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1. Chicanonautica: NeoAztecs Among Us



Once upon a time, before the Internet, I was turning in episodes of Brainpan Fallout on a floppy disc (remember them?) in a Mexican restaurant. I was careful not to get salsa on them. “This is like one of your stories,” someone said.

As a science fiction writer, I don’t try to predict the future. I just have a feeling for changes I see  happening and wonder What If, and If This Goes On. When I first started projecting Aztec and other preColumbian cultures into the future, it was seen as far-out and esoteric. Cortez on Jupiter, High Aztech, and Smoking Mirror Blues weren’t considered to be very bloody likely.

Now, in Silgo XXI, people keep telling me that the news seems like my stories, especially when things preColumbian manifest. 

This was from a news story from 2008:

Officials in Mexico City's governing body estimate that a decade ago there were about 50 Aztec revivalist groups in the capital. Today there are closer to 300, all part of a movement calling itself La Mexhicanidad, one of the fastest-growing urban subcultures around.
Also from the same year:
Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard wants all city employees, from hospital workers to bus drivers, to learn the Aztec language Nahuatl in an effort to revive the ancient tongue, the city government said.

And more recently, in a piece that compared the Aztecs to the Nazis, and criticized multiculturalism:
Imagine an alternative history where the Aztecs sail across the Atlantic Ocean to set up their pyramids of sacrifice in Paris.
And there are those who have given the Aztecs a New Age makeover, convinced that they were all really peaceful vegetarians, and all that talk about war and human sacrifice is just racist propaganda. You can see them climbing Teotihuacán and Mayan pyramids to recharge their energy on the Equinox.
More akin to my NeoAztecs and Aztecans is the Mexica Movement. Mexica being what the Aztecs called themselves.
Their website is interesting, going beyond the Chicano Movement’s visions of Aztlán. All the native peoples of the Américas including the mestizos (a word they don’t like) are one people, the Nican Tlaca, and their nation is Anahuac.
The United States of Anahuac . . . hmm . . .
Other words they reject are Hispanic and Latino, which they consider racist nods to European cultures.
I’d quote from them, but their homepage warns, in bigger letter than these:
ALL MATERIALS
COPYRIGHTED
DO NOT STEAL
They also have a page to help those who want adopt Nahuatl names.
I remember how thirty years ago, I was excited at meeting girls named Xochitl. These days I run into a lot of Nahuatl and Mayan names on Twitter and Facebook. Welcome to my world.
Meanwhile, our culture here in Anahuac is going Aztecan. Young people are being sacrificed, by each other, and by militarized law enforcement agencies. I wonder what gods they are being sacrificed to.
Ernest Hogan is addicted to getting published and to committing acts of creative blasphemy. He’s found people who think it's amusing, and who help him. He has made sacrifices over the years, and now there’s no stopping him.

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2. Colores de la Vida



Review by Ariadna Sánchez

A vast variety of colors cover the universe. Their presence in the environment provides human beings with the inspiration necessary to create exquisite art pieces. Colors can cheer the spirit up in only seconds. They transform a lonely soul into a cheerful one by giving hope and serenity to it.
Colores de la Vida by Cynthia Weill has fabulous folk art by Artisans from Oaxaca, Mexico.  Weill’s perfect combination of art and colors results in a boost of power of the immense world of colors in English and Spanish. Page by page, Colores de la Vida is an open invitation to admire the beauty in our surroundings.
Visit your local library to check out other great books written by Cynthia Weill. Reading gives you wings!
For additional information regarding Weill’s work click the following link:
Listen in Spanish Cynthia Weill Interview

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3. Should Criticism Sting?

Michael Sedano

La Bloga’s Saturday columnist Rudy Ch. Garcia reviewed Boy Zorro and the Bully (El Niño Zorro y el Peleón). Published in English and Spanish, Rudy calls it “a Latino book” on how to handle bullying, finding Boy Zorro on the whole worthwhile. Click here to read the review and Comments from Rudy's July 26 column.

The publisher and author wrote back, objecting to calling Boy Zorro "a Latino book, arguing that "using Spanish merely makes the topic accessible to more readers". Author, Kat A. expresses restrained anger when she avers,

Rudy. Rudy. Rudy. You practically missed the book altogether. Starting with the misclassification of it as “A Latino Book”. This is a book about “Bullying”. You made it a book about Latinos and then used the book as a platform to go off into different tangents about race, skin color, lack of female representation…are you helping or hurting those who actually do something

The publisher, Katherine Del Monte, focuses on the positive messages the book conveys, only once tangentially acknowledging Garcia’s critique that illustrations paint everyone except one kid and the principal pink.

Mr. Ramos, the principal, does the right thing, stays strong, and all outcomes are favorable – no matter their skin color or race.

The author and publisher’s responses reflect one of those hard facts of writing: once the writer has sent the piece “out there,” it belongs to the reader. And the critic.

Sadly, "criticism" has come to mean its lowest common denominator, fault-finding and punishment, so people hate criticism. Maybe it's part of the national character, to take critique as a personal affront.

To be criticized is good. In its most exalted form, criticism compares a concept of perfection to the work at hand and declares how the piece at hand measures up to perfection. Most literary criticism reflects versions of the latter. It shouldn't sting. Indeed, it's an honor to be compared to perfection.

A reader or critic comes to a title with her or his own expectations for the book and reads it through the lens of expectation, plus one’s capacity for the writer’s style and invention. In writing the critique, the critic will say what he or she likes, what he or she doesn’t like, and offer qualitative observations related to the work.

In Rudy's critique, he likes Boy Zorro for its critically important message. His enthusiasm is tempered by ways the book could do a better job for its readers.

Whatever the assessment—love it, hate it, wish it was something else—it belongs to the critic and reflects that critic's sensibility. A work “means” what the reader says it means, regardless of the author’s or publisher’s intent. We do, of course, share a language, so most of the time, we "get" one another. But now and again a Boy Zorro comes around, where critique and intent rub each other the wrong way.

Favorable or not, taking into account a critic's observations--Rudy's expectation that illustrated children's books reflect a child's world by featuring diversity in gender and skin colors--won't diminish established intentions but certainly enhances the likelihood a future book will attract wider readership and more favorable critical responses.



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4. Eduardo Galeano. Hands up, don't shoot.

[Daniel Olivas will return soon enough.]

La Bloga regularly covers many Latino, and other, authors, but not as many journalists as other genre writers. Below are excerpts of a sudamericano's  vivid, realistic writing style that makes Hunter Thompson's gonzo journalism seem like baño graffiti.

In a La Bloga post earlier this summer, poet Martín Espada mentioned Uruguayan author, Eduardo Galeano. The Atlantic Monthly said of Galeano:
"A native of Uruguay who was forced into exile under the country's military regime during the 1970s, Galeano has always identified with the losing side. His Open Veins of Latin America, published in Mexico, 1971, employed captivating, elegiac prose to chronicle five centuries of plunder and imperialism in Latin America. Radically different in style, Open Veinsquickly became a canonical text in radical circles, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in the Southern Hemisphere. In a period of social upheaval, guerrilla warfare, and dictatorship, the book, composed in three months of intense labor, Open Veins was banned by the Pinochet regime."

Although Galeano recently "disavowed" some of his style, credentials and phraseology used in Open Veins, his legacy can't be derailed, even should he become more conservative in his later years.

Elsewhere, he's been described this way: "Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano is among the greats of our time. His writing has it -- that indefinable quality you can’t describe but know as soon as you read it. He’s created a style that combines the best of journalism, history, and fiction and a form for his books that may have no name but involves short bursts of almost lyrical reportage, often about events long past."

His most recent book, Mirrors(publisher, Nation Books), is called "one of the great books of this century, a history of humanity in 366 episodes, from our first myths to late last night."

The following passages--taken from TomDispatch.com--are excerpts from Galeano’s history of humanityMirrors -Stories of almost everyone, something you should consider reading if you want a different, great read.

Photograph: Saddest Eye in the World
Princeton, New Jersey, May 1947.
Photographer Philippe Halsman asks him: “Do you think there will be peace?”
And while the shutter clicks, Albert Einstein says, or rather mutters: “No.”
People believe that Einstein got the Nobel Prize for his theory of relativity, that he was the originator of the saying “Everything is relative,” and that he was the inventor of the atom bomb.
The truth is they did not give him a Nobel for his theory of relativity and he never uttered those words. Neither did he invent the bomb, although Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not have been possible if he had not discovered what he did.
He knew all too well that his findings, born of a celebration of life, had been used to annihilate it.

Fidel
His enemies say he was an uncrowned king who confused unity with unanimity.
And in that his enemies are right.
His enemies say that if Napoleon had a newspaper like Granma, no Frenchman would have learned of the disaster at Waterloo.
And in that his enemies are right.
His enemies say that he exercised power by talking a lot and listening little, because he was more used to hearing echoes than voices.
And in that his enemies are right.
But some things his enemies do not say: it was not to pose for the history books that he bared his breast to the invaders’ bullets,
he faced hurricanes as an equal, hurricane to hurricane,
he survived 637 attempts on his life,
his contagious energy was decisive in making a country out of a colony,
and it was not by Lucifer’s curse or God’s miracle that the new country managed to outlive 10 U.S. presidents, their napkins spread in their laps, ready to eat it with knife and fork.
And his enemies never mention that Cuba is one rare country that does not compete for the World Doormat Cup.
And they do not say that the revolution, punished for the crime of dignity, is what it managed to be and not what it wished to become. Nor do they say that the wall separating desire from reality grew ever higher and wider thanks to the imperial blockade, which suffocated a Cuban-style democracy, militarized society, and gave the bureaucracy, always ready with a problem for every solution, the alibis it needed to justify and perpetuate itself.
And they do not say that in spite of all the sorrow, in spite of the external aggression and the internal high-handedness, this distressed and obstinate island has spawned the least unjust society in Latin America.
And his enemies do not say that this feat was the outcome of the sacrifice of its people, and also of the stubborn will and old-fashioned sense of honor of the knight who always fought on the side of the losers, like his famous colleague in the fields of Castile.

Ali
He was butterfly and bee. In the ring, he floated and stung.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, refused to put on a uniform.
“Got nothing against no Viet Cong,” he said. “Ain’t no Vietnamese ever called me nigger.”
They called him a traitor. They sentenced him to a five-year jail term, and barred him from boxing. They stripped him of his title as champion of the world.
The punishment became his trophy. By taking away his crown, they anointed him king.
Years later, a few college students asked him to recite something. And for them he improvised the shortest poem in world literature:
“Me, we.”

Walls
The Berlin Wall made the news every day. From morning till night we read, saw, heard: the Wall of Shame, the Wall of Infamy, the Iron Curtain...
In the end, a wall which deserved to fall fell. But other walls sprouted and continue sprouting across the world. Though they are much larger than the one in Berlin, we rarely hear of them.
Little is said about the wall the United States is building along the Mexican border, and less is said about the barbed-wire barriers surrounding the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the African coast.
Practically nothing is said about the West Bank Wall, which perpetuates the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and will be 15 times longer than the Berlin Wall. And nothing, nothing at all, is said about the Morocco Wall, which perpetuates the seizure of the Saharan homeland by the kingdom of Morocco, and is 60 times the length of the Berlin Wall.
Why are some walls so loud and others mute?

Lied-About Wars
Advertising campaigns, marketing schemes. The target is public opinion. Wars are sold the same way cars are, by lying.
In August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson accused the Vietnamese of attacking two U.S. warships in the Tonkin Gulf.
Then the president invaded Vietnam, sending planes and troops. He was acclaimed by journalists and by politicians, and his popularity skyrocketed. The Democrats in power and the Republicans out of power became a single party united against Communist aggression.
After the war had slaughtered Vietnamese in vast numbers, most of them women and children, Johnson’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, confessed that the Tonkin Gulf attack had never occurred.
The dead did not revive.
In March 2003, President George W. Bush accused Iraq of being on the verge of destroying the world with its weapons of mass destruction, “the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
Then the president invaded Iraq, sending planes and troops. He was acclaimed by journalists and by politicians, and his popularity skyrocketed. The Republicans in power and the Democrats out of power became a single party united against terrorist aggression.
After the war had slaughtered Iraqis in vast numbers, most of them women and children, Bush confessed that the weapons of mass destruction never existed. “The most lethal weapons ever devised” were his own speeches.
In the following elections, he won a second term.
In my childhood, my mother used to tell me that a lie has no feet. She was misinformed.

Lost and Found
The twentieth century, which was born proclaiming peace and justice, died bathed in blood. It passed on a world much more unjust than the one it inherited.
The twenty-first century, which also arrived heralding peace and justice, is following in its predecessor’s footsteps.
In my childhood, I was convinced that everything that went astray on earth ended up on the moon.
But the astronauts found no sign of dangerous dreams or broken promises or hopes betrayed.
If not on the moon, where might they be? Perhaps they were never misplaced. Perhaps they are in hiding here on earth. Waiting.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

Rubén Salazar
NOTE: The end of August will mark the 44th anniversary of the murder of the Mexican-American journalist Rubén Salazar during East L.A.'s National Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War, 1970. He was killed by an L.A. deputy, much as Michael Brown was by policeman Darren Wilson in Ferguson this month. The after-quake by enforcement officers has made Ferguson our Gaza, for the moment.

Hands up, don't shoot,
RudyG

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5. Chicana Films Need to be Included in Mexican American Studies Curricula. Award Winning Filmmaker Linda Garcia Merchant Tells Us Why!

By Guest Writer:  Filmmaker, Linda Garcia Merchant

Tony Diaz of Librotraficante and Nuestra Palabra, DAY ONE at Mercado Mayapan (photo by Kathryn Haviland)
I finally met Tony Diaz in person, in 2012, at a weekend conference that acknowledged the 40th anniversary of the Partido Raza Unida Convention at Mercado Mayapan in the Segundo Barrio area of El Paso, Texas.  One of the cornerstones of the modern Chicano Movement in El Paso, Mercado Mayapan, was originally a factory, that in 1981, was repurposed by a group of Chicana laborers, La Mujer Obrera, as a job training and social center.

I had "virtually" met Tony three years earlier when I was interviewed on his “Nuestra Palabra" show to promote several Texas screenings of my first film, Las Mujeres de la Caucus Chicana (2007).  Las Mujeres had been invited to screen at the Museo Alameda in San Antonio and was to be the debut of the Mexican American Community Center (MACC) in Austin as part of the 2008 Sor Juana Festival Tejas, sponsored by the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. 

I continue to be a fan of the work Tony does with Librotraficante and, more recently, taking on the incredible challenge of creating a resource for Mexican American Studies (M.A.S.) in Tejas. 

"Reel Chicano Filmmakers" (L to R: Sean Arcy, Jesus Treviño, unknown,
Dennix Bixler, Linda Garcia Merchant (photo by Kathryn Haviland)
In June of 2014, Tony wrote an article for The Huffington Post, Latino Voices entitled, “Top 10 Chicano Films for M.A.S.” which included 15 of the top Chicano films to have as a resource for M.A.S.  I looked at the list and immediately tweeted a message to him that said, “Great!  Where are the women?  We make films too!

Tony is a great guy and a true activist in the sense that the work is always about inclusion.   His immediate response was:  “What would a list of Chicana films look like?”

My first reaction was to create a list of films for M.A.S. by and about Chicanas.  But that wasn’t really solving the issue of inclusion.  If anything, it was keeping us as far apart as we have been in movement politics.  A list of films about Chicano culture should include films by men and women about Chicano men, women, and children.  As there are all types of films available that fit this requirement, I felt it should be one list, not two.  However, understanding that this list had already been published by The Huffington Post, there was a good chance there wouldn’t be a follow-up to correct or include what I felt was half a list. 

It was then that I realized the inclusion of the filmmakers as well as the films would be important to this list.  I realized it was personal.  I felt that the women left off the list, including myself, had made great contributions to our culture, and had done so with little fanfare or acknowledgement which continues to render many of us invisible to the history and contributions frequently recognized as “Chicano.” 

So instead of just giving Tony a list with run times and authors, I wrote a passionate statement about why the inclusion of Chicana Filmmakers was important to the M.A.S. resource.  Here is that statement:

I love being a Chicana Filmmaker because we are many things.  We are primarily activists moving cultural production forward.  We are provocateurs, inciting free thinking and daring conversation to come from the open-ended questions we shout in the stories we tell.  In Matilde Landeta’s Las Trotacalles, there is a death scene where the group of women standing around the bed of their dying friend are not dwelling on the sadness of the moment, but are having a heated conversation about the existence of God. Landeta manages to bring the emotional arc back from curious to poignant with the dying woman’s last words about faith that silences both the women and the audience. 

