gap between Denver’s ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless says that more than 12,000 men, women and children are homeless on any given night in the metro area and that upscale new building in Denver is forcing these people into a new level of survival. CCH President and CEO John Parvensky says the situation among the homeless is the “worst in the twenty-eight years I’ve been working on the issue.”

To ensure that we end on an up note, let us remind you of the Romero brothers from San Luis. For the La Voz Bilingüe veterans’ special, we wrote about them. When World War II broke out, the five Romero brothers stepped up and joined the fight. In a war that changed the world and resulted in the deaths of more than 400,000 Americans, they did their part and all came home safely.

Happy holidays.





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