• In race to secure X Games, Detroit beating Austin, other cities in Facebook poll

    While ESPN executives consider their options for the future home of the X Games, cities have turned to social media efforts as one way to grab executives' attention.

    Austin is currently one of four cities bidding to be the new home of the ESPN X Games. Its competitors are Detroit, Chicago and Charlotte. All four cities have hosted events to impress the ESPN executives and convince them to host the games in their city, similar to the rally Circuit of the Americas hosted at the Capitol last week. Kelly Erickson, a representative of Circuit of the Americas, said the organization used various social media accounts to promote the rally, and that they will continue to use social media to impress ESPN.

    “I think ESPN is watching everything," Erickson said. "For people to have a voice through social media is something they are definitely paying attention to. So we're doing everything we can to spread the word that way."

    Detroit is leading in a recent poll on the X Games’ official Facebook page that poses the question of which city should be the future home of the X Games. As of Monday afternoon, Detroit has more than 18,000 votes. Austin is in second with more than 11,000 votes. Erickson said Circuit of the Americas has been pushing fans to vote for Austin in the poll.

    "We're hoping people keep voting for Austin, because that's something [ESPN] will look at," Erickson said.

    ESPN executives have said they will consider many factors when choosing a city.

    Elsewhere in social media, the four different cities are using various accounts to promote their bid. Austin, Detroit and Charlotte all have official Facebook and Twitter pages designed to bring the X Games to their respective cities. Chicago does not have official pages, or at least one that can be immediately found, but the city does have Facebook and Twitter fan accounts.

    With more than 21,000 “likes” on Facebook, Austin has the most “likes” of the four cities. On Twitter though, both Detroit and Charlotte have more followers than Austin does.

    ESPN is expected to announce their decision in July.

    Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.

  • Academics talk Judaism in Texas, Latin America

    The 16th International Research Conference of the Latin American Jewish Studies Association kicked off it’s annual conference Sunday on Judaism in the American Southwest and Latin America. A meeting of a small group of international scholars free from the demands of the usual school year, the conference will continue with paneled disccusions today and wrap up on Tuesday.

    Bryan Stone, a native Texan professor of history at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, gave the keynote address of the conference Sunday on the origin myths of the native Jewish population of Texas. Stone said Texas Jews, like other Texans, have an outsized legend of their origins that matches the oversized belt buckle attitude of the bluebonnet state.

    “Here in Texas we have a fondness for myth,” Stone said. “And when your talking about a group that’s been about 0.6 percent of the population as long as there have been numbers, you have a certain sense of vulnerability and a need to protect that.” 

    One of the origin “myths” Stone mentioned was that of Luis de Carabajal. A Spanish-Portugeue adventurer and slave trader, it is alleged Carabajal’s family were descendents of the conversos, Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity in the 15th century. The Carabajal family allegedly practiced Judaism in secret in the New World, and many were put to death by the Spanish Inquisition. Many Jewish families in Texas have since traced their family lineage back to the Carabajal family. 

    According to Stone, the story is false. But the popularity of the story speaks volumes to history of Jews in Texas, who have historically sought to establish a strong culture in the periphery of the U.S., far from the center of Jewish culture in New York.

    Stone said the first empirically verifiable story of Jews in Texas was the arrival of Abraham Labatt, a trader, in the town of Valasco in 1831. A practicing founder of several temples, Labat’s journals indicated he had met a community of Jews in the city when he traveled through the state.

    Robert Abzug, director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies, which helped put on the conference, said the keynote was a successful start for a conference dedicated to examining cultural crossroads. 

    “It’s the old story of the teacher learning from the student,” Abzug said, who directed Stone’s dissertation when he attended UT. “Listening and reading Stone’s work I’ve learned to love the idea of local Jewish history.”

    Abzug said the next few lectures at the conference will concern many subjects, such as Jewish settlers in Argentina who began as immigrant prostitutes and became successful landowners, and the interaction between the Jewish diaspora and Native American communities.

    Alan Astro, a professor of Yiddish who teaches at Trinity University in San Antonio, said he was glad the conversation rested on tangible stories and myths and not high-minded, inaccessible theories. 

    Astro said there were also still questions unanswered in the discussion, like the recent trend of peoples in Mexican-American communities to appropriate Jewish origin stories in their own family histories while remaining Christian.

    Astro said the cause might lie in claims over “whiteness”. Since Judaism is traditionally associate with light-skinned people, the proof of Jewish ancestry might allow Mexican or Mexican-American people to claim they are descended from Europeans and not descended from Native American people.

    “There’s always a struggle over ideas, and theories in academic circles,” Astro said. “I’m really glad this conversation rested on firm facts and histories. That’s a nice break from what is sometimes the case.” 

    Follow Andrew Messamore on Twitter @AndrewMessamore.

  • The Morning Texan: Fisher, TRBs and more

    Although the morning will begin dreary and cloudy, the day is expected to clear up according to the National Weather Service. Monday will be sunny with a high of 93 degrees.

    At 9:00 a.m., the Supreme Court is expected to release a series of decisions. One of them could be on Fisher v. Texas, the case that will decide the future of UT’s admission policy. Of course, the court could also decide to wait to release a decision on the Fisher case. 

    Here is some morning reading:

    This weekend’s most read article online: The Daily Texan live-blogged UT’s first orientation session. Every year, approximately a thousand students visit campus per orientation session to learn about the campus, college life and, most importantly, registering for classes.

    In case you missed it: In a stalemate during the last days of the regular session, the legislature failed to get state funding through tuition revenue bonds for 60 higher ed construction projects, including a new engineering building at UT. But lawmakers are convinced if Rick Perry places the funding on the agenda for the special session, they will be able to strike a compromise.

    What you have to read: The Supreme Court of the United States is expected to release a decision soon on Fisher v. Texas, the case that could potentially impact the admissions policy of schools nationwide. The case has to do with race-conscious admissions, and a decision is expected sometime in June.

    Follow Bobby Blanchard on Twitter @bobbycblanchard.