Martha Cotera, founding member of Mujeres de la Raza Unida, and Jesus Salvador Treviño, filmmaker,
on the opening panel of the 40th Anniversary Commemoration of the Partido Raza Unida
Convention held at University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP) (Photo by Kathryn Haviland)
We are risk takers, high wire aerialists tiptoeing over fields filled with the landmines of funding and exposure, cultural and gender insensitivities, resistance, and oppression, all while juggling actors, creative financing, production, distribution, and places to work, that will support us and our families. 

Chicana filmmakers are family, bound by the bond of Chicana-ism and filmmaking, and the many battles fought to get things done.  We teach one another craft and technique, understanding the importance of the auteur in the creation of product.  We do not engage regularly, but we connect when it is important to do so.  When we do engage, it is with the understanding that our bonds are as old as our history in this hemisphere, pre tribal and pre colonial.  I say this because it is how I feel about one of the Foremothers of Chicana Filmmaking, Sylvia Morales, producer of Chicana(1979) and A Crushing Love(2009). 

Filmmaker Sylvia Morales with María Cotera, Chicana feminist, activist, University of Michigan professor,
at the 2011 MALCS Summer Institute at California State University Los Angeles  (photo by Linda Garcia Merchant)
When I first met Sylvia Morales, I was just beginning production on my first film, Las Mujeres.  Sylvia was beginning work on A Crushing Love.  It was Chicano Filmmaker, Jesus Treviño, who said we should meet as we were working on similar projects. 

Sylvia is tall, striking, as only Latinas can be beautiful, and the owner of the most piercing set of eyes that can and do stand as judge and jury at any moment.  “So you want to be a filmmaker,” she grumbled, a tiny smirk on her lips and looking at me with that famous raised eyebrow.  “Well, be prepared to always be broke and never completely satisfied with what you’ve done.”  She then went on to tell wonderful stories of her experiences at the Denver Youth Conference and what it took to make Chicana (1979).  To this day, I relish every moment of that first meeting and carry forward the important lessons I have learned from Sylvia about why we do what we do. Sylvia continues to mentor my work with honest feedback and constructive suggestions. 


Jesus Salvador Treviño shooting The Women Legacy Panel (photo by Kathryn Haviland)
The highlight of my filmmaking career has been two opportunities  to work with Sylvia on projects.  First, in 2006, shooting Martha and María Cotera’s interview at my cameraman’s house in Evanston for A Crushing Love.  Then in 2011, shooting panels and interviews for the Chicana Por Mi Raza Oral HistoryProject at the MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social) Summer Institute at CSU (California State University) Los Angeles, including a presentation of Madres Por Justiciaby Teatro  Chicana.  Those four days in Los Angeles were the most exhausting and exciting of my life. 

I believe that Chicana/Latina filmmakers have a special Y chromosome imprinted with the words “not impossible.”  It is how I can rationalize our need to make films through the personal and economic challenge that comes from making film in a world consistently hesitant or disinterested in supporting us.  It is a challenge that presents itself as time away from children, spouses, and relationships in general.  Filmmaking insists on a complete state of distraction during pre- and post-production, that begins with the creative acts, with writing scripts, and continues through the editing of footage, and concludes with the endlessly expensive lottery of festival submission. 

Jesus Salvador Treviño shooting The Women Legacy Panel with Martha Cotera (photo by Kathryn Haviland)
However, this list isn’t just about the challenges that come with stories we tell.  It is about the simple fact that we are telling them.  Our “filmmaker” foremothers: Matilde Landeta, Sylvia Morales, Nancy De Los Santos, and LourdesPortillo, learned the structure of our craft and then redesigned that form in shapes that reflect a thousand years of tias, comadres y abuelas, teaching us how to tell a tale. 

Consider a young Latina in El Paso, Tejas; another in Kenosha, Wisconsin; and yet another in Las Vegas, Nevada watching A Crushing Love(Sylvia Morales, UCLA BA, MFA), Señorita Estraviada (Lourdes Portillo, San Francisco Art Institute MFA), or La negra Angustias (Matilde Landeta, Assistant Director during the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema).

While she watches these films, what seeds are planted in her mind, about the possibility of making film and becoming a filmmaker?  Does she go on to become the young woman that makes Las Marthas or Mosquita Y Mari?  I know she does.  I know we do. 

1.   Chicana. Director/Writer: Sylvia Morales (1979) (Classroom clock: 23 mins). History of Chicana and Mexican women from pre Columbian times to the present (Women Make Movies, distribution)

2.   A Crushing Love Chicanas, Motherhood and Activism. Director/Writer: Sylvia Morales (2009) (Classroom clock: 58 mins). Sequel to Chicana, Morales asks the question of Chicana activists and their children, how do they successfully juggle the needs of both the community and their families. Morales takes the question a step further by turning the camera on herself and her daughter.

3.  Senorita Extraviada, Missing Young Woman. Director/Producer: Lourdes Portillo (2001) (Classroom clock: 74 mins.) Story of the murdered women of Juarez Mexico is presented in a way that demonstrates the genocidal nature of the tragedy and the lack of action by the government.

4. Corpus:  A Home Movie for Selena.  Director/Producer: Lourdes Portillo (1999) (Classroom clock: 47 mins.) It has been said that this documentary presents Tejana singing star Selena Quintanilla 'from a Latina Feminist perspective'. Portillo chooses to include Latina scholars commenting on the lasting fame and iconic nature of her memory.

5.  La Negra Angustias. Director: Matilde Landeta Writers: Matilde Landeta and Francisco Rojas Gonzalez (1949) (Classroom clock: 85 mins.) At last a film about the Mexican Revolution with a woman leading the revolutionaries.  Starring María Elena Marques, who is better known for her role in Emilio Fernandez's film, La Perla.  

6.   La Trotacalles.  Director: Matilde Landeta (1951) (Classroom clock: 101 mins.) The second of three features Landeta was able to make within the male dominated structure of  the Mexican film industry. The film is about a group of streetwalkers, but without the moral judgements often applied to women in this profession.

7.    The Bronze Screen: 100 Years of the Latino Image in American Cinema. Producers/Directors: Nancy De Los Santos, Susan Racho, Alberto Dominguez (2002). (Classroom clock: 90 mins) A wonderful documentary that presents the rich and little known contributions on both sides of the camera by Latinos in Hollywood.

  8.  Pilsen: Port of EntryDirector: Kenneth Solarz Producer: Nancy De Los Santos (1981) (Classroom clock: 28mins.)  Documentary on the life of the Fraga family in the Pilsen neighborhood in  Chicago. Interesting in that it touches on the challenges of maintaining cultural pride with the ever present threat of gentrification.

9.     Antonia: A Chicana Story. Directors: Luz Maria Gordillo and Juan Javier Pescador (2013). (Classroom clock: 55 mins.) One of the foremothers of Chicana studies, Antonia Castaneda's life is presented through her writing along with interviews and conversations with colleagues and friends.

10.   My Filmmaking, My Life Matilde Landeta. Director: Patricia Diaz Producer: Jane Ryder (1990). (Classroom clock: 30 mins.). A documentary that presents the life and work of Mexican director Matilde Landeta.

11.  Mosquita Y Mari. Director/Writer: Aurora Guerrero (2012). (Classroom clock: 85 mins.) A coming of age story of young love that runs right into the fast paced life that is immigrant community. Written and Directed by Aurora Guerrero, this film is beautifully shot by Uruguayan cinematographer Magela Crosignani.

12.  Las Marthas. Director: Cristina Ibarra (2014). (Classroom clock: 66 mins.) A wonderful documentary on a little known annual debutante ball that honors the legacy of George and Martha Washington in the border town of Laredo Texas. Ibarra speaks to class and culture, inclusion, body image, and the public image of young women chosen to participate in this gala event.

13.  Adelante Mujeres. Director/Producer: National Women’s History Project (1992). (Classroom clock: 30 mins.) A quick and comprehensive study of the contributions of Latinas through history.

14.  Palabras Dulces, Palabras Amargas. Director: Linda Garcia Merchant (2009). (Classroom clock: 45 mins).  Featuring six original works of the multicultural, multigenerational spoken word ensemble La Dulce Palabra Spoken Word Ensemble.

15.  Las Mujeres de la Caucus Chicana. Director: Linda Garcia Merchant (2007) (Classroom clock: 93 mins) Recounts the turning points of six Chicanas who answered the call to action and came together at the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston.

BIO:
Linda Garcia Merchant (photo by Kathryn Haviland)

Linda Garcia Merchant, an award-winning filmmaker and Independent scholar, is technical director of the Chicana Por MiRaza Project, a community partner for the Somos Latinas Oral History Project and the Chicana Chicago/MABPW Collection Project, a member of the LGBT Giving Council of the Chicago Foundation for Women and a board member of the Chicago Area Women's History Council. Watch the trailer for Linda's latest production 'Yo Soy Eva' , being released this fall.

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6. Chat with author John Nichols. New Mario Acevedo novel.

Con workshop - writing characters outside your culture


This year's Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Conference will be held Sept. 5-7, in Westminster [Denver]. Among other panels and workshops, author Mario Acevedo and I will be leading one [Sunday, 9:00am] called "Deep-six the Stereotypes: Writing Characters from Another Culture."

Its description: "How can writers diversify their fiction with vibrant characters from a different culture or background so their writing attracts 21st Century readers? Insights into what hooks / turns off agents when authors write outside their cultural experience."

We envision our audience largely being Anglos wanting to hear about writing non-Anglo characters. Not that I'm an expert, but why is this Chicano author willing to help Anglo writers write about Chicano, Latino, etc. characters? (I haven't asked Mario the same.) There are other questions that could be asked.

Do Chicano authors have a "responsibility" to help Anglo writers--already published more than we are--so that they can succeed even more? Can Anglo writers do a decent portrayal, from their non-PoC perspective and worldview? Questions could go on and on.

They remind me of two hours I spent in the Taos Plaza last month, during the Fiestas. I'd been there before, seen the sites, the festivities, the shops and artwork. That part of our--wife Carmen also went--trip was el mismo. The two hours were totally new.
 
I had a first edition of Milagro Beanfield War I'd wanted autographed and author John Nichols did that earlier this year. We exchanged surface-mail letters, I sent him my novel, he invited me down and I was to meet him in a café near the Moby Dickens Bookshop.

The Nichols website states, "As of July, I’m 73 years old, my heart is locked in permanent atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure. I'm a walking time bomb ready to have a stroke." So, initially my intention was to do a La Bloga interview of the man who'd authored one of my favorite books about Chicanos, written by an Anglo. Maybe even his last interview.

When I was in the graphic/ad business, my company had produced the artwork for the movie's Denver premier, so besides a reader-author connection, I had remote connection to Nichols' work. The movie starred Rubén Blades, Sonia Braga, Melanie Griffith, Christopher Walken, et al; director Robert Redford; producers Moctesuma Esparza and Redford; Nichols did the screenplay.

If you've never seen the movie, you should. Not only for its humor and its background on New Mexican land/water struggles, but because it's good. For it's time, it was great. A major motion picture laced with Anglo/Latino talent.

After attempting to come up with insightful interview questions to ask Nichols, at some point I gave up. It felt artificial, irrelevant and not what I wanted to do. [Never even took a selfie of us.] I decided to simply meet the man who wrote the novel. Chat. Discuss, exchange stories, maybe laugh a little. Eat and drink (not that Nichols was/is in a condition to down traguitos with me).

At the appointed hour, I expected an old guy with a cane maybe made out of an agave stalk, hobbling or leaping like in the movie poster. The cane was simple and plastic. The man didn't jump around much. We ordered a bite, I'd have a couple of Negras, Nichols, some non-alcoholic drinks. And we began.

Another writer asked me, "What did you learn?" He meant, what great writing knowledge did I take away from the talk. I don't know that I have anything literary to answer to that and am not sure that I should.

In the two hours, I saw/experienced/shared in small ways several things. That Nichols, like on his website, holds family high on his list of achievements and experiences. That he holds Nature and being alone in Nature--something I've written about--high on his list of how we should spend our time on the planet, not only near the end of it.

Then there was his smile. And eyes. Nothing that you'd expect from a casi-muerto. What you'd expect from a twenty-year-old. What you'd expect from a kid starting out in life with crazy expectations and hopes and decades in front of him to accomplish anything he wanted.

I didn't expect his Spanish accent to be so gringoly obvious. My grammar is unschooled; his is in nascent stages of Span. 201, to be kind. But he was unashamed about using it. He didn't blush whenever his fluency fell or vocab was a bit off; he just talked on like a mexicano drinking unas, outside a Texas beer joint. I got over noticing it and just went with our exchange. Of course, I wonder what he heard in my Spanish that might've made him cringe.

If Nichols and I live long enough, perhaps there will be an interview, not necessarily his, or my, last. I don't know that that's that important. [yeah, 3 "that’s" and maybe English isn't my 1st language]

How does my short time with Nichols relate to our upcoming workshop? Mario and I could hope that out of it came some new awareness that in the future could produce the kind of gringos' share of the work that went into the Milagro movie. [No, I don't know what pinche petho developed during its production.] Or encourage a little of the multi-national, multi-talented camaraderie that this country direly needs, not only literarily. If Mario and I reach some in the audience who are/can be such gente, then we'll have done, no milagro, but at least a little progress in lifelike lit.

It took me two hours to shed the nervousness of being one-on-one with a great gringo writer. Should the two of us endure until another meet, I'll have reached the stage of bouncing some of my crazy ideas off him, especially, about death. And what it's probably not. Or story ideas. Or poor jokes. Or introduce my dog to him. Yeah, maybe a little interviewing, por pendejo.


More vampiros

From Mario Acevedo's website, about the upcoming book release of Rescue from Planet Pleasure:
"If you're a fan of Felix Gomez, you know he's got a lot hanging out there. For one, the most bodacious vampiress of all time, his buddy Carmen Arellano, was kidnapped by aliens and she's being held prisoner in deep space. And Phaedra, the ruthless bloodsucking ingenue--now with extra-superpowers--is making good on her threat to destroy the Araneum and take over the undead underworld.

"Felix is not alone in his quest to save Carmen and stop Phaedra. That red-headed whirlwind with a gun, Jolie, has got his back. Also appearing is everyone's favorite down-and-out trickster sage, Coyote, and he's brought along his mom...la Malinche...aka La Llorona! Here it comes, a big, hairy story bristling with action, intergalactic adventure, skin-walkers, Hopi magic...all told in tumescent PervoVision. Exactly what you'd expect from Felix Gomez. [La Bloga note: and what you'd expect from Mario]

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, aka Chicano spec lit author, Rudy Ch. Garcia, Taos tourist and Nichols fan

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7. Celebrating Poetry in Louisiana

Melinda Palacio
I can walk on my cast now. Thank you for all of your healing thoughts
My journey towards walking again began last week. I am able to put weight on my cast. Although I'm pretty good with hoisting my body on crutches, I am relieved to be walking. Soon I won't need a cane or the cast I've been wearing for the past two months. Thank you to everyone for your healing thoughts and positive energy. La Bloga took a little hit this Summer with my broken leg and Michael Sedano's scare in the emergency room, but we are back stronger. While I didn't have Sedano's mandate from ancestors to go back in line, I did experience an epiphany of sorts while under heavy hospital drugs, where I was dropped into the sea of love and realized that everything is love.

My first official outing, both fun and literary was to New Iberia and Lafayette's Word Lab. My friends Jonathan Klein and Gina Ferrara were presenting at 2pm and wanted to make a pilgrimage to Avery Island's Buddha statue. Jonathan read from his new book, the Wisdom of Ashes. Earlier in the year, he read with Daniel Chacon at Octavia Books in New Orleans. Of Gina's last book, Amber Porchlight, Frank Mundo of the Examiner says: "Charged with light, beauty and a touch of danger and heat, Amber Porch Light by Gina Ferrara is a powerful, memorable collection." 
Avery Island, New Iberia, Louisiana
The last time I was at Avery Island, several alligators emerged from the swamp. Luckily, I jumped in the car before they got too close. Avery island is ideal for someone with mobility issues. You can tour the entire island from your car, get out and sit at the different stops. The island is best known for its production of Tabasco sauce.  At the factory, you can try Tabasco ice cream and different flavors of Tabasco sauce.

Maple Leaf Rag V, Portal Press 2014

SRO crowd at the back patio of the Maple Leaf Bar



Reading a poem at the Maple Leaf Bar's back patio

The next day, last Sunday, I participated in the celebration for the Maple Leaf Rag V Anthology. The Maple Leaf Bar is the oldest running poetry reading series in the South. Started by Everett Maddox Maddox, the series has continued for thirty-five years. Currently, poet Nancy Harris took over the series after Everett's death in 1989. Publisher John Travis, owner of Portals Press has published the last four Maple Leaf Rag Anthologies. I have had the honor of being published in the last two volumes, along with my favorite South Louisiana writer, Steve Beisner
 From the Maple Leaf Rag V Anthology, Portals Press 2014.

hold her close
Steve Beisner


new orleans has wet and mud where people walk and stand
and know the earth they’re livin' on and how it feels to hold her close

through her nearby marshes oil canals cut obscenely straight and narrow
run miles through watery green, a highway of danger for muskrats and nutria

leafy sinews strangle the house who lost her family two summers ago
soon, with no friend, losing her battle with flora, ruin

potholes kill and eat incautious cars where there're guns enough
that someone always wants to see what steel and absent hope can do

you choose your costume for the day to say yesterday's gone,
tomorrow's not come and you got one shot at now

overhead the white-cloud virginal bandana floats, a hand's wavin’
sayin' my life's an all night dance and I mean somethin' by it

the lady says, how you doin' and really wants you to know that
different got it all over respectable and a little crazy ain't bad either

you’re no stranger after a beer and swapped stories in the cool dark bar
you want today's road to be one you'll still remember tomorrow

the meaning of barstool stories is not in the words,
but how they dart and pause, unwrap and disrobe the tellers

new orleans has wet and mud where people walk and stand
and know the earth they’re livin' on and how it feels to hold her close




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8. Puerto Rican Bomba in Colorado




ALEF BARRIO E’ FEST 2014 presents the musical production:

INFLUENCIAS: The Legacy of Bomba


Colorado. – ALEF Barrio E’ Fest is an annual signature event by Barrio E’ at ALEF. Every year, Barrio E’ is committed to present a production that highlights Latin America and Caribbean culture, music and dance with an educational component to bring awareness of cultural diversity in the arts in Colorado.

This year the musical production presents the influences of musical genres on Puerto Rican Bomba music and dance (Flamenco, West African, Taíno) and Bomba’s influence on modern music and dance. (Blues, Salsa and Hip Hop).

ALEF Barrio E’ Fest is produced in collaboration with artists, groups and the general public who wants to be involved in a unique production celebrating collaboration, diversity, and inclusivity with the mission of educating the community about an underrepresented cultural group in Colorado. Interested artists can write to barrioe@barrioe.org. 

Barrio E’, which in Spanish means “Community Is”, is a community organization founded on September 23, 2012.  The organization is fiscally sponsored by Boulder County Arts Alliance (BCAA) and able to receive tax-exempt donations. Conscious of the growing Latino population in Colorado and the challenges diversity brings to our communities, Barrio E’ seeks to create inclusive programs in a safe environment, provide a bridge between Latinos and other ethnic groups in our communities, and encourage the appreciation of the diverse cultural identities throughout the State through the exploration of Caribbean/Latin American music, dance and art.

For more information visit:
www.barrioe.org and www.americaslatinofestival.org
or email us at: barrioe@barrioe.org
  
Contact:
Tamil Maldonado, Founder & Director Barrio E’
email: Tamil@barrioe.org
t: (787) 914-9554  or (202) 423-7060


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9. Events for Our Children at the Borders

Talleres de Poesía & Accíon Latina's 
3rd Annual Flor y Canto para Nuestros Niños y Niñas




This year Flor y Canto Poetry Festival is very special and important. It is dedicated to the children coming from Central America and Mexico who are being detained in shelters at the borders - some of them are facing deportation back to their violence and poverty ridden countries. 

The event is a welcome celebration of love and hope, to also demonstrate that these children are not alone, that people care and are working towards making things better for them.

The festival is scheduled to start at 2pm at Accíon Latina 2958- 24th St. (between Harrison & Alabama) San Francisco, California.

We kindly ask you to please come and support the festival by coming to the children's activities. Also a reminder, we will be collecting children's books in Spanish, Arts & Craft Kits, puzzles, coloring books, crayons and stuffed animals for the little ones.

We are thankful to Accíon Latina and El Tecolote Newspaper who for the 3rd year are partnering with us to produce this festival. Please note that Saturday August 23rd is also the 44th Anniversary of El Tecolote Newspaper and we will be celebrating in the evening at Cesars Latin Palace with music by John Santos, Roger Glenn, Tito Gonzalez and Anthony Blea. 


Admission is $20, and all proceeds go to benefit El Tecolote, and community journalism. Mention that you participated in Flor y Canto and get $5 off the cover. Please join us!

  
 'Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project'

5 days left to support the 'Unaccompanied Latin American Minor Project' Fund!
 La Casa Azul Bookstore staff will deliver books to local shelters/court offices and provide them directly to children and teenagers who are currently in deportation proceedings. Please share with your networks, gracias!
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10. Review: Confessions of a Book Burner Not To Be Missed.

Lucha Corpi. Confessions of a book burner : personal essays + stories. Houston, Texas : Arte Público Press, 2014.
ISBN: 9781558857858 1558857850


Michael Sedano

You’ve been at readings where someone asks innocently, “Where do you get your ideas?” or “How do you write?” “Are you your own character?” “Who influenced your writing?” Confessions of a Book Burner imagines such questions and lays out elegant, delightful, and moving essays by the grandmother of Chicana Chicano crime fiction, Lucha Corpi.

Lucha Corpi’s Confessions of a Book Burner assembles twelve essays, each a gem of insight into her writing life, illustrating connections between one writer’s cultural and family history and the stuff of her novels.

Corpi is a 19 year old immigrant when she leaves Mexico for 1960s Berkeley. She doesn’t speak English and knows only her husband. In a few years, the marriage unravels. She becomes a late-night poet, finding expression a mode of healing. Her Spanish language lyrical work finds an audience. She finds herself a single mother determined to make it on her own. She begins writing stories in English. One day her character, Gloria Damasco, finds Corpi and kick-starts the author’s multi-novel Gloria Damasco series.

Lucha Corpi is a nom de plume, a choice explained in one of the many small details the author fills her accounts with. The essays are monologues, written in a casual conversational style. Most of the dozen conversations begin with a child Corpi in her childhood hometown then advance through time to contemporary days. Corpi's engaging narrative draws connections between historical reminiscence and subsequent events while wondering about predicting the future, causality, miracle. Destiny, God, free will, tear at the confluences of history with here and now arising in Corpi's single parent life. Sometimes an induced psychic panic leads to extended unproductive writing droughts.

Like a Corpi novel, Confessions weaves in numerous intellectual challenges, but not without having some fun along the way. “And you’ll suffer” is her mother’s all-purpose argument against young Corpi’s election of medical school. Laugh, then notice the warm relationship between daughter and father, and the distance between mother and daughter. Details like these bring the narrative to life and keep readers eargerly turning pages for more.

Corpi reasons she is the grandmother of U.S. latino crime fiction. Rolando Hinojosa and Michael Nava are the grandfathers, Rudolfo Anaya and Manuel Ramos the fathers of the chicano detective story. Corpi writes the first chicana private eye, followed by Alicia Gaspar de Alba. Thus, Gaspar de Alba is the mother, Corpi the grandmother of the chicana sleuth genre.

Where are the nietas, the literary offspring of such progenitors? Corpi scratches her head at the failure of the genre to attract larger numbers of Chicana writers and readers. Considering half the crime writers published in the United States are women, why do Chicanas shun the literature?

During the movimiento’s emergence, identification excess led some to challenge other’s raza credentials. Corpi, a freckled guera who wrote lyical poetry in castellano, was at the receiving end of such. Not brown enough, not brash enough, not Mexican enough. Maybe those explain why Edward James Olmos didn't kiss Corpi's cheek that time.

Corpi describes some pedo between Jose Montoya and Ricardo Sanchez at a Flor y Canto called The Last Canto held in an Oakland bar. She was the first reader and her performance style captures the house. The combatants and drinkers calmed, Lucha receives a rousing ovation and recalls the first time her recitation reached an audience’s sinews.

I smiled at Corpi’s citing that floricanto. Richard Montoya showed part of a video of The Last Canto, at the 2010 reunion Flor y Canto at USC. The video begins with Lucha’s applause and her exit. Then Sánchez endures merciless heckling in a hilarious reward for the hubris Corpi backgrounds here.

Confessions of a Book Burner will keep readers entertained as the writer takes her non-fiction along creative pathways that enlighten at the same time. It’s not to be missed by the writer seeking role models. It’s not to be missed by the student of U.S. Literature seeking insight into formative years of Chicano Literature. It’s not to be missed by crime fiction fans and Lucha Corpi fans. For gente who enjoy good writing, good story, interesting material, Confessions of a Book Burner is not to be missed.

Mail Bag
Angela de Hoyos Scholarship

La Bloga friend Juan Tejeda sends this for your attention:


PALO ALTO COLLEGE ANNOUNCES ÁNGELA DE HOYOS SCHOLARSHIP FUND

Palo Alto College (PAC), one of five colleges in the Alamo Colleges district in San Antonio, Texas, announces the establishment of the Ángela De Hoyos Scholarship Fund for Mexican American Studies (MAS) students. The late, great Ángela De Hoyos, author of Arise Chicano, Chicano Poems, Woman, Woman and Selected Poems, was one of the most beloved of the early Chicana poets from San Antonio, and a mentor/benefactor to many Chicana/o writers and arts organizations. Her husband, Moses Sandoval, who recently contributed $5,000 to establish the scholarship in Ángela’s name, stated that if we matched his $5,000 donation, that he would contribute another $5,000, for a total of $15,000, that would go to deserving MAS majors at Palo Alto College, as well as Conjunto and Mariachi music students.

Thus we are beginning a two-week e-mail and Facebook campaign, before we begin the Fall, 2014 semester, to raise the other $5,000. We already have a head start as the President of PAC, Dr. Michael Flores, said that PAC would contribute $1,000, and I have made a pledge of $500, so we only have $3,500 to raise. I figured that if we could get 35 people to contribute $100 each, we would meet our goal, so I’m asking all of my colleagues and camaradas, and friends of Ángela De Hoyos, to consider contributing, in any amount you can afford, to this scholarship fund which will be administered by the Alamo Colleges Foundation and PAC’s Center for Mexican American Studies. Your contribution is tax-deductible and if you contribute $50 or more, I will send you a copy of the Conjunto Palo Alto CD; if you send in $100 or more, I will send you the Conjunto Palo Alto CD, plus the PAC Music Ensembles CD that includes the PAC Jazz Ensemble, Mariachi Palomino and Conjunto Palo Alto (all PAC student ensembles).

Make your checks payable to Ángela De Hoyos Scholarship (and at the bottom Memo put Palo Alto College), and mail it to Palo Alto College, c/o Juan Tejeda, 302 Stratford Ct., San Antonio, TX 78223. Be sure to include your mailing address so that we can send you a thank you letter and the CD’s.

Gracias for your support on behalf of our Mexican American Studies majors, and our Conjunto and Mariachi students. If you have any questions, I can also be reached at 210.710.8537.

Sinceramente,
Juan Tejeda
Instructor of Music & Mexican American Studies
Palo Alto College Center for Mexican American Studies


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11. Poet in New Mexico, Levi Romero

Xanath Caraza
 
 
 
 

“…that year I had risen out of the ranks of the “D-group” students

the ones bound for prison and/or a life lived

and terminated before the age of thirty

the ones who spoke the Spanish of their grandparents

as a first language

with accents thick and soft and musky

as the upturned earth rolling off

their grandfather's horse drawn plows”

excerpt, High School English

 

 

Levi Romero Sows Crops
 
 

 

This is Dixon, N.M. – Levi’shome.  It was his home as a small child living with abuelos y tíos. It was his home as a lowriding teenager, even when he lived in Albuquerque attending Menaul School.  It was still his home when he studied at UNM, or now, when he teaches there. You can go home again, he’ll say, but it can be a hard road.

Levi earned architecture degrees at UNM – a bachelor’s in 1994 and master’s in 2000.  Funded by UNM Center for Regional Studies, he is now a visiting research scholar in the UNM School of Architecture and Planning.  Designing buildings isn’t much a part of his life any more. He’s more interested in the structure of stories, the building blocks of memory and preserving the cultural landscape through people in New Mexico.

Levi’s family has been in the Embudo River Valley since the 1600s.  “My grandparents never had to wonder about identity. They never asked, ‘Are we Hispanos? Chicanos? Mexicanos?’  Nobody asked them if they were from here. Everyone was from here until the 1960s,” Levi said.

The longstanding families who raised corn, chile, radishes, onions, carrots and peas, soon found a crop of newcomers – trust fund babies who had their eyes on the land.

The etiquette on the narrow road has always been for one car or the other to pull to the side to let the other pass, depending upon which had a better place to pull off.  “Now the young people are in a hurry.  They aren’t polite.  They don’t acknowledge when someone pulls over to let them pass,” he said.  They don’t want just to get by.  They want to get away.

Young people have moved away and fields abandoned. “I always came back to work the land except when I was in grad school. Then the Chinese elms took over the fields. There were never weeds when my grandfather Don Silviares lived here,” he said. Don Silviares was legendary for his trade route and his produce – everything from apples to chile – that he hauled along his route from Embudo to Ratón and Cimarron to Dawson. Levi wrote a story about his grandfather, El Verdolero, the vegetable vendor.
 

There’s No Place like Home
 

 
 

Levi talks about the two-room adobe and plaster home his grandfather built. “They brought the vigas in from the sierras.  In the ‘40s he pitched the roof with corrugated metal.  It’s the last, continuously inhabited house in the area without plumbing,” Levi said.

The kitchen features a wood burning stove.  “It’s not the original, but it’s similar to the one my grandmother had,” Levi said.  The room also sports a more modern 1950’s stove and refrigerator. The kitchen cabinets are old trasteros; one features a flour bin from which many a tortilla had its start. On the wall is a mirror with the silvering wearing off. “Imagine the many souls reflected in that mirror,” Levi said, asking me to look into it, afterwards adding that mine is now among them.

The walls were crude, Levi said, and the kitchen was pink, and the other room green. “I wondered about a pink kitchen, but then my aunt told me that at one time she had the stove moved from one room to the other, completely changing the function of each room. That’s interesting to me architecturally – how the spaces were used and how their function could be changed so efficiently,” he said.

Levi points to windows that offer up potted geraniums to the sun. “From the windowsills you can see that the walls are 23 inches thick and that the windows have tapered openings to maximize the sunlight streaming in,” he said.  “My grandmother always had geraniums in coffee cans in the window.  I have memories of them. It’s where the story starts.  I reach back and recall family, community and place,” he said.

One room blooms with floral wallpaper.  He thought about taking it off and restoring the walls. “If I take it down, my memories go with it. So many memories – names of people and things that happened – are triggered by looking at those walls,” he said.  Writing in Spanish, he said, helps preserve the memories, too.

He debated with his wife about whether or not to install electricity or plumbing.  Ultimately, they decided to install electricity, but they incurred a much greater cost by running the wiring underground so that electrical lines wouldn’t be visible.
 
 
 
 

Levi the Poet
 

 
 

Levi’s first collection of poetry, “In the Gathering of Silence,” West End Press, published in 1996 features, “Woodstove of My Childhood,” an epic poem based on personal and communal histories.  His latest collection, “A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works,” with UNM Press in Dec. 2008, sold out within a month of its official publication, which is unheard of in regional Chicano poetry.

Levi drinks from the memory well the house in Dixon serves.  He recalls his grandmother playing harmonica while hummingbirds poked their beaks into hollyhocks.

Although he was always at home in Dixon, he didn’t always live there.  As was common in Northern New Mexico, many families sent their children to Menaul School in Albuquerque.  “The Presbyterians were a big influence in places like Dixon, Mora, Holman.  It was a tradition for many families to send their children to school there, until the school no longer offered a sliding scale for tuition,” Levi said.

Levi was a successful student at Menaul and he was offered a scholarship to any New Mexico college.  “I hated school and told them to give it to someone who wants to go,” he recalled.

“No one modeled college for me.  My cousins hadn’t gone to college – they’d worked trades or in the mines,” he said.  Also, his father died when he was 14 and his mother bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis.  “I felt like I had to stay close to home. I wanted to come back to Dixon,” he said.

He’d seen the trust funders living as artists, sculptors and musicians while raising some crops.  He thought he’d like to become an artist and then live off the land as his grandfather did.  He learned that designer Bryan Waldrip needed some drafting help. Levi had no experience, but Waldrip took him on.

“It took more time to train me than he had time for so he suggested I enroll in the community college drafting program in Española. At the end of the first term I went back to work for him. He was also a painter, an artist. We drew and drafted all day and all night,” Levi said.

Levi’s job was to go into the studio early and fire up the wood stove. “He invited me with him to Taos each week where he attended figure drawing courses, which mostly means drawing naked women.  My lowrider friends thought that was pretty cool, but it really was all about drawing the forms, the same as if I were drawing this bottle,” he said.

He also realized that he had grown through the world of art and architecture, being surrounded by Waldrip’s labor and library.  He told Waldrip he was leaving for San Diego, but since he’d threatened to move many times, Waldrip didn’t believe him.  He learned that Waldrip told others that Levi would be fine because “he could get a job as a draftsman anywhere.”


Building a Future
 
 
 

In 1983, Levi’s plan was to go to Albuquerque and save enough money to go to San Diego.  He laughs. “It’s 2009 and I’m still not there. Nobody goes to Albuquerque to save money.  You make just enough to get by,” he said.

The architectural firms in Albuquerque didn’t have shelves lined with art books, cats in the window and the work wasn’t in beautiful passive solar design as it had been with Waldrip.  A few years later he decided, if he wanted to get back to that, he had to go to college.

The UNM architecture program was difficult and demanding.  Poetry writing, an outlet in his youth, continued to be a passion.  “I’d been writing poetry, but there was no poetry scene yet.  Until Jimmy Santiago Baca came along, poetry by young Chicanos had no audience,” he said.

Poetry and writing, activities that had always been a sideline to architecture, began to grow in prominence in his life.  Soon, following undergraduate school, and a couple of classes short of a minor in Creative Writing, he wasn’t just writing, but teaching workshops for literary organizations, detention centers and youth mentoring programs.”

He’s also taught in the UNM creative writing program in the English Department.  As part of his class, Writers in the Community/Schools, his students have also taken their teaching on the road facilitating semester long workshops at detention centers, charter schools, homeless shelters, senior nursing homes and in the Albuquerque Public Schools.  “I am able to get past the veils and obstacles put up by students who don’t feel comfortable in an academic setting because I used to feel like them,” he said.  He also developed a spoken word class where the students delved into Native American storytelling, cuentos, dichos and slam poetry.

Following his time in the English Department he came home again – to the School of Architecture and Planning – where he is a visiting research scholar.

He also assists in the Design Planning Assistance Center studio and has worked on various New Mexico community studio design projects, including a design for a field studio and community center based in the old Sala Filantropica dancehall in Dixon/Embudo.  This spring, Levi worked with students on a MainStreet project in Deming, N.M.  His role was to elicit the dreams and ideas from the town’s Hispanic community since they were unlikely to attend the charrettes to share their thoughts and memories.  Those stories were then shared with the students who incorporated those ideas in the designs for everything from streetscapes, youth community centers, to skate parks in the town of the legendary Duck Races.

He is currently exploring the histories and stories of the people in northern New Mexico along the high road to Taos and beyond.  He looks at acequias, salas, molinos and gardens, nuestra gente and all that represents the life and people of the region. “I’m doing some cultural cruisin’.  It’s not about kicking back, but about the important work that needs to be done. If we don’t gather these stories now, they will be gone forever. “Places, stories and history will be recognized as invaluable informants to architecture study in the future.  It will, ultimately, become part of the curriculum,” he said.

He’s laying some new groundwork on well-travelled roads.

 
 
 
Story by Carolyn Gonzales
 
 
 

 
Levi Romero’s work focuses on cultural landscapes studies and sustainable building methodologies of northern New Mexico, including centuries-old traditions of acequia systems, molinos, salas and other agrarian and cultural contexts related to the upper Rio Grande watershed. His documentary work is often presented through an interdisciplinary studies format that includes lecture, video/audio, and literary presentation. Romero’s latest book publication, Sagrado: APhotopoetics Across the Chicano Homeland, (co-authored with Spencer Herrera and Robert Kaiser) has just been published by UNM Press. His two collections of poetry are A Poetry of Remembrance: Newand Rejected Works and  In the Gathering of Silence. He was awarded the post of New Mexico Centennial Poet Laureate in 2012. He teaches in the Chicana/o Studies and Community and Regional Planning programs at the University of New Mexico.

                                                                                   Wheels

 

            how can I tell you

            baby, oh honey, you'll

            never know the ride

            the ride of a lowered Chevy

            slithering through the

            blue dotted night along

            Riverside Drive Española

 

            poetry rides the wings

            of a '59 Impala

            yes, it does

            and it points

            chrome antennae towards

 

            'Burque stations rocking

            oldies Van Morrison

            brown eyed girls

            Creedence and a

            bad moon rising

            over Chimayo

 

            and I guess

            it also rides

            on muddy Subaru's

            tuned into new-age radio

            on the frigid road

            to Taos on weekend

            ski trips

 

            yes, baby

            you and I are two

            kinds of wheels

            on the same road

 

            listen, listen

            to the lonesome humming

            of the tracks we leave

            behind


Gavilan

 

aquí estoy sentado

en una silleta coja y desplumada

recordando aquellas amanecidas

cuando nos fuimos grandes y altos

 

en aquel tiempo que nos encontrabanos

sin pena ninguna

cuando la vida pa nosotros

apenas comienzaba y la tarea

era larga y llena de curiosidades

 

entretenidos siempre con

aquel oficio maldito

un traguito para celebrar la vida

y otro para disponer la muerte

 

ayer bajo las sombras

de los gavilanes que vuelavan

con sus alas estiradas

como crucitas negras

encontra del sol

pense en ti

tú que también fuites

gavilan pollero

 

con una locura verdadera

y aquella travesura sin fin

hoy como ayer

tus chistes relumbrosos

illuminando estas madrugadas solitarias

que a veces nos encuentran medios norteados

y con las alas caidas

 

tal como esos polleros

tirando el ojo por el cerrito de La Cuerda

así también seguiremos rodeando, carnal

carnal de mano

y de palabra

amistad que nació

en aquel amanecer eterno

 

y si no nos topamos

en esta vuelta

pues entonces, compa

pueda que en la otra

 

 

  en memoria de un gavilan: Rudy “Sunny” Sanchez
 

Of Dust and Bone

 

do I hear

‘mano Anastactio’s

muddy mystic drawl

 

coming over brain waves

fuzzy as AM Radio

nights   long time ago

 

when we slept outdoors

in the humming

summer

 

sharing 32 oz. bottles

of soda pop

and bags of chili chips

 

and strumming broom guitars

to Band on the Run

with our transistor radios

tuned in to

X-ROCK 80 or OKLAHOMA

 

seventh grade crushes

and teasing howls

in the mooing cow dusk

and hopping toad yards

lit in golden orange

 

adobe dust

on my brow

and burning, yearning

learning, love exploding

from my heart

 

like bottle rockets

on the starry spangled

Fourth of July

 

where are you lain

little dipper dreamers

who once stirred

under granma’s homemade

blankets in the dewy breath

of early morn

 

when grandfathers

with shovels slung

across their shoulders

headed for the ditchbanks

to open up their

gates

 

 

oh, July apple

suckling summer with

the sweet and bitter taste

of wisdom’s tears trickling

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12. The Possibilities of Mud: The Poetry of Joe Jiménez


Olga García Echeverría

The first time I remember reading poetry was in the 7th grade. "The Raven," "Stopping By Woods," and "The Road Not Taken." I cannot say that I completely understood these poems or that I connected with them very much, but I felt something lurking beneath the words. What was that evocative algo that intrigued and tugged? Emoción? Energía? A duende? Or perhaps it was the magic of word play--how words can come together to paint pictures that linger in the imagination long after the poem has been read. It's been 30 years since I read those first poems in junior high and yet, when I think of them, I still see in my mind's eye a dying father, a horse in the snow, a man at a crossroads.
 
Joe Jiménez' latest collection of poems, The Possibilities of Mud (Korima Press, 2014) took me back to that memory in junior high. On the surface, the Gulf Coast of South Texas is the landscape of these poems.  Jiménez writes:
 
...my words in my own hidden pouch, dancing
                            among the mudflats, the sea flies, the ghost crab...

And his words do dance among all of these things. There are gulls, deer, coyote, pelicans, redfish, shrimp boats, fire and plenty of mud in these poems. Yet beyond the landscape, there are strong emotional undercurrents that run through the marshlands of Jiménez' collection: Loss, healing, love.

The Gulf is a wildness
I want to know.
And isn't this my fall?
Peligro: que me guarda
Danger.
The heart as red as a moan...

Having lived, loved men, and survived violence, Jiménez opens himself wide in the Gulf. He does not shy away from revealing:

                             Is it only me? Or ever do you tire

of having to be good? And isn't it sacred?
              How each of us walks the world
                           holding parts of other men

like diamonds we've swallowed, or balloons,
               or bitterness...

I've been carrying around The Possibilities of Mud for about three weeks now, and much like when I read Adonis or Hafiz, I have gone back repeatedly to ponder lines, meaning, images. "Coyote Stretched Over the Fence Post" comes to mind because it is a poem with many layers. On the surface, the poem is about the author coming across a dead coyote. But on a deeper level, it about how the sight of this creature's tortured death, "...stretched/ like a kill/ over the red-brown/ barbs..." forces the poet to pause his car, silence his dogs, momentarily go to that vulnerable place where he sheds "the shell [he] wears/ like a coat in the cruelest/ sweltering days of summer." In just a few stanzas, this murdered coyote becomes a mirror of the world we live in and it questions all of our humanity.  Jiménez writes:

I won't say I saw myself
in the body of this animal.
I won't say I saw
in his hide the lives
of men I've loved.

But there is some terror
in the humanity
that says I don't want you
here or there.
I don't want you alive.

Yes, it was a coyote.
Yes, this is Texas.
Yes, these things happen
to humans. All over the world,
it happens. Every hour
of every year of every day.
 


I could go on about  Jiménez' poetry. About how many of his images linger, glimmer like redfish, long after they've been read. Like the picture in my mind that I am still holding of his abuela taking chicken bones and tying them to long tails of yarn and then throwing them out into the water to catch crabs. How beautiful. Check it out for yourself:

For more information on the poet visit joejimenez.net
To purchase The Possibilities of Mud or learn more about Korima Press: http://korimapress.com/bookstore/4584449749/the-possibilities-of-mud/7883027
 
Pero no se vayan just yet. We are honored to have Joe Jiménez with us at La Bloga today. This past week, I asked him a few questions and here are his responses.


Do you remember writing your first poem?
 
 
I don’t remember ever writing a first poem. I do remember writing the first poem that really mattered to me, “El Abuelo,” a poem about learning to iron by watching other men do it—my grandfather, an old lover. It was the first time I can say I felt it, the subconscious beat that told me from some other place what should make this poem, the images and sounds and rhythms.
 
 
Can you share how The Possibilities of Mud took form? Did you set out to write about one region in particular or were the poems born more organically?
 
 
The poems in The Possibilities of Mud were born on the Gulf Coast of South Texas. A few of them, really, at first, before I thought this could become a collection, just scraps of information written on papelitos as I walked the beaches near my mother’s house. Sometimes, after running, I would sit at the shore and just watch. I learned by watching the birds, learning their names and witnessing some of their behaviors. One bird, in particular, caught my eye: the little blue heron, how patient he was, how he was designed to sit and wait and know, somewhere in his bones, that the sun would rise, the waters would recede, a fish would come. This was important to me at this time in life, because I had recently lost so much. I was living with my mother after having left San Antonio after my former lover tried to kill me. He held a knife to my throat, strangled one of my dogs, and said if I didn’t leave, he couldn’t promise me I would be alive the next day. I left. I already had essentials and a small bag of clothes stashed in my trunk, as I had been advised to do by a counselor at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, so at that moment, I decided I would not die, and I took my two small dogs, and I left. Later, I discovered that this guy had forged my name on a document to take over my house, and a court actually believed this forgery, along with the testimony of his daughter and best friend, that I’d given him this house. Consequently, I was an angry man, and I needed to find peace, so I spent time at the Gulf and wrote these poems. I survived because I found my place in the great order of things—Nature, history—I wasn’t the first Chicano to have land stolen from him based on false witness and fraud and intimidation. But like others who survived injustice, I, too, came out of it.
 
 
How do you know when a poem is finished?


Keats once described the sound as a “clicking,” like the lid on a box fitting just right. I think a poem I have made is ready when I hear it do that, click. For me, there is usually an image or a couple of images that center the poem, and then, an observation or a question, a comment, about living, and for me, that is the soul of a poem, what it says about humanness. And that humanness can take so many marvelous forms, what the poem tells us or stirs us to wonder about masculinity, about motherhood, about struggle, about Love, about loss, about hunger, injustice, lust, joy, youth, betrayal. Many forms!
 
 
Is there a poem in the collection that came out effortlessly? You know, those rare magical pieces that birth themselves?


When I wrote “A Full and Tiny Fire,” I had just read Robert Bly’s A Little Book of the Human Shadow. I was engaged in my last semester of grad school, and a mentor, Jenny Factor, had guided me to recognize the subconscious power of poems, how the images that come out of us are not random, not accidental. I wanted to write a poem, then, about how some images or sound sequences are born—full of desire and fear and hunger, a hankering rife with want and darkness and musicalities that may or may not make sense. As I wrote this poem, I remember thinking of Lorca’s speech on El Duende, and I made myself barefoot, then, accordingly, to walk along the Gulf’s shore and to hear my own want in the hot salt.
 
In contrast, is there a poem that you couldn't stop editing?


The triptych “Light.” I couldn’t stop editing that one. In its original forms, before it came together, it stood as separate pedacitos, and so, for some time, I thought, Perhaps this is going to be a collage poem. But I couldn’t stitch the pieces together well enough, not like I wanted, not like I felt the sigh of my gut say that they needed to. The pieces weren’t saying anything, really, not as a collage, and a poem that doesn’t say what it needs to say isn’t ready, in my eyes. So, I went back to the revising techniques I learned in school—reordering the pieces, drawing from old notes I’d taken on what to do when poems aren’t working, from reforming the shapes of the lines, the breaks and the beats, to cutting the poem in half and omitting unnecessary images and words. I discovered I liked the sound and feel of the triptych. 
 
 
Okay, I have to ask--did you ever eat mud as a child?


I never ate mud. I do recall that while doing yard work, a task I greatly enjoy, I’ve taken mud in the mouth more than a few times. I’ve worked as a landscaper previously, and from tilling soil to digging, soil has made itself into me. Is this the same as eating? Perhaps not. But perhaps. 
 
 
Another muddy question: If you could make a mud sculpture of anybody in the literary world (vivo o muerto), who would it be and why?


In terms of a mud sculpture, I’d manifest the Skin Horse from Margery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit. It was a story that made me cry both as a boy and as a man. As a boy, I cried because it was sad. As a man, I cried because it was true. The Skin Horse tells the Rabbit, “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you…Sometimes, when you are real you don’t mind being hurt…It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Yes, I would sculpt that, or at least become myself while trying to make him.
 
 
In The Possibilities of Mud, place functions as Muse. Where are you now and what is currently fueling your poetic fire?


I’ve just reached a point with my second collection, entitled The Goat-Eaters and Other Poems, where I’m comfortable with sending it out. In this new collection, I played with sound and form, especially enjoying the double-headed spondee as a device for making poems cut and jump and halt and jar. There are poems about Chipita Rodriguez, the first woman sentenced to death in Texas, and poems about falling in love with a Chupacabra. There are also poems about deep South Texas, hog-hunting and cabrito and what it means to be a boy in a world where killing things and inflicting harm is encouraged in you. Finally, I’ve polished up a Chicano crown about La Llorona, which I started to believe in again, after hearing another Chicana crown, a great one entitled “A Crown for Gumecindo” by Laurie Ann Guerrero. While I agree with Audre Lorde’s wisdom that “The master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house,” I do believe we can redesign some of those tools, take them and repurpose them and make statements about humanity and community, Love and cultura with them.
 

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13. Writing opps. Lit contest. News. No book reviews.

Given the less-than-raving responses, from some of our audience, to my "review" of a book a couple of weeks ago, today I only provide information that comes from others.

But I'll be back with more, soon.

From Sarah Cortez, professional writer, editor and teacher.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Let’s help the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) work for you.

For the next two years, I’ll be part of the TCA Touring Roster—an elite selection of Texas artists who are available to work statewide for non-profits, state and local government organizations, schools, colleges, universities, and libraries. Your organization, if qualified, may recoup up to 50% of the total cost to have me appear for a half day or full day to work with audience/students on creative writing skills.

Just about everything you need to know is on my website at www.poetacortez.com/welcome-to-my-tca. Let’s get together on a topic and a date, then put those TCA funds to work for you.

All the best,
Sarah


BRP accepting submissions

Barking Rain Press is an imprint of the BRP Publishing Group, a US-based, non-profit publisher of books and eBooks that is registered in Washington State. We publish novels and novellas in a variety of genres, including General Literature, Speculative Fiction (Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction), Mystery/Crime, Romance, Suspense/Thrillers, Westerns and YA/Young Adult.

We seek emerging and mid-career authors. Many of our authors have published in magazines, ezines, anthologies or other publications (a resume including a list of prior publications can strengthen your submission). Although prior publications are important, they are not a requirement; part of our mission is to present promising new authors alongside previously published writers.

BRP publishes complete novels or novellas of at least 20,000 words to sell through the BRP website and other partner sites in print and eBook formats. We also consider Short story collections with a strong central theme, written by a single author; and reprints of previously published works that are out-of-print, so long as the author owns BOTH worldwide electronic and print rights. While we are open to a variety of literary genres, we are NOT open to submissions containing certain subject matter. See our website for more info.

To have your work considered for publication, please use our Submissions Contact Form to request the appropriate email address to send us your submission. Please DO NOT include your query letter or other information in this request. We are accepting submissions from August 1-31 this year.
You can join our Submissions eMail List to be notified in advance of open submissions periods, and to receive information about submitting your manuscript during an open submission period.

Barking Rain Press produces 12-14 titles each year, and our books reflect the individual tastes of our small staff. BR looks for writing that inspires and/or entertains the reader with a unique voice. Go here for the complete information.


Interview with

Poet Laueate Thelma T. Reyna

  
The Latina Book Club is proud to welcome back author Thelma T. Reyna, newly named Poet Laureate of the Altadena Library District. We’d also like to congratulate Thelma on her new poetry collection. We want to hear all about its debut in Italy. Read about it all here.


2014 Omnidawn
Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest
        August 1–October 22, 2014        Judge: Kate Bernheimer

The winner of the annual Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Competition wins a $1,000 prize, publication of the chapbook with a full color cover by Omnidawn, 100 free copies of the winning book, and extensive display advertising and publicity, including prominent display ads in Poets & Writers Magazine, Rain Taxi Review of Books and other publications.

For this contest, Fabulist Fiction includes magic realism and literary forms of fantasy, science fiction, horror, fable and myth. Stories can be primarily realistic, with elements of non-realism, or primarily, or entirely non-realistic.

Open to all writers. Story submissions must be original, in English, and previously unpublished. 5,000 to 12,000 words, consisting of one or multiple stories. Postal and online submissions accepted. All Omnidawn poetry competitions are blind. Online entries must be received and postal entries must be postmarked between August 1 and October 22, 2014 at midnight PDT. Reading fee is $18. For $2 extra to cover shipping cost, entrants may choose to receive a copy of the winning chapbook or any Omnidawn fiction title, including our highly acclaimed ParaSheres anthology of fabulist and new wave fabulist fiction. Poetry chapbook contests winner will be announced to our email list and on this web page in May, 2015, and we expect to publish the winning chapbook in August, 2015. Go here for all the information.

Es todo, hoy, de mí,
RudyG

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14. Fear & Laughing in Las Vegas








Manuel Ramos


The International Latino Book Awards were announced in Las Vegas, NV, on June 28. At first glance the choice of Sin City for a literary event seems, uh, awkward?  But the ILBA folks piggy-backed their awards night onto the American Library Association’s annual conference so maybe it made sense. Imagine, thousands of book people gathered in the neon desert to celebrate the great institution of book-lending, not to mention the other great institutions found in Vegas like slot machines, strip shows, gaudy excess, and covered walkways between massive casinos so no one ever has to breathe natural air or bask in natural light.

Late on a Thursday night and with some trepidation, Flo and I flew to the land of blast-furnace heat. We carried the hope that because my novel, Desperado, was a finalist in the Mystery category we might bring back a trophy (actually a plaque.)


Typical Las Vegas Hotel
The event itself could have been an episode in The Twilight Zone. First, it took place in a town that has immense references, without irony, to ancient Egypt, New York City, Paris, and Venice waterways. But we were at the Clark County Library, miles from Paris or Egypt and the ALA conference, which was going gangbusters over at the Vegas Convention Center. (The ALA had hundreds of vendors, panels, demonstrations, free food and booze. Several of the ILBA writers prowled the ILBA booth during the day to sign books and talk to our readers, of which a few actually showed up.)

I’m sure there were “unattached” spectators in the audience, but easily ninety percent were relatives, friends, or business associates of the nominated writers.

One of the first things we were told was that all the authors should use the “honorific title of AWA” after our names.  I’ll quote from the event publicity:  “You have earned the title by being a Finalist in the Int’l Latino Book Awards. Since many people do not yet know what AWA stands for it is a great conversation starter – and will lead you to talk about your Award Winning Book and about the awards in general.  Here’s how it would look:  José Avalos, AWA.” It may be just me, but I don’t anticipate that idea catching on.  We’ll see. 

The night’s festivities started with a “pinning” -- each of the nominees was called up on the stage to receive an Award Winning Author (AWA) pin.  The line snaked off the stage and into the audience as we dutifully thrust out our chests so we could get pinned (does this mean I am now going steady with the ILBA?)  Then we hung around the stage for a group photo.  Several such photos were taken but I don’t appear in any of them.  There was no coordination, no group photo leader. I ended up at the back of the crowd and being that I am of typical Chicano height (5’7” or less), as far as I know there is no photographic evidence that I received my pin and spent several minutes on the library’s stage with the other nominees.

The categories were then called and the winners in each category were given thirty seconds to thank anyone and everyone. Not too many writers kept to the thirty second limit. Mystery was the second to last category and with more than 80 categories total I had no illusions about the event ending early for me. What struck me was that it appeared some of the writers knew they had won beforehand. Some of the missing winners, the “celebrity” types, had even prepared videos that expressed their gratitude. Obviously those winners had been contacted before the event. I thought this was a good idea to guarantee a respectable number of winners at the event. But since I had not been told that I should definitely be at the event, I quickly lost any anticipation of winning.

La Bloga friend and fellow Denver writer Mario Acevedo and his writing partner, Richard Kilborn, were finalists in the Best Novel – Adventure or Drama – English category for their book Good Money Gone.  The experience was brand new for Richard – this was his first foray into literature and he was genuinely pumped about the nomination. Mario’s been around the block a few times so he was a little more low-key, but when it was announced that their book had won the category, he was as jubilant as Richard. It was a good night for them. Tim Hernandez, also a friend of La Bloga, walked away with a first place in the Historical Fiction category for his acclaimed novel, Mañana Means Heaven. I was especially pleased to see that Rudolfo Anaya, my friend and writing role model, won the Romance category with his Old Man’s Love Story, a book I reviewed here on La Bloga.

Finally, it was time for the Mystery category. My hands were sweaty. I tapped my foot. I told myself I did not win, that in the big scheme of things it did not mean all that much, and yet I bent forward to hear the name.

The presenter announced the winner in the Best Novel -- Fantasy/Sci-Fi category, the crowd applauded, and then the host started to close out the evening. I groaned, a few others murmured something about mystery, and the announcer caught himself.  He hastily went back to his notes and found and then named the winner in the Mystery category.

Alas, first place for Desperado was not meant to be. The novel received an honorable mention, which means that it made it to the finalist stage but no brass ring (actually, a plague.) I got a paper certificate acknowledging the mention, which is now stashed away with other honorable mentions (for King of the Chicanos, back in 2011.)  The first place winner was a writer with whom I am not familiar, which says more about me than her (Blanca Irene Arbeláez – the word “Colombia” appears after her name in the official list of winners – “USA & México” appear after my name. I think that means I’m a Chicano writer.) My friend Linda Rodriguez was awarded second place. I thought Linda would win this category and I would have bet on her if there had been a betting line on the awards at any of the casinos. Didn’t see anything like that and so I didn’t lose twenty bucks.

There’s a bit of a quandary, for me, when it comes to literary awards. I like winning awards, who doesn’t, eh?  But then I have to rationalize when I don’t win. After all, I consider myself a pretty damn good writer, so what’s up with an honorable mention instead of first place? But if I deserve the awards I do win, then do I also deserve not to win those I don't? At those times I have to remind myself of another piece of lite literary wisdom:  If you believe the good reviews then you also have to believe the bad reviews.

The evening ended on a high note. Richard Kilborn had arranged for a limo to pick up himself and his family after the event, and Flo and I were invited to cruise the Strip, along with Mario and Marina Tristan from Arte Público Press. And with nothing more than sliding across the leather seats of the stretch, we morphed from writer geeks to gangstas, from nerdy pencil pushers living our fantasies on the computer screen to flashy high rollers taking in all that debauched Las Vegas had to offer.

Well, not really. We headed for a liquor store, of course, where we sweltered in the Vegas summer night’s heat in the mall parking lot while Richard gathered assorted beverages and snacks.  While we waited, the driver, Walter, had to turn off the limo because it had overheated, so we had no air conditioning and no drinks. The AC wouldn’t work although Walter assured us that the problem was temporary. He also acknowledged that the limo was a mess with dirty glasses, half-used booze bottles, and assorted detritus.  He had been called for the job at the last minute, after he had already done a couple of shifts.  He admitted he was “a little tired” and hadn’t had time to clean the transportation.

Flash forward to the next day when Flo and I are on the way to the airport. Our cab driver is a woman straight out of a Damon Runyon story – full of character, street wisdom and kitschy humor.  She regales us with stories about limo accidents, “a slew of them in Vegas, don’t you know?” The problem, she tells us, is that cabbies are limited to twelve hour shifts, by law, but limo drivers don’t have such limits, so “they push it, every night. They’re dangerous.”  She tells us about limo drivers who go for 24 and 36 hours before they take a break. Flo and I look at each other and think of Walter.

Back to Saturday night. Walter stuck his head in one of the back doors, and in the ghostly light of the parking lot he reminded me of Barnabas Collins from the original Dark Shadows.  He proceeded to tell us that he was sorry but he had to let the limo sit for a while so it could cool off.  Sure, whatever. He opened the doors as wide as they would go. The steamy Vegas night air swirled in and the interior temperature went up. We waited, sweated, and told ourselves that no one forced us to live the glam life of the writer.

Eventually, we cruised the midnight traffic of Las Vegas, which meant we didn’t go anywhere for a long time. Walter stayed awake and did a bang-up job. We spent some time in Richard’s suite at the MGM Grand, where he generously shared food from room service as he told us about life in Panama; we even walked with the Vegas herd as it moved, en masse, from one casino to another.


Pedestrian Bridge Not At Midnight
As we made our way over the pedestrian bridge that connects the MGM with New York-New York, I thought of the Vegas contradictions represented on that bridge. The dressed-up couples celebrating their youth with old and ancient traditions like inebriation and raunchy jokes; the beggars, addicts, and drunks, sleeping or passed out or weaving, the crowd and life not waiting for any of them; pimps and hustlers pimping and hustling the marks; groups of young women in stilettos, barely-there skirts and extreme make-up plotting their next moves in the long-odds game they played with thinly-veiled desperation; losers, crying as they stared from the bridge at the gridlocked cars below; red-eyed parents with sleeping and bawling kids, finally wondering if a Vegas vacation was really the right choice for Junior’s birthday party; a mother in a miniskirt laughing with her teenaged daughter, also in a miniskirt, who carried a sex doll apparently won at one of the games of chance; and an aging, out-of-place writer, honorable mention in hand, coming home a winner.

AWA.

Richard Kilborn and Gerry "D" from PBC Panama

For a dose of reality after that strange trip above, check out this interview of ILBA winner Richard Kilborn recently broadcast on PBC Panama. Richard’s interview is at the 81-100 marks. Here's the link. 


Later.





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15. Chicanonautica: How I Became One of the Most Successful Chicano Writers of My Generation



A while back, the subject of why there aren’t more Latino science fiction/speculative ficton/fantasy writers came up, and I don’t think we found a clear reason. It’s probably the same reason that we don’t see more Latino writers in general -- it’s usually not profitable, and we tend to end up doing other things just to survive. My father wrote, even published a few articles, but he had to work, keeping Flying Tiger Airlines’ planes flying to get the money to support his family. I imagine all Latino families have stories like that.

Another reason is that being a writer is something you are doomed to, like bearing the Mark of the Beast. I disagree with the cottage industry that claims anyone can be a writer if you just take their classes, go to their seminars and workshops, follow their rules and instructions. I don’t think that everyone should be a writer any more than we should all be bullfighters or astronauts. You gotta have the right stuff, cabrónes! 

My idea of mentoring an aspiring writer is to say, “Okay! You wanna be a writer? Be a writer! Go do it!” Some of them do. Others need more help from me. If you need more help from me, you don’t have it. I feel like an old junkie listing to young hipsters saying, “I really want to get hooked, but I keep forgetting to take my shots . . .”

Encouraging people to be become writers is like helping them to become drug addicts -- a sort of Twelve-Step program in reverse.

I ended up a writer because I couldn’t quit. At age thirteen, I published a few letters in comic books, and I was hooked. From my typewriter to the world! What a thrill!

Lately I realize that I’m one of the most successful Chicano writers of my generation. If we narrow it down to science fiction, I’m number one! 

It’s a cheap thrill I chuckle at as I work at my day job.

If I hadn’t had that taste of publication, I probably would have just done my creative stuff in private, like most Latinos. I ain’t no humble campesino toiling away in dignified anonymity -- if too long goes by without my being published, I get really depressed. And without thinking about it, I’m scanning for opportunities.

And I feel bad about my unpublished novels and stories.

Like Frankenstein’s monster, my career has a life of its own. It does things out in the world without my supervision. And these days, I spend more time managing it than writing.

And to think, once I believed I was a failure, after not being published in Nueva York, and only getting into print a few times a year (and not making much dinero at it). I got a full time job and slowed down -- or at least thought I was slowing down. Turns out I kept on publishing at the same rate as when I was knocking myself out.
Also, it turned out that people actually read my novels and the weird, obscure magazines where my stories appeared. Some of them went on to become editors and publishers.

Now I’m working with a newfangled publisher in San Francisco, getting my novels ready for rerelease, and putting together a collection my short fiction.

All because I didn’t, and couldn’t, give up.

Still, I wish I was writing new stuff more of the time.

Ernest Hogan is going to have a lot of news to report in the upcoming months. Stay tuned here and to Mondo Ernesto.

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16. 2014 Macondo Writers Workshop Reading



From LatinoStories YouTube Channel

The Macondo workshops started in 1995 at the kitchen table of the poet and writer Sandra Cisneros in San Antonio. These yearly workshops aimed to bring together a community of poets, novelists, journalists, performance artists, and creative writers of all genres whose work is socially engaged. Their work and talents are part of a larger task of community-building and non-violent social change. What united them was a commitment to work for under-served communities through their writing. Since 2006 The Macondo Foundation proceeded to organize the workshops, which continued to provide its participants with an oasis to concentrate on their writing and improve their skills in a demanding atmosphere of support and kinship.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center has taken over the administration of the Macondo workshops with the blessing of its founder and the board of the Macondo Foundation.


This unique environment is unlike any other literary initiative in the United States. It is premised in Cisneros’ vision to create a homeland for writers who are working in underserved communities. Many times writers work alone and feel isolated. Macondo has fostered a vibrant and growing community of writers who view their writing as way of giving back to the community and changing lives by fostering literacy. This reading featured: Gabriela Lemmons, Joe Jimenez, Jose B. Gonzalez, Miguel M. Morales, Rene Colato Lainez, B.V. Olguin, Carmen Tafolla, and Laurie Ann Guerrero.






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17. Beyond Boundaries Part II. Ten On the 5th of the 8th: On-line Floricanto

Beyond Boundaries: Networking and Workshopping in Lake Como, Italy, Part II

Guest post by Thelma T. Reyna.

Here's a link to Part I of Thelma's Guest post on Melinda Palacio's Friday column. That column opens like this:

I was invited by one of my publishers to attend a national/international conference they co-sponsored at Lake Como last month. This “Abroad Writers Conference” (AWC) was designed as advanced learning for published authors from the U.S. Their “faculty” included 4 Pultizer Prize winners and 2 National Book Award recipients teaching intensive one-week workshops. Embracing this rare opportunity, I headed to Lake Como in my first overseas networking, workshopping, poetry reading experience. . . . 

Debut Reading from My New Book

My poetry reading at Lake Como was a highlight for me. How often do we have the opportunity to “debut” a new book in Europe? Instead of reading poems from my two chapbooks (all the poetry readers read from their chapbooks), I chose my new full-length collection—Rising, Falling, All of Us. I also purposely selected poems that my workshop fellows had not seen. It was my way of breaking from the norm.

Comprised of published poets and other authors, it was a tough audience. Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rae Armantrout sat in the front row to my left. Next to her was Paul Harding, a Pulitzer novelist. The famed poet Nikky Finney sat farther back. One of the conference co-sponsors, editor and publisher of Kentucky’s Finishing Line Press, Leah Maines, sat in the front row to my right. For about 20-25 minutes, I shared my poems about famous and infamous people, real and make-believe, dead and alive: my “persona poems,” for this new book is a gallery of snapshots of people we know or wish we did, people we’ve read or heard about. My opening poem was appropriate for being in Italy, I told the audience: “Pope Francis.”

With much relief, I can say that the audience was engaged, kind, and receptive.                       
            
Reading in the lovely, architraved              
room of the Villa Galliata.   
My Poetry Workshop colleagues,
with Rae (in black jacket) in the center.
Looking to the Future…for All of Us

The next AWC is scheduled for Spain (http://abroadwritersconference.com/). Though I had never heard of these AWC’s, I learned that Como was the tenth. Others were held in France, Ireland, Thailand, and other exotic places. Sometimes some of the same top authors (“faculty”) teach the 15 intensive hours of each workshop. There is, thus, a cyclical consistency, with faculty and attendees making repeat appearances.

Regardless of where other AWC’s are held, I hope there will be greater ethnic diversity in attendees as well as faculty. At Como, Nikky Finney, a divine African-American poet and National Book Award winner, taught a workshop. Of approximately 50 attendees, I met 3 African-Americans and the 2 Asian-Americans in my poetry group. As stated before, I never saw other Latinos.

A colleague of mine believes that more ethnic minority authors are not involved in international venues such as AWC primarily for economic reasons. This may be so. AWC presenters, however, are subsidized; and this is where diversity can be injected into AWC as a jumpstart. Imagine if our Latino heavyweights, especially our Pulitzer Prize winners (See http://hispanicreader.com/2012/04/15/latinos-and-the-pulitzer-prize/) were included as faculty. Or if Asian-Americans, such as Amy Tan, taught workshops along with African-American authors. The more diversity, the better.

Caveats

There are those who’ll say, “If Latinos are not in attendance, interest in them would be moot.” Perhaps. But if it is beneficial for all authors to have visibility in international settings, to build national networks for learning, collegiality, and visibility purposes, then a means must be found for Latino authors to do this. Perhaps this is a discussion for La Bloga or other literary forums. How can authors of color obtain necessary resources for enhancing our work, our careers on a broader stage? Can there be “common pots” of financial support, for example, that are identified, created, and nurtured? Or do these exist already? How can awareness of these be expanded and leveraged?

I know that, personally, going to Lake Como was worth my investment of time, money, and effort. I believe that, for months if not years to come, my experiences there will impact my work somehow. For example, I am still in email contact with several friends I met there, and at least two book projects in which I’ll be involved are under consideration.

Writing—as is true of any other complex, serious undertaking—requires ongoing economic sustenance. True, all authors, except the big names, struggle to an extent. And AWC is not a be-all, end-all resource. But we can see what is and work toward what can be…for greater benefits for greater numbers.
* * *
Photo by Jesus Treviño
Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D., is the author of four books, including Rising, Falling, All of Us—issued in summer 2014. Reyna’s short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, literary journals, textbooks, blogs, and regional print media off and on for over 30 years. Visit www.ThelmaReyna.com


Ten On the Fifth of the Eighth: August On-line Floricanto
Mark Lipman, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Devreaux Baker, Ralph Haskins Elizondo, David Romero, Antonio Arenas, Iris De Anda, Josefa Molina, Gerardo Pacheco Matus, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Four years ago when La Bloga and the Facebook group, née Poets Responding to SB1070, launched this ongoing series of On-line Floricanto readings, energies and passions drove hundreds of poets to fashion thousands of poems, giving them an audience via postings on Poets Responding to SB1070: Poetry of Resistance, the group's current identity. From those, the Moderators nominated five poems to appear in On-line Floricanto.

Moderators of the internet group, founded by Francisco X. Alarcón, nowadays name five exemplary works for monthly publication in La Bloga's On-line Floricanto. The volume of work entering the literary churn had been so ample that On-line Floricanto went weekly.

In recent days, poets' voices rise again. Sparked by world events and increasingly empowered racism at home, a deluge of poetry floods the Moderators. Reflecting the upswell of expression, this month the Poets Responding Moderators advance ten voices, several of them familiar from those heard in poetry's initial throes of disgust at Arizona's state-sponsored hate.

"The Border Crossed Us" By Mark Lipman
"Collecting Thoughts from the Universe" By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Ten Aspects of The World Without War" By Devreaux Baker
"Murrieta’s Morning Sun" by Ralph Haskins Elizondo
"The Ladder - Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas" By David Romero
"Sin Fronteras" By Antonio Arenas
"Here" By Iris De Anda
"La Llorona" By Josefa Molina
"The Children of La Frontera" By Gerardo Pacheco Matus
"The Boys of Summer" By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo


The Border Crossed Us
By Mark Lipman

I step onto land
where my ancestors
planted our family tree
over 1,000 years ago.

I have known no other sand
between my toes
under my feet
this is my only home.

One day though
a stranger arrived
sat down at our table
drank our wine
ate our bread
raped our women
burnt our village
then declared me illegal.

The color of my skin
the language on my tongue
the god that I chose to believe in
demonized in order to justify their cruelty.

The freedom that I enjoyed
my right to self-determination
gone, victim to yet another
military occupation.

My peace,
simply a broken olive branch
cut from the tree they tore down.

My home,
rubble, beneath the tracks
of their bulldozers.

All I have ever had
all that I’ve ever known
all, taken from me.

My blood,
turned into their gold.

My heart,
broken from generations
of lies and betrayals.

If you cut me, do I not bleed?

Crushed, beneath the boot of technology
by persons with no soul or body to touch

with no heart to feel

eyes, blinded by hatred
ears, closed to any reason
mouths, shut out of fear

comfortably tucked away in their beds
while human beings die in the streets
under the batons and artillery shells
of a militarized police state

Wrapping oneself in a flag
worse yet, a religion
while making excuses for genocide
sanctioning the murder of children.

News actors continue to blame the victims
force feeding us lies, calling us terrorists
because we were born onto the land that they coveted.

Who is the real enemy,
the one who believes in something different than you,
or the one uses what you believe in to change who you are?

There is no escaping the soul staring back in the mirror
regardless of the shifting lines on some map
human rights have no borders.



Collecting Thoughts from the Universe
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

What do the stars say
about children dying
or is it their spirits
twinkling down
big smiles on their faces
there's no suffering there
At the border
people act less than human
frighten traumatized children
in yellow school buses
their small faces pressed
against the windows
they see
the gnashing of teeth
hear shouts of rage.
What kind of war
is being waged here
these children fleeing war
fleeing death
looking for a place to dream
or looking for what's left
of their family
that's already flown away
for fear or promise
We wage wars
support criminal
heads of State
murderous coups
genocide
the false war on drugs kind
the raining down bombs
on innocents kind
the scaring of innocent children
riding on yellow school buses kind.
And who do we help
does all this war make life better
who is the real enemy
in a land
where one percent of people
owns more wealth
than the rest of us put together and
can we be put together again



Ten Aspects of the World without War
By Devreaux Baker

This is the morning soldiers dismantle guns
And abandoned tanks become nesting grounds
For cranes and starlings

This is the morning that trees are planted in the ruins
Of village streets and bunkers become seed exchange
Stations for non-gmo farmers

This is the morning that prayer flags fly
From the highest buildings in cities
That ring the world with chants or songs

This is the morning that snipers learn
The ancient recipes for baking bread
And distribute their loaves for free

This is the morning long tables are set
In the middle of rubble strewn fields
And musicians gather to welcome everyone

This is the night where stars are recognized
In the deepest recesses of space
As a saving grace

And men, women and children
Drift into sleep where there are no longer
The faces of war…but only the sound of wind
In trees, or water forming waves
Against some forgotten
Shore



Murrieta’s Morning Sun
By Ralph Haskins Elizondo

Murrieta’s morning sun had beamed
with hope for hospitality and shelter.
Greyhound buses filled with teddy bears
and dolls drove into town today.

Little eyes peered out from tinted windows
searching for their welcome party.
Instead the darkened crowds had gathered
blocking out all rays of hope.

Their signs and chants eclipsed
the chance for children.
Buses stopped and turned around,
every child a delicate piñata
filled with fear, ready to be broken
with the stick of hatred.

And as the day wore down
the heavens blushed in shame.
Sickened by the hateful scene below,
the mourning sun plunged off the western sky,
it spilled its darkest red upon the land
and died. There are no children left
to mourn Murrieta’s morning sun.



The Ladder – Anastasio Hernández-Rojas
By David Romero

This poem was written during a session of Last Words: Giving Victims a Voice.

Tijuana
Is a ladder
San Diego
Is a ladder
My name is Anastasio
I know all about climbing ladders
I’m a painter
A roofer
They tell me
Coyotes or police
One day
I will fall off
In screams and shadow
Crash
In bones and blood
I smile
You’ll only fall
If you look down
Will only look down
If you’re too afraid
To climb
I’ve never been afraid
I know all about climbing ladders
I’m a painter
A roofer
This life is a ladder
Tijuana is a ladder
The desert is a rung
Parched lips are a rung
Dry throat is a rung
Blistered feet are a rung
Then
Hours waiting for work are a rung
The bosses are a rung
Cheap pay is a rung
ICE
La migra
La policia
Rungs
But between the cold steel
Is a view
Each view
More beautiful
Than the one before
My kids go to college
They find work
In the shade
Never have to spend a day
Climbing ladders in the sun
I buy my wife a car
One that doesn’t immediately break down
She puts her feet to the pedal to visit her cousin
It runs
A new washing machine
A dryer
They run
For the first time
My wife
Every child
They run
Around
Under one roof
This house
This freshly painted house
Our house
Shines like the afternoon
It rests at the top of the ladder
I can see it
I can breathe it
I can taste it
Like when I rise from my work
And rest on my haunches
Look out over a roof
See the tiles
Near completion
Like a glass jar of money
Almost full
I can see it
I feel it
The border is a ladder
And I am getting closer
With each job
Each crossing
Even at night
I will climb
My hands will grasp each rung
Because I have to
Because I am almost there
My hands
“Hands up!”
Grasp air
“Hands up!”
I fall
“Hands up!”
My hands reach out
"Hands up!"
The ladder is gone
“Hands up!”
I hit
"Hands up!"
They surround
On the desert floor
More than a dozen
Black uniforms
Shouting figures
Malevolent faces
Illuminated by the glow of tasers
Striking like rattlesnakes
They sting and bite
I cringe and cry
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
So many, many rungs
Bones and blood
Somewhere far in the distance
I see San Diego
But where
Has the ladder gone?



Sin Fronteras
By Antonio Arenas

Sin fronteras caminamos por el mundo,
Gritando a los cuatro vientos,
Que viva la paz entre hermanos,
Y liberando nuestros sentimientos.
Libertad de pensamientos,
Libertad de expresión,
Libertad de correr bien fuerte,
Por la emoción,
Como vuelan libres las aves,
Cantando un estribillo,
De paz y amor,
Y Teniendo de coro a un pueblo,
Que canta con el corazón,
Queremos paz en la tierra,
Sin fronteras en ninguna región,
Sin discriminación de razas,
Ni convicción política, ni religión.
Sin fronteras jugamos al fútbol,
Sin fronteras nos inventamos los juegos,
Sin fronteras escuchamos la música,
Que viva el idioma de los pueblos.
Regresan las aves a sus nidos,
Porque no podemos regresar a nuestra tierra,
Si es una tierra de hombres libres,
Un manantial de paz y belleza,
Donde se respira un aire puro,
Que no tiene fronteras.



Here
By Iris De Anda

here we are
after years
crossing borders
wings & wire
monarch butterfly
flutter over under
forest trees
storm clouds
arid deserts
spring flowers
hope in heart
future in fingertips
truth in tongue
I AM dreaming
this here now
this you I
this us them
we are all together
there was no time
no space
no borders
only jade spirals
obsidian death
coral life
growing blooming
touching creating
sleeping awakening
sighs
luz consciousness
la Mujer
rises morning sun
roja, amarillo, naranja
refleja reflects
a mirror
deep ocean waves
profundo azul
everywhere floating
lotus crying
daughters of desert
Mother Earth drum
mud feet
clay dance
bruja guerrera
lagrimas lapis lazuli
copal fire
overflowing
after years
here we are



La LLorona/ Cihuacoatl
By Josefa Molina

Let me drop the withered bodies of my young
at your doorstep, children eaten
by the Beast or left to die in deserts
next to bone dry water tanks shot full
of holes by local cowboys with
delusions they were sheriff.

Let me drop my dying children at your feet,
praying for refuge from the coyotes that follow,
that you've fed, that salivate
over the fear-filled scent of frightened children.
Coyotes call, promising home, then slit
small, smooth, brown throats and devour their prey.

Let me drop my ghost children at your border,
hoping for compassion in a land where full~ bellied,
ranting "Patriots" want to send them back
to the slaughter they've risked life and limb to escape.
"Patriots" cursing and spitting out jagged shards
of hate that dismember with a familiar terror.

I howl with anguished cries as I mourn
my sons and daughters. If only I could feed them
with my withered breast and let them drink salty tears,
I might save them. Instead, I'm left to wail
each dread full night, as I gather up the remnants
of their souls and softly call them each by precious name.


Copyright: 2014
Josefa Molina, PhD
All rights reserved.



The Children of La Frontera
By Gerardo Pacheco Matus

we are the children of la frontera
left to live, to rot and to dream en el desierto

day and night, we follow the old coyote’s shadow
through this dry world of cacti and rattlesnakes

en el desierto, the dead speak to us
disguised with our father and mother’s voices---

we listen to their feeble hearts
beat as soon as they tell us
the old coyote left them to die
alone and thirsty en el desierto

some dead children smile too glad to see us
others cry and shriek like crows
too fearful to see the old coyote
guide us through this wasteland

day and night, we follow the old coyote
through this labyrinth of bones and shadows
hoping we will live
free en el gabacho

we wear La Virgen de Guadalupe’s medal
for protection
so mother Death knows
we are the children of la frontera

day and night, we wait en el desierto
chewing and gnawing at dry cactus roots
until la migra breaks our spell…

day and night, we wait for la chansa
de cruzar la linea, no matter what…

as we are the children of la frontera;


The Boys of Summer
By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

In Carpinteria, California a preteen boy in red shorts
runs down a clouded over beach to play at junior lifeguard.
He is lost in a sea of boys and girls just like him
all smiling and learning lessons on how to be safe.

In Brooks County, Texas a boy with a note pinned to his shirt
addressed to an aunt in New Jersey
wrestles with his mother’s hopes pinned to this his shoulders.
Death pins his dehydrated and cramping leg muscles together.

On a beach in Gaza four cousins play soccer.
One calls Messi while another calls Neymar before the injury.
The score is tied. They set up penalty kicks on the edge
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18. Bar 107


A short story by Daniel A. Olivas
            If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been these last three years, let me just tell you right now that you can find me at Bar 107 in downtown on 4thStreet most nights with a sheaf of paper—my unfinished novel—red Sharpie in hand, a glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon by my side for inspiration.
I’ve been editing the same first chapter for, well, three years.  I didn’t make tenure, something you’d know if you’ve been talking to Mónica which would kind of surprise me since she was the ostensible reason for us breaking up when she and I got very drunk—right here at Bar 107—and you caught us messing around in that booth over there.  I still think you overreacted since we did not go beyond what you can do in a booth in plain view—of course!—but you did come close enough to see that I had my left hand up her short skirt and in her beautiful, little black panties.  I haven’t seen her since that night.  But I admit that when you moved out of my condo the next day, I texted her, tried to get that ball rolling, so to speak.  I mean, Mónica is hot.  You know that.  Not as hot as you, but hot nonetheless.  But she never responded which makes me suspect she chose you over me and probably begged to remain your best friend.
            I like Bar 107 for a few reasons including the fact that it’s a short walk from the Pershing Square Station which is important ever since I lost my car—well, it was repossessed—and lost my job and had to downsize my life in many annoying ways including selling the condo and then renting a one-bedroom in Koreatown.  I’m not on unemployment anymore since I’ve managed to patch together a living by taking on a few private students and teaching creative writing online extension courses through UCLA.  I mean, I do have an award-winning short story collection to my name and have published in some of the better literary journals including Tin House, Ploughshares and ZYZZYVA, to name but a few (I am not bragging…I’m simply stating the truth).  That little fiction collection kept me legit for five full years, but my drinking and my cockiness and my writer’s block all conspired to derail my pathway to tenure at the UNIVERSITY-THAT-SHALL-NOT-BE-NAMED.  You’d think they’d never met an alcoholic writer for God’s sake.  Though I do suspect that the second complaint lodged against me by that perky little sophomore (who also shall not be named) didn’t help.  I mean, if she didn’t want to be around me and my hands why didn’t she just drop the class?  Young people today, they have no sense of logic.  If something bothers me, I walk away.  That’s how it’s done.  You don’t have to ask me twice before I exit, stage right.
            Anyway, my meager living doesn’t keep me from Bar 107.  I’ve actually made some great editing decisions right here.  I think I’ve finally figured out how to begin this novel—writing the first chapter, getting it perfect is what I have to do because that will set the stage for the rest of it—and once I get these first pages just so, the other chapters will flow like, well, Pabst Blue Ribbon from the tap.  But if you do come by Bar 107 and see me hunched over my pages, wait until I take a break before coming by to say hi.  I don’t want anything to break the magic, not even you.  You know how delicate the creative writing process is, right?  I mean, you saw it up close and personal for long enough.  Just be patient.  I’ll look up from my writing eventually.  Really.  I promise.

[“Bar 107” first appeared in PRISM.  It is included in a new, as-yet placed short-story collection.]

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19. Trigueña: novela de ficción histórica en la frontera



Novela de ficción histórica en la frontera

Trigueña por Juana Moriel-Payne

Reseñada por Xánath Caraza




Trigueña (Instituto chihuahuense de la cultura, 2013) de Juana Moriel-Payne es una novela histórica donde conocemos sobre la vida de Juana de Cobos en el norte de un México de los 1700´s, un lugar de tarahumaras, apaches, mestizos, mulatos y europeos.  Moriel-Payne nos lleva de la mano por calles de pueblos por construirse, ilusiones de niña, que en el hacer pan ve una razón para vivir y subsistir.  Con escenas casi cinematográficas Moriel-Payne nos muestra la historia del norte de México, nos lleva de viaje en carreta, por un microcosmos, de ida y vuelta.  Descubrimos una heroína de carne y hueso entre las páginas de Trigueña, una niña que se convierte en mujer, con retos, personales y económicos, a los que se sobrepone y que también crea espacios públicos, un consultorio médico y una casa para mujeres, para beneficio de la sociedad donde vive, la actual frontera entre México y los Estados Unidos.

Trigueña con sus secuencias analépticas nos compenetra en los recuerdos de los personajes que vivieron con Juana de Cobos, y es así como descubrimos su vida y, de paso, aprendemos sobre ese México de los 1700´s, de un norte colonial en plena vía de desarrollo.

La novela combina, capítulos con visiones retrospectivas de los múltiples personajes, analépticas, con capítulos que están en el tiempo presente de la novela.  Ese juego de tiempos crea una acertada dinámica, despierta la atención en el lector; y logra un dejar pasar las páginas fluido y sin detenerse, mezclado con aromas, texturas, sabores y color. 

“Todo de negro, el viejo Gregorio encabezó la procesión.  Y un poco para mostrar su valor y un mucho para quitarse de encima los escalofríos, iba dando tragos a pico de botella del aguardiente que circulaba de mano en mano.  El sonar de sus pasos sobre la tierra escarchada seguía el ritmo de los cuchicheos que entre vahos le preguntaban por el cuerpo de la difunta.” ( p. 11)

“Vio surgir el calor de las brasas que se encendían y se apagaban como siguiendo el ritmo de una respiración sin prisa que a la vez sugería una promesa de retorno.  Poco a poco observó cómo las hogazas se iban esponjando, dorando y despidiendo un leve olor que en ese momento asoció con el regazo de su madre y así, con la mirada perdida en el horno y la mente entretenida en sus años de infancia, el aroma a pan recién horneado invadió su nariz, su estómago y la mañana.” (p. 16)

La diversidad de México colonial está presente en Trigueña, tarahumaras, apaches, mestizos, mulatos y otros europeos son protagonistas de las páginas.

“Las mujeres encendían los fogones y preparaban el desayuno para despachar a sus maridos e hijos a labrar la tierra con la barriga llena, aunque en casa de Juana aquello ocurría un poco diferente.  Su madre no se ocupaba de la cocina, ni ella tampoco.  Lo hacía Manuela, una tarahumara que su padre empleó para que acabara de criarle a los chamacos y, de cuando en cuando, le aliviara las necesidades propias de los hombres, después de que su madre perdiera por completo la cordura…” (p. 21)

““¡Qué costumbres tan raras!”, pensaba Juana y lo afirmaba las veces que iban de paseo a la plaza.  Todas las personas estaban revueltas: indios platicando con españoles, españoles del brazo de mulatas, indias abrazadas a españoles…todo un relajo, un desorden…” (p. 199)

El desarrollo psicológico de la protagonista, Juana de Cobos, lo seguimos en diferentes partes de Trigueña, la vemos crecer de niña a mujer, de mujer a esposa, de esposa a viuda y finalmente convertirse en una mujer sola e independiente.

“Juana se acostó a dormir junto a su madre dándole la espalda a la abuela, pero no podía conciliar el sueño.  Con los ojos cerrados repasaba la escena del beso que le dio Eladio y cuando una y mil veces trató de acomodarle el bigote para que no le picara en los cachetes al besarla.” (p. 38)

“Juana regresó a su casa con Gregorio y conforme pasaron los días fue haciéndose a la idea de que ahora sí era viuda, aunque sólo ella y su hijo lo sabían y aún así, no pudieran comentarlo ni siquiera entre ellos.” (p. 143)

“¿En qué pensaba?  En Majalca, en sus palabras: “Ojos luminosos”, “Lo que me dice con la mirada”…apagó la vela y se dejó caer sobre la cama.  Al levantar la frazada el chal de seda resbaló por sus piernas y al sentir la suavidad de la tela, pasó una y otra vez el chal por todo su cuerpo hasta rendirse y quedar profundamente dormida.” (p. 116)

Juana de Cobos, protagonista de Trigueña, finalmente sola, se da cuenta de las necesidades del pueblo donde vive.  A manera de activista social y visionaria, organiza a la gente a su alrededor y logra llevar el primer médico al pueblo.  Así mismo solicita, al municipio, que mujeres recién salidas de la cárcel trabajen con ella en su panadería e igualmente residan ahí, a manera de entrenamiento y lugar de transición, para, después de un tiempo, ser reincorporadas a la sociedad.

“En pocas palabras, Juana ofreció su casa y su negocio para dar recogimiento a las mujeres de la villa.  Antes de que la interrumpieran le hizo ver al alcalde que San Felipe el Real no contaba con lugares decentes para alojar a mujeres que hubieran cometido algún delito menor, fueran abandonadas, estuvieran recuperándose de algún mal o, en general, tuvieran necesidad de un techo digno donde pudieran asearse, comer…y, lo más importante, aprender algún oficio para que rehicieran sus vidas.”  (p. 214)

Trigueña, novela de ficción histórica, escrita con gran precisión donde viajamos en el tiempo con Juana de Cobos y otros personajes en el norte de un México colonial.  No es sorpresa que la novela haya recibido el premio, 43 Southwest Book Award por The Border Regional Library Association-BRLA en 2013. 


Novelista e historiadora, Juana Moriel-Payne



Juana Moriel-Payne is from Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. She lives in El Paso with her husband John Payne and three beautiful dogs. Trigueña is her first published novel, and a wining prize of "Publicaciones 2012", a literary contest organized by the Instituto Chihuahuense de la Cultura (ICHICULT). Trigueña also received the BRLA Southwest Book Awards 2013. She has an unpublished novel La caza del venado, and is looking for a publisher. Sometimes she thinks she can be a poet and writes poems. "Culpas", a set of four poems that resume the history of women living in the desert-frontier will be published in August by Cuadernos Fronteizos (UACJ). Right now she is Ph. D. candidate for Borderlands History Program at the University of Texas at El Paso. She has published her research findings in history-social reviews in Latin America and United States. Her dissertation analyzes the colonial festivities in San Joseph del Parral, Chihuahua. She is doing research and writing, meanwhile in her mind she is creating a second historical novel about a mulata named Antonia. 

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20. Dreaming in Chicano. Writer Resource.

On this side of the curtain

Michael Sedano

For the past three weeks my home has been a hospital bed in a room shut off by a blue-green curtain from the other rooms in the surgical ward. All day and through the night noises, sounds, voices penetrate and illuminate my imagination. Who’s flirting with the nurses? Why the sudden silence? Did the helicopter that landed earlier bring in the new admit?

Somewhere out there, a family gathers in one of the rooms. Laughter and desultory chatter begins to separate into meaningfulness. Someone’s daughter is going to start college to become a teacher. Someone’s daughter is starting second grade next month. A palm slaps a thigh and voices explode with laughter.

In a few moments, a quiet melody rises and silences the chatter. Paired voices softly singing. The voices carry the natural harmony of brothers speaking in the same voice yet their own. They sing “Las mañanitas” with a practiced lilt that has developed over years of serenades for an abuelo or a mother’s birthday. Tonight the voices blend with notes of sad farewell and bound together with love reserved for an elder.

Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,
Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a tí,
Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció,
Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.

I can see them sharing a chair, arms around each other, neither vying for the lead but flowing sweetly from el mero Corazon. This is what familia sounds like. This is what love sounds like.

Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte, 
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte, 
El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores 
Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio, 
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.

When the lyric ends they segue easily into English, the soft even vowels of Spanish giving the words a special tenderness that reflects this familia’s straddling of two worlds.

Happy birthday to you , Happy birthday to you, appy birthday mi vida, happy birthday to you.

I fall into contented deep sleep. The moment of pure beauty a reminder of many things, foremost the privilege of living in a bicultural world where we sing from our hearts not divided but united in our shared languages.


A Chicano Reporter Gets His Feet Wet

La Bloga friend and journalist extraordinaire, Ron Arias, sends a link to his story relating how a young Chicano writer fumbles to get started. It's Buenos Aires in the 60s and part of a collection--My Life As A Pencil. Red Bird Chapbooks will publish a selection early next year.

From the link:

About that time I also started my first full-time job as a reporter, working at the Buenos Aires Herald, which is where I learned to turn life into stories on a daily basis. But at first it was physically very painful.

Staffed mostly by journalists from the U.K., the Herald was the country's only English-language daily. On one of my first assignments, I hit the ground running, then falling, then running again. I'd been sent to cover a military coup in the streets but because a tank blocked my way and a cloud of tear-gas swept over me, my watery, stinging eyes lost focus and I kept tripping. Military takeovers, I later learned, were then almost a monthly occurrence and usually covered by the youngest legs on staff.

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21. ¡El Cucuy!


Review by Ariadna Sánchez
The Bogeyman is one of the most iconic figures in the Latin culture. In addition, La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) and El Chupacabras are folkloric characters that seduce old and new generations into a mysterious and magical world. The legends, myths, and folk stories about these unique figures gave birth to a legacy that will last forever in Mexico’s villages and cities as well as the rest of Latin America.
¡El Cucuy! A Bogeyman Cuento in English and Spanish as told by Joe Hayes and phenomenally illustrated by Honorio Robledo is a must read during the summer break.
In Oaxaca, México El Cucuy is best known as el Coco. Hayes description of El Cucuy matches the one my abuelita used to tell me “a gigantic old man with a humped back and a large, red left ear that can hear everything. And he comes to town for lazy and disobedient girls and boys.”
The tale gives young readers a bittersweet experience as the two girls are carried by El Cucuy towards the mountain. The two sisters are afraid and sorry for their behavior with their father and younger sister. One day, a boy losses one of his goats. The goat starts to bleat louder and louder right above El Cucuy’s cave. The girls plea the boy for help. He takes his jacket and uses it as a rope to rescue the girls. The girls climb up. Once free and safe the three children walk to the valley. At last, the girls reunite with their father and sister. Since that day, the two sisters are the most helpful and polite girls in town. The good news is that El Cucuy never appears again.

Joe Hayes adds at the end of the book a special note to readers and storytellers about ¡El Cucuy! Visit your local library for more amazing stories. Reading gives you wings. Hasta Pronto 
Check the following link for more cool books by Joe Hayes: http://www.cincopuntos.com/products_detail.sstg?id=4
Joe Hayes Narrates El Cucuy! - YouTube



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22. Tren bala hacia la gran urbe



Los árboles me pasan de largo
brazos alargados diciendo adiós
amiga, regresa pronto

Corre un lago sereno sin derramar
una gota de su carga
cristalina

Pasan vacas lecheras
dejándoles de regalo
sus manchas negras a las ovejas

La cabaña de troncos se desliza
muda, sin perturbar la rutina
mutiladora de deseos

Todo pasa sobre esta acera 
rodante del recuerdo
alejándome del presente
de cifras, sueños y rascacielos






News from Arte Público Press:



The Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, led by Nicolás Kanellos and Carolina Villarroel at the University of Houston, is a 2014 recipient of the Diversity Award given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The award will be presented at a ceremony during the Joint Annual Meeting of the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and SAA in Washington, DC, August 10-16, 2014. The award recognizes an individual, group, or institution for outstanding contributions in advancing diversity within the archives profession, SAA, or the archival record.

The Recovery Project is being honored for its outstanding achievement in accessioning important Latino archives, organizing and describing them, and making them available broadly to educational institutions and communities via publication and electronic delivery. The project has accessioned, organized, and described such important collections like that of Leonor Villegas de Magnón, a Laredo activist who in the early twentieth century recruited Anglo Texan, Mexican American, and Mexican women for a nursing corps to tend the wounded and fallen on the battlefields of the Mexican Revolution. As an early feminist, she documented the role of women in her writings. The Recovery Project has also assembled the world's largest collection of microfilmed Hispanic newspapers published in the United States from 1808 to 1960.

"[This program] has made these records accessible to increasingly larger numbers of researchers who have in turn significantly impacted the development of Latino Studies," one supporter wrote. "This has become obvious in scholarly conferences that I have attended and noticed increasing numbers of scholars acknowledging the use of digitized records made available by the program."

The Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project joins Jennifer O'Neal, university historian and archivist at the University of Oregon Libraries, as the 2014 recipients of the Diversity Award.

Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America's oldest and largest national archives professional association. SAA's mission is to serve the educational and informational needs of more than 6,000 individual and institutional members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of historical value.









 CHAC GALLERY in Denver presents: 

Sol Creación



Seven artist with diverse backgrounds and mediums fuse together to produce one great Art Show. August 1st - August 29th at CHAC.

Christy Mundy ~ Christy is working with intricate embroidery on fine fabrics – including scarves and clothing. She will also be showing hand-beaded, multi-media jewelry pieces.

Steve Rozic ~ Steve’s artwork is inspired by nature.  Working in acrylic allows Steve to express his illustrative painting in bright bold colors.  Little Bleu Egg is a company started by Steve to highlight and sell his Natural Soaps, Hand Scrubs, Bath Salts and Sugar Scrubs.

Leann Stelzer ~ Leann continues her devotion to fabric art, choosing projects that depict nature's beauty and diversity.

Janis Adams ~ Janis has been making things all her life and in the last few years, she has discovered new mediums in glass and in fiber. Janis will be showing fused glass jewelry and other glass creations, as well as hand painted silk scarves and felted scarves. She is always drawn to color and texture, especially in nature. She is inspired by her wonderful circle of fellow artists, who encourage and challenge her.

Paul Potts ~ Paul is deep in his fixation with steampunk, which means this show will have more of his owls, foxes, gears, and queens. He is a storyteller with his art. Many of his paintings include humorous twists that he hopes no one has seen before – an octopus waving a wrench, owls at Marti Gras, a gentleman owl enjoying a good cigar and a deer experiencing a close encounter to name a few.

Rene Horton ~ In Rene’s words “I went to a Saturday market once with a friend. She saw a chair she liked, and I made the comment that I could make the chair, so why buy it? She said prove it. So I did.”  Rene creates wire and beaded jewelry.

Suzanne Sigona ~ Suzanne has created vibrant oil paintings to add to her works in watercolors and acrylics.

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23. Beyond Boundaries: Networking and Workshopping in Lake Como, Italy, Part I

Guest post by Thelma T. Reyna


I was invited by one of my publishers to attend a national/international conference they co-sponsored at Lake Como last month. This “Abroad Writers Conference” (AWC) was designed as advanced learning for published authors from the U.S. Their “faculty” included 4 Pultizer Prize winners and 2 National Book Award recipients teaching intensive one-week workshops. Embracing this rare opportunity, I headed to Lake Como in my first overseas networking, workshopping, poetry reading experience.

Renaissance-era Como, resort hometown of George Clooney, is famously gorgeous. The event was in an 18th century villa, where we sat in one or two personalized workshops with the Pulitzer winners of our choice, or with other top national award winners. In the evenings, some of us conducted formal readings of our published work before the whole assemblage of about 50 author participants and 10 faculty, sharing the stage with America’s top writers in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.           
                                                                                                                                                                            

                           
        
                       Villa La Galleata, where we stayed and learned.
Iconic Lake Como is surrounded by lovely small                                                  
towns, with Como being the most prominent.

                                                                       
Learning and Re-Learning Poetry

My poetry workshop was with Rae Armantrout, whose book, Versed, won the Pulitzer in 2009. She had a reputation for being the most “cerebral” of the AWC poets; but, as a teacher, she blended sharp insights with down-to-earth critiques in a soft voice and unassuming demeanor. She pushed us to think harder.

There were 7 of us in this cohort. We met on a serene balcony entwined in wisteria and facing the lake, or in a formal parlor off the villa’s ballroom. We hailed from across America, and our group had a Korean-American and a Chinese-American. I was the lone Latina in the entire conference.

The camaraderie we established in one week belied our short time together. We opened our egos and ids to one another in the 10 poems each had provided for the workshop. Rae, my fellow poets, and I  slashed one another’s lines, dissected phrases, questioned purpose and voice, yet affirmed one another’s work. When several of us in our group took appointed turns onstage in the evenings to read from our publications, my workshop fellows in the audience were the loudest applauders with the broadest smiles of approval. Their support was genuine.

Our Fiction Workshop

Jane Smiley’s novel—A Thousand Acres, a modern retelling of  Shakespeare’s King Lear—won the Pulitzer in 1992. Sometimes using colorful, edgy language, Jane shared her experiences as a writer; asked us endless analytical questions about our submitted fiction; and sprinkled her advice with examples from her favorite 100 novels. The writing skills of this workshop’s authors were quite high. All had completed novel manuscripts or short story collections.

One of Jane’s main tips: The climax of your novel comes around the 90% point of your narrative. Is it what you’d meant it to be? If not, go back and adjust. With a calculator, she took our fiction, identified where 90% of each manuscript ended, and analyzed if that was indeed our climax. Sometimes it wasn’t. By the end of the week, we each had to return to the proverbial drawing board. Pieces we thought were “final” were not. Directions we’d thought our writing needed to take turned out to be wrong turns. None of us escaped unscathed. We all emerged as stronger writers, though. This is why we paid the big bucks, I suppose: to hear what we may not have wanted to hear from the folks who know most about these things.


                                       

    Our Fiction Workshop: Jane Smiley  at the head of the table;
    Thelma is second from left, foreground.

* * *
Stay Tuned for Part II on Tuesday: The second installment of this guest blog describes my poetry reading at Lake Como, where I debuted my new book. I will also briefly discuss the need for cultural diversity in international literary events. Thanks for stopping by.
* * *
Photo by Jesus Treviño

Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D., is the author of four books, with the, a full-length collection of her selected and new poetry—Rising,Falling, All of Us—issued in summer 2014. Reyna’s short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, literary journals, textbooks, blogs and regional print media off and on for over 30 years.She resides in Pasadena, California.  

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24. "Zorro" book's author and publisher disagree with "review"


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Last week, I covered a new, children's book, Boy Zorro and the Bully (El Niño Zorro y el Peleón), by Kat Aragon. My post opened with "U.S. readers definitely need more and more diverse books. Especially for children, both Anglo and the marginalized children of color. A bilingual book by Kat Aragon, published last month, relates to that need, as well as to the U.S. sickness of bullying."

I closed with, "Our First Voice books should aspire to be superior to others being written. If expecting books to meet such a standard offends someone, I prefer that to my saying nothing about our literature needing improvement. And when mine are published, I'll ask help holding them to similar standards. To help publicize Zorro, I'll give the author, publisher, and illustrator, for that matter, space here if they would like to explain more about the book."

The author and the publisher sent responses to my post and as promised, I include them below, as well as some others. Reading the original post will likely help you understand what's said below.

Reviews of any book are inherently done from personal perspectives; it's simply part of human frailty. Which is why authors sometimes disagree with their reviewers. Based on what follows, I displeased some people, got confused or maybe even don't understand certain things. I do sometimes do that. Although my review can't be considered thorough, it was my best attempt.

Normally, Anglo reviewers don't necessarily go "light" on Anglo writers, except insofar as they go "heavy" on ethnic writers or lit that's not part of the Anglo world. I believe Chicanos, Latinos, all People of Color also need to be as insightful and honest about "their" literature and writers. Maybe, more so.

Back in the 60s-70s, we Chicanos tended to hide our differences, not criticize ourselves in front of Anglos and generally looked with disdain on any Raza who dared to find fault in the Chicano Movimiento, its leaders or its politics. I tried not to be one of those. I continue to try to practice honesty in my writing and in assessing that of others. According to the author and publisher of Zorro, at least, I didn't do that in their case. You decide. 

The comments about my original post:
1. Rudy. Rudy. Rudy. You practically missed the book altogether. Starting with the misclassification of it as “A Latino Book”. This is a book about “Bullying”. You made it a book about Latinos and then used the book as a platform to go off into different tangents about race, skin color, lack of female representation, and injecting the word “punishment” -implying a negative connotation, as though it is related to the injustice of the system – which is indeed a problem, but not in this book.

A children’s book about a bully, that happens to be inclusive of Latinos, particularly Mr. Ramos the principal, and the iconic Mexican character Zorro, should be commended, not torn apart for not addressing every single issue regarding race. Are you helping or hurting those who actually do something in the world to provide quality education in today’s world with our Latino families?

The fact that I selected a publisher (and there aren’t too many), that focuses on bilingual books as a way to be inclusive of Spanish-speaking immigrant parents, and provides a practical solution to include Spanish-speaking parents in the discussion at schools, with language, reading and educational opportunities to improve our society, should be commended not slighted. - Kat A. - Author [of Zorro], Educator

2. I am the publisher at Lectura Books and I would love to clarify the intent of this special book – Boy Zorro and The Bully. The book is quite timely and is intended for the support of very young elementary kids, as a way to have discussions about the topic of bullying and what to do if they experience it, or witness it.

The Boy Zorro character, Benny, is very young, and the Zorro outfit was a creative expression of his young imagination, and perhaps his fascination with superheroes.

Boy Zorro does the right thing by having an adult handle the bully. And, doing the right thing, at the risk of being called a name like “snitch,” takes true courage.

Bullying is a serious topic today, and goes beyond teasing and snitching. Actual bullying happens over and over and creates ongoing fear in the victim – which is the case with the Big Ricky character in the book. Mr. Ramos, the principal, does the right thing, stays strong, and all outcomes are favorable – no matter their skin color or race.

As you can see from the text, Boy Zorro doesn’t “make a difference” simply by going to the principal. He ultimately makes a difference by taking it to the right person (instead of trying to fight the bully), who will bring it to the school community for discussion, accountability and policy.

As a child development expert, I love how this book spells out the consequences so that kids, parents, and teachers know what to expect. It’s also important that the offender, Big Ricky, had an opportunity to see that his actions were unacceptable and would not be tolerated in their community, and yes, there are real world consequences. Consequences should be spelled out clearly and followed through, as in every good parenting and leadership situation.

It’s true, this is a complex time in our society, which is reflected in our schools and I don’t think anyone has an easy fix for bullying. But, I do know that having ongoing discussions, about what is acceptable and what are the consequences, is a terrific model for parents, kids, teachers, and administrators. The book also has an age-appropriate play for young school kids to perform in front of their school community, which invites further opportunity to open up the lines of communication.

If you’d like more bilingual books with girls, boys, people of different colors, histories, traditions, and socioeconomic diversity, visit our website at: www.LecturaBooks.com - Katherine Del Monte, Publisher

3. I like the main character Boy Zorro and his fighting against Bullying. Putting aside the issue of light v. dark skin, the illustrations are great. Hopefully, Zorrito will appear in follow-up books fighting other problems. - Author Giora

4. I like the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of your review. I also like how you offer space to those who created the book for their comments. I remember some awful moments in school, some more terrifying than others. If I had told my Father everything, I feel certain he would've had me transferred -- I was a kid, and valued being with friends more than safety. I think it's great to teach kids how to deal and I also like adult awareness. I also agree that bullies won't teach themselves how and why to stop. Great post, Rudy! - Sylvia Riojas, Independent Writing and Editing Professional

5. Very good review, Rudy. You've really covered all of the pros and cons. Bullying happens both within and outside of cultures and needs to be always in our minds to protect children and show them how to work with and survive it. This book is a good start. - L. M. (Linda) Quinn, Marketing/Technical Writer Living and Writing in L.A.

6. Rudy, as always, you are honest, straightforward, and insightful in your comments. I, for one, appreciate this. No book is perfect. You pointed out plenty of good points about this book, so the author, illustrator, and publisher should feel good. Re: the cons, every book has some. Hearing honest reviews helps us authors keep pushing the envelope toward higher and higher quality. Thanks for not insulting us by expecting less. - Thelma T. Reyna, author

Final aviso: This post is not intended as a literary boxing ring. In my mind, there are no sides. There are opinions, and that's all they are. Anyone who chooses to comment to this post should keep in mind that only "constructive" criticism will improve "our" literature, assuming you include yourself in the "our."

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, a.k.a. Rudy Ch. Garcia, Chicano speculative fiction author (honorable mention, International Latino Book Awards)

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25. Diabetes on Madison Avenue, in New York, and Becoming a Xicana Foodie Activist


Her reply was immediate.  “It’s like pulling teeth sometimes,” Diabetes educator, Celia Chu-Diep said.  I had just asked her how difficult it is for Diabetes patients to follow everything the Diabetes educator suggests: to initially receive Diabetes education; to attend support group meetings; to become committed to seeking and eating very different kinds of meals.  “It’s not easy for them.”  It wasn’t easy for me, when I was first diagnosed.  Even that day, walking up Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s upper east side to Mt. Sinai, there were many temptations.  A string of restaurants and fast-food shops line the streets on either side of the hospital.  
Busy day at Mount Sinai Hospital
Luckily, on that day, there was a mini farmer’s market across the street from the main entrance to Mt. Sinai.  I stopped to have a hand-picked bean salad and a handful of raspberries from a local farm. Of course it was difficult to avoid the apple crisp bowls being sold at the next table.  I told myself if I wanted more “sweetness” just to eat more raspberries.  Raspberries are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, which makes them a low glycemic index food, (meaning it is absorbed slowly in the body so you don’t have a sudden jerky sugar high).  Had I eaten the apple crisp, I would have experienced a quick “high” and then a sudden low. 


Information outside of Celia's office at Mount Sinai
This adventure – visiting Mt. Sinai – took place a little over a week ago.  I visited Celia at Mount Sinai Hospital because I’d been wanting to get a glimpse of Diabetes education in various parts of the country.  And in Celia’s work, she observes that her Mexican, Puerto Rican, African American, Asian patients all have a hard time avoiding the cultural pressure of eating foods like pan dulce, polvorones, coconut cakes, fried bananas in addition to fatty meats.  And even when they do, one visit to a restaurant may ruin any attempt to eat “healthier” because of all the hidden sugars they use to prepare food.  And again, I could relate to what she was saying.  This past year, due to the pressures of my work, which demanded an unusual amount of restaurant dinner and lunch meetings, I succumbed to losing what I thought was a sure footing in healthy eating.  Instead, the hidden sugars in restaurant food had me craving more and more unhealthy foods – a chemically induced rabbit hole that was very difficult to escape. 
A1C tracker 
This is why I always first tell friends who ask me questions about Diabetes and what to eat:  Be kind to yourself.  As Celia pointed out:  “It’s not easy,” mainly because you have a huge “food industrial complex” (a goliath) always there hoping you’ll devour it and get sucked back into the vortex.  Take one step at a time and see eating healthy as an adventure—not something continually restrictive. 

In Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  a Year of Food Life, she writes how the food industry “made piles of corn and soybeans into high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and thousands of other starch- or oil-based chemicals.  Cattle and chickens were brought in off the pasture into intensely crowded and mechanized CAFOS (concentrated animal feeding operations) where corn – which is no part of a cow’s natural diet, by the way – could be turned cheaply and quickly into animal flesh.  All these different products, in turn, rolled on down the new industrial food pipeline to be processed into the soft drinks, burgers, and other cheap foods on which our nation now largely runs—or sits on its bottom, as the case may be . . . 


Certainly, we still have regional specialties, but the Carolina barbecue will almost certainly have California tomatoes in its sauce (maybe also Nebraska-fattened feedlot hogs), and the Louisiana gumbo is just as likely to contain Indonesian farmed shrimp.  If either of these shows up on a fast-food menu with lots of added fats or HFCS, we seem unable either to discern or resist  the corruption.  We have yet to come up with a strong set of generalized norms, passed down through families, for savoring and sensibly consuming what our land and climate give us.  We have, instead, a string of fad diets convulsing our bookstores and bellies, one after another, at the scale of the national bestseller.  Nine out of ten nutritionists (unofficial survey) view this as evidence that we have entirely lost our marbles.  A more optimistic view might be this:  these sets of mandates captivate us because we’re looking hard for a food culture of our own.  A profit driven food industry has exploded and nutritionally bankrupted our caloric supply . . . Can we find or make up a set of rituals, recipes, ethics, and buying habits that will let us love our food and eat it too?  Some signs point to “yes.”  Better food—more local, more healthy, more sensible—is a powerful new topic . . . It reaches from the epicurean quarters of Slow Food convivial to the matter-of-fact Surgeon General’s Office; from Farm Aid concerts to school lunch programs.  From the rural routes to the inner cities, we are staring at our plates and wondering where that’s been.  For the first time since our nation’s food was ubiquitously local, the point of origin now matters again to some consumers.  We’re increasingly wary of an industry that puts stuff in our dinner we can’t identify as animal, vegetable, mineral, or what. (13 – 17)

For the past few years, I’ve grown vegetables (chard, kale, tomatoes, chiles, broccoli) in my backyard and have had great luck in harvesting/freezing and also cooking and freezing dishes so my garden serves me year-round. 

But in the past two months, I’ve gone a step further.  I’m on, what I call, a “food adventure”—avoiding all meats, dairy (it was difficult to say “no” to greek yogurt and many kinds of cheese), and grains (but I was already gluten free).  You may be thinking:  well, what is left to eat?  And what is left has been indeed the amazing adventure.  I’ve decided to follow what’s called a  “whole foods plant-based diet.”  I eat a lot of beans, lentils, vegetables, soy, fruits (mainly berries).  

pinto frijoles
My glucose numbers have remained stable and I’m feeling good!   I also feel like a Xicana radical food activist, my own healing agent, using food to improve my well being.  Some of the research I’ve read explains that such a diet improves cardiovascular well being.  And that is important to me because cardiovascular complications are most common with those of us who have Diabetes.  Most individuals with Diabetes die from stroke, hardening of the arteries, heart attacks. My experiment is to follow this “whole foods plant based diet” adventure for about six months and then go to my doctor to check and see if and how it’s affected my cardiovascular system. I’ll definitely keep you posted.  As well, there are other Xicanas having exciting food adventures. 

Two other Xicana food activists who are also professors: Catriona R. Esquibel and Luz Calvo, have a cooking club you can join.  
Professors Luz Calvo and Catriona R. Esquibel
They have “The Decolonial Cooking Club” on Facebook and they also have a website:  decolonizeyourdiet.org

On their website, they write:

“As U.S.-born Latinos/as, we have much to learn from the way our ancestors ate.  Eating our ancestral foods can help us prevent and treat the diseases that result from adopting the Standard American Diet.  The central tenet of our project is “La comida es medicina” [Food is medicine]. As Chicana professors, we have seen firsthand the effects of the Standard American Diet on our bodies and on the health of our family, our students, and our community.  U.S.-born Latina/o communities are facing a health crisis, most notably with Diabetes but also with heart disease and many cancers.  It is difficult to fight for our people and our culture if we are sick and sluggish.  We believe that it is time to reclaim our cultural inheritance and wean our bodies from sugary drinks, fast food, and donuts.  Cooking a pot of beans from scratch is a micro-revolutionary act that honors our ancestors and the generations to come.” 

Every so often, I’ll be posting recipes and updates.  Here’s one below.  Querida La Bloga reader: I am sending each and every one of you healing energies and good wishes that you may think about your own food adventures and what that might look like! 


This recipe is by Rachael Campbell:
Title:  Avocado Kale Chili Salad (Vegan and Gluten Free)
Description:  Kale is a from of cabbage.  It is full of antioxidants, anti inflammatory nutrients and cancer preventive nutrients.  It is very high in iron, vitamin C, B complex groups of vitamins, and calcium.  Kale contains sulforaphane particularly when chopped or minced.  It also has a chemical which boosts DNA repair to cells.

Enjoy every bite of this healthy and nutritious salad:

Ingredients:
Salad
n  1 bunch kale (Tuscan kale or curly leafed scots kale) stems removed
n  1 ½ avocados chopped
n  ½ red onion small thinkly sliced
n  ½ cucumber thinly sliced
n  red chili sliced to taste
n  coriander to taste

Dressing
--1 avocado
--6 teaspoons lemon juice
--6 teaspoons lime juice
--1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
--1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
--coriander to taste
--salt and pepper to taste
--flaked almonds (for Garnish)
--red chili sliced (for Garnish)

Preparation:
Salad
  1. Remove stem from kale, wash and chop coarsely, place into mixing bowl
  2. Grind salt and pepper through kale and let sit for about 10 minutes to enhance flavor
  3. Add chopped avocado, red onion, cucumber, red chilies, and coriander.  Toss gently through salad
Dressing:
  1. Place ingredients into a blender (or, if you have a vitamix machine) and blend on high speed for about a minute
  2. Toss dressing gently through salad
  3. Garnish with flaked almonds, red chili sliced, salt and pepper to taste



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